After 17 years, I finally returned. Here is a raw recollection of my experience, in the most meaningful way I can articulate
(I captured each day in a journal, however these specific days were the most impactful)
May 31, 2016
“Today, I realized what love is: it endures time, distance, and separation.
Love is when you pray for and pray with someone
Love is when you cancel your business meeting to ensure someone is just fine
Love is when you put up with discomfort for the sake of the other person’s comfort”
June 5, 2016
“We visited a village that already had a water purification business to collect dug-out water samples.
I cried after being very quiet and distant.
I broke down because I could not stand to see people living this way. It was not their destiny to suffer.
Who deserves to die simply because they cannot find clean water to drink?
I am very bothered by how the members of my team seem to view the Ghanaians they have just come across. Taking pictures and showing the children gadgets, such possessions which I feel hinder the ability to connect on a human level. These children will probably never hold such luxurious items again, yet that will be the only memory of foreigners they’ll have:
‘They had cameras and watches! They’re so cool’-they’ll say
Neglecting and not even realizing that we, too, bleed like they do…
we, too, cry tears of pain and sorrow like they do…
we, too, wish our suffering will end one day
like they do.
*To my suffering fellow human:
I’m just like you. Yet, I was one of the lucky ones who arrived and thrived in A M E R I C A
You probably do not know our people were stolen from the coast, sold like pets, over-worked like cattle, beaten like drums, and hung like chickens.
You probably do not know our people and our history is illegitimate where I live,
that we cannot have what the white man has where I live
But, you do know the white man comes where you live, builds for water to pass where you live
But, he sometimes leaves where you live and forgets where you live.
In reality he does not care about where you live. It is just another checkmark, for statistics.*
It feels like the Ghanaian government is doing nothing to help poverty decrease.
What is my purpose?
Why am I here?
Please show me what I should do to serve you and help this world improve…”
June 6, 2016
“So, we have met the people of our village (Kanjeyili). First thing I noticed were how hopeful these people are. There had been two attempts to implement clean water systems (a water well and a rainwater tank) but both failed and members of the village have been unable to continue using these systems.
How did our village members trust us so easily when we proposed our method of implementation?
I believe the natives of Ghana are hopeful, persistent, brave people despite a corrupt government. God bless them.”
June 7, 2016
“Babies and toddlers cried when my teammates came close
because of their white skin.
They’re not used to skin so fair…
I want to tell them that the only barrier between them (them and I) and the whites (anyone fair-skinned) is simply phenotypical outcome.
I want to tell them that just because they are “dark-skinned” does not mean they are dirty
I want to tell them that God, in fact, hand painted them (them and I) with sacred ink–
I want to tell them that their (our) skin is not the reason why sickness invades their (our) people.
‘Come close white man,’ an older woman said.
Then a baby cried out, horrified…
Maybe she caught a glimpse of the past’s horrors
Maybe she feels the pain: white man has returned to save us, again.
There is surely something for him to gain.
Maybe I’m thinking too deeply
OR maybe God is saying:
‘Maame, you did not come here to go out to clubs with friends, like everyone else is doing. You came to witness something painful, to struggle with discomfort, and tell the world about it. Tell the world about the endless joy and gratitude that permeates the souls of a people living in seemingly endless, sorrowful circumstances. Tell the world that God is alive. I am the one who has allowed history-people being deprived of the right to access their resources-to continue. Yet, I am the only one who can watch over them and you…the only one who can bring comfort to them and you.’
Thank you Lord.”
June 9, 2016
“A F R I C A N Queen
To be an African queen means
what I was told NOT to dream
to feel pain but still know
there is MUCH to gain
to command every eye to glance over every inch
of my existence
the moment I enter a room…
To be an African queen means
to believe I am God’s child, but my brothers and sisters are not completely and may never be exactly
to criticize the ills of this world
to realize the beauty of my hair, ever so tightly curled.
To be an African queen, I must struggle
they say pressure turns coal to diamond-
the purest of them all.
But I will never be that,
so then why humiliate me every single time
Love so, so sweet
Yet it can deceive!
Not because of Eve-
rather God said she was to compliment, NOT complete…
so then why do these other women feel the need to compete?
When you are an African queen,
love flocks your way
But until then, all you can do is pray
Cry a little more, waiting for
a better day.”
June 11, 2016
“Today, we built our water treatment center, chained and locked it to secure it. Also, we trained 3 of 4 of our entrepreneurs on how to use alum, and the kids were a great help too! Then we finally purchased the remaining amount of necessary supplies.
So after debrief, I was hesitant to attend a movie screening, but I did anyway…and that was the moment my life changed. One of our field representatives, Kevonte, created a short film: “Atlantic: The Middle Passage”. This visualized major components of the Black-experience, from the actual middle passage to the modern day “middle passage”, which includes systems that are designed to restrict people of color from thriving: from urban poverty to police brutality to the prison system.
I cried a bit during the movie, grew a little upset/annoyed. Then, there was a Q&A session, which began on a “safe” note. Finally, one of the field reps (Mcrid) asked a question which I believe set the stage for a real discussion.
With genuine curiosity, he asked:
“So what did you intend for us to take away from the film? How were we supposed to feel? I’m honestly confused.“
I intended on not saying anything at this session, but to simple listen and learn from how every one else felt about the short film. Yet, I realized sometimes you need to speak up and teach rather than be silent and taught.
I stood up and began by thanking Mcrid for allowing his vulnerability shine in the form of harmless ignorance, first of all! Many people were confused in the room, including myself. For me, it was a mix of confusion and frustration. I was/am “pissed the F*** off” when it comes to the consequences of our history. From colonialism and European attempts to “take Africa”, we are still breathing the debris of a filthy past…
I prompted people in the room to consider the real reason we are here, which was to change lives and also deal with such consequences of a tragic history. The experiences of African people never seemed to be legitimized, and this illegitimacy systemically persists; I’m pissed that there are only a handful of colored people (including FOUR Black people) on this trip-
Why aren’t we helping to improve the circumstances of our own people? Why is “The White Man’s Burden” still relevant ’till this day?
However, as I stood to speak I remember feeling my heart pounding against my chest, my mouth trembling uncontrollably, my hands covering my face, and my lungs forcing deep breaths. I did not know what to say, how to say it, and when to stop. But I stopped speaking because I did not and do not want to be that “angry Black woman” who is pointing fingers. Instead, I want to point out that the subconscious is where the issue is-
prior misconceptions about “Africans”
This program is not just about providing purified water and solar energy. Again, we are changing lives (for the good of humanity) and attempting to change the trajectory of history.
For me particularly, it was even deeper than that. This program meant a way to bring more healing to the wounded people of an exploited land. This program meant trying to bring resolution to people who continue to suffer from many issues of the Black experience: being deprived of human rights and being taken advantage of.
Thank you Ashley for helping me calm down after my speech
Thank you Ayodele for capturing those valuable moments
I wish our leaders Katie, Eda, and Kathryn were in the room.
I am Tired of Being that Angry Black Woman
In fact, I’m pissed off
that history just keeps repeating itself
that not many people notice what is below the surface
what programs like this reveal…
I am tired, and I know my ancestors were too…
tired of being a little less than human
tired of being a little less than valuable
What a pitfall in humanity,
in that the concentration of melanin which determines a portion of phenotypic difference, also determines
who is worthy and who is not
who prevails or who simply gets
My purpose in this life is not too clear, but the passion I felt today shows me that my voice is certainly a major component of that purpose.”
June 13, 2016
You see where you come from?
You come from the Land of
Your people are not
Maame you see it now, so do not forget.
I want you to put down the magnifying glass
As if I’m some spectacle
As if I’m some lab experiment
As if I’m not hUman.
I want you to clean off that lens-
the camera lens
As if I’m not whole…zoom OUT
As if I’m insignificant in size…zoom IN
As if I’m as visually unappealing as a
distorted photo from the 19th century,
focus in then…
You can’t even focus!
So instead, you perceive me as a simple snapshot
neglecting my complexities and
the individuality in every movement
you choose to neglect, rather not to see
the story behind
the way my thick, kinky hair flows from my scalp under these braids-yes “flows”
the way my fluffy, button nose rests assuredly on the center of my face-yes “rests”
the way my semi-wide hips gracefully sway with each step of the way-yes “gracefully”
No, my mother is not a single parent
No, my father is not on child support
No, I am not ‘bussin it for a real nigga’
No, I do not wish to be that image you have captured and kept.
In fact, burn that image
Draw an “X” for incorrect through that image
Now, pick up your camera and hit record because what you are witnessing (not observing) is a story
a complex one
a sorrowful one
a triumphant one.”
“Last day in Kanjeyili.
I cried at our final village community meeting. They were just so grateful for what we had done.
We distributed empty water bottles and soccer balls, which made everyone so happy.
I interviewed two women and asked them, “That does life mean to you?” At first, the question caught them off guard but they ended up simplifying it to the best of their ability. They mentioned that they live mouth to mouth. Farming is difficult because with the little amounts of what they harvest (rice, corn, yams, and shea fruit), it is barely enough to feed the hundreds of their village. But they are grateful, nonetheless, for clean water and now that they have this, they have everything.
Before I left, I spoke to a young woman who understood a bit of english. I reminded her the value of education. The two women, along with the chairman of the village joined in on the conversation, with the help of our translator (Sita). I told them that reaping the benefits of another land while your homeland is in need is never okay.
Then I gave out my last choco milos *smiles*
I will continue to do God’s work.
Our teams visited 15 communities in Northern Ghana (Tamale) to open 9 new water treatment businesses and 6 new solar charging businesses, which provide jobs to 27 new entrepreneurs. Learn more about our business implementations on our Saha Global Summer ’16 program blog!
Click here for Moments from Tamale
© 2016 Lucy Yeboah All Rights Reserved