Forty students and faculty members from Morehouse College Glee Club in Atlanta, United States of America, USA, on Wednesday took Igbo names and declared their ancestry to the Igbos of South East Nigeria.
At an official naming ceremony held at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, the students narrated how they traced their Igbo ancestral roots through DNA tests, which they described as reaching.
The traditional ruler of Ibagwa-Aka community in Igbo-Eze South Local Government Area of Enugu State, HRH, Igwe Hyacinth Eze, who performed the ceremony in conjunction with the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, expressed happiness over the reunion of the Igbo-Americans with their ancestral brothers.
The monarch said he was also happy because of the spiritual, cultural and economic exchanges which would happen as a result of the reunion, adding that he is willing to provide lands for those that are willing to live in his community.
Speaking during the ceremony, the President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Enugu State chapter, Prof. Fredrick Eze, said the reunion would help in the development of Igbo communities.
However, the Public Affairs Officer, United States Consulate General, Lagos, Stephen Ibelli, said the Club came to Nigeria to mark the 50th anniversary of its first visit to Nigeria in 1972.
He equally explained that the Club would tour Abuja, Enugu and Lagos States to strengthen US-Nigeria cultural ties through music, arts and film.
“The Morehouse College Glee Club, which is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its first tour in Nigeria, will offer public concerts in Lagos, Abuja and Enugu. In addition, the group will visit universities and high schools, meet Nigerian students, and explore their historical ties to Nigeria.
“The 1972 visit to Nigeria infused African music into the Glee Club’s tradition and American Choral music in general. Fifty years later, choirs across the United States sing in Nigerian languages, highlighting the long-term impact of that exchange.
“The Morehouse College Glee Club has since learned a variety of songs in Edo, Yorùbá, Hausa, and Igbo, including a piece specifically composed for them by Igwe Laz Ekwueme, famed Nollywood actor and University of Lagos professor.
“During the visit, the Morehouse College Glee Club will carry out a dynamic exchange of musical knowledge with the broad spectrum of the Nigerian society, singing in Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba languages,” he said in a statement.
A cross-section of attendees at the event
Also speaking, U.S. Ambassador, Mary-Beth Leonard, explained that the visit will strengthen the longstanding ties between American and Nigerian institutions of higher learning, and further expand the scope of academic and cultural relations between the United States and Nigeria.
“Cultural exchanges such as the visit of the Morehouse College Glee Club will help contribute to strengthening the bonds of friendship and collaboration through music and arts, offering an opportunity for Nigerian students to learn about academic experiences in the United States,” she stated
Many of the student members of the Morehouse College Glee Club described their visit as an opportunity to connect with their African roots.
“I love the culture of Nigeria,” 19-year-old Schneider Grandpierre, a junior third-year student studying Music and Computer Science at the Morehouse College said of the trip.
“It is such an enriching and amazing experience to be able to reconnect with our cultural roots and sing Nigerian music in different languages. I look forward to an extended stay here even after this tour,” one of the students said.
Expressing his excitement about the visit, 23-year-old John Batey, a Business Administration major and tenor singer for the choral group said he has been able to trace his roots to Nigeria through a DNA test. “We will be exploring the Nigerian creative and entertainment industry. I am excited about the tour.”
Director of the Morehouse College Glee Club, Professor David Morrow, explained that the choral group will perform a repertoire of African and American songs particularly African-American spirituals which have roots in West African music traditions.
Professor Morrow noted that the Morehouse College Glee Club is rooted in Dr Martin Luther King, Jr’s legacy. Dr King who sang in the Morehouse College Glee Club was one of the notable alumni of the Historically Black College in the United States.
Some of the Igbo names given to the Igbo-Americans include Ezuomike, Ogalanya, Odenigwe, Anyim, Ifeanyi, among others.
Among those who witnessed the ceremony was the National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr Alex Ogbonnia, who also represented the leadership of the apex Igbo socio-cultural at the ceremony.