Monday, January 27, 2014

Reflection on Connection

Benjamin Clos

The best word I can think of to describe my learning experiences in Ghana is "wow".  I do not think that there would be a more effective way to learn about the connection between another culture and the United States than to go there and learn.

Cape Coast Castle, Ghana
While in Ghana, we went to a couple different forts where slaves were held. Being on the western side of Africa, we were in an area where many slaves were shipped off to the United States and European countries. Slavery is an industry that had been going on since the 1700s and did not end until the early 1900s. As our colleague Carol would learn more about her family that originated in Ghana, I also learned more about slave trade. She told me that her family had always thought that when white men would come in a pick Africans to take with them, they had thought that their family members were being taken away to find jobs. Little did they know that they were being taken as property and they would never see their families again. This happened for several generations and the families that stayed behind in Ghana and other African countries made the assumptions that their relatives that left moved on to bigger and better things. It was not until around the 1950s-60s that Africans learned what the slave industry was and where their relatives actually went. This was a strange thing to learn as an American. In the United States during the 50s and 60s was the time when our civil rights movement was in full swing. To think at that time when America is trying to move past slavery and segregation, Ghana and other parts of Africa are just learning about slavery.

Africa in a Knock-Out Punch

One of our lecturers was a Rabi whom was originally from the United States but has lived in Ghana for over 20 years. He explained to us that the best way to understand Africa's feelings about slavery and colonization is that "they just had a knock-out punch and are still trying to recover, understand and mourn the loss of ancestors that were taken from them." While it is not something that may be a daily struggle, it is a topic of conversation that is painful for some to talk about. 


When European countries went into Africa to gather land they caused a lot of division in this large continent that I believe is still affecting Africans today. When these countries were gathering land they were not looking at the people that lived in those areas. Gathering as much land and resources as possible was the goal for the Europeans. When they claimed the land that they wanted, the people living there had to follow their new parent countries. Ethnic tribes and families became divided because of the new colony boundaries. Because of these boundaries formed years ago, there are problems with politics today. Politicians are not trusted by a majority of citizens because of the differences in ethnic origin. Along with distrust there has been corruption in the government from people in power looking out for their personal benefit or people of the same origin. We did have a discussion about politics once on the trip and this quote really stuck with me, "Just because you are based off of a democracy doesn't mean it is being practiced."


Playing Soccer with Emmanuel, 10.
I think the whole trip and facts that I learned throughout the trip made me realized how small this planet is and how connected every political, economical and personal choice that we make can have an affect on another. Even if they are thousands of miles away. Just today, the U.S. Embassy of Ghana tweeted how President Obama is seeking a new level of economic engagement between the U.S. and Africa. This is one planet and this is one unit of people. By having the understanding of other cultures, we become more knowledgeable on how to be respectful and live a life that is less infringing on another. 

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