The Year 2019 has been dubbed The Year of Return. This is an initiative of the Ghanaian government; an open invitation to all diasporans of African descent, and anyone interested in visiting the African continent, but particularly Ghana. It has been trending all year long, on multiple social media platforms. Many people who have already visited Ghana shared their experiences on social media and already plan to return during the upcoming holiday season. The Year of return, 2019, marks 400 years of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in Jamestown, Virginia. As President Nana Addo Dankwah Akufo-Addo said, “In the year 2019, we open our arms even wider to welcome home our brothers and sisters in what will become a birthright journey home for the global African family.” The invitation also encourages African diasporans to obtain citizenship if they want. There have been reports of about 200 Ghanaian citizenship claimed by diasporans. A lot of diasporans have already made the journey back home. The journey has been different for each and every one of them; some have found it to be a spiritual and enlightening awakening.

This documentary by BBC Africa gives a picture of how it feels coming to the motherland. Now you know we cannot talk about the Year of Return without talking about the history that led to this land-marked occasion.

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The White Lion ~ This is the ship that took the first group of Africans away from their homes, lives, and identities to Jamestown, Virginia in 1619.

According to Historic Jamestown , the first enslaved Africans were Angolans. “The Africans who came to Virginia in 1619 had been taken from Angola in West Central Africa. They were captured in a series of wars that were part of much broader Portuguese hostilities against the Kongo and Ndongo kingdoms, and other states. These captives were then forced to march 100-200 miles to the coast to the major slave-trade port of Luanda. They were put on board the San Juan Bautista, which carried 350 captives bound for Vera Cruz, on the coast of Mexico, in the summer of 1619″. The slave ship, San Juan Bautista was then attacked by two English privateers; The White Lion and the Treasurer in the Gulf of Mexico and robbed 50-60 Africans. The two privateers sailed to Virginia towards the end of August where they began their slave trade. Upon arrival, they were stripped of their identity (name, language, and culture), branded like cattle and sold in exchange for food, in slave auctions. It was said that there were “20 and odd negros” on the slave ship. The conditions in which they were transported were horrible. Some ended up dying on that treacherous journey and were thrown overboard. In 1661, the state of Virginia passed a law that allowed all free persons the right to own slaves. This led to a significantly drastic alteration in the history of Africa and the African people. 400 years later, the impact of slavery is still visible in schools, workplaces, healthcare industries, financial institutions, and in the everyday lives of Africans and people of African descent all over the globe.

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By Richard C. Moore, 2010. Courtesy of Kathryn Knight. The San Juan Bautista’s battle against the two English corsairs, the Treasurer and the White Lion. “Angela” was one of several enslaved Africans brought to Virginia on the Treasurer

The Year of Return is meant to double as an acknowledgment of the history of slavery, and its effects, and to also provide an arena for the celebration and amalgamation of Ghanaian, West African and diasporan culture. There are many activities planned for this year-long celebration. Some of these activities include trips to the slave castles in the Central Region of Ghana, as this was one of the last places our African ancestors were, before being shipped to the Americas and the Caribbeans. There are many festivities to look out for, such as Afrochella, regional festivals, concerts and so much more.

There are also popular tourist sites to visit such as the Kwame Nkrumah mausoleum, the Kakum canopy walk and slave castles and forts throughout the country. The official website for all planned events and program line-up is www.yearofreturn.com. There is also an app available on iOS and android platform called BluTix for all event tickets and information. There are a few Instagram pages with plenty of information on expectations and things to do in Ghana. A couple of my favorites are www.instagram.com/ghanapeople , www.instagram.com/iamhamamat, and www.instagram.com/iam_adjeii

I hope you get to visit Ghana, West Africa and explore other parts of the beautiful African continent like the birthplace of the first enslaved Africans, Angola.

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