At 16, RJ Mahdi traveled to Senegal West Africa with a plan of engaging in his own spiritual growth. It was in the historically spiritual city of Medina Baye where he experienced a new way of life and fresh perspective on his own identity.
What impact do you feel this trip had on you?
It greatly impacted me. At an age when my peers were being killed, going to prison, finding trouble in the streets of America, I was able to escape to a place where my mind would be open to new opportunities and knowledge. I was hosted by the leaders of the city including the then Chief Imam Hassan Ali Cisse (d.2008). I was boarded with dozens of other young American youths and many kids from other places around the world and we were given guidance and mentorship that left a lasting impact on our lives.
"It showed me how different places can open up your mind in different ways. I also found that people were a lot more positive and progressive."
Do you feel this trip effected your sense of self or the world? If so, in what way?
Yes for sure. First, it showed me that America is such a small part of the world in full. It showed me how different places can open up your mind in different ways. I also found that people were a lot more positive and progressive. These things in addition to the beautiful community lifestyle and collective economics left me wanting to come back to Senegal for years.
What do you think you accomplished or pursued that you otherwise would not have?
I learned to speak the native West African language Wolof, which I now speak fluently. I learned it to conversational level in less than three months. I love the language and I am proud to call it my second tongue.
What do you feel contributed the most to this effect?
The spiritual and cultural richness and pureness in the people and the environment.
What advice would you give to the person you were before you took this journey?
Go. Be. Do.
RJ Mahdi is an American entrepreneur and media professional who repatriated to Senegal West Africa in 2014 with his wife and young son. He is the Founder of the I AM MEDINA BAYE Project, the first English media outlet for the spiritual city and the co-Founder of the MADE IN AFRICA PROJECT, an e-commerce and marketing program that helped African artisans and craftsmen distribute over 2200lbs of goods around the world last year. RJ is also the Kaolack Area Director of the GIVE 1 PROJECT, a global organization in 36 countries that assists young people with building businesses, pursuing social change and building resources for tomorrow.