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By Isear Brown

Author and Brand Ambassador


Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am a father of two beautiful daughters. I was born in the Bronx, NYC, in a community of Black and Latino people. Poverty was a huge part of my existence, however, it never deterred me from my goals of achieving a successful life that could change the narrative of my upbringing.

What made you decide to take a pilgrimage trip?
I decided to make a pilgrimage to Africa because it has always been on my bucket list. I decided on Ghana in 2019, as it was deemed “The Year of Return.” Four hundred years prior to 2020 was when the first Black/African person was stolen from West Africa and brought to the United States. Ghana is a beautiful place to visit and I enjoyed it all, however, the main reason that I went was to visit the slave castles on the coast of West Africa. It was very important for me to go and understand my heritage even more.

Did your ancestors come from Africa? If so, do you know anything about their histories?
My ancestors did come from Africa. I am not sure of exactly where, as I do not fully trust and believe in providing my DNA to check where my family is from. However, when I was in Ghana, I felt a kind of home connection as I was very comfortable in the surroundings there.

Why did you choose to visit Ghana in particular?
Africa was always on my bucket list to visit. One of my good friends is Ghanaian and he brought the idea to my attention. And after doing my research, I became very interested in visiting the slave castles, Elmina and Cape Coast. The spirits of my ancestors spoke to me as I could feel their presence as I went on the tour. I was very emotional and drained as there was a lot to learn about and see. 

Did you feel welcomed by the locals?
The Ghanaian people greeted me with the saying “Akwaaba,” which means welcome. I was told that several times as I met different locals. I felt so at home. So much so that I did not want to leave. And I tell people that if I was not a father, I would have moved to Ghana to live during the height of the pandemic.  

 

Vibrantly colored wall art of a young Black woman, taken in Accra, the capital of Ghana.

 

Did you go as a group? If so, what were your fellow travelers like?
It was a solo travel pilgrimage, but I did meet with some friends who were there. However, since it was “The Year of Return,” there were tons of people there. The Ghanaian government issued 600,000 visas and I would say that 90% of the people with those visas showed up. It was an amazing sight to behold.

Did it feel like a homecoming to you?
In a way, it did. That is why I called it my pilgrimage back home. I felt at home because of how the people received me. At points, I left my group and ventured off by myself to get a lay of the land and all the locals embraced me. I did not want to come back to the United States.

Any moments that were particularly poignant?
The first moment was my arrival at Bojo Beach, located on the Atlantic Ocean. Being that I am a native New Yorker, I was used to the cold, dirty-looking Atlantic Ocean. However, on the coast of Ghana, the water was surprisingly warm on December 25, Christmas Day. The second moment was my visit to both slave castles on the coasts. Those visits resonated with me as I realized I do not have anything really to complain about since my ancestors went through far more dire circumstances than I could possibly experience today. It was an empowering moment for me.

What was the food like?
The food was absolutely amazing and very inexpensive. I fell in love with jollof rice. It’s an African delicacy that is served with almost every meal. Also, the fruit was so fresh, juicy and sweet. It made me look at the fruit that I eat in the United States totally differently now. While I was on Bojo Beach, sitting on the sand, I noticed about five or six young men pulling a long rope from the sea as I was facing the ocean. I was wondering what they were pulling. And then five minutes later, I saw another five or six young men pulling another rope as well. Then it hit me, they were pulling a net together and then out of the sea. Turns out that the restaurant that I was eating seafood from purchased all of their seafood from those young fishermen. Talk about fresh from the sea to the plate seafood. I was amazed

Did anything fall short of your expectations?
Time was the only thing that fell short for me. Three weeks was not enough because I was having SUCH a GREAT TIME!!!!!  

Would you recommend a pilgrimage trip to other people?
I would. Ghana is an amazing, thriving land with great places to stay, great business opportunities and amazing nightlife. While I recommend Ghana to all people, I especially think that Black people should make it their business to go back home and reconnect with their culture. I met Black people from Germany, Australia, the UK and it was great to see.

Do you plan on returning to Ghana?
Yes, I do. I cannot wait. I want to ultimately live there once my children are adults. I will be looking into dual citizenship.

Two images: “The Door of No Return” in the Elmina slave castle, a weathered stone walkway with an open, heavy door. And the Elmina slave dungeon, an ancient-looking entrance to an arched corridor with the depiction of a skull and a large “X” above the entry.

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