The big ball of raging heat made salty sweat trickle slowly down my forehead. I covered my eyes for shade, and for protection from the small dust storms swirling through the air. I wished I had a bucket of ice to cool off.
When I was thirteen, my uncle Douglas took me on a trip to Western Africa. We traveled to Fort Ussher in Accra, Ghana. This is where hundreds of thousands of West Africans were held as prisoners in the mid to late 1400s and later transported across the Atlantic to the Americas where they were forced into indentured servitude. During their dreadful voyage on ships across treacherous shark infested waters, they were treated like cattle and given very little food and water. The individuals slept in terrible conditions, crowded together and forced to lie in each other’s feces, urine, and blood. They caught diseases, and when someone was infected, that person would be thrown overboard, even if they were still alive. I read on one of the displays that this faithful journey called The Middle Passage changed shark migration until today.
I have learned in school about this period in American history, but actually seeing it with my own eyes was far more powerful. For me, Fort Ussher may be the most historic structure in the world. Being at the place where thousands of Africans were tortured made me feel their pain as well. I could visualize the prisoners being beaten, not given any food, begging for mercy, and wailing like stray animals. I finally understood why my uncle wanted to go on this trip. He wanted me to understand what Africans have endured for years.
Experiencing Fort Ussher has helped me understand why I should be proud to be an African American, because my people survived this tragedy and their descendants are now thriving. This was only the beginning. In July of 2017, I traveled to Ghana yet again and volunteered at the Agape Academy International Orphanage. I helped with planning and implementation of the activities for the kids like sports, games, arts & crafts, movies, bus, and lunch management.
I love traveling. It’s been my passion ever since I was younger. The journey to Ghana was one of many trips abroad that I have taken that has positively impacted me as an African American. Another such trip that has been of great significance to me was my trip to Honduras. When we arrived and disembarked, my eyes lit up in astonishment. I was expecting to see individuals that look very different than myself. Instead, there were Hondurans of African descent there to greet us … singing, dancing, and playing beautiful music. I soon realized why they were there. These were the descendants of enslaved Africans. That was probably one of the greatest surprises I’ve ever experienced.
Our next big adventure was when I was fifteen when my uncle and I journeyed to China. During our tour of The Great Wall, hundreds of Chinese citizens wanted to take selfies with us. At first, due to the language barrier, I didn’t know what they wanted from me, but when they said “picture”, it made more sense. Many Chinese citizens rarely see an African American in person because not many travel to China. I felt like a celebrity, because they love seeing African Americans. It’s because there is a long line of African Americans who have accomplished so much—people such as Martin Luther King Jr., Frederick Douglass, Michael Jordan, and Arthur Ashe.
Traveling around the world has been a beautiful experience and it makes me feel extremely grateful. On my adventures, I’ve learned how fortunate I am, especially as an African American, to be able to live and travel comfortably. Now that I have had these experiences, I want to continue to help others around the world and give to those who may not be as fortunate.