By Imani Pope-Johns
The perception that African-Americans are moving to Africa, whether they have been or not, has become a trending topic for the past few years. Howard University Assistant Professor of Journalism, Mark Bedford, traveled to Ghana as an advisor for Alternative Spring Break, a week of local and international volunteerism by Howard University faculty, staff and students. He recently published a story for Narratively, after witnessing first-hand the increased number of African-Americans migrating to Africa, and the booming market for opportunities they’re taking advantage of, such as the technology industry.
“I knew I wanted to do a story about Ghana in relation to African Americans moving there. However, I wanted it to be different than what had been published before, which was just to showcase that folks were moving there,” said Beckford. “I wanted to measure what the impact was, where it was and how life there contrasted to the U.S., both good and bad. I settled on their contribution to the tech industry.”
Beckford connected with a few people he knew that put him in touch with people that worked in the tech industry, but who moved to Ghana from the U.S. He interviewed six people for the story, which included individuals who moved from the U.S. to Ghana, tech experts, and a government minister. Of the individuals mentioned, they noted that they were influenced by the increased amount of gun violence towards Black people in America.
“In addition to document research, I also contacted two Ghanaian government agencies for figures and statistics,” said Beckford. After he published his story on Narratively, he noticed that many people were commenting on how they understand the process of people moving back.
“I believe it will add to the conversation of movement in the Diaspora and people repatriating back to the continent.”
The daughter of Jamaican immigrants who moved to the United States in the 1980s, Ford spent her formative years in East Orange, New Jersey. Those years were tough but grounded in the American dream. “I never knew we were poor,” she says. “I had everything that I needed.” She excelled at academics, receiving a bachelor’s degree from Spelman College and a master’s from American University. Internships took her to places like China, South Africa and Ghana, which she first visited in 2008.
“I had the time of my life, and I felt more [at] home here than I ever did in the States and Jamaica,” she recalls. “It was just this really weird internal experience that was just like … peace.” She returned in the summer of 2013, during graduate school, to work for the United Nations information center in Accra, and again in 2014, as a Boren Fellow.
The next year, after her vision following the Michael Brown incident, she decided to try moving to Ghana, despite having no job or prospects lined up — a decision that did not sit well with her family.