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About the Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival

In September 1987, the Kunta Kinte Celebration was born in Annapolis, Maryland. Now known as the Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival, the festival is a celebration of the perseverance, education, and cultural heritage of Africans, African Americans, and Caribbean people of African descent. The festival is a volunteer-run event organized by the 501(c)(3) non-profit organization Kunta Kinte Celebrations, Inc. 


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About Kunta Kinte

Kunta Kinte was one of 98 enslaved people brought to Annapolis, Maryland aboard the ship Lord Ligonier in 1767, and despite many years in bondage, he never lost his connection to his African heritage. Kunta Kinte's experience symbolizes the struggle of all ethnic groups to preserve their cultural heritage. 

The Heritage Tale

According to the book Roots, on the day of the birth of Kunta Kinte in 1750, in Gambia, West Africa, his grandmother Yaisa, laughed with joy as she witnessed the birth and special blessings of the firstborn boy of her son Omoro and his wife, Binta. Eight days later, during the naming ceremonies, the Alimamo prayed over the infant, entreating Allah to grant him long life, success in bringing credit and pride and many children to his family, to his village, to his tribe -- and finally, the strength and the spirit to deserve and to bring honor to the name he was about to receive.

In his writings, author Alex Haley, depicts the scene so vividly that one can imagine being in the very spot on that eventful day. One seems a part of the history of an African family whose distinguished lineage is being recited as far back as two hundred years, as the Arafan (the village Griot) lists the names of the Maurentanian forefathers of whom Kunta's Grandfather and namesake Kairaba Kunta Kinte, had often told himself. The names were great and many for the Mandinka tribes's holy man. And this distinguished lineage and the oral history continue today through their descendants of the present, the author himself, his brother George, former state senator from Kansas and their youngest brother, Julius. 

Roots, the saga of an American Family, is a documentary dedicated to the Haley's family Griot, their grandmother, Cynthia Haley who told the stories of her ancestry to her grandchildren, among whom was Alex Haley. He listened intently and, after many years of research and journeys in search of the facts, was able to produce, in writing, substantiation of that oral history. His grandmothers's recountings of the family history perpetuated it in the minds of her children, who in turn passed it on to the minds of men all over the world, for all times. She created the symbol for all Africans of black American families, and thus she helped all of us to know, as the author pointed out "...who we are." 

The Kinte Distinguished Lineage

Gambia, West Africa, 1750 Birth of Kunta Kinte, grandson of Kairaba Kunta Kinte, the holy man of the Mandinkas of Juffure; son of Omoro; father of Kizzy; grandfather of Chicken George; great-grandfather of Tom Murray; great,great-grandfather of Cynthia Murray; great,great,great-grandfather of Bertha Haley; great,great,great,great-grandfather of Alex, George and Julius Haley.

Current Connection to The Gambia

The International Kunta Kinteh Festival is a 10-day festival held in early July annually in The Gambia. It features the International Kunta Kinteh Day celebration - a carnival and parade of cultural troupes and masquerades; Juffureh Roots Festival - a heritage and cultural bonanza of the Mandinka warrior Rites of Passage; Gala Dinner - a commemoration and Diaspora Return Home speeches, presentations, performances of masquerades, and cultural dances, along with dinner with the business and diaspora community; and an Investment Forum Hosted by the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry and The Gambia Import and Export Agency.

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