Recently Nnedi Okorafor posted on Twitter about racists telling her to go back to Africa.
My response was the following:
This is a very common remark on social media, “Go Back to Africa.” I believe any Black person on social media that dares to speak out against injustice has heard this comment as if going back to Africa is an insult. Newsflash, going back home, is NEVER an insult to my humanity.
In 2015, I remember when I was told that in 2016, Roots and Wings, a group of artists in which I was a member, in Louisville, KY, would be traveling to Dakar, Senegal. The trip was part of our enrichment, growth, and development to write a show comprised of poetry, dance, and music to be performed at the Kentucky Center of the Arts. It seemed unreal to me. I had never owned a passport. I had never been out of the country. My life consisted of a bubble and a small office where I was a secretary. To know that the first place I would go out of the country was Africa didn’t seem real. For many African-Americans, there is always this longing and desire to go back to Africa, but it seems so far-fetched. Can I really go home? However, I paid my money for the trip, admittedly with a level of disbelief that I would actually return to Africa. And I say return because I know that somewhere along the line, my ancestors were born on that sacred ground. But until I saw the e-tickets in my email, did it become real. Indeed, I was heading to Africa. And like a good mother, it was not just about me. If I was returning to the Motherland, I would have to take my daughter. And my daughter at 20 years old got her passport and packed her bags alongside me, to head home.
July of 2016, we stepped our feet onto the earth of Africa, and it changed the very course of my life.
Before I continue, let me be clear, Africa is not without its issues. In America, we are inundated with those issues time and time again. If you are like me and grew up in the 80’s, there was always commercials on TV of a White person pleading for money to feed those in Africa. There was never of a shortage of showing Africa pillaged and people suffering. And indeed, there are many areas in Africa that are suffering. Just imagine you are living in your home, you have every resource known to man and are living just fine. Then, strangers come in and steal it, claim it as theirs, move in, exploit your home, kill your men, rape the women, enslave your people, put them on ships to a foreign land, take every asset they can from your home and then say “make it.” After of course, setting you up with “loans” to rebuild your home and infrastructure. Well, you might have some problems too. However, we know that story. The story we do not see is Africa in its splendor. And I made a point that I would show Africa in its glory to all my friends in America.
It was there, in Dakar, Senegal I felt at home. There, where I shopped in a store and made sure to hold the earrings in full view because I was used to being profiled while shopping only to realize the shop owner had stepped outside of her shop and was having a conversation in the alley, with no thought of me “stealing”. It was there that I realized that Black skin was not criminal. It was there, in Dakar, Senegal that I was given my Senegalese name, Binta, meaning seer and healer. A name that I had searched for in dreams and visions. It was there that my daughter crouched in a slave cell and screamed and wept tears that her ancestors chanted from the ground. It was there that I stood in the Door of No Return and the curator of the museum told us, “You made it back.” It was there that I hugged my namesake and stared into her face, searching for me among her eyes, nose and lips. It was there that I tasted the fruit of the baobab tree. It was there that I saw young Black boys dive into the ocean and the myth of Black people not swimming drifted away. It was there that I saw art, graffiti and statues that looked liked like me. It was there that I learned about that the Laws of Africa. It was there I stood mere feet away from zebras, giraffes, monkeys and I knew we all inhabited this earth together. It was there I saw a pink lake that defied science, with salt hilltop high. Truly Africa was the salt of the earth. It was there I boarded a ship from Goree Island and a man said, “Welcome back home, sister,” and I turned in awe and asked, “What did you say?” And he repeated himself, solidifying what I knew, that I was home. It was there I saw me, I felt me, I finally knew me. It was there that I found pieces of me that were stolen.
So when you say, “Go back to Africa,” this is not an insult. Far from it. I, and many others welcome going back home.
Always, longing for home.
So for all those racists that LOVE to say, “Go back to Africa,” please click the link below and help send me! In 2018 I plan to travel to Senegal and Ghana. Put your money where your mouth is or STOP HARASSING BLACK PEOPLE on social media that speak out about injustice! For others that just want to send me home to connect with who I am, please feel free to donate. Thank you!