THE VIEW of the winding waters of the Niger river, the golden flecks of the desert sand and the lushness of the remote areas on the African continent was enough for Vincentian author, Lorna Edwards to start weeping hysterically on her flight to Ghana two years ago.
Edwards, whose pen name is Lala London, was motivated to make the trip to the West African country by Ghanaian president, Nana Addo Dwanka Akufo-Addo, who on his visit to St Vincent and the Grenadines in 2019 issued an invitation to African descendants in the Caribbean to journey to Ghana for the “Year of Return”.
“When the plane touched down, I literally fell apart… I just lost control of where I was. I was just lost. And I just started crying. I became hysterical. I could not function. I just sat there and I was crying…I think there were about 250 people on that flight and everyone was just leaving the plane and I was just there crying. As the people from the back were leaving, they could see me…they didn’t know what to do, what to say. I’m sure they were sure I was home for my mother’s funeral,” she told SEARCHLIGHT in a recent interview.
Despite having a fear of flying, Edwards said that “if the plane crashed and I died, that I was okay because I…my remains would have fallen on mother Africa, so in any event I would’ve returned home”.
The Year of Return was announced more than two years ago by President Akufo-Addo on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the first recorded enslaved Africans to the State of Virginia in the United States, and was aimed at encouraging members of the African diaspora to visit Ghana during this period.
It is reported that over half a million persons in the Diaspora answered the call and have continued to flock to the West African country since then, in search of community, culture, opportunity and history.
Sunday, December 5 marked two years since Edwards landed in Ghana and these are all things that she has and continues to experience while living there.
In fact, it was in Ghana that the author gained inspiration to finish and launch her second book titled “The Secret of Who I am”.
“People need to come home to really see what is going on on this side of the continent. I said my best quality of life in my adult life has been here in Ghana. For me personally, the best quality of life has been here,” the Vincentian said.
“You take the developed world…where we have everything so to speak but you don’t have a life. You do two and three jobs in order to pay your mortgage and your car payments and food, heat the house and all the madness. It’s not that people don’t hustle here, they do. I see where we get waking up early from, but you live, people live.”
Edwards noted that so many lies have been told about the African continent.
The author acknowledged that Africa is not like Europe or North America where Caribbean people have relatives and friends who they can visit quite easily.
She added that when she told persons she intended to travel to Ghana, they expressed fears of diseases and said they would never visit.
And she said it was “so sad because there’s so much to see and to do. It’s never a dull moment — and to learn! It is the place”.
“Africa is the place to come visit. It will go down as the most, I believe, incredible place visited,” Edwards told SEARCHLIGHT.
Similar to her first time seeing the continent from the plane window, Lala got emotional speaking about a recent memorable experience she had in Ghana when she visited ‘The Door of No Return’ — a place people travel to on Ghana’s Cape Coast to observe, commemorate and heal generational wounds caused by slavery and oppression.
It is where thousands of Africans were forced to leave their homes to be shipped off to enslavement.
“I’ve walked through the doors. I’ve reenacted what our ancestors went through… there was a deep pain that I felt because that big grey part of history is not even being talked about,” she said.
“It’s not being told to me as if it’s been hidden, as if there’s a shame that comes with that part. Because it shows firsthand the role that Africans played in the role of enslaving Africans. We need to talk about it because it is part of our history.”
Edwards said this trip has not been an easy one in its totality as she’s had many emotional experiences in Ghana.
But the love for the country, and the African continent were clear in her voice as she spoke of the many ways that Vincentians were more alike to the people she has met in Ghana than anyone can imagine.
As Christmas draws nearer, Lala can see and hear her neighbours busying themselves with cleaning, painting and making last minute purchases.
This is her second Christmas in Ghana and “cakes, food and meat galore” during the season tend to remind her very much of St Vincent.
When asked whether she would return to her home country eventually, Edwards told SEARCHLGHT that “I can’t think of any reason other than love”.
“Other than that, I don’t see myself returning permanently… St Vincent and the Grenadines will always be home. I love my sweet SVG…I’m well loved and I feel that love…but I’m gonna be honest. I would like my remains to remain here (Ghana).”
She also encouraged persons to visit the African continent because “it’s an experience, it is a blessing, it is a pleasure, it is a gift”.
Despite being there for two years, the author said she has yet to do any actual tracing of her actual heritage simply because she is not ready to do so.
But she intends to sometime in the future.
Lala London also has another book in the works, titled ‘The truth about Hairouna: History Untold”, which she hopes to launch by March 2022 in time for National Heroes Day.