The African Americans who chose to return to Africa
When Ghana declared 2019 ‘’The Year of the Return,’’ it opened the floodgates for African-Americans, descendants of slaves captured and shipped out of Africa, to move back not just to Ghana, but to Africa.
Ghana holds a significant place in the lives of African-Americans because it was and has preserved to date, one of the largest slaveholding ports on the West Coast of Africa.
St Georges Fort at Elmina, built by the Portuguese in 1482 -- and infamous for its role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade through the ‘’Door of No Return’’ --- has been for decades, a place of pilgrimage for African-Americans seeking to make a connection with their ancestral roots.
But even long before the 2019 declaration by Ghana, many African-Americans had visited Africa and some even moved here either temporarily or permanently.
In 1961 for example, Maya Angelou moved to Egypt and shortly later to Ghana where she joined a small, tight-knit expatriate African-American community that included the great scholar and activist W. E. B. Du Bois, the writer William Gardner Smith, lawyer Pauli Murray, journalist Julian Mayfield, and sociologist St. Clair Drake.
At the height of the American civil rights agitation, a number of members of the Black Panther movement moved to Tanzania, and lived outside Arusha where they formed a community, calling themselves ‘’Afros.’’
Decades later, many more Africa-Americans are visiting Africa, doing genetic tests to trace the origin of their ancestors by ethnicity and tribe, and visiting the modern-day countries as a way of finding their identities.
The Ghanian declaration of 2019 as the year of the return, was timely because it came at a time when African-Americans, in general, were facing increased racial discrimination in the US through civic suppression, police brutality and killing, social alienation through poor housing and health amenities, and ultimately the rise of Donald Trump and Trumpism.
All these factors had led to an increase in the number of Africa-Americans opting to leave the US. Some chose to look beyond Ghana and West Africa and moved to East Africa.
Rwanda and Tanzania so far are host to a growing number of these ‘’returnees’’ and a quick internet search brings up a number of video channels run by ‘’returnees’’ documenting their new lives and even advising other African-Americans on how to go about making the move.
Source: The East African newspaper