Sunday, March 1, 2009

African-American teens travel to Africa in search of a sense of self

Sylvia, a 17-year-old young woman from a housing project in Atlanta's rough Thomasville Heights neighborhood knows the world is a much bigger place than what she's seen of it so far. She's self-aware enough to admit that she's not sure who she is yet, but is brave enough to try and figure that out. And she, somehow, hasn't been hardened by life so much that she's reluctant to share her thoughts and life with an inquisitive camera crew, casually talking about being a young African-American in today's America, when sometimes neither the "African" nor the "American" part of that demographic description feels accurate. And as one of the nine high-school students who embark on an educational journey to Africa, Sylvia and the documentary Black to Our Roots explores the physical, emotional, and psychological distances involved when exploring cultural and personal identity.

Black to Our Roots follows Sylvia--who appears to live in a tiny white cinder-block apartment with her mother, who doesn't quite understand why her daughter wants to go to Africa--Kweku, another Atlanta teen who grew up in a more traditionally African household, and seven other teens on this adventure. They've joined up with Cashawn Myers' HABESHA--an acronym that stands for "helping Africa by establishing schools at home and abroad"--an Atlanta-based youth outreach program. It's Black to Our Roots program enlists students for an educational, fundraising, and community service school-year endeavor that culminates in a three-week trip to Ghana in West Africa.

Roots, the documentary, focuses almost exclusively on the students, particularly Sylvia and Kweku, as they first join HABESHA and work as a group to raise the money for their trip. In interviews, they talk about their preconceived notions and misconceptions about Africa and what they hope to learn.

To read the rest of this really great story, click here:

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