Finding Out Where I Came From

Cut off by centuries and thousands of miles, we have become disconnected from our own people, from who we are. Large populations of African immigrants inhabit most large cities, but rarely do we know any of them personally. Few of us bother to travel to Africa. It is yet another of the vicious cruelties of slavery.

Also dismaying is that for those of us who have gone to Africa, we discover that many Africans regard us as just another wealthy foreigner. Another "other." In Senegal, where I went on a bike trip two years ago, I was called "tubob" -- foreigner -- the same as the white people in the group. I have read that the same thing is common in Ghana, where the term is "obruni." I cannot blame them for this, but it is dispiriting.

American, but the Mind of an African

There are some signs this may be changing. I learned that Ghana's government is now actively encouraging African-Americans to move there, sure for economic reasons, but also spiritual and symbolic ones. And more and more black Americans are traveling to Africa in search of -- and hopefully finding -- a spiritual and ancestral connection.

There's a song called "African" recorded in the 1970s by Jamaican singer Peter Tosh, formerly of Marley's group, the Wailers. It has these lines: "Don't care where you come from/As long as you're a black man/You're an African/Don't mind your nationality/You have got the identity/Of an African."

So true.

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