AFRICANGLOBE – During the years before moving to Ghana, we visited frequently, bringing along family members and friends to show them the REAL Motherland.
My first visit was certainly not even close to what I’d expected. Being from “up North” – North Louisiana, that is – we were not exposed to Africa. Unlike the eastern coast and big cities of America, people from the Motherland just didn’t come to visit our little hometown.
As country folk, we associated everything primitive and backwards with Africa – little poor children with protruding stomachs and flies dotting their foreheads; distraught-looking women with what looked like Slinkys wrapped around their long swan necks; pygmies with bones piercing their stretched nostrils boiling a freshly captured missionary for dinner while wild natives chanted and gyrated around the pot; darkness; chaos and fear; unchartered wilderness and extreme harshness; and, of course, Tarzan.
Little did we know that those deep, dark jungles of Africa were filmed right down there in the bayous of Louisiana. Small world!
In our neck of the woods, Black consciousness lay quietly dormant until one Sunday night in the 1960s during The Ed Sullivan Show. James Brown told us in no uncertain terms we were Black and were to be extremely PROUD of it. During that three-minute performance, we went from being colored to being Black quicker than JB could lickety-split.
After that, EVERYBODY donned Afros and carried Afro picks in our purses and stored cans of Afro Sheen in our bathroom shelves. That signaled the end of having to go to the beauty shop on Saturdays to get your hair hot combed and pressed.
We rushed right out to buy bell bottoms, platform shoes and loudly-colored duds and were absolutely certain that the dashiki – complete with the matching gold medallion on the gold (plated) chain – was the epitome of Native wear. We all yelled, “Ungowa!”, fist-pumped and greeted one another with the most complicated and drawn-out daps one could imagine! And that was about the size of it!
Black People Everywhere
So as we toured Ghana each year, I became enthralled with the history and truths of what being Black was really about. As far as the eye could see, there were Black folk EVERYWHERE: on the streets, in the stores, on TV, in the newspapers, on billboards, on the radio, on the milk cartons (and they weren’t even MISSING). They sure did talk pretty too, speaking the Queen’s English with ancient African accents!
Although I hardly understood an entire sentence they said, the helpfulness they rendered was loud and clear. It took me three two-week trips to fully get the gist of what our regular Ghanaian tour guide was telling of our travels through the countryside. When I DID, I began to learn about what being Black AND Proud was allllll about!
My first proud moment was to discover that Tema, a town on the outskirts of Accra, is on longitude zero degrees (the Greenwich Meridian) and on latitude five degrees north of the Equator. It is the closest land settlement nearest or closest to where the Equator and Greenwich Meridian meet at coordinate zero-zero in the Atlantic Ocean making Ghana, literally, the Center of the World!
Unlike our friends back home who were startled to discover Africans had automobiles and weren’t swinging on tree vines, or traipsing around in loincloths, my surprise was at the absolute beauty of the land. As we traveled, we marveled at the green meadows and gentle hills and the natural, unhampered order of nature itself.
Traditional thatch-roof houses stood nestled between magnificent modern homes and hotels.
Merchants made life convenient, selling fresh fruit, vegetables, fresh-slaughtered meats, fried plantains and roasted corn, dresses, shoes, furniture, bedding and all other wares and wears from roughly-hewn kiosks and stands along the roadside and city streets.
Naturally, we visited the historical sites throughout the four stops on our travel agenda: Greater Accra, Volta, Ashanti and Central regions. Because our tour guide was a former educator and had been in the tour business for many years, we got to meet and know the “People”– kings, queens, chiefs; shamans and nomads; natives who still relentlessly practice traditional rites and rituals and remedies.
We visited monuments and castles and palaces, and enjoyed the warm celebrations of queen mothers and their village tribes welcoming us to our ancestral home.
A ‘World Wonder’
In Kumasi, we discovered the REAL “Sword in the Stone” placed there by Okomfo Anokye, the greatest medicine man EVER, and believed to be a powerful spirit that had returned to his people to complete his mission.
In 1695, he drove a sword into a rock, vowing that no one would ever be able to remove it. To date, countless number of attempts had been made to remove it from the ground – including heavy equipment and strong virile men – but it yet remains planted.
If there was a secret to its removal, Okomfo Anokye took it with him to the grave. It is believed to have a powerful presence and is consider a healing place for millions of people.
The immovable sword, absolutely the Eighth Wonder of the World, is located on what is now the Okomfo Anokye Hospital in Kumasi. I didn’t venture to flex my skinny muscles in an attempt to dislodge the sword, but I plan to try my luck the next time. Who knows? I might be The One!
European Slave Castles
But my most sobering and emotional visits were to the slave dungeons that dot the entire gold coast from the beaches of PramPram through the shores of Old Accra to Cape Coast and Elmina.
The western region of Ghana has the largest collection of slave castles that were geographically lucrative locations for European trading forts and the infamous trans-Atlantic slave trade. Our trips always saved these visits for last because, after a visit to the European slave castles, great fun turns serious and reflective.
Baby and I toured the Elmina slave castle together on my first visit with another guest couple from America who were also on vacation. Our extremely experienced castle guide took us through the dungeons room by room, telling the atrocious history of each one.
The dread and fear and hopelessness and pain were as tangible as the scarred, peeling walls and as malodorous as the still-lingering stench of death. Tears ran from his eyes and ours as he told the story to our small, intimate group and offered the only apology we have EVER received from ANYONE for these horrible deeds against us, them and mankind.
Although we have visited other slave dungeons, I have only completed one tour through the Elmina castle. I tried a second time, but got no further than the female dungeon, where thousands upon thousands of my sisters and mothers experienced hell and horror. Their Spirits remain – and embrace – and call. I heard and I came – Home.
By: Cassandra Diane