As Ebrima (Sax) Jamjawo, the youngest brother of the Janjanbureh chief, Alaghie Bakary Jamjawo, my friend Ebrima Cham, and myself walked across Janjanburheh, my objective was to remain in a peaceful tourist mode. However, Janjanbureh has not always been a peaceful island. The island was a historic slave trading post in the Gambia River. Nevertheless, over the years, I have been to many slave related sites, so I was not afraid of any restless, emotional dead souls emerging.
Sax suggested that our dead relatives who were neither Christian nor Islamic, were a people with no religion. At that point, I wasn’t sure whether to bury my tourist hat or exhume my reporter’s cap. I saw a story brewing, so the tourist in me faded away as the publisher of this magazine, restlessly, emotionally emerged.
As Sax continued this “nonsense,” I pushed back and insisted they had a religion and it's still practiced in Gambia and in the Diaspora. Before we left the island, African-American Kenneth Carroll found his lost father and sent a text thanking the "ancestors and various deities." Maybe the dead souls felt a need to respond, so I showed the text to Sax.
Thoughts about the text were chained to Sax’s brain; they were not free to leave the doors of his face or he chose to keep them captive. He did, however, explain that Janjanbureh was called Georgetown and McCarthy Island by the British. However, like the folks in my hometown, Gary, the people there are shedding the colonial/white supremacist names that adorn the places in which we live like one would when dipping their body in water to cleanse one’s soul.
Just as Carroll’s text came to my rescue, I recalled Nemata Amelia Ibitayo Blyden’s writing in the just released “African Americans and Africa: A New History
,” that Africans (and African-Americans) often intertwine being "educated" with being "Christian."
I shared this with Sax as he pointed out that Sallif M. Cham became the first Gambian commissioner of McCarthy Island on June 10, 1963. Cham was educated enough to take a position previously reserved for Whites. Yep, he was an educated Christian, while most of the citizenry were Muslims.
The British did not know where in Africa in which they had come, but decided to “send them back” to Gambia. (That's like kidnapping me from Metro Gary/Chicago and returning me to Rock Hill, South Carolina - - wherever that is.)
Sax says his family has lived in Janjanbureh since around 1300. One of his paternal ancestors was a former British enslaved African repatriated to Africa, along with about 200 others. The British did not know where in Africa in which they had come, but decided to “send them back” to Gambia. (That's like kidnapping me from Metro Gary/Chicago and returning me to Rock Hill, South Carolina - - wherever that is.)
The repatriated enslaved ancestor had a daughter named Betty Brown, however, she was commonly called by her Mandinka name Fatoumatta. Betty was a Christian, but Sax couldn't really explain how most, if not all, of her offspring are now Muslim.
Now, some of Betty's offspring have "returned" to Britain, and the Brit's are all crowned, with stolen jewels, in a royal tizzy. Brexit or no Brexit, wall or no wall, more of Betty’s children will cross the Channel from Europe into Britain and hopefully reclaim the wealth that Betty and those like her were forced to leave behind.