Kunta Kinte's arrival celebrated at dock Ceremony marks 226th anniversary ANNAPOLIS/SOUTH COUNTY--Davidsonville * Edgewater * Shady Side * Deale

September 30, 1993|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

An international contingent yesterday celebrated Kunta Kinte's journey 226 years ago from Africa to the Annapolis City Dock.

Bakary B. Darbo, finance minister of The Gambia, joined a number of Kunta Kinte's descendants on a small stage at the far end of the City Dock for the seventh annual Kunta Kinte Arrival Celebration.

Kunta Kinte's arrival in Annapolis on Sept. 29, 1758 -- the subject of the late Alex Haley's Pulitzer-prize winning "Roots" -- symbolizes the arrival of a race of people in North America and the beginning of their struggle for freedom, said Mr. Darbo, addressing about 60 people who gathered for the event.

Mr. Haley's ancestor symbolized "a whole lot of people who found themselves in a predicament similar to his and displayed a similar spirit of strength, resilience and honor.

"This is part of the total American heritage and part of the total worldwide heritage," said Mr. Darbo, who is in the United States negotiating with the International Monetary Fund in Washington. "Kunta Kinte in a real sense was our countryman, our kinsman. He comported himself in a way that gives us pride."

Kunta Kinte's capture by slave merchants and his indomitable spirit were later re-enacted to an African drumbeat by members of the Baltimore-based Sankofa Dance Theater dressed in brightly colored costumes.

A dozen children with the Newtowne 20 Players and Banneker-Douglas Fine Arts Club, a part of the Annapolis Housing Authority's after school program, also performed an African folk tale about a magic cow.

Although, in the past, the event has been marked with a two-day cultural fair at St. John's College, yesterday the celebration was limited to a two-hour ceremony at the far end of the dock, hidden away from the hubbub of West Street.

Thomas E. Arthur, chairman of Kunta Kinte Celebration Inc., which sponsors the annual event, said he was "painfully disappointed" that the financially strapped group could not afford the cultural fair as well.

Mr. Arthur said the group does plan to revive the fair in September 1994 and also is planning a fine arts festival in March.

In addition, the group is attempting to raise $500,000 to erect a memorial statue of Alex Haley, who traced his roots through Kunta Kinte to the shores of Africa.

Alderman Carl Snowden, D-Ward 5, appealed to candidates for city office to pledge their support to provide the group with seed money. The city already has agreed to allow the statue to be erected along City Dock.

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