Last summer I studied abroad in Accra, Ghana. Though I’m a first-generation Nigerian, this was my first time on the continent and my first time being outside of the United States for a substantial amount of time. It was illuminating and fun and dynamic in ways I couldn’t have prepared myself for. Before visiting Accra, I hadn’t ever been in an environment where the general majority of the population was Black. My features were so familiar that I often got mistaken for a native resident, people would stop me in the street and ask me questions in Twi. It was a precious feeling of belonging that I wish every Black person could experience. In many ways, the closeness I felt was merely an aesthetic one: language barriers and cultural differences made communication and connection processes I would have to learn and grow into. But a global system of anti-blackness offers up the Black aesthetic as inherently criminal/other, and therefore a significant unifying quality of identification.
I took a course at the University of Ghana on reproductive health and maternal mortality rates in Ghana and another course in Twi. As an art concentrator, I hadn’t taken many sociology courses and I found the reproductive health course fascinating as it covered statistics and trends about reproductive behavior in Ghana while also weighing the societal pressures that cause such behaviors. It definitely helped that our professor was a women’s rights advocate and activist and all-around brilliant woman.
We visited the site where traditional Ghanaian kente cloth had been invented and harvested fresh cacao. We also visited Cape Coast’s slave castle, which is one of about forty slave castles, built on the Gold Coast of West Africa (now Ghana) by European imperialists. This was an extremely emotional experience especially since the castles are kept in near perfect conditions. It was used as a site in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. We went to the beach, art markets and live concerts on weekends! It was one of my favorite summers.