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Wichitan among African-Americans resettling in Ghana…

May 13, 2008 by  
Filed under News, Sports, Weekly Columns

(Akiit.com) 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.

In Wichita, she coordinated the black infant mortality program. She advocated for neighborhood schools over busing for integration. She taught black children in community recreation centers about their history.

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.”

A foothold in Ghana

The 52-year-old said she’ll miss her friends and family in the U.S. Some may join her later.

She plans a return trip to Ghana later this year to see the progress on her three-bedroom, 1,901-square-foot home.

The plan for the house, along with the title to the property, rests in a folder overflowing with other papers about Ghana. Her annual site fees — similar to property taxes — cost about $750.

Her site rests in an area called Ye Fa Ogyamu, which means “We have passed through the fire.”

It’s nestled among scores of trees, the Volta Lake and steep mountains. Temperatures are tropical, and Sentwali said the people are welcoming. They’re almost relieved to find a black person who considers herself “an African born in America,” she said.

I’m just one of those Africans who has a deep connection. Even before stepping foot on the continent, I wanted to go home, to Africa,” she said.

Nana Theresa Simmons, a Fihankra International board member based in Michigan, shares Sentwali’s enthusiasm for the project, which has been in the works for more than a decade.

We have to put in lights and water,” she said. “But we’re pulling forward.”

Bomani Chekadino, a longtime friend of Sentwali, said he is also considering moving to Ghana.

Why wouldn’t a person want to have a foothold from where they are from?” he said. “Why wouldn’t a person want to know their identification in history without being told; they could see it firsthand for little of nothing.”

Chekadino said he knows there are some black people who will ridicule the idea.

And they should because it’s not for them,” he said. “They need to be right here where they love it.”

A strong black identity

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.”


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