Wed, 21 Aug 2019

Sicley Williams was ready to escape what she found an unfriendly climate in the United States and take a leap of faith, leaving her native Chicago for Ghana.

She had previously visited the West African nation on holiday and when she returned in 2017 found work practising yoga and offering spa services.

"The climate of the US was just really negative, especially the racial climate," said Williams.

In Ghana, that tension disappeared almost entirely, she added.

"It's much more pleasant to be in a place where you feel more accepted, you feel freer, you feel more open to being who you are and, of course, you are around people who look like you."

Williams has become an unofficial ambassador of a growing movement encouraging other African-Americans to move to Ghana.

President Nana Akufo-Addo has designated 2019 the "Year of Return" both to commemorate the resilience of Africans forced into slavery and to encourage their descendants to "come home".

"We know of the extraordinary achievements and contributions they (Africans in the diaspora) made to the lives of the Americans, and it is important that this symbolic year, 400 years later, we commemorate their existence and their sacrifices," he said last September.

His timing was based on the first recorded landing of a ship carrying Africans in Virginia in August 1619, said by historians to be an English warship that had plundered a Portuguese slaver.

Celebrities including supermodel Naomi Campbell and actors Idris Elba and Rosario Dawson kicked off the year-long programme by attending the Full Circle Festival in Accra in late December.

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