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I Returned in Their Honor: My visit to Ghana, Africa By Tamara Butler (Adwoa Sika), Public School Administrator

I spent my 2019 Christmas vacation in Ghana, Africa, for the observance of Year of the Return. It was a shared experience with many from the United States. The Ghanaian government invested in promoting Ghana for worldwide tourism and, in particular, extended an invitation to the African Diaspora to return “Home.” The year 2019 marked the 400th year of Africans being captured in Ghana and sold as slaves to various countries in Europe and North America. The Ghanaian government wants to make peace with what occurred to the African Diaspora. My ancestors left through the “Door of No Return.” In their honor, I returned.

Ghana has ten regions, and I had the opportunity to visit four of them. I visited Cape Coast to see the Assin Manso Slave River, Cape Coast Slave Dungeons, WEB DuBois Center, Manhyia Palace Museum in the Ashanti Region, Kente Waving Village. I participated in an Ashanti naming ceremony and received the name Adwoa Sika which means Wealth; I toured the Kwame Nikrumah (first Ghanaian president) Memorial Park Memorial Center, Independence Village, and the Aburi Botanical Gardens. I attended a VIP experience at Afrochella (similar to Coachella- live music festival of popular African & Caribbean Artist), a New Year’s Eve celebration, and local social outings.

The “Door of No Return” is located at Cape Coast Castle. The Cape Coast Castle was used to confine Africans in Ghana before they were shipped in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. It is one of 40 slave castles built on the west coast of Africa. Between the early 1500s and the end of the 19th century, when the slave trade ended, an estimated 24 million Africans were shipped by English, Portuguese, French, and Dutch traders. In Ghana, Africans were taken to the Assin Manso Slave River, where they were bathed before they were branded, auctioned, and then taken to the slave dungeons to wait for the ships.

Our ancestors were placed in “rooms” that were bare, and often there could be between 100 and 500 Africans in the room. The Africans remained in the dungeons for months with illnesses, menses, and their own waste. They were separated by gender. The rooms had one window at the very top of the room for sunlight and slight ventilation. They did not leave the rooms until it was time to board the ship. At the time, our ancestors were walked through a door known as the “Door of No Return” to the ships that took them to various countries. Our ancestors did not know what was on the other side of the door, and they did not know that they would not be returning. They did not know they would be raped, beaten, and mistreated.

When I opened the door, it was emotional because I know what happened on the other side of the door 400 years ago. When I opened the door in 2019, I saw tourists that were emotional. I saw local men fishing and children playing in the ocean. I saw our people serving and loving Africa as our ancestors once did.

When I first landed and then participated in historical tours, I found myself increasingly wanting to know more about the country, culture, and how it was connected to my North American life. I wanted a geographical understanding of the country and the other West and South African countries. Friends who had visited Ghana told me I would have an immediate connection with the country and long to remain there. Quickly I understood their comments. I discovered a comfort in being in a setting where everyone looked like me, a comfort in knowing the food was authentic, a comfort in experiencing the past in the present. I knew that my experience would not be solely seeing elephants, giraffes, and children with disproportioned heads and mosquitos flying around them, the image that is traditionally portrayed by misinformed media. I know that those situations exist. However, it is important for people to understand that Mother Africa is more than wild animals and children in poverty. It is not quite Wakanda, but the brilliance and motivation of the people in Ghana comes very close.

My visit to Ghana was to have a good time, enjoy the true African culture; to come home with a greater appreciation of my ancestors and to gain an understanding of my purpose as a descendant of Africa. All of those things had been influenced by information I received documenting my African DNA. Also, at my school, I work directly with children from the Congo region.

The Ghanaian government has asked for the African diaspora to invest. My form of investing is to educate others about my experience and to form a partnership with a school in Ghana. I will encourage others to have their own experience of visiting African countries. When you go to Ghana, remember to keep an open mind and enjoy Mother Africa. I was very pleased with my visit. For tourism information, I recommend Dipci Tours or Black Roots Tours. Akwaaba (Welcome)