In 1961, James Baldwin, told a New York radio broadcaster: “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” Baldwin sought refuge in France to escape America’s violent and systemic racism during that period. Nearly 60 years later, the United States’ ongoing malaise and consequential rage—as seen in the aftermath of the murder of an unarmed Black man named George Floyd this summer—still remain.
A growing number of frustrated Black Americans now seek to follow in the footsteps of both Baldwin and many present day Black expats, and are planning their exit strategy for living abroad.
“I have learned personally that you cannot heal in the same place of which you were abused, or caused you trauma—it’s absolutely impossible,” says Yunche Wilson, a marketing strategist and veteran expat who left Texas with her husband Timothy and two children for Chiang Mai, and later Lisbon. She wanted to leave the corporate rat race, but also stop feeling, as a Black American, like a second-class citizen in their own country.
The trend of Black Americans moving abroad is not particularly new. Katrina Sunnei Samasa, based in Jeju, South Korea, founded the popular virtual Facebook group Black Americans Living Abroad back in 2012 to offer support for those wanting to take the leap. “Most of our members didn’t leave America due to racism or a racist act,” Samasa says. “However, when we move abroad, we understand how we normalize racism and violence as a way of life in America.” The death of George Floyd, though, generated sharp interest among U.S.-based Black Americans looking for a way out, and Samasa has seen an exponential increase in group requests immediately after the incident.
“There is nothing better than being in a country and seeing fellow melanated people not just surviving but thriving in the Motherland.”
This is also true for the two-month-old virtual Facebook group Blaxit Tribe: Black Americans Who Want to Exit the US & Move Abroad, already boasting more than 2,800 members. “People are fed up. We go through life having to accept racism and microaggressions everyday, we are being killed at an alarming rate by police officers, with little to no consequences,” says Faye Tillery, content creator and Blaxit Tribe founder who left Los Angeles for Colombia in 2016, and later to Nairobi in 2018. Her decision was fueled by her and her late mother’s long-time dream to retire abroad, and to side-step the corporate microaggressions she experienced as an entertainment attorney.
While Black Americans have nearly 200 countries and six continents from which to choose for emigration, African countries such as Ghana and South Africa have seen a significant uptick in interest.
This is partly due to successful, targeted tourism efforts in 2019 from U.S.-based lifestyle platform Black & Abroad’s award-winning “Go Back to Africa” campaign—subverting the longstanding racist phrase used towards Black Americans into one encouraging tourism—and Ghana’s Year of Return, commemorating the 1619 arrival of West African slaves in Jamestown, Virginia, with an open invitation for Africa’s displaced descendants to visit “home.”
Nicole Brewer, a Michigan-raised, Oman-based writer, and co-founder of I Luv 2 Globe Trot, booked her flights to Ghana after an ancestral DNA test revealed her Ghanaian roots. “I totally felt at home. There is nothing better than being in a country and seeing fellow melanated people not just surviving but thriving in the Motherland,” Brewer says, who has now shortlisted Ghana as her future place of retirement.
Brewer is one of many Black Americans considering permanent residency in Ghana. The R’ajwa Company founder Lady May Hagan, a first-generation Ghanaian American whose media and tourism agency organizes small group Ghana trips, says about 30 percent of Black Americans from her 2019 trips have either relocated to Ghana or are in the process of doing so. “We got a lot of interest after the Minister of Tourism, Mrs. Barbara Oteng-Gyasi, extended an invitation to all African Americans after the murder of George Floyd,” Hagan says. “A lot of African Americans that we worked with believe it will be safer for them to live in Ghana, where everyone is Black and there is no racism.”
Though the pandemic has put most travel plans on pause, many Black Americans refuse to wait another 60 years for their country to change. Some are currently looking to relocate in Tulum, Mexico, which is welcoming U.S. travelers, who now possess a severely weakened passport. It is the rest of the world—beyond the U.S.—that might espouse the changes they seek, where their own personal version of “freedom” awaits.
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