Today is the 49th year of Gambian independence in Africa, and Lao Minnesotan poet, Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay and I both had haikus featured at Haikus for Gambia as 49 Minnesotan poets joined in the international celebration.
The project was organized by Ibe Kaba, who has frequently collaborated with both of them on performances and other community building activities.
The Gambia is a West African nation surrounded by Senegal, except for a short strip of Atlantic coastline. The smallest country on mainland Africa. Farming, fishing and tourism are its main trades since declaring independence from on February 18th, 1965 from the United Kingdom. The Gambia was a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, from which it withdrew last year in October, 2013. About a 1/3rd live below the International Poverty Line. Four poets with roots in The Gambia include: Lenrie Peters, Tijan Sallah, Sally Singhateh and Phillis Wheatley.
This year marks the 230th year since the death of Wheatley,whose most famous book was Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (published 241 years ago 1773) Twenty years old at the time, Phillis Wheatley was the first African American and, notably, only the second woman in America, to publish a book.Wheatley is know to have written only one poem regarding her journey as a slave and her roots, "On Being Brought from Africa to America" but many consider this a pivotal poem in the creation of African American literature.
In Wheatley's story, and the story of The Gambia, we can see a remarkable journey that's been, and yet will be.