Master Sergeant Donald Sparks, Flintlock 10 Public Affairs wrote:
Today as my party entered the Malian community of Jiwoyo to conduct a medical civil action program, we were greeted with the rhythmic sound of drums and celebratory wailing and singing of women in colorful African garb.
As I stood and watched, goose bumps covered my skin and I can honestly say now that I have experienced the trueness of my ancestors of which my brown pigmentation began.
Different hues of brown skin circled around me with grins — both warm and wide as the African sky made me feel right at home.
I held the worn and wrinkled hands of the elder women, much like those of my dear late grandmother, hands which have toiled their homeland, which have raised generations of black babies and have fed the men who treasure their existence.
I was in the company of the elders, men who like my very own grandfather, passed on the wisdom of lessons learned from walking the earth down to their seeds of their loins. These wise men have dealt with austere weather conditions whether it was in the form of drought, floods or locusts, yet they endure all that the elements hurl to them mercilessly.
And the women and the children danced, oh did they dance! I watched in awe as their bodies, synchronized with each drum beat. I watched their feet stomp the earth sending sound waves and red sand in the air. I held back tears of joy of being the first African American in my family to set foot on the soil affectionately known to us as the “Motherland.”
I wonder if this is how Alex Hailey felt after writing Roots and coming to Africa to meet his ancestors.
This day I will never forget as I am blessed. As the regional mayor of the area said to me after I told him that I was African American, “You are home here too.” Indeed I was.
(Editor’s note Master Sergeant Donald Sparks is currently assigned as the Exercise Flintlock 10 Public Affairs Chief in Mali. He is providing photojournalistic coverage of Joint Special Operations Task Force-Trans Sahara during the special operations forces exercise from Mali, Africa.)