Op/Ed By Kofi Quaye
Five years ago, I tried to convince a couple of African-American friends, George and Larry, to seriously consider a trip to Africa. I knew it would be a hard sell. Having lived in America as an immigrant for several years, I had gotten to know about the attitude of some, not all, when it comes to relating to Africa.
The perception many African Americans have had of Africa is based upon what they have seen in movies such as Tarzan, and on television news portrayals of starving, warmongering tribes that are killing each other in brutal tribal wars.
And, now, Ebola, AIDS, and the Ethiopian famine have made it worse.
“Just go and check it out,” I stated. “You might like it. Africans love to see the brothers and sisters from the states. They treat them like royalty, unless you give them reason not to. You’ll find out for yourself if all that stuff about Africans not liking African Americans is true or not.’
“Where? Africa? I don’t think so,”‘ they both said.
Their reaction didn’t surprise, or discourage me.
So, I tried another approach.
How about me coming along with them, with expenses for food, and lodging paid for?
All they had to do was buy a ticket.
I was ready to make the arrangements with my family and colleagues to host them, in houses with modern amenities.
They would also drive us around in nice cars, just to make them feel welcome, and expose them to people and places which would show them that Africa is not totally under-developed.
I knew they wouldn’t believe me if I told them I’d just left a government job which paid me enough to afford to live in a house with three bedrooms, have modern amenities, and to buy and drive a Ford Capri car with money left over to hang out in restaurants and nightclubs that played music by Jimmy Hendrix, James Brown, and Ike and Tina Turner.
“You don’t know what you’re missing, the chance to reconnect with Africa, see both the new and old Africa,” I told them.
However, it didn’t work.
They were too scared to go to Africa.
Eventually, I gave up on them, but I continued to write about Africa in books and newspaper articles, as part of my mission to inform, and educate African Americans about Africa and Africans.
In the early seventies, I shared an apartment in Accra, the capital of Ghana, with an African-American doctoral student named Cyprian Lamar Rowe.
And the experience was profound, and life-changing, for both of us.
We learned from, and about, each other’s lifestyles, cultures, and histories.
He clarified a lot of misconceptions I’d had about the U.S., and I did the same for him about Ghana, African history, and culture.
Subsequently, he returned to the U.S., got his PhD, and became a leading scholar, and college professor.
And, as a result of my interaction with Dr. Cyprian Lamar Rowe, and other African Americans who were living in Ghana at the time, I found myself better prepared to immigrate to the U.S.
By the time I made the decision most Africans tend to make these days, which is to immigrate to the U.S., Maya Angelou had just left Ghana, after living there for a number of years.
Already, I knew the American dream was not for everybody, and that the streets of America were not paved with gold.
But, most importantly, the experience inspired me to commit myself to the mission of getting involved in programs and activities that were geared towards connecting African Americans with Africa and Africans, with the goal of bringing us all together.
Sadly, my experience with George, Larry, and others has taught me it won’t be easy.
However, two months ago, I received a phone call, and I recognized the voice of George.
“Kofi, remember the invitation to visit Africa?” he asked. “I want to go now. But, check this out. I don’t want just to visit. I want to go, and live in Africa.”
It was my turn to feign surprise.
“What happened?” I asked. “You didn’t want no parts of Africa before. What’s up?”
“Donald Trump,” he replied.
That was all he had to say.
I knew exactly what he was talking about, and we both burst out laughing.
Donald Trump is scaring the hell out of many African Americans.
The prospect of a Trump presidency appears to have given many of us a reason to consider the option of not dealing with it if it happens.
African Americans would rather go somewhere else, where they won’t have to be dehumanized, brutalized, and potentially killed should Trump win the presidency.
A Trump presidency sounds like that is what it would be all about.
Suddenly, repatriating to Africa doesn’t seem like a bad idea to many.
Now, they don’t need incentives.
The idea of living in an America led by Donald Trump has been a just as powerful, and more-menacing perceived threat to their safety, well-being, and peace of mind as leaving.
Groups have sprouted up all over recently, dedicated to helping African Americans to not just visit Africa, but to repatriate, and live there.
Many are on FACEBOOK talking about the doomsday scenario of a Trump presidency.
I would have preferred not to deal with the notion that it took the prospect of a possible Trump presidency to force some African Americans to change their minds about Africa.
However, it has, and to me, it’s all good.
My mission is still being accomplished, although from a most unlikely source.