Henry Hughie was 36 when he first traveled to Abidjan, Cote D'Ivoire.
With minimal travel plans and an intense desire to travel to the African continent, Henry describes embarking on a journey that would shift his perspective on the world, Africa, and himself.
What were the circumstances of this trip?
I was curious about the continent of Africa. I did some research and was able to find parallels between my culture here in the states and of those in West African countries. I grew up on the coast of South Carolina and we are known as “gullah” people. As a result, I wanted to delve deeper into the origin of this culture. I started studying the french language in order to easily communicate and move about freely. It wasn't necessarily the language that I wanted to learn at the time, but a language spoken in many West African countries, because of colonialism. I then bought a ticket and visited a travel clinic to inquire about the shots that I needed. I remember landing in Belgium and thinking to myself..."I will be in Africa shortly.” It was the most intense feeling that I've ever experienced. I also experienced fear because I didn't know what to expect. I didn't have an itinerary and was a free spirit, living a dream! I've always felt a connection to the continent, but I wasn't sure where to start. After talking to a few people and doing some research, I took the trip of a lifetime.
What impact do you feel this trip had on you?
I have more of an appreciation for who we are as a people. I was able to see first-hand the nature of who we are. We are a community people and I try to put that on display every opportunity that I have. This trip allowed me to see beyond what I saw on television as a youth. Africa is beautiful and she is resourceful!
Do you feel this trip affected your sense of self or the world?
I feel more empowered and I feel more connected than ever before to West Africa. I truly have a better understanding of how vast and diverse the world is. After my trip to Cote D'Ivoire, I have been to several other countries and this has allowed me to eliminate the word "minority" from my vocabulary. I have seen some of the most beautiful black people everywhere that I've visited. There is no continent that you can visit and not see in some form or another the contributions of the African. I'm very proud of that!
What do you think you accomplished or pursued that you otherwise would not have?
I made life-long friendships when I was in Abidjan and those friendships turned into partnerships in other places around the globe. If I would have remained content with the way life was for me at the time, things would have remained the same.
What do you feel contributed the most to this effect?
I believe that because of my open mind, I was able to soak up the vibes around me and process everything using every part of my intellectual being.
What advice would you give to the person you were before you took this journey?
I would encourage myself to be prepared to unlearn all the things that I thought I knew about humanity.
What, if anything, would you change about your experience?
I wouldn't change anything. I traveled to a country blind and returned with a better understanding and the awareness of an elder.
Henry Hughie is an IT Manager at Johnson C. Smith University where he also serves as an adjunct professor. He is a graduate of Savannah State University where he played football and earned a BS in Computer Science. He also holds an MBA with a concentration in Project Management. A certified life coach, published author, philanthropist, and motivational speaker, Henry uses much of his time empowering young people across the country and abroad. He's very passionate about utilizing his business skills and knowledge to impact public education, business and community development, and individual achievement.
Henry has traveled to Europe, West Africa, and the East & West Caribbean Islands. Henry is currently managing a technology and cultural exchange project in the country of Togo located in West Africa and is a stakeholder for an Aquaponic garden project in Haiti.
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