Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Snazzy Glasses

I think these sunglasses are the grooviest out there and very chic and cheap. And there especially colorful with my favorite color purple and a hint of peach. They can be found at Forever 21.

Snazzy Book Bag

I love this book bag that Barnes & Noble has on sale for $4.95 with the purchase of any other two items in the store. It is definitely worthwhile to get folks. The artwork on the bag was created by the wonderful artist Synthia Saint James. Get it while you can because it will be gone soon! It's called the Saint James "Brillance" Tote.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

SWV-I'm So Into You

Happy Valentine's Day! Oh, what a lovely day it has been! Love is in the air? Hmmm...anyways, I was listening to my Pandora Station...Pursuits and my jam by SWV just happened to come on. So I just decided to put the video on my blog. Enjoy! : )

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Dream Come True: A Journey to Ghana - December 29, 2008 to January 8, 2008

December 29, 2008

Akwaaba! I am finally in Ghana after much prolonged anticipation. After flight delays and a missed connection from New York to Accra, we made it. It was nice to stay overnight in New York because I was able to meet my great aunt, Auntie Amy. She is such a sweet and wise woman. She showed me family photos with cousins I have yet to meet and old photos of the family. I’m grateful that I was able to meet her and hear “her” story. She was glad to know that I would be going to the motherland. In her Guyanese accent, I can recall her saying, “you are going to see the place where are forefathers come from.” It is truly amazing and a blessing that God gave me this opportunity to return to the dwelling place, the fertile ground of my forefathers. My family could only dream of having this opportunity.

The time was approximately 9:25 am when we arrived in Accra, Ghana. It was captivating to see the warm sunshine and welcoming buildings below reminding me of the layout of the land in St. Lucia and Grenada. It was refreshing to get off the plane. To think, thank God we made it safely and how amazing, how awesome, how great it is to be here finally. It is a dream come true!

As we entered the airport, we went through customs and then picked up our luggage from lost and found. Then, we had to get our baggage claim tickets checked before going outside of the airport. It was welcoming to see so many people outside the airport. We were greeted by Mrs. Hooper and our drivers. However, there were also other people that wanted to help us with our luggage. One particular man that tried to help me with my luggage was a Liberian refugee, and he asked for money. I wish I could help, but you have to be cautious of your surroundings.

From the airport, we made our way through Accra to the Cape Coast. I took pictures of everything that sparked my attention. I took pictures of the presidential billboard, the trees, kids playing football, houses, any and everything to be able to take a piece of Ghana back to the states. We stopped for lunch at Hut D’ Eric Restaurant, my first introduction to Ghanaian food. It took a while for the “fast food” to come, but it was well prepared. There was too much rice on my plate to eat in one sitting.

After having lunch, we viewed one of the Asafo shrines that were built by military companies. The figures are very interesting and have some symbolic meaning. Then, we passed by some of the castles and visited Fort William-Anomabo on the coast. This fort in particular is directly by the coast where fishermen and their families live. There were plenty of little children around.

The children found pure joy in having their pictures taken and actually seeing themselves on camera. They wanted to be photographed again and again. The children were so precious. I took a picture of this fishing boat that said “Gamba All Blacks.” It just stood out to me while we were there at Fort William. What is the significance behind the meaning?

I also took pictures of the coast. It was very beautiful. It reminds me of the clear, pristine waters of the beaches in the Caribbean and how the Atlantic Ocean is rougher than the Caribbean Sea. As we were heading to Fairhill Main Guest House, we saw people gathering on the road rooting for their presidential party, NDC (National Democratic Congress). It is great to know that a democratic government can exist in Ghana or any other country in Africa because of the slave trade and colonialism. We shall see who the new president will be.

December 30, 2008

It was a day like no other as I was able to visit the Cape Coast Castle. I never thought this day would come, to trace the wretched path my ancestors took into bondage. This experience was very powerful and thought provoking. To think about what my ancestors went through to survive. Men and women were placed into dark dungeons packed in like sardines. To think what it must have been like to be shackled, to be naked, to eat, and to defecate in the same place? To think how could they live to see another day? The cruelty that my ancestors went through sends chills up my spine. I am proud to be a descendant of strong black men and women, a product of the African Diaspora, incredible. I wish slavery never happened, but we can’t change the past, we can only change what is ahead of us.

I wonder how the effects of slavery play a role in Ghana today. Holsey suggests that local residents do not recognize the slave trade. The slave trade is a major part of the tourism in Ghana. Local residents are cautious of remembering the slave trade because it has been used to “discuss and denounce African families’ ownership of slaves” (Holsey, 151). It is evident in the school literature that the slave trade is rarely mentioned. At most a page is devoted to recognizing the slave trade.

Ghana is a beautiful country indeed, but it breaks my heart to see people on the streets and the crowded aura of the Cape Coast. Has it always been this way or did imperialism cause this state of being? Life would be much different if the trans-Atlantic slave trade did not occur. One can only imagine.

After taking a tour of the castle, we had lunch at the Castle Restaurant. Service takes a while, but the food was delicious. We were able to look at a collection of slave trade routes coming from the Cape Coast and Elmina area while we waited for our food. The particular route given to me sent slaves to St. Vincent and to Demarara, which is Guyana today. The name of the ship was the African Queen and the amount of slaves was around 200. It was small compared to other routes that went to Brazil. It would be incredible if I could trace back my maternal and paternal routes to a specific location in Africa. It could be anywhere from Ghana to Senegal to Nigeria to the Congo. I will have to make the time to explore my family history.

After lunch, we headed to Heritage House. Heritage House, formerly known as Government House, was restored to attract visitors to the Cape Coast. The students from last year’s January term did work on the Asafo Shrines and celebrities of the Cape Coast, and their work is displayed in this building. It is amazing how a group can impact the life of a community and enable them to preserve their history and culture. I hope we can do the same while we are here.

We met the director of Heritage House. Afterwards, we took the road less traveled to Fort William passing homes of locals and watching our step up the rugged path. Fort William was a look out point for the British during the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The fort is now abandoned, and there are local people living in it now. One could see clothes that were hung to dry, children at play, and beds prepared.

The view was breathtaking from the fort. You could see Cape Coast in its entirety. I noticed one little girl putting a nail in her mouth. I was afraid that she would swallow it and choke, but it never once slipped down her throat. These children need much safer and cleaner conditions to live in. How can justice among populations of Ghanaians be served, so they can live healthier lives? What causes this widespread poverty in developing countries? No country should have to be called a third world country. How can we put an end to it? All these questions arise in my mind, and the very thought of people being deprived is disturbing to me.

As we came back down from the fort, we heard and saw people cheering for their political party, the NDC, thinking they had won, but the official results have not come in yet. It is amazing to see all the excitement on the people’s faces as they cheer for their political party. Then, we are able to see the outside of Gothic House, an ongoing project in collaboration with Heritage House. Gothic House is a work in progress to become the palace for the paramount chief or Omanhen. After a wonderful day of many long walks and interesting sights, it was great to freshen up and have dinner. For dinner, I enjoyed black eyed peas, rice, and plantain with fried snapper.

December 31, 2008

What a day it has been! I did not wake up feeling well, but I did not let that stop me from going out today. We visited the Zongo community today. I have learned that Zongo is the Hausa word meaning stranger. This Islamic community is in a heavily populated Christian area. In reading Emily’s report, I have learned that the Cape Coast Zongo originated in the 19th century as a temporary settlement for Hausa migrants who were invited by the Fante to fight against the British. It was uncomfortable at first going into the community because it was like intruding someone’s personal space. Children learning Arabic were so kind to offer us a place to sit. They did not seem to mind that we were there. It is incredible to see how other people live.

They cook and wash their clothes outside. The children run and play around the community and look out for one another. It is a very close knit community. It is interesting how the gutters are made. Is the water eventually set to go out into the ocean? The smell coming from them is unpleasant.

We had the opportunity to visit the municipal government. We had to make our purpose known to the official authority for working in the Zongo. It was made clear that we were not building any homes, but we would only be fixing homes that needed repair via plastering homes with sandcreet and painting where needed. The official was glad that we would be working in the Zongo and emphasized that this project should not be a one time thing but continuous. Continuous projects are certainly my thing. Once something is started, it ought to be kept going.

After the meeting, we met up with other students at the financial meeting and walked to the Crab Restaurant that is near Kotokuraba Market. It is crazy how close the stores are to each other, and how traffic can be very congested. We certainly had to be cautious as we walked beside cars passing.

The Crab Restaurant was not ideal choice for eating or using the restroom. They did not have a good selection of dishes, and the restrooms were not really restrooms at all because there was no commode and there was no sink. I was relieved to leave there after two hours as I was not feeling well and the wait was unbearable. We had the chance to go into Kotokuraba Market. The market is very congested compared to what I have seen in the islands like St. Lucia and Grenada. We walked through the market side with fresh meat, and the smell was not pleasant, so we hurried out of there.

I admire the store signs that read “Jesus is Lord” or “God is Good” and so forth. I wonder what led to stores of any kind, beauty supply stores, clothing stores, to identify with Jesus. It would be interesting to explore that.

It was nice to go out for New Year’s Eve to Coconut Grove Hotel. It seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, but that seems to be the case with resorts in this area. One has to take the rugged path to get there. The dinner was buffet style, and there was a nice band playing. There was fried snapper, chips, salad, chicken stew with rice, sweet pineapple, and cheesecake, but it was nothing like American cheesecake. It was a very nice evening by the seaside. As we were leaving, we could see thunder rolling across the evening sky. It was amazing to bring in the New Year with thunderstorms. It is hard to believe that the year has come to a close. Happy New Year in Ghana!

January 1, 2009

It was great to come outside this morning and feel the cool breeze that the thunderstorms produced. We returned to the Zongo today and conducted oral interviews for the three sites we would be working on. The following questions were kept in mind when we asked the residents about each site: who owns the house, when the house was built, how long they have lived there, are there people renting the house, what is a typical day like for you, and what problems are they having with their home? It was interesting to hear the responses to the questions. Some of the questions were not easily translated. For instance, when group 3 asked the owner about her favorite memory in the house, the translators had trouble translating the question. There is a difference in how time is evolved in the American culture. Everything is so fast paced and it seems like you never have time to breathe and always try to categorize life events into certain areas. I love how time goes by slowly in Ghana. It is the same way in the Caribbean and also in parts of the South like Louisiana. You can sit down, relax, not worry, and take in every sight and sound.

The most memorable part of the first day of the new year was meeting Rabbi Kohain. He is very knowledgeable and wise. He is the executive secretary of the Panafest and works with expanding tourism on the Cape Coast. Panafest is a festival that celebrates uniting people of African descent throughout the world. This celebration was developed by the Ghanaian playwright Efua Sutherland. The goals of Panafest are to “establish the truth about African history and experience via African arts and culture, provide a [medium] for unity between Africans and those in the diaspora, and develop a framework for the identification of issues and needs central to Africa’s development and the improvement of the quality of life” (Atafori 1999; Holsey, 163). I would love to come back in the summer and participate in Panafest.

Rabbi Kohain shared a breadth of information with us. He told us about the elections in Ghana. I learned that the winning party has every privilege possible. They do not have to worry about paying for water, electricity, and cars. The incumbent party goes back to living as regular citizens. To have all that privilege taken away from you is astounding. He also told us about the perception of slavery in Ghana. Slavery is a taboo among Ghanaians because they did not have people as slaves. They were considered indentured servants and part of the family. In Ch.1 of Holsey, slavery existed in tribes like the Fante long before the arrival of the Europeans and those enslaved had many rights and were incorporated into the families of their masters (Holsey, 40). There is also a stereotype that African Americans may hold resentment against Africans about slavery. In Ch.6 of Holsey, Edward Bruner argues that the experience of slavery and racism in the United States has led blacks to harbor a great deal of resentment toward Ghanaians (Holsey, 181). I also learned that the money made at the castles does not stay in the Cape Coast or Elmina. The money usually goes back to the government. Hopefully, the money can be re-routed to these communities so that they thrive economically and be able to welcome more visitors into their towns. It was truly an honor meeting Rabbi Kohain, an expatriate following in the footsteps of W.E.B. Du Bois and the movement of Marcus Garvey.

After meeting Rabbi Kohain, we headed to Elmina. I did not like Elmina very much. Once we got off the bus, people wanted us to buy jewelry, seashells, postcards, anything imaginable. On top of that, they certainly learned your name. I had the opportunity to visit the Elmina Slave Castle. The tour was different from that at Cape Coast Castle. There was more emphasis on the dark experiences faced by the slaves. For instance, as mentioned in Holsey’s article, the tour guide tells the group how the women were assembled in the courtyard and the governor chose one of the women, and she was taken to his quarters. It is interesting how African Americans recognize that the women are raped and that a group of Ghanaian students do not see the rape of women, but they see the governor as choosing a woman for marriage (Holsey, 192). I find that very disturbing, but it is the way that we are taught about the injustices in history.

January 2-3, 2009

Today was a fun filled day. We had the opportunity to see African Footprints perform drumming and dancing. African Footprints is a non-profit organization that challenges the able and disabled to work together. The group is absolutely amazing. Then, we were able to participate in a workshop. I really enjoyed being able to work with them.

After a fun morning of drumming and dancing, I was able to make batik fabric in a batik workshop. As I was getting off the bus at Global Mamas, I was embraced by a little girl. Children are so precious. I was surprised we had to leave Global Mamas in order to do the workshop. We went to the workshop director’s home. Mrs. Georgina Afenyo was very friendly and gave us specific instructions in how to do batik. She is a school teacher and teaches girls how to make batik at the all girls’ boarding school in the Cape Coast. In order to make the batik, you must mix your background dye color for the fabric with three spoons of sulfurous and three spoons of another chemical which I think is baking soda. Then, you add it to the a big tub of water and one more spoon for each chemical and then you work a piece of white fabric into the mixture and make sure it covers the fabric in its entirety. Afterthat, the fabric must hang to dry. Then, you can take wooden stamps or sponges with shapes and dip them into hot wax and put it on the fabric. Finally, you repeat the same steps for dyeing the prints on the fabric and rinse it in boiling hot water. It would be nice to regenerate my original product with my family because we love doing crafts. Mrs. Georgina Afenyo said that I reminded of her daughter, and that I should keep in touch. I will be sure to do so.

It was another eventful day going to Kakum National Park. I was surprised to learn in the Holsey reading that regular tourists, not diasporic tourists, regard Kakum and the castles in the same light. How can they not see the difference between recreation and a tragic history of the slave trade?

January 4-5, 2009

It was nice to spend a Sunday afternoon at Anomabo Beach Resort. I wish all classes at the University incorporated some time for relaxation and reflection. The water was pretty shallow even where the ways were coming in. I never anticipated being able to go out that far into the water. It is interesting how all the beach resorts are hidden. In order to get to them, you have to go down a dirt road. My younger siblings would love spending everyday on the beach in Ghana. It was not surprising to see fishermen and their families living beyond the walls of the beach resort. It is common ground in Cape Coast and Elmina.

Plastering the walls in Site 3 with cement was exciting. It was difficult to do at first because the cement kept falling to the ground and not sticking to the wall. I felt like all eyes were on us as we were working in the community. We were no longer strangers as on the first day when we were told to go back to the street.

We had the opportunity to meet Chief Imam of the Cape Coast Zongo. You could see that he was not well, but he still took the time to meet with us. It was interesting to hear how he became chief because he was not interested in becoming the Chief Imam at first, but he was sought out to become chief and finally accepted after resisting the position. I also learned that they are apart of different sect of Islam, not Sunni or Shiite.

January 6, 2009

I was finally able to meet Francesca at her store today. She was so sweet and had a wonderful collection of beaded jewelry in her shop. She owns two beaded jewelry stores that were developed under the microloan program for people who wanted to open an enterprise in the Cape Coast area. It was very nice meeting her.

We attended the Welcoming Ceremony with the Cape Coast or Oguaa Traditional Chief Council. It was a beautiful ceremony. We were each donned with Kente cloth. It was incredible to meet so many chiefs. They were very knowledgeable and wise. The Omanhen sat in the middle and the other chiefs surrounded him and they were all wearing traditional outfits.

I was shocked to hear that they believed their traditional outfits came from the Romans. I certainly do disagree because I have learned that African civilizations began prior to the Roman empire. At the end of the ceremony, the chiefs gave libations by speaking to their ancestors in Fante and pouring out wine from a bottle. Then, we were given a tour of Gothic house and it was described to us what each room would be used for in the palace for the Omanhen. I think the final product will be a success.

January 7, 2009

Today is our final day on the Cape Coast. The Closing Ceremony took place in the Zongo community. It was a very exciting time for the community to celebrate the work that had been done. African Footprints choreographed a dance to demonstrate the work we had done in the community. I love the passion and energy they produce in their performances to convey a meaningful message. It was incredible to see the difference in the sites. Plastering and painting certainly improved the quality of the homes. I hope this project will continue for years to come.

I am really going to miss the Cape Coast and all it has to offer. I love the people, the food, the sweet pineapple, the coke in a glass bottle, the music, the warm weather, the beach, and the slow paced days. One day soon I hope to return to Ghana and have the opportunity to work in local clinics and treat women and children suffering from malnutrition and chronic illnesses and provide to those communities without access to healthcare.

January 8, 2009

I’ll certainly miss Fairhill Guest House. Mrs. Hooper, Divine, Ammed, and the wonderful ladies who prepared our meals and cleaned our rooms daily were a family away from home.

Today we went into Accra. It was an honor to visit W.E.B. Du Bois’s home and mausoleum. It was incredible for me to see a legacy standing right in front of me. I’m glad that I had the opportunity to visit Ghana because I was able to see the fruits and labor of history right before my very eyes. Even though I miss home, I felt a sense of belonging here and can call Ghana my home as well. When I come back to Ghana, I would love to be able to speak Fante, be able to do the handshake, explore beyond the Central Region, and bring my family with me. Naante-yie Ghana!

*Please check out photos from my journey at:

Revitalizing My Blog

Well, it certainly has been over 5 months since I have written in this blog. I guess I have been too busy too care to share my thoughts with peeps out there. I'm going to incorporate journal entries from my trip to Ghana this past January of 2009. (2009 is so exciting b/c I'm graduating!) Secondly, I will be devoting some of my blog to natural hair care tips for all those ladies out there who embrace natural hair. Hmm, what more can I say? It will have to wait. Be Bold, Be Confident, Be Strong, and Press daily motto. Ciao, Shinga C.