I’m about 20 countries behind in posting but why go in order when you can go in energy?
It’s always been a goal of mine to travel to Ghana. Before taking this trip I read Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. This novel is set in Ghana during the slave trade and chronicles the lineage of two relatives; one is sold into slavery and the other stays in Ghana. I won’t get into details because it is an excellent read and I highly recommend it. This book set the stage for me. I’m an avid reader who believes that you can go anywhere through a book. This is true for the most part. Books can set you free but you have to go there to know there. So here I am, Accra, Ghana. I am in love.
The energy that covered us when we stepped off the plane was palpable. It was a calming energy, like an ancestor saying Akwaaba, welcome. Everyone took a collective gasp of awe coming down the steps of the plane. It was magical and I will never forget that feeling. I wanted to be all over the city at once, just soaking up everything. I felt a calm in my spirit that I never knew I needed. Marco White said, ” A tree without roots is just a piece of wood.” I stepped on the ground and became a tree.
A friend described the people of Ghana as ” aggressively friendly” and that has never been a more accurate way of putting it. When they ask ” how are you?”, they actually want to know and wait for the answer. It reminded me of the dying southern hospitality. It also let me know that kindness is in our DNA and how Black Americans act now is a learned behavior. I saw the aggressiveness in the conversations that other people may see as an argument but I knew it was just a good topic they were talking about. I saw dancing in the streets, while many scoff at that in the states it was perfectly normal here. I loved it. I saw the dress which I can only describe as impeccable. Now keep in mind that there is red dirt and dust everywhere in some of the cities but their clothes were clean, crisp, and fashionable. They love to look nice and huney they do, ok? Because I saw many a handsome men. Getting your clothes tailored isn’t something only for the “well off”, everyone has their clothes made and they fit perfectly. We were riding around Accra on Sunday before and after church and it looked like the Ellis Wilson “Funeral Procession” picture from the Cosby Show. Beautiful prints, intricate designs, vibrant colors all brought to life with the sway of their hips and the self-assuredness of their gait. Needless to say, that day we bought hella fabric and went to 3 different tailors. It was so freeing to walk around and not be stared at. Everyone looked like us, the billboards, the newscasters, the artwork, the managers, the owners, everything reflected me. It’s so important to see people that look like you and not just in your neighborhood.
Let me say this first, I’m not a foodie so don’t get your hopes up about this section. When I took this trip I was a vegetarian transitioning to veganism. I knew there would not be a lot of options for me, but I was cool with that. I didn’t come for the food. I love carbs and starches. Rice is one of my favorite foods, if you saw these thighs in person you’d be like “ahhh, I get it.” There is a staple dish they serve called “jollof.” It originated in Sengal, but Ghana, Nigeria, and Liberia constantly debate who has the better dish. Ghanaian jollof is my first and only taste of this dish. In. Love. I ate it everyday, twice a day while I was there. If they served it for breakfast I would have it three times a day. I did try other meatless dishes which were good but did not hold a candle to my beloved jollof. We took a cooking class and made several tasty dishes. A few of my favorite were waakye (wa chi), red red, and jollof (of course). I don’t know how they get the plantains from heaven exactly, maybe DHL or FedEx, but they were the best damn fried plantains I’ve ever had. They taste very different and sweeter! Everything was delicious. Foodies would enjoy themselves.
Ghana has everything, beaches, desert, jungle and that was our next stop, Kakum National Park to do the canopy walk. I’m afraid of heights but I wasn’t going to come all the way here and not do this. This canopy is (no lie) the width of a small ladder. Matter of fact IT IS a ladder with a single plank of wood covering the rungs. Do you know how terrified I was? Plus, it swayed as others walked ahead. I should have went first. I made so many promises to God on that walk and I’ve probably already broken them all, but I got through!
There is an organization called Taglit or Birthright Israel. This organization allows individuals (ages 18-26) having at least one parent of Jewish descent to travel to Israel free of charge sans the airfare from their departure. It’s expensive to go to Israel. I’ve been. Where is my damn free ass trip to Ghana?! The history of this place is unfathomable. I learned so many things that aren’t in any books. This should be a journey that EVERY Black American should take. Sankofa is a West African Adinkra symbol which means “return and get it.” One representation looks like a heart with tails and the other a bird. It symbolizes the importance of knowing your past in order to go forward in the future. We. Are. Lost. and you can “get found” in West Africa. We went to two slave castles. Elmina was the first and only castle we were suppose to go to. It’s eerily quiet. The smell in the female section of the dungeon is sickening. I forced myself to stay in there and smell those smells. This castle left me a tad bit angry. The Cape Coast castle was not a part of the agenda but I had to go. It was part of the setting for the book I mentioned, Homegoing, so I had to see it. As we were riding toward the castle it came into view and tears sprang to my eyes. I don’t know why I had such a visceral reaction to this particular castle. I wanted to feel angry but the sorrow was too heavy to be angry. Elmina was originally made for trade and turned into a slave export castle. Cape Coast was built specifically for slave trade. The descendants of the masterminds behind this place walk the earth. That DNA is floating around. This castle was massive with a dungeon below that held thousands of African Kings, Queens, elders, children, etc. The horrors they explained that happened there…just…how could a human brain come up with something so barbarous and savage? I could go on and I should. It’s a blog and that’s the purpose, but I don’t want to. I’m in my feelings now. All those emotions just came back up. Smh. The offspring of Cain is alive and well.
I can’t leave you thinking that they didn’t fight slave trade. See that’s what they don’t tell you. They Fought. You won’t find a lot of information about Asamani and the Osu Castle, but just know he attaked the Danes who occupied it when they were weak and sick from disease and straight up commandeered the castle. Took it over for a year, did trading (goods not people) and everything. He got wind that they were coming back to take over the castle. He gathered his men, exited, locked the castle and left. It’s 2017 and they still don’t have that key (lmaaaaaaao), the Akwamus still have that key!
We did so much and I know people would probably want to do the same things, so here’s a list (not in order)!
- Cooking class in Cape Coast
- Naming Ceremony, the village named me Abla Xorla. Abla is “girl born on Tuesday” and Xorla means “Redeemer”.
- Cedi Bead factory. We saw how they made beads from recycled glass. These bead are also used for waist beads.
- Kakum National Park (Canopy)
- Wli Falls
- Tafi Monkey Sanctuary
- Kente cloth weaving factory
- Ashante (Ashanti) Palace
- Elmina Castle
- Cape Coast Castle
- African Dance class
- Fabric shopping
- W.E.B Du Bois’ House and grave
- Boating on Volta River