Actor Isaiah Washington Reveals Real-Life “Roots” Journey
DNA Results Key to First U.S./African Dual Citizenship for an African American
Isaiah Washington is perhaps most well-known as a result of his starring role on the hit TV show “Grey’s Anatomy”—and for the media firestorm that ensued after an alleged conflict on-set. The conflict that has by far mattered most to Washington, however, is much more personal. Revealed in his new memoir, A Man From Another Land: How Finding My Roots Changed My Life (Center Street/Hachette Book Group; April 2011; $24.99) written with Lavaille Lavette, Washington details an inner struggle for identity finally fulfilled through DNA testing and outlines his ongoing campaign to improve his newfound homeland.
Discovering a passion for acting in his twenties, Washington had a vision for accomplishing something off-screen as well. “I pursued my new dream with an unbridled focus, intent on gaining a platform to do what I really wanted, use my new found artistry to…educate the world about the complexities of the African American male,” he writes. Years later, after starring in numerous films and a highly rated TV show, Washington achieved a feat beyond what leaders W.E.B DuBois, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X ever had: dual citizenship in both the U.S. and an African nation.
The key to Washington’s success literally lay in his DNA, which he discovered by chance through the gift of genetic testing which revealed his specific ancestry originating from the people of Sierre Leone—uncovering a rationale for his life-long fascination with Africa. Confirming his ancestry and the emotional pull of Africa provided a sense of security and purpose for Washington. “…Knowing where I came from did more than strengthen my sense of nationalism; it strengthened me as a man, as a person.” Now an advocate for his newfound homeland, Washington leads The Gondobay Manga Foundation which exists to help the country of Sierre Leone one village at a time. Confronting issues such as conflict diamond mining, high levels of government corruption, and legacies of civil war within the country, Washington served as an advisor to Sierra Leone’s president at the 63rd United Nations General Assembly in 2008 and continues to be active in the region.
About Isaiah Washington:
Actor, producer and human rights activist Isaiah Washington is an NAACP Image Award and Screen Actors Guild winning American actor. A veteran of several Spike Lee films, Washington is best known for his role as Dr. Preston Burke on the ABC medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy.” In September 2008, he attended the 63rd United Nations General Assembly in New York City as an advisor to President Ernest Bai Koroma of the Republic of Sierra Leone.