Looking out: Madagascar!

April 5, 2000

Looking out


“It is indeed desirable to be well descended, but the glory belongs to [my] ancestors.” — Plutarch, AD 46120


Morals Of the Training of Children by Plutarch, the Greek essayist and biographer, reminds me to pay appropriate homage to my magnificent ancestors. I do so here with pride, love and respect for them, whomever they were and wherever their spirits found eternal rest.

I just wish that I knew precisely where. I wonder, did Plutarch, in his travels throughout Africa, ever encounter any of my ancestors? Unfortunately, my knowledge of my family tree is limited to five generations: it comes to a dead end at some nameless cotton plantation in the Mississippi delta.

Where in Africa did my people and their people and their people come from? Where? There are so many places there that fill me with an uncommon love, but I have never seen even one of them.

Places with names that, as I say them, sound and taste bitter-sweet as they melt like phonetic sugar floating upon the ancestral wetness of my African-American lips.

The 57-year-old child that resides in me is training the man I have become to see beyond the endless fields of cotton.

In my vision now I can see off the eastern coast of South Africa, and until I know for certain where home is, the island of Madagascar — in my searching heart and soul — will draw me poetically nearer and nearer no matter how far.


Is that where I come from?

My heart longs for a name,

but hey, I may be Ethiopian,

all I know for sure is Africa:

North, South, East or West

our Diaspora is my test.


is not the Mississippi delta;

if I could choose history's face

it would gladly be Madagascar,

intrigue drips from Antanarivo,

no capital could be better;

Indian Ocean, balmy weather!


are you my Ancestors' Island?

Did they once sail your shores,

or climb up, to your highlands?

You have made me yours,

and found me eager to listen;

I love you; revel in my declaration.


[The writer is a prisoner on death row in the United States. He welcomes letters commenting on his columns (include your name and full return address on the envelope, or prison authorities may refuse to deliver it). He can be written to at: Brandon Astor Jones, EF-122216, G3-63, Georgia Diagnostic & Classification Prison, PO Box 3877, Jackson, GA 30233, USA, or e-mail <BrandonAstorJones@hotmail.com>.]


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