On December 22nd, 2022, I was granted Ghanaian citizenship. I did not post or write about this immediately because I wanted to think, meditate and pray for clarity. So, first, what I think should be obvious, I am and will always be proud to be an American. America is where I was born and raised. America has afforded me an immense opportunity and the environment to rise from the discomfort of poverty to a comfortable measure of prosperity. However, growing up poor and Black in America was not devoid of challenges. Race and class have been both impediments and sources of inspiration.
Over the last 10 years, I have had the great pleasure of becoming very acquainted with my ancestral continent of Africa. Some would even argue everyone’s ancestral continent, as it is the cradle of civilization. At a minimum, every Black person on the planet can trace their roots to the magnificent continent of Africa. My first encounter with my beloved continent was a trip to Kenya many years ago for a friend’s wedding. It was a magical experience, rich with culture and amazing tradition. My subsequent trips have been a beautiful medley of business and pleasure. My voyages span fifteen countries and counting all across the continent. Each country possesses its unique identity and customs, yet I find they all share a common thread. That thread is what I call an intense, potent, and unapologetic spirit of Black power!
For the first time in my life, every person, from the peasant to the president, looked like me. In every meeting that I have attended, Black was par. There was no turning around to see who the Black lawyer was in the meeting. There were no “random” questions about your qualifications. There was no need to code-switch or modulate voice tone. They were me, and I was them. I can not adequately explain the intense sense of belonging and comfort that simply being in that environment brings. It was like an instant shot of self-esteem and self-worth.
For the first time in my life, I felt privileged, not because of money or power, but simply because I was the majority. I was the standard. Not only was I the standard, but our remarkable Black Women were their own standard of beauty. Despite there still being vestiges of colonial dominance when it comes to hair and skin tone, shining through that is an environment where our Black women’s features, shapes, and styles are exulted as the pinnacle of femininity. Longstanding traditions and customs solidify their position in the family structure. Their strength and wisdom are revered. Now imagine that this has been your reality since birth.
It occurred to me that this is what being white in America or Europe must feel like, born at par or, in many instances, born on third base with a clear path to home plate. You see, there are weighted elements of Blackness in a predominantly white environment that you endure and carry without one truly appreciating the magnitude of the load until you find yourself on our amazing continent, free from the heavy shadow cast by your very existence.
Once on the ground, before you realize what is happening, you are walking more erect, talking more direct, and the quality of your engagements with strangers feels qualitatively more familial! How can a place you were not born in, you have not lived in, nor were you raised in feel like that familiar song, those pair of beautifully worn jeans, or that Christmas classic that you watch every year and it simply hits the same way every time? I could only imagine what our Jewish Brothers and Sisters feel when they finally reach their beloved Israel.
As I stated earlier, I have been to many African countries. So why West Africa? I believe my soul derived from West Africa. Not only does my Ancestral DNA (thanks to Ancestry.com) say so, but all of the intangible feelings around culture, food, and music resonate with my spirit in such an immeasurable quantity!
There are a lot of countries in West Africa, so why Ghana? Out of the countries I have visited in West Africa, Nigeria and Ghana were the two that spoke the loudest to me and my core identity. First, I love Nigeria, and I am Nigerian. A large percentage of my DNA confirms that. I am also Ghanaian and Togolese! Ghana, through the President’s Office of Diaspora Affairs, opened its arms and has directly welcomed this son of the soil home. I am humbled and immensely grateful. Like so many descendants of “enslaved people” or “the enslaved”, my ancestral DNA map is a mosaic of regions on the continent; that is why what is most important to me is that I am African! I believe in the connectivity of the diaspora.
Africans are Africans where ever they reside in the world. Because as the late great Ghanaian President, Kwame Nkrumah, once said, “I am not African because I was born in Africa. I am African because Africa was born in me!” I remain thankful for the first chapters of my life to have lived them as a Black American, subconsciously and consciously grappling for identity, legacy, and culture. However, with God’s grace, I am most grateful for the chapters that lie ahead.
I feel I am walking toward the other side of greatness. I will live reborn as a Ghanaian, no longer searching or wondering about identity but simply wearing what has been pre-ordained, pre-tailored for me all along. Standing in, up, and on my ancestral soil, allowing the culture that these colonial terrorists thought they buried with my ancestors to pour out of me like the waters of the mighty Atlantic! Yes, I am American. Yes, I am Ghanaian! Above all, I am African! Watch me prance, feel me dance and hear the boisterous roar of freedom!