VOL. NO: 54      DATE:
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Actoress Whoopi Goldberg

WHEN the government of Guinea-Bissau one of the smallest nations in Africa learned that Whoopi Goldberg had taken a DNA test showing her ancestors hailed from there, the news reverberated through the halls of parliament, necessitating a high level meeting.

The country's leaders decided, a chance to change the image of a nation plagued by coups since wresting independence from Portugal in 1973 had offered it self.

If the world could only grasp that a Hollywood celebrity traced her roots to this forsaken corner of the globe, it could bring goodwill from afar - even fame for Guinea-Bissau, they reasoned.

So they set out to write a letter on official stationary embossed with the country's star-shaped seal. It was hand-delivered to the US Embassy, which passed it on to the State Department in Washington with instructions for onward delivery to the home of the Oscar-winning actress.

It begins, with some uncertainty on the star's name: "Your Excellency Hoppy Goldberg, it is with great euphoria that the government of Guinea-Bissau ... learned of your ancestral origins....The news has awoken in each and every one of us a deep sense of fraternity....We simply cannot remain indifferent to the news of your Guinean heritage."

Elaborate praise and respect
The two pages peppered with elaborate expressions of praise and respect end with a simple request: Please come visit our country.

For a special for PBS, the American public broadcaster, that aired last year, prominent black Americans agreed to take a DNA test.

Talk show host Oprah Winfrey discovered her roots in the rainforests of Liberia with the Kpelle tribe and Bishop TD Jakes in Nigeria's Ebo people. And Goldberg found that her genetic makeup is overwhelmingly Papel and Bayote, two tribes indigenous to this country on Africa's western seaboard.

"She will come. She's Guinean. She's our daughter. She's ours," said Minister of Tourism Francisco Conduto de Pina.


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