Mwatabu S Okantah
Ghana Time, or, Fools' Frontier? (Part Six)
Updated: Jan 29, 2020
How long does it take before a victim simply stops turning to their abuser in search of relief from the abuse? What compels Black people to look to the descendants of the deceitful intruders the Ancestors trusted, only to be betrayed, again, in the same calculated fashion? The struggling Africa of today, is the fiction of the sinister machinations of the European and Arab nations that enriched themselves from a slave trade which lasted more than three centuries. The same forces that produced an impoverished Africa, now capitalize on that poverty. Europeans left dependent, post-colonial countries by design. Africa’s under-development remains a function of the prosperity of the developed nations. Chinese, Japanese and Korean interests now compete with European, Arab and American rivals to maintain access to, and, control of, the rich material and human resources of the continent.
Yet, we cannot afford to focus too much attention on the external pressures that continue to subvert the slow but determined African march forward. More importantly, this is not about hating on Western or Asian nations. The deeper meaning of this Year must be about looking inward, both as individuals as well as a global African community. Black lives do matter. What Marcus Garvey saw in his time, remains true in this now time. Black people are suffering wherever we find ourselves living on the planet. We cannot expect Black life to matter more to others than it ultimately matters to Black people. We can control how much we genuinely value ourselves. We can control how we see ourselves and how we treat each other. We can choose to work together. We can stop being agents in our own destruction.
While I was still in Ghana, an old friend implored, “Please bring back some words of wisdom from the Ancestors on how we, as children of the Diaspora, can fix this land called The United States of America?” I asked myself, “Is it our job to ‘fix’ this troubled nation?” Donald Trump’s America is in no mood to acknowledge, no less discuss, the ravages of systemic white privilege. They choose willful blindness. Because the epic story of Africans in America has always challenged the white-washed story this nation prefers to present to the world, some amongst us even argue, “In order to save ourselves, we will have to save them from themselves.” The universal Black experience mirrors the conscience the Western world cynically denies.
Each time I stand inside the male and female dungeons at Cape Coast and Elmina Castles, I hear the Ancestors whispering in my inner ear, “Time to lay that burden down. Time to come home.” I hear their voices in the mystical sounds of the sea, crashing wave after wave, rolling up onto the shore, calling out to those who hear them. They are in the wind. They come to us in dreams. Experiencing this momentous Year has only strengthened my resolve. The work of putting the scattered pieces of Black people back together is not easy. It was not easy for those Ancestors whose shoulders we stand on. What would make us think, it would be any more or less easy in this time?
The real Africa is being stuck in the village during and after the rains, when all the turned-into-thick-mud roads in and out are impassable. There are much needed roles to fulfill for those who choose to return. There is much hard and practical work to be done. Each generation has its role to play in this drama. And, like the Ancestors who built the Giza pyramids, each generation must come to know and to accept, this work will not be completed in a lifetime. We do not have to reinvent the proverbial wheel. We have both the victories and the defeats from the past to guide us. We have the resilience of a people that refuses to be broken to sustain us. The Black path flows from the ancestors, into the present and forever forward to those Spirits waiting to be born.
We can do the work of healing ourselves spiritually, psychologically and physically. The Ancestors are calling us home. They are calling us back into African time. They are distressed. They are waiting for more of us to hear them. They are waiting for more of us to listen for them, to look for them in the signs. The dogged determination they found within to survive, multiply and to thrive provides the antidote for this modern world sickness. We return to reconnect. The real story of The Year of the Return played out in the hundreds of thousands of people of African descent from the Diaspora who made the sacred pilgrimage to this land of the Ancestors. It played out in the much-needed revenues pumped into the Ghanaian economy.
We came from the UK, from Canada, from Jamaica, from Belize, from Brazil; the focus on 1619 to 2019 placed those of us that came from the US at the center of a year long Revival. It is no accident that Garvey established his organizational World Headquarters in Harlem; then considered, "the Negro Capitol of the World." We walked barefoot along the same path the Ancestors trod at Assin Manso—the now sacred river Site of the Last Bath. We cried, we screamed, we released the anguish and the pain in the dungeons at Elmina and Cape Coast Slave Castles. We stood in silent prayer inside the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial. We bathed in the ancestral vibrations alive inside the W. E. B. DuBois Memorial Centre for Pan-African Culture.
We walked amongst the masses of the Ghanaian people. We stayed in hotels, in guest
houses, in villages, in cities, in small towns, in people’s homes. We rode in cramped taxis and on crowded TroTroes. We all experienced 24/7 sensory overload. European and American cooperation successfully thwarted Garvey’s efforts at the turn of the last century. The Year of the Return revived the potential to realize the Garveyite vision, as we enter the second decade of this century. We talked to each other. We shared stories. While the Dignitaries and the Hollywood celebrities generated the most publicity; the real history was made by regular Black folk whose names and faces we can never really know.
With open arms and with bright smiles, the people of Ghana cried out, “Akwaaba!” They welcomed us home. The real test is in the work to be done Beyond the Return. The future is not some mystical tomorrow waiting to receive us. The future is a place we must conceive. It is a real place we must create