National Geographic Center

Meet & Greet in The Gambia:

Africans & Obama

“President Obama is my idol,” declared 80-year-old Alhaji Hassan Njie outside the post office in downtown Banjul, The Gambia. To prove his point, he flipped out his cell phone to display the picture of the American President on his cell screen.

Njie was one of many non-Americans on my recent journey “home” who brought to life my expectation that upon my return to The Gambia many Gambians would express their interest in the U.S. Presidential elections. My expectations as I wrote in Am I Now an American, were printed in the February - May 2009 print issue’s Publisher’s Point.

More than 30 people continued to fulfill my expectations when they attended a Port of Harlem Meet and Greet hosted by Timbooktoo Bookstore in Bakau New Town. On the third floor balcony of the well-stocked store, 13-year-old Ousman Koro Sey not only expressed his admiration for the President, but also his wife. “I love her because she is a descendant of slaves,” he said. “I like the way she talks,” added 12-year-old Christian Sambou. “I also like how he walks with his wife,” continued Koro-Sey.

Both youngsters came with classmates and their teacher, John Gomez, from the Presentation of Mary Basic Cycle School. The school is south of the capital city of Banjul in Brikama.

For many Americans, Black and non-Black, the fact that many in the world see him as more than an African-American, but also as African has yet to set in. As we talked about the President, Amadou Jallow, as soccer referee from Nema Kunka, exclaimed, “He makes us both proud!”

Photos:  Top - POH Publisher Wayne Young with students from Mary Bass at Timbooktu.  Bottom:  Young with POH fan Ms. Bah.



Why I Don’t Hate Chris Brown

(and Why You Shouldn't’t Either)
By L. Michael Gipson

This is not another vaguely pro-domestic violence diatribe against Rihanna making irresponsible assumptions about the night she assumed bruises from her boyfriend, singer Chris Brown. Whatever allegedly sparked the incident—outside of self-defense—is ultimately inexcusable in civilized society. I am asking that we consider this a chance to save a young, foolish man’s life and, if done right, an opportunity to use his example to stave off numerous future acts of young domestic violence.

We have had a similar opportunity before and blew it. Watching the Biggie Smalls bio pic, Notorious, I was reminded at how young all its stars were when they were behaving so badly. The result: Tupac Shakur dead at 25; Big Poppa at 24; Kim damaged; Faith widowed. Most of their mistakes made before their maturing brains fully developed sound judgment and reasoning.

Neither Big nor Tupac had positive male mentors to teach them a different way when it mattered. It does not excuse their many transgressions, nor does it 19-year-old Brown’s. But they are gone, celebrated as much for their ignorance as for their prolific gifts by legions of faithful youth, and Brown is still here and, for now, relevant.

How powerful would it be if a group of Black leaders, from pastors to elder rappers, went to Brown to counsel him, and Rihanna too, for that matter? To work with them through their issues and help to create a national youth movement against domestic violence, led by a man-child whose reputation was pristine and a young woman who epitomized feminine strength before being victimized. How much better a message would that send to our children, than one of another Black man ruined, another Black woman made victim, and further evidence of the impossibility of Black love? What’s better destroying one abuser or preventing thousands more, through our compassion and his redemption?

Gipson also writes for the print issue's Entertainment

department. E-mail your thoughts to Gipson.


Port of Harlem’s Newest

Gambia Project

“Apart from them coming to Juffreh, there is nothing for tourist to take from the family,” says Omar Taal, 9th generation descendant of Kunte Kinte. Taal was commenting about the new postcard featuring his mom that Port of Harlem created and delivered to him in Banjul, The Gambia’s capital city. “We are very happy with this card. It will provide us with money to develop our village and family,” he continued.

Despite promises from Alex Haley to help the village with basic needs, Juffreh is still without electricity, modern human waste facilities, and family museum. Haley did begin the building of a mosque that Louis Farrahkhan finished.

The POH project plans calls for Taal to sell the postcards to tourists who visit the small village and reimburse Port of Harlem as the profits roll in. “We are giving them a micro-business loan and a plan to help themselves,” says publisher Wayne Young. Brian Young of Young Designs provided the graphic design and photographer Barry Williams of Phoenix, AZ provided his services as part of the loan package. Brian Young is also the magazine’s graphic artist. Williams is a print issue subscriber.

Photo:  Ajaratou Mariama Fofanas is an 8th generation descendant of Kunte Kinte and matriach of the Kinte family in Juffereh, The Gambia.  As matriach, she welcomes visitors who pay daily homage to the Kinte household.

Soul Sanctuary

Image of the African-American

Worship Experience
POH Photographer Featured on Fox 5

From the days of slavery to the present, religion has been deeply rooted in the Black family. In a recent FOX 5 Black History segment, Gwen Tolbart showed how Jason Miccolo Johnson brought to life the dedicated spirit within the walls of Black churches. Johnson also was the photographer of our latest print issue's cover.

Click Here to See the Current Issue's Cover

Illinois Memorializes Race Riot

The state of Illinois has awarded a $300,000 grant to the City of Springfield to design a statue that memorialized the 1908 Springfield Race Riot. The city commissioned celebrated African-American sculptor and Illinois native Preston Jackson to design the piece, which he created to symbolize images of burned-out buildings in the riot’s aftermath.

The sculpture will be permanently installed in Springfield’s Union Square Park, adjacent to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. The two-day 1908 Springfield Race Riot began on August 14 after two African-American men, held for alleged crimes against Whites, were moved from the Sangamon County Jail.

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Preservation Awards
By Peter H. Michael

Do you know a person or organization doing exemplary work regarding the Underground Railroad? If so, consider submitting a nomination to have the work recognized.

The Underground Railroad Free Press (URFP) awards the annual Free Press Prizes for Leadership, Preservation and the Advancement of Knowledge for contemporary Underground Railroad work, the highest honors bestowed in the international Underground Railroad community. As the Underground Railroad was an international effort, the URFP encourages nominations for the prizes from the United States, Canada and any other countries that had Underground Railroad involvement.

The Free Press Prize Panel of Judges review the nominations and select the winners. The judges are an international group of Underground Railroad experts and includes scholars, authors and journalists. The URFP announces the winners of the 2009 prizes in the September 15 issue of Underground Railroad Free Press and is reported in Snippets.

Click here for a list of the previous years’ winners, and for nominating instructions and forms. The deadline for submitting 2009 nominations is Monday, June 1.

White House Releases First Lady’s Official Photograph

The Pride of the South Side

The White House released the official portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama. Photographer Joyce N. Boghosian took the picture which is posted on her official White House page.

On that page, the1981 graduate of Whitney Young Magnet School included homage to Chicago’s historic majority-Black South Side. “Michelle and Barack Obama have two daughters: Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7. Like their mother, the girls were born on the South Side of Chicago.” (Whitney Young was a former Urban League President. Young drowned while swimming with friends in Lagos, Nigeria).

First Lady Michelle Obama Over The Years

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