Two African-Americans survivors of a century-old massacre in the United States were in Ghana with their grandchildren on Sunday at the start of a visit to be closer to their “homeland”.
Viola Fletcher, 107, known as “Mother Fletcher,” and her brother Hughes Van Ellis, 100, known as “Uncle Red,” are from the Greenwood district in the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma. , which was devastated in 1921 by a crowd of armed men. White person.
As many as 300 African Americans were killed in the attack on the area dubbed “Black Wall Street” and some 10,000 were left homeless when the neighborhood was burnt down, leaving a vibrant economy in ruins.
Fletcher and Ellis were accompanied by their grandchildren on a week-long trip to the West African country, as part of a government campaign to attract people of African descent to the stranger “at home”.
The siblings landed in Ghana’s capital Accra on Saturday with beaming smiles, waving from their wheelchairs to airport spectators cheering “Welcome home.”
“This is my first time on the African continent and I am delighted to be here,” said Ellis’ daughter, Mama.
As they exited the airport, the survivors were given flowers and sashes saying “Beyond Return” – in reference to the government campaign launched in 2019, four centuries after the first slave ship landed in this city. which is now the United States.
“My grandparents are extremely happy to be home for the first time on the Motherland,” said Fletcher’s grandson Ike Howard. “If you haven’t visited Africa, now is the time to come. “
“We are in the midst of a pandemic but tomorrow is never promised to anyone. “
Viola Fletcher said she relives memories of the massacre every day.
“That first night, in 1921, I went to sleep at my family’s house in Greenwood,” she recalls in a statement released by the Diaspora African Forum.
The non-profit organization co-sponsored the trip with Our Black Truth, a social media platform where African descendants can learn more about their history.
“I had everything a kid could need… But within a few horrible hours, it was all gone,” Fletcher said.
“Now, after all these years, I am so happy to realize the lifelong dream of going to Africa and I am so happy that it is for beautiful Ghana. “
– Symbolic titles –
Ghana has long played a role as a hub of thought and memory for the black community at large.
American writer and civil rights activist Maya Angelou lived in Accra in the early 1960s.
For Nadia Adongo Musah, from the government’s diasporic affairs, the visit of the survivors is just as historic.
“I think this is one of the largest historical African diasporas to come back to us,” Musah said.
The family must visit historic sites from the colonial era and receive symbolic titles in traditional ceremonies.
They will also attend a church service on Sunday.
For Musah, the visit is an opportunity to show that Ghana is “open” and “safe”.
“At 107 years old and has the passion and interest to visit Ghana, not only alone but also with her younger brother who is 100 years old… I think it will go a long way,” she said.
In April, some of the last survivors of the Tulsa massacre testified before the US Congress and demanded that the country recognize their suffering.
No one has ever been convicted for the destruction of Greenwood, and insurance companies, claiming the unrest was the result of riots, have refused to reimburse black victims.
On the centenary of the massacre, President Joe Biden said he recognized that “there had been a clear effort to erase” the event from the memory of the nation.
© 2021 AFP