Day 5 - The Day of Distinction

Day 5 started with a enriching press conference on slavery on Cameroon that was moderated by Professor Jean-Emmanuel Pondi.  There were number of scholars and speakers who helped to put everything into context.  The highlight, for many, was the presentation given by Dr. Asili (Lisa) Aubrey, Associate Professor of African American Studies and Political Science at Arizona State University, where statistics about the slave trade in the area were shared.  A follow up session is being scheduled so more dialogue can go forth.

A view of Yaounde, Cameroon from my hotel window

Dr. Lisa (Asili) Aubrey

Some of the gems of knowledge that were shared were:
  • We should get as many names of Cameroonians as possible, especially those from people in the tribe that your DNA has been traced to.  The names of those in Cameroon include priceless information such as the day and time a person is born and their lineage.
  • Cameroon is making history as the first African nation to welcome a group of DNA certified African Americans. (That's us! :)
  • While it has been historically said that Cameroon has played a minor role during the Middle Passage, research is showing that this is not the case.
  • Slaves from the interior, from tribes such as the Tikar and Bamileke, were marched from Bamenda to Bimbia (approximately 337km or 209 miles, see this map) to ports such as the one we visited in Bimbia.  They were often forced to sell their own tribe members into slavery because of threats that were made to their family members.  As many as 30,000 slaves were kept at one time in ports like Bimbia as slavers waited for ships to take them away.
  • The numbers regarding exactly how many Cameroonian slaves were taken from the country are patchy, but the estimate is that between 48,000 and 68,000 were taken.  Information regarding their port of departure is also sketchy as many were taken to neighboring countries, resold, and then put on slave ships.
  • For certain ships leaving Cameroon, the mortality rate was between 24% and 80%.  In some instances, there were more women and children taken than men as women and children were seen as a means to provide payment for debts.
After the conference, the group was taken to the visit with the Prime Minister of Cameroon, Philemon Yang, and a few members of his cabinet, including the Cameroonian equivalent of the Secretary of State.  This was definitely one of the best highlights of the trip.  When we got to the hotel later that night, we had Cameroonian coffee and tea that were gifts from Prime Minister Yang.

Inside the Cabinet's chamber

Prime Minister Yang

Eric and Brigitte

Nicka and Brigitte in the Cabinet chamber

Avline Ava, who is the President of ARK Jammers, Inc. told a moving story about the origins of the organization and how the trip was conceived.  Her father was the recipient of many opportunities as a result of him having a chance meeting with an American in the 1930s.  This American woman would keep in contact with him and stayed around as a benefactor well into his life.  Avline felt it necessary to perform acts of random kindness as the American did, but on the behalf of Cameroonians to Americans.  Usually, it's the the other way around.  The World Bank as well as the Prime Minister of Cameroon were major contributors to making our trip happen.  The idea to planning was only a mere 2 MONTHS!  The ARK Jammers organization is only 2 years old.

After our visit and lunch with Prime Minister Yang, we headed over to the home of the US Ambassador to Cameroon in Yaounde.   There, a wonderful reception was held for us that included embassy employees and their family members.  Ambassador Robert Jackson and his wife Barbara were on hand for the event which had great appetizers and punch.  The Cameroonian Minister of Information also came by to visit us and it was revealed that he had a great deal to do with making our trip happen.

The home of the US Ambassador to Cameroon in Yaounde, Cameroon

Sopheia signing in

Chanell, Jean, and Naja 

Nicka and Christopher at the US Ambassador's home.

The Cameroonian Minister of Information and Barbara Jackson, wife of the US Ambassador.

(Papa) Noel Ekwabi

We then capped the night off with a wonderful New Years Eve party hosted Barrista Akere Muna.  Not only was the food good, but we were treated to a custom fireworks show, personalized cake (with all of our names on it), and dancing.  Our group was sure to do the Soul Train line and the Electric Slide so that we could show our Cameroonian brothers and sisters how we party in the US.


Pr J-E.Pondi said…
Wonderful restitution of a historical trip.Congratulations for all the details provided.
Pr J-E.Pondi
Nicka said…
Thanks for the wonderful words Professor Pondi! Looking forward to seeing you again this December on ARP 2!

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