Sunday, October 07, 2007

GUEST BLOGGER . . . SHARON JEFFERSON . . . (aka the Old School Mix's "Sharon J.") PART III
GHANA 2007
From Sharon Jefferson's
picture collection
My Trip To Ghana (by Sharon Jefferson) . . . continued . . .

Every African-American, no, every American should pay a visit to the slave dungeons at Cape Coast. My cousin Melvin out of Chicago didn't lie when he forewarned me that I would be in tears witnessing where my ancestors were held captive before being sent to the Americas--only six percent came to the United States our tour guide said.

Our group toured a small cave-like room where slavers kept the males, who in some cases had to walk in shackles as far as 200 miles just to get there. American Legacy magazine reports that as many as 500 were crammed in the room, which appeared to me to be about the size of a living room of a moderate size home. Only a beam of light came through a small opening high on one side of the wall. There was an opening on the opposite side of the wall, through which food would be thrown. Boys as young as eight had to fight with men as old as thirty-two over scraps. The dark, damp dungeon served as a dining room, toilet and bedroom for the captives.

They stayed between three weeks to three months, according to American Legacy. The males who were considered "unruly" were sent to the condemned room and left to die. Males were seperated from the females, who endured many of the same indignities. I know some Blacks who are either in denial or ashamed to admit they had slave ancestors. There are some, Blacks and non-Blacks, who see having a slave legacy as a sign of inferiority. I think visiting slave dungeons will help many realzie what strong people Africans in the Disaspora must be to have forebearers who were able to survive the misery of the entire slavery process.

Being in the midst of the Ghanaians was like visiting West Mifflin, Pa.-- where practically everyone in the town is related to me. The Ghanaians look a lot like their cousins here in the United States. Seeing them gave me more of an appreciation for the beauty of dark skin. Ghana seems to have a young demographic. I didn't see many people older than their early 30s. Grown and sexy women, i.e. women 40-plus, were referred to as "mommy." Out of shape, Buddha belly folks, like me were a rarity. They were in great shape without ever seeing the inside of a gym or taking a Pilates class. Our group was often served fruit for dessert. Even the pastries served in the hotel had very litte sugar. Much of the Ghanaian diet is similar to that of Black West Indians. They eat a lot of rice and plantains. The hotel where some of us stayed served a drink similar to ginger beer for breakfast and another place served a delicious goat meat stew.

The areas of Ghana our group visited had a mixture of modern buildings and homes and rural dwellings. One of the villages we visited called Etomdome, had mud huts and straw roofs. Chickens and two-foot tall goats roamed freely. The villagers held a naming ceremony for us. I was given the name Akua, which means born on Wednesday. Our group brought school supplies for the children, who attend classes in a one-room schoolhouse. Teachers don't hand out many perfect attendance awards in the villages; often the children have to miss school to work to help support their families. Before we left the village, our gracious hosts treated us to bananas and coconut juice.

Little boy preparing Fu Fu

Ghana 2007

from Sharon Jefferson's

picture collection

There's a surplus of talented people in Ghana who cannot reach their highest potential because there is no system in place to do so. They've been let down first by their unsanctified British colonizers and later by leaders who have been running the country since Ghana's independence in March of 1957. For example, construction is underway to replace the presidential palace with a new 50 million dollar one, when in my opinion, the money could be better used to improve the country's water and sewage system for example. Still, Ghana remains politically stable. Let's understand that it takes generations to get a nation-state running smoothly. Remember, the United States had a Civil War less than 100 years after our independence.

Besides, Ghana is about to come up. She recently has been blessed with the discovery of 600 million barrels of oil off its shores. Let's pray that Ghana's President John Kufuor's desire to see Ghana become an "African tiger" economically, with all the money the oil will generate, comes true.

One of the highlights of my trips was a vist with King Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofari Panin who leads Akyem Abuakwa--the Eastern Region of Ghana. He held a special reception for our group. He had only recently become king after living several years in the United States. He was hesitant about taking on that role, but his mother insisted that it was his duty to come back home and serve his people.

He spoke eloquently about the relationship that he would like to see developed with Africans and African-Americans. He said "Africa wants your solidarity, not your pity." He related Black Americans' experiences to that of Joseph in the Bible. He was taken from Canaan to be a slave in Egypt. After gaining his freedom he prospered and shared his blessings with his brothers who were facing challenges in their family's motherland.

Just like any family, we help our brothers or sisters out and tomorrow they may have to bail us out. You never know when you might need a cup of oil.

Thanks Sharon for sharing your Ghananian experience with the visitors of the Old School Mix. I'm sure Sharon would be delighted to repond to any questions or comments OSM readers might have about her trip. The following is a link for more information about the National Book Club Conference.

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