Exactly four months ago today, my team and I went on a healing pilgrimage to the Nkyinkyim outdoor museum in Ada-Foah, just outside Accra. If you haven’t visited yet, I strongly recommend you do. Founded and curated by Kwame Akoto-Bamfo, a young and exceptionally brilliant Ghanaian artist, the “museum has been specially designed to guide visitors towards healing and restorative justice; healing from the legacies of African enslavement and colonialism.” This was a crucial factor in choosing it as one of the destinations for the healing pilgrimages that formed part of the Advancing Justice: Reparations and Healing summit held in Accra in August (otherwise referred to as the Accra Summit).
The pilgrimage was one of many activities we organised for the more than 100 delegates who came from almost every continent in the world to Ghana, to attend the Accra Summit. The Accra Summit was described by one of the principal global voices on reparations, Sir Dr Hilary Beckles as “perhaps the biggest gathering of activists and advocates for reparations since the 2001 Durban Summit.” It was a historic moment for us Africans and for us at the ATJLF.
During planning for the summit, we wanted to give delegates an experience that was not just confined to the plenary sessions within the walls of Kempinski hotel. We were deliberate in ensuring that every delegate benefitted from some form of emotional emancipation. We arranged the Summit to ensure that we interspersed conversations around reparations with non-plenary interactions and encounters that facilitate healing and emotional justice. So, the August 4th pilgrimage to Nkyinkyim enabled us to fulfil a fundamental objective in our global campaign for reparations and healing for historical crimes. Prior to that visit, I had only heard of the Nkyinkyim museum through tourist friends who had visited. So, when our event consultant, Keys and Kredo brought up the idea in our planning meeting months earlier, he didn’t need to convince us much to include it in the Summit agenda. But the experience of being at the museum site and be led on the pilgrimage tour by Kwame himself was a treasure to behold.
There were several highlights from the Accra Summit for me. The major ones include President Nana Akufo-Addo’s keynote address in which he eloquently reminded the delegates of the various times in history that victims and survivors of historical crimes have received reparations in the form of financial compensation. Unequivocally charging the world that reparations to Africa and Africans was long overdue. Another highlight was the one-on-one conversation between Jason Craige-Harris and the Pulitzer Prize winning author, Nikole Hannah-Jones who spoke passionately about her 1619 Project and why, as a descendant of slaves in the US, she believes that reparations for slavery and the Transatlantic slave trade should not take a nativist and narrow-focused approach. Additionally, the session that included a powerful line-up of experts on reparations such as Liliane Umubyeyi (PhD), Prof. Horace Campbell and Prof Darrick Hamilton among others, dissecting the various trajectories of the reparations movement and contemporary dimensions. As a newbie to the reparations and healing space, every session and activity was a learning opportunity for me and my team. The journey to Nkyinkyim contributed immensely to that learning process.
As principal hosts of the Summit, the Africa Transitional Justice Legacy Fund (ATJLF) had a herculean task of ensuring that delegates were enriched with both knowledge and experiences that outlived the conference. Together with our partners at the African Union, the Africa American Institute and other organisations in the Global Circle for Reparations and Healing, we successfully produced the Accra Declaration that seeks to chart the way forward for the continuation of a journey started generations ago. We are aware that the journey is arduous. But just as Kwame is meticulously curating the Nkyinkyim museum, the conversations and debates around reparations for historical crimes have to be carefully curated to collate and sculpt the myriad of initiatives and formulate a comprehensive advocacy agenda for reparative justice and racial healing for Africans and Afro-descendants across the world. It is the objective that we at ATJLF, together with our partners in the Global Circle for Reparations and Healing (GCRH), have set ourselves to lead and achieve. Wish us luck!