[Coughing] As you can hear, there have been and still are many obstacles trying to prevent me from being present for this momentous occasion. So, please forgive my voice. It is this struggle that I have today that encourages me and allows me to know that I am very blessed.
I would like to thank His Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma. The Honorable Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Zainab Hawa Bangura and her personal assistant Abdulai Bayraytay, all the Ministers of the Republic of Sierra Leone; the Mayor of Freetown; the Vice President; all distinguished guests, relatives and friends. I would also like to thank the Embassy’s of Sierra Leone here in Freetown, New York and Washington, D.C. I’d like to thank the Director General Soulay Daramy, Internal Affairs Minister, Dauda Kamara, Chief Immigration Officer Kholifa Koroma, my tribal brother Raymond Scott-Manga, my tribal mother Nyande Manga, my tribal uncle Julius T. Manga and all in the Kono-Mende family, Bagbwe Chiefdom, particularly the Ngalu and Njala Kendema villages, Gondobay Manga Project Manager; a man and his brothers who also afforded me this occasion by literally being the foundation of the Gondobay Manga Foundation here in Sierra Leone. That would be Mohamed Kamara, his brother Ibrahim Sei Kamara my Public Relations Officer and his brother Henry Moriba Koroma my Liaison Officer. I would like to thank them for all of their tireless support on the ground here in Sierra Leone and I just want to make it historically accurate to say that they are the vision of the youth that I want to attach myself to Mr. President. The wisdom that I receive from my family here and you sir makes me want to really be a bridge to connect our youth with the future. I would like to thank my wife Jenisa Marie Washington; my sons Akin Olu, Tyme Baraka and my daughter Iman Sele Washington.
Last but not least, I would like to thank my mother Faye Marie McKee for having provided me the DNA maternally and the opportunity of life sanctioned by God Almighty on August 3, 1963. Because of her, I have been given the tremendous honor and opportunity to not only represent her today, but all of the Sierra Leonean women – five generations before her. I am humbled, but I am not deterred. To represent not only the Manga legacy, the Mende-Temne legacy, but the legacy of Sengbe Pieh and many other reformers, freedom fighters and patriots of Sierra Leone.
Mr. President, I would like to thank you for not only keeping your promise to give me my citizenship when we met, as I was a part of your delegation at the 63rd General Assembly at the United Nations in September of 2008. I remind you that your promise was made at the historical Willard Hotel, where one of our reformers – Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in his hotel room at the Willard in 1963 days before his March on Washington. I would also like to remind you sir and all of our guests – that there would be no reform if there had never been a civil rights movement and there would have been no civil rights movement if it were not for the Sierra Leonean Sengbe Pieh, who became the first civil rights case. So, that irony does not fall short on me. And why we are finally here, I believe that through science the truth is found out. I believe that DNA will finally become the tool to bridge the gap between our brothers and sisters who have been lost.
Since my rebirth in February 2005, the moment I received my DNA results from African Ancestry, Inc. I have been boldly and impassionedly put on a crash course forged in fire with challenges upon challenges and difficulties. And every single one where I felt I could not go on, something would happen literally the next day that said that I should. I stand here today, humbled and grateful that I did. This is not only a historical occasion, but is one that has defined Isaiah Washington.
Who is Isaiah Washington?
I am the first, but I certainly won’t be the last. This is just a dream come true that I never talked about for fear of being ridiculed since the age of 9. I’ve written a book about it, chronicling it, entitled “A Man From Another Land” about how finding my roots changed my life. For those who dreamed of being football players, track stars, baseball players, doctors, astronauts and lawyers. I dreamed of Africa. At the time I thought I was being plagued by this particular dream – a peculiar dream that was the exact same dream that came into fruition on May 28, 2006. I never revealed this to any of my family or my tribal brother, again for fear of being ridiculed. It’s a daunting task to know what your purpose is early in life. It’s unexplainable and it’s overwhelming. But I can release all of that – today. And I thank you for that freedom.
Who is Gondobay Manga?
On May 28, 2006 I was tribally baptized, adopted and inducted as Chief Gondobay Manga. The honorary title has now been “legitimized” today. Largely ratified and recognized at my official ribbon-cutting in Njala Kendema yesterday. Opening the Foday Golia Memorial School that services over 250 students today, was my gift to the people of Sierra Leone. I have travelled around the continents of Africa and North America looking at ruins and buildings that have landmark placards on them from Bunce Island, South Carolina to Georgia. Slave cabins. Slave castles. And I always had a different take. One that was completely separate from the one I was supposed to have – Malice, Anger and Rage. All I could see, although the blueprints had been laid by our enslavers and our oppressors, were that these ruins are still standing much like the pyramids simply because they were “built” by our hands.
In that rebuilding I now stand here as Gondobay Manga II. Gondobay Manga was a warrior who came from Kono to defend the Kono Settlement and died fighting. The Gondobay Manga name has not been used for over 300 years until now. I was told that there was folklore that there would be “a man from another land” that will join in the effort to re-claim and restore Sierra Leone to its former greatness. Mr. President, I am honored to be the first African American to receive this citizenship, but I will assure you I will not be the last. You sir, have sparked a fire that will spread throughout the continent of Africa and throughout the world.
I believe that DNA has memory. I believe that if the slave traders could have known to destroy our chromosomes I believe that they would have so that this connection today could have never happened. [APPLAUSE]
Mr. President, I believe that DNA has memory and once and for all. Our brothers and sisters can now begin to “awaken” to their individual ancestral links and connections living in their DNA. There have been many Pan Africans who have tried – from W.E.B. DuBois to Edward Wilmot Blyden of Liberia – from Kwame Nkrumah to Reverend Leon H. Sullivan and all of the reformers who have tried to obtain this moment that you have offered me today. DNA, I feel, will serve as a bridge that could literally begin the process of laying the groundwork and form the landscape to reverse the middle passage once and for all.
I thank you for the opportunity to be a representative of that and being an Ambassador for this historical occasion. Thank You.