Cuz and Aconta,

Thank you both for giving me the opportunity to take part in the 2019 Ghana Panafest Celebration and the Year of the Return. Throughout the years I have been fortunate enough to enjoy some outstanding vacations. This one however checked off all of the boxes. It was entertaining, educational, emotional and spiritual. Before I left for Africa, I was able to attend the big Gala in Silver Spring, Maryland celebrating the 19th year of GapBuster, Inc. I was so proud of you, Yvette. Listening to the former member’s testimonials of the GapBuster program and the effect the program has played in their lives was heartfelt. You have been, and continue to be, a conduit to a better life for all of these young people.

Once I set foot on Ghanaian soil I felt like I had come home. Here was a place I could truly learn about the history of my people through the eyes of the African.  I discovered the trials and tribulations the enslaved people endured for centuries, and what the people continue to endure today. Spending time in the dungeons where humans were kept in the dark for weeks and months was unbelievable. It was amazing that there were any survivors. To walk through the “Door of No Return” and look at the massive Atlantic Ocean and have no idea where you were going must have been extremely frightening. The slaves were treated worse than animals for no other reason than having dark skin. They were beaten, raped, and separated from their families and loved ones. They were stripped of their dignity, sold like animals and forcibly removed from your homeland. In many cases they were killed. Some died during revolts, starvation, sickness, diseases and even suicide.

To attend the durbar and meet Chiefs, Queens and observe the Panafest performers was breathtaking. To be called up along with others from the diaspora and have the chiefs paint our arms with African soil and water and welcome us back home with the word “Akwaaba” was truly emotional and heartwarming.  It was a moment that I will never forget. Visiting museums of African leaders (W.E.B. Du Bois, Kwame Nkrumah) and hearing their stories was educational and uplifting. Being greeted and welcomed by students (Ghana’s future) was very emotional for me. How easily that could have been me sitting in their chair welcoming a stranger to my homeland. My prayers go out for each one of them. Meeting my Aconta’s relatives and seeing where Ekourba attended school was quite interesting. Learning about his past and his contributions as a student-activist was extremely interesting. He was America’s John Lewis (SNCC), only in Ghana.

Shopping was quite an experience. I will never forget the marketplace and how difficult and challenging it was, not only picking out materials, etc. but just getting around without losing each other. Finding the perfect Kente cloth and just the right beads was quite a task, but very enjoyable. Haggling over prices with the street people was fun and a challenge. Watching my Aconta work was extremely entertaining. And watching Cuz work, whether it was what we were eating for dinner that evening, finding t-shirts, caps, or getting tickets for the Ghana World Music Festival. You are a miracle worker!.

I will never forget this trip and the wonderful new friends that we met and experiences that we were able to share together. A heartwarming thank you to those relatives who made “The Year of the Return” more than I ever could have imagined.


Kwaku Frank