From DNA test to African citizenship

Earlier this year a friend and I were sitting in her kitchen in Cape Town talking about DNA testing. She asked why Black Americans feel the need to find out what country in Africa we're from. She felt that wherever you're born is where you're from. I didn't understand how she didn't understand but I guess just like schools in the states hardly mention Africa, most schools in Africa aren't teaching about the long-lasting effects of the Atlantic slave trade. We all have a lot to learn about each other. This article made me think of that conversation. It's good to see the diaspora (re)connecting.

Reclaiming the Middle Passage: Isaiah Washington becomes first to use DNA Testing to gain Citizenship to an African Nation (Sierra Leone)

(Source: Sweet Sierra Leone)

26 April 2010

Earlier today American actor Isaiah Washington held back tears of joy as he became the first to use DNA testing to gain citizenship to a nation in Africa. Mr. Washington explained that since the young age of 9, he had long dreamed of one day discovering his African past. Before today's official ceremony Isaiah had been adopted into a mende family back in 2006 and the title chief GondoBay Manga bestowed upon him. He started a foundation that bears his mende name and they recently completed a school project for over 200 students.

In his acceptance speech Isaiah spoke of a burning desire to positively represent Sierra Leone and to contribute to the nation's development. He thanked his wife and three children who could not be with him at the ceremony. He also thanked his mother for having passed on her DNA therefore allowing him to trace his temne/mende roots. While he doesn't think that change will happen overnight Isaiah believes that Sierra Leone is well on its way to reclaiming its past glory as the Athens of West Africa.

Also present at the Citizenship Ceremony was the Minster of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Internal Affairs, the Vice President, the Mayor of Freetown and several Parliamentarians and Chiefs. A production team from the California based African Channel was on hand to document Isaiah Washington's life long journey to find his ancestry.

When asked if he was aware of other African Americans who had taken the DNA tests with links to Sierra Leone, he mentioned the likes of Maya Angelou, and Rev. Jesse Jackson. When I asked if he had heard of the rumor that first lady Michele Obama was also of Sierra Leonean ancestry, he smiled, stating that if that were so that it would be most incredible to have the first black first lady be of our ancestry.
Isaiah Washington shares Joseph Opala's beliefs that the majority of African Americans in the United States, particularly those from the rice plantations in the Gullahs and elsewhere in the south could be 95% if not 100% Sierra Leonean ancestry. Finally when asked if he had any political aspirations in Sierra Leone, he expressed that his interest lay only in national development, and sent a special Independence message to Sierra Leoneans saying "Ah know say man dem noh gladi, but ah day try for make dem gladi". I couldn't help but smile. (source)