Erica Franklin took the Eve After Eden interview from Ghana. This was her third time visiting the country.
The 37-year-old world traveler, carnival reveler, and philanthropist had been slowly learning herself. She was discerning which parts of her were real, and unearthing which parts of her were scars, wounds or learned behavior meant to protect her from hurt repeating itself in her life.
Since 2013, Franklin had been growing in self-awareness. She was gaining the ability to take an honest look at her life without attachment to it being right or wrong while taking advantage of the opportunity to experience her personality and individuality without the need for the world to validate any part of her as good or bad.
But, her self-awareness came at a price. Franklin had to let go of the things that took more from her than she could afford to give away. Her energy, creativity, and time were hers. The career moves that required her to shrink, the lopsided friendships that drained her, and the busy schedule encouraged by a success-driven culture had to be released.
“Why was I so busy?” asked Franklin. “I wasn’t even making time to eat breakfast in the morning.” As an active woman, she knew the importance of eating balanced meals throughout the day to maintain her body. For some reason, Franklin was not making time for a necessary part of her life.
In Ghana, Franklin was five hours ahead of the U.S. The time difference allowed her to workout, run errands, buy fresh groceries from the market, get back home and start her workday on Eastern Standard Time.
“The plan is to move [to Ghana] in some time,” explained Franklin. “I don’t know if that’s in years or what that looks like but that’s in the works.”
She had no concerns about the physical distance her future move would put between her and her family. Since she became an avid traveler in 2016, they have grown used to her extended visits to countries around the world.
“[My travels were] scary for my family at first,” admitted Franklin. “Because you don’t know what you don’t know. And, I’m out here on planes and trains. I’m just out here experiencing things” she laughed.
Franklin was also scared. Traveling abroad and alone was daunting at first but her desire to see the world overruled her fear.
Her curiosity in travel kicked into high gear in 2014 when she began working out in fitness studios in the Greater Washington-Metropolitan Area. Not only was she getting into shape but she was exposed to different genres of Afro-Caribbean music like soca and calypso along with new songs from genres she was familiar with like reggae and dancehall.
When an opportunity to visit South Africa came up in 2016, Franklin proceeded with caution. She has not stopped traveling since.
She has participated in at least one Carnival or fete every year and once performed at The Fiesta del Fuego (the Fire Festival) in Santiago de Cuba. (If you have never seen the photos of Carnival and fetes from around the world… Google it! They are serving for the people.)
“Travel has really taught me to ‘woman up’ to certain situations,” said Franklin.
Her travels exposed her to the world’s beauty in Ghana, Jamaica, London, South Africa, Tanzania and Thailand. It also opened her eyes to opportunities to help.
In 2017, just months after her trip to South Africa, Franklin launched The Global Giver, a self-funded organization that provides needed resources and supplies to community organizations in Ghana, Jamaica, South Africa, and the U.S. Franklin calls it her “giving back work”.
“The giving back work started in 2016. I ended up launching The Global Giver. I want to show people that you can do work like that”, explained Franklin. “Also, I wanted to show Black people that we need to give back to Black people because you usually see people of other races coming into Black communities and giving back and being ‘the savior’. But, we need to be working on [answering the question], ‘What can we do for people that look like us?’”
The Global Giver has provided supplies to schools, orphanages and, before leaving Ghana this time, a futbol (soccer) team.
“Futbol is huge. In this hemisphere, it is the top game that you can play. A lot of kids love it. Not only is it exercise but it’s a great way to get together. You should see these babies playing together. It’s lovely. It’s a whole experience to watch.”
According to World Atlas, futbol (soccer) is the most popular sport in the world with more than 4 billion fans. Most people begin playing the game between 3 and 5 years old and, the especially talented, can become a professional players as young as 16.
Since launching The Global Giver, Franklin has made nearly a dozen donations using a combination of personal and donated funds. She made three donations on her recent visit:
- New soccer balls, bibs/jerseys, cones for training, and gently used futbol cleats were donated to Coach Musa’s Youth in Kanda.
- Nuriyah Arabic & English Preparatory School received bottled water, notebooks, workbooks, crackers, cookies, juice boxes, chalk, erasers, pencils, and pencil sharpeners.
- Hopeway Ministries Orphanage received water, rice, onions and oil.
Franklin has already started planning the next set of donations by The Global Giver.
“The peace that I feel here, I don’t feel it anywhere else. Jamaica comes very close. Ghana feels like home,” said Franklin as we wrapped the first half of our interview.
“It feels more home here than at home. I’m not constantly thinking about being Black. I’m not thinking constantly about certain things that were the anxiety drivers and I’m more at peace here to where I can actually get things done. I’ve been able to take a step back and address [problems] and [see that] I don’t need certain things that I used to rely on. Whether that is how I’m spending my time or things in my diet, things that I’m putting in my emotional and spiritual space.”
Franklin’s growing sense of self-awareness opened her eyes to both beauty and opportunity. The more she worked on herself, the clearer she became on what and when she could give.
“I’ll be damned if I leave this Earth growing other people more than I grow myself.” Franklin laughed but she had a point.
Prior to launching The Global Giver, Franklin had been doing the work on herself. Exercise was her healthy starting point and travel was her welcome release but how she found joy in her personal life had been triggered by an imbalance in her professional life…
(To be continued.)