Black Lives Matter in Ghana
There have been Black Lives Matter protests continually for a month now. The world finally seems to think about the legacy of slavery, colonialism and imperialism on a larger scale. But what about the Black lives on the African continent, where by far the most Black people live? They often get excluded from the Western narrative. Ama van Dantzig is co founder of Dr.Monk, an organization for climate change action and social change situated in Accra, Ghana but active in the Netherlands as well. For Lilith, Ama writes about the plight of Africans in this global movement for Black lives
My aunt Lucia passed 25 days ago in Ghana. She was a hardworking, sassy, fun, loving person. I loved her. We shared a bedroom when I was a child. I was the handbag she took everywhere. She would wake up my cousins and I at 4 am and make us jog up the hill. I felt overwhelmed when I heard she died. There was a darker self-destructive side to this aunt that emerged in the last decade. But, none of that darkness erased the love I received from her. I picked out the nuggets of love to see a fuller spectrum, like a rainbow in the darkness. At the same time, I joined the globally enraged. George Floyd was murdered in the USA. A large peaceful demonstration was organized in Amsterdam. We remember Breonna Taylor and Oluwatoyin Salau. Perhaps if we look closer, we will discover that in blackness, there is a full spectrum rainbow. Perhaps we could find a way to be equitably united in our diversity.
No one could help my dying aunt. I was frustrated. Health care workers are underpaid and afraid of an outbreak. The Tourism authority in Ghana supported the organization of a formal memorial service for George Floyd, a day before my aunt’s burial. He was eulogized, traditional flutes were played for him, and Ghana did what many Pan-Africans applauded: reiterating its invitation, welcoming all the African diaspora “home”. A beautiful gesture. My aunt however was hastily buried in a shallow unmarked grave in Accra. Few gathered to mourn into their face masks and moved on with their lives. As Ghanaians joined in to say “Black Lives Matter” I wondered what it meant. Did it include African lives? I questioned the governments motives in inviting the diaspora home. Wasn’t this unapologetically opportunistic? What have we prepared for the return of our brothers and sisters as we invite them home? I sighed anxiously as African American friends sent me excited messages about returning to the motherland.
Black Lives Matter Accra
Around the same time, a pan-African movement called the “Economic Fighters League” organized a BLM protest in Accra. A small crowd gathered close to the Independence Square. Despite having informed the police of the protest, a group of armed officers arrived and fired shots. They arrested the leader of the group, Ernesto Yeboah. He spent over 24 hours in a jail cell and was released after paying a 15000 Euros bail with no clear explanation. How could these events co-exist in the same country? The Government of Ghana supports BLM in the USA, but somehow its meaning transformed in Ghana. How can a BLM movement support the empowerment and liberation of people on the African continent and vice versa? How does the BLM movement include and respond to the thousands of nameless Africans who are left to drown in the Mediterranean as they attempt to create better lives for themselves?
We need to address some fundamentals: Millions of Africans were stolen, sold and taken across the ocean to toil for free. They were stripped of everything including their names, turned inside out, dehumanized and called slaves. These are the foundations upon which western economic wealth and progress is built. As we on the African continent are “rising” to grow our own economies, will we develop more equitable, inclusive and sustainable futures for ourselves or will we copy the faulty blueprint of success that suggests that there must be losers in this game who are stolen, exploited and kept invisible.
To ensure a sustainable future Black people across the globe must come together to learn from each other and build. Let’s get to know each other. Let’s remember our stories, including the parts of our story about the various African groups that resisted the European dominance. Let’s question the image of Africa as a poor burdensome continent and what this says about power and success. Let’s remember that the African continent continues to feed non-African progress, to its own detriment. Let’s highlight the injustice of western fueled climate change for its economic development, while Africans face the destruction caused by climate change NOW. Let’s come together to find the pot of gold at the end of our black rainbow.
The BLM movement is stronger, louder and more inclusive. People on the African continent are demanding justice, but do they identify with the experiences represented by Black Lives Matter? A truly transformative movement would be one that includes the full spectrum of black life; one that gives black people power and isn’t used to dress the speeches of the ruling elite on one hand, while violently repressing the citizens on the other hand.
As a daughter of migrants, my aunt had her name tattooed on her arm in large capital letters: LUCIA KONDOR. She too would courageously attempt creating a better life. But the odds were severely stacked against her in a system that is skewed against as a black, African woman. She told me her tattoo ensured her return home, to her village. I hope she knew how much her life mattered.
This article originally appeared on Lilith Magazine. You can find them here, check them out, they are great.