Sunday, July 12, 2009

The President's Visit To Ghana And Me

President Obama has made (and continues to make) much history during this first term. Friday afternoon US Eastern time he landed in Accra, Ghana and became the fourth president and third consecutively since Bill Clinton did so in 1998 to visit sub-Saharan Africa.

He and the First Family were on a 21 hour visit to Ghana on the tail end of his visits to Moscow and Rome for the G-8 Summit and his audience with Pope Benedict XVI.

The just concluded visit to Ghana is symbolic because the first African-American president is returning as a child of the Diaspora to one of the places in which we began that journey on the Middle Passage to the Western Hemisphere.

The First Family also took time to visit the Cape Coast Castle in which many captive Africans began their voyage of no return.

Yes, President Obama father was Kenyan. But it still doesn't diminish the fact that the First Lady's great-great grandfather was a slave and his connection to this history is through his wife and daughters.

The visit caused me to pause and reflect on my own connections to the Mother Continent as well. I've been told by more than a few Nigerians back home that I have the facial features of people they knew from Benin.

Those who passed through the Door of No Return at Cape Coast Castle and similar facilities began the infamous Middle Passage, a brutal three month journey on board those slave ships headed to the New World

An estimated six million people never made it to the shores of Brazil, the various Caribbean islands or various slave ports in the United States such as New Orleans and Charleston, SC. They either died enroute or were thrown overboard to be devoured by the sharks following closely behind the ships.

Others, like one of my ancestors who arrived in 1810 in chains at the Port of New Orleans survived, endured, suffered through emancipation and Jim Crow segregation so I could life a life better than the ones they had.

To ignorantly say to me as a child of the Diaspora to ‘get over slavery’ is to automatically set yourself up for getting severely cursed out.

To ‘get over slavery’ as people with privilege derisively spew from their lips is to me, turning my back on the suffering of my ancestors.

Do you tell a Jewish person who survived it and still has the reminder tatooed on their arm or had relatives die during the Holocaust to ‘get over it’?

Then why would you ever think it’s acceptable to do so to an African descended person, much less think it’s okay to make foul statements such as Pat Buchanan’s?

First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.

Yeah right, Pat. Great for your ancestor's wallets, not so great for mine who actually provided the free labor.

This is my people's Holocaust, and we'll tell you when were ready to stop grieving over it. We're still living almost 150 years after emancipation with the post-traumatic effects of it.

One day I would like to on behalf of my maternal ancestor who arrived in New Orleans and the countless others on both sides of my family who perished on the way to the Western Hemisphere, travel to Ghana and look through the Door of No Return.

Sure, I can order a kit to test my DNA from African Ancestry, help solve some of the mystery as to what part of the African continent my DNA points to and plan to do so.

But on a deep personal level I need to complete the journey back to the Mother Continent on behalf of my ancestors.

Hopefully I'll get the opportunity to do so before I leave this planet.

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