The president of Ghana has proclaimed 2019—the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first black slaves in the British colonies of North American—the “year of return,” inviting people of West African descent to come to the country. For this occasion, Mercedes Bent organized a ten-day visit to Ghana and Nigeria for African-American friends and classmates—an idea she first got from a very different source:
[M]y idea for a heritage-focused trip had been in the making for over a decade. . . . [I]n college, a Jewish friend told me her experiences during an all-expenses-paid trip to Israel. I was impressed when I learned about Taglit-Birthright Israel and its mission to ensure that Jewish young adults have the opportunity to visit and learn about Israel. Last year, as a graduate student, I traveled there with several Jewish classmates. I was moved by—and somewhat envious of—their strong sense of shared identity and how the trip nurtured it. I couldn’t forget that feeling.
There are many ways to nurture a healthy cultural identity, but a journey “home”—to a place that makes you feel that you truly belong—is an especially effective one.
In 1956, Ghana became the first Sub-Saharan African nation to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. It broke off direct ties in 1973, but they resumed in 2011.