rose water ocean [revisited]

Rose Water Ocean

Wearing rose(s)
Smelling of rose(s)
Carrying rose(s)

All for you
All for you

Papa Legba ouvri bariye
sou mache manman dlo

Petals mixed with tears
Yemaja welcomes them 
Her curves guide their shifts against the ebullient waves

Like honey Erzulie carries the sweetness into the deeper parts of the water

And lured by their scent Oya’s whirlwinds lifts them further into infinity

manman ap mache sou dlo
mache mache li ap mache

Rose Water Ocean

you we be.

(for Ma linda)

Seeing / the hands that touch

Re-Remembering Black Women in my life. those who reminded me of the beauty of my “roots”.

barak adé soleil

circa 1990’s

Great aunt Mare
ready to walk with the ancestors
shrouded beneath the bed sheets she is still able to reach out to me
holds onto my arm
whispers to me how easy it is to float on out of this life
her gaze far yet specific

i ask her anxiously
what she sees
Brown Bear Brown Bear / the name passed onto me since my father’s passing
Brown Brown Bear
what i got to see for
all around me hands that touch
guide my spirit along
i just listen for the bells
hear my native tongue
i’ll be speaking it soon

now close that mouth,
no worrying about me think through
this life you live even now all that you do
no need to see,
just let the hands of the creator touch deeply
gently
guide your spirit along,
and sweetly listen for your family’s native tongue.


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Trayvon is our history lest we forget. For yesterday and today’s black history…

 

Trayvon Martin
Trayvon Martin

Trayvon Martin‘s birthday was yesterday.
he would have been 19.
as someone who didn’t know him personally,
there would have been no reason to acknowledge this if he was alive.
no large size posters of his image.
no hoodies in solidarity.
probably would not have been a public birthday celebration, just he and his loved ones hanging out, blowing out candles.

eating skittles.

i forgot. did you remember?
will we?

#TrayvonIsOurHistoryLestWeForget

where black women flow rivers run deep: The Combahee River Collective

the cost of seeking truth may seem steep
but never where black women flow rivers deep

The Combahee River Collective of Black feminists progressed history when even history may not have been ready.

a littany of “all stars” including…Barbara SmithAudre Lorde….

Barbara Smith
Barbara Smith

THE COMBAHEE RIVER COLLECTIVE STATEMENT circa 1977

“We are a collective of Black feminists who have been meeting together since 1974. [1] During that time we have been involved in the process of defining and clarifying our politics, while at the same time doing political work within our own group and in coalition with other progressive organizations and movements. The most general statement of our politics at the present time would be that we are actively committed to struggling against racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppression, and see as our particular task the development of integrated analysis and practice based upon the fact that the major systems of oppression are interlocking. The synthesis of these oppressions creates the conditions of our lives. As Black women we see Black feminism as the logical political movement to combat the manifold and simultaneous oppressions that all women of color face.

We will discuss four major topics in the paper that follows: (1) the genesis of contemporary Black feminism; (2) what we believe, i.e., the specific province of our politics; (3) the problems in organizing Black feminists, including a brief herstory of our collective; and (4) Black feminist issues and practice.

1. The genesis of Contemporary Black Feminism

Before looking at the recent development of Black feminism we would like to affirm that we find our origins in the historical reality of Afro-American women’s continuous life-and-death struggle for survival and liberation. Black women’s extremely negative relationship to the American political system (a system of white male rule) has always been determined by our membership in two oppressed racial and sexual castes. As Angela Davis points out in “Reflections on the Black Woman’s Role in the Community of Slaves,” Black women have always embodied, if only in their physical manifestation, an adversary stance to white male rule and have actively resisted its inroads upon them and their communities in both dramatic and subtle ways. There have always been Black women activists—some known, like Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Frances E. W. Harper, Ida B. Wells Barnett, and Mary Church Terrell, and thousands upon thousands unknown—who have had a shared awareness of how their sexual identity combined with their racial identity to make their whole life situation and the focus of their political struggles unique. Contemporary Black feminism is the outgrowth of countless generations of personal sacrifice, militancy, and work by our mothers and sisters.

A Black feminist presence has evolved most obviously in connection with the second wave of the American women’s movement beginning in the late 1960s. Black, other Third World, and working women have been involved in the feminist movement from its start, but both outside reactionary forces and racism and elitism within the movement itself have served to obscure our participation. In 1973, Black feminists, primarily located in New York, felt the necessity of forming a separate Black feminist group. This became the National Black Feminist Organization (NBFO).

Black feminist politics also have an obvious connection to movements for Black liberation, particularly those of the 1960s and I970s. Many of us were active in those movements (Civil Rights, Black nationalism, the Black Panthers), and all of our lives Were greatly affected and changed by their ideologies, their goals, and the tactics used to achieve their goals. It was our experience and disillusionment within these liberation movements, as well as experience on the periphery of the white male left, that led to the need to develop a politics that was anti-racist, unlike those of white women, and anti-sexist, unlike those of Black and white men.

There is also undeniably a personal genesis for Black Feminism, that is, the political realization that comes from the seemingly personal experiences of individual Black women’s lives. Black feminists and many more Black women who do not define themselves as feminists have all experienced sexual oppression as a constant factor in our day-to-day existence. As children we realized that we were different from boys and that we were treated differently. For example, we were told in the same breath to be quiet both for the sake of being “ladylike” and to make us less objectionable in the eyes of white people. As we grew older we became aware of the threat of physical and sexual abuse by men. However, we had no way of conceptualizing what was so apparent to us, what we knew was really happening.

Black feminists often talk about their feelings of craziness before becoming conscious of the concepts of sexual politics, patriarchal rule, and most importantly, feminism, the political analysis and practice that we women use to struggle against our oppression. The fact that racial politics and indeed racism are pervasive factors in our lives did not allow us, and still does not allow most Black women, to look more deeply into our own experiences and, from that sharing and growing consciousness, to build a politics that will change our lives and inevitably end our oppression. Our development must also be tied to the contemporary economic and political position of Black people. The post World War II generation of Black youth was the first to be able to minimally partake of certain educational and employment options, previously closed completely to Black people. Although our economic position is still at the very bottom of the American capitalistic economy, a handful of us have been able to gain certain tools as a result of tokenism in education and employment which potentially enable us to more effectively fight our oppression.

A combined anti-racist and anti-sexist position drew us together initially, and as we developed politically we addressed ourselves to heterosexism and economic oppression under capItalism.

2. What We Believe

Above all else, Our politics initially sprang from the shared belief that Black women are inherently valuable, that our liberation is a necessity not as an adjunct to somebody else’s may because of our need as human persons for autonomy. This may seem so obvious as to sound simplistic, but it is apparent that no other ostensibly progressive movement has ever consIdered our specific oppression as a priority or worked seriously for the ending of that oppression. Merely naming the pejorative stereotypes attributed to Black women (e.g. mammy, matriarch, Sapphire, whore, bulldagger), let alone cataloguing the cruel, often murderous, treatment we receive, Indicates how little value has been placed upon our lives during four centuries of bondage in the Western hemisphere. We realize that the only people who care enough about us to work consistently for our liberation are us. Our politics evolve from a healthy love for ourselves, our sisters and our community which allows us to continue our struggle and work.

This focusing upon our own oppression is embodied in the concept of identity politics. We believe that the most profound and potentially most radical politics come directly out of our own identity, as opposed to working to end somebody else’s oppression. In the case of Black women this is a particularly repugnant, dangerous, threatening, and therefore revolutionary concept because it is obvious from looking at all the political movements that have preceded us that anyone is more worthy of liberation than ourselves. We reject pedestals, queenhood, and walking ten paces behind. To be recognized as human, levelly human, is enough.

We believe that sexual politics under patriarchy is as pervasive in Black women’s lives as are the politics of class and race. We also often find it difficult to separate race from class from sex oppression because in our lives they are most often experienced simultaneously. We know that there is such a thing as racial-sexual oppression which is neither solely racial nor solely sexual, e.g., the history of rape of Black women by white men as a weapon of political repression.

Although we are feminists and Lesbians, we feel solidarity with progressive Black men and do not advocate the fractionalization that white women who are separatists demand. Our situation as Black people necessitates that we have solidarity around the fact of race, which white women of course do not need to have with white men, unless it is their negative solidarity as racial oppressors. We struggle together with Black men against racism, while we also struggle with Black men about sexism.

We realize that the liberation of all oppressed peoples necessitates the destruction of the political-economic systems of capitalism and imperialism as well as patriarchy. We are socialists because we believe that work must be organized for the collective benefit of those who do the work and create the products, and not for the profit of the bosses. Material resources must be equally distributed among those who create these resources. We are not convinced, however, that a socialist revolution that is not also a feminist and anti-racist revolution will guarantee our liberation. We have arrived at the necessity for developing an understanding of class relationships that takes into account the specific class position of Black women who are generally marginal in the labor force, while at this particular time some of us are temporarily viewed as doubly desirable tokens at white-collar and professional levels. We need to articulate the real class situation of persons who are not merely raceless, sexless workers, but for whom racial and sexual oppression are significant determinants in their working/economic lives. Although we are in essential agreement with Marx’s theory as it applied to the very specific economic relationships he analyzed, we know that his analysis must be extended further in order for us to understand our specific economic situation as Black women.

A political contribution which we feel we have already made is the expansion of the feminist principle that the personal is political. In our consciousness-raising sessions, for example, we have in many ways gone beyond white women’s revelations because we are dealing with the implications of race and class as well as sex. Even our Black women’s style of talking/testifying in Black language about what we have experienced has a resonance that is both cultural and political. We have spent a great deal of energy delving into the cultural and experiential nature of our oppression out of necessity because none of these matters has ever been looked at before. No one before has ever examined the multilayered texture of Black women’s lives. An example of this kind of revelation/conceptualization occurred at a meeting as we discussed the ways in which our early intellectual interests had been attacked by our peers, particularly Black males. We discovered that all of us, because we were “smart” had also been considered “ugly,” i.e., “smart-ugly.” “Smart-ugly” crystallized the way in which most of us had been forced to develop our intellects at great cost to our “social” lives. The sanctions In the Black and white communities against Black women thinkers is comparatively much higher than for white women, particularly ones from the educated middle and upper classes.

As we have already stated, we reject the stance of Lesbian separatism because it is not a viable political analysis or strategy for us. It leaves out far too much and far too many people, particularly Black men, women, and children. We have a great deal of criticism and loathing for what men have been socialized to be in this society: what they support, how they act, and how they oppress. But we do not have the misguided notion that it is their maleness, per se—i.e., their biological maleness—that makes them what they are. As BIack women we find any type of biological determinism a particularly dangerous and reactionary basis upon which to build a politic. We must also question whether Lesbian separatism is an adequate and progressive political analysis and strategy, even for those who practice it, since it so completely denies any but the sexual sources of women’s oppression, negating the facts of class and race.

3. Problems in Organizing Black Feminists

During our years together as a Black feminist collective we have experienced success and defeat, joy and pain, victory and failure. We have found that it is very difficult to organize around Black feminist issues, difficult even to announce in certain contexts that we are Black feminists. We have tried to think about the reasons for our difficulties, particularly since the white women’s movement continues to be strong and to grow in many directions. In this section we will discuss some of the general reasons for the organizing problems we face and also talk specifically about the stages in organizing our own collective.

The major source of difficulty in our political work is that we are not just trying to fight oppression on one front or even two, but instead to address a whole range of oppressions. We do not have racial, sexual, heterosexual, or class privilege to rely upon, nor do we have even the minimal access to resources and power that groups who possess anyone of these types of privilege have.

The psychological toll of being a Black woman and the difficulties this presents in reaching political consciousness and doing political work can never be underestimated. There is a very low value placed upon Black women’s psyches in this society, which is both racist and sexist. As an early group member once said, “We are all damaged people merely by virtue of being Black women.” We are dispossessed psychologically and on every other level, and yet we feel the necessity to struggle to change the condition of all Black women. In “A Black Feminist’s Search for Sisterhood,” Michele Wallace arrives at this conclusion:

We exists as women who are Black who are feminists, each stranded for the moment, working independently because there is not yet an environment in this society remotely congenial to our struggle—because, being on the bottom, we would have to do what no one else has done: we would have to fight the world. [2]

Wallace is pessimistic but realistic in her assessment of Black feminists’ position, particularly in her allusion to the nearly classic isolation most of us face. We might use our position at the bottom, however, to make a clear leap into revolutionary action. If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.

Feminism is, nevertheless, very threatening to the majority of Black people because it calls into question some of the most basic assumptions about our existence, i.e., that sex should be a determinant of power relationships. Here is the way male and female roles were defined in a Black nationalist pamphlet from the early 1970s:

We understand that it is and has been traditional that the man is the head of the house. He is the leader of the house/nation because his knowledge of the world is broader, his awareness is greater, his understanding is fuller and his application of this information is wiser… After all, it is only reasonable that the man be the head of the house because he is able to defend and protect the development of his home… Women cannot do the same things as men—they are made by nature to function differently. Equality of men and women is something that cannot happen even in the abstract world. Men are not equal to other men, i.e. ability, experience or even understanding. The value of men and women can be seen as in the value of gold and silver—they are not equal but both have great value. We must realize that men and women are a complement to each other because there is no house/family without a man and his wife. Both are essential to the development of any life. [3]

The material conditions of most Black women would hardly lead them to upset both economic and sexual arrangements that seem to represent some stability in their lives. Many Black women have a good understanding of both sexism and racism, but because of the everyday constrictions of their lives, cannot risk struggling against them both.

The reaction of Black men to feminism has been notoriously negative. They are, of course, even more threatened than Black women by the possibility that Black feminists might organize around our own needs. They realize that they might not only lose valuable and hardworking allies in their struggles but that they might also be forced to change their habitually sexist ways of interacting with and oppressing Black women. Accusations that Black feminism divides the Black struggle are powerful deterrents to the growth of an autonomous Black women’s movement.

Still, hundreds of women have been active at different times during the three-year existence of our group. And every Black woman who came, came out of a strongly-felt need for some level of possibility that did not previously exist in her life.

When we first started meeting early in 1974 after the NBFO first eastern regional conference, we did not have a strategy for organizing, or even a focus. We just wanted to see what we had. After a period of months of not meeting, we began to meet again late in the year and started doing an intense variety of consciousness-raising. The overwhelming feeling that we had is that after years and years we had finally found each other. Although we were not doing political work as a group, individuals continued their involvement in Lesbian politics, sterilization abuse and abortion rights work, Third World Women’s International Women’s Day activities, and support activity for the trials of Dr. Kenneth Edelin, Joan Little, and Inéz García. During our first summer when membership had dropped off considerably, those of us remaining devoted serious discussion to the possibility of opening a refuge for battered women in a Black community. (There was no refuge in Boston at that time.) We also decided around that time to become an independent collective since we had serious disagreements with NBFO’s bourgeois-feminist stance and their lack of a clear politIcal focus.

We also were contacted at that time by socialist feminists, with whom we had worked on abortion rights activities, who wanted to encourage us to attend the National Socialist Feminist Conference in Yellow Springs. One of our members did attend and despite the narrowness of the ideology that was promoted at that particular conference, we became more aware of the need for us to understand our own economic situation and to make our own economic analysis.

In the fall, when some members returned, we experienced several months of comparative inactivity and internal disagreements which were first conceptualized as a Lesbian-straight split but which were also the result of class and political differences. During the summer those of us who were still meeting had determined the need to do political work and to move beyond consciousness-raising and serving exclusively as an emotional support group. At the beginning of 1976, when some of the women who had not wanted to do political work and who also had voiced disagreements stopped attending of their own accord, we again looked for a focus. We decided at that time, with the addition of new members, to become a study group. We had always shared our reading with each other, and some of us had written papers on Black feminism for group discussion a few months before this decision was made. We began functioning as a study group and also began discussing the possibility of starting a Black feminist publication. We had a retreat in the late spring which provided a time for both political discussion and working out interpersonal issues. Currently we are planning to gather together a collectIon of Black feminist writing. We feel that it is absolutely essential to demonstrate the reality of our politics to other Black women and believe that we can do this through writing and distributing our work. The fact that individual Black feminists are living in isolation all over the country, that our own numbers are small, and that we have some skills in writing, printing, and publishing makes us want to carry out these kinds of projects as a means of organizing Black feminists as we continue to do political work in coalition with other groups.

4. Black Feminist Issues and Projects

During our time together we have identified and worked on many issues of particular relevance to Black women. The inclusiveness of our politics makes us concerned with any situation that impinges upon the lives of women, Third World and working people. We are of course particularly committed to working on those struggles in which race, sex, and class are simultaneous factors in oppression. We might, for example, become involved in workplace organizing at a factory that employs Third World women or picket a hospital that is cutting back on already inadequate heath care to a Third World community, or set up a rape crisis center in a Black neighborhood. Organizing around welfare and daycare concerns might also be a focus. The work to be done and the countless issues that this work represents merely reflect the pervasiveness of our oppression.

Issues and projects that collective members have actually worked on are sterilization abuse, abortion rights, battered women, rape and health care. We have also done many workshops and educationals on Black feminism on college campuses, at women’s conferences, and most recently for high school women.

One issue that is of major concern to us and that we have begun to publicly address is racism in the white women’s movement. As Black feminists we are made constantly and painfully aware of how little effort white women have made to understand and combat their racism, which requires among other things that they have a more than superficial comprehension of race, color, and Black history and culture. Eliminating racism in the white women’s movement is by definition work for white women to do, but we will continue to speak to and demand accountability on this issue.

In the practice of our politics we do not believe that the end always justifies the means. Many reactionary and destructive acts have been done in the name of achieving “correct” political goals. As feminists we do not want to mess over people in the name of politics. We believe in collective process and a nonhierarchical distribution of power within our own group and in our vision of a revolutionary society. We are committed to a continual examination of our politics as they develop through criticism and self-criticism as an essential aspect of our practice. In her introduction to Sisterhood is Powerful Robin Morgan writes:

I haven’t the faintest notion what possible revolutionary role white heterosexual men could fulfill, since they are the very embodiment of reactionary-vested-interest-power.

As Black feminists and Lesbians we know that we have a very definite revolutionary task to perform and we are ready for the lifetime of work and struggle before us.”

Audre Lorde
Audre Lorde

[1] This statement is dated April 1977.
[2] Wallace, Michele. “A Black Feminist’s Search for Sisterhood,” The Village Voice, 28 July 1975, pp. 6-7.
[3] Mumininas of Committee for Unified Newark, Mwanamke Mwananchi (The Nationalist Woman), Newark, N.J., ©1971, pp. 4-5.
THE COMBAHEE RIVER COLLECTIVE: “The Combahee River Collective Statement,” copyright © 1978 by Zillah Eisenstein.

share your colors. black is bold.

28 days of personal black history…to come

are we black? it’s not just the skin i’m in, you see
it’s earth and legends and fantasy.
for 2014, each day of 28 i’ll choose to share
and lay bare
some poetic or tale,
a veil
lifted to reveal some part of self shrouded beneath clouds of mystery,
that often begets ignorance and unfound truths.
you too, please share your roots with me,
together we’ll carve out a niche for our own personal his/her/theirstory,
and let it breathe
within the expanse of a rich and volatile legacy.

finding peace

6 months this day to my motha’s passing
a shifting in spirit and tone.
brought back ancestral images from NyC
her smiling mother
a beloved aunt
& sacred Ghanaian water captured from slave river Donkor Nsuo
to lay with her
so she would be with “family”.
she’s found home
i’m finding peace.
ashe

This is Where: A site specific response to decay / farewell to Gladys Luncheonette

On “This is Where”

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{from AUGUST 2012 CHICAGOIST}

“Another classic marker of the South side has been consigned to history’s ether with the demolition of Gladys Luncheonette Monday. Located in Bronzeville at 4527 S. Indiana, the restaurant w

as one of the most popular soul food restaurants in the Midwest. Owner Gladys Holcomb first opened her restaurant on State Street in the mid-1940s, and then moved it to a basement location at 4541 S. Indiana before moving to its final location in 1963. Holcomb ran the restaurant until 1997, when age and declining health prevented her from maintaining the day-to-day operations of her luncheonette and she sold the restaurant to her daughter and other investors.

Gladys Holcomb passed away in 2003. Shortly after her passing, the Illinois General Assembly passed a resolution honoring Holcomb and the restaurant:

WHEREAS, Gladys’ Luncheonette became one of the most popular “soul food” restaurants in the Midwest, known for its delicious fried chicken, smothered chicken, smothered pork chops, peach cobbler, “melt-in-your-mouth” biscuits, and other down home, southern delicacies; many famous people were known to dine at the Luncheonette including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Lou Rawls, Redd Foxx, Governor Jim Thompson, Della Reese, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Gladys Knight, and a host of others.

Gladys Luncheonette has been closed for years and decayed to the point where rehabbing it would have cost as much, if not more, as buying the lot outright.

“This is Where” conceived & directed by Dance of Decay curator Baraka de Soleil with performance by Carolyn Alvarado Castillo, video/photography capturing by Myra Boone on the site of Gladys Luncheonette.


the first of 3

performance #1 

a new solo experiment

“just not the [face]”

26th october, 2012

7:00pm

at School of The Art Institute of Chicago – The Columbus Auditorium, 280 South Columbus Drive

FREE

part of Insight Arts’ hybrid event: Trauma, Technology & Resistance

Trauma, Technology, & Resistance is a participatory creative research and analysis project.

The first quarter of 2012 has witnessed a number of innovative uses of new media technologies to address a number of important human rights struggles. The most remarkable has been the campaign of a well funded US based non-profit organization named Invisible Children to build public support for the capture of Joseph Kony the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a Christian rightwing Fundamentalist Guerrilla group notorious for war crimes including the kidnapping and brainwashing of children and young adults in Uganda. Social media has also played a significant role in the campaign to address the murder of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17 year old African American boy by George Zimmerman, a community watch leader in a gated neighborhood in Sanford, Florida. Racial Justice advocates have also used new technologies to address the brutal murder of Shaima Alawadi, a 32 year old Iraqi immigrant woman within her own home in San Diego, California. Finally, international human rights advocates have attempted to publicize the plight of Yemeni Journalist Abdulelah Haider Shayne who has remained a political prisoner in Yemen because of the direct intervention of the United States.

Insight Arts is assembling an impressive collection of diverse artists, intellectuals, activists and journalists to reflect on these four intersections of new media and human rights struggles. This events will be an engaged hybrid of performance, information sharing, dialogue and art making

21 Days, 37 years, 20-somethin decades, 21 centuries

21 days of this journey…21 including the initial departure which i consider DAY 0 …Day 1 being my first landing foot on Ghana’s terrain….

37 years since i began life that amounted to 2 hours of wondering if 37 would be the last year i exist in?

20 somethin decades of historicized enslavement for Africans inside the Transatlantic triangle..of being shackled, imprisoned, tortured and taken to an unknown land; where they would be used and abused for the purposes of commerce and cultivation of fruitful but never fully delivered promises….

21 centuries of existence for a people who are still struggling to be FREE!

the residue from these cumulative memories of my trip to Ghana in July of 2007 has left an indelible mark on my soul… the recounting of the incident on my last day in Ghana spiritually linked me to the pre-captured moments of Africans..that moment, prior to being grabbed and taken, when they may have been smiling or having a great arguement or simply relaxing….that ‘pre-capture’ moment is something i never fully comprehended until i had a similar experience..similar but BY NO MEANS as in-depth or extensive….i wish i had their strength…i still feel weakened by the thought that i could not endure two hours of feeling ‘captured’, when they may have experienced months of years of being held against their will….i write these words in THEIR honor….

out of respect for the people i encountered in Ghana i have MOSTLY used their initials…please begin ‘at the very beginning’ [” D UNDERBELLY has entered Ghana”] and read your way through each ‘day’ to experience the linear journeying….or pick a day and take in a moment along the my pathway towards re-remembering ancestral memories…YOU MAY ALSO simply read the truncated version from my journeys at the end of this entry; then if you desire go deeper into each day’s recount…

the images are pulled from the internet…my pics will arrive on here shortly as this blog continues to evolve…

when beginning this blog, for some odd reason, Truman Capote’s introducing of the genre ‘non-fiction novel’ [with his infamous debut ‘In Cold Blood] came to mind’ ..by no means am i anywhere near his incredible objectivity or succint clarity….my ‘non-fiction novella’ is delivered with much subjectivity and a heap of drama!…but this is my truthful recount…TRUTH also being subjective as there are ‘select’ omissions and re-remembered details…
so
if there are questions, challenges, clarifications of or desire for more in-depth explanations on anything i’ve written, don’t hesitate to contact me at mail@dunderbelly.com…you can also feel free to leave your comments on ‘any given day’…

and lastly
some thoughts surrounding Ghanaian “hospitality”:
— Ghana is supposedly known for its hospitality…AKWAABA (welcome) is all that i hear as i arrive to ACCRA…. and throughout my stay i am bombarded with this saying…i wonder what lies beneath that veneer…for some i believe it is about survival which leads to hustling tourists for money, food or assistance with education….for others it is just their ‘nature’…perhaps it is linked to this notion of ‘family’ or ‘brotherhood’ that i will continue to become conscious of as i immerse myself in the culture and people…this notion that “we all must take care of each other” and if i am to desire to be a part of Ghana’s family, this incredible sense of brotherhood, then i must be willing to take care of ALL my brothers and sisters?…hmmm…kindness flows throughout this country, INDEED, but ‘hospitality’, i believe, is sometimes tainted with the desperate need to survive…

TRUNCATED VERSION [no images, just written excerpts from the journey] :

the residue from these cumulative memories of my trip to Ghana in July of 2007 has left an indelible mark on my soul… the recounting of the incident on my last day in Ghana spiritually linked me to the pre-captured moments of Africans..that moment, prior to being grabbed and taken, when they may have been smiling or having a great arguement or simply relaxing….that ‘pre-capture’ moment is something i never fully comprehended until i had a similar experience..similar but BY NO MEANS as in-depth or extensive….i wish i had their strength…i still feel weakened by the thought that i could not endure two hours of feeling ‘captured’, when they may have experienced months or years of being held against their will….

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

DAY 2 – Cape Coast is located in the central region of Ghana – about two and 1/2 hours from Accra and houses the infamous Cape Coast Castle along with many forts…

a two hour walk to Cape Coast Castle that i had no intention of originally embarking on…

i am in awe of its presence and i simply immerse myself in its surroundings, spatial configurations and general sensations…i decide not to go inside but take in its outer walls and the ocean

the magnitude of this historical figure renders me speechless…

DAY 3
the interaction between the West African guests (all of whom are male) and the Hotel staff (also alll male) intrigues me as i muse over:
African slavery historically and African entitlement currently; if Europeans enslaved based on economics and fear, then can it be thought that Africans would enslave and have enslaved based on status and power? this way in which i witnessed this interaction stimulated such a hypothesis….i also imagine that there were Africans whom might have been driven by greed as well, but i doubt that fear played into their connection to enslavement of other Africans..who knows?

… evening i have been introduced to hip-life music which is a rich fusion of high-life music of ghana with hip-hop culture…producing a mix that honors the old school with the new school…though i don’t think my Ghanaian brothers whom i meet would feel that high life is old by any means….here the contemporary and the traditional or past are married in such a way that it is not thought of as old or new.

seeking ‘redemption’ inside Cape Coast & Elmina Castles
Day 4  

this day i decide to return to Cape Coast Castle and go inside the spaces of my ancestors…
‘you came here for redemption’ is what i am told by the first staff member i speak to at the entrance….i wonder how many others can ‘read’ this on my face or inside my heart….

i take many pictures but am unable to say or write about the experience of being inside the male and female slave dungeons, cells, and spaces where they were held prior to going through the infamous ‘door of no return’…

outside the castle i walk around the area and see a slavery foundation site… on a white placard lists the address of the foundation and a quote by Marcus Garvey:
“No one knows when the hour of Africa’s redemption cometh. It is in the wind, it is coming. One day like a storm, it will be here. When that day comes, all of African will stand together.”

as i continue along a path that leads me to a historic part of Cape Coast, i catch an incidental march signalling the beginning of Panafest….tonite the grounds of Adisadel park will open with a marketplace and performances..

DAY 5
El Mina’s St George Castle seems larger than Cape Coast and has a moat surrounding the castle…in the distance i can see Fort Jago – walking distance away, but i decide to focus on the Castle….unlike Cape Coast i immediately decide to enter into the depths of the castle and can feel the ancestral sensations the moment i step inside the female dungeon…it is a feeling so palpable and strong …it’s like can still smell the stench of shit and blood and piss of those African females ( i say females and not womyn because young girls were there as well) that were held here…on the ground i see markings that seem to resemble some adinkra symbols or other symbolic language….along another corridor i go inside a dark cavernous area and am engulfed by bats….

by the time i have surveyed the castle i am aware of the residual sensations each area has left on me and take a moment to be still and reflect silently on what i experienced..i head back to Cape Coast with a heaviness in my heart and longing for further reflection.

the seemingly incidental opens up a memory from my past…
on the radio i hear about Panafest and its origin 15 years ago and am reminded of my first memories of hearing about Panafest in America – while i was living in MN….when i picked up an Insight newspaper and read about the remains of slaves found in New York and Jamaica…how they were going to be brought back to Ghana and taken through the ‘Door of No Return’ at Cape Coast…i had a feeling then that i would be going to Ghana and having a chance myself to experience walking throught the infamous portal of so many Africans to America….

Day 6 – Assin Manso
the long walk for my ancestral Africa to who knows where?
Assin Manso is the site where the slave remains of Samuel Carver (found in Jamaica) and Crystal (found in New York – wall street area) were brought to rest – these were the slave remains that i had read about a decade ago in the Mn Insight….and on 31st of July, 1998 they were laid here and this set forth the following day (August 1st) as Emancipation day …this is also where slaves from Salaga market up north were taken and had their ‘last bath’…though Salaga was known as the marketplace where slaves from Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali came enroute to Cape Coast and Elmina, Assin Manso (at least from what the Guide says) is the largest slave market place where they were auctioned off…hence the need for the last bath – no one wanted a ‘dirty’ slave and since they would have walked the many miles to get here (from up north at Salaga towards Tamale, it is a 5-6 hour CAR ride…so imagine WALKING, chained together at the feet, hands and neck, for that far)…

We are taken deeper into the site, through trees and forest, to where the sacred Ndonkoso(?) waters flowed…sacred because the ancestral bodies last cleansed themselves…these waters flow to the Oci river…it is a moment for stillness and DEEP reflection…i notice the texture of the trees located next to the bath area, the color of the water, the sounds of the river, the quiet …

the inside wall of the entrance gate are the pictures of certain celebrated “Emancipators”:
Freed Slave Gordon of Louisiana (1863)
Martin Luther King
W.E.B. Dubois (his name was mispelt at the site “Du-dois)
Sojourner Truth
Booker T. Washington
Dr. Kwame Nkrumah
Harriet Tubman
Benjamin Singleton – “walk and never tire”
Cinque
Ouladah Equiano
Frederick Douglas
George Ekem Ferguson – Cape Coast local politician and explorer
Marcus Garvey – father of black consciousness

G makes a very insightful clarification when discussing Europeans taking Africans as slaves…he refers to them as OPPRESSORS and not MASTERS because “no man is the master of another!”

this marks a significant internal consciousness awakened surrounding the legacy of slavery and i am silent for the return trip back to Cape Coast….

Day 7 – exploring the forts
to explore on my own the forts of Ghana…and interact with the people
..we first venture up Fort Victoria which is the smaller of the Cape Coast forts….the forts were created to oversee the town and protect the castle from intruders – a lookout..unlike the Castles, the forts do not offer tours or guides but most likely have overseers which live in and around the area… we make it up to the top of the hill, but in order to actually go inside the fort we must climb over the wall… a frail looking ladder is our other option but i dismiss either option and simply take in the view of a lovely mango tree nearby…

we then head over to the larger Fort Williams which is much easier to ascend to….we are also able to head inside the fort and up to the top …there i am able to take in an incredible view of the town and bask in its serenity and beauty….G points out all the distinct areas of the town (which i cannot remember their specific names)…i feel like i could be there for a whole day, but the forthcoming rain imposes a shorter timeframe….

Day 8 – time for Church
the depth of spirituality…in the midst of European artifices…and religion..
Having seen so many impressive and inventive church structures while walking throughout Cape Coast, i am glad to be able to have a moment to experience being part of a congregation…J (waitstaff at Cape Coast) invites me to his church (Christian Life Cathedral) for Thursday healing service…G and J happen to know each other and so G accompanies me to pick up J from his place and head over to the Church…

it is raining and seems to be very fitting to be part of a healing service…

though this ‘church’ is not as grand as the others, it is spiritually one of the most impressive spaces i have experienced….everyone is tuned into the pastors words as he flows from English to one of the many local languages…sometimes translated by another member of his pastoral team, sometimes only translated through a ‘feeling’ or sensation….the music is a mixture of gospel like rhythms and gregorian chanting…i am spellbound…and swayed by the depth of emotion and community inside this moment…the pastor calls on those in need of healing and first, in groups, they come to a semicircle around the pastor’s stand…the ‘pastoral team’ positions themselves behind the members as the pastors calls out the pain or anguish of the inflicted souls…some fall out while others simply bow their heads and take in the Pastor’s chanting….those that get the ’spirit’ and attended to by one of team, while others who have sought healing but have stayed grounded, return to their seat and pray…..at one point each one of us goes up to be anointed by the pastor and i wonder if i would be sent into a ’spiritual’ possession as one of the many members whom has sought healing is going through….i too sense my own need to heal but restrain from falling under and hold onto G’s hand for support and grounding…

Day 9 – The Return Journey
RETURNING to the sensations of my ancestors…
‘Return Journey’ – a ceremonial boat ride from Cape Coast Castle to El Mina Castle…it is scheduled to begin at 9am – which i told really means 10 am…i decide to head to Cape Coast at 9am anyway as i want to take another moment to walk through the dungeon grounds…

the morning as i prepare to head off to the Castle, i find out that there is no running water at the hotel and resign to using the bottle watered i had bought to drink, to wash myself with…this action transforms to a ‘baptism’ of a sort as i ponder on this boat ride- having never been out in the ocean on a boat ever!

Hearing this guide’s words awakens me to a deeper connection to these surroundings – a feeling that brings me to thinking about my ancestors being here…this guide provides a fuller picture of what transpired in the specfic areas ….i become aware of the ground beneath me at the male dungeons – that i am standing on hundreds of years old feces, piss, blood, sweat, skin and bones from my ancestors….thousands of African’s bodies piled ontop of each other as they screamed, sought comfort in each other, tried to communicate and fought to survive…

inside the holding area – directly adjacent to the door of no return – another elder (a women from USA) talks about how this space was where the first time the men and women would be together prior to being ‘escorted’ through the door to the ship…she further went into an in-depth diatribe about the women’s breast being a gateway to not only fertility but power…not at all about being sexualized but honored and respected…that in their own dungeons, the women would be violated by the European men and forced to have sex..giving birth to generations of New Africans….

my whole being is so open and alive now…sensitive to the air and smells of the ocean so close by…aware of the opening of the door of no return …now i look through the door and see the fishermen and women and children doing their daily activites – preparing nets, cleaning fish, voyaging out on the small boats to capture more fish….i call forth a brief history lesson i received earlier in my journey from my ’son’…he tells me of how this was a fishing kingdom – the Fanti – prior to the arrival of the Europeans…as they go through their daily routine, i wonder of how greatly their rituals have been impacted/interrupted by the arrival of colonialization, slavery and NOW me and other people of the Diaspora wishing to have a water experience on their ocean coast…

there are young men swimming around the small boat guiding it closer to the coast and dock it near us….i see some other young men lifting the participants on their shoulders and carrying them over to the boat; where there men in the boat lift them onto the wooden boards that also serve as sitting spots for the water ride…it seems as if this carrying and lifting is part of some great initiation that i need to do in order to go on this journey and i take a deep breath as i am lifted onto the shoulders of a young man who is probably half my age….the feeling of bouyancy overtakes me as i then lifted by two other gentlemen onto the boat…this happens to about another 15 people before we are ready to embark….

the water passage begins…not until i am on board is it confirmed that it will take 1 – 1 1/2 hours to get to the other castle…this is BY FAR the deepest experience of my travels so far!
at first i am able to snap a photo of the fading image of Cape Coast Castle; but minutes later it is like i am seized by ancestors coming up from the ocean waves and on board on top of me….i cannot open my eyes and i am getting heavier and heavier as i sense more and more ancestral bodies piling on top of me til the weight is almost unbearable and i can barely breathe….

i stay like this for the rest of the water voyage – unable to move and having only quick bursts of eyeing the El mina…the only comfort is the sounds of the waves and the sensation that this will end….i wonder how my ancestors must have endured this journey NOT knowing will or if it will end…going on for months in cramped spaces, chained, ensconsed in darkness…

for what seemed like a day later, i hear the sounds of men’s voices and the yelps of people above…i am able to open my eyes and see people of El mina on an overpass ‘welcoming’ the boat in…i am so relieved but STILL unable to move….we first try to dock at a spot where we would have to be carried AGAIN across water to land….a woman in front of me is carried from the boat to the land and falls into the water as she is almost about to take her first step on land…in some ways it seems appropriate that she should touch water before land, but this causes commotion among the welcomers and the rest of us aboard are taken to a new port to dismount….i am the first to be lifted and land on this new site…a band of revelers and welcomers try to hug and cheer and salute me but i am not able to speak and distance myself from them….

the welcoming band and revelers proceed to hug and greet the others, but for me this is anticlimatic…particular the post-welcoming ceremony and joyous march through the castle grounds…i am spent and heavy and full of thoughts…it takes me another hour before i am able to say anything…

Day 10 – 12 the “opening” ceremony and evolving consciousness
the accumulation of visceral kinesthetic, verbal and visual experiences from these past days has filled me with such a heightened state of consciousness…awakening me to a deeper understanding of my connections to Africa….
venture to the Jubilee grounds where the official OPENING of Panafest is to take place…Jubilee was Victoria Park before they decided to have the 50th anniversary of Ghana’s idependence from British colonial rule there…they renamed it JUBLILEE…
by 12noon ish the fanfare begins with stiltwalkers and musicians and MUCH pomp and circumstance…

in Elmina i walk around town and up the hill to Ft Jago…
i begin to recognize the flavor of Elmina – how the people look, smell and speak distinguishes them from Cape Coast peeps…An elderly gent approaches me at Ft Jago when he notices that i am not able to enter the locked entrance…despite his eccentricity ( imagine a homeless man in ny subway prophesizing), he profoundly professes about brotherhood and unity among all Africans…some younger men offer me food and to commune with them…there is an openess in their spirit that makes me smile…

‘Ultimate Consciousness raising Conversation with C’ – (Panafest staff)…in such few shifts of language, he opened me to re-thinking how we view slavery..i have paraphrased and contextualized what he shared with me:

*ENSLAVED not Slaves — “we need to remove ourselves from being categorized as victims and to stop thinking of ourselves as SLAVES..”

*OPPRESSOR not Master — he reiterated what G had said which was” that NO ONE IS THE MASTER OF ANOTHER..”

DUNGEON not Castle –

 “when we think of Castles, we romanticize a vision of a beautiful place with dragons and princesses and knights in shining armor…NONE OF THAT should be associated with these areas that enslaved people, imprisoned them in dark damp overcrowded enviroments; where they had little to eat and had to shit, piss and cry where they also sat, laid and waited….it’s time to remove that term [CASTLE] from history books…”

DAY 13 – PAN AFRICAN CONFERENCE & PRE-EMANCIPATION CEREMONY
..the importance of oral tradition..
Prof. Nana Opoku-Agyemong:
‘That which will not go away…the effects of the slave trade’ is my paraphrased version of her theme…An English lit professor, she eloquently unites historical perspectives with the oral narratives of people throughout West Africa to adress the legacies of our collective experience…i abstract this query from her lecture: what is our take on this supposed history that has been documented and written mostly by Europeans? and how does it reconcile with oral memories of our people?
memory is key to my work and to why i am here…to validate, affirm and bring to conscious the memories of our people that have been subverted, hidden and unexamined…these memories, in her work, have been illuminated through the oral narratives she has collected and continues to collect…these documented narratives seem to honor the memories that did not come to surface in the writings of Europeans who wrote about the middle passage…her work, for me, further illuminates the ‘coincidence of fate’ interlocking Africans on the continent with those of the continuum of the Diaspora as it seeks unmask the educational institution which, she believes, continues to systematically extract the ‘human element’ from validated historical books…’where is the feeling and emotion…where is the humanity’ she asks? for her, and i agree, it is in the oral accounts, in the songs that she brings to the foreground… i believe that added to this are the ancestral kinesthetic memories that continue to permeate present African people of the Diaspora; the purpose of my trip under the auspices of the Jerome foundation…in america we still feel the residue of lynching, shackles the aftertaste of salty ocean water… this is the ‘body connection’ to the ‘human element’ that she longs for in the past historical recounts of the enslavement of Africans inside the “triangular trade’…

there is much to take in between her and the second gentlemans impassioned speech…Dr. Kofi Sam speaks on Pan-African technology convergence…such potent and powerful information, he shares, but i can only write down few quotes:

“science is universal, technology is environmental”…

“Yes Africa is indeed suffering from AIDS: Acquired IMPORT DEPENDENCY SYSTEM”!

candlelight vigil in the center of town which will lead to the Cape Coast DUNGEON where Pre-Emancipation ceremonies and presentations are to take place…

“We came from the water and to the water we shall return – TO HEAL”
i wrote that saying about 4 years ago…drawing upon a quote than an elder in my family had passed onto me…after the vigil and the ceremonies (which i will not detail or discuss) HEALING is the necessary element i had omitted from that saying…
i will mention a few elements from this nites proceedings:

the honoring of ONE AFRICA…i know little of this man, but he was truly revered in Ghana..i believe he originally came from New York or somewhere in the States and moved to Ghana to live, inspire, and give back…

the MANY songs, dances and speeches which DID NOT exhaust me or the many people as the countdown to midnite came closer…

the going into the MALE HOLDING AREA for a sacred anointing and cleansing ceremony…

the ROLL CALL OF THE ANCESTORS at midnite (the beginning of the inaugurated EMANCIPATION DAY)

the meditation, reconciliation and releasing that continued on throughout the nite til there was but only the staff to escort me out of the Cape Coast dungeon..

DAY 14 – EMANCIPATION DAY
EMANCIPATION? i am not sure if i felt the exhiliration i longed for when first reading about this inaugurated day at least 7 years ago, but i sure DID FEEL EXHAUSTION

DAY 17 – surveying of Forts
Ft Amsterdam is the first fort in the Fante region of the Gold Coast (former name of Ghana)…it was first inhabited by British settlers(originally named Fort Kormantin) and later taken over by the Dutch which gave it is present name…it was later reclaimed by the British, but kept its Dutch name…

after giving an offering to the caretaker of the fort, i and my driver B(who originally took me to Cape Coast) roam around the the dwellings…this is B’s first time visiting the site as well and he is struck by its beauty and simplicity…unlike most of the other forts – which only served as look-out points or battle points – Ft Amsterdam served as a captive spot for the enslaved…and as i discover upon site of Amsterdam’s ‘door of no return’ , Africans were also shipped off to Europe and the Americas from here….in the center court of this fort is a very old tree – thick and mangly, yet majestic….it reminds of those trees you may find in New Orleans…those trees that seem to have captured the many spirits of those people whom have come in contact with it…a tree that, if it could speak, would be able to tell some of the most horrific and spellbinding tales…a tree that, if it could speak, may chose not to reveal the sacred secrets or the hidden encounters that it has witnessed…

DAY 18
The Nathional Theatre an impressive structure that houses very striking sculptural works commemorating the building’s opening and its relation to Africa/Ghana’s connection to the past and present…in particular are two pieces that i found incredibly detailed; both hand-carved wooden sculpural pieces – one dealing with the legacy of slavery and the other aptly titled Sankofa… intertwined in these works are elements, faces, and symbols that awaken so many memories of images i have encountered when researching the African diaspora…

 
DAY 19
SHARING OF KNOWLEDGE AND THE VISCERAL EXPERIENCE OF BEING ‘TAKEN’ AGAINST YOUR WILL…
F’s cousin, Is, shares with me geographical and contextual insight into Ghana:

– he begins with sharing about ACC – giving a couple of particular details that i would like to note–30% of the people(families) that are a part of this artisan village/marketplace are actual craftsman…..these crafts people will oftentimes pass their trade onto their children or close family members…NO ONE (knowingly or with consent) resides on these dwellings – arriving at 4 or 5am to begin their day…this is a ‘warm-up’ for him as Is then begins to go deeper in the recesses of his mind to pull up other tidbits…

– He takes me to one table and speaks on Adinkra symbols, their meanings and relationship to the earlier history of Ghana – i am too enthralled to even put pen to paper…

– Alongside the Adinkra symbols are ornate bronze and silver pieces that I tells tales of each one’s origin and connection to Ghana’s labelling as “Gold Coast”…

– He then recalls the 10 Regions — Greater Accra, Central, Volta, Western, Ashanti, Upper West, Eastern, Northern, Upper East, Brong-Ahafo…including particular names of cities, villages, ethnicities and historic sites, as he conjures up a vivid picture of this country’s topography…it is like he unlocked an encyclopedia of information from his mind by the time he finishes his ‘lesson’ with me!

i try to scribble down as much as i could, but could not keep up with his arsenal of facts, statistics and clarifications…WOW!

witnessing national dance company rehearse…my “studying” came from not masters and teachers of dance per se, but the friends and people whom i met along the way…ottom…i am privvy to seeing the dance unfold as layers of people move in and out of the space, while musicians interactm, play and sometimes act/dance inside the rehearsal…the director seamlessly moves in and out of the space that the dancer/performers inhabit; giving out instructions, critique and impromptu choreography as the work-thru continues…the movement is not disimilar to any of the other traditional performances i have seen in Ghana or elsewhere, but the ENERGY and COMMITMENT of the dancers illuminates their willingness to ‘really go there’ even though it is just a rehearsal…truly admirable…45 minutes later they have collapsed on the stage, spent and ready to receive feedback from the rehearsal director…by the time this rehearsal ‘ballet’ has ended, they have: “gone to war, been enslaved, travelled across the Atlantic, and returned to their homeland – at least that is what i gathered from the gestural language, movement and music…i wonder how it connects to the title of the piece – “In The Chest of a Woman”?

[for the incident see DAY 20 – DAY OF RECKONING]

D UNDERBELLY Home page

Day 20 – Day of Reckoning

a terrible and memorable reckoning occurred last nite…i am not sure which is more painful – re-remembering the memory of this incident or the incident itself…

the same road that i had walked along to and from the lodging would be the site of the incident…

R rode ALL THE WAY back to the lodging with me and then told me he had some time before his ‘Doctor’s Appointment’…i was suspicious of his intentions and questioned if he had an appointment …he called someone and spoke in Fanti, then told me the Doctor was running late and he was to call back…he then tried to follow me back to my room and i told him i didn’t feel like hanging out…he walked away and headed out of the lodging’s gateway and onto the main road…i headed back to the room and there was a gentleman there working on my toilet [in hindsight this was a true BLESSING]…R called the room and told me he felt i had disrespected and shamed him in front of the lodging staff…i asked him where he was and then told him i would like to talk to him about this..he came BACK to the lodge and entered my room..he then proceeded to tell me that he wanted to connect with me in a way i was not interested in connecting ..i refused and he told me i was USING HIM…that he spent all that time with me and i didn’t do anything for him – didn’t buy him anything, or dash him something…i reminded him that i had bought something from his booth at Adisadel and THEN bought the jeans to help him out when he had lost his money…that wasn’t enough for him, he wanted more…he then told me he could get me arrested, that the police would come and get me, under a simple suspicion, and extort me for money…there would be nothing i could do…i said what do you want from me? MONEY? he didn’t respond but pulled in closer to me to whisper something i could not understand…fortunately the gentleman working on the toilet would, intermittently, come in and out of the room; as he kept getting tools or supplies…

R proceeded to pull out his phone ( a phone i thought he said he had lost in the bus accident that gave him the bump on the forehead) and say: ‘YOU DON’T BELIEVE ME?”
i sat on my bed, incredulous, and told him i didn’t want any trouble, that i thought we were ‘friends’ and that there must be some kind of miscommunication going on….i flashback to the earlier arguement at ACC and searched for clues as to what may have lead to this…did he and his friend try and set me up? i dismissed this thought and looked him in the eyes and said WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?

he repeated YOU DON’T BELIEVE ME! and then made some call…i said FINE and told him to leave.. i then reached for the phone and rang the front desk…he said he would go but that he had called the police and they would come for me…..i was nervous about his presence but not convinced he would actually call the police..he left my room and i, rattled by this intense interaction, laid on my bed for a moment…

i said to myself ‘i am not going to let him get to me’…i mean i didn’t ANYTHING right?
not wanting to re-live another ‘bad food moment’ with the Lodging’s Chef, i decided to go out and get something from MR. BIG’s …i told Br (lodging staff) that i would be back in about a half-hour and proceeded down the road ….

just outside the gate was R! i kept on walking and he caught up with me and made a phone call…i then heard him saying something in Fanti and then, in English,: “yeah he is wearing jeans, a white cap and has a black bag”…i became aware of the fact that he may ACTUALLY BE TALKING TO POLICE…but i was still not convinced THE POLICE would do anything…JUST IN CASE i darted to the local internet cafe and sent a quick cryptic email to a friend of mine in the states; telling her to look for me to contact her in the next day…that something was going on …that i might need help…all the while i am online R is standing by the front door of the business; speaking with someone and peering intensely at me…

i stayed online for a little bit longer…not really doing anything but just staring at the computer screen, hoping that R would just go away and i could grab some food and head back to the hotel…

i hesitantly got up to pay for my time on the computer and noticed that R had left…slightly relieved i headed to Mr Big’s …i would be leaving tomorrow (day 20 – today’s writing) and so i would just grab this food and go CHILL back at the lodge…i still cautiously looked behind and around me in case R was following me…even though this was ACCRA and ‘urban’, it could still get dark in areas and the road i would head back onto get to the lodging had alot of dark and tree-covered areas…

By now, the staff at Mr Big had come to consider me a ‘regular’ and so i got the ‘usual’ festiva (a quiche-like pie with fish and potatoe) and, of course, RICE…

i decided to follow a different pathway back to the lodging; convinced that R was up to something, but still not believing he had called the police…

i placed my white knit hat in the black bag that also contained my journal and important papers for travel…in my left hand was the take-out…for the first time i took in a chop bar that was the intersection that would lead to the lodge…i was turning right underneath a tree when a taxi swerved an indentation in the road and abruptly stopped slightly to the left of me…two brothers came out and as i continued on the road, one of them approached me reaching out his hand…i didn’t know if he was trying to greet me or grab me so i moved away from me…his soft-spoken words barely audible, he then lunged for my arm…i tugged away and shifted to my left in the direction of the chop bar…the other brother appeared in front of me to dissuade me from going any further…

at that moment i felt trapped…the plastic yellow sandals i was wearing somehow disappeared from my feet as i scrambled to get away from the brother holding onto me…i felt the sensation of hitting the earth and rising back up; a slight tug was now forcing me to focus in the direction of the other brother now pulling me towards the taxi…there i see R standing by the taxi, coming towards me…i FREAKED…i hear one of the brothers – the taller one- yell that he was police and that i was going to go with them! i was like HELL NO! i didn’t see any badge that would suggest anything official and they were’nt sporting the blue uniforms i was accustomed to seeing the police wear…. i began to pull out the I AM AMERICAN card and repeatedly kept yelling that til i felt like i was being taken back to the ground…i scrambled and tussled with them as i dragged myself inside the chop bar….CHAOS erupted as we knocked over a couple of tables …this ALERTED the guests of the bar to what was going on and as i was being dragged out of the bar, they followed me onto the dirt road…i’m still screaming AMERICAN and both of the supposed policemen had me on either side of my waist; attempting to shove me into the taxi’s back seat…i felt like if i let them get me into this taxi THAT WOULD BE IT! they could take me somewhere and ‘off me’! R is circling around them as they continue to sandwich me into the taxi…i believe i hear him saying “it’s going to be ALRIGHT, don’t resist”….the crowd by now had grown to include some chop bar guests and residents from the nearby tower …i started to calm down and try to listen to what one of the ‘plainsclothed policeman’ was trying to say…he finally was able to tell me that i was under suspect for FRAUD and he was trying to take me to the local police station where i would be questioned…in deep low breaths i finally got out the words..OK…i told him i didn’t know who he was and i was just going back to my lodging…”it’s just up the road’.. i tried to convince him to walk with me to the lodge and they would vouch for me I AM AMERICAN i don’t know what is going on…he replied that “this gentleman says you did something to him and that you owe him some money”; pointing to R….by now this policeman was only holding me by the waist of my jeans and i felt that he was at least going to listen to me without forcing me to go ANYWHERE…i again stated that i am staying at the ___ lodge and ALL my papers and passport are there..PLEASE PLEASE take me to the lodge!

R began to circle among the crowd and ALERT THEM of what i had supposedly done! He told them i had forced him to have SEX WITH HIM! that i was HOMOSEXUAL and to not BELIEVE A WORD I WAS SAYING! this made certain peeps back away and yell things which i could not understand – because it was in FANTI or another local language- but got the sense that it WAS DEGRADING!…O LORD i screamed as i felt another push to get me in the back seat of the taxi and then what felt like more than one arm, hand, fist, reaching towards me, hitting me or thrusting me…i could not make out what exactly happening as we shifted from the glow of the chop bar lights to the darkness surrounding it…it was like the crowd, or at least some of them, were joining in trying to force me to into the TAXI!

a large brother pushed through the crowd towards the taller policeman who would not let up on his grip of me…they exchange some words and i hear a tail bit of English…i think i hear the large brother tell the policeman that he is a FIREMAN and inquired as to what was going on…the policeman then pulled out a badge and tell him something about me ….the Fireman responded by pulling out his badge and asking what EXACTLY was the other gentleman(R) complaint? this banter continued for a few more seconds or minutes, i don’t know,…but only seemed to lead the policeman to wanting to push me back towards the taxi…the taller policeman, who had taken charge of the situation, refused to let me go back to the lodging…in the midst of the crowd i see an older gentleman who worked at the lodge as security..i beckoned to him and he came through the crowd and proceeded to vouch for me; telling them that i was a good guy and did indeed stay at the lodge and asked what was going on?…he then exchanged some words in Fanti with the taller policeman…in ENGLISH i then heard that the policeman had showed me his badge and tried to greet me, but I REFUSED and tried to RUN…I DIDN’T KNOW he was a policeman! i countered and BEGGED to be escorted back to the lodge WHERE ALL THIS WOULD BE CLEARED UP! the security/older gentleman told the policeman he would walk with me back to the lodge as well…the policeman was not going to let that happen and he told the security/older gent to step away unless “he too wanted to be arrested!” i screamed to the security gent NOT TO GO…or at least to PLEASE TELL THEM WHAT IS GOING ON!

O GOD i released as i saw the security man back away from us and move through the crowd..he was my only connection to someone familiar and seemingly my only hope for getting out of this madness…strangely enough i had not let go of either of my bags; even through the falling to the floor and the struggles, i had held onto those bags FOR DEAR LIFE!

finally i had come to understand that the FIREMEN had contacted the local police station and that UNIFORMED POLICEMEN would arrive to escort me to the station…this allowed me to gather my senses and calmly speak with the plainsclothe policeman…he had also calmed down but would not lose grip of my jeans…it was a grip from the back of the waist that cinched up the jeans to create a very uncomfortable sensation in my crotch! nevertheless i calmed down and was now able to see UNIFORMED POLICEMAN heading in our direction…i also noted that the FIREMAN had brought his truck to the front of the chop bar and was going to drive me, the UNIFORMED and PLAINSCLOTHED policeman to the station…a woman from the crowd reassuringly told me to ‘”GO WITH THEM” ….exhausted and worn down i agreed to go and VERY VERY SLOWLY walked to the truck…absentmindedly i asked to be able to get my sandals – which had been scattered during the struggle along the side of the chop bar – and EVEN MORE SLOWLY slipped them on….the fireman had a pick-up truck and i was placed in the front seat in between the UNIFORMED AND TALLER PLAINSCLOTHED policemen, while R and the other plainsclothed policeman sat in the back… a young gentleman that i had not really noticed before ALSO jumped in the back….FEAR leaped back into my heart as i imagined being taken to some dark place and shot…i had no idea WHERE this local station was to be and, even though the uniforms made it look more OFFICIAL, didn’t R tell them i had forced myself onto him sexually? i mean R had told the people that i WAS HOMOSEXUAL…i had heard that homosexuality was illegal in Ghana and that to be found of such an immoral violation could mean severe punishment..maybe they knew R…and even if they didn’t, maybe they would try to extort me for money….i also imagined that possibly these brothers may ‘take the law into their own hands!’ and ‘deal’ with me…. gay people, ALL OVER THE WORLD, whether confirmed to be or simply suspected, had been beaten, raped, imprisoned and killed before…WHY NOT NOW!?!

Perhaps PARANOIA engulfed me in these thoughts….it didn’t matter, because by the time i had reached the thought of ‘reconciling myself with my creator’, i could see what resembled a police station! i hoped that this could be resolved before my flight in the morning….i prayed that they would not put me in a jail cell or extort money…i resoluted that i would give them anything to allow me to be free to go!

i was led behind the front desk and told to sit on a bench, while they spoke to R and had him write something in a sort-of ledger…from my vantage point i could see, to my right, a barred door that most likely led to the cells….in front of me rifles laid precariously behind the desk…the taller policeman then came towards me and began to explain the procedure of questioning me…he told me that what had happened earlier was unnecessary, that he was only asking me to come to the station for questioning…i then convinced him that i DID NOT KNOW who he was and since he did not wear a UNIFORM , thought that R might have gotten someone to harm me…he went back to the desk, and from time to time, he and a couple of others (not one uniformed) would question me about ‘who i was’ , ‘what kind of interaction did i have with the other guy’, ‘where i was from’…in between these questions i tried to write in my journal what EXACTLY was going on and who i would need to contact…i didn’t have a CELL PHONE and didn’t know if i would be allowed to make a phone call…every now and then i would also see a uniformed policeman stare at me as he went to pick up a rifle from the back of the desk; there were no SMILES…

dazed, i just sat on the bench for maybe an hour….again trying to write and lost in thoughts that i could not decipher…moving into the recesses of my mind to figure out WHAT I COULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY TO CHANGE MY CURRENT SITUATION… i witnessed a gentleman being escorted through the barred door and led to a cell…i resolved that i too would be led though that door…

more time passed…i tried to find a clock and found one positioned on the side wall to my left…i believed it said 9pm…i remember that when i left the restaurant it was 6:45pm…so it had been TWO hours that i had been inside this ordeal…FINALLY the taller policeman returned to me and asked more detailed questions…i then noticed the young gentleman who had jumped into the back of the truck that took us here…he was looking at me..the taller policeman asked where i had met R? i told him CAPE COAST at PANAFEST..that he and another gentleman were selling clothes there…he asked if i told R to follow me to ACCRA? i said NO…that R told me he was from ACCRA, had took me to his place, just yesterday, to get measured by his brother for an outfit…an outfit he was going to dash me for my birthday…i then looked down at my jeans and revealed that i had gotten THESE JEANS FROM R, that i had bought them from him…the taller policeman released a sigh and said…”I BELIEVE YOU” …i exhaled and proceeded to ask EXACTLY WHAT R’S COMPLAINT WAS…he told me that R had told them that at the lodge room ” i GRABBED HIM AND FORCED HIM TO HAVE ANAL INTERCOURSE”….i responded that NOTHING LIKE THAT HAD OCCURRED…that there was staff at the lodging who could vouch for that AND that there was someone present WORKING ON MY TOILET and DIDN’T FINISH WORKING until AFTER R had left….He believed me..he then told me that he had ALREADY caught R in a LIE and that SOMEONE HAD COME FORWARD TO ATTEST TO THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER…that ‘someone’ was the young gentleman who had accompanied us to the station..NOW i had thought that this young guy was there to validate R’s complaint, but in fact, he had come to help ME…i HAD NO IDEA who this young man was, BUT I WAS INDEED GRATEFUL.. ‘brotherhood’ came to my mind as i looked to the young man…

the taller policeman told me to HOLD ON…he left and spoke with someone and then shortly returned…he then said BE PATIENT and that he would ESCORT ME BACK TO THE LODGE as soon as he finished up something…i didn’t know WHAT he had to finish up, but i was truly glad to feel like this was coming to a close and that i would be able to get up out of here – both the station and GHANA…

AGAIN the taller policeman returned and sat down next to me…he seemed more relaxed and even ‘friendly’….he was convinced by my answers to the questions that i was NOT GUILTY OF ANY SUCH ILLEGAL ACTIVITY…he was THOROUGHLY convinced that R was LYING and that to falsely make a complaint was not to be tolerated; falsely accuse a BROTHER FROM ANOTHER COUNTRY – ESPECIALLY THE US was even worse than the supposed illegal action i was accused of…he further told me that the FIREMAN had reported to the station that the protocol of ‘taking me in’ was mishandled and that i was mistreated…the taller policeman then looked me in the eyes and ask if he had mistreated me? as clearly as i could, i told him that i believed that he did what he thought was best for the situation and that, due to his dress, i ONLY refused because i was not from GHANA and did not understand the particular local protocol…maybe not in those exact words, but he understood that i was basically saying and smiled…he professed that R might have thought that he(the police) would try to get some MONEY from me and possibly share it with him…i simply just nodded for i KNEW that i WOULD NOT BE “OK” till i was safely in my bed in NEW YORK….

The taller policeman walked over to R and brought him towards me…he then TOLD R to SIT and asked me to STAND…i am not sure if R knew what was going on, but i DIDN’T CARE…i knew i was ready to be up out of there! i was then escorted by the taller policeman, a uniformed policeman and the young gent who had attested to my innocence…i found out during the walk back to the lodge, that he had been sitting at the lodge when i left for food…i wanted to say more to him to THANK HIM but i was SPENT and just kept on walking…

passing the chop bar i take notice of ALL OF ITS DETAILS as if its image would be forever etched in my mind…approaching the LODGE we were met with the CHEF who ALSO had been inside the CHOP BAR when the incident occurred…he was glad to see that i was OK and proceeded to again verify who i was and that i had done NOTHING WRONG…the taller policeman conceded that that was true and that they were only escorting back to the lodge and would then hand me over to the owner/director and report what had happened…
the DIRECTOR was not there, only Br and the security man who had witnessed the incident…i was SO GLAD to see both of them…Br had been alerted by the security man and the chef and contacted the DIRECTOR who was very far away, BUT ON HIS WAY…Br and the security man walked me to my door, unlocked it for me, and cautioned me to lock it! I SURE DID! they went back to the reception area and spoke with the police…i think i just STOOD in place and didn’t move until a KNOCK on my door jolted me out this stupor…i opened the door and BR proceeded to tell me that i should offer some money to the policeman for escorting me back to the lodge and to THANK HIM…i was like KOOL…grabbed whatever money i could find, showed it to BR, and then went back to the reception area…money given, handshakes exchanged, THANK YOU’S worded, i headed back to my room…somewhere in the midst of that final exchange with the taller policeman, he revealed how bad he felt about what had happened and could see in my eyes that i was an honest guy…he said “it was enough to make him cry…”

now i am back to this day, this morning…having had no sleep i floated through: packing; showering; eating breakfast(no i didn’t eat breakfast); saying my ‘good-byes’ and ‘thank-you’s’ to the staff[i gave Br the last of the three I LOVE NEW YORK t-shirts]; telling J(the contact person for the travel agency in ACCRA that collaborated with my US travel advisor) what went on last nite; getting driven to the AIRPORT by B(the driver who had taken me to and from CAPE COAST); boarding the plane; and FINALLY, arriving back in NY, in my BED where i would attempt to gather my thoughts and recount these 21 days…

D UNDERBELLY Home page

Day 19 – Cultural ‘lessons’ at Arts Center

W left EARLY this morning back to Cape Coast…
yesterday we had a great time hanging out…after the National Theatre we briefly stopped at the ACC – where i ran into a friend of R who i had also met at Adisadel…this friend tells me that the Dance Company i am looking for will be in rehearsal tomorrow(today) and so i plan to come back…

i also spoke with R last nite and told him of my plans – he will be there as well…
 

on my way to ACC, as i am heading down the road from my lodge, i decide to go to KINGS barber where i pay $1 dollar to get clean-shaved by a razor with the inscription “going to meet my maker”!

i appreciate this interval moment; as it allows me to ‘see’ this area of Accra more deeply…i didn’t notice the towers across from the barber shack that resemble tenement projects in New York or the never-ending spiritualized names(even phrases from scripture) adorning the tailor shops, record store and grocer shacks like “Jesus be with you”, “Our God is a mighty God” or “Prince of Peace”…though this was not disimilar to other parts of Ghana (all throughout the central region – Cape Coast, Elmina and adjoining areas -i would see rows of religious sayings encrypted on all kinds of structure), it felt like there was something special about this road…

i arrive at ACC and take in the surroundings…in some ways it feels very organic- as if these people could live, create and commune here…an artisan village that honors the traditional way of living…but then i look at the obvious ‘touristy’ crafts and paraphenelia and am reminded how this ‘village’ is simultaneously very commercialized…i run into R’s friend (RF) again and am given some history on the ACC…it was purported to be founded by artists – actual craftsmans – who wanted to sell their trade…it was in a different area but moved here over a decade ago(?)…there is a mix of: craftsman who create their work on site; sellers who buy craftwork from all over Ghana and bring it here; and detailers who put the finishing touches on work that comes from local artists…there are also restaurants catering to tourists, a meeting hall [where currently local chiefs of a particular region are meeting] and THE NATIONAL DANCE COMPANY OF GHANA…now i had thought the guide from National Theatre had told me that DANCE FACTORY was in residence here, but RF clarifies that it is the National Dance Company that is in fact here – they are preparing for IN THE CHEST OF A WOMAN! i look forward to catching them in rehearsal which will begin later in the afternoon…

somewhere in the midst of our conversation R arrives and soon after another gentleman who wants to be my ‘friend’ – in other words wants to show me his area where i can BUY! – beckons to me to “follow him”… so R, RF , my new ‘friend’ (F) and i head to another part of the village…after finding F’s area of crafts, we sit down and i engage in a conversation with F and his business partner( a cousin) who, though he is but 18 years old, ‘DROPS KNOWLEDGE LIKE AN ELDER’…

F’s cousin, Is, shares with me geographical and contextual insight into Ghana:

— he begins with sharing about ACC – giving a couple of particular details that i would like to note–30% of the people(families) that are a part of this artisan village/marketplace are actual craftsman…..these crafts people will oftentimes pass their trade onto their children or close family members…NO ONE (knowingly or with consent) resides on these dwellings – arriving at 4 or 5am to begin their day…this is a ‘warm-up’ for him as Is then begins to go deeper in the recesses of his mind to pull up other tidbits…

– He takes me to one table and speaks on Adinkra symbols, their meanings and relationship to the earlier history of Ghana – i am too enthralled to even put pen to paper…

– Alongside the Adinkra symbols are ornate bronze and silver pieces that I tells tales of each one’s origin and connection to Ghana’s labelling as “Gold Coast”…

– He then recalls the 10 Regions — Greater Accra, Central, Volta, Western, Ashanti, Upper West, Eastern, Northern, Upper East, Brong-Ahafo…including particular names of cities, villages, ethnicities and historic sites, as he conjures up a vivid picture of this country’s topography…it is like he unlocked an encyclopedia of information from his mind by the time he finishes his ‘lesson’ with me!

i try to scribble down as much as i could, but could not keep up with his arsenal of facts, statistics and clarifications…WOW!

i offer to take Is to lunch for ALL that he has shared with me….he dashes me with three
trinkets [mini-representations of]: a woman’s shoe (symbolizing ‘peace’); a turtle(dignity); and the ‘fertility’ doll (further symbolizing spawn of creativity)…

R and RF join us for lunch and (after Is has left) argue with me about NOT paying for THEIR lunch! RF ‘schools’ me about Ghanain brothership and “having each other’s back”…”if i eat, then my brother will eat” he spats at me…i counter with sharing my concerns on ASSUMING that one is going to pay for another – a mentality that seems very connected to each ‘friend’ i have made on this journey so far… more often i have paid for ALL my friends’ meals, etc when they have accompanied me and HAVE NOT had a moment when one has paid for me!

by the end of this arguement i have lost two ‘friends’… i head to the space where the rehearsal for the DANCE COMPANY is taking place..i use this as a diversion from the previous ‘heated’ moment and bask in the sun; as the company begins….

in 3 days they will perform the choreography for the production at National Theatre …their rehearsal happens in a a raised proscenium -like space with wooden floors…a ‘stage’ that opens out into the courtyard/spectators ground – where anyone can take a moment to witness them in action…i am glad to have this opportunity to witness them inside a rehearsal process; as this has been my only moment since i have arrived….they first go through movement on their own; sometimes working in tandem with other dancers or musicians or off in a corner of the space..

R joins me as they move through their beginning process and we make amends as to what happened earlier…he stays with me throughout the rest of the rehearsal…

after they have done some preliminary practicing, they work-through the piece from top to bottom…i am privvy to seeing the dance unfold as layers of people move in and out of the space, while musicians interactm, play and sometimes act/dance inside the rehearsal…the director seamlessly moves in and out of the space that the dancer/performers inhabit; giving out instructions, critique and impromptu choreography as the work-thru continues…the movement is not disimilar to any of the other traditional performances i have seen in Ghana or elsewhere, but the ENERGY and COMMITMENT of the dancers illuminates their willingness to ‘really go there’ even though it is just a rehearsal…truly admirable…45 minutes later they have collapsed on the stage, spent and ready to receive feedback from the rehearsal director…by the time this rehearsal ‘ballet’ has ended, they have: “gone to war, been enslaved, travelled across the Atlantic, and returned to their homeland – at least that is what i gathered from the gestural language, movement and music…i wonder how it connects to the title of the piece – “In The Chest of a Woman”?

R follows me out of the rehearsal space and insists on riding back to the hotel with me…i decline to continue to hang out with him, but he says that he has a doctor’s appointment in the same area…i oblige and of course pay for the ride back…

it is at this moment that i go into the ‘underbelly’ of my journey…perhaps my own rite of passage…i had wanted to experience the memories, sensations of the Africans who endured the enslavement and middle passage – trying to capture the ‘spirit’ of these ancestors, so that i may develop a performative work, a testimony, to their survival and resilience ….well I MOST DEFINITELY got a visceral experience, A LESSON IN SURVIVAL, that would most honestly make me feel like i was RE-LIVING their struggle… it is not til the next day that i am able to write or make sense of what transpired this evening…

D UNDERBELLY Home page

Day 18 – The cock crows and crows and crows…

“cock- adoodle -aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh”

a nearby cock croons a slightly familiar ‘wake-up call”..similar to the American rooster but with an edgier sound…edgier perhaps because i was not expected to be woken up by his call!

W arrives at 9am JUST as he had said he would..all smiles he greets me with a big hug…at breakfast we plan on heading to the National Theatre, Arts Cultural Center, and the beach…

 

The Nathional Theatre is an impressive building…constructed by a Chinese architect in either the late 80’s or early 90’s, it has a modern and expansive design…i was surprised that it only seated 1500 people, but quickly understood this limitation, as the lobbies and stage area take up MOST of the structural space…the lobbies house very striking sculptural works commemorating the building’s opening and its relation to Africa/Ghana’s connection to the past and present…in particular are two pieces that i found incredibly detailed; both hand-carved wooden sculpural pieces – one dealing with the legacy of slavery and the other aptly titled Sankofa… intertwined in these works are elements, faces, and symbols that awaken so many memories of images i have encountered when researching the African diaspora…

 

currently the theatre is is booked for a production titled: ‘In The Chest of a Woman; honoring the Chief Justice Her Lordship, Mrs. Georgina Wood and featuring the National Symphony Orchestra, Abibigromma of National Theatre and THE NATIONAL DANCE COMPANY….i find out from our impromptu guide that National Theatre rents out yearly to international, national and local arts companies…i ask about Dance Factory and he tells me that they are no longer housed there but we can find them at the Arts Cultural Center (ACC)…i thank the guide (with a donation as well as the Ghanaian hand-shake) and we head off to ACC…

Later that nite we head back to the lodge and, at the staff’s request, have dinner there…a NEW Chef is in place and is eager to prepare a meal for us…he was a former Ship’s Cook and cooked like he was A FORMER SHIP’S COOK unfortunately…i had ordered REDRED with plantains and rice – NO MEAT…when he brought out the food, he asked if we wanted some meat dish he had made for himself…i, being the vegetarian i work hard to be, declined but W accepted…this was BY FAR the worst meal i have had in Ghana – overcooked and salty beans; dried out plaintains, mushy rice and the MEAT that W ate was also overcooked and tough…AND THEN the Chef had the nerve to try and charge us approximately $14 US dollars for the meal…this would had been the most expensive meal i had eaten since my arrival in ACCRA…after my most diplomatic reasoning with him and the staff, they asked for $9 dollars – still too expensive for THAT meal, but i obliged…perhaps it was the fact that he specially prepared the food for us AND that we were the ONLY people eating at their restaurant accounted for the HIGH price; it doesn’t matter, like pretty much everything i had gotten in Ghana, i was able to negotiate a deal!

stomachs full we spent the rest of the evening dancing with THE RUDE BOYS at a local spot on the main road of the lodging…kool to be able to hang out, listen to an inventive mix of HIP-LIFE and American HIP-HOP, and be among the ACCRA young peeps doing their latest moves; not at all un-similar to the youth in New york!

D UNDERBELLY Home page

Day 17 – The Return to Accra

“i am really going to miss Cape Coast”

by the time i head back to Accra i have given away four pairs of shoes, couple pair of pants and tops, lots of underwear and socks, and, of course, monetary tips….as the last suitcase is lifted into the van i extend goodbyes to: ‘my son’, T, W, V, J, A, and the rest of the hotel staff…i am truly saddened by the thought of leaving here….no tears are shed, only smiles..

on the way back to Accra i do take a moment to visit by Ft Amsterdam…this structure is located in the village of Kormantse – a historical, powerful site of the slave trade era…though it is surrounded by the Fanti kingdom, Kormantse is not considered a Fanti state – due to its name and origin; which is purported to be connected to Ashanti of Kumasi…these Ashanti warriors held off an invasion from the Fanti and were fabled to have said “Mikore Mantsi”(“i was with the warriors); shortened to “Kormantse” and given as the name of the village..this i one of the possible source stories that is linked to the name and area…

Ft Amsterdam is the first fort in the Fante region of the Gold Coast (former name of Ghana)…it was first inhabited by British settlers(originally named Fort Kormantin) and later taken over by the Dutch which gave it is present name…it was later reclaimed by the British, but kept its Dutch name…

after giving an offering to the caretaker of the fort, i and my driver B(who originally took me to Cape Coast) roam around the the dwellings…this is B’s first time visiting the site as well and he is struck by its beauty and simplicity…unlike most of the other forts – which only served as look-out points or battle points – Ft Amsterdam served as a captive spot for the enslaved…and as i discover upon site of Amsterdam’s ‘door of no return’ , Africans were also shipped off to Europe and the Americas from here….in the center court of this fort is a very old tree – thick and mangly, yet majestic….it reminds of those trees you may find in New Orleans…those trees that seem to have captured the many spirits of those people whom have come in contact with it…a tree that, if it could speak, would be able to tell some of the most horrific and spellbinding tales…a tree that, if it could speak, may chose not to reveal the sacred secrets or the hidden encounters that it has witnessed…

i make it back to the lodging where i first stayed in when i flew into Accra…i am met warmly by the staff whom remember me very well… “Akwaaba”… “medasi (thank you)” i reply…i have not much to say as my journey back here was interrupted by an interaction with B, the driver…it seems that fuel had gone up since i first went to Cape Coast and, because i am responsible for paying for fuel TO and FROM the Cape Coast, have to pay a substantial increase..i find this out after a VERY extended arguement at the gas station – English loses its validity and clarity when speaking with another brother who is not interested in communicating via a ‘slave language’….

nevertheless i find comfort in the hospitality of the staff and seek rest after a much-longer-than-expected travel back..

i take a moment to settle in and then head to the internet cafe just down the road…
when i return to the lodge i am surprised with a visitor – R (a very friendly vendor i met at Adisadel village in Cape Coast)..i am TRULY SURPRISED..he had told me to call him when i arrived into Accra and then we could arrange to POSSIBLY meet up…i was planning to take a nap before i even called and NOW here he was…i greet him and welcome him back to my room where we conversate about my return and his near fatal accident in a bus ride back…i had noticed a bandage on his forehead and inquired as to what happened…’what happened’ is that he was riding back tto Accra in a public transit van (the same kind of van i had taken with G to Assin Manso) and was in an accident.. 5 people were killed and he was lucky to come out alive…fortunately he was in the very back…he only lost his wallet and cell phone…now i hadn’t mentioned that R had told me another story of losing his money a few days after i FIRST met him at Adisadel; at that time i had bought a pair of jeans that i had saw him wear and liked…i thought this would help him with his sudden lack of funds and i would get a hip pair of urban coutoure ghanain jeans! NOW here i am with another story, an even SADDER story…i sense something not so right, but cannot dismiss his injury or visible signs of shaken nerves…i console him…he says that he has a birthday gift he would like to give me – he is having his brother make an outfit for me…we need to go over to the house where his brother is to take some measurements …tired as i am and weary of going anywhere too far, i acquiesce…

Accra is an urban city, but my thought about its urbaness changed on the way to R’s brother’s place…it shifts from cleanly designed and neat houses and businesses to more basic crudely crafted structures…the roads, never really smooth, become even rougher and remind me of Chicago’s pot-holed streets…but instead of Chi-town’s every-three-or-four-feet-of-the-street-hole, the driver is maneuvers around successive hole-ridden roads…and i realize that i have NEVER really witness an area like this in all of my travels in America….and this is by no means considered a ‘ghetto’…we finally arrive in the middle of a circle of home structures that would not survive a New York winter or a bad rain season…i find out that this is not R’s brother’s place but a family home where ALL of his family live…i thought when he said ‘brother’, he was using it in the more expansive term..NO this was his flesh and blood!

i am struck by the ironic contrast to R’s dress and manners to his surroundings…thoughts of brothers and sisters in America who drive fancy cars but live in tenement projects…where a young person may have an ipod but not a private room or bed ….i see only one big room that attaches to a smaller room where R’s father is resting…”he is not well” R tells me and then invites me to meet him…i tell R that i do not want to disturb him and so we sit close to where R’s brother is working on some outfit…unlike the smiles of the many other people i have met so far, R’s brother ( i cannot recall his name/initial) very politely and coldly shakes my hand…he takes my measurements very methodically and calculated…

as we head back towards my lodge, i tell R that i sense that his brother feels “put upon to make this outfit”..R assures me that is is ‘fine’ with making the outfit; that it is a birthday gift, a ‘dash’ and i cannot refuse it… he then escorts me to a restaurant where i tell him that i will call him tomorrow..he pressures me to make plans to meet up, but i tell him that i may not feel like doing anything tomorrow but resting…i do not invite him to eat with me, because:
– i want to be alone
– i do not feel like paying for his food
– i am trying to create a distance from him, for i fear he is becoming attached to me for purposes of money and whatever else he may want from me….
He reluctantly obliges to wait for my call and asks for money to take a car back…i give it to him and retreat into Mr Big’s restaurant – the closest thing to fast food in Ghana i have encountered…i take the food back to my lodge and ‘chill’ in front of the tv of my room…

just as i am about to close my eyes, the phone rings…it is W from Cape Coast ! i am glad to hear from him …he tells me that he would like to come visit me in Accra…after a quick ‘check-in’ with each other, he confirms that he wil be there EARLY tomorrow morning…i trust his words and his spirit and rest assured that he WILL BE HERE tomorrow…

D UNDERBELLY Home page

Day 15 & 16 – post Panafest “R & R”

Day 15 R & R
Day 16 THE RETURN OF TD

Panafest has officially ended and the marketplace at Adisadel has been emptied….
i am glad to have some time for simple Rest and Relaxation…i utilize this time to also catch up with what is going on in NY and US online…i had been checking in now and then but i would spend quite a bit of time at an internet cafe over these next couple of days…

i find out that in MN (where i lived for almost a decade) a major bridge has collapsed! i email some friends/associates there to check-in…i flashback to being in DC when the airplanes hit the twin towers…

i also search for information on National Theatre in Accra and Dance Factory(a Ghanaian company i had seen in Senegal a few years back)..i find out that they are supposedly in residence and make a plan to connect with them when i return there in a couple of days..

when not online, i shop for gifts and trinkets to bring back…particularly getting some new traditional ‘gear’ to wear when i begin teaching classes in the fall…ironically i also search out Ghanaian versions of American cuisine – in particular ‘good ole’ fashioned mac & cheese…at this cafe in the center of town i find their version …of course it cannot compare to the US South and i become aware of the lack of cheese or dairy i have had in Ghana…it is not something they make or try to make and i vaguely connect this thought with the high rate of lactose-intolerance among African-Americans…hmmm

while Ghana may not do cheese they most definitely do CASHEWS! i don’t think i will ever find a better tasting cashew than Ghana’s GOODY bag… even in an un-salted and raw version, these cashew taste like some of the most decadent of chocolates! the same expansive flavor without the guilt!

i realize that while i have been immersed in Panafest activities, “Mormons” have come to stay at the hotel and are slowly trying to convert the hotel staff…i find out though that they are NOT Mormons but with the L____ Ministry in Texas…THAT IS EVEN MORE SCARY!

i secretly and covertly alert the staff to “beware”…they are amused at my concern and at these “oboni”[white people] who are so kind and talkative…since my time at the hotel, i reflect on the panorama of peeps who have passed through:
– the religious African brothers who loved to ‘hiss’ at the staff
– the young sistas from DC who were not interested in anything too “‘Ghanaian”
– the people whom i know were not American and yet were definitely not “African”

it is also during these days that i meet W whom becomes not only my favorite driver but a good friend; he takes me around to find hip-life music, chill spots in Elmina and particular specialty gifts…he was the first driver in Cape Coast to take me back to the hotel and his re-remembering of our earlier interaction impresses me…i wish i could have had him take me back to Accra, but have already pre-paid for another driver…He wants to come visit me in Accra and i give him the contact information to the lodging…i spend the last of this time of R&R hanging out with him and T at this very impressive Hotel in Elmina…

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Day 14 – the exhaustion of EMANCIPATION!

 

i am worn out! and the markings are GONE!

the markings i received during the pre-emancipation ritual last nite have disappeared…somehow the mystery of their disappearance comforts me and i begin my journey back to Assin Manso – where EMANCIPATION day activities are to take place…i was told to meet peeps from Panafest at Adisadel and we will all leave from there…fortunately on my walk there, T spots me and redirects me to Heritage house (Panafest’s headquarters) where he has been told there will be vans to take us to Assin Manso…we are supposed to be there by 8am for pick-up…we arrive by 8:30 and by 10am (right on GP time) a van arrives…

They are still setting up for Emancipation at Assin Manso, so i take this opportunity to revisit the sacred slave bath BEFORE the Emancipation laying-of-the-wreath ceremony brings the throngs of people to the river…

i dip my hands in the water and cleanse my face and feets…i feel refreshed and ready to deal with MORE POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE…this event will feature GRAND DURBAR of many chiefs of the regions and i am excited to see this procession…

the sun is BLAZING and the tented areas are packed…i stand on the perimeter of the partitioned square that encases the commeration area…due to intensity of the heat i only get glimpses of the DURBAR as i move from one shaded area to the next searching for a place to sit and stay out of the sun….

i see Chiefs being lifted and carried by their assistants as large umbrella like props shroud them…they are carried in a circle around the crowd in what seems to be a very specific procedure…language is spoken that i cannot make out as another Chief is lifted and carried around…..this goes on for hours and then leads to introduction after introduction after introduction…

this is by far the LONGEST display of ceremonial circumstance that i have encountered ever…
i go back and forth between the ceremonies and the impromptu marketplace that has been set up… getting worn down by the sun, i finally just find a place to sit and wait for the Events to shift towards the Slave River…for what feels like three hours later, the Emancipation ceremonies have ended – including the one at the river…i must have dozed off or dazed out while this was going on, but am glad to be ready to head back to Cape Coast…

the Emancipation activities are far from over though…from Assin Manso people will head to El Mina for the St Joseph project Healing ceremony at the Dungeon….there people will do the final step of the journey – heading back through the door of no return as it is redeemed as the DOOR OF RETURN…this is the climax of Emancipation – drawing upon the first time the remains of the slaves were brought through the door of no return at Cape Coast….it should not be missed!

i took my tired bones back to the hotel and missed it! fortunately T went to El Mina and was able to detailed the events that occurred..i would have to bask in hearing him speak about the ceremonies there and extract what i could from his recount, as this was the LAST day of Panafest…

EMANCIPATION? i am not sure if i felt the exhiliration i longed for when first reading about this inaugurated day at least 7 years ago, but i sure DID FEEL EXHAUSTION

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Day 13 – Pan-Af Confab: try again?

last nite Blackout #16 and 17 occurred…

this morning ‘TD no more!’

this day marks two weeks since my arrival in Ghana and i have become increasingly aware of how i have become accustomed to life here…my dress has infused the traditional items i have bought here with my clothing from America; sporting a Afro-European style….my head is freshly shaven (releasing anything that would distinguish me from other Ghanaians) and my time in the sun has blessed my skin with a sheen and darkness that has me staring longer in the mirror at myself…i wear sandals more often- abandoning the cautionary advice to ‘always wear closed toe shoes’…

this morning i prepare for the Pan-African conference…it begins about two hours later, but i take this moment to speak with T – the Panafest volunteer whom i met a couple of days ago; who has become very interested in getting to know me…He reveals that his family often hosts Americans and his affinity for connecting with others of the African Diaspora…he has some family who are in the states as well…his dress and manners remind me of an ivy league collegiate…i also find out that he lives across the road from where my hotel is…we laugh about the proximity and yet earlier lack of interaction between us…i also converse with a reporter who used to be an assistant of the President of Ghana…

after more pomp and circumstance, the conferring begins with a keynote address by Prof. Nana Opoku-Agyemong…it is only the second time that i will have an extended interaction with a Ghanain woman – even though this is across a podium…
‘That which will not go away…the effects of the slave trade’ is my paraphrased version of her theme…An English lit professor, she eloquently unites historical perspectives with the oral narratives of people throughout West Africa to adress the legacies of our collective experience…i abstract this query from her lecture: what is our take on this supposed history that has been documented and written mostly by Europeans? and how does it reconcile with oral memories of our people?
memory is key to my work and to why i am here…to validate, affirm and bring to conscious the memories of our people that have been subverted, hidden and unexamined…these memories, in her work, have been illuminated through the oral narratives she has collected and continues to collect…these documented narratives seem to honor the memories that did not come to surface in the writings of Europeans who wrote about the middle passage…her work, for me, further illuminates the ‘coincidence of fate’ interlocking Africans on the continent with those of the continuum of the Diaspora as it seeks unmask the educational institution which, she believes, continues to systematically extract the ‘human element’ from validated historical books…’where is the feeling and emotion…where is the humanity’ she asks? for her, and i agree, it is in the oral accounts, in the songs that she brings to the foreground… i believe that added to this are the ancestral kinesthetic memories that continue to permeate present African people of the Diaspora; the purpose of my trip under the auspices of the Jerome foundation…in america we still feel the residue of lynching, shackles the aftertaste of salty ocean water… this is the ‘body connection’ to the ‘human element’ that she longs for in the past historical recounts of the enslavement of Africans inside the “triangular trade’…

there is much to take in between her and the second gentlemans impassioned speech…Dr. Kofi Sam speaks on Pan-African technology convergence…such potent and powerful information, he shares, but i can only write down few quotes:

“science is universal, technology is environmental”…

“Yes Africa is indeed suffering from AIDS: Acquired IMPORT DEPENDENCY SYSTEM”!

a much needed break occurs after the two speeches and questions/comments from the audience/participants..i use this moment to get Professor Nana’s and Dr. Kofi Sam’s email addresses… i then take leave with some others whom happen to be headed back towards the hotel…

i end up at Adisadel (go figure) but this time in the afternoon…and have a really incredible breakthrough conversation with a sister from Coite-d’voire who has recently re-located to Accra and a brother from the Volta region’; both are in Cape Coast interning with “G” [from another region in Ghana that i cannot recollect]- who owns a Travel agency business in Accra…they are also volunteering and supporting Panafest.. it is a breakthrough conversation because it feels so grounded, so human, so REAL and so simple…unlike any conversation i have had in America surrounding themes of Pan-Africanism. We were living the Pan-African community right there at that moment!

the day is FAR from over though…i relish the conversation and their new friendships i head back to the hotel and prepare for the candlelight vigil in the center of town which will lead to the Cape Coast DUNGEON where Pre-Emancipation ceremonies and presentations are to take place…

“We came from the water and to the water we shall return – TO HEAL”
i wrote that saying about 4 years ago…drawing upon a quote than an elder in my family had passed onto me…after the vigil and the ceremonies (which i will not detail or discuss) HEALING is the necessary element i had omitted from that saying…
i will mention a few elements from this nites proceedings:

the honoring of ONE AFRICA…i know little of this man, but he was truly revered in Ghana..i believe he originally came from New York or somewhere in the States and moved to Ghana to live, inspire, and give back…

the MANY songs, dances and speeches which DID NOT exhaust me or the many people as the countdown to midnite came closer…

the going into the MALE HOLDING AREA for a sacred anointing and cleansing ceremony…

the ROLL CALL OF THE ANCESTORS at midnite (the beginning of the inaugurated EMANCIPATION DAY)

the meditation, reconciliation and releasing that continued on throughout the nite til there was but only the staff to escort me out of the Cape Coast dungeon..

we came from the water and to the water we shall return TO HEAL…

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Day 12 – B-day revelations

for my b-day i reflect on an earlier conversation that for me became such a revelation… i call it the ‘Ultimate Consciousness raising Conversation with C’ – (Panafest staff)…in such few shifts of language, he opened me to re-thinking how we view slavery..i have paraphrased and contextualized what he shared with me:

*ENSLAVED not Slaves — “we need to remove ourselves from being categorized as victims and to stop thinking of ourselves as SLAVES..”

*OPPRESSOR not Master — he reiterated what G had said which was” that NO ONE IS THE MASTER OF ANOTHER..”

DUNGEON not Castle —

 

“when we think of Castles, we romanticize a vision of a beautiful place with dragons and princesses and knights in shining armor…NONE OF THAT should be associated with these areas that enslaved people, imprisoned them in dark damp overcrowded enviroments; where they had little to eat and had to shit, piss and cry where they also sat, laid and waited….it’s time to remove that term from history books…”

That is all i shall offer up for this day…all else was insignificant and/or too sacred to reveal…

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Day 11 – Pan-African conference :to be or not to be?

all the visceral kinesthetic, verbal and visual experiences from the previous days fill me with such a heightened state of consciousness that i am glad to have an opportunity to just sit in a chair and hear brothers and sisters ‘intellectualize’….

Panafest’s Pan-African conference is to be held at the University of Cape Coast (UCC) over the course of 3 days…the theme is ‘Pan-Africanism in the context of Africa’s political and socio-economic development’!!!

such fodder for me to get lost in intellectual discourse and academic blah-blah GHANAIN style! i couldn’t wait….or could i?

i had forgotten to corner one of the Panafest organizers to tell me EXACTLY where the conference would be held at UCC…i venture over there anyway with a driver i had used previously….i thought that once we got on campus it shouldn’t be too hard to find out…i mean there should be signs and how big could the campus be?

the campus is HUGE! miles and miles of academia and development…A drives me around for twenty minutes before i decide to try to contact Panafest on a phone…he stops to get credits on his phone and i call C and then N…C calls back first and tells me that it will be at Sasakwa? BUT it is going to be cancelled …N calls and says he will be at the conference shortly…i am thoroughly confused but A seems to know where Sasa–ka-w?? is and takes me there….i approach a security guard there whom, after consulting with an administrator, affirms C’s statement that there will be ‘ no conference activities today’…i am shocked and so are the 15 others participants who arrive on a bus for the conference..or the 4 others in a taxi who don’t believe that it has been cancelled…or the 3 who walked to the campus…the administrator of UCC rides off on a motorbike to contact the president of the university and double-check if indeed there is a cancellation…NO ONE from Panafest is around to verify…finally 1 hour later N shows up as the Panafest rep and profusely apologizes for the sudden cancellation…he let’s us know that the “2nd day of the conference will convene tomorrow as scheduled at 9am on the dot!”…this conference’s speakers will not be rescheduled or shifted to tomorrow – we will only be having 2 day colloquim instead of 3…i have no other choice but to believe him… A, my driver, has been waiting all this time and i wonder aloud to N about how i should not have to compensate this driver for this mistake on Panafest’s part; that Panafest should be responsible for payment since i made a significant investment in registering for all these events including a 3 DAY PAN-AFRICAN CONFERENCE….

i retract my statement and pay the driver once i return back to the hotel…in lieu of the conference i decide to re-visit Elmina and take in the Fort as well as the surrounding area of the Castle…

in Elmina i walk around town and up the hill to Ft Jago

 

i begin to recognize the flavor of Elmina – how the people look, smell and speak distinguishes them from Cape Coast peeps…
An elderly gent approaches me at Ft Jago when he notices that i am not able to enter the locked entrance…despite his eccentricity ( imagine a homeless man in ny subway prophesizing), he profoundly professes about brotherhood and unity among all Africans…some younger men offer me food and to commune with them…there is an openess in their spirit that makes me smile…while walking about i am continually complimented on my skin, my clothes, my smile, my hair(i am still sporting my ‘afro-hawk’), my voice…it seems that they are truly trying to read/sense my origins, why i am there, who my relations are…or are some of them simply trying to get money? i think about this when i am approached by two thirty year old men whom share that they have no money and that, rather than steal (not necessarily from me but in general), they ask if i have anything to offer…touched by their honesty i take them to lunch at the restaurant adjoining the Elmina Castle…later i am told by a Castle security guard “to be careful of those thieves”…i am not phased by his words….

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Day 10 – the “opening” ceremony and evolving consciousness

TD or Not TD? that’s the question riddling me as my stomach attempts to reconcile with the Ghanaian cuisine that has held it captive…well the proof is in the _____…

Anyway i am up with a quickness as i venture to the Jubilee grounds where the official OPENING of Panafest is to take place…Jubilee was Victoria Park before they decided to have the 50th anniversary of Ghana’s idependence from British colonial rule there…they renamed it JUBLILEE…well i wasn’t too jubilant about attending this event because:
1. i knew it wouldn’t start on time – more like two hours past their posted start time — extreme ‘CP’ time and i am so stuck in European timeliness (ET time)..
2. pomp and circumstance – there would be so much fanfare and introductions and processions and protocol prior to the commencing of the opening ceremony that my TD would not allow me to sit for…not even for a moment to witness a traditional durbar (procession of Chiefs of Cape Coast and surrounding areas)
3. i was so stuck in the experience of the water ride from the nite before that i would have loved a whole day to just sit and reflect…

by 10am i am at the JUBILEE grounds despite the 3 abovementioned reasons not to attend…
i cannot help being on ET time and decide to go shop in close vicinity of the Jubilee grounds…


by 12noon ish the fanfare begins with stiltwalkers and musicians and MUCH pomp and circumstance…
 

i fade in and out of the introductions and search for G in the crowd…He finally comes up to me and we agree later to meet at the hotel – he has volunteer duties to attend to and so he heads off…no Durbar occurs (at least nothing that i would imagine to be the grand procession) but do catch some North American urban flavah from a Canadian all young men’s group named Baby Boyz….they perform hip lock contemporary movements and motiffs to a pastiche of music…. i, exhausted by the sun and seeking sustenance head back to the hotel soon after they end….

sometime later in the afternoon G arrives at the hotel…after deep and heated discussion related to religiosity and matters i do not wish to disclose, he decides he no longer wishes to continue a close friendship with me …i offer to give him back a gift he had given me, but he vehemently refuses to accept this ‘dash’ – ‘ i dashed you this so you cannot give it back’ – if you try i will be insulted” …a ‘dash’ is an offering one gives to you that often has ‘no strings attached’, but sometimes will require a reciprocation (at least from what some “hustlers” told me later)….i spend the rest of the afternoon and early evening in deep reflection on my connection and dis-connection with G …

that nite at Adisadel blackouts #14 and #15 occur…but this does not dissuade the energetic music and movement of one group of men who decide to continue to have joy and fun in the midst of the darkness….i decide to sit close to them and bask in their joy and the beauty of the moon…by now i had been accustomed to being accompanied by a new friend to the village and around town, but was not afraid of being ‘solo’….

being solo i had opportunity to dialogue with the many vendors at adisadel….northern ghanains from dagoma and tamale…peeps from accra and volta …even some women from nigeria who claim that their craftmanship “is better if not the ‘best’ of the marketplace..”
i particularly enjoy a conversation with a brother from Kumasi – land of the Kente village, Ashanti kingdom known for their mighty warriors….he entices me to go visit there – “it’s only 4 hours away” – so i can see up close how they weave the kente fabric; as well as experience the big city life…he also shares a story of how the warriors fought off the enslavers; explaining why Kumasi’s region remains less impacted by the slave trade…

in the midst of all these exchanges of pleasantries and extended conversations i meet T (another volunteer of Panafest) who becomes very interested in knowing about why i am here in Ghana …why am i here? his querie leads me to an evolving growth of consciousness around connections and disconnections so far to Ghana and its people…

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Day 9 – The Return Journey

up to this moment my interaction with Panafest has mostly been through visits to Adisadel village at nite (for performances of local musicians ) and conversationa with the Panafest staff as to what exactly is going to happen and what will NOT happen…i finally got my Panafest t-shirt and a schedule of events …however these events may be subject to shift in time or space, if in fact, they aren’t cancelled.

i release this frustration and make plans for the ‘Return Journey’ – a ceremonial boat ride from Cape Coast Castle to El Mina Castle…it is scheduled to begin at 9am – which i told really means 10 am…i decide to head to Cape Coast at 9am anyway as i want to take another moment to walk through the dungeon grounds…

the morning as i prepare to head off to the Castle, i find out that there is no running water at the hotel and resign to using the bottle watered i had bought to drink, to wash myself with…this action transforms to a ‘baptism’ of a sort as i ponder on this boat ride- having never been out in the ocean on a boat ever! my fears do not keep me from taking the steps to the taxi awaiting me …

by 9:15 i am at the Castle…no one, not even the castle workers are there…about 30 minutes later, castle staff arrive…another 15 minutes later a couple from Barbados come sit next to me…i find out they too are waiting for this Boat Ride….another 40 minutes and someone from Panafest arrives .. we are told that the water is rough and we may not be able to go on this water excursion….another 30 minutes pass and they check in with the Chief fisherman of this area and finally are cleared to head out….the ceremony begins (impromptu) in another 45 minutes…we gather in a circle (by now about another 25 participants have shown up) and are lead through the castle grounds by an elder who has been involved in guiding people for over twenty years…


Hearing this guide’s words awakens me to a deeper connection to these surroundings – a feeling that brings me to thinking about my ancestors being here…this guide provides a fuller picture of what transpired in the specfic areas ….i become aware of the ground beneath me at the male dungeons – that i am standing on hundreds of years old feces, piss, blood, sweat, skin and bones from my ancestors….thousands of African’s bodies piled ontop of each other as they screamed, sought comfort in each other, tried to communicate and fought to survive…

inside the holding area – directly adjacent to the door of no return – another elder (a women from USA) talks about how this space was where the first time the men and women would be together prior to being ‘escorted’ through the door to the ship…she further went into an in-depth diatribe about the women’s breast being a gateway to not only fertility but power…not at all about being sexualized but honored and respected…that in their own dungeons, the women would be violated by the European men and forced to have sex..giving birth to multiracial generations of New Africans…. though they may have been violated by these men, the breasts of our [African ancestral] woman are INDEED sacred…

my whole being is so open and alive now…sensitive to the air and smells of the ocean so close by…aware of the opening of the door of no return …now i look through the door and see the fishermen and women and children doing their daily activites – preparing nets, cleaning fish, voyaging out on the small boats to capture more fish….i recall a brief history lesson i received earlier in my journey from my ‘son’…he tells me of how this was a fishing kingdom – the Fanti – prior to the arrival of the Europeans…as they go through their daily routine, i wonder of how greatly their rituals have been impacted/interrupted by the arrival of colonialization, slavery and NOW me and other people of the Diaspora wishing to have a water experience on their ocean coast…

i recall how i do not know how to swim as i reach for a life preserver and then strapped into it by one of the Panafest volunteers – no actually it is the Chief Fisherman who is assisting me…i am hearing the sounds of the fisherpeople and the ocean….i go back to an earlier memory of seeing children taken through the Castle foreground and on their own guided tour..i think about the many children in the states who need to be here….i am brought back to the present with the sight of the boat that will supposedly take us over to El Mina…it more resembles a large canoe! there are young men swimming around it who guide it close to the coast and dock it near us….i then see some other young men[fishermen] lifting the participants on their shoulders and carrying them over to the boat; men in the boat lift them onto the wooden boards that also serve as sitting spots for the water ride…it seems as if this carrying and lifting is part of some great initiation that i need to do in order to go on this journey and i take a deep breath as i am lifted onto the shoulders of a young man who is probably half my age….the feeling of bouyancy overtakes me as i then lifted by two other gentlemen onto the boat…this happens to about another 15 people before we are ready to embark….

i tried to write as i wait but the shifts of the boat do not allow for it and one of the young men overseeing the boat laughs at me….

the water passage begins…not until i am on board is it confirmed that it will take 1 – 1 1/2 hours to get to the other castle…this is BY FAR the deepest experience of my travels so far!
at first i am able to snap a photo of the fading image of Cape Coast Castle; but minutes later it is like i am seized by ancestors coming up from the ocean waves and on board…i feel the density of that salt-tinged ancestrals bodies on top of me….i cannot open my eyes and i am getting heavier and heavier as i sense more and more ancestral bodies piling on top of me til the weight is almost unbearable and i can barely breathe….

i stay like this for the rest of the water voyage – unable to move and having only quick bursts of eyeing El mina…the only comfort is the sounds of the waves and the sensation that this will end….i wonder how my ancestors must have endured this journey NOT knowing will or if it will end…going on for months in cramped spaces, chained, ensconsed in darkness…

for what seemed like a day later, i hear the sounds of men’s voices and the yelps of people above…i am able to open my eyes and see people of El mina on an overpass ‘welcoming’ the boat in…i am so relieved but STILL unable to move….we first try to dock at a spot where we would have to be carried AGAIN across water to land….a woman in front of me is carried from the boat to the land and falls into the water as she is almost about to take her first step on land…in some ways it seems appropriate that she should touch water before land, but this causes commotion among the welcomers and the rest of us aboard are taken to a new port to dismount….i am the first to be lifted and land on this new site…a band of revelers and welcomers try to hug and cheer and salute me but i am not able to speak and distance myself from them….

the welcoming band and revelers proceed to hug and greet the others, but for me this is anticlimatic…particular the post-welcoming ceremony and joyous march through the castle grounds…i am spent and heavy and full of thoughts…it takes me another 1 hour before i am able to say anything…i head back to the hotel to relax before going AGAIN to adisadel for performances..

even the wuza wuza dance group from accra – with it’s exciting contemporary interpretive dance – is not able to phase me as i long for a bed to rest and cogitate …

later that day into the night the hotel and surrounding are experiences blackout number 12 & 13, but i am still too deep in thought about my water passage to be distracted by the lack of light…

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Day 8 – time for Church


Having seen so many impressive and inventive church structures while walking throughout Cape Coast, i am glad to be able to have a moment to experience being part of a congregation…J (waitstaff at Cape Coast) invites me to his church (Christian Life Cathedral) for Thursday healing service…G and J happen to know each other and so G accompanies me to pick up J from his place and head over to the Church…

it is raining and seems to be very fitting to be part of a healing service…
the church is packed! the service begins at 9:30am and ends when the last person in need of healing is attended to…i am told that the pastor used to end at 12:30pm, but due to the increasing need for healing has extended the service to accomodate…
unlike the Catholic, Anglican and Mormon churches with their impressive stature, Christian Life Cathedral is not Cathedral-like at all….the growing number of attendees has called for extensions to be created on either side of the structure and tarps to cover/protect the guests from rain or sun or other weather elements…

though this ‘church’ is not as grand as the others, it is spiritually one of the most impressive spaces i have experienced….everyone is tuned into the pastors words as he flows from English to one of the many local languages…sometimes translated by another member of his pastoral team, sometimes only translated through a ‘feeling’ or sensation….the music is a mixture of gospel like rhythms and gregorian chanting…i am spellbound…and swayed by the depth of emotion and community inside this moment…the pastor calls on those in need of healing and first, in groups, they come to a semicircle around the pastor’s stand…the ‘pastoral team’ positions themselves behind the members as the pastors calls out the pain or anguish of the inflicted souls…some fall out while others simply bow their heads and take in the Pastor’s chanting….those that get the ‘spirit’ and attended to by one of team, while others who have sought healing but have stayed grounded, return to their seat and pray…..at one point each one of us goes up to be anointed by the pastor and i wonder if i would be sent into a ‘spiritual’ possession as one of the many members whom has sought healing is going through….i too sense my own need to heal but restrain from falling under and hold onto G’s hand for support and grounding…

we leave before the service is over – as J has to go to work ( at the hotel they work 7 days a week – no time off allotted- but alternate between working the day shift (7am – 4) or nite (2 – 10)…as i head out i am called on by one of the pastoral team to state my purpose of the visit…i tell them i was invited by a member and was inspired by what i witness and experienced…they said the pastor would wish for me to come back and meet with him ….i agree that i would try…

the spirit of Cathedral Life Cathedral still resounds within me as i continue throughout the day… i begin to appreciate and acknowledge the goodness i see in my new friends… J and V from the hotel wait staff [as well as A and J who work the front desk] G particularly has been so good to me…he has shown me around, guided me to Assin Manso; when i want to buy a particular top as this “closed” shop, he finds out where the owner lives, takes me there and has the owner open the shop for me…G even clipped my finger and toenails and washed my clothes! “he is going to make a good husband to some woman some day” are his own words… indeed G will!

i also become conscious of my connection to the men in this area and lack of interaction with the women…the few Ghanaian women i have been in much contact with work at the Hotel and it has not been that pleasant….while i was at the service i saw mostly women there and ONLY women who came up for healing….is this intimacy that i was having with the men something i lacked in the states? in America i have very strong powerful women in my life as friends and mother figures and associates, but i questioned the relations i have had with men? these reflections i continue to ponder over as i continued along this journey…i came here to immerse myself in memories of the slave castles and neighboring areas and it has awakened deeper thoughts of connections and relations to people of the African diaspora in my own life…

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Day 7 – exploring the forts and koool-aid

TD (traveler’s diarrhea) has officially arrived…

G takes me to the forts that are located in the center of town…i am sporting my new sandals that i bargained for at the Adisadel market place the night before… it is not the wisest decision to walk up the hill in them and i am cursing myself…

we first venture up Fort Victoria which is the smaller of the Cape Coast forts….the forts were created to oversee the town and protect the castle from intruders – a lookout..unlike the Castles, the forts do not offer tours or guides but most likely have overseers which live in and around the area… we make it up to the top of the hill, but in order to actually go inside the fort we must climb over the wall… a frail looking ladder is our other option but i dismiss either option and simply take in the view of a lovely mango tree nearby… G decides to relieve himself by the tree – a common occurrence for men in Ghana to simply relieve themselves wherever they pretty much please…


we then head over to the larger Fort Williams which is much easier to ascend to….we are also able to head inside the fort and up to the top …there i am able to take in an incredible view of the town and bask in its serenity and beauty….G points out all the distinct areas of the town (which i cannot remember their specific names)…i feel like i could be there for a whole day, but the forthcoming rain imposes a shorter timeframe….

we head back down and go back to the hotel for banku and fish and kool-aid – i accidentally brought a pack with me (i had leftovers from my koool-aid performance piece in my suitcase) and stir up a batch for G….he doesn’t like it too sweet so i dont add much sugar…he savors its tanginess as he surmises that ‘ kool-aid is from Babylon, so it will not make you mighty!”

the afternoon is chill…watching Ghanain tv where the latest news tell of somewhere in Africa a woman’s house is torched and she is harassed for wearing trousers…

at night we are back at Adisadel where G and a Rasta brother get in a heated conversation …G translates what the brother says in Fanti ” he told me he would end my happiness’ is what G says the Rasta brother yells at him…i try to dissuade them from continuing this heated arguement and we move on to another area to clear our heads…. i also hear about the vendors’ frustration with the frequent blackouts and lack of sales….in particular two Rasta brothers who speak in Fanti about how they are tired of seeing me but i am not buying anything from them… i later speak to them about their frustration and ask them why they couldn’t simply talk to me instead of speaking in Fanti ‘behind my back’…they are apologetic and i STILL dont buy anything from them…i continue on with G throughout the village and meet R and B two hip Ghanaian vendors creating fusion design and later have a more in-depth conversation with R…seeing that G is tired i tell him that R can escort me back to the hotel, so he can go home if he wishes…i agree to meet G tomorrow morning so we go to Church…R and i continue our dialogue for another hour and then he escorts me back to the hotel…

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Day 6 – Assin Manso and the Return of my son

My newest friend G agrees to meet at my hotel in the morning and accompany me to Assin Manso via local transit…it will take almost 2 hours to get there…we take a taxi to the center of the town’s market known as Kotokoraba…from there we get in a van that will take us to Assin Manso..the fare is crazy cheap – 2 dollars for the both of us combined…


Assin Manso is the site where the slave remains of Samuel Carver (found in Jamaica) and Crystal (found in New York – wall street area) were brought to rest – these were the slave remains that i had read about a decade ago in the Mn Insight….and on 31st of July, 1998 they were laid here and this set forth the following day (August 1st) as Emancipation day …this is also where slaves from Salaga market up north were taken and had their ‘last bath’…though Salaga was known as the marketplace where slaves from Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali came enroute to Cape Coast and Elmina, Assin Manso (at least from what the Guide says) is the largest slave market place where they were auctioned off…hence the need for the last bath – no one wanted a ‘dirty’ slave and since they would have walked the many miles to get here (from up north at Salaga towards Tamale, it is a 5-6 hour CAR ride…so imagine WALKING, chained together at the feet, hands and neck, for that far)…

We are taken deeper into the site, through trees and forest, to where the sacred Ndonkoso(?) waters flowed…sacred because the ancestral bodies last cleansed themselves…these waters flow to the Oci river…it is a moment for stillness and DEEP reflection…i notice the texture of the trees located next to the bath area, the color of the water, the sounds of the river, the quiet …

i head back to the original site we began the tour and take in the memorial wall of return – where people for all over the diaspora can pay to have their names or their departed’s names commemorated ….also along the inside wall of the entrance gate are the pictures of certain celebrated “Emancipators”:
Freed Slave Gordon of Louisiana (1863)
Martin Luther King
W.E.B. Dubois (his name was mispelt at the site “Du-dois)
Sojourner Truth
Booker T. Washington
Dr. Kwame Nkrumah
Harriet Tubman
Benjamin Singleton – “walk and never tire”
Cinque
Ouladah Equiano
Frederick Douglas
George Ekem Ferguson – Cape Coast local politician and explorer
Marcus Garvey – father of black consciousness

G makes a very insightful clarification when discussing Europeans taking Africans as slaves…he refers to them as OPPRESSORS and not MASTERS because “no man is the master of another!”

this marks a significant internal consciousness awakened surrounding the legacy of slavery and i am silent for the return trip back to Cape Coast….

G heads off after i make it back to the hotel and promises to meet me at Adisadel later…

in the late afternoon my son returns and we further discuss his goal of continuing his studies…i am not moved by his outline or impressed with his excuses for not having a job…we distance from each other for the next couple of days…

that nite at Adisadel (which became my nitely hangout for the rest of this journey) a BLACKOUT occurred…. this marks the 7th blackout i have experienced since arriving in Accra – ghana has a energy shortage issue i am told…but my spirit is not disturbed by that – i am still full from what i witness and heard while at Assin Manso….

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Day 5 – Plantains and Red Red and Kenkey — oh my!


i decide to journey to El Mina solo as i had a deep discussion with my son last nite about learning to understand the value of money and the woes of hustling ….he professes that he is truly in need of assistance to go to school to continue his studies and that i as his new american dad should help…i counter with asking him to map out very specifically his goals and plans to look for a job to assist his finances…i give him a couple of days to finish this and then i will consider his wish for me to help…he is not happy with my challenge, truly wants to go to El Mina and be my guide….i tell him i will be ‘boko’ and he needs to have his outline ready on our agreed date to meet…he obliges.


i set off to El Mina in the morning with my driver Amank- …taxis are easy to come by and you can negotiate with them to pay by the trip, hour or day…El Mina is about 30 minutes from Cape Coast and it costs me 40,000 cedis or 4 new ghanaian dollars ( about 5 us dollars) each way…he will take me back as well…


El Mina’s St George Castle seems larger than Cape Coast and has a moat surrounding the castle…in the distance i can see Fort Jago – walking distance away, but i decide to focus on the Castle….unlike Cape Coast i immediately decide to enter into the depths of the castle and can feel the ancestral sensations the moment i step inside the female dungeon…it is a feeling so palpable and strong …it’s like one can still smell the stench from the centuries of spilt blood and piss of those African females ( i say females and not womyn because young girls were there as well) that were held here…on the ground i see markings that seem to resemble some adinkra symbols or other symbolic language….along another corridor i go inside a dark cavernous area and am engulfed by bats….i am haunted by each of these spaces i move through…

by the time i have surveyed the castle i am so aware of the residual sensations each area has left on me and take a moment to be still and reflect…i head back to Cape Coast with a heaviness in my heart and longing for further reflection.


By now i have become immersed in the savory world of Ghanaian cuisine and order Redred with Plantains for lunch… Redred is a stew based dish with beans that is usually served with some sort of meat, but i am keen on maintaining a vegetarian based-diet and can no longer look at the beady eyes of the fish (tilapia) that they often serve…i can also choose fufu (ground casava), kenkey (ground and fired maize) or bankra/bankuy( cassava/maize mix) with a soup (what the fufu or kenkey would be dipped or sitting in) a or stew (more like a sauce or paste to accompany rice and meat)…almost everything i eat has palm oil and pepper in it and my stomach is beginning to challenge these local substances… i also learn about ‘gari’, kokoutey but am not able to figure out what they are exactly…

i continue the day preparing to go to Adisadel for Panafest performances of Hip-life and Reggae artists as well as learn more fanti — ‘hey’ in fanti means umm ‘hey’; ‘nde’ (today); ahbahzee (what?)…i am told that the hat i bought in new york was originally worn by soldiers in northern ghana or at least that of a soldier-like quality named nsodafo….on the radio i hear about Panafest and its origin 15 years ago and am reminded of my first memories of hearing about Panafest in America – while i was living in MN….when i picked up an Insight newspaper and read about the remains of slaves found in New York and Jamaica…how they were going to be brought back to Ghana and taken through the ‘Door of No Return’ at Cape Coast…i had a feeling then that i would be going to Ghana and having a chance myself to experience walking throught the infamous portal of so many Africans to America….

in the evening i do make it Adisadel Village (Park) which is a 10 minute walk from my hotel and enjoy the marketplace and music – i learn about hip-life artist Kaye and first hear the electric Coite-de-voire music that taunts me for my entire journey…. it is also at Adisadel that i notice the holding of hands of men, interlocking of ‘pinkies’ and other intimate ways men are physical with each other…with no regards to sexuality but simply friendship…it is truly a beautiful thing to witness brothers being close and not afraid to be connected…it was during this moment of witness that i meet G whom becomes a close friend for the next couple of days…he is volunteering for the Panafest and is more than glad to walk me around the marketplace, dialogue, escort me back to my hotel and hold hands….

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Day 4 – seeking ‘redemption’ inside Cape Coast Castle

last nite i had a in depth conversation with my son and another brother about their life in Cape Coast as well as larger issues…


i ask them if it was the other way around, if Africans enslaved Europeans, would we (they) treat them any better? YES without a doubt is their response…i am intrigued…

this day i decide to return to Cape Coast Castle and go inside the spaces of my ancestors…
‘you came here for redemption’ is what i am told by the first staff member i speak to at the entrance….i wonder how many others can ‘read’ this on my face or inside my heart….


i take many pictures but am unable to say or write about the experience of being inside the male and female slave dungeons, cells, and spaces where they were held prior to going through the infamous ‘door of no return’…

outside the castle i walk around the area and see a slavery foundation site… on a white placard lists the address of the foundation and a quote by Marcus Garvey:
“No one knows when the hour of Africa’s redemption cometh. It is in the wind, it is coming. One day like a storm, it will be here. When that day comes, all of African will stand together.”

as i continue along a path that leads me to a historic part of Cape Coast, i catch an incidental march signalling the beginning of Panafest….tonite the grounds of Adisadel park will open with a marketplace and performances..

i stop by Adisadel en route to the hotel and meet C – the Panafest assistant who oversees the Festival…he and i talk about the disorganization of the festival and what may or may not be happening tonite as far as performances are concerned….

back at the hotel i have lunch and chat with V & J who begin to teach me Fanti – one of the local languages spoken:
wohotadin – ‘hello
boko – (i am) good
madamfo – my friend
may-do – i love you
may- bo seturik – i will slap you
(these are not a true spelling of the words, but as close as i could phonetically understand); besides Fanti i hear about Ewe and Ga (both the name of the other major ethnic groups and their respective languages) which neither V or J speak..

by nite i am too spent to go to Adisadel; having had deep conversations with the staff, my son and learning fanti …so instead i relax and prepare for a day in El Mina – neighboring town that hosts another major Slave Castle – St George

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Day 3 – ‘the hands are not equal’

today i plan to visit the panafest office so that i can register and check in on the panafest activities coming up…my ‘son’ tells me that the office has moved to heritage house in the center of town…

i begin the day with breakfast at the hotel and take in the banter between the staff waiters and the current guests….having met the waiters last nite (“V” and “J”) i chat with them about the way the guests treat them…when one of these guests (whom i believe are not Ghanaian but definitely West African) wants something they ‘hiss’ or snap intently towards the staff…
i find this very disrespectful but find out that this way is often used to get people, taxis’ attention.

i refuse to engage in this’ hissing- snapping’ and rather just say their names…in the midst of this breakfast event ‘we shall overcome’ is sung by these same guests…i wonder if the staff should be singing it…

this interaction between the West African guests (all of whom are male) and the staff (also alll male) intrigues me as i muse over:

–African slavery historically and African entitlement currently; if Europeans enslaved based on economics and fear, then can it be thought that Africans would enslave and have enslaved based on status and power? this way in which i witnessed this interaction stimulated such a hypothesis….i also imagine that there were Africans whom might have been driven by greed as well, but i doubt that fear played into their connection to enslavement of other Africans..who knows?

by midday i am heading to the panafest office at heritage house and am ‘schooled’ by an elder who lives at the site…i accidently come into his ‘living’ area and assuming i knew better (ie thinks i am Ghanaian) he speaks harshly to me about not knocking and respecting someone’s place…i apologize and say that i thought this was an office space and pull out my ‘i am American’ card on him (i would use this a couple more times during my journey)….he looks at me intently and says ‘ no excuses!’ and directs me to the office in the basement…there i meet some of the staff and finally register and get some insight into the locals and line-up for the Panafestival.

i meet up with the visual artist from the previous day and have a deep discussion about his lack of knowledge surrounding his artistry…” do art that speaks from your heart and not just sells coins to feed’ is my response to him when i look at what he tells me is his art….i find out that it is not that easy to dismiss the fact that selling for food is a necessity and speaking from your heart is always connected to artistry…however this art that he was selling for food was not his own! i think about the European/American art dealers and challenge my own assumption that Africans have too much integrity to be selling SOMEBODY ELSE’s art OR they SHOULD be sharing ONLY what comes from their experience…well whom am i to suppose this art that this brother is selling is NOT connected to his own personal experience?

anyway…

by evening i have been introduced to hip-life music which is a rich fusion of high-life music of ghana with hip-hop culture…producing a mix that honors the old school with the new school…though i don’t think my Ghanaian brothers whom i meet would feel that high life is old by any means….here the contemporary and the traditional or past are married in such a way that it is not thought of as old or new.

Oasis Beach Resort
i end the day at a spot called Oasis – actually not too far from the Cape Coast Castle and the spot where i met the ‘conscious’ brothers the other day….my son takes me there and meets up with a friend of his who tries to hit me up to ‘sponsor’ his football team…i suspect this is a hustle but stay kool with him….later we check out a dance and music performance of a local group and i have my first interaction with Ghanaian police!

it seems that the owner of Oasis (Turkish gentleman who acts like he was living in South African apartheid) calls the police on my son’s friend….there apparently had been a mugging at this spot a week ago and so the locals at the spot are suspected….i am standing next to my ‘son’ and his friend and the police reach for me and the others…i pull out the ‘i am AMERICAN’ card again and am immediately released…they reach for my son whom i state is with me ….the owner then goes for the friend and says ‘ he needs to go’ …the police proceed to pull, then push, then shove, show off their rifles and ‘escort’ the friend off the premises…


i am reminded of a saying that i heard earlier that day ….’the hands are not equal’…interestingly enough from the “visual artist” G …one hand may offer you LESS than the other hand…one brother may give you a GOOD DEAL and another may try to WRING YOU DRY…
but i discovered another understanding by the end of the nite…here in Ghana brothers are dealt ‘not-so-equal-hands’ similar to brothers in America… a thought but not a conclusion…

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Day 2 – Arrival in Cape Coast

after a rather relaxed nite i awaken to the sound of the ‘cock’ crowing…

by 7am i am off to Cape Coast – the base of my stay for this journey. i am taken there by Ben who is a relaxed and quiet “brother” ( the term brother became more expansive as i continued on this journey)


Cape Coast is located in the central region of Ghana – about two and 1/2 hours from Accra and houses the infamous Cape Coast Castle along with many forts…


along the way i also see Ft Amsterdam which originally was a Dutch castle taken over by the British… Ben asks if i wish to stop to visit, but i am compelled to continue on…noting the Ft’s existence and my interest in visiting it on my way back to Accra…

i arrive at the Cape Coast hotel which is an impressive ‘castle’-like complex on many acres of land…

by the afternoon i am on my way into ‘town’ to find an internet cafe and make some calls…


however by the end of my walk i find no internet cafe; instead i have made it to the beach ajoinining the Cape Coast Castle – a two hour leisurely walk that i had no intention of originally embarking on…

at the beach i am greeted by a couple of conscious brothers who flatter me with compliments on my style and chat with me about their particular artistry/crafts…one is a painter, the other a wood carver and then later l meet a visual artist…they dialogue with me about pan-africanism, garvey, rastafarians and, of course, about black americans returning HOME TO GHANA…

i take down their information and continue on to the castle…


i am in awe of its presence and i simply immerse myself in its surroundings, spatial configurations and general sensations…i decide not to go inside but take in its outer walls and the ocean

i cannot speak on any of this at the moment as the magnitude of this historical figure renders me speechless…


i later head to the shops located in the castle foreground and meet my first attached ‘hustler’ who wishes me to become my ‘son’…i use the term hustler to refer to the many young and old men around the castle and throughout my stay who seek out americans, tourists and anyone whom they think will be able to help them out in some way…

i will refer to this first hustler as ‘son’…and he attaches himself to me throughout the rest of the day and into the evening, as i proceed to be charmed by him and his story…i take him to lunch and dinner….

later reflections:
(on the first interaction with the brothers at the beach)
i am impressed with their ‘merchandise’ and find out later that perhaps 1 or none of them actually made the items they were wishing to sell…in fact the ‘visual’ artist asks to meet me at my hotel the next day to show me more of his paintings — only to find out he does not have a clue as to holding a brush to canvas…

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Day 1 In Ghana – AKWAABA

12 hours later, after much delay, pomp and circumstance, i arrive to thousands of black people staring at me….

could not locate my contact by sign, face or smile, so i was provided with a phone and an escort/transport to my lodging by one of the all too happy to help me attendees…on the way to the lodging, he introduced me to his family, where he lives, his good friends, trustworthy bank…always with a big smile …

he removed his uniform top to reveal a t-shirt that said CHICAGO – my hometown and he became my brother in spirit and friendship…named emmanuel meaning godsend…he told me of his mother’s funeral happening in a couple of days and his father’s death two years ago while handing me a photo and obituary…

at the end of this exchange, with all friendly measures, he asks for $180, 000 cedis…i find out two hours later that that was more than TWICE what he should have charged!

i gave him a I LOVE NY T -SHIRT and he gave me a very important introductory lesson in GHANAIN FRIENDSHIP…

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D UNDERBELLY has entered Ghana!

Background info on Ghana:  

  • First sub-Saharan country in colonial Africa to gain its independence
  • Democracy with full and fair elections
  • 2007 is Ghana’s Golden Jubilee celebration of fifty years of independence
  • Well endowed with natural resources, Ghana has twice the per capita output of the poorer countries in West Africa 
  • The domestic economy revolves around subsistence agriculture, which accounts for 50% of GDP and employs 85% of the work force, mainly small landholders

Image from a typical EWE village. 

 

 The courtyard of a coastal Ghana holding prison or “slave castle”, built in 1480 for Africans awaiting transport to the Americas.

All slaves brought to a castle were put into a windowless dungeon down a hole underground.  The only way in or out was through this trap door and hole.   The pit is pitch dark when the trap door is closed.

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