A look at Ghana’s historic ‘Year of Return’ and how Africans in the diaspora are finding their way home

November 17, 2019 at 04:00 pm | Opinions & Features

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Bridget Atoklo

November 17, 2019 at 04:00 pm | Opinions & Features

Photo via visitghana.com

It has been at the forefront of many discussions in the past weeks, it’s marked in our history books, our children find ways to get us to talk about it so they can understand it better. We all as a people are still searching for an answer, and find forgiveness along the way.

2019 marks the 400th Anniversary of the first ship from Africa hitting the shores of the Americas precisely Virginia.

This year, Ghana, the Gold Coast in the 16th century and beyond, marks this monumental event by declaring 2019 as the Year of Return. The theme offers the opportunity for Africans in the diaspora to find their way ‘home’, commune and reactivate their love for their roots and people.

According to historic findings cited by Time Magazine, 1619 represents a landmark in the history of slavery in England and the beginning of slavery in the Americas. John Thornton in his submission to the William and Mary Quarterly in 1998, explains that the first human cargo that arrived in Virginia in 1619 came from Lunda, the capital of present-day Angola.

However, britannica.com argues that the momentous discovery in western Africa came as early as 1471, when Portuguese captains first reached the coast of present-day Ghana between the mouths of the Ankobra and Volta rivers. The Portuguese called the coast Mina, meaning “the mine.” Their main interest in Gold Coast, was the trade of gold from the ‘mina’ thus they sought to maintain a positive presence so they built a fort in 1482. The Portuguese called the fort, São Jorge da Mina which is now, present-day Elmina Castle. They further went on to build forts in Axim, Shama and Accra on lands leased to them by locals.

The purpose of these forts and garrisons was to ensure locals sold their gold only to Portuguese agents and no other European nation managed to upstage the Portuguese before the close of the 16th century.

Ghana, the first African country in the sub-Saharan Africa region to attain independence has seen many come ‘home’ and have an experience of visiting sites where slaves were kept prior to being placed aboard a ship to England and the Americas never to see their home land again.

The ‘Year of Return‘ began with a strong touch to the motherland by Hollywood stars; Rosario Dawson, Naomi Campbell, Idris Elba, Michael Jai White who were hosted by Boris Kodjoe and marketing maven Bozoma Saint John as part of their ‘Full Circle Festival’.

This has put a spotlight on the Ghanaian ‘Year of Return’ and has had many more Hollywood stars trooping in to the land of Gold to find their roots. Notable in the couple of days has been the visit of Steve Harvey and his family who shared posts of their visit on social media site Instagram; Danny Glover as part of the event ‘Jamestown to Jamestown’ Samuel .L. Jackson, A.J. Johnson among others.

As Ghana sits on the praecipe of welcoming many Africans home, if you’re African and want to come back home; do journey to Ghana to experience the warmth, the laughter, the joy, the sun and the many truths of how we journeyed to a land we never knew and still came back stronger.

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