Talibah Aquil MA ’19 (conflict transformation) is the featured guest of this week’s episode of the Peacebuilder podcast hosted by Patience Kamau MA ’17. In the episode, Aquil talks about her first journey to her ancestral home, Ghana; the captivating performance art capstone that was borne of that experience; and her calling as a bridge between the North American and African continents.
The “Peacebuilder” podcast, in its second season, is a production of Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, as it celebrates its 25th anniversary.
More than 6,500 listeners in 102 countries and 1,239 cities across the globe enjoyed Season I.
The podcast is among just a handful covering the general peacebuilding field. It is available on EMU’s Peacebuilder website, Apple Podcasts on iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher, iHeart Radio, TuneIn and other podcast directories.
Aquil first decided to travel to Ghana after research through ancestry.com revealed that she had more ancestors from there than any other African country. For her capstone project to her graduate studies at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, she spent three weeks there, interviewing Black Americans and others of the African diaspora who had returned to their homeland about how those experiences shaped their identities.
Aquil used those stories to create “Ghana, Remember Me,” a poetry, dance, and music performance that speaks on healing historical trauma within the African diaspora community. The project brought together her experiences and a diverse skill set: A graduate of Howard University with a BA in musical theater, Aquil toured with a professional dance troupe after college.
Performing “Ghana, Remember Me” “brought to my attention how many people really need spaces to talk about identity … and the complexities of it,” she said.
That work has helped Aquil face the present as well as her history.
“Something about me connecting to the root of my identity gave me such power that when I came back to the States, it was almost like I was prepared to endure all of the racial chaos that was happening in America, because I knew where I came from,” she said. “I saw the power of my people and it gave me strength. It gave me strength. It didn’t take away the pain, but it gave me strength to endure.”
She recalled a feeling of homecoming, even on her first trip to Ghana.
“Your cells remember … the body knows,” Aquil said.
Aquil moved to Ghana last year, and lives in the capital city of Accra.
“I knew in my spirit that I was supposed to be in Ghana and, again – not knowing the puzzle pieces, just like my journey at CJP – I knew that I was supposed to be here. And listening to that intuition, I’m so grateful because it has been wonderful,” she said.
Aquil is now a lecturer at CJP, where she introduced a course titled “Re-imagining Identity” that examines the intersections of identity, storytelling, dignity, and the arts. In that same vein of re-imagination, she is also developing an organization called “We Are Magic.”
“The goal is to bring diaspora people of color to Ghana – to connect, to history, to identity, and to heal from historical trauma,” Aquil explained. “I want to do this at a little to no cost for them. I want to build a place where folks can stay and it be a resting place, a restorative place in Ghana.”
Aquil is slated to host and facilitate a crosscultural travel and study experience for EMU undergraduates in the coming months.