Last weekend, we took a trip to Cape Coast, which was one full of many emotions and memories that I will never forget. Cape Coast is the capital of the central region, in south Ghana. It became heavily influenced by the British due to being used as a trading port and its role in the transatlantic slave trade. Although the city is healing from the trauma, it is still struggling economically.
Some call it a slave castle, some call it a dungeon; due to what I’ve witnessed and experienced, I refer to it as a dungeon. Once arriving to the Cape Coast Castle, I immediately felt uneasy. I felt an emptiness in my stomach as if I haven’t eaten in days and my body began to sweat as if it was in fight or flight mode.
The hour tour seemed too short to fully demonstrate the 300 years of captivity this place embodies. As I walked through the male dungeon and female/kids dungeon, I couldn’t help but visualize my ancestors in pain and agony as they were taken away from their families. But I also imagined myself and my own family being shackled in those dark, narrow, inhumane dungeons for days, weeks or even months without any knowledge on what would happen next or the wellbeing of our family. Not to mention, the only source of light and fresh air would be when we exit the “door of no return” — onto the ship that would transport us like cargo.
I don’t know what was more disturbing, the fact that a human being can torture and imprison another human being in such a demeaning and horrid place, or the fact that right on top of the dungeon was a church; the British were worshiping and singing while Africans were crying out for help and dying.
Before arriving to the dungeons I was expecting some type of closure in regards to my curiosity about the slave trade. Instead of closure, I became more enlightened and more connected to my history. I recommend everyone to experience this for themselves and be open to receive the truth about the slave trade beyond the classroom.
Day 2: Fetu Afahye Parade
Fetu Afahye Parade, which happens annually every first Saturday of September, is celebrated by the chiefs and citizens of the central region. It is a time for spiritual cleansing so everyone can enter the new year with confidence and hope as well as a time to honor the past leaders and gods by offering mashed yam. During this occasion, it is also a time for family members who are at odds to repair their differences as well as reunite with old friends.
The festival was amazing; you could feel the energy of excitement and honor of others. Many people were dressed up in a variety of beautiful kente cloths and costumes. Having the opportunity to watch the chiefs and the queen mother be carried throughout the parade and performers skating, dancing, cycling and even walking on stilts was fun — especially because it’s such an important tradition in Cape Coast that I was able to experience.
One interesting thing about Ghanaians in general is they know how to have fun (party) and enjoy life, no matter what they are going through. I feel like in America, many people believe that because Ghana is a developing country, its people are often sad, bored and helpless. But they are the complete opposite; everyone is joyful, easy going, and optimistic.
Day 3: Kakum National Park
Kakum National Park is a very peaceful and beautiful park that protects an area of the rainforest that is home for many endangered mammals. If you know me well, you would know that I do not enjoy heights nor walking on high ropes or bridges.
Once walking over the first canopy, you can choose to either take a shortcut and end your experience early or continue walking seven additional canopies that ultimately go higher and higher. So you know me, I happily walked towards the shortcut. However, one of the park rangers blocked my path and said, “I don’t want you to take the shortcut. I want you to continue.” I’m pretty sure she was suppose to let me take the shortcut , at least for my physical and emotional safety. Â BUT, I just grabbed her hand and said “okay”, as if she was going to walk across with me. While crossing the remaining long and high canopies, members in my group encouraged me to continue, praised me for my confidence and calmed me before panic set in.
Although it was tough, I really enjoyed walking across the rainforest, listening to the birds chirp, overlooking the tall green trees and watching our group help one another.
This weekend has reminded me that I am a product of the brightest and the strongest; my ancestors fought and survived from the slave trade to now and I will continue to fight because I owe it to them and myself to keep our legacy thriving. In America, black pain is often times undermined and belittled. We as a people have been fighting for our rights continuously for centuries; the trauma of slavery is still present because the cycle of oppression (which is an understatement) is ongoing and is manifested in different forms.
Now that I’m here in Ghana, I’m learning about my history prior to America, becoming more grounded in who I am and becoming more confident in defining and writing my own story — my own truth.
Brittany Jones is a senior majoring in interdisciplinary studies in three departments, with an emphasis in social work, psychology and criminal justice. She is studying abroad this fall in Accra, Ghana.