Chapter Fourteen: Mother Africa Calls Her 
Child Home


    To bring closure and underscore the power of my first trip to Africa, I had a very moving experience on my connecting flight home from London to Los Angeles.

     I had gotten up out of my seat to stretch and check on my fellow traveler, television director Kevin Arkadie, who had accompanied my group. Kevin taught screenwriting and television directing at BOB-TV Marketplace. He was sitting in another section of Virgin Airlines and I wanted to make contact with him.

     As I tightly passed people waiting to use the tiny restrooms, I heard a deep voice say, “The restrooms are in use.” I turned around to say I was not going to the restroom and realized I was staring in the eyes of Reverend Cecil B. Murray, retired pastor of First African Methodist Episcopal Church (FAME) in Los Angeles.

     A member of FAME, I said, “Pastor Murray, what were you doing in London?” He looked at me with his huge, gentle eyes and in his deep, metered voice replied, “My dear, what were YOU doing in London?”

     I said, “Actually, I wasn’t in London. I had a connecting flight from London. I am returning from Nigeria.” Pastor Murray met me with, “I am returning from Rwanda.”

     I repeated, “Rwanda?”

     He said, “I am returning with a group from USC. We were there to meet with orphans and widows in Rwanda.” He did not need to say more for me to receive the impact of his reason for going. It is no secret that the 100 days of genocide in 1994 left over one million Rwanda residents dead.

     He went on to say they were lending their talents toward rebuilding the country economically. I felt what was akin to electricity throughout my body. He reminded me of a conversation I had had with stage director, Shirley Jo Finney. She recounted for me an experience she had on Goree Island, a West African island off the coast of Dakar, Senegal. This haunting island, beginning in 1776, was the principal entry point during slavery. Africans were taken to Goree Island to the “Slave House” up until 1848 before being shipped by some 20 ships across the Atlantic Ocean to meet their destiny with the horrendous institution of slavery along the Diaspora. Renderings of the ships are on display on Goree Island giving a visual reminder of the Black Holocaust.

     Shirley Jo shared with me the personal impact Goree Island had on her. Like other African Americans who have made that same sojourn, she shared how emotional the experience was for those returning to the port that transported our ancestors to the Western Hemisphere. She painted a picture of what affected her most.  She described seeing the room where children were separated from their parents and stacked on top of each other like cargo. She also shared what it was like for her to see the well-known door that reads, “Door of no return.”

     Shirley Jo said she looked at that inscribed doorway and thought defiantly, “It’s a lie. We’re back!!”

     I finished by saying, “Pastor Murray, I think about you coming back from Rwanda, those in my group from Nigeria, Oprah setting up her school in South Africa. Senator Obama Baraka’s AIDS-related trip to Africa and a group of Black journalists that included my friend DeBorah who recently went to South Africa. I know what Shirley Jo felt is true. We are back!”


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