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Reclaiming Our Roots: The Africa experience of two African American women who toured the continent

April 28, 2019 at 01:00 pm | Diaspora Connect

Ismail Akwei

Ismail Akwei | Head of Content

April 28, 2019 at 01:00 pm | Diaspora Connect

Dr. Alixis S. Rhodes and JoAnna Gordon on their Africa tour -- Photo: Dr. Alixis S. Rhodes and JoAnna Gordon

Many African Americans have sought to retrace the steps of their African ancestors from the continent to discover where they really come from and what best can explain who they truly are.

This journey of self-discovery has been embarked upon by many great black people in the diaspora including Muhammad Ali, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Louis Armstrong, Julian Mayfield, Sylvia Ardyn Boone and Richard Wright.

Others like George Padmore, Maya Angelou, W. E. B. Du Bois and Pauli Murray spent some parts of their lives in Africa where they turned into their new home.

Face2Face Africa caught up with two women who were inspired to take a 3-month journey across Africa to celebrate their 30th birthdays and discover their heritage.

They shared their experiences with us:

Dr. Alixis S. Rhodes (2-L) and JoAnna Gordon (2-R) among men on their Africa tour — Photo: Dr. Alixis S. Rhodes and JoAnna Gordon

Our names are Dr. Alixis S. Rhodes and JoAnna Gordon. We were inspired to take a 3-month voyage across Africa to celebrate our 30th Birthdays. We were giving ourselves our own right of passage to gain a better understanding of our heritage, one that was unfortunately taken from us due to slavery.

As African American people, we often times feel like a piece of us is missing. That piece for us was our African roots. We wanted to gain a better understanding of what it meant to truly be Black and not let a western society dictate that meaning. We went to Africa to learn about the rich cultures and traditions.

Dr. Alixis S. Rhodes and JoAnna Gordon on their Africa tour — Photo: Dr. Alixis S. Rhodes and JoAnna Gordon

We traveled from Dec 4, 2018, to March 8, 2019, throughout the western, northern, eastern, and southern regions of Africa. Our first stop was Ivory coast and our last stop was Cape Town, South Africa.

No means of transportation was off limits; we flew, rode shared cars, took the bus, and took the train to get to the different countries. Each option of transportation provided its own interesting experience. For instance, we used the bus to go from Benin to Nigeria. Utilizing the bus system to cross the borders in Africa came with some difficulties. One thing we can say about that is to have patience because the buses will be late or they may even break down, but you always end up at your destination.

Dr. Alixis S. Rhodes and JoAnna Gordon on their Africa tour — Photo: Dr. Alixis S. Rhodes and JoAnna Gordon

In total we traveled to 13 African Countries!

Abidjan, Ivory Coast; Accra, Ghana; Kumasi, Ghana; Cape Coast, Ghana; Lome, Togo; Cotonou, Benin; Enugu, Nigeria; Lagos, Nigeria; Dakar, Senegal; Marrakech, Morocco; Cairo, Egypt; Aswan, Egypt; Luxor, Egypt; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Omo Valley, Ethiopia; Nairobi, Kenya; Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania; Zanzibar, Tanzania; Windhoek, Namibia; Walvis Bay, Namibia; Johannesburg, South Africa; Capetown, South Africa.

There are few places we absolutely recommend.

Dakar, Senegal for its amazing food, music and art. Thiéboudienne, the national dish is a must-have. Also depending on what time of year you are in Senegal, you have to check out Lake Retba also known as Lac Rose, it is known in Africa for its exceptional pink lake. Also, do not worry if you cannot speak French or Wollof, Wezon Travelin Africa Platform got your back.

If you catch yourself in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire make sure to try their chocolate and also buy some from some locals, then head over to Bushman Cafe. It is a charming boutique hotel with a restaurant on the rooftop that provides great service, tea, art, and an overall vibe.

Want to visit one of the best beaches in the world? Make sure to add Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar, Tanzania to your list. They offer breathtaking views of the ocean. Depending on the time of day, the tides are so low you can walk out to the middle of the ocean floor.

Lastly, Ethiopia should be added to your list if it wasn’t before. It is one of the only places not colonized and they would let you have a view into life untapped by western society. A highly recommended guide to take you to these regions is Hodi with Tribal Touch Tours.

Dr. Alixis S. Rhodes and JoAnna Gordon on their Africa tour — Photo: Dr. Alixis S. Rhodes and JoAnna Gordon

The continent is filled with heart-wrenching history. The spirit and strength of the people are most memorable. Three things as a culture that all the countries we visited shared were hospitality, resiliency, and creativity. Everyone went out of their way to make sure we were safe and we had the best experience. They were patient and answered all of our questions.

This once in a lifetime experience made a huge impact on us as African American women. We know that a lot of African Americans are not afforded this opportunity and we did not take it for granted, but we want to encourage as many as possible to go back home to experience Africa for themselves.

This experience debunked a lot of myths told about Africa. One of the myths it debunked was that Africans are not welcoming to African Americans. Every person we met asked us why more African Americans do not come back to the continent and wanted us to tell everyone to come home.

We want to bridge the gap between Africans and African Americans, and encourage many other African Americans and the African diaspora, if given the opportunity, to embark and experience for themselves.

One thing we ask is for us from the African Diaspora, to continue to rediscover and revalue African traditional cultures, from the languages to the Arts to the music, and the sports. Rediscovering will help those from the African diaspora embrace who we truly are as people and merge the African traditions with the African diaspora.

We came, we saw, and we left with something more than both of us could have ever imagined, A sense of belonging. The continent as a whole welcomed us like long lost sisters. We found our Home.

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