Wherever We are, Africa is There

AFRICA OHIO MARKER 6-21I’ve been saying this for years. Not only do I say it, I believe it. Truthfully, I’ve only been to Africa once, for six weeks, 50 years ago. However, that trip changed my life, forever. The things we did and saw have stuck with me, like glue.

Before I went, my idea of Africa was straight out of Hollywood. No one had really talked to me about Africa, even though I do remember having met some when I was still in elementary school, but I never asked them anything about where they were from, or what it was like. I wasn’t that interested, at 8 years old.

When my parents first told me we were going, the first thing on my mind was what would I do for 6 weeks, without a TV to watch. Soon after we arrived I found TV and Coca Cola had reached Africa before we did, so that was not a problem. I also realized there where no African shows, just a lot of American reruns, like “I Love Lucy.” I decided it was stupid to lock myself in a room watching reruns I’d already seen, with a whole new world right outside my window. The one thing I recall really had an impact was when we’d meet very dark skinned Africans and they would ask us what part of Africa we were from? To them it was as obvious as the noses on our faces that we were from Africa, just not from around there.

POLLY JACKSON - UNDERGROUND RAILROAD CONDUCTOROver the last 50 years, since I returned from Africa, I’ve tried to learn as much about Africa as I could, from the music, literature and politics to the languages, religion and culture. I’ve met Africans from nearly every part of Africa and seen many TV shows and  movies about Africa. The more I’ve learned, the more I’ve realized how much those of us born outside of the African continent are similar to those who were born in The Motherland.

Well, today I was talking with my mother and she explained how she discovered Africa, Ohio. I’d heard of Africatowns before in Alabama and attempts to recognize Little Africas in L.A. and Detroit. I’m also keenly aware of Black towns all over the country, including California’s Allensworth and a number of Black towns in the Midwest, as well. Africatown, Ohio was not on my list, however. Apparently, there’s been an attempt to wipe the town and the memory of it off of the map. Seeing as how I just heard of it, I can’t say how significant her discovery is, but it does appear to have some historical significance.

People like Aunt Polly Jackson lived there. From what I can tell it appears that she moved there before slavery ended and that she fought off an attempt to recapture her with a blade. The 1 photo I’ve found of her, so far, shows her with a very serious, “I wish you would” look on her face, much like the photos of Harriet Tubman in her old age.

So, for those who think Africa is just too far away to visit, I say, “why not take a trip to Africa, Ohio,” or one of the many other African villages in the USA? If you come to our house you’ll see, wherever we are Africa is there, in spirit and in fact.

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