More than a year ago, we featured Myra, her husband Del, and son D.J. in a series we called “Back to Africa.” It looked at the hopes and challenges experienced by a young African-American family eager to find their roots and set up their lives in Africa. A year later, their travels have finally taken them to a place they can call home.
It ALL changed on January 20, 2017! That day, we boarded a plane leaving behind the only country we ever called home, the good ole USofA. Before leaving America, we were on the proverbial hamster wheel of work, home, pay bills, be broke, take an occasional vacation, rinse, and repeat.
There was no joy in our lives and we were very skeptical that the African-American community would one day come together to support and help each other build the types of lives we all needed. One of happiness and collaboration. So, we set off to create a new life that would allow us to reconnect with our roots. We were headed to live in Ghana!
After about two months of living in Ghana, we quickly identified a few deal breakers when it came to relocating our family. For us, we wanted an affordable cost of living, consistent electricity, family activities, but most importantly, quality sanitation, healthcare, food options, and efficiency when starting and handling business. Ghana was just a little too rough around the edges for our liking. With our list of must-haves in tote, Africa became the new frontier for us to discover what the continent had to offer before we settled into a new home country.
The adventure led us through 10 African nations within 12 months, starting in South Africa and concluding in Rwanda (South Africa, Ghana, Togo, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Cape Verde, Morocco, Egypt, Ethiopia, Rwanda). Immersing ourselves into so many different cultures and interacting with people from across the globe gave us a new perspective on what it means to be black…
It was so surreal traveling through Africa because we explored places that most African Americans don’t venture to. Ghana, Togo, and Senegal gave us a rich history lesson of the slave trade from the other side of the waters as we visited the various remnants of slavery. In Cape Verde, we connected with nature as we discovered beautiful white sand beaches and lush greenery inhabiting its 11 islands. The tagines and Mediterranean fare of Morocco were to die for, according to this tribe of food junkies! Then we stood face to face with royalty as we marveled at the Pyramids in Giza and the golden mask of King Tut.
Ultimately, our must-haves checklist led us to Kigali, Rwanda, where we lived for 3 months. When we arrived in the country, we knew the country was a perfect fit for us. Rwanda appealed to us because it was politically progressive, safe, and the cost of living was reasonable. The country ran efficiently, which made handling immigration and setting up business matters simple. Oh, did we mention that Rwanda was absolutely gorgeous! It’s a well-blended nation of African culture with a modern flair.
Nevertheless, Rwanda’s one flaw: not enough black people! Well, African Americans we should say. Being the Southerners we are, there was just so much African-American culture we missed, and we felt isolated in Rwanda. And although places like South Africa and Ghana would have been able to fill that void with the huge African-American expat communities in each, after being in Rwanda, there was no going back to any of the other countries to live. We desperately needed our family and friends back in the states. So, we packed up…and repatriated home!
Our experiences were life changing and solidified that the true repatriate story was not us returning home to Africa but returning to our true “home” in America. The year gave us a new perspective on how to control our lives, time, and direction. Coming back to America was not a failure for us as many would think because we did it on our own terms. We view life in America very differently now versus a year ago.
Don’t get it twisted, America is still a huge mess and has a lot of things it needs to fix. The bigotry, the racism, the classicism…and the list goes on and on. Yet, this is where OUR tribe resides, and we plan to do our part to change our communities here.
We didn’t come back to participate in the system and we won’t. We plan to create the life we want filled with joy, quality relationships, and rewarding business ventures. A new perspective is truly worth its weight in gold. We are back as a more unified family, more unapologetically black than ever before, and with more memories than we could have ever imagined.
We found out that we are different from our continental African counterparts apart from our skin tone. We found out first hand that while many of the continental Africans we encountered embraced us, there were those who envied us, those that thought we were entitled and privileged, and those who just didn’t understand why we would ever want to come to their countries to live.
We were laughed at for wearing African fabrics, asked about how we ended up in America and were told that we were not African on many occasions. We realized that we had romanticized Africa and some of the things we wanted from Africa were more illusions than realities.
We have now come to realize that being an African American is special and being in Africa reinforced being proud to be an African American. Our talents, our skill sets, our ability to stand up for ourselves and shine, no matter the pressures we have faced.
We decided coming back to America was best for us because we learned exactly who we are and what we want out of life, and what we wanted wasn’t a location or being emersed in a different country, but the freedom of the mind to control the aspects of our lives that matter the most. Being back in America, back at home, now we can start all over and build the legacy we wanted to leave, on our terms.
We make sure to surround ourselves with people who we love, and who love us right back. Sometimes we all just take certain things for granted. We no longer take our roots in America for granted. We are very African however we are very American, and that is okay. We had no choice in choosing where we were born and it shouldn’t be something we have to be ashamed of or feel the need to justify. We know where our lineage stems from and no one will ever be able to change that or take it away from us.
We are the “ascendants” of some of the strongest people who have ever walked this earth — and that is something to be proud of and celebrated.