by Latoya Peterson
The Wichita Eagle ran an article on May 12, detailing the story of Shukura Sentwali, a native of Kansas who has decided to participate in an interesting program:
Shukura Sentwali is going home — to Ghana, West Africa.
Sentwali, a Wichitan and longtime community activist, said she’s moving to Africa next year because two Ghanaian chiefs are offering free land to descendants of slaves.
The gesture means to atone for Ghana’s participation in the African slave trade, but the land holds deeper meaning for Sentwali because it provides her a way to fulfill a lifelong mission to improve life for black people.
Sentwali has a long record of accomplishment as a community activist, specializing in black issues. However, she has grown disillusioned with the idea that the US will change:
But lately, Sentwali said she has wondered what she accomplished in the past 30 years.
She now concludes that the wrongs against African-Americans can’t be corrected because the nation won’t fully acknowledge them — even as a black man moves closer than ever before to the White House.
So she’s heading home.
She acquired her land in 2006, after attending a conference in Philadelphia presented by Fihankra International, which is overseeing the development.
“We shouldn’t waste any more time, energy or resources trying to convince the United States government or white people of what is wrong, and what has been wrong,” she said, her voice in staccato. “We need to use all of our energy and resources on building our own economic, political and social base.”
I enjoyed this article, written by Christina M. Woods, because of the way it presented a lot of the issues involved when African-Americans make the choice to move back to some part of Africa. Far from painting the experience with the idea that black nationalists hate whites or hate America, Woods explains the circumstances that lead to African-Americans making this kind of decision:
Sentwali grew up among 1960s activists — members of the Black United Front, the Northeast Area Patrol, the Kansas-City based Black Panther Party and, in the 1970s, the African People’s Socialist Party.
Those activists imparted to her the beauty of blackness, called her “African,” and affectionately discussed Africa as “the motherland.”
Sentwali doesn’t consider those groups radical, especially since she boarded one of the first school buses across town in the 1970s to integrate Hadley Middle School.
Sentwali said she and her neighborhood friends were taunted just for being black.
She hungrily read books that challenged the inferiority of Africans. She identified with the writings and lives of civil rights activists Malcolm X and Marcus Garvey.
She homed in on Garvey, who pushed for repatriation and independence in Africa.
Through those books and through these people, she developed a strong black identity — an identity that allows her to evaluate the experiences of black Americans against the Declaration of Independence’s guarantee of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.
Those experiences include 200-plus years of free labor by African slaves. The 35 blocks of Tulsa’s “Black Wall Street” being burned down in 1921. The federal government wiretapping and undermining black political leaders of the 1960s and 1970s through the Counter Intelligence Program, also called Cointel Pro.
And she points to how some white people are angry or afraid at the thought of someone other than a white man running the country. Exit polls in several states’ 2008 primaries showed that the majority of voters who considered race a factor in their vote supported a white candidate.
“The attack against African people has been comprehensive,” Sentwali said. “It has been physical, emotional and psychological.”
For such a short article, this piece covered a lot of ground. The program discussed in the piece is called Fihankra International. Their mission statement is found here – and the land is promised to those who are willing to work toward achieving pan-African unity and helping to develop and rebuild the continent. Ghana hopes to attract those with “technical expertise, political insight” and who are interested in “long term equity investment.”
(Thanks to reader Kimajor for passing this on!)