I’ve always liked history! Since childhood, social studies/history has always been my thing ya know. Partially because I’m nosey and just like to know random information but also because I like to research the patterns of people. Unfortunately in our American public school system( which I was so privileged to be an attendant of, lol) young African Americans don’t get the full truth and mostly lies. There is no real connection built with the continent and our existence basically starts from slavery. So as I have made a conscious decision to start a life in Africa, it always takes me back to my childhood where I wondered, who were they before slavery? Well, this past week I was privileged to attend the bi-annual celebration and rededication to the Pan-African movement here in Ghana!!! This event was none other than the 25th Anniversary of PANAFEST!
This week was full of events to help you remember, honor, learn and reconnect with the land. So this post is dedicated to my reflection on this festival!
First, let’s discuss what Panafest is: Panafest is an event that takes place every two years in Cape Coast, Ghana, West Africa. This event pulls together Africans of the diaspora to commune together, learn with each other, celebrate and reestablish the next steps of the movement. Pan-Africanism is the concept that all Africans no matter where they are located on the globe are connected and should share a communal bond. So this event was the 25th anniversary and really a sight to see. There was music, food, lectures, rituals, tribal chiefs, repats, expats and everything in-between. There were many events but here are a few that really spoke to me:
- MUSA Dance Company: So this group performed a theatrical dance to represent how the Europeans were able to come into land and capture and trade African people. I am a huge fan of dance because I feel that some things are best expressed without words. So this performance really highlighted the emotion and confusion of the time. It also highlighted the civility of Ghanian culture before Europeans. The narrative Europeans had to tell themselves and continue to tell themselves about African people and other people of color is that we are uncivilized, uncultured, lack spiritual connection, etc. But this dance performance spent a great amount of time showcasing the liveliness of Ghanian culture during this time, the structures of government, and the human side of the people. They were not meek, dumb, silly or less than. These were people with full lives, families, a true society. It highlighted the trickery utilized as well as the flaws of a few Africans who participated in the trade of human cartel. It also didn’t shy away from the use of religion to justify and control the people. Overall this was a well-balanced picture, which was refreshing. When we tell our own stories we can provide the balance this dance performance did during Panafest.
- High-Life Music: So Ghana has this music called high life that is rooted here. It’s like go-go is to D.C, house music to South Africa, country and western to the south. It’s full of live instrumentation, upbeats, and dance! Recently the Ghanian community lost one of their high life music legends, so this year they had a whole showcase dedicated to high life! This was an awesome time because I felt like I flashed back to Kwame Nkrumah’s Presidency! I felt the culture, the heartbeat of the people. Really a cool experience to see the elders and the youth really enjoy themselves.
- The Redemption March: One of the most empowering experiences was the march back to the door of no return. As a woman born in America but proudly African, this was magical. Many people left those shores in Ghana never to return. But see the way God is set up, no man can interrupt his plan. The blood of my ancestors runs through me. To walk to that castle, enter it as a returnee standing on the backs of all the blood sacrifices of my people can not be described. What man meant to be a door of no return, God dismantled when all of these beautiful black people walked back through the doors of that castle. The street was filled with Africans native to Ghana and those who traveled far and wide to return. We all marched with white candles with an ancestor in mind, even if you could not call them by name. Dressed in white WE RETURNED. That night was full of song, dance, spoken word, words of encouragement and more. As the waves of the Atlantic ocean crashed against the castle wall as they have done for generations I am sure this time the footprints that left them were pleased with the ones that entered that night, Ase’.
- Emancipation Day/ The last bath: This was a great day! Literally all the elders, local chefs came out for emancipation day! In addition to the royal show down, there was this needed grounding moment at the slave river where our ancestors who were marched from various parts of the country and beyond came to take one last bath before they entered the castles. So in this river I washed, I gave thanks for their sacrifice, did a bit of grounding and smiled knowing I am the dream of the African who was boarded onto a ship so many generations ago.
Overall, I felt renewed in my purpose in being here in Ghana and really ready to continue the charge, leaving a footprint my ancestors will be proud of! What footprint will you leave behind?