An African man has gone from a Gambian village to the streets of Hollywood thanks to the generosity of one Lancaster businessman.
Lamin Jatta, 37, is now working in Seattle and Hollywood on a new adaptation of the powerful 1976 novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley tells how Haley traced his family back to a slave in the 1750s called Kunta Kinteh.
He now calls me his dad because he lost his father at a young age and he said without my help he wouldn’t have been able to do any of thisAndrew Cumpsty
Lamin is also a direct descendant from Kunta Kinte’s character in Roots.
For years all Lamin wanted was an education after witnessing so many babies die in his village of Jufureh.
But Lamin couldn’t afford the £80 fee until he met former Lancaster City Councillor Andrew Cumpsty in 2000 and his life changed forever.
Andrew took Lamin under his wing by offering to pay for his education and it was here their extraordinary journey began.
Mr Cumpsty said: “On the way back from the Jufureh village we noticed a young black man on the boat and we got talking.
Lamin wanted to get training to become a medic, so we said stick with your education and he laughed and said he couldn’t afford one.
“The price of his fee was something we would pay to go out for dinner but to him it was everything, so I decided to help him.”
During the Gambian trip Andrew also discovered Lancaster’s link to the slave trade after spotting it on a map in a Gambian slavery museum.
He said: “From that point of view I was taken back seeing my home city right in the middle of this slavery triangle. I certainly hadn’t realised just how significant Lancaster was in the slave trade.”
Andrew also met Binta Kinte, who is the seventh generation from Kunta Kinte and Lamin’s grandmother, who told stories about Kunta’s kidnapping.
Lamin is now working with The History Channel as an advisor for Roots, the next generation which is currently being filmed in Africa. Mr Cumpsty cannot believe how far Lamin has come since they met 15 years ago.
He said: “It is just extraordinary that he has gone from this young boy in the village to now working in Hollywood. Somehow fate brought us together and I am so proud of him and what he has achieved.
“He now calls me his dad because he lost his father at a young age and he said without my help he wouldn’t have been able to do any of this.
“All Lamin wants to do is raise the profile of Gambia and hopefully by doing all of this it will refresh the story of just how dreadful human beings can be.”