Why B(l)ack to Africa?

The phrase “B(l)ack to Africa” is a nod to Marcus Garvey’s Back to Africa movement. Drawing upon the teachings of Pan-Africanism and its noteworthy leaders, as well as the experience and wisdom gained by Garvey’s movement, we consider the B(l)ack to Africa movement to be a sort of 2.0 version of the original vision. Hoping to appeal to every black person on the planet, B(l)ack to Africa utilizes social media, entertainment and new media communication platforms to plant the seeds of this movement. We then rely on every black person who believes in the movement’s goals to add their own translations and pass the message on in order to help it grow.

We believe Africa holds special promise for blacks in the diaspora and we want to see that promise blossom.

Here’s a little think piece that explains exactly where we’re coming from:

Why Should Black People Go Back to Africa?

I know, I know… Africa is a continent. And most black people in the United States can’t point to a single relative living anywhere in the vicinity. We were not born there and we are at home right where we are. The mere title of this piece will have some of you hot under the collar– indignant at the suggestion that we need to go anywhere. After all, we built this country with our labor, our power, our blood, our sweat and with countless tears. Besides, which country or tribe would we “go back” to, exactly? How do you go back to a place you’ve never even been to?

I get it. All of it.

And I still say we need to go back to Africa.

For the sake of conversation, can we skip the debate over the word “back” just this once? In this particular conversation, it only serves as a philosophical distraction. Besides, we all know what is meant when we hear it. Wait. Let me rephrase that. We all know what is meant when we hear it from another black person. We know that Africa is in our blood and no matter how removed we are from the continent, we know that we are forever tied to it. Rest assured, no one is evicting you from America or wherever else you were born and no one is asking you to pack your bags today. So let’s all just relax, clear our minds of the chatter and consider the possibilities of moving to the continent for six months, a year, five years or forever.

13 Reasons Black People Should Go Back to Africa

  1. Do it For the Ancestors

Captured, separated from loved ones, kept alive in dark, damp and putrid surroundings for weeks and sometimes months at a time, our ancestors were repeatedly raped, placed in isolation and tortured– and this was all while still being held inside coastal dungeons while awaiting ships that would take them away forever. When our ancestors passed through a door of no return, they could only dream of a day when they could step foot on African soil again. They longed for a day when they could reunite in freedom with their land and their people. We have that opportunity and we owe it to them to return to Africa not merely as a tourist, but as one returning to replant roots that can be passed onto future generations. When Dr. Angelou reminds us that we are the hopes and dreams of the enslaved, we need to realize that this isn’t just pretty prose. Their spirit and their sacrifice lives in every one of us. In their honor, we need to return to Africa.

  1. Africa Wants Us Back

In 2000, Ghana began offering blacks in the diaspora the freedom to enter, live and work in the country indefinitely. Under the Right of Abode program, blacks from all over the world can truly make Ghana a second home and enjoy a status akin to dual-citizenship. Some 3,000 blacks have already taken them up on the offer and claim they couldn’t be happier. Other West African countries, such as Sierra Leone, realize the importance of our return and have also beckoned us back to our Motherland. As Africa is a big place, some countries may be more receptive to our presence than others, but make no mistake about it, plenty of Africans on the continent want to embrace us.

  1. Africa Needs Us

Through our return, we can begin to reverse the losses that West Africa suffered when our ancestors were removed from the continent. And while we’ve been through hell and back here in America, the advances we’ve made in areas like science, education, finance, tech, engineering, law and medicine cannot be denied. Some of us have also managed to amass small and great fortunes through careers and investments made here. Our return to invest in and help make Africa great, again can help replace some of the vitality that’s been pilfered from Africa for too long.

For example, did you know that 40% of the world’s gold has been extracted from Africa? Think about that. The continent that we’re told is so poor and needy– where children are starving and people live in mud huts– that same place has supplied nearly half of the gold in circulation around the globe! World economies have been built and backed by gold that came from the Motherland, yet we are constantly told that she is poor and in need of our charity. How, Sway, Howwww?!

Three of the top 6 rough diamond producing countries in 2014 were in Africa. A worldwide symbol of wealth, class and style, diamonds are also used for industrial purposes, such as drilling and grinding tools. How is it, then, that an abundance of these valuable gemstones are found on a continent that is portrayed to be so destitute?

Beyond gold and diamonds, elements like cobalt– used to make batteries, computers and mobile phones– are also mined by foreign corporations in poor ol’ Africa. Other resources like petroleum (yes, Africa has oil!), iron, silver, copper, uranium and more are all abundant in Africa. In fact, 80% of all of the platinum used globally in machinery and jewelry comes from Africa!  People, including children, risk their lives (and even die) every single day while digging deep into Africa’s rich earth in search of materials that allow other countries to enjoy hi-tech luxuries and that make non-African people filthy-rich from the sale of these resources.

Charity to Africa is a cruel joke that’s been played for too long. How can I say such a thing? Well, common sense suggests that a continent as rich as Africa only needs charity because it’s being looted of its wealth today just as has always been done throughout modern history. Don’t just take my word for it, but read this article, which breaks down the imbalance between the $134 billion in loans and foreign aid that is poured into the Motherland annually versus the $192 billion she gives to the rest of the world each year. That’s a $59 billion dollar difference, folks! As the article states, the aid given to Africa is merely a “smokescreen” to hide the looting that consistently takes place. We have to lend our voices to the sea of native African ones already addressing this.

Back to Africa so that we can help stop the looting!

So, how is Africa still so underdeveloped and poor? How do we fix our lips to say that the continent needs charity when so many others have built their wealth on the free labor and resources taken from its shores? That’s a good question leading to multiple rather complex and distressing answers. Colonialism, imperialism, exploitation, slavery, multiple wars, debt and even corruption are to blame. One thing is for sure, though, no one is protecting Africa. No one has been successful at unifying this rich and abundant continent to take a powerful stance against the profiteers and outsiders who have raided the continent of able bodies and valuable resources while leaving the people of our mother’s land bleeding in the dust.

Is it possible that we are an important, yet missing, piece of Africa’s puzzle? Might we be like Joseph spoken of in the bible? Cast out and forsaken, only to rise up to be the ones to protect our people from devastation? Imagine how we could help reshape Africa if all across the diaspora, we returned with that end-goal in mind?  

We may not have all of the answers. We may not even be able to solve the most immediate problems that exist in Africa, but we can play an important role as part of the solution. If nothing else, Africa needs us to return to the land of our ancestors and do what we can wherever we can to say that enough is enough. Our voices are necessary in telling the rest of the world hands off Africa!

  1. We Need Africa

Reconnecting with our ancestral homeland can offer relief from the constant stress of feeling like an outsider in our actual homeland. We deserve a respite from the white supremacy that is killing us with impunity. We need a break from the daily stress of requiring two people to live inside our single bodies–the one person who twists, contorts and code-shifts to make white people feel safe and at ease with our blackness; and the other more authentic part of ourselves who resents being asked to be anything other than who we are: Beautiful. Black. People.

We need to feel a part of something larger than ourselves. A part of something that is good and healthy. We need to immerse ourselves in the healing process of returning to the root of our origin. We need a reset– a place to unpack our baggage, to more clearly define our unique attributes, to set our own standards and to reclaim our dignity as a people. We need a healing time in a healing space. We need a respite. We need Africa!

  1. We Need to Meet Our African Selves

Many of us call ourselves African-American and while we’re well-acquainted with what it means to be American, isn’t it time that we acquaint ourselves with what it means to be authentically African? Many of us are so far removed from Africa until we actually believe the false narratives depicting sub-saharan African countries as backward, third-world slums. We need to see firsthand how awe-inspiring and vibrant and mighty Africa actually is. If for no other reason than our collective self-esteem, it would do us well to feel a part of and take pride in a truly incredible continent.

We need to recapture our collective spirit. A spirit broken by enslavement, devastated by that old bastard Jim Crow and choked by the death-grip of white supremacy. We can do this by shedding all that we’ve been told about Africa and told about ourselves by returning to Africa and truly becoming African-Americans instead of ‘Americanized Africans’.

  1. Africa is Ours

On my first trip to Kenya, I was taken aback by the number of white Europeans heading for holiday there. And they weren’t just headed to a remote safari, either! Europeans, Asians and others find Africa to be a memorable vacation destination and an even better place for business, which is why so many relocate and invest in various countries there. According to the World Bank, Africa is considered the second best region to invest in (Northern America is first).

While they are hardly the only ones, it is estimated that more than one million Chinese have emigrated to various parts of Africa in recent years. There is an EXCELLENT book that I can recommend enough to all of you reading this, which is China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in Africa by Howard W. French. In it, French describes the strategic urgency with which Chinese are flooding Africa in order to take control of its resources. Is this a new type of colonialism? I happen to think so, but I’ll let you read the book and draw your own conclusions.

Debate ensues as to whether so much foreign investment is good for Africa. Given its history of being exploited for resources and labor, many say no. Others, however, appreciate the jobs and infrastructure created by foreign investment and aren’t keen on driving these outsiders out of Africa any time soon.

Regardless as to whether foreign investment is thought to be good or bad for the continent, we have to ask ourselves why aren’t blacks in the diaspora investing there? Why aren’t we helping build new hospitals, schools, railways and bridges? Why aren’t we helping solve Africa’s energy and transportation challenges? Why aren’t we creating jobs and opportunities in Africa? Why aren’t we profiting from investments there? Why are we letting so much opportunity to help and build the continent slip through our fingertips while others are doing the opposite? Africa is our birthright. Whether we ever completely embrace it as home or vice versa, Africa is an inextricable part of us and it’s high time that we start thinking about protecting and investing in that part of ourselves.

  1. We Need a Break From Whiteness

Like many of you reading this, I grew up in the United States. Here, the white woman is the epitome of beauty, the white man is the most intelligent, white children are the most deserving of a good education, white people are the standard for “real” Americans, white opinions are unimpeachable and white feelings are sacrosanct. The list goes on, but you get the drift. Many of us have white friends, neighbors, co-workers and even spouses and in-laws who try to separate themselves from this mindset, but it’s difficult… if not impossible… to do so in a society where whiteness dominates virtually every part of our lives. Wouldn’t you like to take a break from the constant barrage of messages telling you that white is better and that everyone should conform to that standard of thinking?

Africa isn’t some sort of Utopia, I know. There are issues and prejudices people have to face there every day. Regarded as outsiders and depending on where we go, we’d probably face a fair amount of discrimination in Africa, as well.

I also know that colonialism and imperialism have caused many Africans to think that “white is right”. Many have adopted a western mindset about all sorts of things from skin lightening to the reality television craze. I’ve even heard African immigrants residing in the U.S. look down on African-Americans for the fact that we’ve lived here our entire lives, but are not all graduating college as doctors, lawyers and engineers. To them, it’s ludicrous that we have the opportunities they think we do, yet so many of us still live in poverty.

Still, I cannot even begin to describe the giddy feeling I got the first time I visited an African country and stepped into the airport there. To see black bodies everywhere– handling my bags, working at ticket counters, driving taxis, working as hotel managers– and black faces on the covers of magazines, plastered on billboards– just black, black, black everywhere! It was beyond exhilarating!

We need to experience what it feels like to at least look like the majority of the people someplace. And we need a break from a place where we are constantly reminded that we are the minority. We don’t need a break from the individual white people we know and love, but we do need a break from a white-centered society-at-large.

And for those of us into activism and changing the ways in which black people are treated all over the world, Africa is the perfect place to exhale, regroup and even strategize on a more international level.

  1. U-N-I-T-Y!

If it’s one thing that blacks in the diaspora need, it’s unity. A multi-faceted people with diverse beliefs, values and norms, the one thing that unites us all is the blackness we inherited from Mother Africa. This is not just in skin color either. From light to dark, we represent every hue on earth, but there’s a blackness that exists inside of us that is not an actual color, but at the same time is both undeniable and rich. And then there’s our history. All of us come from ancestors who were either forcibly taken to a foreign land or who lived under the bitter rule of colonialism and imperialism. All have suffered at the hands of white supremacy.

Despite our commonalities, much has been used to divide us. Tribalism, skin color, house vs. field, education, income. Throughout time, these divisions have made it difficult to come together even to fight against those who’ve sought to oppress and conquer us.

By deepening the connection to our common ancestral home, we edge one giant step closer to achieving the unity we need to grow stronger and more self-aware. Imagine blacks from the U.S., the UK, Brazil, all over the Caribbean and all countries in Africa coming together to acknowledge our oneness. Friends, make no mistake about it, the most likely setting for a reunion of such magnitude is on the continent!

  1. A Full-Immersion Experience

We receive all sorts of mixed messages about Africa, don’t we? And outside of a colorful jungle pictorial, most of the imagery shared about Africa is negative. We hear about starving people, child soldiers, witch doctors and all manners of disease, yet very rarely do we read about a thriving middle class anywhere in Africa. When we do get a hint about any sort of luxury existing in Africa, it typically is represented by places with a majority Arab influence like Egypt or even those where large colonialist populations still reside like South Africa. Rarely do we see these things in places like Kenya, Ghana or Nigeria even though they do exist!

Back to Africa - Luxury Living in Kenya, East Africa
One of many mansions located in Kenya, East Africa. Go back to Africa? Sure… why not! (Photo Credit: BuzzKenya, buzzkenya.com)

Some of us who’ve traveled to different countries in Africa have gotten a taste of its authentic flavor. We have experienced firsthand the energy of Africa that cannot be described in words. Yet, that is still not enough. Simply being anywhere in Africa for a couple of days or weeks just isn’t enough to explore its many intricacies, nor is it enough to delve deeply into learning about ourselves and the cultures that we come from.

No, what we need folks is a full-immersion experience. We need to actually live in an African country in order to have an authentic experience with our African selves and with the continent. We need to be fully immersed in the energy, attitudes, languages, mores and day-to-day life of an African city or village to even begin to know what Africa is like for ourselves.

  1. Greater Opportunities for Success

Why do you think so many Chinese are hightailing it to Sub-Saharan Africa right now? Yes, wealthier individuals and corporations want to harness the continent’s resources, but there’s more to it than that. Parts of Africa are wide open for new business opportunities.

Let’s take Ghana, for example. Several expats who now live there (or repats as some prefer to be called) report that opportunities for success abound in parts of Africa. From following several different vloggers online, I’m hearing that whatever business or idea you may apply yourself toward in the west is likely to do even better in a place like Ghana. Reasons for this are believed to vary from there being less competition and less red tape to the fact that Ghana’s infrastructure is still growing, which means there is plenty of room for opportunity. While I’m not aware of any study that’s been done to prove that this is true, enough anecdotal evidence exists to at least look into the possibility.

  1. Why Not?

There’s really no good reason not to go back to Africa. Sure, people may have individual reasons for not up and relocating to a foreign country. Family commitments, health limitations, career ties, financial barriers… all of these are valid reasons for not being able to uproot right away, but they aren’t actual reasons for never going to our ancestral homeland at some time in the future.

Please also keep in mind that moving to Africa for a year or even permanently does not mean you’ve got to give up citizenship in your country of birth. It doesn’t even mean you have to stay in Africa forever. Many people are perfectly happy living in Africa for much of the year and returning home for holidays, extended vacations and special events.

I’m not out to bash anyone’s country of birth either, but being from the United States, I’ll be the first to say that my country hasn’t been all too kind or accepting of black people and our culture. For every struggle or danger someone can cite about moving to Africa, I’m pretty sure we can point to something just as challenging that black people have had to deal with here.

  1. Might Africa Be Our Safe Haven?

Speaking of the United States, we’re in unprecedented territory with our new administration. An administration, by the way, which doesn’t appear to think too highly of minorities. Since the election, many have talked about moving to Canada, parts of the Caribbean or even returning to their own Latin American countries, but I’ve heard very few people talk about going to Africa.

Of course, the suggestion has been made for black people to “go back to Africa” many times before… especially by those who support this new administration. However, those suggestions are typically meant to be a hurtful weapon. People who say this in arrogance act as if something is intrinsically wrong with Africa when the opposite is true.

So much is so right with Africa that it is where the world turns when it needs resources to build its wealthy institutions. Everything from gold and diamonds to literal black bodies have been siphoned from Africa to build and support the rest of the world. No, my friends, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with our Motherland. The problems that it has right now are problems created in large part by the constant raping and suckling of its resources, much of which has gone to non-Africans.

Here in the states, those who hurl the “go back to Africa” rock also seem to believe we owe America a debt of gratitude. To them, we should be grateful for all that America and its European colonists have done for us. If we are not, then we should just take our ungrateful and unpatriotic selves back to where our ancestors were stolen from.

But the joke is on them. We don’t have to be grateful and yet we are still among the most patriotic people in the entire land. America has not had a single war that blacks have not fought in. We have worked to build and have fought to civilize this country at every stage of its development. And not only have we done more for America than America has done for us, but we are also owed a lot more in terms of reparations that we’ll likely never receive. Yet we still defend this country, work to whip it into shape and count ourselves part of it even as many work overtime to silence and reject us as full-fledged Americans.

Perhaps what makes the “go back to Africa” haters most fearful is that we will soon wake up and discover that we truly do have the right and the luxury of being connected to two continents just by virtue of our birth. Why shouldn’t we take advantage of this?

Back to our current situation, there is no better time for black people to seriously consider a return to Africa. Who knows what sweeping changes or irreparable damage this new administration will bring? Even for those who do not currently live in the U.S., you are sure to still experience some of this new administration’s effects on things like immigration and your country’s economy, too. Africa might be our collective safety net. A place to get it together away from all of the roadblocks and dangers presented to us here.

  1. You Have a Choice

Even if we spend an extended period in Africa and then choose to return to wherever we were born, at least we’d then be making a personal choice to do so. For African-Americans, our ancestors were never given that choice. And, fundamentally speaking, that choice is a big deal! It’s what separates us from all others who came here of their own will. Even of those who came to America to escape persecution elsewhere, your move was still a powerful choice. African-Americans aren’t empowered by that choice and many of us know next to nothing about our history before the choice was made for us. We deserve the long overdue respect of even having a choice to make!

Makes Sense, Doesn’t It?

If any of this resonates with you, great! You’ve found a community where we can exchange ideas, examine issues, ask questions and make our back to Africa plans together. Want to know what to do next? Join the movement and take the first step toward making this powerful dream of ours a reality!