May 23, 2019

Creating an African "Birthright" Trip

“At a naming ceremony in the home of my host family in Lagos, Nigeria, I wore brightly colored traditional clothing — a long, rectangular skirt tied tightly around my waist and an off-the-shoulder top with short, flared cuffs, all in a pink ankara pattern with a matching head wrap.

“Please stand,” said my host, who had graciously offered to tailor the ceremony — which is normally performed for babies — for me, her adult visitor from the United States. “I hereby give you the name Esosa; it means ‘God’s gift.’ You are now Esosa Oloke. Welcome to the family. You will always have a family here in Nigeria.”

I felt a surge of gratitude and belonging. For the first time in my life, I felt deeply connected to the African continent and to the people who live there.

The ceremony concluded a 10-day trip to Nigeria and Ghana this year, Ghana’s Year of the Return, that I organized for friends and classmates. To commemorate the 400-year anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans to English North America in 1619, President Nana Akufo-Addo has encouraged descendants of Africans who were enslaved in the Americas to return to the country.”

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