Tiffany Ferrette, a 26-year-old policy analyst who lives in Washington, DC, started piecing together bits of her family tree while she was in college.

“My father’s family is from Charleston, South Carolina, one of the largest slave ports in the country,” she said. “They were really curious about the history our family had in this country. That sparked my own ideas about wanting to connect that within my US context and reach back and be able to see how I felt with traveling.”

This longing to know her heritage in part influenced her decision to travel to the West African countries of Togo, Benin, and Ghana last December with travel company Magic & Melanin. Ferrette has traveled extensively since she was a teenager, but mostly to Spanish-speaking countries. She says, however, that she was always seeking out black communities wherever she traveled as a way to see herself in the wider world around her.

But experiencing West Africa for the first time was a life-altering experience. For almost two weeks, Ferrette shopped at Togolese market Grand Marché in the center of Lomé, feasted on jollof rice and a variety of other West African dishes, and visited the Door of No Return in Elmina, Ghana — a former slave outpost that serves as a moving and often emotional experience for visitors.

“It was the first time actually being rooted in the place where we all came from,” she said. “When I describe [the experience] to people, I call it a very personal and spiritual experience because I felt like for the first time, everything finally made complete sense.” Read more…

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