8. Ain’t no party like an African party, because an African party don’t stop!
After I checked into my new hotel, I called up Panama and met him and his wife at the Labadi Beach Hotel. A huge compound that stretches about a quarter mile down the coast line. It sits right on the beach, the only thing on the opposite side of the front of the compound is sand and water. In the very back corner of this huge piece of property, is the Polo Beach Club that sits on the sand and is an awesome situation. Open air, tons of cabanas, a huge pool that steps into the sand on the beach, deck space so you didn’t have to be in the sand and no matter how loud the music is, you’re close enough to the water that you can always hear the waves crashing in the background. They had a party there every day.
On this particular night, Mrs Jackson had a ton of friends in attendance. She introduced Panama and I to everyone, they were all friendly and welcoming. They had their own section with bottles and the whole nine. All the hits songs within the last 20 years from Black American popular culture played all night, mixed in with music that was clearly Black from other parts of the world. I had a very good time. At one point, Panama and I both turn around to look at the ocean behind us, the Gulf of Guinea. We took a moment to acknowledge how we African Americans were taken from this area in chains; now here we are, returned, but on vacation. Back in our ancestral homeland for the first time, but on vacation. In my mind, I imagine that European Americans feel similarly when they visit Far West Asia, except the circumstances surrounding the situation are completely different. Right as we were in the middle of talking about that, the DJ decided to crack that Soulja boy. Turn up! If it wasn’t a party before, it is now! I don’t care what anybody says, King Soulja changed the world. Twice. Just as I thought the night was coming to an end, Mrs Jackson magically manifested passes to the Afronation concert just down the road. She was the plug for fun all night!
That whole night was the start of one of the most life changing events I’ve ever experienced. First, I started to see the origins or American “Blackness” in Africa. At the same time I could see American “Blackness” influence all over the place. It makes the whole environment feel very comfortable and strangely familiar. I felt like I felt in Cuba, but better somehow. Could have been that I had constant access to the internet. Could have been that I had a lot less trouble communicating with everyone I met. I’m sure it was both of those things and a long list of other reasons.
The next day was Afrochella, it started at 2pm. I got there around 8:30pm. When in Rome, right? I was supposed to link up with the P man again and a few other people I knew in attendance. But that didn’t happen because I had no cell phone service at all while I was there because the place was filled with people with cell phones. Flashback to 15 year old OJ trying to explain how he didn’t want to go to the mall by himself to his father and him replying “Well, Pimps and Drug Dealers hang out by themselves all the time”. Comforting words to a young Los Angeles native in the 90’s, somehow. I had VIP access so I wandered around the enormous VIP section of the concert with a big red cup full of Hennessy because there was no Tequila and the line for the bar was out of control. After an hour or so of wandering around, I found out that there was a mobile WiFi booth at the back of the concert that was selling WiFi access for concert goers. Score! I had free access with my VIP ticket. Double score! As luck would have it, the P man and friends weren’t far from said booth. I took them to a spot at the concert I found earlier. It was all good times for the rest of the night.
The VIP section of the concert was split into a center section that was basically standing room traditional concert situation, closer to the stage. On both sides of this special fenced off area closer to the stage were VIP Cabana spaces where people who paid the cost to be the boss could sit down and enjoy the concert. The right side of the VIP featured an Essence Year of Return special set up where celebrities and their friends were taking pictures and mingling and what not. This special space created a gap of space on the right side of the stage. I found a view of the concert from behind the catwalk on the right side of the stage. So every artist walked to the right of the stage (which was their left, mine too), there I was behind them with a handful of other people who knew that area wasn’t supposed to be open and we probably shouldn’t have been over there. We were standing on huge wires, cords and all kinds of other equipment. There was no way we should have been over there having the time of our lives. But we did!
All of the unspoken rules of Black culture in America also apply in Ghana so the “nobody told us to move” rule was in full effect. We all saw the concert from backstage without actually being backstage. It was amazing. I saw the crowd get hype time after time again. I basically saw what the artist saw without being on stage. I wasn’t facing the artist, I was facing the crowd. Every artist had their back to us but they all came over to acknowledge us, the whole nine. I’ll never forget it. I could never be an entertainer, but I can see why people do it now. I can totally see how someone could love the stage but hate the fame. I wanted to hop on that stage and sing a song myself!