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  Monday, May 30th
Fishing Boat Navigator, Bunce Island, Sierra Leone
Fishing Boat Navigator, Bunce Island, Sierra Leone
Notes From Joyce:

My journey to Sierra Leone had many set backs and layovers and had been an emotional roller coaster ride, my luggage was in the twilight zone, I was arriving a week late and as far as I knew, no one was expecting my 1 in the morning arrival. My newly found friends were all Leoneans visiting home for various reasons. We had had a lively fun exchange on the long flight from London. They assured me that I would be seen through customs and escorted safely to my hotel. I looked out of the window for the lights of the city and thought of how I was going to walk through “Freedom Gate” for all of my ancestors who were enslaved. Mentally running through my known pedigrees and visualizing each ancestor until there were no more names or faces.

And that’s when I started to cry. My fellow passengers all comforted me thinking I was worried about arriving with no warning. When I told them why and whom I was crying for they immediately understood. I told Dauda, seated to my left, that I felt glad that I was bringing my ancestors home. He said, “Be glad that they are bringing you home.” And they did.

To my astonishment I had a welcoming committee at Lungi Heliport! Toni and various members of “Priscilla’s Posse” were there yelling and jumping in the air which prompted everyone else to celebrate with us and so my entry into Freetown was one of laughter, hugs and dance. Our joyous reunion lasted through the night. I had no idea that the next day my heart would be stolen.

Notes From Kenny:
Day Five:
Thomalind, Antwan and the participants were received by Sierra Leone President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, who welcomed us as brothers and sisters returning home. He briefly talked about Sierra Leoneans being aware of the connection with South Carolina and the Gullah culture.

Later that evening at the British Council, Charles Black was MC at a program that featured our own Valerie Tutson, noted story teller from Rhode Island, the Freetown Players, and Ron Daise. Ron presented in song and story the history and culture of the Gullah people of South Carolina, where he showed the similarities this community has with the recaptured slave Krios living in Freetown.

Notes From Toni:
Our day started with a courtesy visit to President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah. Joseph Opala addressed the President, thanked him for receiving us, and commented briefly upon our visit to Sierra Leone. President Kabbah welcomed us to Sierra Leone. The President spoke about the importance of Priscilla's Homecoming as another step in healing the wounds of slavery on both Sierra Leonean and American shores. President Kabbah also spoke of his desire to grant Thomalind dual citizenship in Sierra Leone, although current Sierra Leonean laws do not permit such. He kindly presented each of us with a lapel pin of the Sierra Leonean flag.

Thomalind then addressed the President. She expressed joy and gratitude, then presented President Kabbah with a painting of Priscilla, a booklet on the Gullah/Sierra Leone connection written by Joseph Opala, and a packet of information on Priscilla's Homecoming.

The afternoon was set aside as free time, so I accompanied videographers Jaqcuie Metz, Lenny Spears and Brian Bartelt on a return trip to Bunce Island.

A young Susu man named Kandeh Kamara (a student of cultural studies at Fourah Bay College) has accompanied me in our travels this week. He was to work with Joyce all week to inform her on Susu culture for her website feature article on what Priscilla's life might have been like, had her capture and enslavement not destroyed her life and hopes. As Joyce was still enroute to Sierra Leone, Kandeh worked with me as our busy Homecoming itinerary permitted: ten minutes on the bus here, half an hour over a hamburger there.

So, off Kandeh and I went for the boat ride to Bunce Island. While the videographers shot more Bunce Island footage, Kandeh and I found a breezy spot on the beach, and he translated many words from English to Susu, and patiently pronounced them as I wrote phonetic spellings for Joyce. The Susu alphabet is undergoing a change in form. The original alphabet was not phonetic. A new, phonetic alphabet is now being taught to younger students.

We returned from Bunce Island too late to attend tonight's public performance at the British Council, which was hosted by Priscilla's Homecoming member Charles Black. Kenny Burton did attend the event, though, so please be sure to read his narrative about the performances by Ron Daise and the Freetown Players.

Today was Joyce's final opportunity to place her feet on African soil, for if she did not make this evening's flight, she would arrive Friday, when the Homecoming would already have ended. Back at the hotel, Victor informed us that Joyce's flight (scheduled to arrive at 8:50 P.M.) would be delayed until after midnight. Assuming that no news was good news, we proceeded at the appointed time to the helipad with great hopes.

Five helicopter shuttles were to run from Lungi to the helipad after the plane landed. After watching four shuttles come in without Joyce, we were getting a bit nervous. In came the last shuttle, and out came Joyce! She had left Phoenix nine days earlier, and finally stood before us in Sierra Leone. I found myself jumping up and down and cheering. The rest of the folks at the helipad had no idea what we were celebrating, but they burst into applause and celebrated with us. Such is the warmth of Sierra Leonans.

By the time we got Joyce to the hotel and settled in, it was 5:00 A.M. Knowing that we had an early departure for the new day's activities, we ordered breakfast and forged on.

Joyce's route to Sierra Leone was Pheonix>Atlanta>Detroit>London>Freetown, but for some mystifying reason her luggage went to Atlanta>Orlando>New York>London>Freetown. Joyce definitely deserved the "Blown Up Chicken" award for calamity during Priscilla's Homecoming!

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