Week 5 Gambia Update

Week 5 of The Gambia has been so busy and educational. We had our usual routine of internships and class sessions with some educational excursions. Last Thursday we attended the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) to hear witness/victim testimonies of those who have been affected by the former dictator Yahya Jammeh who was in office for 22 years from 1994 to 2017. We also went out to karaoke to celebrate Emanuel’s birthday, who is a close friend we have from the canteen at the YMCA where we are living. 

Over the weekend we visited Kunta Kinteh Island which wasa very powerful experience starting with a 4-hour boat ride to the island on the Gambia River. This experience was a very unique part of the program so far. For those who don’t know Kunta Kinteh Island held 2,000 slaves and was named after the Gambian legend who was captured and sold into slavery and in which was made popular by the book turned movie, Roots. The island felt heavy as you stepped on to it, as it was a key place where the transatlantic slave trade took place. It is clear this island has seen a lot, and this was not easy to take in such an overwhelming feeling of sadness and hardship. It was especially hard to see my two friends that are African American go through this experience and the emotion that was evoked in them. The island has eroded significantly and has shrunken from its original size, yet the locals still encourage tourism, so we do not forget this important piece of history. It is so important to acknowledge the past whether your ancestors were slaves or the slave owners, this is how we grow and change history today. Education is power and I highly encourage educating yourself on the history of slavery as our brothers and sisters of African descent still hold on to the pain that slavery has caused.

A replica model of how the Kunta Kenteh Island looked before erosion. You can see our boat in the background that soon got beached in that spot.
A model of how the island looked before erosion. You can see our boat in the background that soon got beached in that spot.

On a lighter note, our boat was beached while we were on the island since the tide was moving out so fast. All 35 of us squeezed on to a tiny boat with all of our belongings and food to meet up with another larger boat! This experience is exactly what an adventure is! At first I was concerned we were going to sink the boat or burn in the sun because we didn’t know how long we would be in this small boat! Lucky enough the new boat met up with us quickly and had a very enjoyable ride back to Banjul.

Stay tuned for my next update!

Photo outdoors showing a building that has eroded, leaving behind just one wall. Several people are standing in the background of the photo.
This photo shows how much the island has eroded.

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