By Ariyana Griffin,
Special to the AFRO
Today we rode through the busy streets of Ghana until we made it to a magnet primary school into the city of Tema. Upon arrival we were warmly met by the principal. Escorted in groups of two, we were assigned different classrooms to speak to students as well as distribute school supplies.
I was assigned to a fourth grade classroom. Their faces lit up when we arrived –as did mine. I was filled with excitement and a little bit of jitters. After warming up a bit and introducing ourselves, questions from the students started pouring in. This was my favorite part because I loved how curious they were. They asked various questions such as what the weather was like, and what sports and foods were traditional for America. They asked what games we liked to play, how our family dynamic is and so many more. Their eyes widened with each answer and they smiled while hanging onto our every word.
We had questions as well such as what they wanted to be when they grew up, what was their favorite subject in school and what hobbies they enjoyed.
Before arriving we were assigned to prepare a bag of “Me Stew.” This is a bag full of keepsakes from home to talk and share with students that would give them an idea of our life in the United States. I brought my Morgan State University identification card, a photo of my dog, a newspaper I was published in, a clay turtle– which is my favorite animal– and a hip-hop history photo book.
I thought it would be fun to show them some of the styles and fashions we have in the United States. With 2023 marking the 50th Anniversary of Hip-Hop, I wanted to share my favorite artists and how their artform has impacted my life. Not only were they surprised to see chains and clothing with the map of Africa on the rappers, they were amazed that each rapper’s hometown could have different weather. They were fascinated that it snows and rains in some regions, but not so much in others. The students were also interested to learn that women can be rappers too.
Before lunch time we gave them a spelling test with five words: department, mid-term, journal, residence and responsibility. I loved how the teacher made it a priority to celebrate all the students no matter how many words they got right. He spoke about the importance of trying, even if you get it wrong the first time. This is actually a life lesson that I will be sure to implement in my life. I loved that they were getting reassurance and positive affirmation so early on.
After our “Me Stew” show and tell session, and a few more questions, the students were released for lunch and play time. Although it was hot out, we enjoyed playing jump rope, volleyball, and basketball. A DJ was present and played both American and Ghanaian music. We danced and danced to the rhythmic beats like we did not have a care in the world. The residents showed us their best moves and we showed them some of ours. The students also taught me a new way to play “rock, paper, scissors.” Unlike in the United States where we use our hands, they use playing cards. While sharing a traditional lunch of jollof rice, chicken and potato salad, we spoke about the day’s experience and what we learned from one another.
At the end of the day, we said our goodbyes and it was more difficult than I imagined. Even though it was just a few hours, the students we spent time with truly had an impact on me. Feeling a range of emotions, I was sad but also happy I got to experience them. I was sad to leave the group so soon– but happy that I got to experience the next generation of Ghanaian doctors, lawyers, engineers, actors and maybe, musicians.
I told them they all had a spot waiting for them at Morgan State University!