Last year was my third time traveling to Ghana, my father's homeland and place of birth. My sister and I lived in Accra, Ghana as children with my Auntie Lydia and Uncle Steven, my parents for two years. The first two times I visited Ghana, I was with my family and far away from Ghana's colonial history. Last year, I was finally able to experience Ghana from the perspective of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade.

I went to Ghana with Dr. Marta Moreno Vega, founder of the Caribbean Cultural Center (CCCADI), to attend the 25th PANAFEST FOUNDATION, a biannual festival celebrating the latest in PanAfrican art, pedagogy and movements. I was able to meet Pan African legends such as Dr. James Smalls and a representative from Accompong, Jamaica (The Western Hemisphere’s first Maroon Nation).

We visited the Cape Coast, Elmina Slave Forts, and learned about the horrendous conditions my maternal Dominican – St-Kitts ancestors had to endure at the Forts. For three months, enslaved Africans were shackled to each other in dimly lit and ventilated dungeons, where the rebel rosters both men and women who denied being raped were disciplined. I kept asking the tour guide, “Where was this type of oppression founded?” As a historian, I am always looking to discover the origin of practices, thoughts and behaviors. 

He tried to rationalize the horrific conditions and said, ”Even the cow headers take care of their cows, feed them and make sure they are strong so that they can be at their best state to sell, but the colonizer didn't even do that. They treated enslaved Africans worse than cattle.”

As he told me his perspective, all I could think about is the irony and hypocrisy of European Christian Morality, which in reality is barbaric, uncivilized and backward — all the things Europeans project on Africans to justify bleeding Africa of its people, history, Gods, and resources. This type of systematic inhumane contradictory behavior is something Dr. Joy DeGruy argues is "cognitive dissonance."

I was able to step through "The Door of No Return" and retraced the footsteps of my ancestors who were forcibly taken from West Africa 400 years ago and brought to the islands of the Dominican Republic and St. Kitts. Through me, they returned to their motherland. My Dominican and St. Kitts ancestors endured, overcame, survived and thrived, to have families, and I am forever grateful they believed in freedom. Because of them, I am.

I believe every Afro-Diasporian who has roots in the United States, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Haiti, Cuba, Colombia and all the countries enslaved Africans were dropped should travel to the great continent of Mother Africa to see with your eyes, smell with your nose, feel with your feet and experience with your soul the beauty, brilliance, culture, expression and reality of our people. Many African Diasporans would see that we are, as Africana Scholar/Icon Danny Dawson proclaims, "a continuation of the African experience."

Know that when we pour beer on the ground for the homies, that is a continuation of the African practice of pouring libations. Or the (American south) Jambalaya + (Dominican) Moro + (Puerto Rican) Arroz con Gandules are all continuations of jollof rice, a West African dish. These are examples of what Africana scholar Joseph E. Holloway defined as "Africanisms."

Africana scholar Dr. John Henrik Clarke said its best:

"Africans in the United States must remember that the slave ships brought no West Indians, no Caribbeans, no Jamaicans or Trinidadians or Barbadians to this hemisphere. The slave ships brought only African people and most of us took the semblance of nationality from the places where slave ships dropped us off."

Going to Ghana was a cultural and spiritual pilgrimage that has forever transformed my life. I am forever thankful to Caribbean Cultural Center (CCCADI) and Dr. Marta Moreno Vega for the experience.