• 77°

Celebration of heritage and family

By Brenda Taylor

African ancestry DNA testing revealed  that on the maternal side my family our roots are traced back to the Mende tribe of Sierra Leone, a country  in West Africa. The country is well known for its diamonds, tropical resorts and beautiful country scenery. We celebrated our African heritage  two years  ago as part of the Black  History  festivities at Anointed  Dove ministries. The family dressed in ethnic attire, waved  the national flag, processioned to the beat of African music and later feasted on traditional cuisine of Sierra Leone.

Wanting to continue to embrace our heritage,  I thought  it fitting to celebrate Sierra Leone’s Independence Day.  Not having any idea of the date of this national holiday, my Google search revealed the  date to be April 27. I was immediately aghast at this date which is also the birthday of my sister Charlotte. Realizing that April 30 was the birthday of my sister Deb and that April 13 was the birthday of my two nieces Eboni and Sonya,  I thought of combining  the Independence Day celebration with  the  family’s April birthday  celebrants. Needless  to say, the family was eager  to  celebrate  yet another  special occasion

Calling upon my nephew  Wallace’s  Nigerian wife for input to add to authenticity of the African celebration/family birthdays, I was enlightened that my niece, Ijeoma, also had an April birthday, April 24, the  weekend date for the pre-independence celebration.

The matriarch  of our family, my aunt  Bernice, would have a pivotal  role in leading the procession for the big date. Matriarchs and patriarchs have a special reverence  in the African  culture.

The shortly anticipated date arrived. It is noteworthy  to explain that the idea of the celebration came to me on the last day of Black History  Month  2021, so there was a planning period of less than two months.

The  theme colors were emerald  green, white and royal blue, the colors  of the national flag. Vases of colorful peacock feathers and miniature flags were table centerpieces. On display in the banquet hall was  a framed certification of our membership of the Mende tribe of Sierra Leone, colorful photos  of picturesque country scenery along with glimpses of the people’s everyday life.  The menu of ethnic dishes included  Jollof  rice, similar to our jambalaya; egusi soup, a spicy,  nutty soup containing leaf vegetables, palm oil, other vegetables and meat; fufu, a beloved African dish made by pounding starchy vegetables like cassava or wheat  until it forms a dough-like consistency, primarily eaten with soup.

The family and invited guests wore colorful  African attire with many ladies wearing extravagant head wraps that accented their outfits. Festive, up-tempo  African music set the atmosphere for an evening.

I’m sending a shout out  to our family members of the Mende  tribe and a happy birthday  month to Alphia “Deb,” Charlotte,  Eboni, Sonya,  and Ijeoma. Happy Independence Day to our motherland  of Sierra  Leone.