Amid changes in America’s economic, social, and political climate, a growing number of black Americans have begun to do something that for decades was merely a figment of the imagination or a running punchline. They are going back to Africa – and leading the charge is the (AU) Diaspora African Forum, located at the historic W.E.B. Dubois Center in Accra, Ghana that will announce this month, along with Mayor Sylvester Turner, the opening of its U.S. headquarters in Houston.
Since 2019, nearly 2,000 black Americans have packed their bags and embarked on a new life in Ghana. This movement was ignited by the nation’s government campaign, “The Year of Return,” which marked 400 years since the first African slaves arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in 1619.
As the first and only diplomatic embassy in the world dealing specifically with Diaspora issues, the DAF is fully accredited and works closely with the governments of 55 African nations. Endorsed by the African Union, it has played a central role in reconnecting “historical Africans” to their ancestral lands by orchestrating educational and cultural excursions, guiding them in establishing their businesses, and offering a pipeline to citizenship. Several of America’s top black celebrities and entrepreneurs are currently working with DAF to do business with or live in Ghana.
“Given the situation in the U.S. we want our brothers and sisters to have options,” said Ambassador Dr. Erieka Bennett, Convening Founder and Head of Missions for the Diaspora African Forum. “What is happening with the laws, such as removing black history from schools, issues with treatment of black males, lack of access to funding and resources, it is important that they have options and see Africa as their home. You are not African because you are born in Africa, you are African because Africa is born in you.”
Born in the U.S., Dr. Bennett made her first visit to Africa, venturing to the Ivory Coast while on leave from her job at IBM 45 years ago. From there, she went to Liberia and encountered descendants of African Americans who first settled there two centuries ago. She would later work for the mayor of Liberia and eventually open an orphanage. Africa became her home. Dr. Bennett has now lived in Ghana for the last 20 years, serving as an advisor to ECOWAS, a union consisting of 15 African states. She also worked as the Advisory Counsel for Ghanaian President John Kufuor and has been a trusted advisor to several other presidents.
In 2022, Dr. Bennett received the U.S. Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award and the International Distinguished Leadership Award from the Biden Administration. These are just a few of the many honors the distinguished visionary and changemaker has garnered over the course of her career.
Bringing the DAF to Houston will be a major step towards bridging the gap between black Americans and continental Africans, as well as increasing awareness of opportunities in Ghana and other countries. The city’s diverse population, including many residents from West Africa, makes it a prime location. On September 14th, Dr. Bennett and the organization will discuss the parameters of the new office during AfriExpo 2023 at the Ion on 4201 Main Street, Houston, TX 77002. The conference is set to cover opportunities in business, tech, manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare, and other industries.
“We understand that for Africa to move forward, we need people to come back with their talents and skills. If they don’t come back, we at least encourage them to look back,” Dr. Bennett said. “Ghana has only been independent for 66 years, so it is not as developed as other countries. Basic things like storage facilities are needed immediately. We don’t have laundromats and other basic things you would think we should have. Americans who come over are doing very well. The number one security company and the number one waste management company in Ghana were started by Americans.”
She continued: “The sky is really the limit. Don’t come looking for a job, come to create jobs and bring a team of people from different professions and build. We will help you.”
For more information on Dr. Erieka Bennett and the Diaspora African Forum, visit their website.