In the 90s, it was popular to engage in TQM staff training. Total Quality Management was supposed to teach people how to be more effective in their leadership positions. I don’t remember what, if anything, I actually learned about leadership but I will never forget the exercise that led me to write my goals in increments of 1, 3, 5, and 10 years. I still have the piece of paper where I wrote, “Go to Africa.”
My investigation into the continent of my origin began in earnest in 2001. As a local producer of The MAAFA and Sankofa Theater, both productions focused on the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, and both productions were very heavy community lifts. The MAAFA brought over 100 individuals from Brooklyn to Seattle, with Sankofa Theater becoming Seattle’s own version of this dramatic healing journey. Each of these endeavors required intentional community engagement and a large amount of volunteers. One of those volunteers was a dear friend, Delbert Richardson, who is now a much sought-after speaker and exhibitor with his award-winning and powerful The Unspoken Truths: American History Traveling Museum. During the time that we engaged in The MAAFA (a Ki-Swahili term for great tragedy), Delbert shared that he didn’t really understand the significance of excavating the deep history of our past then, the way he does now. His immersion has led him to assemble a vast cache of artifacts and information that has become a valuable teaching tool being used in communities, schools, and places of employment to enlighten and uplift the vital history of Africans and Africans in America.
Delbert’s travels to Africa are also enlightening and fun to witness, as he shares many of his experiences on social media and in person. On his most recent journey to Ghana this summer, he took along his wife, a good friend, and a mentee, and was able to witness their unfolding in the fullness of their heritage. He introduced me to both new experiences and some we have in common. For your own Sankofa return, Delbert shared the following recommendations:
You will likely immediately recognize the sculpture work of Kwame Akoto-Bamfo, the museum founder who has dedicated his work to archiving African history and heritage. The museum brings together African art, history, performance, drumming, dancing, traditional rites, and food as a means for healing from the legacies of African enslavement and colonization.
Delbert’s search for Adinkra imprinted fabric led him to the Makola Market, the largest market in all of Ghana, centrally located in Accra, and populated by a majority of women vendors. My last visit to the market was in search of a needed suitcase, which was easily located, along with anything else I could have wanted. Delbert and I agree that Makola is not easily described, but it is definitely worth the experience. Here’s a short YouTube clip to help you get the feel for Makola.
Caution: if you are not comfortable or find it hard to navigate in large, tight crowds, this is not the place for you!
If you travel about 40 miles north of Accra, you will find the area where many Black ex-pats have settled. California native Jerry Johnson has made Prampram his home since 2003, and while the roads are challenging on the trek to Prampram, do get there any way you can! The African Ancestral Wall is not only a place where African ancestors are memorialized on a wall that encases the entire area, but it is also a place made sacred by the efforts of Mr. and Mrs. Johnson. In addition to the photos provided by Delbert, here is a brief YouTube clip featuring Jerry Johnson.
And of course, all of the adventures will work up your appetite and we’re here to give you the 411 on our combined favorites because everything is better when the belly is happy:
Zen Garden Brings serenity to the city! Literally set in a garden, this is a restaurant that brings culinary delicacies from all over the world to your plate. And what’s better, there is a weekly schedule of cool events happening there to keep your entertainment palate sated as well.
Breakfast-To-Breakfast is around-the-clock goodness! Delbert is a morning person, so no wonder he would be attracted to a breakfast spot, but judging by the menu and the 4-star ratings, I’m betting he found his taste buds brightened there. Located in Osu, Breakfast-To-Breakfast is not just a name, they are ALWAYS OPEN!
It’s the ambiance, the live music, the outdoor setting, and my goodness, the food and the Aphro Spirits. Also located in Osu, Treehouse was founded by Ashesi University alum Kojo Bucknor. Ashesi was founded by Patrick Awauh whose ties to Seattle track back to the 10 years he spent at Microsoft before returning home to Ghana to start a whole university. That’s a topic for another edition, but Kojo has found magic and serves it up at Treehouse.
Delbert also highly recommends a guidebook provided by the Ghana Tourism Authority, The Diaspora African Return.
If Ghana is not your primary destination and you’re considering Senegal, it just happens that the New York Times recently ran a luscious article in the travel section, Baaba Maal's Dakar. These recommendations should also be on your must-do/must-see list!