10. Slavery: The Prequel – Assin Manso
After about 5 hours of driving, good conversation and a few naps, we arrived at Assin Manso. One of the first things our tour guide for Assin Manso, Koffi, said to us was “Welcome home”. That wasn’t the first time a Ghanaian said “Welcome home” to me. Almost every Ghanian that asked where I was from said ‘Welcome home”. It made me feel pretty good every single time, honestly. He then went on to tell us that we are African just like he is African despite being born outside of Africa. We had family members kidnapped from somewhere in West Africa a long time ago. So basically all of our Grand mothers and fathers, several times back, have family and communities that they were separated from by force. Therefore we are African and Africa is our home.
Not going to lie, that hit me right in the feels. I knew all of this, but it felt different being told while I was actually on African soil by someone who was born on the continent. He knew our story and what we have been through. It felt like I went from knowing that’s what happened to feeling it. My perspective of this entire situation was starting to change. I felt a different kind of happiness to be in Africa. Koffi’s intro speech continues; he told us that we are the descendants of survivors, not slaves. Our ancestors survived being kidnaped and captured. Then had to endure the trip to the slave bath, a lot of people died on the way. They had to survive the slave bath process. They then had the trip to the slave castle. Being in the slave castle. The brutal trip to the Americas and everything that happened after that led to us being here now. A lot of people didn’t survive that journey. The people who survived were the strongest of the strong. We are the descendants of very strong people. Unselfish people. Our ancestors could have taken their lives instead of enduring the horrors that were ahead of them. Some people chose to take their own lives to avoid a life of bondage. He said that means that it’s our destiny to return back to where our ancestors were taken from. This survived so one day, we could be able to come back. Another solid falcon punch to my feelings. I fought back the tears and emotions.
He said all of that as an introduction. Before we went down to the slave bath, he asked us to take off our shoes for a few reasons. To make a solid connection with your homeland. To honor our ancestors for not being selfish, choosing to survive; because we could never show the same strength they did and also to give our ancestors, that did not make it, a way to identify us. The descendants of the family and friends that did survive.
I saw this whole tour on YouTube before I planned to go to Ghana. I knew about them asking to take off your shoes to go down to the slave bath. I thought to myself “if I ever make it over there, I can’t see me taking off my shoes, we might have to figure something out.” The video I saw was a tour with Wode Maya, a Ghanian. We are Americans, so our message because our path and situation is different from someone from Ghana. Makes sense. I did want to give my ancestors a chance to identify me. I did want to connect with my homeland, especially since everybody kept welcoming me home. I definitely wanted to honor my ancestors for not being selfish. I felt totally different standing there than I did when I was watching this on YouTube back in Los Angeles.
Looks like we figured it out. I, nervously, left my J’s behind, and began to walk the path of my ancestors; bare foot. After a few steps the phrase “I’m not my ancestors” popped into my head. I am definitely not my ancestors. Walking through the forest and the trees barefoot does not feel good at all and they did this for miles in chains. I wouldn’t have made it. When we got down to the cliff that overlooked the river that captives were bathed in, Koffi told us that there were untold riches in the river. When I looked down, I noticed there was something that looked like mud streaks from a flood. But I thought to myself “Is that gold?” It is gold. When you look step into the water, you can see tiny gold flakes dance across your toes here and there and the water feels great. We all took a minute to soak it all in, then tossed a coin into the river. Because as Koffi explained, “when you make a wish on gold, your ancestors must grant your wish”. I won’t share my wish, but I will say that I didn’t make a wish for myself alone. I will share that I felt like I bathed in the African version of the waters of Lake Minnetonka. It was amazing!
On the way back to the van, I saw a picture of Malcolm X they had in the courtyard and his famous words “Even my condition has been conditioned” started to echo through my head. That statement always said to me that Malcolm was aware that he was getting different and slighted versions of the truth. Truth that is truth, but still is a loss in the end or followed up with an insane lie. Truthiness. As brother Malcolm’s words echoed through my head, I realized that I wasn’t sad like I was prepared to be. I actually felt pretty damn empowered! Felix and Koffi talked about the atrocities that Black people had to endure but they also reinforced that only the strongest of the strong could have survived said horrors and atrocities and that’s our true origin. Not slaves or victims, survivors; the strongest people on earth. Now you’re talking my language! That’s what I call “winner talk”. I’d watch this movie! There is absolutely no space for any white saviors in this movie at all. All of them were complete monsters in this story, 100%. A cast of random Popes, Kings, Queens, Captains, Colonels, and all of the various Randy Randkowskis that worked for them. Even the guy who wrote the song ‘Amazing Grace is a terrible person! Over hundreds of years, a long line of awful people at every level. It would be a movie everyone could enjoy. The Greatest Story Ever Told.