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Isaiah Washington Is Not Acting
Isaiah Washington is not an actor. Just ask him.
Talking from the set of his latest film project, the Houston native tells me half-jokingly “acting has been a 25-year fraud. I’ve only been an actor to get your attention. I am a Pan-Africanist.” His commitment to his African heritage is personal has deep roots.
In 2006, Washington discovered his direct genetic link via a genealogical DNA test conducted by African Ancestry, Inc. to the Mende people of Sierra Leone. A subsequent visit to Sierra Leone yielded extreme goodwill and marked the beginning of his efforts to rebuild the country. Not one to take his ancestral ties lightly, he pursued African citizenship..and got it! This makes Isaiah Washington the first African American to receive such an honor and President Ernest Bai Koroma became the first African President to bestow full citizenship to an African American. Isaiah Washington fulfilled a dream sought but unfulfilled by Dr. King and Malcom X among others.
Recently, Washington also penned a pretty revealing memoir, A Man from Another Land where he talks about everything from his family upbringing, his time on that network tv show, his work in Sierra Leone to how he came to be named Chief Gondobay Manga II. So I had to ask, how does it feel to be Chief?
“It’s fucking tough because there are real responsibilities. It’s not honorary. I am in constant communication with my people there about the needs of the people in the village, the needs of the school, the well-being of the president. I told my wife (Jenisa) that I cannot be the chief I think I am without my Queen. She’s a huge supporter.”
So while the work in rebuilding a nation is never easy or simple, finding the right vehicle to support such efforts can be a challenge. To this end, The Gondobay Manga Foundation was born out of sheer determination and hard work to do just that — rebuild Sierra Leone. It advocates cooperative planning to achieve positive, timely improvements in the lives of the people of Sierra Leone. So far the results are stellar, a new school where there was none prior. The Chief Foday Golia Memorial School in the Njala Kendema village serves 300 students in grades K-5 and still there is more to do. There are ongoing efforts to raise awareness and attract investors to the country and to help rebuild the nation’s infrastructure. It’s no small task to secure financial and political support for such an undertaking but Washington is clear about his purpose.
“Mother Africa is the birthplace of all humanity, globally. Why are we allowing her to be treated this way? More importantly as African Americans and people of African descent why are we so slow to return to her? I mean, with the benefit of all of our collective Ph.D’s, MBAs and CPAs that we fought so hard to get…and now in this recession we (African Americans) cannot even find a job in America. Why not take that innovation and couple it with the people of West Africa.”
Since 2006, Washington has made several trips to the continent and says, “I came back (to the USA) having more affirmation knowing that Tarzan is not white, it’s just a film, European man blinds himself. That is a lie.” I was very clear when I got back that I have to do something to let my people know, not just African American people but all people, that we must treat our first mother (ecologically speaking), mother Africa with more respect. Now is the time.
Isaiah Washington, the man truly from another land but a brother for all time. My exclusive conversation continues with Mr. Washington sharing his thoughts about Hollywood, his future, his legacy, and how he stays in such good shape.