Nearly 300 African Americans reconnected with their African roots in the journey of a lifetime marking the 400th Anniversary of the Transatlantic Slave Trade
NAACP led a delegation of nearly 300 African Americans, ranging in age from 4 to 90, on a transformative journey from Jamestown, VA to Jamestown, Ghana to reconnect with their African roots and commemorate the Year of the Return – a landmark spiritual and birth-right journey inviting the global African family, home and abroad, to mark 400 years since the arrival of the first enslaved Africans to the United States.
“In the Twi language of Ghana, ‘Sankofa’ translates to ‘go back and get it.’ We are standing in our ‘Sankofa’ moment,” said NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson. “We are proud to return to Ghana to walk in the footsteps of our ancestors and reaffirm that our existence is one of strength, power, resilience and liberation. This experience has brought us all closer together and we have the knowledge we need to continue to fight for all of mankind. Strangers became sisters, fathers became mentors, children became playmates and a generation of the Black diaspora found their home.”
The journey began August 19th with a ceremony at the Jamestown Historic Center to honor the first enslaved Africans to arrive at Point Comfort and Fort Monroe near Hampton, VA. The reflective, yet uplifting event included a processional, remarks from local and national NAACP leaders and an opportunity for participants to write messages to their ancestors.
The following day, the group visited the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, DC before traveling from Dulles International Airport to Accra, Ghana. Here are highlights from Ghana:
Akwaaba! Homecoming Celebrations
Drummers, dancers and local residents greeted the NAACP delegation at Kotoka International Airport, which included actor and humanitarian Danny Glover, as the group made their long-awaited arrival for the Year of Return. The group was first welcomed to the Jubilee House – the residence and office to the President of Ghana – for a photo opportunity, before heading to the Accra Visitor Center to meet with representatives from the Ghana Tourism Authority.
Per Ghanaian tradition, the group paid a visit to the Mayor of Accra and Jamestown chiefs, who to announce their arrival welcomed them with a blessing. Warm greeting remarks were also provided by President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana.
The group also paid visits to the village chiefs and elders in Cape Coast, as well as the Ashanti Queen Mother, a direct descendant of Nana Yaa Asantewaa – one of Ghana’s most acclaimed heroines.
The group visited Cape Coast Slave Castle – one of several castles along the coast of West Africa – where millions of Africans suffered in dungeons at the hands of European slave traders. As the group wandered from chamber to chamber, hanging on to every word as the guide narrated the painful history of the ground they walked on, the agony in the air was almost tangible.
“This has been the most life-changing moment of my life,” whispered an elderly woman to her daughter as they exited the female dungeons and walked toward the Door of No Return – the last port of exit before slaves were taken away from their homeland forever. On the other side of the door stood a placard that read, ‘Door of Return.’
“They called this the ‘Door of No Return,’” said one of the tour guides. “They didn’t want you to come back but look at us now. You have returned. You have survived, and you have returned to us.”
Following the tour, nearly 80 participants received the results of their African ancestry, through AfricanAncestry.com. People traced their roots to Cameroun, Togo, Gabon, Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Equatorial Guinea, Senegal and more. The Haynes family, a multigenerational family of women traveling from Howard County, MD, were the last participants to be called. The crowd erupted in cheer and tears of joy when it was announced they were matrilineal descendants of the Akan people of Ghana.
Participants in the Jamestown to Jamestown journey, explored two complementing sectors in Accra, the cultural landmarks and monuments, and the prime opportunities for investment in the city, and to a larger extent, what the country represents for the Black Diaspora. Hosted by the Ghana EXIM Bank, NAACP President Derrick Johnson gave poignant remarks as to the purpose of the Jamestown to Jamestown trip, reminding the group that the threat to exploit Black labor is still an unfortunate reality across the world, and the need to recognize the value and power of Black labor and consumerism.
The group also took part in a variety of group tours in Accra and the surrounding area, visiting sites such as the home and museum of one of the founders of the NAACP, W.E.B. Du Bois, the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and Park, the Centre for Scientific Research into Plant Medicine, and the very first cocoa farm in Ghana, the Tetteh Quarshe Memorial Cocoa Farm.