Greetings from the Ocean City of Accra, Ghana: The Pan African Literary Forum in Ghana is Going Well Out Here

At home just before I left for Ghana

The Pan African Literary Forum Study Abroad in Ghana is going well out here in Ghana, West Africa. We are just at the end of the first week of teaching and poetry festival.

Hello Everyone:

Have you been calling and not getting me? Some of you have no clue I’m away, but hey, let me tell you how much fun it is out here with photos. My “adopted” daughter who is actually my son’s friend, Ashanti caught me on e-mail the other day and started chatting. She wanted me to post some photos so she and others would know what was going on with me. I have been out here really working, doing research, and teaching students poetry at the Pan African Literary Forum’s Study Abroad in Accra, Ghana. There are a lot of wonderful writers and students of writing out here. The trip has included much laughter and tears too, so here below is what it is.

Here Below is Poet Laureate of South Africa, Keorapetse Kgositsile reading and giving the keynote address at the opening ceremony. I enjoyed meeting and exchanging books with him during the week.

I was the second of three readers at the opening ceremony, reading after the South African poet. The readings and opening ceremony took place at the WEB Dubois Center of New York University’s Ghana campus in Accra.

The third poet reading at the opening ceremony was Tyehimba Jess below at the mic.

Below are a cross section of photos from the opening ceremony on July 5, 2008

I am in the middle here of the heat, students from all over Africa, teaching poetry workshops, eating Ghanaian Banku, fufu, rice and tomato stew, and of course, all fufus must and must be eaten with hand, poetry readings, publishers lectures, more eating, taxi cab drivers who can’t find their way around their own city, more poetry readings and discussions, and now tomorrow, we will visit Cape Coast and see the Slave Castles. This has been a wonderful experience. The sun in Ghana is like no other sunshine, and does not come any close to my own country of Liberia, West Africa.

My friend, creative non-fiction writer, Faith Adiele and me talking at the opening ceremony

Below here is our last performer of the evening, Grandmaster Masese from Kenya. Masese is a very young and talented writer/musician.

Below is a cross section of the group at the opening ceremony. My camera help caught Laurie Calhoun explaining some concept about something apparently very important. I was glad to meet Laurie who is the Publications Editor of Transition Magazine at Harvard because I had worked with her preparing my poems for publication in Transition Magazine.:

In Search of Our Ancestral Past- The Pain of Visiting the Slave Dungeons at Elmina Slave Forts and the Cape Coast Slave Dungeons:

The Pan African Literary Forum’s students and Creative Writing teachers took a two and a half hour trip to the Slave Forts located at Elmina and Cape Coast. We rode in two buses in the hot Ghana sun, but our arrival at the Dungeons was met with emotion like no other I have known for a long time.

Standing Before a Dungeon brings only tears

This is just a brief blogging of the painful moment when one comes upon this huge structure where our ancestors were bound and chained, bundled up and beaten in preparation for the long transatlantic trip to slavery and to death. I broke down just like many others, shedding tears. Even the men were struck dump with silence at looking at the ingeniousness of torture.

A group of us Pan Africa Literary Forum participants standing before the Elmina Slave Fort. This is a solemn moment.

My Visit to the Buduburam Refugee camp:

The Buduburam Refugee Camp where Liberian refugees have been for the past nearly two decades is shutting down. I took a cab to the camp to speak with camp members, but particularly, because I still have a sister-in-law in the camp. Camp members live in little small mud houses erected like a shanty town, and have made a sort of a make-shift home for themselves. This was my first visit, and again, there was much emotion, the pain of watching so many who had lost the years, now packing to return on their own to Liberia. The trucks were high with furniture and personal belongings. My sister in-law was healthy, a mix emotion of happiness and sorrow just to see me, but it was a wonderful moment. One concern she has is the concern of all of the other refugees. They are being pushed out of the camp without any incentives to help them get back home or help them resettle in war-torn Liberia. But they are leaving anyway. Hopefully, most of the refugees will find home at home, jobs, schools, opportunities. Some have decided to remain in Ghana because there is nothing to return to in Liberia.

Tomorrow I Fly Away Back to Liberia

I am bracing myself for the next leg of my trip, back home to Liberia, a moment I have waited to see for so many years. The last time I was home was eight years ago, just for ten days to bury my mother who passed suddenly that year. But this was not a real return home to visit then. I saw everyone then in a cloud, in long lines before or after the funeral, during the traditional Mat times when my mother lay in state. Some of my siblings were far away in a refugee camp here or there and other family members were in hiding still. Tomorrow will be the first real return in nearly twenty years. I am bracing myself for this one. God is good to me. I will post more. My internet at the Afia Beach Club Hotel where we are staying is shutting down. But the ocean is just a few yards from my deck, and the sound of the rolling ocean reminds me I am almost home.

Congratulations to Our Son Mlen-Too Wesley II: I was humbled to tears when MT graduated from college

Those of my friends who knew MT as a five year old kid when we arrived here in the US, well, he is not a kid anymore. Here he is posing with my husband, Mlen-Too.

Family:

The life of an immigrant is quite an interesting one. For some of us, there are no long line of family members, no sisters and brothers, no cousins, grandparents for our children, and often, no friends to help us celebrate when good things happen to us, and certainly no family to weep with us when there is a loss. Holidays are especially difficult for many of us first generation immigrants. Many of us will again celebrate July 4th with only our immediate families.

I was talking to my friend from college days, and like many of my friends, she lives across the United States. Her first child and son also graduated from high school. She and I celebrated over the phone, and were tearful of course, over the phone. She said something that is common to those of us who do not have many to celebrate with: “You know, Pat, even if my in-laws felt all the passion about coming to Brian’s graduation, they do not have the means to travel across the US.”

We are pioneers, I often think, pioneers venturing into the unknown, and if we are lucky, we may help bring over a sister or brother to help us form that long extended family that was lost in the long move across the ocean. When our son, MT graduated from the University of Rochester in May, my husband and kids drove with me to Rochester to make MT’s big day.

Ashanti, Me, and MT posing after the Awards night.

MT and Ashanti, a friend of MT’s

Ashanti, MT, and Paulina, the sweet girls I call daughters.

Gee, MT, and Ade Wesley, the three children snuggling in the rainy and cold Rochester day. The rain came down only after the outdoor ceremony because someone kept the rain away until that time. After the awards, the graduation, then came the party time for both grads and parents.

Party Time: