Nigeria’s 2018 Olojo Festival: Time for African Americans to “Come Home”

In preparation for this year’s Olojo Festival, H.I.M. The Ooni Of Ife, stated, “We are set for a legacy project that will uplift one of the oldest cities in the world and put it on the global tourist map.”

By Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., President and CEO, National Newspaper Publishers Association

One of the best kept secrets among African Americans is how much our brothers and sisters in Africa enthusiastically would love for us to “Come home.” Such was the case most recently in Nigeria as delegations of African Americans traveled to lle-Ife, Nigeria, the ancestral home of the Yoruba culture and tradition, for the 2018 Olojo Festival, September 28-October 2, 2018.

I was pleased to be joined on this unique and meaningful pilgrimage to Nigeria by Claudette Perry of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA); Jeffery Boney, Texas city councilman and contributing writer for the NNPA; Tish Bazil, author and photographer; and Gary Foster, videographer and social media visionary.

We were invited to attend the Olojo Festival by His Imperial Majesty The Ooni of Ife, who the is global leader of Yoruba and King of the Osun State in Nigeria. Ile-Ife is one of the oldest cities in the world dating back thousands of years.

Yes, Africa is very rich with oil, gold, diamonds, uranium, titanium, platinum and other precious stones and metals. Africa’s richest resource, however, is its human resource in the context of thousands of years of culture, language and tradition. Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation with over 190 million people.

Dr. Ben Chavis

But from what we witnessed firsthand during the five days while we were in Ile-Ife, it was the culture that has had and will continue to have the greatest impact on unifying Nigerians and all people of African descent throughout the Diaspora. The Olojo Festival was one of most authentic and impactful cultural festivals that we had ever seen. We saw vibrantly displayed cultural genius in native language, traditional dress, dance, spirituality, pageantry and food.

In fact, we experienced a real-life “Wakanda” celebration of the sanctity, diversity, and cultural wealth of Africa in the ancient sacred city of Ile-Ife, Nigeria. The Yoruba language and cultural manifestations were so evident at the Olojo Festival that we were all moved to tears of insatiable joy and passionate responses.

In preparation for this year’s Olojo Festival, H.I.M.The Ooni Of Ife, stated, “We are set for a legacy project that will uplift one of the oldest cities in the world and put it on the global tourist map.” I certainly plan to let all of our NNPA member publishers and media company owners know about this historic city and all-inspiring annual festival. We should start planning now for next year’s festival.

In truth, African Americans have so many issues that are impacting our quality of life, some may ask, “Why should we focus on Nigeria and other nations in Africa?” The answer to that question is quite factual. African Americans have a history that did not begin or end in slavery in the United States. Our ancestry in Africa needs to be better known, appreciated and embraced.

We must travel back to our ancestral homelands. We must reconnect with who we really are without the trappings and ornaments of white supremacy. We are an African people. That is more than a Pan-African slogan from the 1960’s. Our children and our grandchildren should be told the truth about our African past, present and future.

It is our responsibility and opportunity to reconnect to Africa beyond sentimentalities. It is time to develop joint economic development ventures. Our Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) should teach African languages and culture as a prerequisite for graduation. We should hold our family reunions in Africa. The NNPA will take trade delegations to Nigeria and to other African nations. The African Press Association will become a member of the NNPA.

We know that there will always be challenges both at home and abroad. The point here is that African leaders such as H.I.M.The Ooni of Ife are calling for all of us to “Come home.”

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. is the President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached at dr.bchavis@nnpa.org  

3 Comments

  1. Daniel Sistrunk on October 7, 2018 at 8:31 am

    Thanks for sharing your view and enlightenment for our community’s growth, development, and prosperity.

  2. Kevin O. Grier on October 7, 2018 at 7:37 pm

    Healing must take place internally, spiritually, economically and politically.
    Without this necessary healing, the smorgasbord continues…
    “Home” should not be loosely regarded and alternately used as a substitute for “unity”. Many of us already are home and should first become “charitable” and enterprising HERE.
    Quaddafi’s ideas about economic unification got him killed…
    Layers of trust and dignity for the American Negro must take precedence over an international bazaar orchestrated by “our enemies”, that can only splinter us further.
    Simply stated, domestic enterprise owned operated an controlled by more “foreign interests”, will only result in internal capitalistic subjugation and disharmony.
    How many circles do you want to be surrounded and controlled by?
    Repeat: The enemy is not “us”…and it’s definitely not Nigeria…
    Build a foundation before you even think about a bridge.
    How many shipping companies, airlines, warehouses and major retail outlets do “WE” own?
    I know, you gotta start somewhere…
    Here “they” come…
    Please don’t get my point twisted.

  3. Craig McFarland on October 8, 2018 at 4:49 pm

    Without question this would be a valuable pilgrimage… Mindful acknowledgement that today is Native American Day hopefully replacing Columbus Day in our community…
    There is a narrative that should recognize Indigenous Aborigines Native American Indians being taken from the Americas to Africa, Europe, an including Spain… For some, slavery began in America went abroad and came back!!!

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