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“And we became family.”

March 5th, 2005 · No Comments

From an article in Thursday’s Seattle Times: Group prepares for an African homecoming in Kenya:

It was on the group’s first visit, in 2000, that a Kenyan woman put a question to Arunga and her companions.
“She said, ‘You call yourselves African Americans. Where in Africa do you come from?’ ” recalls Arunga, 46. “Because she thought that we had all been able to trace our roots like Alex Haley had done.”

Arunga explained to her that many African Americans don’t know what area their ancestors came from, that the very nature of the slave trade meant that genealogical records were scanty or nonexistent.

And then, as the American visitors listened, the Kenyan woman told a story passed down in her family for generations, of individuals who suddenly went missing and were never seen again.

The missing people, mourned by those left behind, were forever referred to as “the stolen ones,” she told them.

“And so,” Arunga said. “She looked at us and she said, ‘You must be the stolen ones. Welcome home.’ ”

It was an emotional moment, said Joye Hardiman, 60, another member of the group’s Vision and Planning Team.

“To know you were missed. That was powerful,” said Hardiman, executive director of The Evergreen State College’s Tacoma campus. “It generated a spirit of reciprocity — wanting to be able to enrich the places that we were visiting. And we became family.”

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