The story of Africans in the diaspora has always refreshed our minds about where we call home.
Given the systemic racism, consolidated in Jim Crow Laws, in the United States of America, most people of African descent in the diaspora split hairs over where they could call home. Should home be in Africa of the United States?
Two towering figures emerged on this subject. W.E.B Du Bois and Marcus Garvey. They had contradictory, but possibly mutually reinforcing views on the idea of home.
Du Bois argued that home was America where Africans had expended their labour to build. Marcus Garvey, on the other hand said home was Africa. He carried through with his idea of home to begin the “Back to Africa Movement”.
Unfortunately, Marcus Garvey never visited Africa, while Du Bois relocated permanently to Ghana to help Nkrumah nurture the nascent independent country in the 1961.
Du Bois began a project on Encyclopedia on Africa while he was in Ghana. Sadly, he died in the process of the project and was buried in Ghana in 1963.
Nevertheless, the idea of home is still not settled among people of Africa descent in the diaspora. The impasse over dreadlocks points to the complexities of the idea of home.
Among many Africans, the question of home is very important. For ancient Akan, home is one’s ancestral home. A place where one’s umbilical cord is kept.
It is said that among some Akan groups in the past, a new baby’s hair was shaved at birth and kept securely somewhere in ancestral family house.
In the event that the child grew up, travelled and never returned, his or her hair was buried. This was usually after divination had confirmed the person’s death. Hair was a signifier of the human being (We can recall the story of Samson).
There is an interesting account of the burial of a Kenyan lawyer. SM Otieno was a prominent lawyer who died intestate.
Upon his death, his wife and his family battled over where he should be buried. The politics about his burial was also about the politics of home.
In all this, I am sure, your ethnic group may have their own nuances about the idea of home (you can kindly share them with me).
Historically, Christians and the patriarchs have seen themselves as pilgrims on earth (Hebrews 11:16).
This vision of other-worldly is succinctly captured in John Bunyan’s, “Pilgrim’s Progress” – a book that was widely translated, alongside the Bible, to support mission work in the nineteenth century.
As a result of this other-worldly vision, Christians have seen themselves as citizens everywhere, but none anywhere. This partly explained why missionaries went around the world advancing God’s Kingdom.
As we anticipate the return of our soon-coming King, Jesus Christ, let us rethink our notion of home. Let us reflect on where the Lord is preparing for us as our native home (John 14:3).
If we look forward to a better world to come, we would definitely not be materialistic – the predicament of the “modern” world (late capitalist world).
If we consider paradise restored as our native home, we would not meddle in the politics of corruption in our world.
By all means, let us work hard. By all means, let us be the salt and light of this world. BUT, let us always bear in mind that our native home is heaven.
Rev Theophilus Opoku, the first Gold Coaster to be ordained a pastor of the Presbyterian Church in 1872, observed that as Christians our native home is heaven. This explains the sublimity of his composition, “Oho ho ne mamfre ni”.
That we live in a world that is woefully incapable of giving us 24 hours of uninterrupted peace points to a better world to be desired. We live in a world where there is hardly a good news without a “however”.
Set your treasures and mind above (Matthew 6:19-21; Colossians 3:2). Look up where Christ is seated at the right hand side of God. For as Christians, our ultimate citizenship is heaven (Philippians 3:20).
I highly recommend Saint Augustine’s, “City of God” on this subject.
I pray that, together, we will strive to make it to heaven.