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Birthright Africa Transformed How I See Being Black in America

What brought me solace and a sense of inner peace that stays with me today, though, is recognizing that I was able to return. All the suffering and surviving that my ancestors experienced was not in vain, because here I was, standing in a place etched deep in our collective memory. And I got to interact with and network with Black innovators from across the diaspora who, through their efforts, were realizing a future where people like us could truly self-determine and restore our fate back into our own hands. In the words of Maya Angelou, we were “bringing the gifts that [our] ancestors gave,” realizing “the dream and the hope of the slave.”

Street art in Ghana
Shaina Louis

My Birthright experience freed my mind and made me realize that the possibilities for me are truly limitless; that the strife of my forebears shouldn’t be and isn’t in vain because here I am today, a living representation of them. Part of the work that Birthright has its scholars undergo is envisioning their own legacy of innovation — the imprint and influence they will leave behind. Since I once walked through the world feeling disempowered, I decided to focus my legacy of innovation on empowerment and having our people truly control our own destinies.

Through Birthright Africa, I learned how to use the frustration I felt in a constructive manner. Life may not have dealt me the best deck of cards, but it’s how I play the game with what I’ve been given that matters the most. And through the exploration of my African heritage through Birthright Africa, I realized that’s what my ancestors had been doing the entire time. Every pain that they suffered, every struggle that they endured, was a step forward towards a better future, even if they couldn’t see it at the time. It’s now my turn to continue that legacy. I also realized that that connection is still alive. I may now speak a different language, but the foods we eat, the way we carry ourselves, the way we relate to one another, and our deeply ingrained spirituality reflect a bond that is still there. I now have a sense of inner peace and ease that wasn’t there before. And it isn’t just because I went to Ghana, but because I finally achieved a closure that Birthright Africa helped me realize. I can move forward with my life, with intention behind everything I do, because now I truly believe that I can determine my future.

The great thing about Birthright Africa is that it’s not just a feel-good experience where you go to Africa for a week and come back unchanged; you now have new, genuine friendships, and a large network to tap into. They encourage personal and professional help. As the entrepreneurs we met told us, it can be hard to get into certain spaces without someone who can vouch for you and help you get through those doors. So this program not only provides a meaningful cultural journey, but offers something to look forward to when you land back in the U.S. I believe that every one of us in the diaspora should make that pilgrimage at least once because it is our Birthright to restore everything that was taken from us.

Pottery in Ghana
Shaina Louis

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