Kinte Revelers Talk Of Teaching Children With Pride, Love

Heritage Is Colorful At Fifth Celebration

September 23, 1991|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,Staff writer

Nine-year-old Brandy Antonio colored Algeria purple, Tanzania green,the Sudan red and Mali pink. Country by country she worked across the map of Africa, making of her ancestral home a Crayola patchwork quilt.

Brandy's aunt, who brought her to the Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival in Annapolis, looked over Brandy's shoulder and answered her questions about how to pronounce the names of the places. She said she feels a responsibility to tell the children of her family where they come from, where their people have been.

"If we don't take care of our kids they're just going to destroy themselves," said Fahamisha Jaramogi of Baltimore.

"I just try to teach our family members some of the things I've learned about African history. I teach them that we weren't taught about our history.

"The people who brought us here didn't want us to know about our history, not the good parts. If you want to control people you don't tellthem where they came from," she said.

Less than a mile from whereJaramogi stood on the St. John's College campus is City Dock, where,on Sept. 29, 1767, Kunta Kinte stepped off the slave ship Lord Ligonier with 97 other Africans and began a life of slavery in America. The story told in Alex Haley's "Roots" inspired the 11-day celebration,now in its fifth year.

People came by the hundreds yesterday to the campus to sample the music, food, art, dance and craft of Africa and black America.

Food vendors sold kabobs and spiced rice and curry. Craft booths offered carved wooden animals, wooden jars and mortars and pestles and African jewelry.

Brandy worked on her map of Africa under a tent called the Children's Village, where youngsters made headbands and necklaces and watched a performance by a magician. She wore on her forehead the colors of the day, the bright orange, green and red cotton, called Kinte cloth.

Asked if she learns about black history in school, the Baltimore youngster said, "Sometimes. Likethe slaves and how certain people freed them."

Jaramogi said she believes most black children don't know their own history.

"You have to remember a lot of our people were ashamed of being African," said Jaramogi, who took an African name in 1976. "When I was growing upthe word "black" was derogatory."

That self-hate, Aaron Johnson said, "is ingrained in the wholeAmerican educational system."

Johnson, 26, sat beside two tables of T-shirts emblazoned with pictures ofMalcolm X, African symbols and anti-apartheid slogans.

His company, Nile Valley Enterprises, on W Street in Northeast Washington, is in "one of the roughest neighborhoods in D.C," he said.

He said he hopes the presence of his store there demonstrates to neighborhood children that there are men making a living without drug-dealing and violence.

"All they see is drug-dealing," said Johnson, a graduate of Howard University. "They don't see any positive role models. ElijahMohammed said, 'Don't look for role models, be one.'. . . That's why festivals like this are so important. The people that I'm surrounded by, we want a better way of life. We just don't want to talk about it."

The Geto Boys rapped from a tape player at Johnson's booth, songs with titles like "Mind Playing Tricks on Me," "Quickie" and "Another Nigger in the Morgue." It was an angry sound that went out over the green where willows bend at the banks of College Creek. And it madea sharp contrast to the joyful sounds of the KanKouran West African Dance Company, which was performing on the grass in front of the stage.

Twelve men and women in flowing blue and white costumes stepped, leaped, kicked and stretched to the rhythms beat out by four drummers on instruments made of goatskin stretched over wooden shells. Their artistic director, Assane Konte, is a Mandingo tribesman from Senegal, near the birthplace of Kunta Kinte. He led the group in song and also spoke to the audience.

"Let's not teach our children to hate," he said. "That's why they're out killing each other.

"It's the hate inside. That's a negative vibe. Show them the positive side. . . . Because you know who you are, you can stand up proud."

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