Thursday, April 30, 2009

Africans are Genetically Unique

I just could not resist posting this!

Africans have world's greatest genetic variation

WASHINGTON – Africans have more genetic variation than anyone else on Earth, according to a new study that helps narrow the location where humans first evolved, probably near the South Africa-Namibia border.

The largest study of African genetics ever undertaken also found that nearly three-fourths of African-Americans can trace their ancestry to West Africa. The new analysis published Thursday in the online edition of the journal Science.

"Given the fact that modern humans arose in Africa, they have had time to accumulate dramatic changes" in their genes, explained lead researcher Sarah Tishkoff, a geneticist at the University of Pennsylvania.

People have been adapting to very diverse environmental niches in Africa, she explained in a briefing.

Over 10 years, Tishkoff and an international team of researchers trekked across Africa collecting samples to compare the genes of various peoples. Often working in primitive conditions, the researchers sometimes had to resort to using a car battery to power their equipment, Tishkoff explained.

The reason for their work? Very little was known about the genetic variation in Africans, knowledge that is vital to understanding why diseases have a greater impact in some groups than others and in designing ways to counter those illnesses.

Scott M. Williams of Vanderbilt University noted that constructing patterns of disease variations can help determine which genes predispose a group to a particular illness.

This study "provides a critical piece in the puzzle," he said. For example, there are clear differences in prevalence of diseases such as hypertension and prostate cancer across populations, Williams said.

"The human genome describes the complexity of our species," added Muntaser Ibrahim of the department of molecular biology at the University of Khartoum, Sudan. "Now we have spectacular insight into the history of the African population ... the oldest history of mankind.

"Everybody's history is part of African history because everybody came out of Africa," Ibrahim said.

Christopher Ehret of the department of history at the University of California, Los Angeles, compared genetic variation among people to variations in language.

There are an estimated 2,000 distinct language groups in Africa broken into a few broad categories, often but not always following gene flow.

Movement of a language usually involves arrival of new people, Ehret noted, bringing along their genes. But sometimes language is brought by a small "but advantaged" group which can impose their language without significant gene flow.

Overall, the researchers were able to study and compare the genetics of 121 African groups, 60 non-African populations and four African-American groups.

The so-called "Cape-colored" population of South Africa has highest levels of mixed ancestry on the globe, a blend of African, European, East Asian and South Indian, Tishkoff said.

"This will be a great population for study of diseases" that are more common in one group than another, she said.

The study also found that about 71 percent of African-Americans can trace their ancestry to western African origins. They also have between 13 percent and 15 percent European ancestry and a smaller amount of other African origins. There was "very little" evidence for American Indian genes among African-Americans, Tishkoff said.

Ehret added that only about 20 percent of the Africans brought to North America made the trip directly, while most of the rest went first to the West Indies.

And, he added, some local African-American populations, such as the residents of the sea islands off Georgia and South Carolina, can trace their origins to specific regions such as Sierra Leone and Guinea.

The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute, the National Institutes of Health, the Advanced Computing Center for Research and Education at Vanderbilt University, the L.S.B. Leakey and Wenner Gren Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard and Burroughs Wellcome foundations.


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Monday, April 13, 2009

Save Chez Vous Boston

Dear friends, concerned members of the community and esteemed colleagues,

On Tuesday, April 14, 2009 at 6pm an official press conference will be held at the Chez Vous Roller Skating Rink regarding the impending closure of the iconic venue. Currently owned by community activist Greer Toney, the Dorchester landmark has been an important area landmark since 1932. The city's only roller skating and entertainment center not only provides an alternative to the violence that plagues the surrounding neighborhoods it has been an external family to its loyal patrons for decades.

Chez Vous has hosted several anti-violence functions over the years, notably last year's "P.E.A.C.E. Night @ Chez Vous" which received positive reviews from The Boston Herald (Chris Faraone), and The Banner (Tierney McAfee). The event featured a video shoot by recording artist Blue Chip and focused on alternatives to gang violence and drug peddling through community empowerment. P.E.A.C.E. Night attracted the attention of many community leaders such as Cindy Diggs of PeaceBoston and Tina Cherry of the Louis D. Brown Institute for Peace.

The success of that event provided the foundation for "Another P.E.A.C.E Night @ Chez Vous" which was planned to expand on the positive theme of the original P.E.A.C.E. Night. Recording artist/actor Bow Wow, who was scheduled to appear as the event's celebrity guest and speaker, arrived at Chez Vous but left without making a public appearance at the direction of his road manager who, despite the presence of three hired security teams, both the City and State police and in-house security staff, deemed the venue "unsafe" for the artist's entry. Hundreds of fans, many who had waited hours to see their beloved star shine, left Chez Vous with tears and a general feeling of having been let down by their idol.

Greer Toney, in her commitment to bringing the Atlanta-based star to Boston to speak about the importance of education and unity, used the skating rink's mortgage allotment to secure Bow Wow's appearance. As a result of his absence Ms Toney was forced to refund the patron's fees, ultimately resulting in Chez Vous' fate. The 77-year old venue will be auctioned off on April 15, 2009 and Boston will lose one of its finest resources.

A day prior and the day after the event, in unrelated instances, two young men were killed on Boston 's streets. One of the dead, an aspiring NBA star, was a Chez Vous regular before relocating to California to pursue his dreams. He was, ironically, in the city briefly to assist his family with moving out west. The potential for increased violence on Boston 's troubled streets if Chez Vous' doors are closed are great. The skating rink not only provides a safe environment for its patrons who have few alternatives, its staff are active mentors and mediators in the gang infested Roxbury, Dorchester , and Mattapan neighborhoods.

I encourage you to come out to the planned press conference and voice your concerns. Your attendance is welcomed and needed. Frankly, this issue is larger than keeping a business open. It is about the future of the community and its children. Your voice ushered in the presidency of this nation's first Black Commander In Chief. Your voice elected the state's first Black governor. Your voice is powerful and, once again, must be heard. Your community MUST be protected! I look forward to seeing you at this very important forum.

For additional information, please call; (617) 825-6877

Chez Vous Roller Skating Rink
11 Rhoades Street
Dorchester , MA 02124

Dates: May 7th-9th 2009

Time: 7:15PM

Place:Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School, 260 Columbia Road, Dorchester, MA.

Tickets: Adults $15, Youth 12 and under $10, Elders $10.

For Group Rates call: 617-238-2460.
This play written by Haywood Fennell Sr., features characters from the Harlem Renaissance era like Paul Robeson, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes and Josephine Baker. It talks about the hardhsips they faced and their triumps.

Monday, April 06, 2009

God's Bridge

Photos courtesy of Haidar Chamshama

This natural bridge is called Daraja la Mungu (God's Bridge). The bridge is located in Kiwira area, Rungwe District, Mbeya region in Tanzania.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Special Request - Prof. Ken Edwards (Joshua Mkhululi)

The late Prof. Ken Edwards (Joshua Mkhululi)



The family of the late Prof. Ken Edwards (Prof. Joshua Mkhululi) residing in Canada and Jamaica would like people to share their stories and memories of the deceased. If anyone has photos, they are also asked to share them.

Prof. Edwards mother is 84 years old and desparately wants to hear as much as she can about her son's life in Africa. He also has brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews who want to hear about their uncle.

Anyone who would like to share can e-mail his nephew, Michael Gardner at or they can e-mail me at

Please let's share with the family the tales of their beloved who died ocean's away in a land that he loved