I just turned 23 years old and I'm about to embark on a personal self-journey.
For the past few years, I have been awaiting an exploration to an African country that I personally felt was rich in heritage and would be spiritually rewarding. Although there were tons of countries to choose from, opportunity would lead me to travel to Ghana for 10 days. My flight takes off this upcoming weekend.
As I begin to look forward to what awaits me in the Motherland, my Facebook timeline and social media accounts are filled with ignorance and caution about any and everything African.
Ebola is the reason for the season this time around. And while my nation's typical American panic grows around a disease that has only been reported of infecting way less than a double digit of citizens -- I have gained a sense of rebellion.
To be quite frank, I'm so damn tired of hearing Western civilization and all its media folklore define the legacy and history of my heritage.
For most of my life, I have come to the epiphany that I never really knew anything about my roots. It's been too long that I have let those cheesy, fear-mongering child hunger ads shape my views about a continent that is better than that. And as I begin to recount all of my initial assumptions about Africa through stereotypes and worn out American stigmas, I began to realize one major thing: this was once again another subliminal assault on my path to learning about my origins.
I consider myself to be a young African-American man, and while the likes of Raven-Symoné and many other notable blacks suggest dropping the first part of my identity and just being "American" -- I think they have once again played into the narrative of abandoning Africa. Why? Because they feel that just because they cannot specifically locate their roots on the continent... in their minds, it should not matter.
That's just as foolish as believing that just because you haven't taken the time to actually study and learn about your history, the facts aren't there to prove it. But that's none of my business, Raven.
Furthermore, as I have grown up in a society that has proven time and time again that being black and "American" doesn't offer me the same privilege and respect as my white counterparts -- I look back to the ancestry of the African diaspora to understand why.
"American" history wants to tell me to just be black and that my history started when my ancestors came to the country as slaves. I now refuse to accept that my legacy begins at that point. That is only part of the narrative and I am giving myself a personal birthright trip to explore the other half.
Personally, there never seemed to be a right time to go to Africa. Either I was told of how homophobic and radical some regions are or how impoverished and disease stricken others were -- it just never seemed safe to go. With just about anything black, the news will have you fear it and reject it even if you know nothing about it.
That is what the media is doing it right now with Ebola. I have peers that initially told me "not to get AIDS" when they first heard about my trip but now are telling me "not to get Ebola." Despite how myopic in thought both of these cautions are, fear is what commercial media craves for. It's the unfortunate spin of race dynamics and pre-exposed African stereotypes that make this all the more annoying to hear and read about.
To be quite honest, I fear for my unarmed life in the hands of law enforcement in America before being consumed in the false narrative of catching Ebola. When comparing the death tolls of both diseases in this country (yes, the wrongful killings of unarmed black youth is a social disease), you have to begin to wonder why black lives are once again put on the back burner for less threatening concerns.
That being said, this moment has made me even more anxious than ever to actually step away from America and see things for myself. There is an ever growing discord that is happening between Africans and black Americans and external influences are really causing the divide.
It has become a disappointing day in history when blacks in America fail to realize their actual connection or understanding of what it means to be a part of a larger African diaspora. I personally don't think the distance is one-sided -- I have experienced native African stigmas of Westernized blacks as well. But once again, years of social brainwashing and skewed programming of both parties have created this rift.
For me, no time would be perfect to explore this narrative than now. With the media having its eyes set on the continent once again, it's time that blacks here in this country really begin to look carefully at what is being told to us.
Is Ebola really stopping us from exploring Africa or is it an overreaction that distracts us from the more pressing problems we face here at home?
I can no longer let my self-identity be controlled by white dominated media airwaves that rather give me recommendations on how to avoid my origins rather than how to combat their institutional misinformation.
I'm going to Africa for 10 days to prove that not only does my heritage still exist, but that no longer will I be enslaved by the over-dramatization of Western civilization.
Because even though I don't wear physical chains as my ancestors once did, ignorance is still a form of slavery that lingers on today. My decision to combat it will be my journey to where it all began.