By Dr. Barbara Reynolds
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – Commemorations are planned globally and locally to mark the 400th anniversary of the first documented arrival of 20 African slaves in Jamestown, Virginia in August 1619. An estimated ten million Blacks were captured and shipped to the Americas and the Caribbean. They endured two centuries of brutal enslavement in the USA until slavery officially ended in 1865.
State planners in Virginia have designated Jamestown ground zero in codifying the history of the slave trade and are commemorating the historic event with a program called “America Evolution: Virginia to America 1619-2019.” Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo has launched The Year of Return (TYOR) project in Washington DC and has positioned Ghana as the number one destination for African- Americans and other diaspora Africans in 2019. He also said there’s a long history of African-Americans returning to Ghana and other African countries.
Commemorate and celebrate might be the mantra of Bernadette Champion, president of Champion Services Travel in Prince George’s County, Md., who has been leading cultural-sensitive tours to Africa and the nations of the world for 32 years. “We all know this is the right time to return to Africa, but we also know Africa’s history did not begin with slavery.”
“The entire world owes a great debt to Africa,” she says.” Scientists have well documented that civilization began in Africa. This is where humanity first saw the light of day, not just for Blacks, but all of humanity. In Ethiopia scientists have discovered a specimen of the world’s most famous early human ancestor they named Lucy, dating back 3.2 million years.
“Africans invented the first calendar,” she continued. “Egyptians discovered the first form of writing called hieroglyphics; they were first to learn to make tools from metal. By studying the sun and the stars, the early Egyptians invented the first calendar and the first library was formed in Timbuktu. It is tragic to believe Black Africa had no history before European colonization and with the help of Hollywood Black culture has been whitened. Nevertheless, blacks ruled vast kingdoms, such as Ghana, Mali and many of the great pharaohs of Egypt were black. This is a time to reflect on the jewels of Africa, not just the horrors of slavery.”
Champion toured virtually every corner of the globe and operates on the premise that “you should see the world through your own eyes and not allow the mediator paint a portrait for you… nothing beats seeing a variety of cultures and traditions that in most cases are different than yours.”
Traveling with Champion is different from the standard travel services because she is culturally astute. Her travelers don’t get the standard package that is void of Black history. With an eye of a historian-detective, she combs the world to find facts about how indigenous Blacks have impacted history. “No matter where you go, you can find a Black African presence. My goal is to get African-Americans to leave their comfort zone and see who we are around the world.”.
What surprised me was the tour she led to China after unearthing research about the early black dynasties there that influenced politics and culture. Studies show that one of the first dynasties was African. One of the first documented governance in China was headed by the Shang or Chiang dynasty in 1500-1000 B.C. King T’ang or Ta, was founder of the Shang dynasty which came from the Fertile African Crescent. The Shang were also called Nakhi, which literally means “Black” (Na) and “Man” (khi). King T’ang and the Shang dynasty were responsible for unifying China to form their first civilization.”
Champion’s reputation is so respected her travelers often get special treatment. She tells the story about how in 2014, her group touring Kenya was invited to meet with President Barack Obama’s grandmother, Mama Sarah Onyango Obama. Other tourists were allowed to see the Obama house, but only Champion’s group was invited in for a dinner which Mrs. Obama, an educator and philanthropist prepared.
A long-standing practice is not to visit empty-handed. In Kenya after searching for the most appropriate gift for Mrs. Obama, the group presented her with a baby calf, something once grown continue to bless the villagers with milk after she had left. “We named it Champion.”
Champion’s groups contribute to major causes in area they visit. In April, this writer toured with the Champions to Morocco. With Bonita Edwards, who organized the project, we contributed shoes to children at a private school in Marrakech. The shoes were special shoes that can be enlarged as the children grow.
Giving back can also mean investing and doing business in the motherland, says Champion. The economic tide is shifting in Africa’s . In fact, according to The Brookings Africa Growth Initiative, about “half of the world’s fastest-growing economies will be located on the continent over the next five years.
Egypt 2020 is Champion’s next big event. “I am taking 100 African-Americans to Egypt. I usually take smaller groups, but this experience will be different. When we sail down the Nile ,we will be large enough to have our own tour boat. In this way we can share our love with the wonderful people there, which is difficult when you mix other cultures. The Nubians, for example, will follow us all along the Nile. There is such a oneness of love.”
Bernadette Champion can be reached at www.all4champion.com.