Return to the Motherland As a...

A MEMORABLE PLACE

June 25, 2000|By Gayle Westmoreland | Gayle Westmoreland,Special to the Sun

A MEMORABLE PLACE

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.

MY BEST SHOT

Mountain mirror

Brenda Baker, Westminster

This photo was taken in Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton National Park west of Moran, Wyo. Mount Moran is reflected in Jackson Lake, which is replenished each year with melting snow from the mountains, making for an exhilarating swim on even the warmest days.

READERS RECOMMEND

Kauai, Hawaii

Bryan Weeks, Pasadena

"Kauai is one of the most beautiful vacation spots in the world. Crystal-blue water, quiet beaches, cascading waterfalls and lush, green mountains make it the most spectacular of all Hawaiian islands. If you enjoy swimming, fishing, sailing, hiking, scuba diving or snorkeling, Kauai is a must."

Meteor Crater, Ariz.

Joan L. Dorey, Parkville

"On my grandson's first trip west, we visited Arizona's Meteor Crater. I marveled at the spectacular rocks, and asked Jason to stand in front of the biggest one so I could snap his picture. He replied, 'I'll do better than that,' and scrambled up to this perch. The picture captures the splendor of the Western landscape and our excitement at seeing it together."

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