Africa

5 Reasons African Americans Need to Visit Ghana

It's taken me a long time to write this post, partly because I was trying to find the words to adequately put my thoughts and feelings into words. 

I've visited and lived in countries in Southern and Eastern Africa (Zambia, Tanzania, South Africa and others), where I've immediately felt a connection to their cultures. Black people are super dope all over the world (#WakandaForever!). However, I also knew there was minimal chance my ancestors were from there and thus I knew their cultures weren't mine. But then I went to Ghana.

I spent a full week in Ghana, visiting places around Accra and touring Cape Coast Castle, where many Africans were enslaved and shipped to South America, the Caribbean and United States through the transatlantic slave trade. Let's be clear about one thing. Slavery existed in Africa prior to the transatlantic trade. Ghana was the trading capital for Portuguese and other Europeans for hundreds of years before the British arrived. According to the Tracing Center, "the trans-Saharan slave trade sent more enslaved Africans east to the Muslim world, over many centuries, than would be transported west to the Americas."

Ghana served as the center of the British slave trade for 150 more years, sending Africans who were kidnapped and enslaved during tribal warfare to the West. Western traders bartered with Ghanaians, trading manufactured goods for enslaved Africans. I could literally feel our ancestors' spirits as I walked the grounds. (I want to make a note to say I have stopped using the term "slave." Our guide at Cape Coast Castle said to us that those 'slaves' were people with families, jobs, and lives before they were captured and sold into slavery; therefore, I now refer to them as "enslaved Africans.") Ghana made me feel so...full. It was everything I didn't know I want it to be and more.

The whole reason I started my travel blog was to share my experiences and show people the world from my point of view, the view of a black American woman. I couldn't help but to feel a deeper connection to Ghana and I imagine that if I felt that way, other black Americans would feel the same. So if you're a black American, here's why you need to visit:

  1. Slave Castles. I've been to other sites that memorialize the slave trade, but none hit me quite like my visit to Cape Coast Castle. We learned that enslaved Africans would sometimes be forced to walk from Nigeria, Benin and other West African countries to Ghana in order to be sold into slavery. Our guide showed us where the enslaved Africans were housed, the most shocking place of which was under a church. Yup, a church. Enslavers created vents on the floor of the church so that the enslaved Africans housed underneath could be indoctrinated with Christianity while imprisoned. Without water or sanitation, the floor of the dungeon was covered with human waste, causing many people to fall ill or die. 

    I also walked through the 'Door of No Return', a door our ancestors walked through as they were forced to board ships that would later take them around the world. It was a powerful moment for me. While I always knew what our ancestors endured, it felt different actually being there and feeling their energy. 

    There are other slave castles like St. George's Castle and Elmina Castle, but I chose to visit Cape Coast Castle since it's the most well-known.
     
  2. We're related. Okay, not really but probably! Ghana the only country (so far) where I feel like the people legitimately resembled black Americans. As I was out to dinner one night and the restaurant was full of people, I took a moment to look around and savor the moment. What I noticed was that everyone looked like my friends and family. Had I not remembered that I was in Ghana, you couldn't tell me that I wasn't in Baltimore or D.C.
     
  3. It's lit. People in Accra are social every day of the week. I went to karaoke, dinner and a few clubs, all of which would rival their counterparts at home. People just love having a good time there and being social is a big part of their culture. (Side note: I love finding out about and adding new African artists to my playlists. Sarkodie, anyone?)
     
  4. Shopping. Ghana is my 9th African country and I swear, it had some of the best shopping I've seen on the Continent. After a while, many of the items start to look the same everywhere you go, but I found unique pieces of art, clothing and household wares that I've never seen anywhere else. If you're visiting the Kumasi area, visit the Centre For National Culture where you participate in workshops for kente-cloth weaving, batik cloth dyeing and more. There's also a Centre for National Culture in Accra where I found most of my favorite pieces.
     
  5. Africa is dope. I know Africa is a continent, but there's nothing like being surrounded by and engaging with other brothers and sisters. The feeling is euphoric and both easy and hard to explain. This is why I'm hooked on traveling throughout Africa. It has its challenges, yes, but it is oh so rewarding.

I didn't have a chance to visit Kumasi, Kakum National Park or other famous places in Ghana, but that's just all the more reason for me to return. I look forward to visiting other West African countries too. I have my eyes on Senegal, Cote d'Ivoire and Sierra Lione. I encourage you to put an African country, especially a West African country, high on your travel list. We owe it to our ancestors.

Where Am I Headed in 2018?

On my 2016 travel wish list, there was Napa Valley, Colombia, London and Thailand. While I went to other places too, I ended up in San Francisco (kind of close to Napa Valley) and Colombia. My 2017 travel wish list consisted of Ghana, Miami, Canada, and Cuba. In 2017, I went to Ghana, Miami, Vancouver, and more. There's no denying that my theory works! Put it out in the universe and it will come to you. This year is no different. I've thought long and hard about what travel goals I want to accomplish in 2018 so here we go!

Confirmed Travel

I don't have any. LOL. I have no flights booked. None. Nada. Not a single one. Shocking, I know. I have a few personal things going on right now and my schedule is a bit uncertain. So I've intentionally not made official travel plans. But don't get it twisted. Travel will definitely occur. Lots and lots of travel!

Wish List
(in no particular order)

Los Angeles

I visited LA in 2016 after road tripping from San Francisco and loved it so much. Beaches, warm weather, and laid back vibes...all things that make me a happy Ashlee. I'm putting this on my wish list because I want (read: need) to go back sooner rather than later.

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Budapest and/or Croatia

Both of these places have been in my thoughts for years. YEARS. I hear they are beautiful countries, with amazing architecture, history and nightlife, all things I love to explore when visiting a new destination.

 Budapest  Photo Credit: Lonely Planet

Budapest
Photo Credit: Lonely Planet

Thailand

It's high time I get to Asia. Seriously. I'm not sure what's taken me so long, but I definitely need to get to Asia soon and what better place than fan favorite, Thailand? I put it on my wish list for 2015 travel, but everyone and their mother booked trips over the last few years which was a bit of a deterrant for me. Still, everyone who goes to Thailand seems to love it so I'm sure I'll be no different. 

 Photo Credit: Kuoni Travel

Photo Credit: Kuoni Travel

Spain

Spain seems to be one of those countries that everyone needs to visit at least once in their lifetime. Art, history, city life, and amazing food are amongst the great things I've heard about Spain. I'd also like to visit a few of its islands, including Ibiza, San Sebastián, and Valencia. 

 Photo Credit: Condé Nast Traveler

Photo Credit: Condé Nast Traveler

Sri Lanka

This one may be a little far fetched but I am putting it out there in hopes I can actually make it happen! I've heard this island country is beautiful, with tons of wildlife and amazing beaches. And because it's a gateway to Southeast Asia, there are a few other countries I can visit before or after.

 Photo Credit: RIU

Photo Credit: RIU

South Africa

Because I can always go back. Again, again and again!

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What places are on your 2018 list? Start thinking and planning!