Descendant of Kunta Kinte visits BC

In celebration of Black History Month, the documentary film “Kunta Kinte Island” and a lecture from President of the Kunta Kinte Family Foundation, Lamin Jatta, was hosted in N201 on Feb. 24.

Kunta Kinte’s story was made famous by Alex Haley, the author of “Roots: The Saga of an American Family,” which was made into a television miniseries that was released in 1977 on ABC.

Haley’s novel received positive reviews and reached number five in the New York Times Best Seller list and  garnered favorable reviews and multiple awards. It received 37 Emmy Award nominations and won nine. It was also awarded a Golden Globe and a Peabody Award. It still holds a record as the third highest rated episode for any type of television series, capturing the attention of 130 to 140 million people since its release.

When he was 18, Kinte went to go on a job search for his brother, who Lamin was named after. That day, Kinte was kidnapped from Gambia in 1767 and was transported to James Island. He was there for seven nights and was transported to Annapolis, Maryland, where he was sold as a slave.

People from Kinte’s village Juffereh searched for Kinte and never found him. Kinte’s father found some of Kinte’s jewelry that signified he was a Mandinka warrior. According to Jatta, he believed his child was never going to be seen again.

Jatta is the 9th generation  descendant of Kinte from Gambia, Africa. Jatta moved from Gambia to London where he attended school.

“Living in England, I was still thinking that I haven’t got to my destination yet,” said Jatta. His goal was to live in the United States.

“I want to get connected to [Kunta Kinte] and I wanted to connect to the family and I want to tell the people in America the descendants of Kunta Kinte are still living,” explained Jatta.
As a child, Jatta would frequently hear about the story of Kinte. Out of curiosity, Jatta asked his grandmother why the story mattered to the family so much. According to Jatta, his grandmother began to cry and admitted he was a descendent of Kinte. Since then, Jatta’s life has changed.

“Thinking of Kunta Kinte, it makes me who I am today,” he said.

During the exploration of his family’s history, Jatta visited Annapolis and saw the market where Kinte was sold. Jatta prayed for Kunta Kinte.

“I was so emotional,” he said.  According to Jatta, “At the time, I could not imagine what my people went through.”

Many of the students in attendance had different reasons for participating. For example, Emma Russell was compelled by her pop culture instructor Ron Holland to attend the lecture.
After hearing Jatta’s story, Russell said, “It’s very remarkable and you know, that’s not a very common thing to know who you are.”

As a result of some technical difficulties at the event, “Kunta Kinte Island” did not play. A password was needed to access the film but was not provided. To make up for it, a VIP list was set out for people at the session to write their name and attend the movie for free. The film was shown at the Seattle Art Museum on Feb. 28 at 7:00 p.m.

As Black History Month comes to a close, the Office of Equity and Pluralism, BSU and other student organizations hosted a potluck for the BC community on Thursday, Feb. 26 to celebrate another month of African American heritage and culture.