Posts Tagged ‘Freetown’

Granted, it’s not a question that occupies a great deal of attention, but Travel Dynamics International likes to illuminate parts of the world that don’t get a lot of attention. Last April, we were in Freetown (and we will be again, next April). We frequently arrange to have our guests meet local government officials; on this voyage, we were privileged to meet the Deputy Chief of Mission for the US Embassy, Elizabeth Susie Pratt, who gave us this excellent summary of the current political and social issues of Sierra Leone, and that African country’s ties to the United States. The address is featured prominently on the American Embassy’s website.

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. I am pleased to be the first to welcome you to Sierra Leone. I have been the Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy to Sierra Leone for nearly two years now, so I welcome you as I am preparing for my own departure. My time here has been one of exciting changes both in the Embassy and in the country as a whole. Our Embassy moved from our longtime home to a new building up on top of Leicester Peak. Sierra Leone has transitioned from being a country only just emerged from war, with a peace still guarded by a robust UN force, to a reconstructing nation, with a rapidly reducing UN presence, and a democratic election and peaceful civilian to civilian transfer of authority complete.

I think it is important, however, to begin any discussion of U.S.-Sierra Leone relations with a discussion of the historical ties that connect the two countries. The first major contact between America and Sierra Leone was through the slave trade. Captives from this part of Africa were highly sought after for their superior rice-growing abilities. The rice from this part of the world was among the best, and rice was a prime industry in the Carolinas and Georgia. Many Sierra Leoneans found their way to the United States because plantation owners sought them out. Their expertise was invaluable in the southern economy.

Today, there is a population off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia called the Gullah people who trace their roots to the Mende tribe of Sierra Leone. The language they speak is almost identical to the tribal language still spoken here. Their foods, their songs, their dances, and their rituals are all indicative of the African roots many Americans never knew they had. An American scholar by the name of Joseph Opala about 10 years ago was able to connect through DNA testing a woman from that area of the United States to a particular village here in Sierra Leone. That woman’s ancestor, a Sierra Leonean captive named Priscilla, remained in the area of the Southern U.S., and her descendants settled there for generations. When Priscilla’s descendant finally visited the land of her ancestors, it was dubbed “Priscilla’s Homecoming,” and epitomized the strong relationship between our two countries. (more…)

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