It’s January 1, 2018 and the start of a New Year. This past year was filled with trips and travels to different places, new adventures and life-changing experiences. I continue sharing my journey into Ghana…and her people, culture, sights and history… We were a group of 11 Black women residing in the east, west and south of the United States. They say to travel with someone is to know them, and although we mostly met as strangers we quickly became friends.
The airplane to Ghana was full of a diverse array of people – reflecting different races, cultures, traditions and styles of dress. Chatting with fellow passengers in the airport and on the plane – I learned this trip was a return home for some (after many years of living abroad), a business trip for others, and a vacation still for some. For me it was a homegoing, an educational trip and a learning experience. So my goals were to be alert, pay attention, listen & learn, be open-minded and non judgmental. Upon arriving at Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana – (tired and jet lagged after a 10 hour non-stop flight, and a 5 hour time difference) – I wanted to take in every minute of this trip. I began first noticing the people – and their body frames, facial features, distinctive “ethnic” markings, clothing, and their swag – the styles and flavor of the people – the tip in their hat – and the dip in their walk – MY people…thousands of miles away. I saw people who look like people I know in the U.S. I saw the same face I have seen in places called New Jersey, New York, Detroit, and Philadelphia. I saw the window into eyes that told of a similar story , the same smile that lights up a room, the same warm spirit that wraps itself around you like a comforting shawl in the cool night air. I saw my people and I felt at home… For once I saw and knew without a shadow of a doubt – that we – Black folks from America are truly African – yes, our journey has been different from those who remained on the continent, but we are connected by story, history, legacy, DNA & roots… I felt the connection – I was HOME!
After arriving at the hotel, we reviewed the varied itinerary Marlene (our seasoned host and trip organizer) and Awuku (our tour guide) – along with Alex (our van driver) had planned for us. Our first stop was The W.E.B. Dubois Memorial Centre for Pan African Culture. The Centre includes a complex with four major buildings, including: the home of Dubois’s final years, an Administrative building, the Marcus Garvey Guest House, and the tombs of Dr. DuBois and his wife Shirley Graham DuBois. There were many artifacts, photographs and books documenting his scholarship, legacy and commitment to the education of Black people. Wow this was surreal – W.E.B. Dubois was the premier educator and scholar – the author of The Souls of Black Folk and the first Black person to graduate from Harvard University in 1895, at a time when many Whites still held the belief in the innate inferiority of Blacks! His scholarship proved them wrong. I sat at the desk where W.E.B. Dubois sat and wrote – and while I was in awe that I was actually touching a piece of history – of someone who I had long admired, read about and respected, I also recognized the need to protect the furniture, works and artifacts of this literary and scholarly giant, which were open to the public for touching and not protected from the elements. We must preserve the legacies of our heroes and sheroes!
We went to the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park which is a park, museum and mausoleum honoring the life and legacy of Kwame Nkrumah, a visionary, national hero, scholar, Prime Minister & later President. Ghana gained their independence from Britain in 1960 and Kwame Nkrumah was elected the First President of the newly independent nation of Ghana. He studied at my alma-mater, Lincoln University, PA and in Britain and became a proponent of Pan-Africanism, with visions to unite all of Africa. He developed many aspects of the country’s infrastructure, including the use of alternative power sources, businesses, schools, and universities. Tema, a former fishing village is a model city commissioned by Kwame Nkrumah with the original goal to replicate cities like it throughout Ghana. Nkrumah was a champion for the poor and less fortunate and they still revere him to this day. Many of his ideals were revolutionary and ahead of its time. As a result, his government was overthrown in 1966, and he was unable to complete his ambitious plans for Ghana and Africa. He was granted asylum in Guinea and later died in Bucharest while undergoing medical treatment.
At the naming ceremony we participated in later in our trip, I was bestowed the name Efua Nkrumah: Efu – girl born on Friday, and Nkrumah – wisdom. It was an honor to receive this name knowing the work, spirit and mission of Kwame Nkrumah and to also acknowledge that we both walked the same soil at Lincoln University decades apart. Ironically, Nkrumah departed this life in 1972 one year before I entered Lincoln University (LU), and in my youthful naivety at LU I wasn’t aware of his work or legacy yet – but I certainly am now! His motto is something I feel we should all strive to live by daily: “Forever Ever, backward never.” It was informative, touching and fulfilling to visit the centers honoring these two great world leaders: W.E.B. Dubois and Kwame Nkrumah. I was humbled and blessed to have this opportunity – to touch history – and see first-hand up close and personal – the monuments and memorials devoted to these brothers who were both giants in their own right and left a legacy for all of us to study, follow and extend. Now – as our journey continued, our group of 11 sisters with our trusty tour guide and driver were on our way to learn about some of the traditional crafts and visit some of the craft markets…
The Glass Bead Factory in the town of Ogbodjo. We were greeted by a young, 15-year-old brother named Wisdom, as the elders in the village had gone to a funeral and this young man stayed behind to give us the tour, so we wouldn’t be disappointed. He was aptly named Wisdom, and he gave us a step-by-step demonstration of the bead making process from beginning to end.
La-Pleasure Beach Resort: We spent the afternoon at La-Pleasure Beach where we had an opportunity to see and purchase crafts, jewelry and artifacts from brothers and sisters alike and have some down time and fun. Some of the sisters went riding on 4-wheelers or horseback riding (the younger sisters in the group – lol), walking on the beach, collecting rocks and shells, getting upper body massages, relaxing, drinking and listening to the drumming and just soaking up all the sights, sounds and smells.
The smell of the salty ocean air always moves me…This was my first glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean, and as I stood at the water’s edge I was overcome with emotion…knowing my ancestors were loaded onto ships from these very waters hundreds of years ago and never thought they or their descendants would ever touch African shores again. I had every intention of swimming in these waters, but Marlene had warned me that the waters here were rough and very “angry.”
She was right – the water here on this beach in Accra, Ghana was different from any ocean waters I have ever touched before. This is coming from me – a Sun Goddess, ocean lover, and self-proclaimed “beach bum.” Typically, after a wave crashes onto the shoreline, you feel the water cascade back and the sand slowly recede under your feet. Well, here there was a force and a power, as the sand and water receded that almost pulled you out into the ocean. I had to grab hold of one of the sisters to keep the water from pulling her out. The reality that I was a daughter of Africa, standing on the shores of Ghana, with my feet being washed in waters infused with the spirit and fury of my ancestors who perished and the energy of those who survived. I had come full circle…and this was only Day 3.
Join the blog to get email updates, as I share our journey and experiences at a large fishing village, craft markets, Kente weavers, school visits, Naming ceremony, Kakum National Park and the Canopy Walk, hands-on workshop at the Eka Batik Centre, history and stories at 2 slave castles and dungeons & The Door of No Return and much more…to be continued…come along and travel with me while learning about the art and culture of Ghana…