Sometimes, when a person reaches back into their past to take hold of something, the things they find end up taking hold of them.
Ted Huston dug into his past one time, and what he found has never loosened its grip on him.
"If a person knows where they came from, they can take pride in who they are," said Huston, a Sandusky resident and sixth-generation descendant of Basil Brown, an Underground Railroad activist-turned-veteran of the Civil War. "If you know who you are, you can be well-grounded."
When you're well-grounded, Huston said, you approach life in a new way.
You know your place in the world. Where you've been, where you are, and where you want to go.
"That's important not only for the black community, but for all races," Huston said.
It was the black community that soaked up a fountain of information on its rich African heritage Saturday, when dozens gathered for the inaugural African Heritage Festival at Erie County Fairgrounds.
Hosted by African Methodist Episcopal churches St. Stephen's Church of Sandusky and Turner Chapel of Crestline, Ohio, the all-day event included a vast array of seminars and presentations on Africa's colorful culture, mores, religion and customs.
"If we don't know where we came from, we don't know where we're going," said Barbara Huston, pastor of Turner Chapel and Ted Huston's wife.
Barbara Huston's congregation teamed with St. Stephen's Pastor Paul Bupe to host this area's first-of-its-kind event in hopes of showing blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians and others what Africa is all about.
Bupe is a native of Africa, and will remain pastor at St. Stephen's for about another year before returning overseas.
"I wanted to learn all I can from him about my heritage before he leaves, then pass that knowledge on to the next generation," Barbara Huston said.
The event started at 9 a.m. and carried through to the evening in a schedule filled with singing, African-style fashion shows, a talent show, a video of an African wedding and a slew of other presentations. A painting of a slave ship cutting through the ocean was propped stage-side on an easel all day, a quiet remainder of the powerful and tragic chapters in African-American history.
One seminar featured a discussion of Insaka, a word that captures the essence of "passing wisdom and knowledge down to the next generation," Barbara Huston said.
Conspicuously absent from the African Heritage Festival were white people. Of nearly 75 people who attended, only two or three were white, while the rest were black.
One of the white people in attendance was state Rep. Dennis Murray, D-Sandusky, who showed up at about 4 p.m. and encouraged the group to remain involved in community affairs.
Barbara Huston said she was pleased at the turnout, but would have liked if more young people and more white people show up.
"The younger generation is like, 'I'm just here, I know nothing of my past or where I came from,'" she said.
A cross-cultural appreciation among all races could catapult society in promising new directions, she said.
"In God, there is no race, no color," Barbara Huston said.
"As much as I want to learn about white cultures, the more I hope they want to learn about my culture, too. The more we know about each other, the better we'll all get along.
"We're nothing but flesh and bone underneath," she said. "The blood is all the same color, and the bones are all the same."