I traveled to Accra, Ghana in August of 2023. I recently interviewed the people who traveled with me on the Black and Abroad Tour. I also asked a friend to interview me. Before I release these interviews, I’m sharing their insights on my blog. Here are our comments on what surprised us about Ghana. Personally, I’d heard so many things about Africa. I didn’t know quite what to expect.

When I went to get my required Yellow Fever vaccine, the Montgomery County Health Department nurse told me not to drink the water. This worried me, but actually once in Ghana I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t have any problem drinking as much clean water as I wanted, and I do drink a lot of water. Our hotel filtered their water at the buffet where we ate breakfast every morning. They provided bottled water in our rooms and also on our tour bus.

Another surprise came when we visited a memorial to Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana. A book I read in preparation praised him for his early days in office, but faulted him for becoming a socialist dictator which led to a coup. Our tour guide told a different story. He explained that President Nkrumah focused on education and health care for all, building the infrastructure needed for industrialization and also claimed the natural resources for the people. This upset the American corporations who wanted control of the natural resources of Ghana. He told us they helped engineer the coup — a completely different story!

My fellow traveler, Selena Singletary, who had been to Africa before, didn’t have any big surprises, but told me she appreciated the whole experience of being there. My husband, Steve Schlather, did some research in advance, so he wasn’t too surprised either, except for the size and population of Accra with a population of 2.7 million people. However, my other traveling companions, found more surprise in Ghana.

Diane Sanders told me that what surprised her the most is that what is portrayed in our American media about Africa is not the total truth. She said she often sees appeals for money to help the children with pictures and videos of starving children with big bellies and flies around.  But, she said, the capital of Ghana was a huge city, much like any capital city in the United States. And there we stayed in a five star hotel. Gauging from what she’d seen in the media, she wouldn’t imagine they even had a five star hotel.

Diane’s son, Cleavon Blair (Blair), agreed with his mom. Especially he said that the things we hear in the United States about Ghana and other African nations simply aren’t true. One example he gave was how welcoming the people were there. He’s still in contact with many people he meant there.  

Blair explained that for him, as a person of color living in the United States or any of the Western nations, there’s always this a backdrop of stress that’s on him. Once in Ghana, getting there, getting off the plane, walking through the airport and arriving at the hotel something felt totally different.

Blair describes himself as somewhat of a snob. He likes to stay in the nicest places possible when he travels. He works hard for his money and he wants good experiences.  In this country or other Western nations, as a person of color walking into a new place, he always knows racism will come, whether it’s direct or subtle. He didn’t have any of that in Ghana. He said it was a pleasant surprise and a good feeling. Blair said, “It allowed me to relax in the way I’ve never relaxed a day in my life.”

Adora and Keita also talked about the surprises they found in Africa. They noted that while their African American ancestors were enslaved, the Africans remaining in Africa were colonized, so both experienced trauma at the hands of the Europeans.

They have been told lies such as Africans don’t like African Americans. They experienced none of that in Africa. In fact the Ghanaians were actually kind and loving toward them. Keita said he’s experienced the same love from a Ghanian neighbor here in the US.  Once he was putting some furniture together in his backyard shortly after moving in and a brother came over to ask if he could help.

Keita said, “So it’s not just the land. It’s not just the air or not just the food, it’s the people. And it’s obvious wherever they go, they’re the same. They were welcoming and loving to me and they didn’t have to be. We felt that same spirit when we got to the motherland. They were just so loving and welcoming to us everywhere we went. Everybody was so good to us. I didn’t feel afraid. I was not scared.”

Unlike here, where Keita explained, “I feel afraid every day of my life for 60 some years here in the United States, every single day.”

Adora added, “We have all these grandchildren and I fear for my grandsons and my great-grandsons, every day.”

Keita also said, “I did not sense at any time that we were in any danger or under threat from the police. That’s a fear here in America. I got locks in my hair. I’m not really big in stature, but, amazingly, whenever I have been stopped by the police here in America, it’s always been some drama. They always call about six or seven squad cars just for little old me. So I  didn’t experience that fear. If I get emotional on this interview, I apologize, but wasn’t scared of the police in Ghana.”

“In Ghana,” Keita said, “I wasn’t scared of of any white supremacist coming out of the woods. I finally had found a place where I could be at peace.”

They explained that in America, they (African Americans) are still enslaved. We just don’t know we are. It’s redlining and the police, always something that’s happening. We just call it different stuff, but it’s never the same for us as for anybody else. Never.”

Adora said, “Yes, to go there and see the grandmothers (because I’m a great grandmother), and to see the older women very respected was something else again. Because here in this country older people were not really respected. And also you don’t expect to see elders living long lives. But there they said in some of the villages we visited that the elders live to 126 years. They live older because they’re living off the land, eating healthy food. The entire village takes care of the elders, yeah. That’s amazing.

“There were a lot of positive things that we don’t have here in the United States.” Keita said, “There was the best food ever for me. We felt better. We felt healthier. Our life was different, the food was doing some other things. Should I say that? And our everything and our our whole being, if you know what I mean, our whole being was different. Our husband and wife being, if you know what I mean. It was just something else again.”

Stay tuned to learn more about our trip. My next blog will be about the highlights of the trip for us all. Follow me on YouTube to listen to the interviews as they are posted.