January 5, 2020 - Day 3 spent at Cape Coast in Ghana
Updated: Jan 12
Whenever I travel to Ghana with new SHGO team members I always make it a point to try and visit Cape Coast. This is an area of Ghana where the nine historic slave trade routes of the 15th, 16th, 17th, and 18th century converged along Ghana’s “Gold Coast”. It is a stark reminder of the 12 - 60 million (historians are still uncertain of the exact number) people who were torn from their own villages of West and Central Africa and sold into a life of misery and unspeakable horror. Beginning with Portugal, followed by the Dutch, the English, and the French - the vast majority of Africans were sold into human labor to Brazil, followed by plantation agents throughout the Caribbean, and eventually what is now the United States. The photos accompanying today’s account were all taken from Cape Coast Castle where countless thousands of men and women were branded, then housed for months in dark underground chambers, cramped together so tightly they could not lie down to sleep. If they survived, they were sent through the “Door of no Return” to canoes - much like those which still fish the waters surrounding Cape Coast - and out to slave ships, which packed as many human beings as possible into the hold of the ship for destinations in Brazil, the Caribbean , and later America.
The book our team is discussing while in Ghana is called “Lose Your Mother”, by Saidiya Hartman, which layers the historical account of slavery in Ghana and her own anguish as a modern day American to rationalize her historic roots embedded in Ghana and the current racial discord in the United States. Our work at SHGO attempts to physically uplift the poorest of the poor in countries where our own Seven Hills family of staff immigrated from. In doing this work it is also important we attempt to understand, and remain sensitive to, cultural differences and history. In visiting Cape Coast Castle we are all left with a keener perspective on the unique history of West Africa and hopefully, a deeper appreciation of the value and dignity of all people. Atrocities, such as slavery, occur when people allow the powerful and privileged to subjugate others by diminishing the human qualities of a minority. Hitler de- humanized Jews, Gypsies, and the disabled. Portugal, the Netherlands, England, France, and America de-humanized Africans. And today we are on a slippery slope toward vilifying immigrants as hordes of criminals and undesirables, even though our country was built on the sweat of immigrants from all over the world. Our work through SHGO should focus on developing, in partnership with our host countries, schools, clean water and sanitation, health care clinics, birthing centers for women, and economic opportunities for the poorest of the poor. But we also need to step back occasionally and put much of what we do in historical context. Today was such a day.
Tomorrow we leave Ghana after our short stay with many memories of our work in Nyitawuta and visit to Cape Coast. We next travel to Sierra Leone to continue the work of our largest SHGO partnership. Ali, Frances, Andy, Tracy, and Peter continue to amaze me with their willingness to jump into whatever is presented. Check out the photos of them at Cape Coast. More tomorrow from Freetown, Sierra Leone. Finally - if I might one small indulgence. My work in beginning SHGO in 2009 and working in remote and distant locations around the world representing Seven Hills Foundation and our employees would be impossible if not for the love and support of my wife- Dr. Kathee Jordan. She allows me the time away and encourages me always to continue on.
Dr. J -