Pan Africanism : COMING HOME TO AFRICA...

Discussion in 'Black History - Culture - Panafricanism' started by Aqil, May 4, 2003.

  1. Aqil

    Aqil Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    African-Americans are Resettling in Ancestral Lands, Embracing a Heritage and Looking to the Continent's Potential as a Way to Fulfill Dreams.

    By Ann M. Simmons,
    LATimes Staff Writer

    DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania – Two years ago, David Robinson caved in and bought a television set. A telephone followed shortly after. But Robinson still lives in a backwater where solar electricity is the norm, public transport is limited and cell phones don't work. Walking, sometimes for up to three hours, is often the only way to get a message to someone.

    The son of baseball legend Jackie Robinson regards the sacrifice of a few modern conveniences as worthwhile. His dream, ever since setting foot in Africa as a tourist in 1967, was to settle down, connect with his cultural heritage and help develop the continent's economic potential.

    In 1986, Robinson put down roots in Tanzania. He says he has never looked back. "It has exceeded any expectations that I had," said Robinson, 50. "One could never know the opportunities, the beauty, the pleasure of living here until one does live here."

    Robinson is just one among a stream of African-Americans who have come to Africa to exercise what many consider an ancestral right: To make the continent their permanent home. Many are attracted by the ideal of solidarity and the prospect of being part of the racial majority. Others seek business opportunities that will both contribute to Africa's development and lead to personal gain. Still others want their children to appreciate their cultural heritage and to grow up in communities where their role models are people of color. Some come to retire.

    Some newcomers have African spouses who can help ease them into their new environment. Many have both the education and money - along with the patience - to make their dreams of a new life on a new continent come true. In the process, these Americans believe they can help shape Africa's future. "Logically, the African-American tribes outside of Africa have something to offer and can play a role in Africa's global development," said Robinson, a onetime fisherman and exporter of African art who has been a coffee farmer for the last decade.

    There are no concrete statistics on the number of African-Americans who have decided to settle in Africa. U.S. embassies do not register Americans living in individual countries by race. However, Tanzania, Ghana, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa are among the countries that have welcomed African-Americans.

    Estimates by those who count themselves among this new breed of settler range from as few as 15 permanent African-American residents in Tanzania to more than 1,000 in South Africa. For many, the transition has had bumps. In many African countries, communications and roads are poor. Public services are often unreliable. Tardiness and other annoying work habits frustrate many newcomers.

    Such challenges did not deter the Connecticut-born Robinson. For him, moving to Tanzania felt natural. He was inspired, he said, by the example of his father, who broke major league baseball's color barrier in 1947. "When you are faced with the negatives of racism, to be supported by the personal courage and success of one's parent is a tremendous barrier against the negative attitudes of society," Robinson said.

    Robinson, who married a Tanzanian woman after he arrived in Africa and is father of nine children, owns a 120-acre farm in the northern mountains, about 550 miles from Dar es Salaam, the capital. Called "Sweet Unity Farms," it is part of a 350-farm cooperative, of which Robinson is director of marketing and finance.

    To buy his land, Robinson had to state his case to regional officials and village committees. In the end, he played the race card – in keeping with the views of Tanzania's revered founding father, Julius K. Nyerere, who preached unity and welcomed Blacks born outside Africa. "My ultimate presentation was that I was a Black person who had lost my nationalistic and tribal ties (to Africa) and I wanted to come back," recalled Robinson, who now speaks fluent Kiswahili, Tanzania's official language.

    He was offered as much land as he could clear and use. A novice, Robinson relied heavily on his neighbors to learn farming. Today, he exports coffee beans to the United States. Tanzanian coffee is considered to be among the best in the world, and the beans fetch a premium price.

    Robinson maintains that such success would have been harder to achieve in the United States. "I still believe the psychological barriers and calluses and bruises that we sustained throughout our American experience continues to block us from taking advantage of the opportunities that we can have," said Robinson, who retains a U.S. passport but expects to become a Tanzanian citizen. "We are not the normal American immigrant but the descendants of slaves. We have to recognize that."

    It was business as well as the prospect of helping to develop a country governed by Black people that led Victoria Cooper in 1993 to the West African country of Ghana, across the continent from Robinson. "Growing up as an American, I would be doing a disservice if I came to Ghana and didn't share my talents and experiences gained in America with Ghanaians," said Cooper, 46, a St. Louis native.

    A former partner in the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, she left in July 2001 to launch a consulting firm that advises governments on public sector reform and provides foreign investor services in West Africa. Cooper says that Ghana has untold potential. "The current administration has a focus on business, and one can feel the commitment," said Cooper, who is also president of the American Chamber of Commerce, Ghana. "Although they have an uphill battle, they recognize what that battle is."

    The African-American Assn. in Ghana has about 50 dues-paying members, but many others regularly come to meetings, said Cooper, who presides over the group. During the last two years, several dozen African-Americans have arrived – some to pursue business, others to retire, she said.

    Since becoming the first African colony to gain independence from Britain in 1957, Ghana has held a special appeal to African-Americans. U.S.-educated Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana's first president, was a proponent of repatriation to Africa. Hundreds heeded his call, and in the 1960s the nascent democracy became a popular destination for Black American activists, academics and professionals, including scholar W.E.B. DuBois and writer Maya Angelou.

    The trend waned after Nkrumah was ousted in 1966, but it regained momentum while Jerry J. Rawlings, a former Ghanaian flight lieutenant, was in power. At a rally in Harlem in 1995, Rawlings announced plans to offer automatic Ghanaian citizenship to African-Americans. He urged them to invest their savings in Africa's future.

    The offer of citizenship has since been modified to the right of abode, and legal details are still being ironed out, much to the frustration of some African-Americans. "Just taking him at his word, they packed up and came over expecting to get work permits," Cooper recalled. "It was easier said than done. Many have been disappointed that it has not happened sooner. But they are not totally discouraged."

    In a way, Michael Giles was pursuing the American dream when he moved to South Africa in 1993. Giles said that despite having degrees from Harvard and Columbia Law School, he felt that obstacles including institutionalized racism would prevent him from reaching his full professional potential. "I thought I really can't take the risk of spending the years when you have the energy and the drive to do something exciting, squandering it in a place that is not going to be receptive," said Giles, 43, who is from Newark, NJ. "The tragedy is, race has blemished the opportunity for African-Americans to achieve the American dream."

    Giles, who met his South African wife, Bernadette, at Harvard, gave up a career in corporate law to launch a chain of laundromats in South Africa. They later started a tourism company, "Heritage Africa," in Johannesburg. "This place represents an opportunity," Giles said. "To be here now and involved in tourism is like being at the epicenter of what's going to be the future of South Africa – jobs, economic opportunities for Black people, growth of the economy."

    Hundreds of African-Americans flocked to South Africa after Nelson Mandela led the country's first Black-majority government into power in 1994. Although the stream has slowed in recent years, South Africa still is considered the main hub of African-American resettlement. "It can lead the way for the rest of Africa," said Gayla Cook-Mohajane, 52, director of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a Johannesburg-based American think-tank. She has lived in South Africa for 12 years. "For people looking for a place with energy, this is it. It is a very international place, a crossroads of culture."

    South Africa may be especially attractive to African-Americans because of the problems elsewhere on the continent: political upheaval, dictatorship, rough living conditions, and language barriers. "South Africa, ironically, became the Great White Hope of the Black diaspora," John Matshikiza, a respected South African columnist and university research fellow, wrote recently in the weekly Mail & Guardian newspaper. "People speak comprehensible English here. Telephones work," he said. "There's a Black president, a largely Black Cabinet, Black empowerment and a Black economic elite which, even though they may show signs of moral confusion and fallibility, nevertheless symbolize a significant advance in the worldwide profile of the Black world."

    Skin color does not always guarantee acceptance. Some South Africans found Americans who arrived soon after the transition to Black majority rule to be patronizing, cliquish and arrogant about the role they played in the struggle against apartheid. Others saw them as unwanted competition. Companies tried to meet affirmative action quotas by hiring Black Americans rather than South Africans. "On the whole, the perception people had was that they came in with an attitude, that they wanted to teach these backward Africans a thing or two, that they were the better Africans," said Mzimkulu Malungu, projects manager for the Business Day and Financial Mail newspaper group. "People did not take too kindly to that."

    Detroit native Francis Kornegay, a program coordinator in an international relations program at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, said South Africans still are adjusting to seeing Blacks from other African countries as well as from the United States. In recent years, South Africa has seen a flood of would-be immigrants from other parts of the continent. "When it comes to African-Americans, their attitude may be affected by their attitude of ambivalence to the U.S. in general," he said. "And most Black South Africans are quite ignorant about the anti-apartheid history in the U.S." Blacks helped lead America's economic embargo against apartheid-era South Africa.

    The Pan-African spirit that exists elsewhere, particularly in West Africa, the ancestral home of most American Blacks, is absent in South Africa, said Kornegay, who has lived there since 1994. Supporters of the Black Americans' endeavors in South Africa dismiss the issue of jobs as a smokescreen for petty jealousies. "We are not in direct competition with many South Africans, because most of us who come create our own jobs, and jobs for South Africans, or bring our own jobs with us," said Jerelyn Eddings, executive director of the Foundation for African Media Excellence, which promotes quality journalism in Africa.

    On the whole, however, African-Americans say they have been made to feel welcome in Africa, sometimes more so than in America. Race has been the major factor. "I feel comfortable because I am a person of color," said Cooper, the business consultant in Ghana. "It makes entrance easier. It breaks down some barriers that would immediately go up if I were not a person of color."

    That feeling has been one of the best aspects of living in Africa for Robi Machaba, who was known as Irving W. Robinson back home in Columbus, GA. The Waikoma ethnic group of Tanzania, among whom he has lived since 1985, gave Machaba his new name. A former development consultant, Machaba was given land in 1990 and now grows avocados and passion fruit near the shores of Lake Victoria. "Here I have land, whereas America has never given me my 40 acres and a mule," said Machaba, 59. He said he gives back by helping to curate an annual sculpture exhibit to raise funds for a bush basketball team he helps run.

    Like most expatriates in Africa, African-Americans typically live comfortable lives. Many can afford nice homes and, when necessary, electrical generators, water storage tanks, and housekeeping and gardening services that help make up for the lack of infrastructure. Expatriates contrast their lives with African-Americans who have fallen prey to crime and drugs. Some of them believe social problems were intentionally planted in American Black communities to ensure their demise. "One needs only to look at the American prisons, American substance abuse programs and the number of premature deaths, and you can see that society is successfully eliminating the African-American male," said David Robinson. "It is hard for a Black man in America, and in particular for a Black man with self-respect."

    Ensuring that her son, Selasi, now 10, would grow up in an environment where his skin color would not be an obstacle was a key factor in Mona Boyd's decision to move to her husband's native Ghana in 1994. "I really wanted to give him the opportunity to grow into a confident man, without being marginalized in any way," said Boyd, 52, who owns the Avis car rental franchise in Accra, Ghana's capital, and a successful tour company. "I felt Ghana could do that for him."

    She also wanted him to be surrounded by Black role models. Cooper felt the same way about her teenage daughters, both of whom grew up in Ghana. "They don't have to have any insecurity about who they are," Cooper said. "They can have a very high sense of self-esteem, because people they see doing big things – doctors, lawyers, engineers, even presidents – look like them. They can aspire to anything."

    Cooper and Boyd both said exposing their children to their heritage was also important. "I was keenly aware that my heritage was very short," said Boyd, who can trace her family tree back 100 or so years to a farming community in Turrell, Ark. "We can only go back so far. I felt something was missing. My husband being Ghanaian with a family history of a thousand years, I felt the best gift we could give Selasi was a part of this."

    Even though such opportunities have made it easier for these Americans to leave the country of their birth, the United States remains a land that, ironically, receives thousands of applications every year from would-be African immigrants. "I like America, but I've decided not to be part of the finale," Machaba said. "I've found a place to die. It's just that simple. I am free here."
     
  2. NNQueen

    NNQueen going above and beyond PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Extremely interesting article. I wonder how many African Americans that read this thread consider Africa their real home and choose to return.
     
  3. JT_A

    JT_A Member MEMBER

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    My homeland, My people, and my tribe

    Wow, that article is long, I will have to revisit it a few times to finish it.

    Brother Robinson did it good, went back to the motherland, be it native or adopted, he made it home. More power to him.

    My concerns are primarily centered around medical attention (emergency and / or long term). If one of those little bugs stig you you can just about forget it.

    I'm nearing 40, I will eventually make some part of Africa my home as well. I'm still trying to find a wife here first, hmmmmmm, perhaps I should be looking over there[?]. Robinson has 9 children, now what american woman (black, white, or red) would do that in this day-n-age?

    I believe Ghana is still paying "reperations" in the form of land to African Americans that want to relocate to Ghana.
     
  4. NNQueen

    NNQueen going above and beyond PREMIUM MEMBER

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    JT_A, have you been visiting the Pan-African forum? I think you'll enjoy the discussions throughout and learn something fascinating information about Africa.

    Peace!
     
  5. ifasehun

    ifasehun Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    good stuff.
     
  6. Pharaoh Jahil

    Pharaoh Jahil Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    I have a copy of this article...It's good to see that it's posted at destee.
     
  7. Andreattah

    Andreattah Active Member MEMBER

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    Nice article you posted.
    I think people who are curious about Africa should come to Africa but leave the misconceptions behind.
    To connect to the land doesn't mean you have to go burry yourself in the bush and think that's how you can connect to Africa.
    I'm from Botswana and personally i don't experience any difficulties mentioned here...and no it's not because i'm rich.
    My life is equivalent to that of most people living in the US.
    Transition will always be difficult coz we don't live in the same worlds or have the same cultures.
    Make sure that you get info before you come coz we are getting tired of African American celebrities eg Will Smith,Ursher(not offence to him coz i adore the man)coming over to perform and saying they thought we live in trees,we have lions in our backyards and crap like that.
    Ja Rule came and was rude as hell..imagine how most of us felt..we love his music and he comes and disrespects my people!
     
  8. fanyamambo

    fanyamambo Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    What little bugs JT?
     
  9. Andreattah

    Andreattah Active Member MEMBER

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    JT_A
    I must have read your post very quickly..you are 40 years old?And i take it you watch too much CNN.
    Educate yourself first about my land before come here with pimp mentality.
    I don't want to be rude but it's people like you who don't get it that yes,Africa's not perfect but Africa isn't one country.
    And just because you see people dying in countries like Ethiopia doesn't mean the rest of Ethiopia is like that or by extension the rest of Africa.
    What bugs are you talking about?
    Well,if you are coming here to camp in the bush then hey,what do you expect?
    I'm 23 and i know better than to assume everything i see in movies and CNN about America is the real deal.
    I question what i see...we are living in the information age after all.no need to stay ignat.
    And the 9 children issue..don't come to Africa expecting someone to bear you many children.Its a personal choice unless your woman would want to stay a homemaker and die a homemaker....we are passed that.
    At least where i'm from! :mad:
     
  10. pdiane

    pdiane Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    MY AFRICAN EXPERIENCE:

    Below is a synopsis of my experience in Senegal:

    Wow (that means "yes" in Wolof).

    Senegal is beautiful. It is a 90% Muslim country, very peaceful, no liquor stores, not a lot of crime, everday people. The beaches are prestine. I stayed on the beach one night with drummers and dances. I slept in a hut, and heard the ocean water back and forth. It was absolutely phenominal.

    I went with my Senegalese dance teacher, Fatou, and her son. Her family was beautiful and loving. Not once did I hear of any ethnic issues because in Senegal, Islam and their traditional spiritual systems keep them, prayful, strong, and united.

    There were some problems in a Casamance (Fatou's childhood village) , where I went and stayed for 3 days, by the way, but there has been peace there for a couple of years now. There was a welcoming party for Fatou and us there. We danced to the river with the whole village. Wow, wow.

    Senegal is poor but spiritual. Family is extremely important. I stayed in Dakar the city and the village, both were wonderful. There are no elderly homes everyone takes care of each other. The babies are on the backs of all the family members. They are not allowed to cry without someone putting them on their backs. Senegal does not have a welfare system, so everyone takes care of each other. They eat from the same tray and the staple food is fish, chicken, rice, vegetables, mangos, pineapples and other fruits that are all around you. Entrepreneuship is the way of life. Selling something , bartering, and trading keeps income coming in.

    All we did was hug and kiss one another. Afraka needs us and we need Afraka. I cannot speak for every country in Afraka, there are 55 but I could see myself in Senegal working in the schools, starting a telephone or cyber cafe business. Bringing our children there to learn the rich culture of our people would be a great as well. We had children from amerikkka with us and they did not want to come back. They were free, at peace, no violent incidents anywhere around us.

    I met a number of African Americans who are educating their children there, who have built homes there and live there. Their children know 3 to 4 languages. I just found out the Charlie Titus, the UMass Athletic Director, built a home there.

    I learned Wolof before I went to Senegal. I speak a little Wolof. They were were absolutely delighted. It was wonderful. "Dig" means hear and understand, "julee" means pray. "Dadit" means no. We use the "d" sound for "th" words when we speak ebonics, I see why now.

    We went to Goree Island, we cried, we hugged each other and it was so emotional. I could see the pain in our faces and the pain in their faces as well.

    Afraka belongs to me. I don't care if some Afrakans don't want us there or do not think of us as Afrakans. There were times when the children in Casamance called me "toobob" meaning "white". but that is their ignorance, most of the people welcomed us home.

    Do Afrakans want to come to amerikkka? Yes, some do but those that are here are dying to go home as well and I see why. As soon as they can afford to go they will go in a second.

    The last night there, in Dakar, the whole community came out for a celebration called Tandameer, it was like the a street party that we used to have years ago. We sat in special chairs and the whole community drummed and danced for us. The women dressed in their finest, (which they do everyday anyway). They looked like queens. The men wore the African attire as well and we all danced together. Money was flying all over the place.

    Amerikkka can't touch Afraka, this place is a diabolical mess. For those of us who choose to stay here. It is good. We need our people on all fronts. However, it is good to know that we have choices and I am out of here when I retire in 2-3 years.

    Mark your calendars for July 2005, we are going back with Fatou, Insha Allah, God willing.


    Peace.

    This experience has been the inspiration of my life and I am blessed to have gone to the motherland.

    Brother Aqil, as usual you give us some wonderul information. I can't thank you enough.
    __________________
    E:
     
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