2019 marks the 400th anniversary of the first African slaves arriving in the United States of America. It is the “Year of Return”.

In August 1619, a ship carrying African slaves docked at Point Comfort in the British colony of Virginia — what is now a part of the present-day United States.  Over 20 enslaved Africans on the ship were sold. With that, American slavery was born.

This is how Africans were shipped as cargo aboard ships.

In 2013 the United Nations declared 2015–2024 the International Decade for People of African Descent to “promote respect, protection and fulfillment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of people of African descent.”  The theme for the ten-year celebration is “People of African descent: recognition, justice and development.”

 

2019 is the “Year of Return, Ghana 2019”. This year marks 400 years since the first slave was kidnapped and taken across the Atlantic Ocean. President Akufo-Addo of Ghana said, “We know of the extraordinary achievements and contributions they [Africans in the diaspora] made to the lives of the Americans, and it is important that this symbolic year—400 years later—we commemorate their existence and their sacrifices.”   Ghana was a major hub during the transatlantic slave trade, but later various African American historical figures developed strong ties to the country.

The Year of Return : Photo by Enoch Appiah Jr. on Unsplash

 

Ghana’s parliament passed a Citizenship Act in 2000 to make provision for dual citizenship, meaning that people of Ghanaian origin who have acquired citizenships abroad can take up Ghanaian citizenship if they wish.  That same year the country enacted the Immigration Act, which provides for a “Right of Abode” for any “Person of African descent in the Diaspora” to travel to and from the country “without hindrance.”

The Year of Return: The door of no return at the Cape Coast Castle. Wikimedia Commons

According to figures released by the Ghana Immigration Service, Americans arriving in Ghana increased by 26% to their highest ever rate between January and September 2019. The numbers of visitors from the UK (24%), Germany (22%), South Africa (10%) and Liberia (14%) also grew.

The Year of Return : Photo credit: Afrochella

The Year of the Return signifies the reconnection of cultural and economic ties between Africa, African descents and African Americans.  2019 launched pilgrimages through the continent by initiatives such as the Door of our Return.  The event showcases concerts, art exhibits, visits to heritage sites, fashion shows, movie premieres, and creative economy and trade conferences.  This event connected African youth and African descendants and diaspora through explosive events such as Afrochella and Afro Nation.

The Year of Return : Photo credit : Afrochella

The Year of Return is a welcome-home celebration to Africa’s children.  This global movement is a poignant time to reflect on the history, identity and future of Africa and her descendants.

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