Welcome Home: The Year of Return

Written by Saran Lawson

Many of you may have seen Steve Harvey’s trip to Africa on social media a few months ago. In a post he wrote, “Leaving out of the Cape Coast Slave Castles there was a group of brothers waiting to meet me…They showed me so much love… Thank you for that welcome back home Soldiers. #TheYearofTheReturn #Ghana”. The trip to Ghana was a part of an anniversary trip Steve and Majorie Harvey took this year. Locations included Italy, Croatia, and Botswana. 

On the official website, the event is described as follows: “The ‘Year of Return, Ghana 2019’ is a major landmark spiritual and birth-right journey inviting the Global African family, home and abroad, to mark 400 years of the first enslaved Africans in Jamestown, Virginia. The arrival of enslaved Africans marked a sordid and sad period  when our kith and kin were forcefully taken away from Africa into years of deprivation, humiliation, and torture.” The event is part of the Panafest-Emancipation Day Programme first held in 1992 held for Africans or people of African descent. The idea of this festival is to promote and enhance unity, Pan-Africanism, and the development of the continent of Africa itself. The idea of the festival was suggested by Efua Sutherland, a Ghanian playwright, and philanthropist, in the mid-1980’s. It was to bring Africans on the continent and of the diaspora together concerning the issues caused by slavery that are still subdued. 

Films such as Bound: African v. African Americans and BlacknBlack highlight these issues Efua Sutherland spoke of brought on by slavery. The films are enlightning in their approach with the disconnect within the diaspora. It is especially for those looking to deepen there understanding of the relationship between Africans and African Americans. I believe they are a much watch for anyone with African ancestry. The films tackle the centuries-old tension between the two groups. The also highlight how the unification of the diaspora can occur through reconnecting with African roots. The Panafest-Emancipation Day festival is an effort to unify the diaspora to the African culture. One solution to a problem caused by the slave trade over 400 years ago. The festival is a step in the right direction to unify people that have disconnected from their homeland. Graphic Online reports, as part of the yearlong celebrations, the President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, is set to confer citizenship to 200 members of the African-American-Caribbean Diaspora group currently settled in the West African nation.

Personally, it felt great that Ghana and other African countries have acknowledged slavery and it’s effects from an African lens. Dr. Joy Degruy talks about her theory of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome in her book of the same title. It highlights the endurance of injury as well as healing in the black American community.  This olive branch that has been extended from Africa to us is a great way to help bridge the gap that formed so many years ago through the first kidnapping and enslavement in Africa. Offering citizenship to those of African decent as a way to connect those lost back to Africa is the connection needed back to the homeland.

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