Mwatabu S Okantah
"Ghana Time, or, Fools' Frontier?" ( Part One)
Updated: Jan 28, 2020
I am not dreaming. I am in West Africa once again. Each time I visit, I must remind myself that I am not dreaming, even though I always experience the distinct feeling of literally walking out of a dream. I am back in the Ghana of Ayi Kwei Armah; this beautiful but tormented land of 2000 Seasons. I am here during this very crucial time—the 1000 Seasons crawling maimed from brutal enslavement, dispersal and parasitic colonization. I am at the legendary Mabel’s Table Guest House and Restaurant with my wife, sitting on a bluff overlooking the sea, pondering the haunting specter of the Elmina Slave Fortress in the distance. Rabbi Kohane Halevi calls this location, “the matrix.” The perfect reentry Gateway for descendants of the Ancestors that survived the Maafa to return home.
We are not tourists. We are pilgrims. It is Aminah's first trip—our dream come true trip—and I am feeling her first-time excitement. We have come back from the “other side” to reclaim a stolen legacy. I have been blessed to visit Ghana twice during this historic, “Year of the Return—1619 to 2019.” I have had several people ask, “Why?” Ever since my first visit to West Africa, to Nigeria, in 1988, people still ask, “Is it true that Africans do not like us?” Even though people from the Diaspora are visiting and exploring the continent now more than ever before, a nagging disconnect still exists for many African Americans. We are still victims of grossly distorted depictions of Africa in the American media. Many of us are ambivalent when it comes to relating to Africa and to Africans.
The war to control this narrative is long and protracted. It is more than ironic that so few of us dare to question the reality that we have been held hostage in the United States for so long, we have forgotten we were once a free and independent people. Memories of once speaking African languages are buried too deep in the racial memory. We have never known the sounds of hearing African names. We do not think to ask the question, “What happens to any people, still lost and wandering in a persistently peculiar but familiar land?” We speak a still foreign tongue. We still answer to alien names. We still submit to a contrived, vengeful God, first introduced to control the minds of enslaved Africans. We have been cynically Baptized, “MADE IN AMERICA.”
The Europeans taught Africans in Africa that European names are Christian names, as if they are the true anointed people of Jesus, the Christ. In the so-called New World, Europeans Christened enslaved Africans with “slave names” and justified slavery in the name of their Manifest Destiny. They hijacked two continents and proceeded to construct new nations, placing their hard-fought “freedoms” on foundations built with the denial of those very freedoms to the peoples they conquered and to the peoples they enslaved as the mortar holding it all in place. How can we be surprised that the descendants of the people they claimed to have discovered and that the descendants of the people that were enslaved are so lost, confused and searching today?
I have retraced runaway slave footsteps and black migration patterns from south to north. I have searched for the missing slave quarters at the Bell Plantation along the James River in Virginia. I have heard the voices of the ancestors echoing through the slave quarters on South Carolina’s Boone Hall Plantation. I have traveled the path Angola Jemy and his escaped Stono rebel warriors marched in their failed attempt to make it south to freedom in Spanish Florida. I have walked through the compound of the African “slave trader” at Nigeria’s Badagry. I have visited with the restless ancestral spirits deep in the bowels of Ghana’s Cape Coast and Elmina slaving castles. I have meditated in the open Door of No Return in the House of Slaves on Senegal’s Goree Island. I have heard the voices of the ancestors on both sides of the Atlantic, wind whistling through the trees calling, "Come back home."