Day 1 | Reconnection Ain’t Dead...It Lives in Cameroon

Deborah Boddie, Esq. and Gina Paige
Fons from the Washington Metro area with
H.E. Foe Atangana (middle)
Monday, December 26 signaled the beginning of the next installment of the Ancestry Reconnection Program hosted by ARK Jammers, Inc.  This program is the second one of it’s kind where a group from the African Diaspora has been invited back their country of origin, Cameroon, based solely upon their DNA.  I participated in the first installment which took place from December 26, 2010 to January 5, 2011. Last year’s trip had 50 attendees while this year’s trip has nearly 90.

Me and Regina Jackson, a friend, fellow CamAmerican, and Bay Area native, were greeted with hugs and smiles from familiar faces and handshakes and greetings from lots of new ones as we arrived at Washington Dulles Airport.  20 of the 50 from last year’s trip will be returning.  African Ancestry.Com’s co-founders Gina Paige and Rick Kittles, and United States Cameroon Embassy First Secretary, Omaurou Chinamoun, are also in attendance.

As the group headed to the security checkpoint, we were received by the Cameroonian Ambassador to the U.S., His Excellency, Joseph Foe Atangana, and chiefs (fons) that reside in the Washington metro area.  They each gave the group their blessings for our journey and wished us well.  The fons poured libations and also used a traditional broom to perform the ceremony.

Me and Regina had already logged four and a half hours of air travel in order to join the group at Washington Dulles.  We then added an additional six hours of time as we traveled from Dulles to Paris (CDG).  Despite a snafu with regard to boarding passes and luggage, our group of more than 80 successfully boarded our flight from Paris (CDG) and flew another six and a half hours to reach our final destination, Yaounde (NSI).  In all, me and Regina logged more than 18 hours of air travel in the space of a day.

The minute we exited the plane we were met with hugs from members of the ARK Jammers and local media including photographer Claude Badaha, and Randy Joe Sa’ah of BBC News Africa.  Each of us also shook hands with Paul McDermott, from the United States Citizen Services, Consular Section of the United States Embassy in Yaounde.  Actress and philanthropist Sheryl Lee Ralph and her husband, Sen. Vincent Hughes, were added to our delegation.

Fons local to Yaounde met us as we exited the airport.  ARK Jammer, Eric Chinje, served as an interpreter during their blessing ceremony in which we were given a Cameroonian fruit to eat.  This gesture takes place between Cameroonians and their visitors and is seen as a sign of good will.  I have to admit that the fruit wasn’t what I expected, but I ate half of it.  Oakland, CA Vice Mayor, Desley Brooks, served as the delegation’s representative and spoke on behalf of the group.

We were then lead outside to the sound of drummers and dancers.  As a band played, I noticed that one of the saxophonists had on a shirt that said “Hip Hop ain’t lives in the west. Los Angeles.”  I immediately smiled since I was showing my California roots by wearing Converse sneakers.  (Listen to “California Love” by 2pac for his reference to wearing “Chucks not ballys.”) I need to find that t-shirt, especially since it was printed in Cameroonian colors.

Next, we boarded six buses to our hotel destination, Hilton Yaounde. It was 8pm local time.  We saw a number of local eateries on Rue de Mben that had a lot of people outside and hoped the bus driver would let us out so we could go and hang out.  One of the things a number of the returners long for is the ability to meet and converse with “regular people.” It feels like we’re a “doggie in the window” sometimes as we sit in our bus, detached somewhat from what life is like here.  On the other hand, it may not necessarily be safe for a group of our size to be out with each individual doing their own thing.  Our security detail is the same as it was during ARP 1.

At Hilton Yaounde, there was a conference held where attendees were given back their passports and yellow cards, and the ARP 1 participants were united with ARP 2 participants as buddies during the trip.  Each of us shared a little about ourselves such as where we live and which tribe we are from.  I have four buddies - two from California and two from Michigan.  One of my buddies is a woman named Meredith that I have been in correspondence with and who had read this blog about last year’s trip. Dr. Kittles also spoke about his excitement about being part of ARP 2. 

By this time, we were very hungry and tired.  The 10 hour time difference had caught up to us.  Once we were all assigned our rooms, many of us ate and headed straight to bed.  There was lots planned for tomorrow and each of us needs to be well rested in order to enjoy it.

For more photos, please visit ns2 photography on Facebook.

African Ancestry's Dr. Rick Kittles

Jerome Minlend and actress Sheryl Lee Ralph.

Eric Chinje and Avline Ava (center)

(c) 2011, AtlasFamily.Org Genealogy Research
Photos (c) 2011, ns2 photography


Great to read the details of your journey and your safe arrival. My good friend Callie Riser is on the journey with you, and she traveled last year on the first trip. Looking forward to more posts about the trip! Safe travels!
Thanks for the post. I would love to meet Dr. Kittles to learn more of his research. The trip sounds exciting.
Jannie said…
Nicka-- Thanks for sharing your journey with us. I will miss you and the group this year. Safe travels and Happy New Year to everyone! God bless you.

Jannie Davis~~

Popular Posts