I love Black women. I really do. We are some passionate, sultry, hard-working, multi-tasking, tenacious, phenomenal women and we know it. However, we often forget that our greatness stems from roots that extend far beyond the borders of this great nation we live in. We are so hell-bent on defining our place as Black Women in America that we often fail to realize that the Black Woman existed long before America was “discovered”. The oldest bones on the face of the earth are of an African woman, so please believe we have been present and accounted for since the beginning of time. Yet for some reason once we arrived on the East coast on that involuntary cruise ship, we somehow lost our connection with sisters in the global community of Black womanhood.

This time last year I was tossing around the idea of visiting Africa for the first time. No, there wasn’t some ray of light that shone upon my forehead one morning, accompanied by a voice telling me to go forth and exile my spirit to the Motherland. My sister had just married into a Ghanaian family and since my parents decided to travel to Accra for the holidays, I figured I’d tag along too. We all had an open invitation from her in-laws, so it was the perfect opportunity to see the Africa that exists beyond my remote control.

I went to Ghana with an open mind, willing to learn whatever it had to teach me about my ancestral roots that I read about in my high school history class. But see, therein lies the crux of the media’s portrayal of African culture. They often make the entire continent appear as if nothing has changed since we were captured centuries ago. As if time has stood still over there and Black America has marched onward, carrying the torch of our primitive ancestors who are still struggling over there in the desert.

Oh, but wait. They aren’t all struggling. Quite the opposite, in fact. And the poor, emaciated African women who all carry baskets on their heads that we see on TV were surprisingly difficult to find. My first experience with Ghanaian women was a clothing line launch and auction held at the Coconut Grove Hotel in Accra. While the women in the room excitedly waved their bidding cards in the air to claim the designers’ inaugural pieces, guess who sat silently because she couldn’t afford them? The longer I sat in the room with these women, it felt less and less like I was thousands of miles away and more like I was at an event right here in New York with friends.

This sentiment continued throughout my trip. The women I met listened to the same music that I did and laughed about the same jokes on television. We chatted about the same stories in hip hop culture and shared the same issues managing the naturally kinky hair we all have in common.

To be brutally honest, while my trip to Ghana was nothing short of amazing, I expected everything to be more “foreign,” as ridiculous as that may sound. It took some time for me to appreciate that the global community of Black womanhood has far more similarities than differences and we should tap into that connection instead of succumbing to these artificial lines of division that have been created based on geography. I look forward to the days when we are able to genuinely connect with our sisters abroad without clinging to the notion of a new American Black woman, and  encourage those who haven’t done so, to take a trip to visit your sisters overseas. You’ll be surprised to see how much you both look just like your (great, great, grand) parents.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tracey-Coleman/622661380 Tracey Coleman

    Thanks so much! It’s really about embracing our differences and learning more about our similarities so we can receive each other as a global family of sisters!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tracey-Coleman/622661380 Tracey Coleman

    Hi YelloKat – I actually did see the women with the baskets on their heads and plenty of poverty stricken people in the poor sections of the country. However, I had seen that before. We all have, on television and in movies, in our school textbooks and in documentaries. However, I wanted to show that there is another side to the countries in this great continent and just like everybody in America isn’t rich with money to blow on fake weddings, everybody in Africa isn’t living naked on the streets. Especially among women, we have far more similarities than we do differences and we should embrace each other as a community of global sisterhood instead of allowing our differences to tear us apart.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tracey-Coleman/622661380 Tracey Coleman

    @Whatever I was actually being facetious :) I did see the ladies with the baskets but my point is that if you believe television you would think that everyone on the entire vast continent lives in poverty and that there are no businesswomen or entrepreneurs or wealth in general to be found. I wanted to highlight a different side of this one country to reinforce the fact that we share many similarities in our cultures. I was annoyed growing up when teachers would classify Africa as a country because it is not. It is a continent with many diverse nations and I feel that traveling to visit them clears up a lot of miseducation that we are fed in the American school system and media.

Read previous post: