Year of Return!
2019 is the “Year of return” in Ghana this means that people of African descent throughout the diaspora can return to Ghana to reconnect with their roots and, if they choose, reclaim their citizenship and receive a Ghanaian passport.
This is not my first trip to Africa, I’ve been to Egypt but this was my first time visiting West Africa (90% of the DNA on my 23 & me results). So visiting Ghana was very personal to me, it was homecoming, a re-discovering of my West African ancestry, paying homage to my ancestors who were stolen from the motherland, and philanthropic by helping families and children in need. Also, it was a part of healing my grief over the loss of my son. In fact, I found myself overwhelmed with emotions, especially when we visited the Ashanti kingdom and learned what the word “Asante” means. I had chills and goosebumps when the realization dawned on me the power in my Asante’s name and the rich heritage that he grew and stood on throughout his life.
The vibe in Ghana was very different than any place that I visited (and I’ve been all over the world). I felt comfortable, warm, and accepted. It was nice to see billboards with faces that looked like mine or to see someone who resembled one of my cousins. I often don’t speak much of growing up in Detroit and my Pan Africanist roots but it was inspiring to see monuments such as the Black Star monument, Kwame Nkrumah’s and WEB Dubois’ burial places.
In my African Elementals series, Adinkra symbols are used as a tool of enlightenment, it was exciting to see Adinkra symbols adorning national monuments, local homes, clothing, and even curtains in the hotel. I was also able to purchase books that explained the meanings of the symbols in more detail and clarity.
Also, in my African Elementals series, Iniko’s final scene happens at the Elmina Slave Castle. I researched it but visiting both Elmina Slave and Cape Coast Slave castles, reawakened and cracked me open. Upon leaving the Elmina Slave Castle, I wept uncontrollably as to what was done to my ancestors. My husband said I even rattled the tour guide with my wails. It was a sad, sobering feeling mixed with anger and frustration. I believe all people of African descent need to travel to these places, experience being locked in the dungeons and leave flowers for those who were treated inhumanely, raped and/or murdered in those dungeons. I was sickened by the horrors of enslavement and my mind gained a deeper understanding of why I must press forward, at all costs.
Finally, I was so excited to meet the school children. They had a wealth of enthusiasm and energy that uplifted everyone in our tour group. In fact, my hubby and I gave away our watches (he had a Black Panther watch and I had a Wonder Woman watch). The children were very excited to receive those but as we were walking through the school, we noticed two young boys sitting outside the classroom. In our US minds, we believed that they had been involved in some sort of mischief but when we talked to them learned that they hadn’t paid the school fees and weren’t allowed to participate in class. My heart ripped open and I immediately told my husband that we needed to pay for these boys. We paid the fees and the children were able to return to class to finish this term. Of everything that I experienced, it felt as if this was the reason that we came. I know my son would be proud of what we did and happy to know that we helped someone else towards success.
How about you? Have you visited West Africa? Other Slave Castles? I would love to know if you plan to return or what your experiences with the motherland have been.