Tracing Our Roots

Isaiah Washington’s Plans for Africa

Being that the show Grey’s Anatomy is such a commercial success, it’s likely that Isaiah Washington is recognized most as playing Dr. Preston Burke on the show since its premiere in 2005 until 2007. Besides the show, he acted in a slew of films, including Love Jones. What many people don’t know is that Isaiah has dual citizenship – both with the United States and with Sierra Leone. defines dual citizenship, or dual nationality, as the status of a person who is a legal citizen of two or more countries. How did Isaiah get dual citizenship?

It all started from Washington’s curiosity. After taking a geneaology test from African Ancestery, Inc, Washington was able to trace his roots back to a specific  country, a luxury most African Americans haven’t had ( I don’t personally know any, including myself). His maternal ancestry was traced back to what is now Sierra Leone. Furthermore, he was linked to the Mende and Tempe peoples that inhabit the country.  In May of 2006, he visited Sierra Leone, receiving citizenship during the trip. This marked the first time in history of an African American receiving full citizenship through DNA! Personally,  I thought it was impossible for African Americans to trace their roots back to a specific country because of the American Slave Trade. Apparently, I was wrong.

And now that Washington has been granted full citizenship to Sierra Leone by the president, Ernest Koroma,  he is making a significant impact on the country. Back in the United States, Washington held the “Africa Policy Forum” in which he discussed business with investors, philanthropists, and celebrities with the goal of consolidating all efforts to change the former war-torn country for the better. Consequently, a $2 million dollars worth of medical equipment has been shipped to Bo Government Hospital in Southern Sierra Leone. He has also negotiated for two other companies that will provide prosthetics for amputees, clean water from rain catching systems and also garbage collection for communities in Sierra Leone. Moreover, Washington set up an elementary school through his Gondobay Manga Foundation in Sierra Leone.

When speaking of these accomplishments, Washington stated, “Making history as an African American accomplishing my dual citizenship based on DNA is a great thing. Finally, I have a people and a nation to connect with on the African continent to learn from and grow with as I have learned and grown in America. I will not let the people of Sierra Leone down.”

I would like to encourage all African Americans to discover what specific country their roots are traced back to. Every other ethnicity can tell you what country they can trace their roots back to…except African Americans. We all identify with “African” American, but as we all know, Africa is a continent, not a country. And if we are able to find out not only will we have a better sense of identity with ourselves, but we can also make a change!!