Coming back to the States after two months in South Africa felt like an out of body experience for Jessica Littles, 23. The Detroit native left in the summer before her senior year of college to experience Cape Town in all its glory.
She, like many other black Americans, felt a deep desire to see the Motherland and get a sense of origin. “I came back and just knew my people were from Nigeria,” she said. “I just joke, but felt a strong connection to the few Nigerians I met while in South Africa.”
Although blatant in physical features and DNA, black Americans don’t necessarily feel a connection or duty to Africa. If not raised or familiar with anyone in any country, it’s perfectly understandable to not feel compelled to visit. Sadly, centuries of separation have severed ties. But there is a duty to one’s self.
The concept of going back to Africa isn’t anything new. “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots,” said Marcus Garvey, the Pan-African who inspired mass movement to the continent. And 65 years before Garvey’s birth the American Recolonization Society ‘repatriated’ hundreds of African-Americans to modern day Liberia.
In an attempt to be charitable, several celebrities have donated, built up and promoted selected countries of the continent. Oprah Winfrey built her all-girls school in South Africa and Maya Angelou, Dave Chappelle, Stokely Carmichael and W.E.B. DuBois also felt strongly enough about the continent to not only contribute, but live there at some point.
What many have an eternal debate about is the significance of the Motherland in their life and its current relevance. To this day there are many cultural norms in the black community derived from Africa.
At the end of the day, one can go a whole lifetime without visiting or caring about the continent. Black Americans have no duty to a place that was stolen from their past.
BUT everyone does have a personal sense of duty. And it may be a fulfilling experience to be where the origin of life began. It’s so important to know your history; exploring the masked continent may give insight into who you are and your future. What you gain from returning to Africa is unexplainable and can only allow you to attain more, to care for home.