As dozens of African Americans gather at the Chesapeake Bay in Hampton, Virginia, to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first ship of enslaved Africans to English North America in 1619, some 250 African Americans also gathered across the Atlantic Ocean in Ghana where the first ship left Africa.
At an emotional ceremony at the Cape Coast Castle, one of about forty slave castles built in the Gold Coast (Ghana), over 70 families discovered their ancestry during the African Ancestry DNA reveal which is arguably the largest ever in the continent.
AfricanAncestry.com used its most comprehensive database of indigenous African genetic sequences in existence to trace their ancestry back to specific present-day African countries and ethnic groups of origin dating back more than 500 years ago – the only company that can do that.
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“We intentionally planned for it to happen at the same time history tells us the ships arrived in the US. To touch the water on both sides of the globe where the ships landed and from where they left 400+ years ago helps to sustain the paradigm shift we feel of Africans throughout the diaspora longing to return at the tectonic plate level under the ocean floor through our bodies on earth up through and above the clouds with thunder and lightning,” says Diallo Sumbry, President and CEO of The Adinkra Group, curators of the historic Jamestown to Jamestown trip to Ghana in partnership with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
He told Face2Face Africa in an interview that: “The return is spiritual in nature but manifests itself physically as it requires our bodies to physically return in order to envoke all our senses. Our spirits have been longing to return for a while,” adds Diallo Sumbry who is also Ghana’s first African-American Tourism Ambassador.
The historic Jamestown to Jamestown trip, co-facilitated by Sunseekers Tours and the Ghana Tourism Authority, enabled 250 people including actor, Danny Glover, to go on the tour from Jamestown, Virginia, to Jamestown, Accra, to trace their ancestry.
It started with a prayer vigil and candle lighting ceremony on August 18 in Jamestown, Virginia, where the English ship, White Lion, “brought not anything but 20 and odd Negroes” as noted by John Rolfe, the plantation owner and official overseeing the colony, the 250 African Americans visited the Smithsonian Museum of African American history before moving to Ghana aboard a South African Airways flight.
They were welcomed with a royal durbar in Ghana which was joined by Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the chiefs and people of Jamestown, Accra. It was followed by a two-day African American Business Summit and a black-tie gala.
After the African Ancestry DNA reveal in Cape Coast, the participants visited the Assin Manso Ancestral Slave River Park aka the “Last Bath” and they performed a similar ceremony as in Jamestown, Virginia, where they captured water from the James River and wrote a message to their ancestors in a notecard and placed in a bonfire.
“Most participants felt the range of emotions that many feel when they visit. Anger, sadness, confusion, anger, frustration, humility, gratitude, anger and a sense of relief when you understand how much resilience this requires and distance from which we’ve come,” Sumbry explains to Face2Face Africa.
“There was a family which was from the Akan people of Ghana. A grandmother, monther and two daughters. Three generations found out their maternal lineage came from Ghana,” he adds.
The participants visited other sites and events in the country including the Akwasidae festival in Ejisu, the Kumasi craft villages in Ahiwaa, Ntonso Craft Village, Bonwire Kente Weaving Village, Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum, W.E.B. DuBois Centre in Accra and Arts Center among many other places.
“Jamestown to Jamestown was designed to be a tremendous success and a cornerstone of the Year of Return which I believe we’ve accomplished with the partnership of African Ancestry. More importantly, the impact after the partnership with the NAACP is what makes this journey and mission historic,” says Diallo Sumbry.
Before their departure on August 28, the African Americans are expected to keep a lasting memory of the journey in their hearts and maintain their connection with the continent where their ancestors called home.
“This is just the beginning. The Year of Return still has a long calendar of events but we have already begun the planning for Jamestown to Jamestown next year to make it twice as big, better and impactful,” Diallo Sumbry hinted in anticipation of many more visits by the Diaspora.
Meanwhile, in Hampton, Virginia, a bell-ringing event was observed, ringing simultaneously for four minutes, one for each century. Also, in the same spot where the first 20 captured Africans arrived in the U.S., people whispered prayers to them and to the ancestors who did not survive the voyage. They sent those thoughts floating with flower petals in the Chesapeake Bay, reports CNN.