The night President Barack Obama was elected, my husband Frank said, “Honey, the day he sets foot on the African continent, we gotta be there, because that continent is going to rock! Can you imagine black people being taken off in chains, and now a black man is returning to Africa as the most powerful man in the world?!”
Well, he didn’t have to persuade me. On a Sunday morning in late May, he came screaming down the stairs, waving the Sunday paper: “Honey! He’s going! He’s going!! The President and Michelle are going to Ghana July 10 and 11!”
Suffice it to say, before day’s end we had our tickets, using a combination of miles and points that saw us paying a total of $280 for two round trip tickets to Accra, Ghana!!
We arrived on Tuesday morning, July 7. As we stepped outside the airport, huge signs greeted us, bearing the smiling faces of President Obama and Ghanaian President Atta Mills, “Akwaaba, President Obama,” meaning “welcome.”
From that moment on, the entire six-day trip was the story of fairy tales. The beauty and resourcefulness of the Ghanaian people can hardly be described, and their enthusiasm for the first American president of African descent was just overflowing.
What we could not have anticipated was that we’d land in the very epicenter of the Obama event as people of the Diaspora, or people of African descent dispersed across the world.
Our friend, Lurma Rackley, formerly Media Relations Director of CARE International in Atlanta, had mentioned that she had a friend in Accra, and connected us with Dr. Erieka Bennett.
Little did we know that apart from being the recipient of a Trumpet Award and having her footsteps enshrined in the Civil
Rights Walk of Fame at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, Dr. Bennett is also the founder and originator of the Diaspora African Forum in Ghana, which has full diplomatic status from the Ghanaian government, and is in the process of opening missions across Africa.
From the moment we arrived at the Mission on Wednesday morning – it shares space with the home, library and tomb of the celebrated 19th Century historian and sociologist W. E.B. DuBois and his wife, Nina Gomer DuBois, as well as the Marcus Garvey Guest House – we found her in consultation with ambassadors and pan-Africanists who warmly welcomed us into the fold.
Volunteering at the Mission on Friday morning, I actually took a call from the American Embassy while Her Excellency Dr. Bennett and other lofty lights from across Africa were holding a press conference on the significance and plans for the Obamas’ visit.
The ensuing round of parties and events, from the very private event at the ambassador’s elegant home for a few of her close friends and representatives of the media, to our last dance Friday night at a going-away party for a career diplomat from the U.S. Embassy, in the company of ambassadors from many nations, defy description.
Audrey Peterman and her husband, Frank, are longtime environmental activists. They are convening the First Biannual Conference and Expo, Breaking the Color Barrier in the Great American Outdoors, to be held at the Atlanta Airport Hilton Hotel, 1031 Virginia Avenue, Atlanta, Sept. 23-26, 2009. Their website is www.breakingthecolorbarrier.com.