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.