Nine students from the main campus just returned to St. Louis, and ‘life-changing’ is how each student described their last week in Ghana.
On October 17th, led by Dr. Emmanuel Balogun, Assistant Professor of International Relations and Co-Director of Global M.A. International Relations program, they embarked upon a short-term experiential trip to West Africa. Over one week, they experienced the social, political, and economic linkages and connections of life in Africa and the African Diaspora. The group also included Corey Hawkins of the Academic Resource Center, and Vincent Flewellen, Chief Diversity Officer of the university.
The packed itinerary assured a full Ghanaian experience, taking the group across three of Ghana's sixteen regions and to historical sites of importance. Starting at the Ghana Campus where they were warmly welcomed by Campus Director, Christa Sanders, staff and administration, in an orientation; the students then took to the streets of Accra, visiting the famed Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum (the resting place of Ghana's first president), the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre and enjoying a buffet feast of cuisine representing all of Ghana’s ethnic groups. The student group also learned more about African Americans and people from the Diaspora living in Ghana from the President of African American Association of Ghana (AAAG), Gail Nikoi, to being hosted to a lecture on 'Ghanaian Society and Culture' by a professor from the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana./p>
A "Transformative" Experience
In the Central region, they visited the world heritage sites of Cape Coast and Elmina castles - Elmina Castle being the oldest and largest slave dungeon in the world. It was from the shores of these sites four hundred years ago, that the ancestors of many African-American and Caribbean people of the African Diaspora were forced to board ships through the Door of No Return to an unknown fate. The group also had the opportunity to visit the Assin Manso Slave River – the last reported bathing place of the slaves before entering the castles. They furthermore included a trip to the Ashanti Region – to the royal Manhyia Palace, sitting place of the Asante Kingdom, and the Ntonso Adinkra Village where they stamped traditional Adinkra symbols onto cloth.
Back in the Greater Accra region, the students alongside their professor and other staff, were fortunate to have other relevant scheduled engagements, on Webster’s Ghana campus and beyond; including a viewing and discussion on the film Bound: African vs African Americans with Webster Ghana students followed by a fun social with all students and staff. They furthermore attended Webster Ghana’s 16th Public Lecture on Social Media in the 21st Century, featuring visiting faculty Dr. Kathleen Walls (USA) and resident professor Kobina Ankomah-Graham as panelists, dissecting the global impact on mental health, business solutions and social movements.
Two of the most memorable experiences in the capital, included an opportunity to enter the gorgeous Jubilee House (Office of Ghana’s President, Nana Dankwa Akufo-Addo) and a community service day in the community of Chokor, Jamestown. The group met the Diaspora Affairs Division at the Office of the President, where they learned more about Ghana’s engagement with the global diaspora community and more about the ‘Year of Return’. A beach cleanup with BASICS International on the final day was a moving experience for all as students, staff and faculty; cleaning up plastic waste and interacting with the local community.
An Unforgettable Experience
Overall, the group was struck by the level of hospitality they experienced throughout their entire stay in the country, encouraged now to be more intentional in reaching out to African students back at the main campus. They expressed how much growth they felt at every stage of the trip and the importance of such an experience for every student of color. The similarities between some aspects of Ghanaian culture and African-American culture provided a feeling of belonging and being at home. One of the greatest takeaways was the need for more conversations, engagement and connections between students of African Americans and those who recently emigrated from countries in Africa to the USA. Webster Ghana was proud to host the group and also have diversity training sessions for both students and staff led by Vincent Flewellen during the period.