“This is your world. Shape it or someone else will.” -Gary Lew
This is one of the reasons why I do what I do.
We live in a world where there are several, easily accessible distractions from Self and the transformative power within.
I took a hiatus from blogging and public speaking to detach and recharge from all the energetic “stuff” that has been happening, to re-mind myself of what is true for me, and to stay grounded in this knowledge by seeing through the distractions.
We can become so accustomed to looking at social media, websites, and the news that these things easily become subconscious influencers.
The next time you scroll or flip the channel, think about what you really believe, what you really desire for yourself (and the world), and if the things you are entertaining and doing match those desires. If not, put down the phone (tablet, remote, etc.), wake up from the distractions, and do something different.
Recently I posted for the “Man Crush Monday” (#MCM) social media trend for the first time ever when I was visiting Miami Beach, Florida with family.
We left the beach and walked to a nearby restaurant. A very attractive host greeted us with a dazzling smile and sparkly eyes. He was approximately 5’10” with a fit physique and perfectly sprinkled salt and pepper hair. I noticed his universal attractiveness. (Many people smiled or gasped at his appearance.) Something else that made him attractive was his kindness, patience, and that he legitimately provided great customer service. (During our trip, we discovered that not every place provided the best service, so this was a plus.)
After brief thought, I decided to post about him using the MCM tag, not only because his looks were breathtaking, but also to promote the restaurant, which served good food too.
As I mentioned, I don’t normally post for the “Man Crush Monday” or participate it in, but I decided to do something different. I posted a few pictures with him on my Instagram account and a few of the restaurant.
The first response I got was condescending. I won’t repeat the words in this post, but I will say that it was clear why the person wrote the message.
You see, the handsome gentleman at the restaurant had green eyes, short straight hair, and he was not Black. He was Cuban.
I wasn’t going to write publicly about this, but I do realize that I need to “Go There” and talk about “Race” again on this Metaphysical blog site.
I am a Black female whose ancestors were slaves (and some slave owners to be real about it). I was born and raised in the South where I have been discriminated against, called names, and prejudged because of my skin color. I am a proud descendant of slaves, knowing that I am alive today because of their mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual strength.
My parents were strong enough to survive segregation and the pains of going through the Civil Rights Movement. This wonderful DNA is in me now. Their evolutionary spirits are in me now. I am proud of who I am.
With this being said, I have always been attracted to men, whether they are the same skin color or not.
When I was in elementary school, I had a crush on a classmate named Owen. He had blonde hair and hazel-green eyes. Unfortunately, I was not blind to our differences, so I asked a female adult “mentor” how she would feel if I liked a White guy. Imagine a six or seven-year-old asking you this question. The “mentor” said, “I prefer you stick with your own kind.” As a very young child, I felt disappointed with her advice and felt like she was telling me that my feelings were wrong in some way. I also wondered, “Why did she say, ‘kind’? Aren’t we both human?”
Despite my disappointment, I continued playing with Owen on the playground and cherished my time with him. He was fun and affectionate. (As affectionate as you can be on a rated G level). Neither of us said anything about liking each other, but we always found each other and played together until the time was up.
One day, I was given the opportunity to transfer to a new school and my teachers and classmates knew I would be leaving soon. Owen and I kept on doing our “play dates”.
On my last day, I overheard and witnessed two classmates picking on Owen. They said to him, “Ha-ha! That’s why you like a Black girl! That’s why you like Dana!”
I felt happy and sad at the same time. Happy to know he liked me back. Sad to see him get pushed around and picked on for liking me. I transferred to my new school and never told him how I really felt.
I learned my lesson though. When high school rolled around, I didn’t hold back. My “high school sweetheart” was a 6’3”, blonde haired, and blue-eyed football player. It was during the relationship with him that I learned not to focus on what other people thought about me.Black and White people alike called us names, stared at us nastily, and had underhanded things to say about us being together.
In my mind, I kept thinking, “This is so crazy! They don’t like this because our skin is different! What century are we in?” As the behaviors continued, my thoughts changed and my fear dissolved. I gained clarity. I began to recognize, “They don’t like this because of their ignorance. They don’t like this, and it’s THEIR problem, not mine.”
I’m not blind to our history and the painful things that continue to happen in our world today. I am not blind to the stereotypes about Black people and how we are wrongfully portrayed in the media. But, to try forcing myself or anyone else to be blind to LOVE just because a person is a different skin color or culture is completely inhumane to me.
I love who I love. He can be as dark as the night sky with a smile like the moon and eyes like stars. He can have hair as light as sand and eyes as blue as the midday sky. I love who I love, and I have the freedom to do so.
We, as humans are beautiful. We are culturally diverse and flavorful. Ultimately, we are made of dust. No matter our skin color or our culture, when our physical bodies die, they all return to the Earth.
This is the SAME Earth we share right now, while we are living.
It may be surprising for you to read the statements in the picture above, and then refer to the purpose of this blog which addresses: mindfulness, spirituality, consciousness, and intuitive awareness. However, the challenges mentioned above are pains that people are experiencing every day. Therefore, these issues are a part of our consciousness as humans. In other words, these events are reflections of things within our mindset and collective thinking as a race of human beings.
Ultimately, these are things that can be changed.
How do we change them? It starts with first acknowledging that these things are happening.
We have created these issues in our world, and it is time to transform our collective thinking and our approach to them.
Part of my daily service as a Professional Counselor involves working with marginalized and stigmatized groupsof individuals such as people with mental health diagnoses and people with addiction challenges. Almost all of my clients have experienced some type of trauma in their lives as well (abuse, military-related, assault, gun shot wounds, etc). As a Trauma Therapist (and from life experiences), I have learned that abused people, abuse people…if the cycle is not broken. People who experience abuse and hurts from another often turn around and inflict pain onto others. It is fascinating to sit back and observe what we learn from the people around us and closest to us.
Here are some examples of what I hear from the people that I serve:
“I was raped when I was 5, by my uncle. Then my cousin raped me again when I was 10. I don’t trust men, and I don’t like being around them.” – 47 year old woman addicted to crack cocaine and diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder
“I cut myself because it eases the pain. I was abused all my life, and I still get angry. I know that if I allow myself to get that mad, then I will black out and hurt someone, so I hurt myself instead.” – 28 year old male diagnosed with Depression
“I was told that I was worthless all of my life by my dad. My mom and dad got into fights all the time, and my mom left. Then, I was molested by a man. I don’t trust nobody. I don’t like to sit with anyone behind my back. I got attacked a few years ago, and I got shot. You can’t trust people.” -40 year old male addicted to cocaine, alcohol, and pain medications and diagnosed with Schizophrenia
“The world is so different now. I was in prison for 15 years for marijuana charges even though I didn’t have a weapon, there was no violence, and nobody was hurt. I don’t know where to begin now! My family is distant, and I am having a hard time finding a job. They don’t want someone who has a record.” -50 year old African American male
Sometimes we end our group counseling sessions with this:
“Let’s have a moment of silence for the addict that just picked up, the addict that just died, and the child who has no say in the matter.”
Examine all of the statements above. Pay attention, and you will notice that at a deeper level, the root of all problems is spiritually based. Even if someone does not follow a “religion”, we all have some form of Spirit/Energy/Life Essence within us. We heal ourselves and others by addressing Spirit.
What does it mean to “address spirit”? It is when we take the time to break free from the mental, emotional, and spiritual trap of the “rat race”. The rat race is when we go to jobs, work several hours to make money to pay bills, stress ourselves over the bills or the amount of time we work at the jobs, and literally work ourselves to death because we associate jobs with freedom, stability, and purpose. This cycle of self-destruction can lead to lack of empathy or disconnection from self and others.
Don’t get me wrong. It is clear that the current economic system within which we have chosen to participatein relies heavily on monetary exchange for goods and services. I am not discrediting it totally, but I challenge you to think about the ways this has affected your relationships, sense of freedom, and self-image.
If an abuser was once someone that was abused, and a convicted felon was once a father trying to make ends meet because his family was in poverty…what would you say is your experience?
Many people forget to take the time and appreciate Life, in the present moment. It is priceless to take a moment, breathe, and really BE PRESENT with yourself.Take the time to notice what you are feeling, be aware of what you are thinking, and engage with your environment. Every living being needs to feel a sense of belonging and connection.
We walk around and ask each other, “How are you?”, but are we willing to listen to the real answer?
We are powerful change agents. The world we live in can be a place suitable for all living beings, but it takes for all of us to contribute to this world collectively in positive ways. We are the peacemakers, healers, and resourceful beings inhabiting this planet. We must understand how important we are to each other.
The next time you see someone, instead of hiding in technology, rushing off quickly, or ignoring the person, simply make eye contact and say hello. Your moment of connection just might be the small gesture that keeps the person from believing that there is no hope in this world.
Communication is the most important aspect to any and every relationship. There are different types of communication: Verbal, Nonverbal, and Paraverbal. PLUS, your Energetic Space/Aura/Overall Vibe communicates to others as well.
As a counselor, coach, and speaker, I am constantly communicating. However, I too have made the mistake of misjudging or making assumptions while communicating with others (especially in my personal life). These mistakes can be costly…leading to hurt feelings, lack of depth, and even loss of the relationships.
Maybe you just celebrated Valentine’s Day or an anniversary of some sort. Good job, you’re on the right track! Now, take a step back and see what your partner, friend, coworker, etc. is communicating to you. We can dive into the different types of communication here:
Nonverbal Communication– Most of our communication is nonverbal, meaning it is not what we say, but everything else. You may have heard this before, but let’s break this down into 2 main parts of nonverbal communication.
1. Proxemics-This is a fancy word that describes how physically close the person is to you, or you to the other person. Typically, the more physical closeness indicates more intimacy (emotional, mental, physical, etc.)
2. Kinesics-This is the fancy word to describe what most people would call body language. This includes movements, gestures, and facial expressions
Paraverbal Communication– Our vocal part of speech, which is our tone, volume, and how fast or slow we talk.
I am often a fast talker. Get me excited, and I talk faster. When I work with the people I serve, I am mindful of this, and I adjust. It makes a world of difference to have an even pace and a calm tone.
The way you say something matters!
Examples: “I didn’t say you were dumb.”– Say this with an even tone. Now try this one, “I didn’t say you were DUMB.” -Emphasize the last word. If you say this out loud, you can see that one of them is not meant to insult, whereas the other may cause conflict.
Of course, the other type of communication that I will address here is…
Verbal Communication: It is the use of words to relay a message or express an idea.
This is where many of us get caught up. In the emotional tornado of a moment, we might forget to pause and use mindful communication instead of emotionally driven words.
Let’s tie this in with conflict resolution. If there is conflict, I ask that you try these two things: Be willing to be wrong. Be willing to apologize.
Just an FYI: Conflict is a natural occurrence. The term has been blown up into great proportions meaning war, fighting, and death, but in reality, conflict is a simple, and organic process. Conflict arises because there are different perspectives within the same situation or regarding the same topic. It’s just that simple. We are individuals, so by default, there will be times when we do not have the same point of view. That is the core of conflict. It has been over-sensationalized through media. (That may be for another blog).
One of the keys to facing conflict and communicating effectively is to use Mindful Communication.
7 Core Guidelines for Mindful Communication: 1. LISTEN(And appear like you are listening)-As a counselor, I have gone through several hours of training to be more present with others as they share with me. We call it active listening. You don’t have to be a therapist to actively listen. The concept is simple: Make eye contact, don’t speak-unless you are affirming or encouraging the other to continue sharing, keep your body open, LISTEN FOR FEELINGS, and SEEK to UNDERSTAND what is being said.
Mindfulness Tip for #1–Detach emotionally. Keep in mind that the person you are listening to has something that he or she needs to express. Think to yourself, “Let me be here now. There is something that this person needs to say. I am listening.”
2. REFLECT or RESTATE WHAT YOUR HEARD-Do this BEFORE you share anything about your point of view.
Sometimes this step gets lost. Unfortunately, I have been guilty of this at times. For example, if your partner says, “I worked really hard to get those things that you wanted taken care of, and you don’t appreciate it.”
Be mindful and attentive to these things about your partner: Tone of voice, Energy level, Facial expressions, and mood. Notice…how close is the person to you physically?
Before you start saying your response, do this: A) Listen for the feeling being conveyed; B) Make eye contact (non-threatening); then C) Start with a statement acknowledging what you think you heard. “I hear you saying that you don’t feel appreciated for the hard work you did for me.”
3. CLARIFY: After you restate, check in with the person to make sure you got it right. “Did I hear you correctly?”Truth of the matter is that the person will let you know what’s up and if you got it right. This part is VALUABLE. Clarifying gives you the opportunity to understand the other person. At the very basic level, we communicate in order to express ourselves and to be understood. Understanding someone does not mean that you agree with what is said. It means that you are grasping the view of another’s perspective. Once you have gained clarity, then you can share your point of view from a more accurate perspective because you are identifying the real “issue.”
Mindfulness Tip for #3–Be patient and BREATHE. Take a moment to reflect on the person’s underlying message. Do not get swept away in emotions or the person’s emotional response. Ask, with the sole intention to get clear on what the person is saying.
4. OWN YOUR THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS, and share them: Use “I” statements instead of “You did this…”, “You make me…” etc.
Example: “When you say that I do not appreciate you, I feel hurt. I understand what you are feeling and what made you feel that way. I did not see it that way, and I was not aware of your disappointment. I have been working several extra hours each day and I feel more tired than usual.”
Mindfulness Tip for #4–Take a few calming, deep breaths and FOCUS ON YOUR HEART chakra. This is the space where you have affinity for others (and self). Speak from this place.
5. CHECK IN AGAIN AND SUMMARIZE: Allow the person to reflect back to you for clarity. (Make sure to use all the other skills mentioned above if needed.)
6. COMPROMISE/RESOLUTION: Remember the main reason for conflict? It is because different perspectives are related to the same situation. Often, there is a common ground or a space for compromise. During this step, request or offer a solution.
Example: “What would you like for me to do differently?”
Apply the skills from steps 1-5 again. Stay on the same topic! Focus only on 1 thing at this time.
Mindfulness tip for #6–BREATHE and remember that A SOLUTION IS ALREADY PRESENT
7. RE-ADDRESS the concern later on: This step might not be needed every time. However, if you and the other person aren’t able to address the issue well enough at the time it is presented, set a date to come back to it. A refreshed point of view about a conflict can make it easier to resolve.
Take these steps into consideration every time you are communicating with someone. This is the practice of mindful communication. It aids in developing healthy communication styles, preventing or resolving conflict, and developing a greater level of understanding.
Communicated with love, Dana D. Robinson (Intuitive Dana)
What would this world be like without music? I cannot imagine. I grew up with a passion for music. My earliest memory of it is when I was approximately 2 years old, hands held high for my mother to pick me up, but she wasn’t able to because she was hand- washing dishes. She looked down at me and said, “Not yet, wait one moment honey.” She began humming and singing a soothing song as she cleaned. I recall slowly putting my arms to my side and listening to her while feeling peace in my heart. During my early childhood, my two oldest siblings took piano lessons. They would come home and play the songs that they learned. I would ask them to play the songs, laugh contentedly, and then ask them to play the songs over and over again. Eventually, they became annoyed or exhausted and stopped. There came…
Approximately 5 days prior to my return from my journey in Ghana, many people started messaging me frequently. Most of the messages said one of two things: “When are you coming home?” or “You’ll be coming home soon!” I kept on receiving those messages almost daily. I felt conflicted when I read them. By this point, I had gotten accustomed to being away from the US, and was excitedly exploring areas of Ghana on my own.
In the beginning of the trip, I was anxiously trying to make sure that I had access to wifi. I have this app on my phone (that I will keep anonymous for now) that allows me to communicate with anyone across the globe who also has the app. The more that I let go of my fears about being overseas, the less that I looked at my phone to see if there was a wifi connection. So, by the time I had reached the closing of my trip, I really did not overwhelm myself with using the app, unless I was talking with the locals and a few friends.
Plus, part of the conflict I was experiencing was because I kept thinking and wanting to reply, “I AM home.”
I loved walking freely down the streets with the locals, smiling, wearing my summer dresses, eating fried or fire-baked plantains, slurping down the sweet chunks of local pineapple, and having heartfelt discussions with fellow young adults about ways we can unify our world.
I was definitely Home.
Yet the time came for me to leave. I was very upset, but checked in with my heart and got clear: “All is in Divine Order and there is a reason for my return at this time”.
I got on the plane heading back to the US. It was going to be at least an 11-hour flight into JFK airport, and then another 3 hours or so back to Atlanta. I wanted to stay awake for most of the trip, so I decided to watch movies while I was on the plane. There were several choices, but I was drawn to two particular films. I watched Selma and 12 Years A Slave during my flight back to the United States of America…coming from Ghana, West Africa.
Notice any irony?
Needless to say, I am not sure what drew me to those films (and I knew what they were about), but watching them during the flight had more of an impact than I had imagined. I cried, felt disgusted, and was reminded of another fact about the foundational history of the place I was heading to.
So many thoughts and emotions rolled through me. My parents, who are in their late 60’s and early 70’s now, were once forced to use public amenities that were for “Coloreds/Blacks Only”. They went to schools that were segregated. They saw the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. inreal time. My dad marched in demonstrations, and I recalled marching with him and local members of the community as a very young girl in order to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr’s activism when he visited my home town. (Where he was arrested, by the way.)
Then I landed on US soil. I made it back into Atlanta, Georgia, and attempted to re-assimilate myself into American culture by catching up on the latest news. The first thing that I heard about was another shooting of an African American male. I turned off the news and sat in silence for a few hours. I felt numb and heavily detached, because I knew (and know) that this does not have to be.
Not long after that, the shootings in Charleston occurred. Once again, I thought about my experience in Ghana, and then recalled what I was witnessing here in America. It was challenging to go from an environment that oozes with freedom into a place that began to feel oppressive and constrictive. But I always remember that I have choice, andI can choose my own thoughts.
From our thoughts, our feelings and behaviors are affected. We can choose to interact with our environment from an intentional and positive mindset.
Yet, I still chose to reflect upon the history of America…briefly.
Many Americans know that this country was built from the desires of ego-centered men who seemed to have lacked understanding of the True Essence of humanity as a whole. Here it is, the 4th of July, where many of us Americans celebrate Independence Day. Yet, what is really being celebrated? The signing of the Declaration of Independence is not completely about freedom. (I also learned that some colonists did not sign it until an anti-slavery clause was taken out of it, but that may be for another blog post.)
Essentially, the 4th of July is celebrated because the colonies chose to declare their independence from Britain. The colonists were upset with Britain because they were being taxed, feeling stressed, and various rules were placed upon them that they did not like. But think about it…aren’t these same types of taxations and rules in existence in the country right now?
So I ask you, “What are you celebrating?”
I love this line in Bob Marley’s Redemption Song:
“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our mind.”
One of the reasons I named my company Metaphysical Freedom is because Freedom first begins in the mind. For example: The colonists who declared their freedom from Britain first had to THINK they could be free from British rule. The slaves who fought for freedom first had to THINK that they could be free. The activists who marched for Civil Rights first had to THINK that change was possible.
I encourage you to recognize the power of your mind and the unshakable freedom that you have from owning your own thoughts and creating your experience from your authentic mind. Not from what someone else has told you, and NOT based on history. History does NOT have to repeat itself, and would not be able to if we renewed our minds and evolved.
You and I KNOW that there is a better way for ALL of us to live on this planet, and that is in HARMONY with it and each other.
I mentioned in Part 1 that earlier this year, I traveled to Ghana, West Africa and stayed for a month. In my time there, I learned a lot of positives about myself and the Ghanaian culture. I also recognized some of my own stigmas, and challenged others’. However, there are some things that I learned which opened my eyes to the reality of the challenges we face due to our ego-centric human nature and history. Through my next set of posts, I will address some “ugly truths” that I developed a better understanding of while being in Ghana.
As I shared in the first post, there were several people from other countries visiting Ghana. Due to my naivety, I thought that the majority of these people were tourists or volunteers. When I spent more time in the country, I paid attention to the landscape, noticed the architecture, and witnessed the different “classes” of people.
There were notably many people from China, India, and France in Ghana. (Through conversation, I learned that there are many people from these countries who reside or visit Africa in general.) I have seen videos of other African countries with “foreigners”, but the experience is different when something is observed firsthand.
I saw extravagant hotels, numerous casinos, and fancy apartment buildings in Ghana. When I asked the locals who owned them, I was surprised to know that most were owned by “foreigners”. These luxurious establishments were in the middle of cities with shack houses, cramped market spaces, and unstable roads. In the least, they were hard to miss because they appeared to have higher quality construction.
Why, you may ask are all these businesses there? Well, think about this: Which nation/continent is one of the largest leaders in cocoa production, has lots of oil, precious metals, diamonds and gold? You got that right. Africa.
I was bothered to not only to witness the economic disparity among the native Ghanaians, but also to observe the ways that the people were being taken advantage of by “foreign” businesses (example: Paying workers far less to run million-dollar businesses). I talked with many educated local businessmen who expressed that other countries are investing heavily in the continent of Africa and its countries. I learned that treaties were formed centuries ago that have left the people with little to no input or income when it relates to the extraction, use, and distribution of their resources.
It is funny to me that a great amount of the American publicity about the continent has been geared towards driving people away from Africa, or displays the people as poor and impoverished. Yet, I clearly saw that other countries see Africa as a rich continent filled with resources and wealthy opportunities.
I am not against people thriving and doing well in their business and economic endeavors, but I do not vibe with groups who take advantage of and oppress another group for their own gain.
It is once again, another form of slavery. The Ghanaian people are very kind, open, and non-violent. Their hospitality is nothing like any Southern hospitality I have experience in the United States. But, something is missing. They are rich and do not know it.
The long-term effects of colonization have left several of the people with a case of learned helplessness. I will talk more about the long-term effects of colonization in another post.
However, a crafty way that I can explain learned helplessness is like this: A person desires to get help with turning off a light in a room. The person is facing a wall, and the light switch is on the opposite wall that the person is not looking at. Due to the person’s history and past experiences, the person was made to believe that he/she cannot help him/herself. So, this person asks every other person who comes into the room for help with turning off the light. In reality, all that the person has to do is turn around and flip the switch.
When I roamed around Ghana, a lot of the people expressed that they want to come to the US in order to find jobs and make money. Almost none of them said that they wanted to have their own businesses and thrive in their own country. I couldn’t understand it. I felt like they were in a land overflowing with wealth, yet they were seeing it only from a limited viewpoint, and a very negatively skewed one at that.
It appears that their view of their situation is a result of a centuries old “(human) race consciousness” that supports limited awareness of personal strength and freedom. I desire for the Ghanaian people to know how rich they truly are. Food grows almost everywhere, the air is lively and basically unpolluted (most places I went), and the land has a wealth of resources.
These ants did not question if they could build this structure. They knew they had the ability, worked together, and did so, unencumbered.
To my Ghanaian brothers and sisters (and you the reader):
Do not look outside of yourself in order to discover riches. See who You Are. You Are already Rich and well-equipped. Tap into your innate strength and wealth.
I toured a small portion of the country and gathered as much information as I could about the people, culture, language, and customs. Most of the Ghanaian people are Christian, and there is also a large Muslim population as well. The day after Easter Sunday, I visited the beautiful Aburi Botanical Gardens for an Easter Monday festival. There was a live band, picnics, dancing, singing, games, and lots of food everywhere. I noticed the FREEDOM of the people, unlike anything else I have ever experienced. Everywhere that I looked, everyone was walking around confidently, laughing, smiling, and LIVING in the moment. I loved every moment of it!
Without me saying a word, people noticed that I was “different”and often asked if I was African at all. A few people said to me that my skin was too light, so they were willing to believe I was from South Africa. I found that hard to believe, because I have a brown complexion. (Then, I jokingly thought about the 13% of my lineage that is European.) After this happened frequently, I learned very quickly not to be bothered by these statements because I knew that it was only curiosity.
I met two young men in their 20’s at Aburi. Their names were Francis and Joe. They were excited to meet an American and asked me hundreds of questions. The first thing they said was, “Are you a Black American?” I nodded. Francis and Joe expressed that they wanted to come to America so that they can have jobs and live a good life. I did not want to discourage them, but I was realistic and told them that many people in America are having difficulty finding work. They looked puzzled so I explained more about the American economy until they understood.
I asked Francis and Joe for their Ghanaian names. With hesitance, they told me. Then, they asked me what my African name was. I told them that I did not know. They looked so surprised at me and asked why I didn’t know. I had to explain to them how slavery impacted my family (and many others) to the point where I could not tell them my whole lineage or my ancestors’ names. They continued to look surprised and a little empathetic.
We continued our conversations and talked about several issues facing each country. I wanted them to know how much freedom they truly have and how amazing life can be, right where they were. I ended up talking to them for a few hours, but it was worth it. After our conversation, they each told me their native names again, and with pride.
New friends Francis and Joe at Aburi
There are talented young people in Ghana. I met Jacob during some downtime. Jacob is a creative and fashion-forward young adult. He makes handbags, shoes, accessories, clothing, and much more…ALL BY HAND. As I learned more about him, I discovered that he had given a large portion of his products to someone in another country who paid him little to nothing for it and now sells it in her store for 120x’s more. I encouraged Jacob to share his work globally using social media, instead of just in Ghana. I pointed out to him that he spends a lot of time and effort to do his work, so he should get back what it is worth. He agreed, and has started working with a Facebook page to share his work. (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ja-Creation/832268476851066)
Jacob, a talented and fashion-forward guy. He makes shoes, clothing, handbags, and accessories. By the way, he made the bookbag in this picture.
Hanging out with Jacob and taking selfies at a local Lounge in Tema
I also had the pleasure of meeting Kingsford. He is another young adult, and he works in one of the small shops in the Accra Arts Center area. He was cool, kind, and made very nice bracelets…BY HAND. I supported his business by getting personalized bracelets made. I would sit in the chair and chat with him while he made them.
Kingsford making a personalized bracelet.
Giving Kingsford a goodbye hug and thanking him.
My next to last week in Ghana, I stayed at the home of a missionary woman. She worked with several organizations and had numerous projects. One day, she asked if I could sit in on a meeting and give feedback based on my perspective. I agreed. The meeting was at the Malku Institute of Technology. The topic of interest was marketing and social media. I gave my honest opinion and shared research that I had read. Surprisingly to me, I was asked to come back and present a workshop to the core staff about the topic. I was thrilled to do so, and I put together a simple presentation to assist them in the best way that I knew how.
As I continued with the intention to connect with the Ghanaian people, I discovered that the ones I connected with were ones who needed to be encouraged and reminded that they are worthy of greatness. (Don’t we all need that?!)
Here is another person that I met. Thomas, pictured below. He was my cab driver during my last week in Ghana. Thomas is 70 years old, and has 2 adult children living in New York. He and I had great conversations about spirituality, religion, and stages of the lifespan. Thomas shared that he feels like his time on Earth is about to be up. He said, “My kids are grown and a lot of my friends are dead.” I expressed to him that there is so much life to live right now. He smiled when we talked and shared, “I wish we could have met sooner so we can really talk about Life!” Before I left, he commanded me, “You come back in a year, and I want to meet your husband and baby.” This statement made me laugh.
All in all, I loved to hear Thomas’s perspective, yet most importantly, he also appreciated my willingness to listen.
By the last week of my trip, most people said to me, “Are you Ghanaian? You look Ghanaian.” I was so amused by this because the only thing that changed for me was that I felt less like a tourist or visitor and more like I was at home.
When my host family asked me how I felt about being in Africa and specifically in Ghana, I replied: “I see the faces of my friends and family in the people here.”
It easily felt like home, indeed.
Think about this:
The more we seek to understand each other, the less and less we support the false barriers that exist between us.
Joe gifted me with a bracelet and asked to be a lifelong friend.
I am currently in Ghana, in the western part of Africa, on my first trip to the continent. I arrived in the city of Accra late on a Tuesday night in March. I was nervous, excited, and exhausted all in one. The customs line for foreigners was very long, so it took over an hour for me to get through. When I made it outside the airport, the first thing that I felt was extreme heat and humidity. I had been on the freezing cold airplane for several hours, the airports were very cold, and then suddenly it was hot. The second thing I noticed was all the Black people…Africans. They looked so beautiful, glowing, and so dark that their skin mixed with the night sky. It was lovely.
My first week here was spent doing tourist-like activities. I have been exploring the region and getting a better understanding of the people. During this tour, I visited Cape Coast Castle and the El Mina Castle. Some ex-pats refer to these locations as the Dungeons instead of castles. These are places where Africans were held in captivity before boarding ships to be sent to other parts of the world as slaves.
Needless to say, going on a tour of the castles was an emotional experience for me. Maybe not in the way that you would think, though. Instead of tears of sadness and sorrow, I became very angry when I heard about the inhumane things that were done to my ancestors. Although I learned about slavery, I was only given a small perspective—one from the lens of American History. The more I learned, the angrier I became. It was disturbing to think about the level of maltreatment that one human can inflict upon another and continue to live a fairly normal day-to-day life.
I heard about the ways that Africans assisted the Europeans to capture other Africans, especially if they were from another tribe or were offered a large amount of European goods.
I learned how the female slaves in the castle were abused and sexually exploited by the governor and his men. The women were forced out of their dungeon and had to walk in a small open courtyard. The governor’s quarters overlooked the courtyard. He simply would point at the woman he wanted to have sex with, and then she was taken through a secret door to his bedroom. Once he was done, she was put back in the dungeon with the others. If she refused, she was left outside, a ball and chain around her ankles to suffer…as punishment.
In the courtyard: Ball (without chain) for female slaves who refused sex
There is a great amount that I would like to write about this experience, yet I will keep this post brief. (Maybe this will turn into a book.) One other thing that I will mention is the “Door of No Return”. The slaves were kept in the dungeons for weeks and months at a time (men and women were separate). Think about it: Hundreds of people in one room–eating, sleeping, defecating, urinating, sick, etc…in ONE small room. The ones who died were taken out and tossed into the sea. The ones who survived made the life-altering journey onto the ships that transported them all over the world…. when they walked through the Door of No Return. Not only did they have to endure the dungeons, but the ones who survived had to endure the ship rides around the globe. What a shame that so many people suffered from this tragedy at the hands of their own people.
This is only a miniscule piece of the history of this planet.
Door of No Return
Why am I writing any of this? Because I desire for you to open your eyes and your mind.
Slavery still exists today, right here and now, and it takes on many forms. Some examples are: Mental slavery, economic dis-empowerment, sex trafficking, free/cheap labor, and cultural imperialism.
I refuse to believe that human nature is naturally selfish, greedy, and immoral.
Yet, I do wonder: What will it take for all humans to see each other as fellow brothers and sisters on this planet? How can we mend the mistakes of those before us and live in a peaceful world instead of repeating this revolving pattern?
Several RIP flowers and gifts were left in the dungeons from visitors around the globe.
In spite of the anger I felt, I found one thing to be slightly comforting. Several people from all over the world left gifts, flowers, and memorials for the slaves who were in the dungeon. Most of them read, “Rest In Peace” and referred to humanity learning a vital lesson from the pains of the slave trade.
I know that healing is possible. But first, we must have compassion for ourselves and each other.