Blaxit: Moving to the Motherland by Muhammida El Muhajir, Movement Pan Africa

“The function, the very serious function of racism, is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being.” – Toni Morrison

I’m asked almost daily, why I moved to Ghana. It seems to be shocking to people of all races why someone from the so called “land of milk and honey” (USA) to the so called “dark continent” (Africa).  This Toni Morrison quote sums it up perfectly. I moved because I could no longer be distracted by race. I wanted to do my work without the distraction of validating my humanity.  After all hadn’t I done enough already? I worked at one of the top corporations in the world (Nike), purchased a home in one of the top markets in the world (New York) before turning 30, presented at leading  academic intuitions (Harvard and Oxford), succeeded (and failed) at businesses, and traveled to 25+ countries.  There was no explaining left to be done. And there would not be another iota of energy used to try to make anyone aware of my greatness.  So I packed up my things and moved 10,000 miles away, across the Atlantic Ocean to be “Free” in the land of my ancestors. 


At some point all beings want to return home to their place of origin. To a place where they are loved and accepted. Humans. Animals. Even aliens. (Remember ET?).  The spirit of my ancestors have been working hard to “get home” for centuries and as much as I moved for my own mental, physical and emotional sanity I also was driven by those spirits who wanted to return. The spirits who would not rest until they were safely back from whence they came.

I moved to Ghana just over two years ago. GHANA. The former Gold Coast.  Land rich with gold (and now oil), cocoa, shea, the blackest people, and the sweetest pineapples and mangoes.

I had first come in 2003 for a Master’s degree program in International Relations at the University of Ghana. I considered moving back then but I wasn’t ready yet and neither was Ghana. I came back in 2013 and by this time major changes had happened in the country. My good friend Christa, a homegirl from Philly who had been living in Ghana since my Univ of Ghana days served as my social attaché. We went to fashion parties at boutique hotels, cocktails at swanky lounges, film screenings hosted by African hipsters and discussions between African intellectuals. Ghana had changed and I loved it! 

During this trip, I learned of a Fellowship opportunity at technology school and was encouraged to apply. In less than six months, I was accepted to the program and preparing to move to Ghana initially for 1 year. That would be my trial year. It would give me enough time to see how I liked it. If I could do it for the long run.  I’m still her loving it 2 years later! I feel at home. After a lifetime of being an outsider and minority in my native country, I am now in the majority. Black people everywhere! In the bank, owning the bank, the mall (owning the mall), the hotel (owning the hotel), the airport, the government offices, the police, the army, the commercials, the billboards, everyone everywhere! 

Perhaps my experience and perception of living in Ghana is unique but I also feel very safe here. In fact, safer than I ever have before.  Safer than when I lived in Philly, Harlem, Brooklyn, Oakland, LA, or DC where I had an underlying feeling of always being under attack. This caused me a lot of anxiety and insecurity. Don’t look the person in the eye, they might feel threatened. Don’t accidentally bump into someone. Don’t NOT respond to a man’s advance or call. Don’t dress too provocatively. Don’t get into any sort of verbal conflict with anyone. Keep your hands visible when you walk into ANY store. Don’t be too smart. Don’t talk too white. Don’t talk too black. Don’t be too black. Don’t get pulled over for traffic stop. Don’t walk with a Snapple and skittles. Don’t wear a hoody. Don’t Run. Don’t walk. Don’t breathe. At any moment your life and freedom can be taken by a random act of violence or prejudice. 

I didn’t actually realize how much anxiety I was feeling until I moved to Ghana and the triggers no longer existed or at least were lessened. In the beginning I would get nervous every time my taxi driver would get into confrontation with another motorist for some minor traffic infraction or when I witnessed someone yell to a group of teens to lower their voices or music. In the US, this could very easily end in physical violence or worse…death. But instead after a few moments of heated arguments, the drivers would say their last words and ride off into the sunset and the group of teens would simply lower their voices and turn down the music (no threats, guns, or lip smacks). Now, when I walk into shops, no one follows me around. I am never instantly profiled as a potential thief.  It is refreshing to not be judged by my skin color. For me that is Freedom.

It is the small things about life here that have nothing to do with race or culture or blackness.  I am thrilled to be reminded of my humanity and to witness respect for elders and family. When I walk past people in the morning, they speak. If I am carrying too many heavy bags, almost everyone I pass will ask if I need help.  I can ask any child (or anyone younger than me) to do an errand or help me with something and they will do it without any obvious resistance. If someone trips, falls, or has an accident, no one EVER laughs or snickers! Instead they all run to help and apologize to you for the accident! Your misfortune is not humorous in any way. These are the very minute aspects of life in Ghana that many seem to overlook.

Don’t get me wrong, Ghana is no utopia! They have way more than enough issues and not devoid of crime. Yes there are power shortages and the electricity goes out sometimes for days, and there’s extreme poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment. There are tropical diseases (I have had malaria twice!) and economic and psychological remnants of colonialism and too much reliance on the government, foreign aid/savior or religion.  There are even racial incidents where foreigners (Americans, British, Lebanese, Chinese, Indians, Spanish, Dutch, etc. etc.) get better treatment or granted the contract/ deal/land etc. based on their ethnicity. They are all here building businesses and making profits, taking ownership, making deals, and purchasing land and real estate despite all of the “issues”. Why aren’t we? 

Those negatives are small to me compared to the positives.  I have the option to live in a place where my life does matter. And if it doesn’t matter, my skin color won’t be the reason. The time, energy and brain space devoted to mourning, crying, screaming, marching, tweeting, demanding that Black lives Matter, that my life matters, can now be channeled to other important issues that I actually care about, that also matter. I care about the environment,  food security, sustainability, water, babies born with cleft lips, cancer, AIDS, illiteracy, human trafficking, hell the dolphins and orangutans literally MILLIONS of other causes that I would love to spend some time and energy on. But I instead I have to march about Black Life? Really in 2016? Really? Black Life?  

You can have the best experience when making the transition living in Africa when you don’t have any pre-conceived idealistic notions of what it will be like. Many black conscious minded /pan-Africanist folks are disappointed when they come to Africa for the first time.  Africa is not the land our ancestors left 4 centuries ago. It is a continent balancing modernization, globalization, and post-colonialism with indigenous culture and African values. Many are shocked to see a proliferation of Western clothing straight out of a BET music video, long hair weaves, bleached skin and images of white Jesus on church walls. The fact remains that even without black conscious sensibilities,  they do have languages, culture, family values, and tribal legacies and traditions that have existed before the Europeans landed. Most Africans don’t understand African-American's constant reference to our blackness. For them Blackness just IS. It’s not something they have to often think about or question. In fact historically it is the Black Americans who have inspired black consciousness throughout the diaspora.

Returning to Africa, our ancestral homeland should not be such a farfetched concept for African Americans. Come with an open mind and it can be a place where you can live free from second class citizen status and where even if for a moment, you can do your work without “explaining, over and over again, your reason for being.”

Marvin X. Jackmon

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