So this one time, I went to Ghana for New Years Eve. It was awesome. I linked up with the homie Panama for a couple of days while I was out there; I had a blast. When I got back he asked me to write an article about my experience in the Motherland. I’m down. I was already writing lengthy instagram captions under the pictures I was posting while I was out there; might as well. I stopped posting my pictures and long ass captions to instagram and put all of my energy in writing the article I said I’d write. Well, a year has passed and Panama and I haven’t spoken about it since. Thats my fault. I’ve been going through some things.
In addition to that, this Covid not being able to go outside thing has really taken a toll on me. I haven’t gotten sick yet, but I’m openly terrified to get sick. Except I’m having a hard time doing what it takes to not get sick, so there’s that and everything that comes with it. This situation has turned my whole life upside down. I never realized how much my life depends on being able to go outside.
I’ll be fine, but this shit fucking sucks. Bad. I want to go outside. Bad.
However, I did have time to sit down and write the longest story I’ve ever written. It took me a while. I can’t say this would have happen at all if my weekends were filled with brunch and hair cuts and bars and the gym and family time and friends and outside types of activities and inside close to other person(s) activities and such, like they usually are. But maybe it would have? We will never know. But this did take me months to write. I also had a really hard time editing it because its long as hell and I get emotional when I read it back to myself. That led to me avoiding it for months. So if something is fucked up, thats why. I’m tired.
Writing it was one thing but this website was all fucked up, so I had to redecorate as fast as I could because I’ve been telling my friends and family…. and Panama, kind of… that I would publish this story. That took some time. One of the reasons I started this blog, years ago, was to tell the same story, joke or thought one time.
This long ass story is an accumulation of all the stories and perspectives I’ve shared with my friends, family, twitter and instagram. From “how and why in did you go to Africa?” to “do you hate white people now?” So now everybody has the same story if they manage to reach the end. If you mange to reach the end, eventually, thanks for reading! If not, then not thanks? I guess?
Either way, it went down like this…
1. The Cuban Connection.
One day at brunch, one of my friends casually mentioned how she learned how to surf on YouTube. I had no idea one could learn how to do something as random as surf, on YouTube. I’m a web developer so I rarely have a real reason to put on a suit and tie; but when I do, YouTube has been clutch! A tutorial on how to tie a tie seemed normal in my mind, but a person physically going to the beach and making videos on how to surf? I was amazed by this because I have been involved with a few video productions in my lifetime. So I have an idea of the effort it would take to film surfing lessons. I did not know that there were youtube videos with that level of production in existence, at the time. I could not believe that this was a thing random people did with their time. In the movie of my life the next scene is me leaving the restaurant, getting into the back of an Uber and trying to maintain small talk as I open my YouTube app to search “how to build a natural swimming pool”. Cut to me being shocked that there are indeed tons of videos on how to build a natural swimming pool. I was on my way back home but the path of my life took a sharp unexpected turn.
Earlier that day, at the barber shop, there was a random Home & Garden Do it yourself style TV show playing in the background. I remembered seeing a segment about a backyard that featured a natural swimming pool. I thought that subject would be random enough to use for a test. If there were any videos on the subject, I thought there would maybe be 10 at most. Wrong. I couldn’t believe there were so many videos on what seemed like an over the top random subject to me. There’s even a guy who’s channel is dedicated to making and maintaining natural swimming pools. I couldn’t believe it. I spent the next several weeks learning how to build a natural swimming pool for a backyard I don’t have. From the moment Shani casually mentioned learning how to surf on youtube, until present day, YouTube has overtaken the majority of my free time, my fake free time and not free time. It’s a problem.
However, my journey to Ghana didn’t begin on YouTube. It began in Cuba. In 2015, my cousin Nadia married a nice Cameroonian gentleman in Miami. I had a great time and fell in love with the beaches there. I mentioned this to an Uber driver while I was out there and he said “the beaches in Cuba are better!” At some point after that I did the modern day version of putting your thoughts into the universe; I posted “damn, I want to go to Cuba” onto one of my social media accounts. Shortly after that my travel time adventure friend, Liz told me that she wanted to go to Cuba as well and she knew a group of people who were looking to go. About 2 months later, I found out that president Obama clearly reads my timeline because he lifted the travel ban to Cuba. The universe works its magic yet again!
By the first part of 2017 Liz, the group of friends previously mentioned and myself, were in Cuba and we are poppin! But no one would know because the internet situation there is complicated at best. So no Instagram flexing for me. Which was too bad because a member of our group arranged a tour of the valleys of Vinales on horseback and it was a beautiful situation! We saw the endless tobacco and coffee fields, learned how to wrap a cigar, at some point we even rode a boat through a cave. For what? Don’t remember. It was cool though.
There were a lot of marooned slave artifacts all along the tour. Snakes carved into stone in the caves to guide escaped slaves on the run, a small town for marooned slaves and natives of the island that were also on the run from the spanish savages that invaded the island. They have monuments to the slaves that fought back and gained their freedom there. I didn’t know that was a thing beforehand. I was super caught off guard. My YouTube habit wasn’t a thing yet. The only thing I knew about Cuba was that there were old cars everywhere (but not really, turns out), Communism and the extra 30 minutes of BadBoys 2 that nobody asked for, but I am extremely grateful for. I love over the top action movies!
During the horseback ride, our tour guide pointed at a huge tree in the distance. A tree, he said, is only found in Africa. Kidnapped Africans planted it there a long time ago. The tree stood by itself, towering over endless green planes, the only tree that big for miles. I stopped and stared. It looked like one of the trees you see in pictures of African sunsets. It was a beautiful scene. I took a picture and said to myself, in my best Liz Lemon voice, “I want to go to there…”
By the end of my Cuba trip, it’s time to go to the airport but there was a part of me that didn’t want to leave; I couldn’t figure out why. There were no Lakers games, no Raiders games, there was almost no internet access, somehow there were no plantains in the whole country, marijuana is super illegal, no Uber, I don’t speak Spanish; there is no way I should want to stay here a second longer. A mystery.
When I boarded my flight I asked a flight attendant “do you all have blankets available for this flight?” She turns around and says “we don’t give out blankets for short flights.” Something about her tone, it was all wrong. It was so wrong I openly overlooked the fact that we were flying almost 6 hours from Havana to Los Angeles. 6 hours in a small seat is a long time in my eyes, but her tone has captured all of my attention, so I decided to focus on that. Her response didn’t contain a friendly or warm, “sorry for the inconvenience” tone. It was just a response. Which wasn’t out of the normal. I didn’t feel any type of way because she didn’t lead with “sorry, sir..” it wasn’t mean or nasty, not a hint of racism. But it definitely was not pleasant at all. She didn’t have to be pleasant, but her tone, it was all wrong. This is a common tone that I have never been offended by one time in my life. I didn’t understand why this time was different, but I knew I didn’t like it. Just as a retaliatory condescending squint starting to form around my eyes, I understood why I didn’t want to leave Cuba. The understanding felt like it came in the form of a creepy Joe Biden style hug from behind. Iit whispered in my ear, “hi. It’s me, racism. Did you forget about me? I think you did, OJ.” Indeed I had. Then to make the murder complete, this jerk didn’t even welcome me back. Damn. Mystery solved.
I spent 5 days not having to deal with white people at all. There are no white people in Cuba that aren’t tourists and there weren’t a ton of white tourists there because a lot of people didn’t know that Obama reads my timeline. It was wonderful! I was immediately devastated that I didn’t realize it until that wasn’t the situation anymore. I don’t hate white people at all, but I didn’t know I needed a vacation from them! For the first time in my life I wasn’t outnumbered by white people and there wasn’t a large number of white people for miles and miles. I’ve been to Detroit once and Atlanta a few times but it was nothing like this! A new experience that I didn’t know I needed. It was a surreal realization as I sat there looking at all the white people around me. I thought back to how everyone in Cuba was nice to me. I felt very welcomed. It felt like they liked that I was there. I felt like I had a little bit of privilege there. Especially from Cubans that were a deeper brown than I. I felt like I was more than a guest. I felt relaxed. Most importantly I felt like I forgot I was a Black person for 5 days. I didn’t realize it until I was on the plane. I’ve never felt that way one time, anywhere in America. I am reminded and have to remember that I’m Black every day; I have to take it very seriously at all times, even when I’m joking about it. It’s a matter of life or death. I got a break from that reality for 5 days. I was instantly hooked. I can only assume that’s what hitting that crack rock felt like to pookie in New Jack City.
I do not believe all white people are racist or hold a passive aggressive poor opinion of Black people overall, not by far. But well over 50%, definitely, for sure, without a doubt are racist or hold a passive aggressive poor opinion about Black people over all. So it was amazing to get a break from that. A vacation from white people. A vacation from racism. A vacation from being outnumbered. I had no idea this could be a real thing in real life. From that point on, I thought about it a lot. I talked about it with all my friends and even a stranger or two. I’ve been bitten by the travel bug. I hate to fly, but I’ll figure it out. I need to take these trips.