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The number of Black American expatriates is growing

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Photo by nappy / Pexels
Photo by nappy / Pexels

Earlier this year, world-renowned artist Stevie Wonder announced his decision to leave the United States and relocate his family to Ghana. When asked why, his response was simple: "I don't want to see my children's children's children have to say, 'Oh please like me, please respect me, please know that I am important, please value me.' What is that?"

Not too long after, comedian Dave Chappelle announced he would be following Wonder's example. During his interview with Naomi Campbell on her podcast "No Filter with Naomi," he expressed his desire to build a home in Ghana, as well as open a comedy club, since they don't have any.

These two legends are following in the footsteps of other great Black artists (such as Billie Holiday, Richard Wright, Josephine Baker, and James Baldwin), intellectuals, and activists who left the US looking to escape the country's crushing, oppressive nature.

While this has come as a shock to a lot of people, these are not isolated incidents or exclusive to the rich and famous. American citizens leave the country for a number of reasons, including travel, adventure, and exciting careers, but in recent years the number of Black American expatriates of all kinds has surged.

Why would anyone want to leave the land of the free and the home of the brave? Considering America's unhealthy obsession with race, which contributes to Black communities' negative image of themselves, it's actually harder to find compelling reasons to stay.

Black expats permanently living abroad all have their own reasons. Most have been driven away by discrimination and police brutality, but all of them with children agree that their lives aren't something they are willing to gamble with. And unfortunately, raising Black children in America to adulthood is a gamble.

While there aren't official statistics covering international transplants, the programs that have been developed to aid Black Americans who wish to relocate have seen a dramatic increase in their audience.

Leaders in Ghana plan to implement policy frameworks on visa acquisition, as well as develop programs for citizenship, education, work exchanges, and residence and work permits for descendants of the African diaspora.

New York native Sienna Brown founded a company in 2014 that helps Black American women emigrate to Spain. She says that it wasn't until she had left the US to experience that country that she really got a sense of what freedom looks like.

Brown's company, Las Morenas de España ("The Brown Girls of Spain"), has become one of the leaders in providing resources, training, and inspiration for women of color looking to relocate outside of the United States. From its start to 2020, it has worked with around 450 women in person and has built an engaged online audience of around 20,000.

Black in Tulum, the first online community where Black travelers can come together for exclusive events and experiences, has grown from 25 members to 3,000 since last summer and is no longer the only Facebook group providing resources and information to help assist Black travelers wanting to emigrate from America. Blaxit Tribe, co-founded by Black in Tulum founder Nubia Younge, is specifically for Black Americans who want to move abroad; it currently has more than 7,000 members.

It can be said that being an expat implies having left a nation that eventually wants you back. However, an expat's sense of belonging becomes more complicated when you take into consideration America's emphasis on race.

Racism is not exclusive to America, but it is where its lethality is most prominent. Black Americans who have emigrated have done so out of necessity and self-preservation, and for the safety of their families, rather than pleasure or adventure. Those who did venture out were able to experience the freedom of simply being a person, without being Black occupying the foremost position — an experience liberating enough to prompt them to stay away.

Some may ask, "Why move? Why not fight for equality here?" But they wouldn't ask the same of another race fleeing tyranny in their home country. Racism is a 400-year pandemic that has plagued the Black American community. They have fought for, protested for, and demanded change to little or no avail. Now, slowly but surely, they are seeking the fruition of their American-born dreams — elsewhere.