After a fun night in Kumasi and a good night’s rest at the Golden Bean Hotel, we woke up early to travel less than an hour to Beniase, the village where Justin’s father grew up and near the school we would be visiting. Our driver Leo and guide Sammie met us, and we headed out.
But first we had to pick up another passenger who was more familiar with how to get to the school. And he had a stop to make first too. I don’t think it was anything serious, but we made a stop by the police station to pick up his wife. I laughed as I had now visited a hospital and a police station in Ghana- two experiences I definitely hadn’t expected.
When we made it to the school in the village, my heart melted. So many beautiful, black children playing.
As we got closer to the school, we were welcomed by a group of students dancing. Then it really hit me. Looking at these students, especially the girls, I felt like I was looking at myself.
Posted by Summer Owens on Saturday, January 11, 2020
The students danced as they led us into the library which was sponsored by Justin’s dad. All of the educators of the school were seated as Justin, Nana, and I were guided to the front of the room. Unbeknownst to us, there was a full program, and we were at the head table.
Each of us had an opportunity to address the amazing educators. When it was my turn, I could barely get my words out without crying. I explained how being in Africa, in Ghana, my spirit felt at home. Seeing the girls with their short hair, I saw myself as a little girl. Seeing them and how beautiful they looked reminded me of how ugly I felt when I didn’t have ponytails like my sisters and friends. I thought about how amazing it would have been to have known that when my hair was low I actually looked just like my little African sisters. I actually was beautiful just like them. I just didn’t know.
After we each spoke and they prayed, I donated copies of my first book which includes the story of the little girl who felt ugly because of her “boy hair.” The librarian, and the teachers, were very grateful as they appreciated my story and needed more books about people of color for the library.
We spent several hours at the school speaking to the students in three different age groups. The youngest were still learning English so I got my first experience using an interpreter, in addition to my first experience as a professional speaker…speaking to youth in another country. Another continent. A continent where maybe only eight or nine generations before me lived.
When we left, we took a short drive to the next village where Justin’s father grew up. Today his father has a PhD in economics and has lived all over the world. He and his wife have a beautiful home in Accra, but this is where he grew up. He shared his journey with me including how he walked from this home several miles to school. He said he wasn’t even supposed to be in school but he walked with his brother. His eyes lit up as he shared his memory of getting his first pair of shoes, many years after walking miles to school. Seeing his home and knowing some of how he fought for his education and how that changed his life and legacy inspired me to push even harder in the work that I do.
As we walked up to the structure that was his home, I saw the cutest little girls playing. They watched me as I walked up and as I walked away, and I immediately thought of my own granddaughter and just how similar they were and how different their lives were at the same time.
Leaving the village school and Justin’s father’s childhood home was a humbling and empowering experience at the same time.
Then we headed to see Kente cloth being made, and I was amazed. I had no idea how intricate the process was nor did I realize the designs had meanings. It was beautiful listening to our guide explain the history and process on kente cloth making to us and even more fascinating watching the men making it.
And of course I had to give it a try…reminded me of when I made macrame friendship bracelets! So I sat on the low stool, put the pedals between my toes and tried my hand at it. I was a lot slower than than the pro, but I think with a little practice I could get good it.
And of course, I got my own little Kente souvenir. I even got to watch it being made.
Before leaving Kumasi, it was a beautiful treat to have lunch/dinner at Nana’s aunt’s house. That was one of the highlights of the entire trip from me, being in the homes of local people who also knew so much about Ghanaian history. Both of his aunts had years of experience and wisdom, and if you know me, you know how much I love an elder woman with wisdom she’s willing to share. She cooked for us, brought us out a bottle (yep), and talked to us. When I mostly listened, she lovingly but not lightly asked, “Are you shy or something?”. That made me laughed so I talked more as we ate.
When we took this picture, she called for me stand beside her, “Where’s my girl?”. That made my day.
Then we made the ride back to Accra. We napped on the ride because we were going out when we got back! First we had dinner. Nana and Natalie joined us and so did Pa, Justin’s amazing Ghanaian virtual assistant.
Then we headed to the Skybar rooftop for the second of three times we’d visit. It was Friday night, and they had a DJ and great music.
After a few great drinks, we headed downstairs to another restaurant we fell in love with.
It was like a typical bar at home with good drinks, hookah, and fun people. My speaker friend, Justin, had fun on the pool table. When I saw this shirt with BOTH of my names, I had to get a picture.
I think it was close to 3am when we finally left. We called an Uber (which we had done throughout our trip) and headed in.
We had a big day planned for the next day. We would be heading to the school in the village where Justin’s father was born and had grown up.
And we would have the incredible opportunity to speak to the educators and the students there.
I was beyond excited but had no idea just how deeply it would affect me. It had been a full, fun day. An enlightening journey. When we returned to the Gallery where we were staying, in my mind, I could see the faces of the beautiful students I had the amazing opportunity to share my #sowhat message with. I could hear their voices, and I could feel their hugs. And I couldn’t wait to get back to them one day.