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Day of Carnage at Tunisian Museum Leaves Memories, Questions

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Tunisian police officers guard the entrance of the National Bardo museum in Tunis, Tunisia, Saturday March 21, 2015.  The two extremist gunmen who killed 21 people at a museum in Tunis trained in neighboring Libya before caring out the deadly attack, a top Tunisian security official said. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Tunisian police officers guard the entrance of the National Bardo museum in Tunis, Tunisia, Saturday March 21, 2015. The two extremist gunmen who killed 21 people at a museum in Tunis trained in neighboring Libya before caring out the deadly attack, a top Tunisian security official said. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Bouazza ben Bouazza and Harold Heckle, ASSOCIATED PRESS

 
TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — With bullets flying and his heart pounding, Spanish tourist Josep Lluis Cusido never got a clear look at the men shooting their way through the Bardo museum in Tunis as he hid behind a pillar. The only thing he noticed what that the attacker closest to him seemed young.

Cusido, the mayor of the small Spanish town of Vallmoll, will never know for certain but the man who stood just a few meters (yards) away was likely 20-year-old Yassine Laabidi — the younger of the two attackers.

“They looked to see how they could inflict the most damage possible. I saw one group who was in the museum who took refuge in a room… They went in there and machine gunned them all,” Cusido told The Associated Press Saturday, stifling a sob.

After breakfast Wednesday morning, Laabidi had left home to go to his job making deliveries for a local business, his father Arbi told The Associated Press outside the family’s home in the neighborhood El Omrane at the edge of Tunis.

Later that day he joined up with 26-year-old Hatem Khachnaoui and shot dead 21 people at the renowned museum — including a Tunisian security agent who had recently become a father — before being killed in a shootout with security forces.

In El Omrane — a poor neighborhood that has proven fertile ground for jihadi recruiters — a mourning tent has gone up in front of the Laabidi home, where the family is still trying to come to grips with the fate of a young man they said “liked the good life.”

“We want to know who transformed him, who brainwashed him so that he went to kill innocent people. We have to find the people who are sending our children to death and setting our country adrift,” said his brother, Khaled.

Anna Tounsia, a neighbor who knows the family well, said she mourns the loss of young Laabidi as well as the victims of the attack.

“Yes he killed. We’re sad for those who died, sad for the security agent who was killed and left a child,” she said. “Find the people who did this. Go to the mosques, monitor them.”

Authorities have said Laabidi and Khachnaoui had slipped across the border to Libya in December to reach one of many militia training camps there. On Saturday, 20 other people linked to the attack were detained in Tunisia, prosecutors said, but didn’t give any details.

For Cusido, who is now back in Spain, insomnia and headaches have become constant companions, as has the memory of the bullet-riddled woman he was unable to help.

“She’d been hit by bullets and I tried to help her but couldn’t and then ran to hide,” he said. “There are scenes that I fear will remain in my head for a long time.”

Cusido had just arrived at the museum with his wife and other family when the gunmen came after him. With bullets ricocheting off the stairs as he raced up, Cusido made his way to the third floor, already crowded with visitors.

“I shouted ‘terrorists, terrorists’ and the shooters came in,” he said. “Some scattered, others couldn’t and were killed right there. It was truly a massacre.”

Cusido kept a bitter sense of humor about the ordeal as he described his attackers.

“From what little I saw — because I obviously wasn’t going to stop to take a selfie with them coming — the terrorists were young,” he said. The one nearest to him, who he saw most clearly, wore jeans and a black jacket or top, he said.

Like Cusido, Americans Gillian Grant and Carol Calcagni, were also climbing the stairs and recalled the terror and confusion most of all.

“I saw someone hiding. I had no idea, you know? Is this a good person, a bad person,” Grant told The Associated Press from Sidi Bou Said, a town about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Tunis.

At one point, they peeked around a corner and saw armed men in black gesturing toward them.

“We had to make a decision. We didn’t know if they were the gunmen that had been shooting at everybody or if they were actually the police,” said Calcagni, a retiree from Hilton Head, South Carolina, who was visiting a daughter who works as a teacher in Tunis.

Both women insisted their affection for Tunisia had only grown since the attacks. As the women and other tourists were driven away from the museum after the attacks, their vehicles were surrounded by a cheering crowd.

“Hundreds and hundreds of Tunisians saying that ‘we support you, this is not what Tunisia is.’ All of us in the car were just so struck. It made such a great impression that these people came out in such numbers to give such love and support. We were bowled over,” Grant said.

She had no plans to cut her trip short. Nor did Calcagni.

“What happened here could have happened in any country in the world. Not just Africa, not just Europe, not just the Middle East, but any country. It could have happened in the United States, it could have happened where I live, and I’m not going to curtail anything because of it,” she said.

___

Benjamin Wiacek in Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia, and Lori Hinnant in Paris contributed. Heckle reported from Madrid.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

###

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Activism

‘Ngingubani:’ Who Am I? How DNA and Oral History Helps Black Youth Connect to Tribal Roots

‘I didn’t know who I was.’ This was not an uncommon belief for teenage boys plucked from the streets of Johannesburg, South Africa. Often disconnected from their families and living on the streets, they had little evidence of strong family ties. Maybe their story sounds familiar to you. Maybe you find yourself asking similar questions: Who am I? Where do I actually belong?

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Participants of the program gather for a cultural celebration with family members shortly following their reconnection. Courtesy photo.
Participants of the program gather for a cultural celebration with family members shortly following their reconnection. Courtesy photo.

By Chelsea Trautman 

‘I didn’t know who I was.’

This was not an uncommon belief for teenage boys plucked from the streets of Johannesburg, South Africa. Often disconnected from their families and living on the streets, they had little evidence of strong family ties. Maybe their story sounds familiar to you. Maybe you find yourself asking similar questions: Who am I? Where do I actually belong?

These questions were the initial inspiration for the Johannesburg Applied Ancestry Program launched in 2006 by researcher and program coordinator Clive Haydon, and Dr. Brian Hill, a university professor at Brigham Young University.

The program’s name: “Ngingubani,” or “Who am I?” in the African Zulu language, has a goal to help teenage boys between the ages of 12-16 better understand their identities by learning and sharing their own family stories.

Connect  

One story included a young boy who was separated from his biological mother when he was only 5 years old. Having no written history or knowledge of his family, his story was like many at the Twilight Children’s Center in Johannesburg where the program took place.

Through outreach to extended family, program social workers were able to find this young boy’s mother and facilitate their reuniting nearly 14 years after their separation.

After being connected with unknown relatives, participants sat down for an interview to learn the stories of those who had gone before them: the boys developed a stronger sense of self after hearing their rich oral history from people who shared their blood, culture, and heritage.

Robyn Fivush, PhD and professor of Psychology at Emory University stated: “These kinds of family stories create meaning beyond the individual. To include a sense of self through historical time and in relation to family members” (Jorgenson & Bochner, 2004: Norris, Kuiack, & Pratt, 2004).

Belong

The interviews and DNA samplings gave insight about these young boy’s native ancestral tribes. While not all participants were reunited with parents, they were all still able to connect with a living relative.

Through a culminating cultural celebration, participants at the Twilight Children’s Center dressed in traditional tribal clothing, and shared dances, artwork, and personal stories from the knowledge they gained during the program. This emotional tearful event made the boys feel valued by their parents and motivated their belief in who they could become.

Become

Thanks to DNA testing and family history stories, many can now discover their heritage and find a similar connection and belonging with deceased and distant family members.

A great way to begin is by telling family stories. Tell them as they are, setting aside opinions and personal bias to allow one’s family to interpret the meaning themselves.

For information on how to start, visit: familysearch.org, or through visiting a cemetery or by celebrating an ancestor’s birthday.

The ripple effect of family storytelling has the capacity to answer “Ngingubani.”

Chelsea Trautman is a research assistant at Brigham Young University.

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Activism

Oakland Ambassadors Strengthen Ties and Aid Efforts in Ghana

Oakland natives and esteemed members of the African American Sports and Entertainment Group (AASEG), Jonathan P. Jones and Dr. Maritony Efua Jones, recently embarked on a significant journey to Ghana as guests of the World Martial Authority Ghana. This trip signifies a crucial opportunity to bolster partnerships, explore new avenues of collaboration, and contribute to impactful initiatives in Ghana.

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Elder Jorg Klebingat, Flint Mensah, Richard Burton, H.E. Dr. Maritony Jones, Amb. Jonathan Jones, Elder S. Gifford Nielsen, Elder Alfred Kyungu. Courtesy photo.
Elder Jorg Klebingat, Flint Mensah, Richard Burton, H.E. Dr. Maritony Jones, Amb. Jonathan Jones, Elder S. Gifford Nielsen, Elder Alfred Kyungu. Courtesy photo.

By Post Staff

Oakland natives and esteemed members of the African American Sports and Entertainment Group (AASEG), Jonathan P. Jones and Dr. Maritony Efua Jones, recently embarked on a significant journey to Ghana as guests of the World Martial Authority Ghana.

This trip signifies a crucial opportunity to bolster partnerships, explore new avenues of collaboration, and contribute to impactful initiatives in Ghana.

Upon their arrival at Katota Airport in Accra, Ghana, the Joneses were warmly received by His Royal Majesty Okatakyie Asafo Boakye III, the distinguished king of Sanzule Kingdom in the Eastern Nzema, and Etse Nyamedi of World Martial Authority, Ghana.

Nyamedi accompanied the Joneses to the city of Mepe, which had recently experienced flooding, to assess damages and engage with local leaders, elders, and youth regarding the city’s urgent needs after major floods last fall.

Key concerns and priorities identified by the community include comprehensive flood mitigation measures, agricultural support, housing initiatives, educational enhancements, improved healthcare access, and the development of communal recreational spaces.

The Joneses were also graciously invited to meet with leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at their headquarters in Accra. This meeting provided insights into ongoing humanitarian efforts in Ghana and explored avenues for collaboration to further assist Ghanaian communities.

The LDS leaders shared their prompt response to the recent flood, demonstrating their commitment to humanitarian aid by dispatching substantial supplies including medical provisions, sanitation items, blankets, and food to assist flood victims just four days after the disaster.

Additionally, Boakye extended a special invitation to the Joneses to his palace, where they were pleasantly surprised with a heartfelt recognition ceremony. Maritony Jones was honored as the Queen Mother of the Sanzule Kingdom in acknowledgment of her dedicated work, while Jonathan Jones was lauded and welcomed as the ambassador of the Sanzule Kingdom, symbolizing a meaningful homecoming to their ancestral land.

The visit not only strengthens ties between Oakland and Ghana but also underscores the collaborative spirit and commitment to meaningful progress and humanitarian endeavors shared by all involved parties.

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Barbara Lee

Congresswoman Barbara Lee Issues Statement on Deaths of Humanitarian Aid Volunteers in Gaza 

On April 2, a day after an Israeli airstrike erroneously killed seven employees of World Central Kitchen (WCK), a humanitarian organization delivering aid in the Gaza Strip, a statement was release by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-12). “This is a devastating and avoidable tragedy. My prayers go to the families and loved ones of the selfless members of the World Central Kitchen team whose lives were lost,” said Lee.

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Congresswoman Barbara Lee
Congresswoman Barbara Lee

By California Black Media

On April 2, a day after an Israeli airstrike erroneously killed seven employees of World Central Kitchen (WCK), a humanitarian organization delivering aid in the Gaza Strip, a statement was release by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-12).

“This is a devastating and avoidable tragedy. My prayers go to the families and loved ones of the selfless members of the World Central Kitchen team whose lives were lost,” said Lee.

The same day, it was confirmed by the organization that the humanitarian aid volunteers were killed in a strike carried out by Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Prior to the incident, members of the team had been travelling in two armored vehicles marked with the WCF logo and they had been coordinating their movements with the IDF. The group had successfully delivered 10 tons of humanitarian food in a deconflicted zone when its convoy was struck.

“This is not only an attack against WCK. This is an attack on humanitarian organizations showing up in the direst situations where food is being used as a weapon of war. This is unforgivable,” said Erin Gore, chief executive officer of World Central Kitchen.

The seven victims included a U.S. citizen as well as others from Australia, Poland, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Palestine.

Lee has been a vocal advocate for a ceasefire in Gaza and has supported actions by President Joe Biden to airdrop humanitarian aid in the area.

“Far too many civilians have lost their lives as a result of Benjamin Netanyahu’s reprehensible military offensive. The U.S. must join with our allies and demand an immediate, permanent ceasefire – it’s long overdue,” Lee said.

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