Obamas Overseas, Part III (Ghana)

Words fail me because how do you describe something so unusual and lovely as the First Family visiting Ghana? The First Family being a black family, the president being half-Kenyan and his wife African-American? How do you explain the poetic beauty in such a homecoming of incredible magnitude nearly 500 years in the making? The descendents of slaves who were once shipped from Ghana to America to never see home again, the descendents of slaves who built the White House, now live in it. To see Michelle Obama, her mother and her two daughters experience the warmth of the people of Ghana was immeasurable.

More after the jump.

Black Americans and Africans often misunderstand each other, but we share a commonality that goes beyond borders and bloodlines. The fact that we could be divided by ocean and robbed of our names and culture, yet still keep the rhythm of Africa in our hearts is amazing. The fact that we, in music, recreated what is still evident on the continent in the form of baseline and drum. That essence that could not be taken away or driven out by devastation or assimilation. When I heard the drums beating for the Obamas in Ghana I thought how that drum beat represents the heart of all Africans and blacks. That the drum is what we share even when we don’t realize we share anything at all but skin color.

I once covered a college graduation where a young man from Senegal was finishing his degree and his family had flown in to celebrate with him. Friends and relatives, all Senegalese brought a giant drum to the graduation and much to the annoyance of the more staid and dull people around them, they began to chant and beat that drum throughout the graduation ceremony. While others bemoaned their rudeness, I was in rapture with their unbridled joy. Never had I see a group of people so happy and loving. When the ceremony ended, without a care in their heads, they formed a giant drum circle right in front of the assembly hall and continued to sing and beat the drum as the new graduate danced with his mother in the middle.

I remember grabbing the photographer I was with and telling him he should get a picture of them, but he was hesitant. He didn’t get it at first. He didn’t see the love there until he did take the pictures and look at them afterwards. The love on all their faces, the pride, a mother hugging her son as they danced to the beat of one glorious drum.

I have never been to Africa. My bloodline, like most black Americans, is filled other bloodlines. I am thoroughly American in my culture and upbringing, but in my heart is that same drum. I knew little about Senegal or its culture, but I knew the drum. It was buried deep in my subconscious, carried for centuries from relative to relative and passed on to me. So when I heard the drums in Ghana for the president, I felt it again. I wanted to cry. It sounded like a home. It sounded like a homecoming. It sounded like joy. I hope someday someone bangs the drum for me.

15 thoughts on “Obamas Overseas, Part III (Ghana)

  1. Aww danielle! That was beautiful. I’m Sierra Leonean and the tribe that I’m from was founded by freed slaves who were sent back to africa after emancipation. Yes I’m very much an african without an african name lol. I watched the coverage on tv for hours and I was filled with such JOY, especially watching them do the tour in cape town.

  2. Cool. This is super random, but kind of related to teh Africanness of this post – the character on LOST who played Mr. Eko’s older brother – the priest – is Krio in real life. I forget the guy’s name.

  3. That was beautiful Danielle. Thanks for capturing the American Black connection to Africa in words. It filled my heart with pride. I think we, as a people, need to hear (or read) this sometimes.

  4. I am moved by the face of little malia in this horror museum and i wonder if someone have seen tears on the cheeks of the guide. (sorry for my english i am a french guy and like americans we are not bilingual)

  5. I always wish I could join the sense of feeling of lost connection to Africa. But I can’t shake the feeling of the role so many (not all) Africans had in participating in the slave trade. Also, I have encountered so many educated, upper class and otherwise who don’t feel the same connection that many American Blacks feel with them, for various reasons. But this was a lovely story, nonetheless. It was amazing to see a Black First Family there, and the beautiful eldest daughter with a natural hairstyle. No wonder why so many reigh-wingers are losing their minds.

  6. This trip speaks volumes about Pres Barack Obama, he exposed both his daughters and wife to a important legacy, As a African American I have been bless with the experience of visiting those slave castles, and the emotional attachment that comes with the visit.Hopefully other black Americans will follow suit!

  7. African Americans should intermarry more with Africans in order to bring those bonds closer that have beeen broken over 500 years. This is how each will understand the others culture and perspectives in this modern world.

  8. Most African Americans have bought into the commercial idea of being African is to do with loudness, outrageous braided hairstyles, bare feet and dark skin, when it is far much deeper, I think even deeper than the ‘drum’ that the above writer stated.I believe everyone African or not should make a conscious effort to know more about their heritage, or just admit that they really don’t care, not try and conquer both. There will always be extremists who will try and be like what an African means, but really it is inside you, that is something that I agree with the writer of the article. It is inside you, no matter where you go, and it’s deeper than skin colour.I believe that if you’re not born in Africa or raised there, you should take time out to visit, I don’t think it’s good enough to speak about something you’ve never done or witnessed, especially when you take delight in it.Let’s all be proud to be who we are, if those who had never visited Africa visited, they might be able to combine their out of the box thinking with the situations and from first hand experience of the continent, they will be able to come up with better solutions. Don’t let something that happened centuries ago continue to deflect your natural course and path in life.(I know I’m sort of rambling.. but I’m just writing as it’s coming to my mind).

  9. Other than visiting slave castles, and further re-inforcing what they know, that they are slaves, they should also visit the various wonderful and breathtaking monuments in Africa, learn more about their specific heritage (if they can track it back). We should all move on from slavery, we really should stop bringing back pain. Once you forgive someone it is better to forget also or else you haven’t truly forgiven them.

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