We’re at the end of our journey. Tomorrow our group will make our way back to Accra. While I (Yolanda) stay on till Wednesday ,the rest will fly back on Friday.

We’re all emotionally and physically exhausted. We knew this venture would be challenging but I don’t think we thought it would be this challenging. Least of all me. I didn’t think I would be phased at all. I am African am I not? And this culture and aspects of poverty is familiar, right? So why would I get so emotional? I narrowed the answers down to a few things. In South Africa (SA) I have an easy answer to the inequality. I spent half my life living under the Apartheid regime and even though we’ve been free since 1994, it’s taking some time for the people of colour(Blacks, Coloureds & Indians) to reach economical stability. But it’s easy to look at the situation and say we are still suffering because of Apartheid. That evil regime cannot understandably be reverse in one generation. So when I see poverty in SA I can direct my anger at something concrete. But what do I direct my anger at when I look at Ghana?

Last week we went to Elmina Castle. We had gone to Cape Castle 2 weeks earlier so I had experienced a slave castle before going to Elmina. I’m not sure what triggered it, but I found myself flooded with emotions. Feelings of extreme anger and bitterness. As one walks out of the castle which holds a long history of slavery; a history of Africans being sold by their own; a history of Africans being stolen; a history of Africans held capitive in these castles in grossly inhuman conditions and then shipped off to a land where they were continue to be treated inhumanly, you walk out of the castle and poverty is everywhere. What was the reason for this?

I started to think of my life in America. I started feeling angry and resentful. I had questions that did not have easy concrete answers. The history was too long. I found myself not able to to talk with my teammates. I couldn’t relate to them. As open-minded and conscience as they are-they were not black. And while going to the castle definitely and visibly affected them too, it wasn’t the same. I needed someone to talk to. Someone whom I could express my feelings and not be afraid that I would offend. Then I decided to go to Accra and spend time with Marie-Stella. She’s a Ghanaian who is an Oberlin alum.. When I express this desire to the others they were very gracious. “Take care of yourself first” they said. So off I went to Marie’s home. It was so needed. We talked, we screamed, I cried, laughed and then I was back to being me. When I returned on Monday, David wanted to know why I didn’t speak to him or feel like I could relate to him and I said” David you’ve only seen the history from Africa’s point of view. Marie and I have had the opportunity to see the history from America’s point of view. What happened to our brothers and sisters when they reached the Americas? They were continued to be treated like animals.” David has not comprehended this yet. In his life he has met African-Americans, yes. But for the most part they were well off. David didn’t get to see that even today there are black in America living a life like his. So he doesn’t have the same frustration and bitterness. He doesn’t have the questions that Marie and I have. Questions to which there are no easy answers.

Besides feeling peace at Marie’s home I found myself thinking very differently. Here was Marie, a medical student,with well educated parents, and economically very stable. Her friend and the people in her network were all from a similar background. As I lounged in her beautiful home I wonder what exactly is the “African experience”? Many times people talk about the African experience they talk about village life and mostly poverty. I remember resently asking a girl who visited SA what she thought of SA before going. What surprised her most. She said, “Sadly I thought only of povery and distraught. I was supprise to find it so well developed.” I thought of all this and wondered. I wonder what would an American or even European say, if I said “Oh I want to have an American experience, take me to your ghettos, take me to your trailler park. I want to have the real experience.”
Even Oberlinians with their open-mindedness don’t always realize that they sometimes reduce Africa to a vision of poverty when they encounter a well-developed part in African, they oh it’s been westernized or Americanized. Is it really? Or is that the African experience?

I reallize this blog is two-fold and is contridictory but for all of us it’s been a conflicting experience.

Just some thoughts.

Peace and Love from Africa

Yolanda-Esi Lenda

Advertisements