The Sierra Leone-Gullah Connection: The Next Step

An Historical Study Tour, Dec. 27, 2019 to Jan. 7, 2020

For Immediate Release: Download a PDF Copy
Contact: Akindele Decker

Email: [email protected]
Phone: +1.240.618.8840

Washington, DC: A group of Gullah-Geechee people from coastal South Carolina and Georgia will soon visit Sierra Leone on an historical study tour called, “The Sierra Leone-Gullah Connection: The Next Step.” The participants will include cultural activists and performers, museum professionals and scholars. Fambul Tik, a Sierra Leone-based tour operator, specializing in historical and cultural tourism, will lead the tour.

The Gullah-Geechees are a unique group of African Americans that has preserved much more of its African cultural heritage than any other black community in the US. Scholars have shown that a great deal of Gullah-Geechee culture comes from the West African nation of Sierra Leone. Sierra Leoneans and Gullahs have known about their family relationship for about 35 years. Sierra Leone’s President Joseph Momoh visited the Gullah community on St. Helena, SC in 1988, to celebrate these newly discovered family ties. The following year, a group of Gullah-Geechee community leaders visited Sierra Leone, on a state visit that was called the Gullah Homecoming. South Carolina Educational Television (SCETV) produced a documentary on these events, called “Family Across the Sea” that it was repeatedly broadcast in both countries. SCETV will take part in “The Next Step” tour and produce a sequel to “Family Across the Sea” that will show how this family connection has grown over the last thirty years.

A second homecoming took place in 1997 when the Moran Family of Coastal Georgia visited a small village in Southern Sierra Leone. Scholars have shown that in this village people had preserved a song in the Mende language that the Morans, themselves, had preserved within their own family. Then, a third homecoming took place in 2005 when a Gullah woman, named Thomalind Polite, came to Sierra Leone on her own state visit. Scholars had discovered that she is the seventh-generation descendant of a young girl, called “Priscilla,” who was exiled from Sierra Leone aboard a slave ship bound for South Carolina in the year 1756.

Fambul Tik, a Sierra Leonean heritage tour company, will lead the trip to showcase new information on the Gullah Connection that have not been fully explored. For example, we will emphasize the “two-way” connection when we talk about Gullahs who returned to Sierra Leone in 1792. American scholar Kevin Lowther, who has written a remarkable book, The African-American Odyssey of John Kizell, the story on a man born in Sierra Leone who returned back home in 1792. Or the fact that for the first time the people of Sierra Leone at a village called Rogbonko, where shuku blais (sweetgrass baskets lookalikes) are made as a way of life, will watch a Gullah-Geechee 7th generation basket maker, sew a coiled type basket in a similar way to what they do. Priceless!

According to Amadu Massally, co-founder of Fambul Tik: “we want to show three things to the world: that Sierra Leoneans were taken into slavery, that Sierra Leoneans resisted slavery, and that Sierra Leone received formerly enslaved people who returned. Some of them were in fact, born in Sierra Leone. Not too many others can claim this two-way connection.”“So, while other countries like Senegal and Ghana are claiming that African Americans must look to them for their ancestry, in Sierra Leone the evidence is abundant that real connections exist. And we must reconnect! Therefore, Fambul Tik exists,” he chimes with a smile.

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Fambul Tik, or Family Tree in English, is a heritage and cultural organization that reconnects the Sierra Leone diaspora back to her roots, or vice versa. www.fambultik.com

Fambul Tiki's at Pen Center in 2017