Feature Lifestyle Writing

Alex J. in Guinea – Alahassane Kaba from America – An African-American Man in West Africa

April 23, 2019
Guinea is a west coastal country of Africa with a population of 12.4 million. The sovereign state is a republic with a president elected directly by the people. Guinean people belong to 24 ethnic groups and while French is the official language more than 24 indigenous languages are spoken. Guinea is the world’s second largest producer of Bauxite.

When Herstun asked me to recount my experiences and feelings about Guinea, I decided that I wouldn’t start by saying —

“Oh, how I love Africa !! It’s sooo amazing!! It feels like home!!”

— Or any other cliche phrases black people use at times when visiting the motherland.

One reason is that I’m not just visiting Africa —

I’ve lived here for almost 3 years now —

with that comes a lot more than what those cliches actually capture.

Don’t get me wrong —

as an African-American,

I have felt like Guinea is a second home at times.

I’ve felt the loss of the people and family that I was stolen from —

The culture that was denied and nearly eradicated

The language that rolls from my tongue so naturally,

and the land that sings to my soul.


I do love it here.

But that makes it sound like that’s all it is —

I think because we have associated the word love with ease.

It sounds as though everything is peachy for African-Americans here.

However, that’s not always the case.

Like everything in life, Guinea is as complex as the United States, if not more.

There are good, bad, and ugly days here also. 

I’ve come to know Guinea and its people these past few years.

I have eaten rice with sauce for all three meals of the day.

I have danced until the roosters crowed 5 am in the morning.

I have sweated and laboured in the unforgiving heat of the Guinean sun with students determined to obtain an education.

I have helped bury a sister, brother, uncle, child, and mother more times than I can ever recall doing back home. 

I have sat up late nights feeling completely helpless because the sickness my little brother is battling may indeed claim his life and I can do nothing about it due to the lack of resources.

I have taken janky taxis on terrible roads.

I have gazed on the unblemished and uncorrupted view of the stars and moon.

I have —

I have lived in a tongue older than my own.

Yet, a language just as true to my soul.

I even have a different name in Guinea

I am Alahassane Kaba!!

Through it all, I have come to realize that Guineans are very much like my people back home — beautiful, strong, creative, generous, loud, social, and loving.


Despite the centuries of separation,

one can still feel and see that similarities in —

Similarities in life.

— along with —

And you have a social culture that transcends the great boundary of the Atlantic Ocean.

Like black folks at home, Guineans talk loudly, love deeply, and give unconditionally.

And also like us, there are family feuds, conflicts between groups of different cultures and geographical areas, a rise in materialism amongst the youth, and moments of jealousy between the haves and have-nots.

Still, overall, Guineans are people that value relationships above everything expect God.

Moreover, they have the unique and almost uncanny ability to recognize a truly genuine connection and they make the extra effort to build a relationship after it is made.

Its a daily norm to receive 10 or more calls from friends, colleagues, and adopted family members just to greet and check-in on you.

So I have developed a strategy over the past few years.

To the best of my ability, I take myself and my Western perspectives out of the equation.

I give my all into getting to know and learn from the people of my ancestors while making a real and lasting connection.

So over the next few months, I hope to share some of my thoughts, experiences, insights, frustrations, and love that I have for Guinea and West Africa.

These will come in the form of journal entries, poems, pictures, and random reflections made by me during my time here.

Hope you enjoy,




Written By Alex J. Edited By Herstun.


This was a complete and total honor. Many Americans are exposed to the idea of “Back to Africa” for Black Americans in so many ways.

There are Garveyites who follow along the Jamaican-born, Marcus Garvey’s Pan-African and Black Nationalist ideas. After going to college in London in 1912, he returned to Jamaica in 1914 forming the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) centered on black determination and reappropriating black peoples back to the African continent.

Garvey’s ideas about moving Black Americans from America back to Africa gained interesting fans and enemies. Garvey didn’t really consult Africans in any sense before deciding that a mass reimmigration back to Africa was the solution. But Africa is a vast continent full of her own complexities and diversities. Most of which do not appear to be centrally concerned with re-Africanizing lost (and often confused) children of the diaspora.

Surprisingly, Garvey gained a lot of support from White nationalist groups in America. Or maybe not so surprisingly. You do not have to go very far on Facebook to find someone telling Colin Kaepernick and all that support him to ‘go back to Africa’ if they are unhappy in America.

What strikes me about Garvey the most is his observations about black skinned people living differently or being treated differently, no matter where he went in the world. In my experience, the darker the skin of humanity, the darker the plight generally but also all the more colored and fruitful.

Bringing Alex J. in opens up the continent just a little bit. A small peek behind what has become an American myth of ‘back to Africa’. Guinea is a tiny nibble but tantalizing nonetheless. What is it like to live life in a tongue older and more familiar than my own?

I’ll be waiting for Alex J. to hit my line to find out. Thanks for rocking with us on this super special edition of Herstun FM Readio.

For a more in-depth analysis of Marcus Garvey and his place in American and World History please check out The Ghetto Activist — Timeless Teachings: Marcus Garvey | The Great Black Nationalist

🇬🇳🇺🇸 Dedicated to the continued effort to bring all black skinned people together to better our self-image and the power within our communities.
curated by w.d. herstun
Imagery Sourced from Personal Library of Alex J with permission & Creative Commons —
https://www.wbur.org/npr/ — Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave trade
http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/ — New Revelations About Slaves and Slave Trade
YouTube on Garvey
IMDB.com on the Movie Posters
The Ghetto Activist

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