During early 2014, award-winning multimedia journalist Ernest Owens traveled to Ghana for 10 days to explore the culture and history of the region, despite the USA’s heightened fears that traveling to West Africa will render one gravely ill with the Ebola virus. Owens documented his visit to Africa as one that enriched his life tremendously and also changed his outlook on life a great deal. For too long there was a general misconception that the diaspora was solely geographical when, in actual fact, it is philosophical as well.
Black America’s continuous dismissal of the African continent makes it extremely difficult for many African-Americans to break through certain stereotypes imposed on them by the Western world. Owens admits that he too was once guilty of this but attempted to rectify his wrongs by going back and redirecting the masses. Traveling to the African continent should be seen as a rite of passage for all African-American men, something which will enrich their lives tremendously while answering all the silent questions they may have regarding their pasts. During his stay in Ghana, Owens came to many powerful realizations which have altered his life’s journey completely.
Privilege is real
During his stay in Ghana Owens experienced for the first time in his life what it felt like to be part of the majority. Most of the people in Ghana are black and the experience of seeing people of his own skin color on every television screen, in every public arena and facet of society gave him an overwhelming feeling of gratification and belonging. The sense of pride that was bestowed upon him allowed him to roam the streets freely without feeling targeted. During his time in Africa he experienced firsthand what it was like to not be regarded as a second-class citizen but one of equal worth and substance.
By understanding slavery of the past one can address the struggles of today
Many African-Americans are told to ‘get over’ the injuries of their past but Owens states that it is impossible to do when it paints a bigger picture of the current systematic obstructions that are imposed on the present-day lives of black Americans. In Africa, slavery is openly discussed with museums and tourist attractions dedicated to the topic. When visiting the former Elmina slave castles near the coast of Ghana, Owens experienced a sudden sense of overwhelming emotion in light of the realization that blacks are still faced with countless prejudices and strategically formulated disenfranchisement.
The oppression of black people is an international concern
Similar to the fight for justice in Ferguson, African natives are dealing with discrimination and mistreatment of mass hysteria related to Ebola and AIDS. Across the entire diaspora black people are feeling ostracized from the world-wide discourse of how to protect and care for their own communities. Although the issues of Africans are geographically distinct, the same mission is being tackled fundamentally: making sure that black lives matter.
Owens is very vocal about his African experience, stating that the dark continent gave him a fresh perspective on how to relate to blacks across the diaspora and how their burdens affect and shape his work in the USA. He goes on to say that he is no entirely dismissing American opportunities and values but that the time has arrived to expect and want more than simple survival and to start thriving instead.