Year of Return – Ghana Can Do More

Some 400 years ago, the first documented Africans kidnapped from the shores of West Africa by the Portuguese arrived in Europe. The kidnapping and enslavement of Africans – from present day Senegal to Angola and especially from the areas Europeans named the Grain Coast (Republic of Liberia), Ivory Coast, Gold Coast (Republic of Ghana) through to the Bight of Benin (southeastern Ghana, Togo, Benin, and southwestern Nigeria) intensified so much so that in the early 16 th century, about 10% of the population of Lisbon was of African descent. However, it was the Spaniards who transported the first Africans across the Atlantic Ocean.

While the British, French, Portuguese, and Spanish were pilfering and capturing Africans by any means possible to the so-called New World, Arab slave traders were raiding the eastern shores of Africa. It is estimated that far more Africans were carried across to the Middle East and Arab world than to the new world. Unlike European chattel slavery, African slaves in the Arab world had no chance of survival. After being used and abused, they were made to vanish into thin air.

It is upon this premise that we commend the government of Ghana for singlehandedly spearheading the historic phenomenon of the “Year of Return, Ghana 2019” for descendants of the transatlantic slave trade this year. Ghana’s President Nana Addo Akufo-Addo launched the “Year of Return” at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, in September 2018 to mark the 400th anniversary of the involuntary “arrival of Africans” on the shores of then English colonies at Point Comfort, Virginia, in 1619.

However, on the surface, this venture could and should have been a continent-wide initiative or, at minimum, led by all the countries in West Africa where the estimated 20 million captives originated! But that was not to be for several reasons, such as political stability and security. Previously, in 2007, the Kuffour government during the 50 th Independence anniversary of Ghana launched the “Joseph Project” to celebrate the 200 years of abolition of slavery and to encourage Africans in the diaspora to return home.

The President of the Republic of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has traveled to the Caribbean, the Americas, and Europe to promote and highlight the importance of the Year of Return. The government has put in place some measures to make the pilgrimage to Ghana as flawless and stress-free as possible. Amandla is aware of the constant and steady flow of celebrities and business savants from the U.S. and other countries, including Boris Kudjoe, Rosario Dawson, Michael Jai White, and Bozomo Saint John, to Ghana since the Year of Return was launched in the Fall of 2018, but we think more could and should be expressly implemented. We are aware of some activities “here and there” by the Ghanaian Embassy in Washington D.C. and the Ghanaian Consulate in New York, and some few
Ghanaians who have collaborated with others to organize people for the celebrations, but (we) are not satisfied, because we know that the average African American is not well informed of the program.

For maximum exposure and optimization, we recommend key facilitators of known and popular African Americans regionally: the Northeast, New England, Deep South, and so on. Some of these facilitators could be pastors of megachurches such as the Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts III of the Abyssinia Baptist Church, Harlem, the Rev. Dr. David Jefferson, Sr., Esq of the Metropolitan Baptist Church, Newark, New Jersey, and Bishop Reginald Thomas Jackson, the presiding prelate of the Sixth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.), whose jurisdiction encompasses over 500 entities in the state of Georgia and speaks directly to African American audiences. Other key facilitators are national and local organizations and associations such as the NAACP and Urban League, historically black colleges and universities, political organizations such as the Congressional Black Caucuses and state and local politicians that command substantial constituencies. On the “home front,” resourceful people like Dr. Zachary Yamba, originally from Ghana and at one time the longest-serving black college president in the U.S. could be tapped into to inject more fuel into the system. Such people and others have the wherewithal to direct and spearhead local forums and symposia to drive home the goodwill message.

Further, their vast networks could facilitate radio interviews on predominantly black airwaves and even identify potential corporate sponsors. After all, several financial institutions such as Wells Fargo (formerly Wachovia) and J. P. Morgan Chase have opened up about their past ties to slavery, and corporate American companies that do business in Ghana can also play their part in sponsorships. A collaborative effort between government and an airline such as Ethiopian, South African, or Kenyan could be the official YEAR OF RETURN (embossed on the aircrafts) carrier that would return its citizens back to the shores of the homeland.

The Year of Return is not just about increasing tourism on a superficial level. We should strive to honor all those who were taken from their homes and transported into an unimaginable situation. We are forever indebted to those we lost, and to those who survived – we have a responsibility to keep their memory alive and rebuild the connections that were lost along the way. In retrospect, in view of the importance of the event, Amandla recommends that the President of Ghana should declare “A Decade of Return” at the end of this year, so that people of black or African descent would have at least a stretch of ten years, which will hopefully accommodate all who want to embark on an Emancipation Pilgrimage to Africa.

Posted by on Jul 20 2019. Filed under Editorial. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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