Monday, May 31, 2010

Can Black Stars Shine.

“Welcome to Kotoka airport”.

As the pilot did his customary welcome, I looked out the window at Accra in the night time and for a moment, got a swell of emotion. I can’t believe I’m really here.

While the disbelief is in part due to a hellish and absolute nightmare flying with South African Airlines (topic for another post), it is more a sense of surrealism. You see, it was 7 years ago that I was first, and last here.

7 years ago, I didn't know that I would end up falling in love with this place and its people. I didn't know that it would be a gateway into a continent that surprises me constantly and cares for me in a way that is difficult to describe. I didn't know that it would shape my life in such significant ways. I didn't know that it would get inside my bones and soul to have me come back to live and work in Zambia for the last 3.5 years and a commitment in the future.

At that time, I had no idea what to expect and was swept off my feet with all of the new sounds, sights and smells that I had never been exposed to. This time, all of this feels so natural and I breezed through customs, and haggled with the taxi drivers like I had lived here all my life ( I still paid twice what I was supposed to by the way).

7 years ago, I was naïve, believing I could change the world. Today, I am still naïve enough to want to contribute to some change in this world, because its necessary, it matters, and because its possible.


I arrived to my guest house two hours ago, at 4:30 am under a cloak of darkness. During the taxi ride through the empty streets of Accra, my eyes searched for familiar buildings, streets, signs. Instead, a memory popped up.

It was a conversation I had had with my boss Mr. Boateng, at GRATIS ( an acronym, but GRATIS nonetheless). We were talking about the Ghanaian Flag which has a black star against yellow and green.

"Ka-Hay, do you know why we have a black star on our flag?"

“Daabi”, I replied, “I don’t”

“Well, its because black stars never shine.”


I haven’t gotten outside yet, but through window above the door, I can see that the sun is up. I wonder what lies outside the door and what comes with the passing of 7 years.

I've watched this special place from afar. I've seen its rise to host the Africa cup; to discover oil off its coast; to transition power peacefully between parties, demonstrating a maturity in democracy in last year's election; a growth rate that is about twice that of Canada; its football team, Black Stars making headlines during the last world cup, and likely again, this time around; to be part of the wave of Chinese investment into this continent, to grow to be the continents rising hopes, as others and itself has been once before.

I'm not sure of what will actually greet me when I open this door. But the last seven years has made me sure of one thing: that black stars can shine, you just need to look for them.

Because if they didn’t, how do you know they exist in the first place?