A MEMORABLE PLACEReturn to the MotherlandAs a...



Return to the Motherland

As a black-history buff, I often wondered what might have happened to me had Marcus Garvey's "Return to Africa Movement" in the early 1900s succeeded. Just as Alex Haley searched for his "Roots" and inspired a generation of genealogy seekers, every human being must resolve questions that determine the essence of the soul.

For me, I had to return to the place of my heritage, Africa, the Motherland.

My trip was the culmination of a lifetime dream. I wanted to see the people, feel the emotion of homecoming, smell the air, taste the exotic foods and experience what I missed as a result of my ancestors' being abducted from their home.

I traveled to West Africa, the seat of the slave trade. In Ghana, we toured Elmina Castle, one of the fortresses where captives were held before boarding a slave ship. A group of Ghanaians welcomed us as if we were family members returning to the fold. They re-enacted a slave capture, and we went into the dank, gloomy rooms of the slave-holding areas. Later in the performance, the tour group held hands with its newly extended family, and we African-Americans, overwhelmed with emotion, began to cry.

In a local village, the primitive manner in which the residents lived overwhelmed me. The people were noticeably thin from their daily routine and hard work. The women were poised and erect as they carried heavy baskets of goods on their heads. The children, even at a young age, had great responsibility.

It appeared that everyone worked so hard. How could anyone say that blacks are lazy? Our brethren are proud, creative and loving. The blacks in America who have become involved in crime must not know they are the descendants of kings and queens, for if they knew their heritage, I am sure they would uphold the honor of their tribes.

While I knew that I was an American, I also knew that I was inexorably linked to the villagers. These were my relatives, my lineage, my family, my roots.

In a way, I felt anger about the families that were displaced by the slave snatchers. Yet deep down, I was happy that I had been born an American.

Gayle Westmoreland lives in Columbia.


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