Yusef Harris is the proprietor of the Alkebu-Lan Images bookstore locally. His son Jordan works in London, England, where he has been living for the past eight years since graduating from Morehouse, also his father’s alma mater. Yusef’s father and Jordan’s mother both passed away within a month of each other last year, inspiring Jordan to want to accomplish something special in their memory. They set about to embark on an adventure, a journey to climb to the highest point in all of Africa, to ascend physically and spiritually as a unit, and celebrate life and family.
“Well the idea to climb the mountain arose from my desire to commemorate my 30th birthday,” said Jordan. “The more typical thing to do would be to have a big night out in town or go on a beach holiday but given the heavy year I’d had, I decided I wanted to go on an adventure.” Jordan had been to Kenya previously, and Yusef has made six or seven trips to the continent, going back to Operation Crossroads in the 1970s.
The Uhuru Peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro is at 19,341 feet above sea level (almost four miles). As they ascended the mountains, the temperatures dropped from the 60s to the 30s, progressively lowering as the altitude increased. Daily progress was made in walking anywhere from 5-15 hours a day.
“The day we went to the mountaintop, the peak, we stayed at the peak for about a half hour,” said Yusef. “There was snow on the ground. We took pictures and said prayers, and rejoiced at being at the top of the mountain, because that was the goal to get to the top. We prayed about family, and being successful, climbing the mountain, and that kind of thing. Kilimanjaro is the highest point in the whole continent of Africa, so we were like, on top, on top of the mountain—the highest point.”
The route they took was a seven-day tour, with stops along the way at various campsites. Yusef and Jordan were the only Black travelers they saw among hundreds of travelers at the campsites along the way. In preparation for the trip, Yusef walked at least two hours a day, five days a week in Percy Warner Park. He had a series of immunizations, including: tetanus and typhoid, a flu shot, took malaria pills, and bought serious hiking boots he broke in ahead of time. He took a backpack, a camel pack for water, special under armor clothing and gloves, socks, etc.
“Sometimes you might think a challenge might be too big, that you can’t achieve it. But if you put your heart and mind to it, you can achieve it,” said the elder Harris.
“Most people who attempt to climb the mountain don’t make it.”
Son Jordan agreed, saying: “Climbing Kilimanjaro was definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done but reaching the peak was immensely rewarding, The time my father and I spent together on the mountain made for memories I will cherish for many years to come.”