Thursday, August 13, 2020

More African Americans are Returning to Africa.

February 18, 2020 by  
Filed under News, Opinion, Politics, Travel/Leisure, Weekly Columns

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( Efforts began almost 14 years ago to grant dual citizenship to African Americans by 12 African leaders and African Americans in the private sector to increase investments on the continent as well as increase business interest. A 2006 summit held in Abuja, Nigeria  to consider if Africa wide dual citizenship for Africans living in the Americas,  or more individualized citizenship granted per individual African countries – based on the theory that all African Americans are part of the African diaspora. The hope of this initiative was for African Americans living in the Americas to gain a real sense of cultural identity and heal the wounds of separation from Africa and give them an opportunity for mutual collaboration with African countries.

Historically, W.E.B. DuBois move to Ghana in 1961. Ghana was a major hub for the Transaltanic Slave Trade from the 16th to the 19th century. Since Ghana’s independence in 1957, Ghanaian leaders have initiated policies to attract Africans abroad back to Ghana. According to Benjamin Tetteh, this signaled an emergence of a desire among Africans in the diaspora to retrace their roots. In 2019, Ghana’s president Nana Akofo-Adddo launched the 2019 “Year of Return” – giving fresh impetus to unite Africans of the diaspora. “We know of the extraordinary achievements and contributions [Africans American have] made to the lives of Americans and it is important that this symbolic year, 400 years later, we commemorate their existence and their sacrifices,” Akofo-Addo said. African Vibes reports that Amber Walker, a media practitioner made a visit to her ancestral home of Ghana during the “Year of Return.”

Walker argued that being African American in the United States is paradoxical for Black people because we occupy spaces where we are not considered full citizens. “ … I love the idea of Ghana taking the lead to kind of help African Americans claim their ancestral space. It is a step in the right direction. It is definitely comforting because that kind of red carpet has not been rolled out by our oppressors in the Western world.” Aside from the sentimental reasons for returning, the move is also economically pragmatic. That year, Ghana saw approximately 500,000 tourists, up from 380,000 in 2018. Also, Ghana has been heralded as a top vacation destination among African American celebrities, Black college alumni organizations and other groups. Other African countries appear to be following Ghana’s lead.

Teresa Watanaabe states that the West African nation of Benin took steps to make amends for their part in the Transatlantic Slave Trade by apologizing as well as hosting annual festivals to help nuture the ties between African Americans and other Africans. Benin’s ambassador to the United Nation Simon Bodéhoussé Idohou said in the past, “We want to repair the broken relations and see what we can do together.” In Sierra Leone currently, dual citizenship requests are decided on a case by  case basis, and an ancestral line is not required. American actor Isaiah Washington discovered his link to Sierra Leone in after he found out he was a descendant of the Mende ethinic group. Washington first visited the West African country for the first time in 2006, and was astonished  by how much the faces of the people there looked so much like relatives in his own family in North America. After his discovery the actor said, “I am who I am. This doesn’t negate the love I have for the United States, but my real parents are Sierra Leone.”

To date, Ghana is the only African country that grants dual citizenship to all African Americans living in the Americas. This act strengthens the Right of Abode Law, which gives anybody of African ancestry (living in the Americas) the right to stay in Ghana indefinitely without a visa, and also gives holders of dual citizenship the right to work there either self employed, or as an employee  with or without a work permit. “In past discussions, problems arose,” according to Azad Essa, “over identifying which countries African Americans could legitimately lay citizenship claims to.

However, since technologies have improved, DNA testing has allowed several African Americans to trace their roots back to select countries.” For example, comedian Chris Rock can trace his lineage back to Cameroon: Whoopi Goldberg to Guinea Bissau, Oprah Winfrey – Liberia, Morgan Freeman – Senegal, Liberia and the Congo-Angola region, Don Cheadle to Senegal and Liberia, and Quincy Jones to the Tikar people of Cameroon, the Sukuma People of Tanzania and the Tonga people of Mozambique and the Fang of Equatorial Guinea.

Staff Writer; Gustavus Betts

One may connect with this brother on Facebook; G. Betts and TwitterGustavusb.


One Response to “More African Americans are Returning to Africa.”
  1. Truly Thankful says:

    Beautiful. Completely Beautiful.

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