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The Power of Living

June 14, 2010

Joy Bailey, Senior Consultant with Lord Cultural Resources, is in Sierra Leone.

By Joy Bailey

Culture is about living. In Sierra Leone, people pack supplies, groceries, knapsacks, any and everything on their head, tie their babies onto their backs and go about the day, just as they did hundreds of years ago. Neat rows of people traversing the streets, parcels up top, hands-free, talking on cellphones, yelling about the world cup.  I watched this parade as we rode to the beach today. We drove about an hour outside of Freetown– through the city center, past the countless billboards for Africell and Comium until the roads cleared of vehicles and just became people, goats, and dogs.

Our intention was to lay out, drink, enjoy some lobsters with some expats, and relax. But as we sat, lolling in the naturally formed pool on beach #2, I kept looking out at the Atlantic thinking this might have been the beach from which my ancestors left the African continent, chained and bound for a distant land, never to return. But laying there in that swirl, I had one of those “ah-ha moments.” My ancestors LIVED here. They didn’t just get kidnapped and sold into slavery here. They LIVED. They were fishermen, hunters, traders, farmers, and yes, they packed their goods on their heads and went about their day.

As an African American, I have allowed my life experience to be bound by the chains of slavery. To be sure, I never felt shame, always celebrating the resilience of a people that have overcome the ultimate indignity of forced deportation and the most inhumane subservience on the globe. But I never, NEVER thought about my people LIVING here. I’ve been skipping to the middle of the story, so caught up in the historical that I forgot that the real story begins with people living.

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Joy Bailey-Bryant

About The Author

Joy Bailey-Bryant is Managing Director, US at Lord Cultural Resources.

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