“…so come, take me by the hand, let’s leave this troubled land, I know we can, I know we can, I know we can, I know we can” - “Getaway”, by Earth, Wind & Fire
In April 2021, Stevie Wonder announced that he would be relocating to Ghana. When asked why he was leaving the United States, Wonder responded, “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?” As the announcement made its way across social media, the responses varied from sadness that one of America’s most treasured living musicians would be moving away from the U.S., to others expressing acceptance of the deeper truth that Wonder was speaking to.
Just weeks later, during Naomi Campbell’s podcast “No Filter With Naomi”, Dave Chappelle announced that he was inspired by Wonder’s statement, and would be following him to Ghana. During the interview, Chapelle said, “hopefully, I’ll build something there, but I am definitely going to at least rent something for the foreseeable future, and I hope to open a comedy club there because there’s none.” Stevie Wonder and Dave Chappelle will join a long list of Black artists such as Billie Holiday, Richard Wright (no relation to the author of this article), and Josephine Baker, as well as Black intellectuals and activists who left the U.S. for less oppressive pastures.
But it’s not just musicians and intellectuals who are abandoning America in search of something more and it is definitely not a new phenomenon. Here, three Black expatriates who are now permanently living abroad explain why they left the country, and how current racial uprisings have confirmed that their exits were the right decision.
“I’m raising three Black children. They are not a casualty I can afford.”
Black expatriate, Tiara Phalon (who’s also known by her stage name, Darling Tiara), an educator, screenwriter and actress had been talking about moving from Oakland, California to somewhere in Africa for some time with her husband. As the uprisings against police murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor increased, so did her family’s urge to leave. “My husband said African Americans should be pouring into Africa,” Phalon explained. “He said we are stronger where we are the Black majority versus being in America where we are always fighting for basic freedoms as a minority.” The couple researched multiple African countries, including Rwanda, Tanzania, Ghana, Senegal, and South Africa before choosing Rwanda for it’s ability to restructure itself after genocide; and it’s status as one of the safest and cleanest countries in Africa. In addition to savings, the pair used their government stimulus checks to fund their move, which they considered to be “Sweet Justice” — a reparation of sorts. When asked if the Derek Chauvin verdict influenced her family’s decision to move, Phalon said, “[It] doesn’t affect our decision to move per se, but the condition of Black Americans in America as a whole definitely does. The attacks against us are endless, and I’m raising three Black children. They are not a casualty I can afford.”
“Here, I’m a man, I’m not just a Black man anymore.”
Rashad McCrorey’s story began during the early throes of the pandemic. He was nearly stranded in Ghana after the Trump administration advised American citizens to come home immediately, or risk not being able to return to America. McCrorey said he prayed on what to do next, consulted his family, and ultimately chose to stay in Ghana. “[Here], I’m a man, I’m not just a Black man anymore…here I’m not worried about racism, I’m not worried about being Black when I’m driving down the street,” said McCrorey. “You’re more relaxed.” To earn a living, he leads tours in Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. Confirming that he made the right decision, McCrorey adds, “I’m more worried about people realizing I’m American and then they’ll start asking for money,” he joked. “These are better problems to have.”
“While Anti-Blackness is global, there’s a particular flavor to it in the U.S.”
M’kali-Hashiki, who defines herself as a “52-year old Black Dyke” and is the owner of an Erotic Wellness Coaching business shares McCrorey’s sentiments. “The U.S. hates Black People, and I don’t see that changing in my lifetime unfortunately,” said M’kali-Hashiki. M’kali-Hashiki has been living in Belize since 2019. She claims to have been joking about leaving the country since Ronald Reagan’s Presidency, but once the Trump administration arrived, it was no longer a laughing matter. M’kali-Hashiki first started to research and spend time in different countries, ultimately settling on Belize. “While Anti-Blackness is global, there’s a particular flavor to it in the U.S. that I just can no longer live with,” M’kali-Hashiki explained. “It’s a daily burden. I didn’t realize just how bowed under the weight I was until I’d been in Belize a couple of months and started feeling like it was the first time I was able to stand upright and take a full breath.”
While there is no concrete data on record that reports the exact number of Black people emigrating from the U.S. to live abroad, conversations on social media seem to confirm that a Black exodus — or at the very least interest in an exodus — is a growing trend. Blaxit Tribe: Black Americans Who Want To Exit The US & Move Abroad, is a Facebook group that has 14,500 members as of May 2021, and it’s popularity continues to rise. NikkiFaye, the co-founder of Blaxit is a self-described “digital nomad living in Kenya.” When asked why she was inspired to launch Blaxit Tribe, she responded, “After seeing all the black trauma and uptick in white supremacy, I knew I had to help in some way. The only way I knew how was providing a different option and sharing my story.” Faye went on to say that she has observed “most new expats are frustrated and want a better way of life without fear and threats to them due to the color of their skin.”
Blaxit Tribe is a whirlwind of activity and helpful information, with many sharing their experiences and updates on their recent move. Some post about finding enclaves of other Black folks and LGBTQIA+ communities abroad, while others like Shar Wynter, the founder of the app Xpat, hosts a live chat via Blaxit Tribe’s Facebook page that highlights the stories and experiences of Black expats living abroad.
Amid Facebook comradery and first-person accounts of successful lives abroad, the question still remains, should Black folks stay in the U.S. or go? To stay means to fight for the land that holds the sweat, blood and tears of their ancestors and to continue the fight for liberation. To go may signal a never ending quest to flee from racism that may exist in other forms overseas, while also leaving the only home country some have ever known. And while there may not be a one-size fits all solution, McCrorey, M’kali-Hashiki and Phalon have managed to find their way, and perhaps through their example, other Blacks across America will find theirs too.
Richard M. Wright is a healthy masculinity specialist, public speaker, author, counselor, educator and multimodal artist. He also identifies as a sci-fi geek and an intersectional Afrofuturist. His personal Wakanda resides somewhere between ‘80s Kingston & ‘90s NYC in his mind. www.richardmwright.com