Why Some African Americans Are Moving to Africa

Azad Essa, Al Jazeera, January 18, 2018

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A new wave of African Americans is escaping the incessant racism and prejudice in the United States. From Senegal and Ghana to The Gambia, communities are emerging in defiance of conventional wisdom that Africa is a continent everyone is trying to leave.

It is estimated that between 3,000 and 5,000 African Americans live in Accra, the Ghanaian capital. They are teachers in small towns in the west or entrepreneurs in the capital and say they that even though living in Ghana is not always easy, they feel free and safe.

Take Muhammida el-Muhajir, a digital marketer from New York City, who left her job to move to Accra.

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On life as a second-class citizen in the US…

“I grew up in Philadelphia and then New York. I went to Howard, which is a historically black university. I tell people that Ghana is like Howard in real life. It felt like a microcosm of the world. At university, they tell us the world isn’t black, but there are places where this is the real world. Howard prepares you for a world where black people are in charge, which is a completely different experience compared to people who have gone to predominantly white universities.”

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On leaving New York for Accra…

“Even when you live in a place like New York as a black person, you’re always an outsider.

“You hear stories about the richest black people, like Oprah Winfrey, getting shut out of a store or Jay-Z not being allowed to buy [an apartment]. Those things happen. It doesn’t matter if you’re a celebrity, you’re a second-class citizen. This was the biggest issue for me.

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On Ghanaian reactions…

“When Ghanaians find out that I live here, they’re usually confused about why I chose to live here as an American. There is definitely certain access and privilege being American here, but it’s great to finally cash in on that because it doesn’t mean anything in America.

“There are also plenty of privileged Ghanaians; if you take away race there’s a class system.”

On the ‘Blaxit’ documentary…

“In my documentary, I chose five people that I’ve met since I’ve been here and every one of them went to a black college in the US. It’s something that prepares you mentally to realise you aren’t a second-class citizen. Something like that can help you make a transition to live in Africa.

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“Unbeknown to us, we’re living out the vision that [Ghanaian politician and revolutionary] Kwame Nkrumah set out for us, of this country being the gateway to Africa for the black diaspora.

“I don’t want people to think that Africa is this magic utopia where all your issues will go away. It’s just that some of the things you might face in America as a black person — you won’t have to suffer with those things here.

“You might not have electricity, but you won’t get killed by the police either.

“I want people to understand that they have options and alternatives. Most black people in America don’t know that these options exist; they think they have to suffer because there’s nowhere else to go. But no, there are other places.”

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