ACRRA, Ghana — Dear Mama, I’m coming home. Home to the land of the free, home of the brave. Promised Land, where far too many of our people go prematurely to their graves. America.
I’m coming home. Though not — as a Black man — without some degree of angst and consternation. But never more certain of my place and station in the days hereafter.
I still love Africa.
But bury my heart in the soil where Frederick Douglass lies. Where Martin, Malcolm and Medgar lived — fought for my freedom — and died.
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Home. Where our enslaved ancestors’ blood, sweat and tears soaked deep into the earth. And their prayers and toil gave birth to the longing for freedom’s ring. Home to where Black folk know why the caged bird sings.
Lay me down where Maya Angelou declared, “Still I rise.” Where Ida B. Wells penned the agony and cries of bloodied strange fruit that dangled from poplar trees. Where Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth sought to set us free.
Where on bended knees, church mothers, adorned in all white, lifted prayers to the heavens for my life and soul. Where their cornbread, collard greens and assorted ancestral food helped make me whole.
Where my great-great grandfather and Grandpa and Grandmother, and you and Dad died. Home where I can lay roses and whisper to you from my heart at your gravesite.
Dear Mama, I’m coming home. To where, when I was a child, Muhammad Ali swelled my chest with pride and filled my mouth with rhyme. Home to the land where Jackie Robinson changed the tide.
Home to the land of my ancestors who survived the cruel Middle Passage and scorching plantations. Where we rose from chattel slavery to three-fifths a person to birth of an emancipated nation.
Home, to where your spirit, dear Mama, speaks to me, calling me home, to where the souls of Black folk still yearn to be free…
Home to live and not die. Home to complete my unfinished work and to at least try to change my corner of the world for the good of all I love and our posterity. Back home after being reminded here in Africa that “home” is the beginning of charity.
Inspired by the revelation that I am undeniably African by DNA and blood. That my roots run deep in African red clay mud. But I am also irreconcilably distinguished by my American captivity.
By the blood of slaves that runs warm through my veins and that prevents any hope of me ever being truly accepted here as “brother.” I am instead the other. A descendant son of an ancestral Black slave mother. Born in another hemisphere. No traceable African family name or claim or tie here to ancestral land. No African redemption plan.
No road back to any familial African village after hundreds of years. Only false hope. Real tears.
Tears for those who cried for me. Tears for those who bled and died for me. Tears for those whose eyes cried oceans from Africa to America in sardined huddled masses never to return. Tears for those tortured in America, butchered, burned.
Tears. And pride. Pride for who we were. For who I am: A son of the “Lost Tribe.” Born and bred in America from where my ancestors’ voices now arise, calling me home.
Bury me among that invincible unconquerable people who created jazz and the blues, gospel music, funk and soul. Whose culture is imported by a world that seeks to mimic our sound, swag, flow.
Bury my bones on this ocean’s other side. So that my spirit may rest among my own kinsmen and my own tribe: African American — blended from the collective of African captives, our names, language and identity extinguished. But not our souls. Not our hope. Not our pride.
Dear Mama, I hear you calling from heaven, even on this side. And I’m coming home.
Follow John Fountain’s journey in Ghana at: www.hearafricacalling.com