It is an interesting kind of swap, you might say, to have U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris in Ghana while the country’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo, is in the U.S. to address the UN. Akufo-Addo’s topic, “Toward Eliminating Racism and Discrimination Against People of African Descent,” coincides perfectly with Harris’s tour of a female slave dungeon at Cape Coast. Harris was probably placing a bouquet of flowers at the centuries-old wall as Akufo-Addo prepared his speech.
“Being here was immensely powerful,” Harris said at the castle, through which passed countless numbers of African captives to be taken across the Atlantic. “The crimes that were done here; the blood that was shed here.” It was an emotional moment for her. As she departed, she said the descendants of many of those who went through the doors of no return “went on to fight for civil rights, fight for justice in the United States of America and around the world. And all of us, regardless of your background, have benefited from their struggle and their fight for freedom and justice.”
Before embarking on the rest of her tour, which will include visits to Tanzania and Zambia, Harris promised $100 million to the region and $139 million to help Ghana reduce child labor, improve weather forecasting, support local musicians, and defend against disease outbreaks.
Some of her comments about the trans-Atlantic slave trade and reparations are sure to resonate in Akufo-Addo’s speech at the UN. Those issues are not foreign to him and on several occasions, he has framed reparations within a global historic context, noting how others have received monetary restitution for the sins of enslavement and degradation.
At a recent summit, Akufo-Addo said, “Native Americans have received and continue to receive reparations; Japanese American families, who were incarcerated in internment camps in America during World War II, received reparations; Jewish people, 6 million of whom perished in the concentration camps of Hitlerite Germany, received reparations, including homeland grants and support.” He said owners of enslaved Africans received reparations to the tune of 20 million pounds sterling, “but enslaved Africans themselves did not receive a penny.”
We can expect more of this at the UN and at the IBW 21st State of the Black World Conference, which convenes from April 19–23 in Baltimore. From both sides of the Atlantic and two prominent leaders, the echoes of enslavement continue to resound with passion and commitment.