Martin Holmes, an African American, was born, raised and schooled in the United States. He has lived there for more than four decades. He has been in employment since his twenties and has even started his own family.
For Martin, it would easily pass that he would also retire, die and be buried in Texas, his home state. Well, not anymore. He is now a Ghanaian citizen and already runs a business in Accra. His wife and two daughters are with him too. It has been slightly over a year since they moved to Africa and he seems optimistic about the future.
Martin’s case is certainly not isolated. Over the past few years, there has been a growing trend of African American people moving back to their ancestral continent of Africa with the intention of permanently settling and having a fresh start there. In Ghana alone, more than 3000 African American immigrants have already received citizenship.
Many reasons have been given to try and explain this trend. For instance, racism and police brutality against African American citizens have been cited as regular reasons. Others cite the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. To some it is just the desire to connect with their ancestral land. For whichever reason, migration has been on the rise.
Whereas the Back to Africa trend has accelerated notably over the last two years, its origin dates further back to the 19th century. It was then referred to as Black Zionism; where recently freed African slaves were required to return to their land.
As many slaves continued to receive their freedom, there was an upsurge in the African American population. Many of them opted to look for employment as to better their lives. The majority of the white population was, however, not ready to accept the now free former slaves. Some feared they would lose their jobs to them and so African American people were often met with much hostility.
Efforts to get rid of African American citizens triggered waves of riots. The Back to Africa movement was therefore formed to help solve the matter. Though some managed to leave, others chose to stay.
It’s Tough Being African American
Police brutality against African American citizens in the United States has been a sore matter for a long time. In 2013, a campaign dubbed #BlackLivesMatter was started on social media. This was after the acquittal of a police officer accused of unlawfully killing a black teen. The campaign took to the streets in protests and riots following further unwarranted killings of African American people the following year.
Just recently, a dashboard camera captured police brutally beating and arresting African American Richard Hubbard III. The footage, which was later posted on Facebook, has elicited a major public outcry and led to a new round of protests.
The situation isn’t any different for other African Americans. Other than that, the election of President Donald Trump did not blend well with the African American people. Many believe he doesn’t appreciate them and has gone on record with derogatory remarks about them.
For people like Martin, it’s this tough environment that has prompted the decision to repatriate, the economic depression and joblessness notwithstanding. The African governments on the other hand have been instrumental in welcoming these ‘lost sons’ back to their roots.
For instance, the Ghanaian government set up a diaspora bureau that looks on how to integrate the African American immigrants and possibly harness their skills. As they blend into the local community, they could, in turn, pass on the skills they possess.
For many African American immigrants, the economy and living standards of Africa are a far cry from what they were used to. It is not uncommon to come across burst sewer lines unattended for days. Whereas some may feel disgusted, others see such things as opportunities and have ventured into business and entrepreneurship. For instance Johnson, who moved into Ghana in 2012, struggled a lot trying to find a decent and affordable house. The struggle led him to later start a real estate company that constructs decent low-cost houses targeting the many low income earners in Africa.
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