When I told my friends “I recently traveled to Ghana” most of the responses I received were one of the following two: “Where is Ghana?” and “What’s there?”
Aside from meeting my partner’s immediate family in person, there actually wasn’t much motivation behind it. When I had traveled to the UK over the previous holiday season and could hardly contain my excitement. My grandmother even cried when I told her I was going to Europe. Her response was “I’m so proud of you!” and, oddly enough, I was proud of myself too. I spent a lot of my time in museums that contained artwork I had only dreamed of seeing in person. I marveled at them and stood awkwardly overjoyed as I begged my partner to “Take my picture! Take my picture!”. He obliged and watched curiously as I carried on.
When I returned to the states from the UK, I felt egregiously established. I walked everywhere with my head high, secretly wishing someone would ask about my Christmas so that I could feign humility when I told them “oh, not much just a couple weeks in London”. London. As if saying it aloud produced some tangible form of prestige that I could cloak myself in. I was disgusted with my own pride but I couldn’t help feel as though I had achieved some social status had previously been out of my reach. I was finally ‘in’ on the secret of Europe and now all the cultural references from shows like Friends finally would make sense.
Contrarily, I did not have this reaction when I arrived to the Kotoka International Airport in Accra. I remember landing from my 14 hour flight, claiming our baggage, and exiting the terminal into what I could only describe as ‘Tijuana with Black people’. I was not in awe like I had been in London. I was in shock. Something sparked inside of me that I hadn’t anticipated feeling. Something I wasn’t actually aware I’d been missing.
Firstly, I had never seen this dense of a body count that ALL looked like mine; ‘black’. Ghana was not my California ‘melting pot’ of cultural variety and no other ethnicity surrounded me; Not Mexican or Filipino. Not even white. These faces were like reflections in a mirror and each one was like a piece to a puzzle that connected to me. I stood silently for a moment too long and my partner asked if I was alright. When I looked to him, he was different. A kind of different that I had noticed in myself after returning from London. His shoulders were back his head was high. He was proud.
My Ghana trip was very different from my previous journey, in so many ways and it is important that I point out a lesson I learned. Whether we are aware of it or not, being of African American heritage is to be inherently displaced. Generation after generation, African Americans have resiliently assimilated to the impositions of Western society and culture, to the extent that many of us have lost our sense what it means to the majority. Our experience cannot be compared to other ethnic communities. Where other communities can find cultural asylum in returning to their their homelands, it is often not the same for us. But it can be.
Whether we feel connected to it or not, Africa and all of it’s diverse countries, is our origin story. I encourage you to take some time and get to know her. She is beautiful.
To be Continued…