By Paul Ndiho, Washington DC
July 5, 2011
When the award winning novel “Roots: The Saga of an America Family” was first released more than 33 years ago, it generated a lot of interest in Africa. “Roots” author Alex Haley traced his family’s heritage back to Juffure, a small village in the West African Nation of the Gambia. In a similar voyage of discovery, a group of Africans in the Diaspora is organizing an ocean cruise that will retrace the journeys of their ancestors.
The United Nations proclaimed 2011 as the International Year for People of African Descent. Over the years, people of African heritage have attempted to find out what really happened to their ancestors who were taken out of Africa and enslaved. Lamin Sarr, originally from the Gambia, is one of the organizers of the cruise and says this cruise, the “Heritage Revival Caribbean Cruise,” will complete the cycle of freedom and its goals are to promote greater understanding among peoples of African descent.
“When we talk about organizing this cruise, it is not just a simple cruise. It is a platform that will do three things: One, it will help us to celebrate 2011 as the international year for people of African descent. I prefer for people of African heritage, it will also help to launch a program of a dialogue which we call the rejuvenation of the broken African family.”
Mr. Sarr says that the cruise is meant to give people of African descent an opportunity to go back to their ancestral land.
“It will be a voyage that will reverse the very routes of the trans-Atlantic slave trade routes. What we plan to do is actually have a cruise ship and have a lot of people in that ship and we’ll move from the East Coast of the United States and we’ll stop in the Caribbean. Stop in Brazil and cross from Brazil to West. Africa basically the first voyage will be to Senegal. Because form Brazil to Senegal is the shortest route across the Atlantic Ocean, so that will shorten the length of the cruise. “
While the cruise is a kind of cultural heritage tourism, Sarr notes the cruise will also have the ability to transform people’s consciousness:
“When that ship arrives in West Africa, we’ll go through the door of no return and by doing that we’ll enter the land and be welcomed by their African brothers and sisters. In doing that they will have debunked the myth of the door of no return because original