[Blackademics founder Pierce Freelon writes from West Africa]
Greetings from Accra, Ghana – my home for the next two weeks.
I’ve decided to submit “My View” from West Africa, to give you a glimpse into my experience on the road. I’m here shooting a documentary about black cultural production and migration throughout the African diaspora. I hope to premiere the film for several Hillside High School students at Movement of Youth’s sixth annual Hip Hop Symposium during Black History Month.
Movement of Youth (MOY) is an awesome Durham-based nonprofit, founded by UNC graduate Atrayus Goode. We collaborate every Black History month on a Hip Hop Symposium, and this year’s event promises to be exciting for Durham teens. I am privileged to be able to travel for my work, and feel a responsibility to bring my experience back to Durham.
I left town a few days ago and it’s been fun re-adjusting to Ghanaian cuisine. I had a belly full of Banh’s Cuisine’s spicy chicken wings, fried tofu and sticky rice when I hit the road. Now I’m getting used to Waakye (rice and black-eyed-peas), Red Red, plantains, Fufu (pounded cassava and yam) and fish. Not “fish,” as in a nicely-cut, seasoned tilapia filet from Whole Foods – I’m talking about a whole fish with 10,000 little bones that was swimming in the Atlantic ocean yesterday, now looking up at me with crusty fried eyeballs in a bowl of stew. Pure deliciousness.
This is not my first time in West Africa. Back in 2007, while earning my master’s degree in Pan-African Studies at Syracuse University, I traveled to Ghana to research hip hop in the Motherland. I spent three incredible months filming, interviewing and hanging out with musicians, historians, expatriates and emcees during Ghana’s 50th year of independence from colonialism.
This time I’m working with Brooklyn’s Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) and their partners, MVMT on a film about Pan-Africanism and cultural production. The film follows Ghanaian-born emcee Blitz The Ambassador and Grammy-nominated French-Cameroonian vocalists, Les Nubians as they prepare for a show in Accra. The film also engages a group of Americans, mostly black, who are traveling to Africa for the first time, as they visit the WEB DuBois Center, Kwame Nkrumah’s grave, the Elmina and Cape Coast slave dungeons, and other historical/ancestral sites.
The flight to Ghana was very long. With stops and lengthy layovers at several airports I got the chance to look around, and in the process I developed a new appreciation for Raleigh-Durham International. RDU is a world-class facility – and I don’t just say that because my dad’s firm, The Freelon Group, designed it. RDU is aesthetically pleasing, convenient and well oriented, and frankly, makes the airports in New Jersey, Frankfurt and Accra look bad. Luckily I had an iPod full of J. Cole, Phonte and 9th Wonder to keep Carolina on my mind during the course of the 24+ hour commute.
And Ghana was well worth the wait.
I had forgotten how refreshing it is to live in a black country. To see billboards, commercials and magazines that reflect a healthy variety of images of blackness. To hear and see African music, perspectives and personalities on the radio and television. To see an intergenerational community of people living and hustling side by side. I look forward to bringing these images back to Durham and exposing our youth to a sliver of that experience.
I will be writing every day, and will report back with another article at the end of the trip to let you know how things went. We will spend one week in Accra and another week on the Cape Coast, before I return to the Bull City.
Until then …