By Aria Brent,
AFRO Staff Writer,
Ghana declared 2019 the Year of Return and invited people of African descent throughout the world to celebrate the collective resistance of those who suffered through the transatlantic slave trade.
The Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) created the Year of Return to build more traction around Ghana as a key travel destination for African Americans and people of the African Diaspora. According to TheAfricanReport.com, approximately 1.13 million people visited Ghana in 2019 following the announcement of the movement. Ghana’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo, also granted citizenship to people of the African diaspora willing to move to the country.
“Black and Brown people, we continue to be marginalized,” stated Rhea Roper Nedd, Ph.D., who works to expand diversity in the Baltimore County area. “We continue to be underrepresented in society as a whole. Racially and ethnically in educational spaces and in professional spaces. It was very important for me to find a country in which the students will no longer be
] as they enter, especially the students of color.“
Nedd has a background in diversity, equity and inclusion and has been hosting and curating an annual trip for her students to visit Ghana since 2016. Nedd explained that she began to take students to Ghana to diversify their options for studying abroad and to provide Black and Brown students the opportunity to travel somewhere that doesn’t make them feel unseen.
Nedd shared some of the activities that she and her students participated in during their trip. She explained that getting the chance to not only experience but learn about Ghanaian culture is a vital part of the trip.
“We take a class at the University of Ghana, which is in East Legon. We have a workshop on African dance and African drumming,” explained Nedd. “
[We learn about
] the symbolism of the drums, the symbolism of the role of the drums and how it is that various communities communicated for long distances with each other through drumming.”
In addition to the warm hospitality, Ghana’s ever growing economy seems to be attracting more tourists and even new residents.
Zik and his wife Jerri visited Ghana in 1973 as a part of their six-week honeymoon to West Africa. The couple has been wanting to move to Ghana for a while and the Year of Return further motivated them to move.
“We’ve been considering
] for many years and the time is right to go back to the motherland,” said Zik Stewart.”There’s a great need back there but there’s a great opportunity as well. We in the diaspora, we bring a lot to the motherland.”
Jerri Stewart added that “the people from Ghana are so warm and welcoming, they’re known for their hospitality.”
The Stewarts and Nedd recognize that Ghana is a nation that is well established all the while having so much room for further development and growth. Helping the people of Ghana and giving back to the local communities is a major part of their agendas.
“We’re looking to make a change, a contribution if you will to the nation of Ghana and the continent of Africa. Ghana is only 66-years-old, and as far as nation building goes, they’ve got the land and the people, and those of us from
] diaspora bring capital and skill,” explained Zik Stewart.
Partnering with local organizations to provide service for the people of Ghana is one of the main purposes for the trip Nedd and her students make. She shared the service initiatives not being directed by them as students but the people of Ghana is something they’re always mindful of.
“There’s so much service that can occur,” shared Nedd. “I was able to identify various partnerships with communities in Ghana. Those relationships are so meaningful because it’s a relationship that has been developed so that it’s not directed by a U.S. mindset and where we, the students, are working together with people in the communities.”