Chapter Four

The sun was not yet awake, and neither was Noelle, when she boarded the tour bus at 6 am. Even with a day of leisure on Labadi Beach the day before, topped with great food and incredible live  music, she was beat! “How do Ghanaians do it?” she thought, as she saw people still walking through the streets of Osu with their party clothes on. The KLA travelers naturally broke off into two groups at night: #TeamSleep and #TeamNoSleep and last night, Noelle and Ryan joined #TeamNoSleep and stayed out until 5am to celebrate a fellow traveler’s birthday. It was worth every second as they danced on the rooftop of Sky Bar, overlooking the city. They even spotted Lupita Nyong’o and Bevy Smith a few feet away. Lupita was kind, but declined a photo. “People will just have to believe me,” Noelle thought. She grabbed her boxed breakfast and found a seat next to her sister. “How much sleep did you get?” she asked Ryan. “Sleep? What is that?” her sister replied sarcastically. They nibbled on their pancakes before dozing off during the four-hour ride to Cape Coast. 

The Davenport sisters didn’t quite know what to expect when arriving at Cape Coast Castle. They knew they were about to visit a place where, for more than 300 years, colonizers from Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, and then England trafficked an estimated 12 million people from Africa. Twelve. Million. But standing on the grounds, feeling the thick heat and smelling the sea made it real. Their tour guide, Sebastian, was an incredible storyteller. His words transported them in time.

On the tour, the group walked the same grounds as their ancestors did. They learned how they got there. They saw, first hand, the conditions they were forced to bear. They walked into the dungeons where captives were held, in spaces three times too small for their capacity. It was dark, it was murky and there was barely any air circulation.

As she walked into the one of the dungeons, Noelle looked up into the ceiling to find a looking hole where the European generals would check on the enslaved during church service. Yes, one of the dungeons that held men and women captive, dying or barely surviving, was directly below where white men used to praise and worship in the name of Jesus Christ. Noelle, having been raised in the church since the age of six, began to question everything she knew about her faith.

The group made their way to the last landmark of the tour: the Door of No Return. It was the final passage the enslaved walked through before boarding ships to lands unknown to be forever separated from their family, culture and language. As the group walked through the Door of No Return, they were met by a pastor who poured libations as he blessed the ancestors and welcomed their arrival.

“It is not by chance that you’ve returned to Ghana!,” he said. “This is a spiritual journey back home! The fact that you are standing here means your ancestors lived through the tragedies that took place in these dungeons. We cannot take one second for granted. You are here for a reason!” 

There was not a dry eye in the group. Many wept audibly. They were instructed to walk back through the Door of Return, which was renamed when the remains of enslaved people were resumed from America and brought back through the door on the way to proper burial. As she thought about the trek that more than one million people made to Ghana that year, Noelle held onto the wall to try and gain her composure. It was useless. She sobbed, overwhelmed by the weight of her lineage and the strength of their legacy. She caught her breath long enough to whisper, “We came back home.”

Song: Welcome Home, Osibisa

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