Blaxit: Black Exploration and Living Abroad
As we celebrate Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating the emancipation of the enslaved Africans in the U.S., we must also acknowledge the harsh racial backdrop that is still taking place nearly 200 years later. The consequential rage and malaise expressed in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, along with other senseless killings of unarmed black people at the hands of the police, has amplified the growing number of discontent voices within the African American community. A considerable amount of African Americans are tired of being treated like second-class citizens in their own country; a country that still hasn’t granted them fair housing, equal pay, reparations, an anti-lynching bill, the George Floyd policing act, proper healthcare, economic opportunities, and comprehensive legislation that corrects racial and income disparities within the Black community. Many African Americans have decided that if their government won’t amend the generational trauma inflicted upon them, then they would take it upon themselves and move abroad to achieve genuine liberation.
During the early 1900s, Marcus Garvey served as one of the pioneers for Black nationalism and pan-Africanism. He urged members of the African diaspora to return to their ancestral homes and rebuild Africa, using Black independence, self-reliance, innovation, and pride as the foundational elements of his teachings. In a 1961 interview, renowned author and orator James Baldwin also stressed Black relocation, telling a New York radio broadcaster: “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” Baldwin later sought refuge in France in order to escape the rampant and debilitating effects of America’s systemic racism, often accompanied by the constant persecution of its melanated citizens. Baldwin, Josephine Baker, Richard Wright, Nina Simone, and other notable African Americans escaped the oppressive racial tensions in the United States by making other countries their permanent place of residency. Fashionably labeling themselves as Black expats, many African Americans are following in the footsteps of their predecessors, vigorously planning their exit strategies abroad without a glance back.
The grassroots movement has gained momentum due to the creation of U.S.-based Black expat groups that are composed of members who wish to permanently move abroad. Faye Tillery, content creator and founder of the Facebook Group, Blaxit Tribe: Black Americans Who Want to Exit the US and Move Abroad, is one of the architects. The term Blaxit is a play on the term used for Britain’s exit from the European Union. Reignited by her and her late mother’s dreams to retire overseas, compounded with the corporate microagressions she experienced in the entertainment industry, Tillery quit her job and began traveling all over the world. She ultimately left Los Angeles for Colombia in 2016, then flew to Nairobi in 2018. Over the past year, her online group has witnessed a rising tide in numbers, swelling from 2,800 members to well over 12,000. Another relocation campaign is the U.S.-originated lifestyle platform Black and Abroad’s “Go Back to Africa” crusade, an award-winning tourism strategy that takes a unique spin on the racist retort hurled at Black Americans. In 2019, the founders reimagined that derogatory remark, prompting African descendants disgruntled with catastrophic race relations to take charge. We must also mention that our founder, Latasha Brown, can assist in the relocation process. She specializes in property management and purchasing and holding properties, earning the title of certified international property specialist (CIPS) with a designation in helping people move to their desired destination. This also includes purchasing properties outside (or inside) the U.S.
Although no official statistics cover these international migrations, Black emigres have been returning to various African countries in droves. For instance, in 2019, Ghana spearheaded the Year of the Return, an interactive program that marks the 400 year anniversary of the first enslaved West Africans arriving in Jamestown, Virginia in 1619. Reminiscent of Marcus Garvey’s sentiments, the program encourages descendants of the African diaspora to rediscover their lineage and return to a nation where their ancestors were forced onto slave ships centuries earlier. There were multiple initiatives that took place during this year-long campaign, such as the Full Circle Festival, which gathered everyone- from industry chiefs, influencers, and celebrities - to Accra, the country’s capital, to embrace rich Ghanian ceremonial traditions, music, fashion, and history. Overall, the program attracted 500,000 visitors from the U.S. and around the world, incentivizing Black Americans to invest and even reside in Ghana’s borders permanently. Although the extremely popular program has ended, there have been renewed calls for displaced brothers and sisters to come home after Ghana’s Minister of Tourism, Mrs. Barbara Oteng-Gyasi, extended the open invitation, given the social injustices and political unrest transpiring in the U.S. Black Americans who are now dual citizens or frequent visitors, view the experience of retracing their cultural origins to be of paramount importance for their collective identities, self-worth, healing, and rediscovery. Some even vehemently reject the term “African American” or “Black American'' because it’s associated with their ancestors' former bondage in British colonial North America, coupled with the constant tyranny they still endure as a result.
Besides moving to African countries (i.e. Senegal, South Africa, and Ghana) in concentrated efforts to explore their familial ties and confront the negative legacies of the slave trade, Black Americans have nearly 200 countries and five other continents to choose from for emigration. According to Travel Noire, places like Lisbon, Portugal; Belize City, Belize; Limon, Costa Rica; Medellin, Colombia; Panama City, Panama; and Bangkok, Thailand; are wonderful moving destinations where travelers of color can prioritize their safety and well-being. These areas serve as safe havens for Black people who want to escape racial tensions while fully enveloping themselves in the local environment, coastal vibes, exotic dishes, and rich cultures. The scenic landscapes of these towns and countries offer an eclectic natural beauty that makes newcomers feel welcome. Serving as primary spaces where Black emigrants thrive, the aforementioned countries have an active nightlife scene, affordable living accommodations, diverse neighborhoods, and an abundant Black-expat community.
Considering the flexibility trend that’s withstanding the other side of the pandemic, companies and those who are self-employed are implementing hybrid workplace models where they can work from anywhere in the globe. It’s important to note that Black professionals are also seeking to experience life outside the U.S. to avoid the cultural gymnastics and shape shifting required in the predominately-white corporate world. Filling international roles overseas provides profound professional benefits that eliminate the crushing racial dynamics that permeate America’s workplace culture. The sharp relief comes from no longer being approached by executives to solve the company’s diversity conundrum, having to outperform everyday to prove you deserve a seat at the table, and the unwritten rules that dictate how you’re supposed to represent yourself and interact with coworkers. Black expatriates said they felt “instantly valued and treated with a level of respect and deference from their colleagues they had not known in the U.S.”
The worldwide BLM movement that happened last summer proves that Black Americans hold the power to usher in their own solutions to combat the hatred and intolerance that’s soured their American experience since their ancestors were forced here in chains. The failure to pass any meaningful legislative reform and the repeated denial of America’s shameful, divisive attitude towards Black people, is also a catalyst for why many Black Americans have denounced this country altogether, deciding to construct generational wealth and foster economic opportunity in a society that values their character rather than their complexion.