What started out as a thought about going to Ghana for our honeymoon in 2018 has me and my wife preparing to head back to her home country in a few days. My wife—who was born in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire, but grew up in Accra, Ghana, until moving to the United States in the early 2000s—hasn’t been home since 2009, so what better time to head over for both personal reasons (my wife returning home and visiting friends and family) and pleasure reasons—this whole Year of Return has Accra feeling like an NBA All-Star weekend destination. Even the Ghanaian embassy in Washington, D.C., was an event and I saw plenty of the homies. It’s a party, it’s a party, it’s a party.
Seriously, have you seen the amount of parties and events and whatnot coinciding with the Year of Return in Accra? Oh, silly me; what is the “Year of Return” you ask? Well, it’s Ghana’s brilliant marketing and tourism strategy. You see, in 1619, the first enslaved people from the continent made landfall in Point Comfort, Va. In acknowledgment of the 400-year anniversary of this world-changing occurrence, Ghana has essentially invited all diasporic Africans to come back to Ghana and connect with the Motherland as so many of us call it. Never mind that the first enslaved people to reach America were from Angola and not Ghana. I’d bet good money that Senegal, Angola, Cote D’Ivoire, Nigeria—basically every country in West Africa and Angola (which is considered a southern African country)—are all kicking themselves for not thinking of this first. Can you imagine how much money has been spent in Ghana this year JUST because of the idea of returning to the continent and reconnecting?
Ghana benefits from having several intact “slave castles” that allow Americans, in particular, to visit not only Accra for festivities but to engage with our history in America, the beginning of the journey, so to speak. To that end, one thing I’m looking most forward to while also being most apprehensive about is Cape Coast Castle, one of the many “slave castles” that dot the coast of Ghana. I can’t imagine how emotional an experience that will be, but it’s probably what I’m looking most forward to. History is an odd thing.
There has been no shortage of celebrities making the trek to Ghana over the course of the past year, seemingly kicked off by Boris Kodjoe and Bozoma Saint John’s Full Circle Festival (now branded by Essence), where they brought a gang of their homies to Ghana. They promise to bring even more this December and January. In essence—and that’s no pun intended—Ghana, and Accra in particular, is lit right now. I can’t wait to experience a new place and culture, especially since I will get the opportunity to view it through the eyes of my wife for whom this land and culture is native. We’re going to be over there for 10 days (we have a quick two-day stint in Lisbon, Portugal, to kick it off), which means that we are basically packing an entire wardrobe of clothing. This presents a significant challenge for me, not because of clothes—it’s like 90 degrees every day in Accra; summertime has come a-callin’. No, for me, the stress is in my shoes.
I’m not one of those people with several hundred pairs of shoes. A couple hundred, though? Maybe. Over the course of a 10-day period I could, and likely, do wear 10 pairs of shoes. But I’m traveling and paying for luggage is a thing so I need to whittle my choices down to three, maybe four pair tops and it’s stressful. I don’t want to bring some super fly kicks that I end up ruining because I’m sure it’s about to be dusty as hell—this isn’t a shot, by the way; anybody from Alabama and Georgia knows that “red clay ruined my outfit” life—so I need shoes that I can wear without worrying too much about the wear and tear on them. I will also need some dressier, nice shoes for going out and some slides of some sort. The slides and dress shoes are easy. I have some Yeezy slides that should do the trick and either my Del Toro black slippers or my SUPER LIGHT Clark’s fancy loafers.
The tennis shoes are the issue. Do I bring my fresh Jordan 11 Breds or even my Concords? Maybe my gold Airmax 97s. Eleven days is a long time to wear the same pair of tennis shoes though, fam. I don’t think I’m built for that. Plus, you cannot sacrifice fly, especially when you’re visiting a new place, but that new place is out here on their NBA All-Star weekend swag. Staying fly is a way of life. But if I’m going to wear this one, maybe two, pairs of shoes for 10 days, I need them to be comfortable. All fly kicks are not created equal. I’m sure there will be a lot of walking and that has to factor in here.
I realize this is a first-world problem and not really a “problem” at all. But it’s still stressful and it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to. At the same time, I cannot wait to tiptoe in my Jordans on another continent, and particularly Africa, on what will be my first trip there. In fact, that one sentence RIGHT THERE means I have to bring at least one pair of Jordans JUST so I can tiptoe in them in Accra.
And because I know that a not insignificant number of people reading this may be on their way if they’re not there already; I’ll see you in those Accra streets.
It’s the Year of Return, y’all. I’m on my way.