IN the coastal town of Elmina, Ghana, the Atlantic Ocean crashes against the rocks with such a ferocity, I make our kids move back from the Gray-blue water.

Four hundreds years have passed since captured Africans were forced across these waves on their way to bondage in the New World, and now, standing on the edge of this violent water, startled by my own anxiety, I feel something deep and old and terrifying.

Call it hydrophobia. Call it genetic memory.

I've always had fear of the ocean, the fierce pull of its undercurrent, the crest of its powerful waves, and most of all, its seeming infinity - the way it moves to a place where the skyline caresses it. Then drops off into nothing at all

As the water lashes near where I stand in this West African nation, whose ports millions of Africans passed through on their way to the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean,

It is impossible to not viscerally feel this memory everywhere in my body. Not far from here, captured Africans walked onto slave ships.

I call again to my children. Tell them to be careful. What I want to do right now is pull them close, hug them hard. I think of the people chained and trembling and I know that by the luck of history and by the grace of time, I am standing here, unshackled.

Now, Ghana has invited the descendants of the enslaved to a place it wants us to call ''home'', While Ghana is not the first sub-Saharan country from which Africans were forced onto ships, many black bodies, including my own ancestors were sold and traded from here.

In its efforts to bring the African diaspora together, Ghana leaders are also hoping to make amends for the complicity of the Africans in selling their own people into what would become the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Ghana's invitation is wrapped up in a large marketing campaign called ''Year of Return.'' The commemoration is described as a ''landmark spiritual and birth-right journey,'' urging black folks to seek out our roots, invest in the country and to educate our children on African soil.

This year, there have been festivals, concerts, workshops and other events to mark 400 years since the arrival of the first captured Africans in the English colony of Virginia. But even as I stand at the shore, at once terrified and moved, I still feel some kind of way about this invitation. Curious. And Cautious.

''African-American dollars should be reinvested in Africa'' reverberates through the Year of Return narrative. It makes sense that so many of us would much rather support black-owned businesses with our hard-earned money.

But more than this, as I examine my unwillingness to tolerate America's insidious racism, its violence against black and brown bodies and the daily microaggressions so many people of color have long experienced, I find myself drawn to Ghana's offer.

The honor and serving of this painful and beautiful publishing, continues. The World Students Society thanks author Jacqueline Woodson.


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