An increasing number of Black Americans are returning to Africa, seeking connections, opportunities, and a sense of belonging. The Diaspora African Forum is leading this transformative movement at the W.E.B. Dubois Center in Accra, Ghana.
This month, in collaboration with Mayor Sylvester Turner, the DAF unveiled its U.S. headquarters in Houston on Sept. 14.
As the world’s first and only diplomatic embassy exclusively addressing Diaspora issues, the DAF holds full accreditation and maintains close ties with the governments of 55 African nations.
The DAF has been instrumental in reconnecting “historical Africans” with their ancestral homelands.
Nearly 2,000 Black Americans have made the life-altering decision to relocate to Ghana since 2019. Ghana’s government campaign, “The Year of Return,” ignited this resurgence, commemorating 400 years since the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619.
“Mayor Sylvester Turner is a major part of why we are in Houston. He came to Ghana, enjoyed visiting our facility, and asked us to think about doing something in the city,” Dr. Erieka Bennett, the convening founder and Head of Missions for the Diaspora African Forum, told the Defender. “He shared with us the number of Africans that live here. There is a large number of the diaspora that we are excited to connect with.”
The DAF facilitates educational and cultural journeys, assists in establishing businesses, and provides a pathway to citizenship. Many prominent Black American celebrities and entrepreneurs collaborate with the DAF to engage in business ventures or make Ghana their new home.
“This has never been done before. History is being made. This is the first office outside of Africa. We are going to take things step by step,” she said. “We want people to understand that this is their facility where they learn about Africa. We’re very connected to Ghana, so we’ll have information on how to buy homes and get citizenship. Then the next country would be Nigeria. This will be in phases.”
Given the challenges Black people face in the U.S., including book bans, critical race theory attacks, removing Black history from school curriculums, and limited access to funding and resources, she encourages people in the diaspora to consider learning about their roots.
As a U.S. native, she embarked on her first trip to Africa 45 years ago, venturing to the Ivory Coast while on leave from her job at IBM. Her journey led her to Liberia, where she encountered descendants of African Americans who had settled there two centuries earlier. She subsequently worked for the mayor of Liberia and later established an orphanage. Africa became her home. Bennett has resided in Ghana for the past 20 years, serving as an advisor to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a union comprising 15 African states. She has also provided counsel to several African presidents.
In an official statement, Bennett emphasized the importance of skilled individuals contributing to Africa’s development: “We understand that for Africa to move forward, we need for people to come back with their talents and skills. If they don’t come back, we at least encourage them to look back.”
She noted that while Ghana has been independent for only 66 years, the country still requires essential infrastructure, such as storage facilities and laundromats. Notably, American expatriates in Ghana have made significant contributions, with the country’s leading security and waste management companies founded by Americans.
“I made Africa my home because of the feeling of connection, community and inclusion. I’ve visited 50 countries and lived in five,” she said. “This is the type of experience I want for our people.”