Ever since traveling abroad has gained more traction with our generation, especially with black travelers, I’ve seen several well known black travelers on instagram and within our own followers, who have made one or more trips to Africa. You’ll even see some travelers, whose primary focus is trips to African countries and getting a greater understanding and focus on the culture. Now this got me thinking: Should a trip back to Africa be a necessity for black travelers? And I say back to Africa and not to Africa, because we all originally started in Africa but were unfortunately dragged to other areas in the world. This piece is not directly geared towards people who were born and raised in African culture and have experienced it all their lives, but more so geared to travelers of color, who didn’t get to experience the varieties of African culture in its purest form. People like me, who are of caribbean background and know Caribbean heritage and culture well, but can’t tell you about the African culture and heritage that influenced it. Should a trip back to Africa be a necessity for me?
In my opinion, YES, a trip to Africa should be a necessity to me. Being raised in America, in this tense racial atmosphere, unaware of our real history and adopting a history that is not our own, is a problem we face in the black community in America. From my experience while living in NYC, there’s this tension between Caribbean immigrants and black American immigrants. Although the Caribbean immigrants and black American immigrants were both slaves at one point, Caribbean immigrants have a lot of West Indian culture that was directly influenced by our African ancestors, that they still hold onto. A lot of our black American counterparts, can only trace their history back to the moment they stepped foot onto American soil. As a result of that Caribbean immigrants, who are typically rich in culture, tend to look down at black Americans for not having culture or not knowing their heritage. But the real problem is that we didn’t originate in the Caribbean or in America, we were only placed there. So our real heritage and culture comes from somewhere else. Somewhere we’ve never been and have no connection to or at least think we have no connection to. But all black culture is somehow, someway influenced by our African ancestors. When our ancestors arrived in the Caribbean or the Americas, they didn’t automatically become Jamaican, Trinidadian, or American. No, they were very much still Africans, but due to displacement and time, new cultural habits formed, mixing between different communities, we eventually became the black people we know today, just in different areas of the world.
People like to say I am not African American, I’m just black. But you are still of African ancestry, in blood and lineage, even if you don’t feel connected to it. If an Asian immigrant comes to America, produces children and create generations of Asian American kids, those kids are still very much of Asian lineage. Therefore, although our ancestors were unwillingly brought to America, and created generations of black Americans, they are still of African lineage. Black Americans have been exposed, unwillingly, to years and years of American culture and in that period of time, their own true African culture was pushed out by the American culture they had to live in, causing so many present black Americans to not feel connected to their African lineage. And although at this moment some African immigrants and Caribbean immigrants may feel like they can’t relate to black Americans, they are still very much alike. Regardless of our nationality, in the eyes of some we are all just black. The thing that does separate us is that some of our ancestors were able to continue their life in Africa, some were taken to the Caribbean, some to the Americas and some to Europe. Some of our ancestors were able to raise generations of Nigerians, Ghanaians, Ugandans, etc, whereas others had to deal with the trials and tribulations of slavery that affected themselves as well as the future generations. And as a result, due to having to adapt to certain circumstances, we see that many black Americans aren’t connected to their African lineage. Essentially, this is why the trip back to Africa is a necessity, it educates you on your own history and origin, that was attempted to be erased. It becomes even more personal for the traveler when their able to locate a tribe, country or area that specifically links to their family lineage, and travel back there. I imagine, it would bring a sense of realization in that you are traveling back home and not to Africa.
Understanding that regardless of where we ended up, we all came from the same continent is crucial. So for people like me who have little to no knowledge of where their ancestors originated, a trip back to Africa is a necessity for me to fully understand who I am as black woman and my place in this world. When your story has been changed for you, without your permission, you must take back control of your story. In taking a trip to Africa, more specifically the tribe or country my ancestors were from, that’s me as an individual taking control of my narrative. This is me filling in blanks that were erased, understanding the whole picture of my culture, not just a partial picture. This is me taking the extra step to actually learn about my culture and where I came from, not just where my ancestors were taken to. This is me taking a step to educate myself on a way of life I hadn’t known. This is me coming full circle.
BLOG PHOTO: Capetown, South Africa
Photo Credit: @nomadic.view