I am talking about Africa.
I have always had a consciousness of her. I grew up listening to her music and reading her literature and poetry. I am always constantly learning about her; her struggles, her victories, her contributions to our world society, and the way she has influenced the world. I am always learning about her legacy.
In 2010 I began dreaming about her. It is hard to explain, but I literally dreamed of landing on the shores of the Motherland. My dreams of her felt very real; as real as my heartbeat. Spiritually and through my dreams I felt that she was calling for me – she was calling me to come to her. There was only one thing I could do.
So, in January 2011, I decided that it was time for me to go to Africa. I did not know how I would get there or how long I would be there, but I knew it was my time to travel home to the Motherland. I Knew that when I traveled to Africa I wanted to be a volunteer. I wanted to go home and to contribute my talent and skills to uplifting a community there, no matter how small a contribution. I began researching international volunteer organizations and I settled on an organization that my cousin told me about a long time back. I signed up as an international volunteer with Cross Cultural Solutions in March 2011. CCS has programs in Morocco, Tanzania, Ghana and South Africa. I chose South Africa.
The moment I signed up, I felt a rush of happiness and anxiety. I was about to do something I had never done before in my life – I was about to travel across the world by myself. I had never really left American soil before except Canada and I had no idea what to expect.
But I was ready.
I began fundraising and letting friends know of my plans to travel to South Africa as an international volunteer and I was so excited. I had so much support from friends and family and I will be forever grateful for everyone that contributed to my journey. I immersed myself in learning about the culture, struggles and triumphs of South Africa. I did not know who would be there for me to meet or the places I would visit, but I was ready for the life changing experience that I knew was waiting for me in Cape Town.
I was scheduled to leave in October 2011 for 3 weeks, but I decided to change my trip to January 2012 to give me more time to prepare. I wanted to be the best volunteer I could be and more time was best for me to prepare.
I was scheduled to leave for Cape Town on January 7, 2012.
On November 30, 2011 my brother, SSGT. Vincent J. Bell of the U.S. Marines, was killed in Afghanistan. He was on his fifth deployment to the Middle East. He had already completed four tours of duty in Iraq. There are no words I could ever write that would fully explain the depth of my sadness – and even this moment is painful. On December 27, 2011, Vincent was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, DC.
I was scheduled to leave for South Africa on January 7, 2012, ten days later; and I just did not think that taking a trip was the right thing to do. My spirit and intuition, however, spoke to me differently and during the storm of this tragedy, I embarked on my journey to the Motherland. I held Vincent closely in my heart and soul and I traveled across the world to the place I dreamed of so often.
I am writing my story to say this:
The whole time I felt her (Africa) calling me to come to her, I always thought it was because I was supposed to be of service. I am Afro-American, I am a citizen of the African Diaspora and I felt I was answering the call to be of service as a volunteer to an African community in Cape Town. Perhaps, though she was calling me home to dwell in peace and serenity. Perhaps she called me home because she knew that I would need to be in a sacred space to begin my healing process. Perhaps the Universe and stars aligned so that I could travel to the place I needed to be after my brother died.
Perhaps I am loved so much by God and the Universe that He allowed Africa to enter my spirit through my dreams an entire year earlier to be sure that I would travel there at the time I was supposed to.
So in essence, my intention was to be of service as a volunteer, but in reality, in South Africa I received so much more. I received the wind from Table Mountain, and the sun every morning. I received love, comfort, understanding, fellowship, good nutrition, rest, friendship, companionship and healing. I learned history, culture, language, struggle, victory, and the pride of the people. I gave 100% of myself as a volunteer and I received 100% of that positive energy back and so much more.
I have been reflecting a lot recently on my journey to South Africa. It is now 2014 and every day in November, December and January are sacred moments of remembrance of my brother and the place I sought solace during the time of his transition.
And I still dream of her – and returning back to the place where I found peace.
She is a magnetic force and she has left her imprint on me forever.
I plan to return one day soon and she is my inspiration Monday. Africa is her name and she inspires me to remember how far I have come and the bravery I had within me during the time I lost one of my best friends in the world.
Africa inspires me to be strong and to hold on during the storm --- and to carry those that I love deep in my heart everywhere I go.
This means “Power to the People!” in the Xhosa and Zulu languages of South Africa. These words resonate with me and the journey I am on every day.