Photograph caption: JOHN FOUNTAIN SPEAKS on the Black Historical past Month celebration held in February 2022 on the W. E. B. DuBois Centre for Pan African Tradition in Accra, Ghana. The photograph seems on the group’s web site. (Photograph: Offered)
A 2021-22, Fulbright scholar to Ghana, the writer displays on his time in Ghana, now one 12 months after returning to America and in addition shares poetic portraits and images he captured there.
I watched from the shore of Lake Volta in Ghana, the biggest man-made lake on this planet—about 250 miles lengthy and protecting 3,283 sq. miles—as dozens of sweat-washed African males joined collectively as one. They heaved beneath a baking solar, combating in opposition to crashing waves, the wind and sinking sand till lastly that they had pulled the mammoth fishing boat ashore.
With every pull on two taut ropes with no gloves, they chanted in unison phrases I couldn’t perceive. It was if their collective battle cry blended with grunts and willpower, and the cohesion of troopers, emanated from deep inside their spirits, every brother’s power and objective converging on cue and in euphonic rhythm for the laborious job at hand.
Many of the males weren’t fishers on this boat, although most have been certainly fishermen, not less than Voltarians, drawn collectively by a obtrusive and most urgent want. By their battle in frequent, and by the unstated understanding that right this moment I make it easier to and tomorrow you assist me.
It was, for me, a lesson in group. An train in brotherhood. An instance of the facility of many, transferring passionately and purposefully as one for one, with an understanding that particular person achieve throughout the context of group is a victory for all.
“Hey, are you simply going to take photos?” I bear in mind one man yelling to me in his thickly buttered Ghanian accent as I marveled close to trans-like on the cultural magnificence that appeared virtually ethereal. Among the males chuckled heartily.
“I’m not doing nothing, bruh. I’m doing far more than that,” I believed to myself, although selecting to not utter a phrase and persevering with as a substitute to seize the second. “I SEE you. And I hope to permit the world to see you as I do…”
White foam waves crashing. A mammoth blue fishing canoe being pulled ashore by Ghanaian fisherman. A portrait of true brotherhood and group.
Classes From Ghana:
No. 1: Discover Your Tribe. For in it, we reside and transfer and are impressed to satisfy our objective. Ghana made me extra tribal within the sense of discovering a deeper appreciation for who and whose I’m: A descendant of enslaved African Individuals upon whose backs, blood, sweat and tears, America was constructed.
In Ghana, the compound phrase “African-American” by no means held extra which means, was by no means for me extra empowering. This turned central to my restoration of cultural satisfaction and belonging as I dwelled in Ghana, the place I typically felt rejected.
As I mirrored on my tribe—the tribe of Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, Mary McCleod Bethune, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X and Dr. King, and the infinite litany of African-American artists, educators, establishment builders and freedom fighters, my soul was invigorated, fortified, revived. As I considered our travail, about our journey as human chattel from Mom Africa to the Center Passage within the pit of hate, urine and feces-filled slave ships that sailed throughout the ocean, which alone proved we have been the strongest amongst our brethren to have survived, my soul was uplifted.
As I engaged with and linked with these Individuals who now reside in Ghana—the African-American Affiliation of Ghana, Mama Bathroom, Gayle, Telie Woods and others—I discovered my tribe, my individuals—these inalterably tied to my historical past, coronary heart and soul. And I declared—to myself greater than to anybody else with satisfaction, renewed power and sagacity: “I’m undeniably African. And I’m unapologetically American.”
No. 2: Transfer Past Your Consolation Zone. Past our personal paradigm is a world full of data, variety and alternative to be taught and in addition share. Subsequently, search to immerse your self within the tradition and expertise of indigenous individuals. Eat the meals, drink the drink (inside cause and (ideally bottled water); and pack Imodium and a Z-Pak, simply in case). Permit your self to be enlightened, to be taught.
No. 3: Count on The Sudden. Our preconceived notions can debilitate and restrict us. And our unpreparedness for unmet expectations can go away us drifting in a sea of disappointment and incapacity. In Ghana, the facility will exit. The water will run out. All the things that works right this moment could not work tomorrow, and even by the top of the day (Strive an Airbnb by a Superhost: It may be a savior!). Not everybody will embrace you, however some will. Holding a wholesome perspective will be gasoline for the journey. And bear in mind: All the things can be all proper.
No. 4: Settle for Actuality. Imagine that it’s what it’s. Don’t attempt to change it: Somebody’s lifestyle. How they see the world or their place in it. Don’t impose your individual morality or Judeo-Christian, capitalistic western worldview. That is Ghana, not America. Our world of contemporary conveniences and expectations which have spoiled us to a point isn’t essentially the best way of the remainder of the world. You’ll survive.
No. 5: Keep linked. Be in contact with household again dwelling and with new buddies and associates (on the college, the U.S. Embassy and past). All can show to be a useful useful resource as you navigate overseas terrain and search to stay centered and inspired. (WhatsApp is a free and nice solution to keep linked to family and friends again dwelling.)
No. 6: Share your fact. Doing so may also help dismantle stereotypes. The extra you share and are prepared to be open and sincere, to be inquisitive and in addition earnest in your need to be taught from others greater than you’re wanting to “train” them, the higher the probability for a useful alternate. Hear greater than you converse. Sharing our fact is usually much less about what we are saying and extra about how we stroll each day in life and the reality that it reveals about who we’re—not solely as an American however as a human being and international citizen.
No. 7: Be Grateful. Understand the chance we possess, which may so simply slip by our fingertips. Maximize it. See all there may be to see. Plan excursions (however be secure). Odor the roses and the espresso! Take within the moments. For they’re fleeting. Pen them in actual time. Take lots video and images. Inform the story. (Making a weblog of your time overseas is a superb journey diary.)
No. 8: Be Humble. Sustaining your swag is one factor. However coming off because the ugly loud American is one other. Realizing that this notion exists is vital to understanding and coping with the generally less-than-warm reception of some native individuals. Courtesy and sort phrases can deflect or disarm. It doesn’t at all times work, nevertheless. And being humble doesn’t imply that you simply by no means deal firmly with points or conditions. (I used to be pushed on not less than two events to the sting of displaying my Chicago Wesssssst Siiiiide roots and vernacular.) However humility, with calmness and charm, I discover, are at all times a greater method.
No. 9: Put together for Reentry Blues. I used to be grossly unprepared for the combination of feelings of leaving Ghana and in addition of returning to america. The truth is, I used to be utterly unaware of the psychological, social, and emotional impression of each departure and reentry. Being conscious that there can be an adjustment to returning dwelling after a number of months to a 12 months of residing out of the country a world away is an effective first step. Having the ability to speak brazenly about my ideas and emotions was second step. And permitting myself the time—nevertheless lengthy it takes—to course of the expertise in its totality, I discovered, was crucial to discovering my method again to stage floor.
No. 10: Simply Get To It. At my worst second, vacillating between emotions of despair and ideas of wholesale abandoning my scholarship—amid catching COVID, and a college lecturers’ strike that threatened to remove the educating part of my Fulbright, somebody mentioned to me: “Simply get to it.” (Thanks, Maya Parker!)
So I did. I simply received to it— volunteering to conduct a collection of webinars for the College of Ghana—Legon, which ultimately started its semester, enabling me to show. I hosted a collection of different webinars for faculties and universities again dwelling in addition to for the African-American Affiliation of Ghana.
I carried out a bunch of interviews throughout Accra for my analysis, visiting church buildings and communities, markets and villages, and capturing a whole lot of images and numerous hours of video. I constructed a web site (www.hearafricacalling.com) to chronicle my journey as a Fulbright scholar, writing poems, tales and commentary and sharing images, video and podcasts.
Earlier than leaving Ghana, I designed and led a three-day capacity-building journalism workshop for greater than 40 Ghana Broadcasting Firm journalists on the invitation of the GBC’s inspector basic. When he contacted me, he mentioned he had come throughout that first webinar and, though unable to attend, determined instantly that he ought to invite me to talk to his employees. All of this by no means would have occurred had I not chosen to “simply get to it.” I’m eternally grateful that I did.
I nonetheless don’t perceive
Have but to understand
Her maintain upon
That breathes her in
With heaping inhalations
In deep denominations
Her tranquil swimming pools
Alongside rock-laden, sandy ocean shores
The place waves crash and roar
However this one factor I do know:
I miss Ghana
Even when I nonetheless don’t totally comprehend
One thing Particular Referred to as Jazz
Some name her Ghana. I name her Jazz.
Typically jagged and scratching the soul with dissonant chords that rise and fall.
She is the sound of cymbals that come crashing down.
Of generally staccato rhythms.
Of music that builds to a screeching crescendo
then out of the blue disappears into silence.
Jazz. Ghana is jazz. Sister to the Blues.
Descendant of the sacred hymnal.
Born of the drum.
Beckoning African solar to her youngsters throughout the Black Diaspora.
She reaches the soul just like the melancholy wail of Mile Davis’ horn.
Soothing. Lifting. Kissing blissfully.
Therapeutic the soul wearied by racial hate and disgrace,
and the ache of that centuries-old river
that flows with DNA Trauma of the souls of Black people.
By sufferings that gave beginning to the Negro Religious.
To hymns. To Soul Music, Gospel, the Blues, and Jazz.
I name her Jazz.
And I may by no means rinse my soul of her sassy rhythms and candy melodies
Of the best way she strikes me–grooves me–with psychological and religious surety
of being Black like me, right here on this place that exists on the opposite facet of my world.
Ghana is dwelling away from dwelling, deepening her maintain
Inflicting me to discover extra intensely the decision that led me right here
on this sojourn to the Motherland.
There’s something in the best way the aura of this land
Washes over me each day when the morning comes.
Like heat rays of golden solar.
That fills my lungs with the style of African breath, freedom & life
that I’ve by no means identified.
That claims to me, “Son, you’re dwelling.”
There’s something about the best way Ghana embraces me at evening
When the wind arrives to chill this ancestral land of melanin-skinned people,
The place brown and coal and shades of espresso with cream
kind a chocolate rainbow of humanity.
One thing about the best way this coastal African metropolis rises
With the hum and buzz of site visitors and hawking avenue retailers
on the Spintex Highway and throughout Accra
Amid the darting motorbikes that snake by site visitors with reckless abandon.
There’s something about this place. One thing…
One thing particular.
I name her Jazz…
Robust Black sister
Carrying the load
of the world
Beneath blazing African solar
Head lifted excessive
Child in tow
Wrapped in African material
Into the haze
Of site visitors
And this urgent crush of humanity
With out vainness
With runway mannequin precision
To the beat
of their hearts
To the whispering
Of their souls
That lengthy for properties
For some place
To put their heads
Apart from the streets
Upon unforgiving beds
With no pillows
For his or her heads
that honor their day-long strenuous labor & sacrifice
That doesn’t yield
Sufficient for sustenance & life
When morning comes
Arising to a brand new African solar
That pales compared to the glory
Of the splendor
Smoke fish on the wharf
Via the haze
Of sun-blazed Ghanaian days
As wood-burnt warmth
Rises from these nonetheless
No grass rising
Busy barren toes
Earlier than sunset
Fishermen mend and sew
Amid the scent of sea & humanity
In sand and grit
And huge canoes
Stretching for as far
because the eyes can see
As some right here now
Relaxation or Sleep
Amid this market’s
Coronary heart’s beat
roasts golden brown
And the bottom
With tiny fish
Coal to Brown
With souls of gold
And humble crowns
Illuminate this nook
of West African environment
With sturdy fingers and backs
That don’t break
And unwearied eyes
You may’t take
And the solar pales as compared
To their smiles
Upon Their Faces
Inside these ancestral faces
And of ache
Lie historical past’s disgrace
upon these hallowed grounds
and searing image
Of man’s inhumanity
to the Black physique
Of hidden figures
And by chains
and by hate
By centuries of that bloody
and inconceivable destiny
known as Slavery:
A “Peculiar Establishment”
Through which the new child of the enslaved
And for hundreds of years
this nice tragedy
Referred to as, “The Maafa”
The reminiscence of which some would now select to have
And Black Historical past whitewashed
As if somebody aside from us
Picked their cotton
As if we
didn’t dangle like unusual fruit
From poplar timber
Or face Massa’s whip
And myriad cruelties
Created by his limitless, hateful imaginations
However right here, rotten hate
for all of the world to see
In moist African clay
By impressed fingers
Crammed with grace
To inform the story
virtually past Creativeness
And the manifestation
That should not now
Or else smoothed over
by White Lies
Thou shalt not
silence these cries!
The jagged piercing wail
Of my ancestors dying
Of pregnant girls
And likewise demise
Of hearts capsizing
It’s the plain fact etched upon these faces.
On this most sacred of locations
That bears a narrative for the ages
Sealed eternally by blood
And a sculptor’s mud
as a substitute of pages
In these, my ancestor’s faces.
E-mail: [email protected]
John W. Fountain
John W. Fountain is a professor of journalism at Roosevelt College and a 2021-22 U.S. Fulbright Scholar to Ghana, the place he’s a visiting lecturer on the College of Ghana-Legon and researching his venture titled, “Hear Africa Calling: Portraits of Black Individuals Drawn to The Motherland.”