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.

28 Comments

  1. E.M.S.

    I’m glad to hear they’re not much different than us. It shows that black people from other parts of the world have as many opportunities to live a pleasant lifestyle as we do here.

  2. It sounded like you mostly hung out with rich and/or Westernized folks. Believe me, if you had traveled to the rural areas, you would experience some sort of culture shock, no matter what kind of “education” you received about the country beforehand (even if it’s from natives of the country).

    Some Ghanaians are only proud of their Westernized, rich kinfolk (the first commenter already gave you props for highlighting the much overlooked 1% of the population) and it’s because deep down they are ashamed of what kind of “primitive” lifestyle or culture the masses lead because they are not accepted (at best PITIED) by white people.

    Newsflash: MANY African women DO walk around in the streets with baskets on their heads and they are just as beautiful as anyone else. Yes, MOST of them do it because they are poor (they are usually selling something) and because they need to feed their children but the only reason why it’s considered “bad” is because Americans said so.

    There is NOTHING wrong with “foreign” people. Africans ARE very different from African Americans. Black people ARE different from whites. But the problems arise when we begin to try to erase differences instead of respecting them, whether or not we can always relate to their experiences.

    • Hi YelloKat,

      I actually did see women with the baskets on their heads as well as very poor sections of the country. Both extremes of the socio-economic spectrum exist there the same way they do does here in the US. However, the media shows Hollywood on TV and when you go overseas people think everyone here in America lives in a posh apartment overlooking Central Park and walks around in Manolos all day. That perspective is also incorrect. The point is, seeing a country for yourself will help dispel some of the myths perpetuated on television and at the end of the day we are all far more similar than we are different and understanding that will help us see ourselves more like global family and less like estranged cousins.

    • 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.

  3. naadza

    i looooved this article! everything about it, africa is coming together Ghana is showing the world that africa can make it! thank you for this article

  4. Wonderful article Tracey. I can’t wait for my travel to Nigeria next month.

  5. Ghanaianbro

    I feel like a few of the commenters are missing the author’s point on balance. The point is that nearly ALL of the media you see coming from any part of Africa details how poverty-stricken the continent is. She is just saying that something else exists. I dare anyone to name me three movies that show any part of a thriving downtown in any African country, and I assure you that even when covering peaceful elections in an African country, the stock footage chosen by the networks will tend to be from the most poor village they can find (just as the reporters often the least informed brother or sister in the community when they are investigating a fire in the Hood), rather than conducting interviews in the capital city. She never said she didn’t see any women carrying objects on her head, just that there were also some people with their posessions in nice bags, riding in cars. That all said, I find this article refreshing. If you don’t know there are poor people in Africa, including Ghana, then you’ve never seen anything on Africa at all. But what the author provides is a new and necessary message – there is prosperity, there is wealth (both existing and yet to be realized) and while we appreciate any efforts to support our struggles, we are also proud to show how far we have come.

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