Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Feel what they felt

7-13-10 @ 3:53p

I’m looking forward to the memories of right now…

Shout out to the Dutch not winning the World Cup. I know I know, I’m hating. But Slave Coast will do that to you. Not that the Spanish are much better…

Am I the only one that listens to the Drake album at least every other day? 10 Light Up #nowplaying. Thanks @tajordan2 for the album.

So, I promised I’d tell you about Slave River. We visited the river on July 9th. It was another emotional journey. Before arriving I was a bit confused about what went on at Slave River. The drive to the river from the coast where the castles remain was about an hour. Our tour guide began to explain the significance of what we were preparing to experience. First he told us we were going to travel along the same path our ancestors traveled. He asked us to remove our shoes in order to feel what they felt. He mentioned that in the past there were poisonous thorns on the ground that would cut the feet of people and lead to their deaths. Slaves came from all over the western portion of Africa. They walked in shackles for days, barefoot, all times of the day and night. They were fed well as they traveled to Ghana in order to prepare for the auction. But many did not survive the journey, either they died from poison, wild animals attacking in the night, or simply fatigue. Children also passed along the way. The tour guide asked us to close our eyes and grab the shoulder of the person in front of us. He wanted us to feel what it would be like to walk through a foreign land in the night. The sound of the river grew louder.

Those that made it were brought to the river for their last bath. We learned that there are actually rivers separated by a few rocks. One for bathing, the other for drinking and within 10 feet from each other. To date, the community still drinks out of only one side. Some of us stepped into the water. Chills shot up my body, more so from the horror of the past than the cold water. I washed my legs, arms, and face. Kept my hands in the water. Looking at my reflection. I held back tears as I thought about being covered in oil after bathing and sent to the auction block.

We walked over to the drinking river. I know I’m not supposed to drink the water, but I had to. If I get malaria, I guess we know why. Sonny says, “hold on, let me drink with you.” He’s a cool person. I’m blessed to have met him and shared the experiences with him and stories. Just before drinking the water, a tear dropped but I laughed to alleviate the emotional ride. We walked back the way we came, for us we went to the bus. For those before us, they were sold and held at the castles we visited a day before. And then shipped to a new land. For most, never to return.

Saturday and Sunday were free days. We went to the club on Friday night, GREAT TIME. Then most of us slept on Saturday. I slept off a sore throat. Sunday was relaxing as well, much of the same. For the students, they spent most of the day finishing their first of three papers.

Yesterday we had an interesting class about W.E.B. and Shirley Graham DuBois. They are two people that should be studied in every school around the world. We left class and visited the DuBois museum. For the last few years of W.E.B.’s life he lived in Ghana and his house was turned into a museum and the bodies of both Shirley and W.E.B. are buried there. Their historical impact on the world and lives of those in the African Diaspora should not be overlooked.

Today we did some community service. We traveled to a local elementary school and helped to build a library and computer lab. The structure is not yet built so we spent about 4 hours mixing cement, hauling and laying bricks. This was a lot of fun most of us and a great workout. Doing something tangible like this was rewarding. The construction guys used scrap wood and built UNSECURE platforms to stand on. You would hear them call “marter” when they needed more cement and “brick” when they were ready for more bricks. They would place two bricks first, one on each end of the wall, then tie a rope around the bricks to make sure the structure would be straight.

The school had kids from kindergarten to ninth grade. We left around lunchtime and after talking to some of the students and the woman serving the food I learned that the kids in sixth grade and above do not get lunch. Most of the older kids stood by a tree during this time, talking rather than eating. Thoughts raced as I considered being in class hungry. It’s not easy to concentrate is it?

The number of African Americans living in Ghana continually surprises me. We saw this in Cape Coast and I met a woman on Saturday who owns a store here but is from Chicago, teaches at the University of Illinois half of the year and spends the rest in Ghana. And this came up in our class discussion yesterday as well. Over time, many African Americans have attempted to help build Ghana and industrialize the nation, mostly because former president, Kwame Nkrumah, invited all black people around the world to move back to Ghana. I thought about the education system and wondered why there has not been a major push to revamp the education system. After dialoguing with two professors, the education system has changed but it has never been a large initiative. For a country still using a colonial education system, it will be hard to free the people of the colonial aftermath still apparent in Ghanaian society. In addition, the lecturer said, “Ghanaians don’t necessarily want African Americans to come and “solve” their problems.” What a great observation. This is the dilemma of the scholar raised again. How does the outsider come in and “solve” the problems WITH the people rather than for them? I think time is one of the most important factors. I’ll continue to ponder this one.

I was extremely disturbed today after we finished laying bricks when the head master (principal) interrupted an entire classroom and had all the students come outside for a picture. I hate to see this happen. The students were learning, already distracted by us being there, and in my opinion should not be brought out of class for a picture with us. Who are we to interfere with learning? I stayed out the picture. I experienced the same thing in Ecuador and South Africa. And was equally bothered all three times.

We’re meeting a lot of people, Ghanaians of course, Kenyans, British and people from the US. The next few days are classes and research days for the students. I will be laying low before we travel to the Ashanti Region on Saturday morning for a two-day trip. We are moving into the Woman’s Role in Ghana section of the course. In Kumasi we will visit the Kente village, the Bead village, and Adinkra village. Sherry, I’ll try and grab you something to add to your collection.

I think some of the students have entered the distress and re-integration/angry stages of culture shock. I’m not sure where I am right now, but I think I am in a good place.

@bestnewactress, how’s the magazine coming?

The life and times of amo…


  1. Love the pictures and appreciate you keeping us updated on your adventure. I don't think you have to worry as much about getting malaria as you do about getting the runs. Good luck with that! Keep the blogs coming.


  2. Thanks AB. That's comforting lol. Luckily I have pills for travel diarrhea.

  3. Yo Abdul-
    You're not the only that listens to Drake every day!
    Please don't drink any more of that water.
    Thanks for sharing your experiences. I look forward to reading more of your posts. Keep well.

  4. HAHA. Thanks Muns. Tan line, maybe... Biceps... Ummm...

    Khadra, how's Kenya?

  5. Abdul, very moving your description about walking in the footsteps of the slaves being transported. When I lived in Nigeria I often wondered where the slaving areas were--Lagos, I know was a city enriched by the "Brazilians" (slaves freed in Brazil who returned and built businesses, raised families)--but never got to any. I would have been crying too. And of course you had to drink from the river! I would have too. Be safe, Sherry

  6. Abdul,

    Really descriptive and reflective blog posts. I feel as if I'm there learning along with you.

    Looking forward to your return,