As a child, my community of Black American women instilled a realization of our ancestry beyond slavery. That realization became interest, and that interest became an adult infatuation that led to travel addiction. 18 countries later; five I have visited have been African countries and two I have experienced living in Tanzania and Ghana.
I currently live in Accra, Ghana with my partner who is Nigerian. While we have completely separate and broadly varied Ghanaian experiences that I cannot fully express for him, our shared experiences are what seem to mirror the most common and current perceived cultural value related to visiting Ghana.
In 2020, I tested my DNA through 23andMe and found that I am 79% Sub-Saharan West African. The realization felt familiar to those Black American women, especially my late mother who was infatuated with African countries and cultures.
Although her dreams of visiting an African country never materialized, the importance was not lost on me. South Africa, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Ghana have all captivated me in multiple culturally poignant ways but, Ghana has had a different and ferociously curious cultural pull on me.
Occupying spaces where Africans were enslaved and endured unspeakable treatment by colonizers shook the left side of my chest. Visiting El Mina, and Cape Coast Slave Castles had more of a transformative effect on me than the decades of literature consumed around the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
And though I am shaken by the former, I am also calmed by aspects of peace I have never felt. There is something to seriously consider about the absence of mass shootings, crippling fear of the police and minority culture within the United States. Ironically, that common global perception strongly suggests African countries are less safe or not safe at all. Nevertheless, Ghana’s popularity helps challenge those perceptions.
Ghana also edifies the spirit through the intersectionality of Black enterprise and cultural immersion. Touring of some of the most popular sites in Ghana is harmoniously shared by business owners who are Ghanaian, Black American and Ghanaian American. That business culture seems to expand outside of tourism and marks an overt symbiosis within the diaspora that doesn’t seem to overtly exist in the United States or Europe.
My partner and I have a very small taxi and transportation business in Accra that created a modest passive income. This allows us to work on our most demanding business, Afropolitan.shop, an online store combining both Black American and African fashion aesthetics as a representation of the beauty and fluidity of and within the diaspora. Both businesses allow us to work towards a dream while working closely with Ghanaians in the most mutually beneficial ways. We’ve just begun but we are succeeding together and that alone is enough to validate my being here, which all began with a visit in October 2021.
Cultural irony suggests that while Ghana can overtly pain my soul with heavy resentment of colonization, and the visible consequences of no post-colonial infrastructure, it also celebrates this kind of cyclical return from the land of the colonizers. Every Black American could benefit from this kind of exposure with impact ranging from new enlightened perspectives around Ghana and other African countries to a decision to leave the United States to live as an expat in Ghana.
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Written by: Robert Baldwin