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Ghanaian president proclaims 2019 ‘Year of Return’ of Blacks to Africa

By Jehron Muhammad | Last updated: Oct 9, 2018 - 9:19:53 PM

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Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo

On the margins of the 73rd United Nations General Assembly, Ghana proclaimed 2019 as the “Year of Return,” extending a global invitation to the African Diaspora to journey back home to West Africa.

During an event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Ghanaian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo said the time is right for people of African descent to make the journey back and Ghana has opened its arms wide to welcome its brothers and sisters.

Black Americans, declared President Akufo-Addo, have earned the right, “not by coincidence,” but historically by a conscious effort that validated “the struggles, strengths and links” between Africans on the continent and those who are a part of the African Diaspora.

He noted the gallery of Black intellectuals, leaders and creative professionals like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., W.E.B. DuBois, Maya Angelou and Stevie Wonder who have honored Ghana by their presence and have in turn been inspired by Ghana.

DuBois, actually in 1961, moved to Ghana as Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president, invited him to assist with the writing of the Encyclopedia Africana. While in Ghana he renounced his U.S. citizenship and became a Ghanaian citizen. He lived in Ghana until his death in 1963. He died on the eve of the civil rights march on Washington D.C., where Dr. King gave his famous so-called “I Have A Dream” speech and where NAACP president Roy Wilkins announced Du-Bois’ passing from the podium.

Walking in Nkrumah’s and Du Bois’ footsteps, Ghanaian President Jerry John Rawlings invited Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan to open an office in Ghana. In 1994, Min. Farrakhan led over 2,000 Black Americans to Accra, Ghana, for the Nation of Islam’s first International Saviours’ Day Convention. President Rawlings opened and closed the fiveday convention. Note: NOI International Representative Abdul Akbar Muhammad, like Du Bois before him, received Ghanaian citizenship, but he received his without renouncing his U.S. citizenship.

During his speech, President Akufo-Addo paid a special tribute to the late Jake Obetsebi Lamptey, who more than a decade ago launched the “Joseph Project,” to reach out to the African Diaspora.

The “Joseph Project” was actually the code name for a series of activities, actions and interactions that were spearheaded by Ghana, according to published reports, “to re-establish the African Nation as a nation of all its peoples, capable of delivering on the promise of God to Africa and the African people.”

The intention was for the Ghanaian government to use the year 2007, the 50th anniversary of the country’s independence, to celebrate African excellence and to inaugurate “The Joseph Project.” Ghana would use the year to bring together Ghanaians and Africans in the Diaspora, and to establish the country as a true gateway “to the homeland for Africans in the Diaspora.”

According to GhanaWeb, “The Year of Return” is the only centrally organized public-private partnership by an African nation to commemorate the arrival of Africans in the United States.

“The Ghana Tourism Authority under the auspices of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture is coordinating the yearlong calendar of activities in partnership with the Office of Diaspora Affairs at the Office of the President, the Panafest Foundation and the Adinkra group,” said the website.

Today, Ghana, once at the heart of Africa’s slave-trading routes, probably has the largest community of Black Americans in West Africa.

According to a decade-old report, of the 446,000 tourists pouring into Ghana, nearly one-quarter were Blacks from the Diaspora. If that doesn’t get your attention, it has increasingly gotten the attention of Ghana’s government. Why else would its tourism ministry change its name to the Ministry of Tourism & Diasporan Relations?

Congresswomen Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) closed “The Year of Return” event by thanking President Akufo-Addo and Ghana’s first lady for spearheading such a historic initiative.

“The country which I honor, and Ghana with its amazing history will be in the forefront of galvanizing and cementing this wonderful relationship between … the people of the United States of America and the great republic, which is the nation of Ghana,” said the Black lawmaker. “With its wonderful president and first lady who are leading us into the twenty-first century, let the blessings of all be upon you. Let us be connected through our ancestry and the spirits. And let’s never forget the dark passage which will turn into a light of return in this wonderful year of 2019 commemorating our first venture (the Trans-Atlantic slave trade) in 1619.”

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