Sunday, November 8, 2009

Well, I’m back home, a bit jet-lagged, but glad to be in the USA once more. The trip to Africa was amazing. The purpose, if you remember, was to take Copper Sun back to the continent. The program Reading Across Continents paired American students with students from Ghana and Nigeria. It was a true inter-continental, global, cross-cultural, shared social and educational experience. It focused on friendship and shared, common interests. As Americans, we sometimes see only the negative aspects of African society. We often fail to recognize the positive—their focus on education and their academic successes. The young people who were part of this program are the future leaders of their countries. And perhaps because of this program, they have formed friendships that will ease some of the world’s social tensions.
Ten students from Ghana and ten from Nigeria visited the United States for three weeks in September. On this trip, twenty American students, all high school seniors from School Without Walls in Washington, DC, made the journey to Africa to meet up with their friends. Ten went to Ghana. Ten went to Nigeria. Their reunions were joyous and heartwarming.
I went to Nigeria first, where I got to know the students there. We visited the American Embassy in Abuja, as well as other sites, and the students began taking classes—in the uniforms of the Nigerian students. I did a book talk about Copper Sun to the teens from both Nigeria and America. It was an amazing discussion.
All too soon I had to leave Nigeria for Ghana, where I met the ten American students as they arrived from the US. Another joyous reunion of friends from two continents.
In Ghana, the American students again embraced the uniforms of their Ghanaian friends. I did another book talk with the teens in Ghana about Copper Sun, and somehow it was an even more effective and powerful discussion. I think it’s because Ghana is where it all started.
The next day we got to travel to Cape Coast Castle, the place where the seeds of Copper Sun was born. I got to retrace my steps, to touch the stones of that building once more, and to tell Amari that I had done what she asked me to—tell her story to the world. I stood at the Door of No Return, in front of those twenty students, their teachers, and assorted guides and other visitors, and told the story of how the story started, of how I felt that I was asked to tell the tale. Then I gave thanks that not only was I able to write the book, and bring it back to that place, but that the book had been instrumental in joining the hearts and minds of forty young people and their teachers and schools. Not only had the story been told—it had been shared with the world. Standing in front of that door at that moment was one of the most powerful, emotional moments in my life. I wept. So did many of the students.
I took Amari back home.
Thank you.

To see all the pictures go to: