While many African Americans are finally beginning to put African countries at the top of the “places to visit” list, the numbers could and should be far greater. It brings me joy to see the growing number of individuals, particularly millennials finding and booking flights to the Motherland. There has definitely been an increase, but misinformation, indoctrinated fears, and false stereotypes have long deterred far too many people from visiting. A few years ago I decided that I wanted to visit as many countries as possible on the continent. I made it my priority and I haven’t looked back since; here’s why you shouldn’t either:
“There’s No Place Like Home.”
It’s the classic line from a classic film and it couldn’t be truer! From the moment the doors of the aircraft open and your feet touch the soil, a connection is immediately felt. It’s as if your soul knows and the ancestors are sending a special “welcome” message. I will never forget walking the streets of Egypt during my very first trip to Africa. It was incredibly striking to pass young children with wide eyes shouting “cousin! cousin!” While their skin was much lighter than mine with eyes far more similar to that of a European, I knew and they knew that the only thing separating us was years of cruelty and false teachings. A trip to the east African country of Kenya is where the words of a vendor in the Spice Market of Mombasa hit hardest. “Welcome home stolen ones,” he calmly stated as a group of friends and I navigated the chaotic aisles. All I kept thinking to myself was Did you hear what he just said? Those words stung! It was then that I began to dwell deeper into what his statement really meant. Of course I had known that my ancestors were stolen during slavery, but to hear it in that manner left a feeling I couldn’t shake. If there was any place I needed to be, “home” was and is it. I have since traveled to eight other countries on the African continent with many more trips planned.
For generations we have been told and taught our history, life’s do’s and don’ts as well as beliefs by our parents and other elders. As a kid I was taught my family tree (as much that could be traced), morals and religious practices by my family, educators and church officials. These lessons and practices are what made and shaped me to become the man I am today. While I appreciate it and continue to adhere to many of those teachings, it took trips to not just Africa but other continents to realize that I don’t really know who I am! I can vividly recall an Australian woman in Hong Kong asking “Where are you from?” I replied with my normal answer of “Baltimore, Maryland in the United States.” She looked at me strangely and then asked “Where are you really from?” She was asking me a question that I had no idea how to answer. I could only tell her that I didn’t know, but from then on I was determined to find out. I eventually ventured into the phenomenon of ancestral DNA testing. While there are many options available, I decided to use the kit provided by AncestryDNA to discover what countries I was most connected to. After completing the requirements and returning the kit, I anxiously awaited my results. Once they were received I was pleasantly surprised. While the results are certainly no definite or direct answer, I felt comfort in finally having some sort of an idea.
I eventually took a trip to some of the countries with the highest percentage and will soon be traveling to the other countries. During those trips I learned so much about the history of the countries, the people and their beliefs. My recent trip to Togo and Benin stood out the most as I was given an in depth look into their ways of life including the voodoo religion and the common misconceptions taught in the western world. My time spent in the Ivory Coast and Ghana showed me where my hustle mentality and love of a good party came from. The night is always young! While life in America is a privilege that many could only wish to have, a trip to the continent is a priceless gift and powerful tool in discovering our true selves.
We Must Destroy Negative Stereotypes
Let’s face it. There is a high likelihood that you grew up learning of only the horrors of Africa through school textbooks and photos, and commercials showing huts, starving kids and horrible infrastructure. I can even almost guarantee that your spam folder is filled right now with a few emails from someone claiming to be from Nigeria reaching out to send you millions in inherited wealth (Get Money!). It is because of these ignorant and unfortunate occurrences that we along with most of the world have a completely wrong perception of life in Africa. While there is certainly poverty, crime and unwelcoming conditions, what country doesn’t have these issues? I have personally seen some of the most pristine beaches, mansions and wealthy/powerful individuals right in Africa. Surprise! Not everyone is looking to escape to America. In fact, to some, even visiting America is the last thing on their minds. Although our current political climate sometimes plays a major part in that mindset, life at home is just that good for many of our African brothers and sisters. The world needs to be informed! It is our job to take the trip across the Atlantic and destroy all of the negative stereotypes one by one! We must show our friends and family back home and around the globe that Africa IS the Past, the Present and the FUTURE!
If you still need further convincing, here are a few fellow travelers enjoying their trips to the Motherland!
Rondel Holder – Instagram: @kingronthedon
Ashley Goodwin – Instagram: @ashmeetsnicole
Tyler Janeé – Instagram: @tylerjanee
What are you waiting for? Africa is calling. You MUST go!