Code Pink Journals CodePINK Journals

Work 4 Peace,Hold All Life Sacred,Eliminate Violence! For now, I’ve returned from my Joiyssey to participate in the "revolution":I’ve been at many Occupy sites across the country:1st in D.C. Freedom Plaza I faced & challenged racism/white supremacy, sexism/patriarchy, classism, heterosexism & eventually was kicked off the island; then I offered workshops as I drove to CA:“Anti-Racism Geared for White Occupiers”; “NO DRONES” "Successes and Pitfalls of OWS"

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Day 3: evening... to be continued

For those whose picture of the African continent is blurred at best, the coast of Ghana is one of the many places where for over two hundred years, humans were conquered and forced thru the “door of no return” to waiting ships and across oceans to be ‘purchased’ and enslaved by waiting whites.

One such horrific place is a ‘dungeon’ – referred to as a “castle” by the conquerors – that is over 350 years old and located 20 minutes from where we’re staying. The town that existed long before they were invaded by Europeans is now named “Cape Castle”.

Today we went on a ‘tour’ of this heinous place and (re)learned more specifically about the depth of the cruelty and evilness of white men – and the nameless courageous resistors who were murdered before they even got to the door of no return.

The gruesome building looms in the distance, towering tall, white and threatening over the city below, springing from solid rock – and certainly built by enslaved people, so skillfully, it still stands today three stories high and easily thirty times as wide.

The commander and his family were housed on the top floor, the kitchens, ballrooms and offices underneath, with the courtyard on the ground floor surrounded by rooms that housed soldiers and a large church which sits directly on top of the dungeon which held the men and boys.

Underneath the ground-level floor are several dungeon rooms where people were trapped until the boats came. There were no toilets and water flowed constantly during the rainy season but only on the floors thru a little ditch as the floors were slanted toward the ocean.

These rooms had a small window 20 or 30 feet above the floor where soldiers could spy on the people, who were fed just enough every couple days to maybe keep them alive. Hundreds of people were stuffed into these holding cells so tightly, they could neither sit nor lay down. 

For deterrents and punishment of anyone who still had the strength to rebel, there were chains bolted into the cement of the courtyard where women who tried to fight rape were stuck, starved and beaten until they died. 

There were also tiny rooms without windows but with very low ceilings and even lower doors where fighters and troublemakers were thrown and locked up until they starved to death as well.
I don’t know how the Ghanaian people can accept our u.sofa. presence in their country, let alone be as kind and warm and welcoming as we’ve experienced everywhere, every day.
Later when I was sharing our experience with another guest at the cabana, I called our outing “sad”. My 7 year old grandson jumped up and declared he wasn’t sad, he was MAD. He said it made him so angry to know what happened there.


Day 3

I am up before anyone else, as usual, although I can’t believe everyone can sleep through the cacophony of goats under the window sounding like a cross between many newborns demanding milk and excited children on a scary amusement park ride.

I walk down the deserted path to the ocean and wander along the beach as I keep one wary eye on the crashing waves, the other on the trash I’m picking up off the sand and out of the water.

It hurts my heart again, to be on such a beautiful ocean trashed with so much plastic and abandoned garbage. I find a large plastic woven sack and begin to fill it up.

Two beautiful young girls walking along the ocean with their mother on their way to school stop curious to find out what I am doing. I show them the garbage I am picking up and we exchange names and where we’re from before they smile broadly, wave goodbye, and continue along the path toward their school.

Kobi joins me and a few minutes later, Mujasi races down the slope onto the sand and chases the edge of waves back and forth, only as deep as his knees, like me. After filling the sack, we all start jogging along the edge of the tide. 

We are joined by another young man, who walks out and then dives into the ocean waves, and bobs just past the breakers. Kobi explains to me that he came down here to help us swim in the ocean if we want.

I am still in my pajamas, which is merely a sleeveless t-shirt and shorts, but there is no way I want to enter the ocean without my bathing suit. I ask Mujasi if he wants to go in, but he will wait until I put on my bathing suit.

We all head back down the beach until we come to the path leading up to the house. By this time, everyone is awake and ready to head out. We cut up mangoes for breakfast, say thank you and goodbye to the man who opened the house for us, and head back down the coast to find One Africa where our cabanas wait!

Monday, January 04, 2016

Day 2

Although Sam’s patient taxi driver shows up 3 hours before we are ready to check out, we get an even later start today because we go first to Sam’s work – which ends up being about 45 minutes in the opposite direction – so my daughter can use his computer to finish making her travel plans. She intends to leave us on Friday and head to Benin to study traditional healing practices there.

Finally we’re ready to roll and the taxi takes us back to central Accra where we are planning on catching the bus to our next destination.

My daughter decides we should negotiate for a taxi instead which ends up being a really good thing. We are supposed to spend the nite at a bed and breakfast of an ex-pat friend of a u.s. friend that is not quite yet open for business but where we’ve been invited to stay the nite before we continue along the coast to Elima.

The rural terrain of Ghana’s coastal route unfolds before us: some taller hills west of Accra but then mostly even plains of lush green grass, few trees, low brush, abundant banana or plantain and palm groves, with a scattering of tiny villages infrequently springing up, and of course vendors in minimal structures as well as individuals sitting merely a foot from the pavement on the side of the road next to 10 or 12 mangoes stacked in triangles on the ground or holding high like flags the limp carcasses of small dead animals we do not recognize.

When we finally get our destination just as the sun is setting, we realize we will not be able to stay: there is really no road to the future resort so we bounce along between little thatched-roof homes while tons of goats and chickens skillfully avoid us, thru crumbling walls and fading straggly gardens, skirting small fires and relaxing villagers, climbing over large stones and gaping craters that try but do not succeed in trapping us to our relief. 

We reach the outer wall that is ornate with pre-colonization figures and nature scenes but is the only completed part we can see. There is one room with walls and a roof boasting a bed that is too small for all of us and but no water or bathroom. 

We are given a tour of where the kitchen and other rooms are going to be built and then we are invited to drive to the owner’s grandmother’s home, where a splendid meal awaits us.

We have to re-negotiate with Kobi, our driver, who graciously is willing to take us further up the coast toward our next yet to be determined resting spot.

Fortunately, Tessie successfully contacts another Ghanaian friend/chosen family whose parents live just beyond Elima – our final destination – and are building a guest house where we can spend the nite sin electricity because they shut it off while they are out of town – but with two beds and a bathroom with a shower and tub. 

We drive in the dark now for close to another two hours until we must leave the paved road again and travel several miles on bumpy dirt roads and thru several substantial villages before we arrive at the dwelling.

A man from the bordering village greets us with a bright flashlight and big smile, opens the house and brings over another mattress we place on the floor. We fling open all the windows and doors and fall asleep to the sound of waves gently caressing the beach below.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Day 1 - Accra

My daughter’s lovely friend/chosen family Sam swiftly picks us out of the airport crowd & directs us to his idling car. We pile in and off we go: the plan is to first drop our things at the house where we’ll be spending the nite before we continue up the coast, then stop at a bank to change money, and finally off to find food.

We drive down streets whose traffic rivals l.a. freeways and whose drivers could be featured survivors in nascar events, much to my grandchild’s glee. Pedestrians contentedly mingle in and out, competing with scooters and taxis alike as more vendors earnestly hawk their wares heaped on top of heads held high, trying to sell us, as we zoom by or sit at the rare intersection, everything from glistening cold drinks to cellophane-packaged fried plantain chips to attractive soft brown chairs with finely woven backs and seats or the infrequent gleaming soccer ball. 

Although there is air conditioning in the car, we all protest the cold and opt for rolling down the windows to experience fully the fresh air, novelty and excitement of Accra’s streets, despite the thick diesel fumes and enduring heat. Sam turns off the boulevard and squeezes into the last space in front of the bank that shares the parking lot with a colossal church whose bulk and blaring opulence rivals those mega monster churches in the u.s. 

Sam, whose thinly disguised distain and deeper sorrow echoes my undeclared feelings, explains that Ghanaians just  l o v e  their churches. We witness a dazzling sea of incredibly colorful decked out joyful humanity rapidly escaping out of the huge double-doored mansion of a church. In the wake of striking vivid Ghanaian fabrics, vibrantly contrasting silks and lace, and formal suits, I am dismayed to spot little 4, 5, 6 year old girls tagging along in oppressive heels and tight lacy dresses. I witnessed the same high-heeled shoes deforming young church girls’ feet when traveling through Mexico.

Sam does not allow us to give him any U.S. dollars but instead hands over $387 cedis he has retrieved from his bank – Ghanaian money: 3.87 cedis for 1 u.s. dollar. Again, we are in a country where our money goes almost 4 times farther than all Ghanaians.

I know this unequal value of money criminally favoring foreigners is the reason most tourists and certainly every ex-pat are occupying space and exploiting resources of this country. I feel the familiar wave in my gut of nausea and disgust and knowledge of u.s.ofa. privilege, and reaffirm my commitment to consciously trying to minimize the empire within that I shoulder as naturally as babies balanced on mothers’ backs.

We head out for a mile or two until Sam turns off the main paved 2 lane thoroughfare and steers down the bumpiest road whose red dirt echoes that of the earth in Georgia, thru a community of various houses, store fronts, and lots empty except for the occasional little band of goats or wandering chickens. 

Here and there children also play along this dusty dirt path, racing bald tires or dribbling stones; women stroll along with babies on backs and/or bundles on heads; most men seem to walk individually or together in twos or threes unencumbered. 

Unfazed by the sporadic pedestrian, deep ruts, screeching turns, or brutal lurching of the jeep, Sam steadily approaches a newly built very modern building perched proudly on the corner and adorned in lovely shades of gold, brown, orange, and olive green, like the painted ladies in SF. The house is surrounded by a matching high solid cement wall with an ornate metal gate where a tall, thin man materializes when we are still a good 30 yards away, ready to slide open the gate as we get closer.

How he knew we were coming right at that moment, I don’t know. Sam didn’t call him and neither did we. It seems people in Ghana pay attention to things, see things, know things in ways I can’t explain. I’ve witnessed similar attentiveness, many decades ago when I first went to Baja California in Mexico – before it was overrun by u.s.ofa. people – and more recently a few years ago in Senegal.

Our rooms are quite luxurious with overhead ceiling fans, large firm beds with cotton sheets, and even a little mini refrigerator. The floors are smooth earth-toned marble tiles and there’s lots of beautiful glossy dark brown wood doors, window frames, and inlaid ceilings and walls. And off to the left, a full bathroom complete with sink, a tub with a shower, a flushing toilet with the required small swinging-cover garbage can – a delicate reminder for tourists to deposit toilet paper in the can and not the toilet bowl.

After warm welcomes from our hosts and dropping off our bags, we head out with Sam again. He takes us by a restaurant that offers pizza and sandwiches – we immediately nix that saying we didn’t leave the u.s., fly 10 hours and come to Ghana to eat pizza. We want ‘local’ food.

Sam is pleased after incredulity passes and he confirms we REALLY want Ghanaian food. He takes us to another place not too far away that serves food we’ve mostly only read about. We sit outside shaded under bright red umbrellas at tables covered with green, yellow and black cloths as we delight in eating bowls of light soup with fufu and banku and fish and chicken, and for the vegetarians, plates of red red, plantains, and chichinga – all for less than $5 a person with drinks and pineapple for dessert. 

Again, Sam does not allow us to pay.

Fully sated we head to the marketplace. Vendor after vendor line both sides of the expansive 4 land boulevard and booths make a double line on the sidewalk, proffering everything from cell phones to vegetables to mounds of shoes and stacks of clothes to smoked fish and mangoes to fabulous cloth and carved statues, furniture and bags of water or cold sugary drinks. 

Womyn, babies snuggled on their backs, little or not so little bodies wrapped tight in bright happy cloth, lace thru the crowds with huge bowls on their heads, some of them so tall I cannot see what is inside; others balance plates shaped like silver metal saucers on their heads piled seemingly precariously high with mountains of smoked fish or bananas or ice cold drinks. Men also weave in and out with belts suspended from their shoulders like pet snakes or pushing wheelbarrows loaded with coconuts and a sharp machete ready to slice off and puncture the top of the shell for thirty cents each.

In anticipation of tomorrow’s journey, we load up on mangos, yams and plantains along with a couple smoked fish and several large bottles of cold water.

Before heading back to the house, Sam drives us around Accra pointing out museums and small farms, additional markets and malls, and a large lake where wild tilapia are caught by local fishermen. In the states neither my daughter nor myself eat fish, especially farm-raised fish but here in Ghana we will get a taste of wild tilapia and end up indulging as much as we can!

My Ghanaian "AH-HA" moment...

At first it’s easy to believe I’ve landed in Accra, Ghana for as we file out the door of the huge plane, we are immediately enveloped in heat so thickly hot and sweet it feels like we’ve been embraced by a lover after she's run a marathon in July in Tucson.

Then, having to climb down a ramp of stairs, bounce across a softened tarmac to a waiting feebly air conditioned bus to be dropped off at the back doors of the terminal, we emerge into a bright cement building bustling with Ghanaian life.

Beautiful people whose amazing glowing rich warm dark dark dark chocolate skin enhance the bright colors that adorn their bodies, open faces with kind eyes and broad smiles, generously hand out bottles of water along with sincere welcomes.

It’s almost 2 weeks after xmas but jolly white santa’s still adorn walls and shelves and poles. We pass thru customs without a hitch and excitedly join the throngs striding out onto the sidewalk, past storefronts and thru street vendors hawking their wares and taxi drivers offering special rates as they pace in front of the terminal…

The very first thing I see is a u.s. military vehicle - full of white, u.s. soldiers.

Yes folks, a fuckin u.s.ofa. military vehicle in fuckin Ghana. 

Now we (the us) did not officially ever conquer Ghana – that was the Dutch and the Portuguese, the French (maybe not in that order) and lastly the English. 

I know you must be thinking slavery has been outlawed, so we’re not there anymore to capture humans, beat, rape and chain them, and then pack the survivors into ship galleys to send off to the u.s.

It is not until returning to the airport almost 2 weeks later that I make the real connection when I read the headlines: “US Mines $274 million in gold, pays Ghana $7 million.”

Now, just to be clearer, US doesn’t mine shit: US uses Ghanaians to do the dirty, dangerous, hard work of extracting gold from the Mother Earth. And pays them negligible wages.

I google gold and Ghana and read that Ghana has the 2nd largest gold reserves in the world. The ah-ha moment hits: therefore our military presence. 

It’s so unconscionable, this exploitation and genocide still raging as we continue to loot the richest continent in the world, making us filthy rich and most of the people on that continent extremely poor.