Elmina is a quaint fishing village three hours West of Accra. As you drive through the village, you can see older stone buildings still standing from colonial days mixed in with the newer wooden huts and buildings. This town is home of St. George's Castle, a slave castle used to store and ship thousands of Ghanaians during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.
The slave castle is large and white. It dominates the landscape of the city. When we pulled up to the castle a giant compass made of stones and wood covered an area near the entrance. As we walked across the drawbridge, you could hear the waves crashing nearby and fisherman hard at work in the distance. Both the Portuguese and the Dutch once used this building for trade, but instead of goods the storage rooms on the lowest level of the castle became dungeons to hold slaves.
When we were taken into the room where families are dropped down a hole into a dark holding area — I lost it. The room was pitch black, I felt hot and suffocated. I couldn't see my own hand in front of me. And I couldn't help but feel the pain of everyone's loss, including my own. In the darkness, it was like I fell into this terrifying place and I didn't know what to do. Only four years ago I had lost my mother in one day, I cannot even imagine losing my entire family.
I started to panic as the tour guide instructed us to go into the "Room of No Return." The air was thick and hot with each swallow. I throat felt tight. My eyes squinted. I could barely make out the forms of my classmates as they crouched down to enter the stone doorway. One-by-one each person bent to get inside, taking five steps forward through a door so slender, you cannot turn around. I could smell the ocean air and musty stench of the previous room mix together. This is the last the slaves saw before the entered the far worse conditions of the slave ships, where women gave birth next to corpses and pestilence owned what was left of their existence.
After this part of the tour I had to return to the entrance of the castle. I had found my own personal hell in that dark room and needed time to recover.