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.