Updated: Sep 24
Okay, real talk: I’ve been struggling to write something about our relocation to Africa for a while now.
Part of me says it's because I feel obliged to omit so much in my desire to briefly discuss the overall history of the movement. Another part me says it's because I'm aware, at this point being all these thousands of miles away, how disconnected I was from Africa, despite my community's focus on it, living in back in the SF Bay.
Not long before we moved to Ethiopia at the end of 2017, my general knowledge of Africa could be summed up as being perhaps a level and a half above thinking "Africa is a country".
So, here's the realer talk: I think unless you've been here or studied it in detail that's an easy place to mentally be.
Naturally, Africa is super complex, but coming from America, it would make sense that there's just this mental block lying with the fact that most people are still grappling with the subject of slavery. Trauma like that can make thoughts of Africa hazy or downright painful, if I'm to honestly say.
I only realized this as 4th of July passed, and it became obvious from my feed, that BBQ’s and fireworks were not what the holiday represented, now, for the African American identity.
In the realest sense, I would never make a social media post saying, "Well, why don't you leave?"
Because I know it’s not that easy.
In fact, the only reason I feel privileged enough to have been able to 'act' on my desire to live in another country, was because I'd seen others leave and sometimes live elsewhere successfully.
Add that to the opportunity of ditching aspects I absolutely abhorred about living in a Western country. Like big box stores, and funding wars with every hard earned dollar I made. Now shopping 'black owned' is a given, and supporting families with what I spend daily is a reality.
The business opportunities available here are also limitless and very well hidden if you don’t have the idea or the capital to at least be able to come and investigate.
Alas, all these details simply sit at the border of the biggest problem as Hollywood was all too happy to display. I saw Black Panther, and as an ex-Marvel fan, and a 'real life Wakanda' resident I've been burning to remind people the propaganda machine has come a long way. Before it was just Captain America rallying support for WWII, now it's twisting the thorn in our palm a little deeper reminding us from the West how damaged the relationship between some and our African sistren and brethren continues to be to this day.
If I had to boil it down, I would have to add coming from America to Ethiopia is actually best-case scenario, considering the overall visa situation. Coming from America you get a two year visa, and if you work online, the WiFi's not bad, you just have to pick the right city to live in, according to your taste. (Europeans only get 3 months at a time, if you can imagine.)
Most people relocating are coming from places like SF, Chicago, and NYC, but they’re resettling in countries like Ghana, which get a lot more international play.
Ethiopia used to be one of those 'back to Africa' destinations, along with Liberia, but the backstory of the whole movement from that period can be kind of hard to navigate. Never mind the confused sentiments of belonging rife with struggles to balance all the colonization everyone here and overseas had to deal with in their own special ways. And then there's that looming question of how many of us had ancestry in America to begin with, an unreliable census the only thing tracking who and where we used to be, to add insult to injury.
It's a lot? No kidding.
So, back Libera for just a second. The only other country in Africa uncolonized by Europeans, instead colonized by African-Americans. Or, depending on how you look at it, the American Colonization Society. It was founded by a grab bag of slave owners and abolitionists with the intention of giving former slaves full access to freedom in a place outside of a White-led society. Libera’s unique past, reflects the American descendants struggle for freedom and sovereignty. Libera's story also shows how easy it was for internal power battles to manifest not only between local tribes and the colony's political elite, but between major voices of the time such as W.E.B. DuBois and Marcus Garvey.
The the tide Marcus Garvey’s leadership produced through his inspiration to the people of America to have pride as a ‘black race’, brought about a different light for the ‘back to Africa’ movement. His ‘separatist’ tone contrasting DuBois’s ‘talented tenth’ teaching, created a fork in the road for the African American intellectual, especially within the university.
What I found in unearthing all of this was what I consider to be a truth hidden by higher education, as a scholar who walked away with one of those newly established Ethnic Studies Degrees.
The Battle of Adwa, Ethiopia’s uncanny victory as the ‘uncivilized’ country against a ‘modern state’ with much more advanced machinery was completely unspoken of. The Second Italo-Ethiopian War, was totally on the hush hush, buried underneath Pan-African elite debates.
All the while I’m wondering how I could have missed all this being educated in a ‘Black Mecca’, when there was such strong support for the defense of Ethiopia’s independence, African Americans going as far as viewing the nation as an external source for the validation of their identity.
I guess, even now, I’m still a little miffed about what was accessible to me in my search for the truth about what I should be fighting for as someone formerly identifying as a ‘Black American’.
In school, I was even misled, my favorite professor the one to tell me, "Ethiopia isn't that important", minimizing the role the county had to play in checking the League of Nations's ability to handle world issues right as WWII launched in the most grotesque way.
The truth still stands, though, and I don't doubt that the reality of our story will one day reign.
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