African princess talks about discovering her heritage

Chronicle Staff


By Allison Hamburger

An adopted woman who discovered she was the princess of a village in Sierra Leone told students at the Black History Month Assembly Feb. 16 about the experience of learning about her heritage.

Accompanied by two African drummers, actress and philantrophist Sarah Culberson began her presentation with a brief performance of an African dance as the audience clapped along.

Culberson was adopted at the age of one by a Caucasian family in West Virginia and spent her childhood trying to fit in. She did not discover her heritage until she was an adult, when she hired a private investigator.

At the assembly, Culberson described the process of finding, speaking to and later visiting her birth father, a high school principal in Bumpe, Sierra Leone, in West Africa. Her birth mother had died of cancer a few years earlier, she learned.

Culberson waited two weeks for her father to contact her. She feared that he might not want her to contact him, though this turned out to not be the case. After speaking to him and other relatives, she made plans to visit his village.

“Those were the longest two weeks of my life,” she said of the time waiting for her father to call her.

When Culberson visited Bumpe, she was asked by her father to wear a specific green dress.

She was then greeted by everyone in the village, all of whom were singing, dancing and wearing clothing of the same green pattern.

Culberson’s uncle is the Paramount Chief of Bumpe, a village recovering from an 11-year civil war that left thousands dead and her father’s school destroyed.

She co-founded the Kposowa Foundation in 2005 to help rebuild her father’s school. The organization has since restored the school’s library, dormitories and some classrooms. The next project is to rebuild the bathrooms, since many young women drop out of school because of their menstrual cycles, she said. Without an education, the girls usually marry earlier, and in Sierra Leone, one in eight women die from pregnancy or childbirth.

Culberson’s adoptive parents later traveled to Bumpe as well and are involved with her foundation.

Culberson is the next in line to be chief of Bumpe. She said that she will probably not choose to become chief because she feels it is more important for her to spread the message to help the people of West Africa.

She told the assembly to follow their dreams in spite of real or perceived obstacles.