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Welcome Home: An African Jamaican living in Ghana

By: Dr. Rachel V. Brown




All my life I’ve had to fight…


I sat with some co-workers and professed my deep love for Africa. I told them how glad I was to finally be home. One of my Ghanaian colleagues said, “But you are not African.” I said, “If I am not African, then what am I?” He said, “Jamaican” feebly, sensing my pain. Then I snapped, “Look at my skin, my hair, my nose, my lips, my hips; there is no denying that I am African. I am Jamaican but I am also African. I may not have been ‘born in Africa but Africa was born in me’”. He laughed and apologized. I know he may have forgotten by now, but I will never forget. Just like how I will never forget all of the affirmations I have received from my people that I look like them, cook like them, and am one of them. Just like I will never forget the peace I finally feel because I am finally back home, where I belong.


7 months ago, I made the biggest move of my life and I moved home; not home as in where I was born or grew up or where my parents are, or the past (although I suppose in some way it is the past that’s past the past), but home as in my present and future.

I was born in Kingston, Jamaica, left at 16 on a scholarship to a school in the US, and since then I have lived in a bunch of countries and seen a good chunk of the world. My whole life, I’ve been searching for home. I’ve waited patiently for a place that would not be temporary; a place I could grow some roots and where better to put down roots than the place of my roots which is where I am now: Ghana. I am home.




I fell in love with this country long before I came here. I knew this place intimately before I set foot in this space. And way before I decided to visit or move, way before any planes landed, I was present here and I knew I belonged. Those who know me well were not surprised when I told them that my new home would be Accra.


My connection to this land is other-worldly. I get flashbacks to places I’ve never been to in this lifetime. Everything feels familiar. And it isn’t because it looks and feels ridiculously a lot like Jamaica (which is another blog post all together), but because I’m sure I’ve been here before somehow, perhaps while I was stored in the hearts and minds of my ancestors who were here, or perhaps, in a past life. This was and is home.

When I got to the airport and they were checking my passport, they asked what the purpose of the trip was and I proudly said, “I’m moving here.” They responded with what I’ve longed to hear, “Welcome home.” And while part me wondered if they say that to all the Black people coming back or really knew that this experience was special for me and that I belonged here, I chose to just believe what I wanted to and go with them acknowledging my powerful ancestral roots within and truly being happy that I had returned to them.




I understand that our return has had pros and cons in every single industry and aspect of society. While diasporans are spending a lot and supporting local businesses, a lot of prices have been raised because they can afford to pay more. Even in the housing market, the prices have inflated beyond anything affordable for the majority of the population and are now comparable to or higher than rent in the US and Europe, and exponentially higher than other countries on the continent. While it has been great that Ghana has gotten so much positive attention, the increase in people here has led to an increase in things like traffic (which is crazy here) and overall crowding in the city. Many roads have been paved and buildings have been created or renovated to appeal to “outsiders”. Most of that construction and renovation has taken place in cities like Accra and Kumasi while other parts of the country have been neglected. Families who have lived here for generations are having to move out of the city because they can’t afford to stay here. With these in addition to numerous other examples of the dichotomy created, I can understand why there are different reactions to me being here; however, that doesn’t change the fact that sometimes the negative or skeptical reactions hurt.


What I’ve noticed is that many of the people here know how much returning means to us. I mean there was a whole Year of Return and subsequently the Beyond the Return movement has taken root in Ghana with many other countries adopting their own version. However, there seems to be different feelings towards us and this concept of returning. Sometimes I feel like Ghanaians born and living here are truly happy that I am home, and other times I feel like the “other” and as if this whole return is a joke to them. As someone who was expecting and hoping to be embraced like a child who had been kidnapped and by some miracle survived and made her way back home, and as someone who has been constantly aware of that kidnapping and intentionally and actively rejected the Stockholm syndrome, it is painful when I am treated as if or perceived as an outsider in my own home.




Because of that I have tried desperately to become more like a chameleon but how can one blend in when they are clearly and proudly different? How can one blend in when you are born to stand out? Ironically, many of the things that I thought would help me blend have been the things that indicate that I was born elsewhere. When I lived in predominantly white countries, getting any form of African food was a treat and I would try to have it as much as I could afford to (which was rarely). Now, I cannot eat banku or fufu or jollof more than maybe once every few weeks because I’ve had and seen them so often. I went to Kumasi and had fufu with light soup for 5 days straight and I have no desire to see fufu ever again. Some people seem to never tire of it. I realize I only like to explore and eat different foods from different places sparingly. I go out and I dance to the music without thinking; music is a soul connection. And while people are sometimes shocked that I know the latest Afrobeats moves, they also see that I move differently. Just last week I went to a dancehall party and someone came up to me and said “I can tell you’re Jamaican by the way you move.” That just made me proud because I love Jamaica and that I’m from there. (name a Jamaican that is not proud to be Jamaican…I’ll wait) Another surprise has been the reception of my clothing. When I step out in my African prints looking like the empress I am, the first question people ask is “Where are you from?” Apparently, my dresses are a giveaway which is ironic because I’ve worn them my whole life with pride as a way of outwardly showing that I was not only African genetically but celebrated that Africanness by choice. Here in Africa, they indicate that I am “not African” or from somewhere else. *face palm* African print is worn but not worn most days by most people and certainly not in the styles I wear it. I will wear my African empress dresses proudly regardless because they are beautiful and African. Also, I’m just not a big fan of jeans….





I’m still pretty new to my home and although it has always been a part of me, naturally, I’ve been trying to figure out where and how I am a part of it.

I have to tread gently and carefully on shaky legs…a near impossible feat. My mission and purpose in life is to ensure that I make things better for my people so I am eager to get to work here and help to improve the country; however, I recognize that “improvement” is subjective and don’t want to step on any toes. And while I know that Ghana is mine and I am Ghana’s, I have been away from her all my life and would be remiss if I assumed that I could make improvements without more knowledge, guidance, support, and consent from my brothers and sisters here. All this is to say, it has been a lot to navigate and a lot to process. It hasn’t been easy, but I have never doubted once that I belong here and to be honest, I would rather things be challenging in a space where I love and I belong than the many other places I have lived before that were also challenging but were never home.







Dr. Rachel V. Brown is a Philanthropist, Education Strategist and Communication Specialist who currently lectures at the Ghana Institute of Journalism. In addition to lecturing at GIJ, she is also the COO of Steady/X, a virtual education platform. In 2020, she earned her PhD from Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona with a thesis focusing on the impact of Social Media Activism, she earned her Master's degree in Law from Wake Forest University, and her Bachelor’s degree in Communication with a minor in Spanish from the University of Southern California. She is the Co-founder and Executive Director of the Every Mikkle Foundation, a youth-based and youth-led non-profit which she started with her friends in 2013. Her work has taken her to 31 countries where she has conducted projects in many fields including education, STEM, ending hunger, environmental sustainability, youth advocacy, women's empowerment, health, culture, the performing arts, and sports. In 2019 she was named one of the Caribbean's 30 under 30. In 2021 she was also appointed as a World Food Forum Champion by the FAO. Dr. Brown is an activist who believes we have the power and duty to heal, protect, and restore our earth and its people by first educating others and then implementing impactful changes.


www.everymikklefoundation.org

Insta: @everymikkleja


Listen to Rachel's episode here.

Watch her YouTube Live chat here.


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Christine Job
Christine Job

Originally from Atlanta, Christine Job is an award-winning podcaster and Business Strategist. She is currently based in Spain.

As a business strategist, Christine helps Black women and WOC to leverage their expertise & talents into viable & sustainable businesses, businesses that make her clients professionally fulfilled and financially abundant while pursuing thriving lives abroad.

Want to be a guest on the show? I'm so glad that you resonate with “Flourish In The Foreign” and that you'd like to share your story! Please fill out the this form and if I think it will be a good fit, I'll be in touch shortly to set-up a chat.

Originally from Atlanta, Christine Job is an award-winning podcaster and Business Strategist. She is currently based in Spain.

As a business strategist, Christine helps Black women and WOC to leverage their expertise & talents into viable & sustainable businesses, businesses that make her clients professionally fulfilled and financially abundant while pursuing thriving lives abroad.

Want to be a guest on the show? I'm so glad that you resonate with “Flourish In The Foreign” and that you'd like to share your story! Please fill out the this form and if I think it will be a good fit, I'll be in touch shortly to set-up a chat.