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  Friday, May 27th
Thomalind Receives The Susu Name N'Mah Koya (Great Mother)
Thomalind Receives The Susu Name N'Mah Koya (Great Mother)
Notes From Toni:
Our day started early as we departed at 8:15 to pay courtesy visits to Vice President Solomon Berewa and Mayor Winstanley Bankole-Johnson and his staff. Vice President Berewa and his staff received us warmly and bid us most welcome. Vice President Berewa spoke about the slave trade and its effect on West Africa, and of his pleasure at seeing Priscilla's journey come full circle with Thomalind's voyage to Sierra Leone. Thomalind expressed gratitude for the hospitality she had received since her arrival. She stated that she was proud to represent Priscilla, and that she felt that Priscilla was at peace with her return to her childhood home. I felt great happiness over seeing the descendant of a young girl, who left as a captive, now welcomed home 249 years later by Sierra Leone's Vice President. The story has indeed come full circle, and is all the more poignant in contrast to the ongoing struggles of African Americans to be universally recognized as esteemed members of their own society.

From there, we proceeded to a courtesy visit with Mayor Winstanley Bankole-Johnson and his staff, who gave us a cordial welcome. Mayor Johnson kept the ceremony as informal as possible, which put us all at ease as we introduced ourselves to our hosts. Ron Daise shared a traditional Gullah spritual with our hosts, and they in turn shared a traditional Sierra Leonean spiritual, "Tel Am Teynki Tel Am, Tel Papa Gohd Teynki" (Tell Him Thank You, Tell Him, Tell Father God Thank You):

Tel am teynki, tel am
Tel Papa Gohd teynki
Tel am teynki, tel am
Tel Papa Gohd teynki

Weytin i du foh mi
A go tel am teynki
Weytin i du foh mi
A go tel am teynki

Tel am teynki, tel am
Tel Papa Gohd teynki

English translation:

Tell him thank you, tell him
Tell Father God thank you
Tell him thank you, tell him
Tell Father God thank you

What he did for me
I will tell him thank you
What he did for me
I will tell him thank you

Tell him thank you, tell him
Tell Father God thank you

It was very moving to hear all of the Sierra Leoneans present singing this song in unison. After our visit with Mayor Johnson, our wonderful friend and hostess Marian Alfred interpreted this song and taught us the words. We sang it all the way back to the hotel. It would become our anthem for expressing joy as the week's events unfolded.

Next on the agenda was a Naming Ceremony, during which each member of the Priscilla's Homecoming party received an African name. The mood was very lighthearted as we enjoyed music and dancing while everyone filtered in for the ceremony. Cecil Williams of the National Tourist board opened the ceremony by presenting Thomalind and Antawn with African clothing.

As each of us was called forward, we received name tags and a notarized document containing our African names. As we received our names, rice paste was rubbed onto our foreheads by the yeliba (griot), who took both of our hands and pronounced us members of the Susu tribe. Finally, a bit of cola nut was placed in our mouths to finalize our new status. Below are the names each of us received, and the meaning of each name.

Thomalind Polite: N’Mah Koya: Great Mother

Antawn Polite: Diallo Modu: Great Warrior

Joseph Opala: Konkoba: Hardworking Person

Brian Bartelt: Abass: Advisor to the Committee

Lenny Spears: Samba: Town Cryer

Charles Black: Sulukumodu: Witch Hunter

Alyce Black: Mafeneh: Head of the Women's Society

Ron Daise: Kameforay: Old Man

James Campbell: Mangehde: Chief's Son

Kenneth Burton: Sedu Bah: Educated Person

Herb Frazier: Alimamy: Section Chief

Paul Davis: 'Donso Modu: Famous Hunter

Joe James: Haidara: Great Warrior

Jaqcuelyn Metz: N'Serra: Head Wife of the Chief

Toni Carrier: Foeserra: Servant to the Chief's Wife

Joyce McCollum: N'yallie: Singer for the Chief

Faith Fogle: Bangigbay: Head of a Big Family House

Valerie Tutson: N'Mabuya: Grandmother

Leslie Morales: Botteh: The Chief's Best Woman Cook

Susan Zakin: NDorra: Trumpet Blower

Ann Wright: Yainkainny: Seguleh Player

Alison Sutherland: Yalanba: Organizer

Joshua Klemm: Yusufu: The Dreamer

Jeanine Talley: N'Kumba: Woman Who Brings the Chief's Bathwater

This evening's event was by far the most emotional of the week, so far. Our Homecoming leader Dr. Joseph Opala presented a public lecture on Priscilla's Homecoming at the US Embassy. After the lecture, Ron Daise performed a song that he had written about Priscilla's Homecoming. Ron sang of the triumph of Priscilla's spirit in returning to her homeland, and nearly everyone in the room was sobbing midway through it.

We were also treated to a performance by the Freetown Players, an a capella singing troupe of some renown. The Freetown Players had composed a song especially for Priscilla's Homecoming. The song began with expressions of welcome in several Sierra Leonean dialects, followed by "I swear to the God I believe" [that you are welcomed]. Subsequent verses told the story of Priscilla, her capture and her enslavement in South Carolina. By the end of these performances, there was not a dry eye in the house. The experience was cathartic for releasing the myriad of emotions that folks were feeling about the Homecoming so far. We left happily exhausted and processing all of the day's events.

Notes From Kenny:
Day Two:
Early Friday morning, our party ventured by bus to the visit the Vice President and the Mayor as planned.

I should have learned a lesson from my first day in Freetown but as I was again seeking one of those “Roots” moments decided to take off my shoes during the naming ceremony held near poolside at the hotel, facing the ocean. Administrators from the Susu Tribe were seated at the head table, and as each member of the Priscilla’s Homecoming name was called they proceeded to the table, were given their African name, given a piece of cola nut to eat and anointed with a rice paste on their forehead. I, wanting to make this an extra special occasion, proceeded up when my name was called, being careful where I walked since a few minutes earlier I had placed my feet near an ant pile. There is not any old proverb that I know of, but if there was one, it would be something like “A wise man watches his steps and where he is going,” because looking down to see where I was walking I hit my head on an eye-level tree limb, and was struck with inspiration to write a new poem.

Boink (a poem for Sedu Bah)

Not so sacred funny though
Had to be there but so you’ll know
This what happened this no lie
Ceremony make you cry
Elders from a village came
To give me African name
I walk up with bare feet
Watching steps and head hit tree

After the ceremony I again changed my name, this time from Sedu Bah, which in Susu means "Educated Person," to the unofficial name of Sedu Boink Bah. Boink was the ring sound I heard when that tree limb jumped into my path.

Jacquelyn Metz and her crew, as always, were filming for a forthcoming documentary, and I sure hope that the footage of me and the tree ends up on the editing room floor, it was really a blooper.

Later that evening, Joseph Opala lectured using a PowerPoint presentation on the History of Bunce Island. For many in the audience, it was the first time that they had heard about the extent of the involvement the British had in the West African Slave Trade.






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