The Year of Return: Journeying Back to Africa

March 5, 2020

Los Angeles is a melting pot of ethnicities and cultures whose contributions have shaped our city into what it is today. Our different experiences, as Angelinos, serve as a bridge to learn from one another and deepen our understanding so that together we can continue to work towards achieving equity for all residents of this great city.

In that spirit we gathered in community to celebrate Black History Month alongside Social Justice Learning Institute (SJLI) to hear the inspirational reflections of BLOOM youth who made the life-changing trip to Ghana last December as part of the country’s “Year of Return” which encourages descendants of Africans who were transported to the Americas as part of the slave trade to visit Ghana as a way to re-discover their ancestry and identity. For these young men this trip was significant on many levels. Not only did it offer them the opportunity to connect with their roots and develop a deeper sense of self, but for many marked their first time out of the United States. Their personal accounts highlighted the natural beauty they encountered on the African continent, but what resonated the most with each young man was the welcoming arms of the community who greeted them with a “Welcome Home, My Brother” message.

Dr. D’Artagnan Scorza, Founder and Executive Director of SJLI, describes this nine-day journey as a “rite of passage” which allows each young man to have a broader connection to a place and an identity beyond what society has defined. The youth got to immerse themselves in the culture and gain a new-found perspective. Visiting a local grade school to deliver a donation of supplies was eye-opening, because it allowed them to realize how fortunate they are that their schools back home provide lunches, books, supplies and good hygiene (conditions that are necessary to thrive). As the youth shared this story their eyes filled with pride and a sense of accomplishment for having the opportunity to give back and make a difference.

The memories these young men made in ten short days will last them a lifetime. Although thousands of miles away, Ghana became their second home where they found a sense of camaraderie and acceptance. Keeping this connection alive is important to each one and they honor that by sharing what they learned about their history and themselves with family and friends.

ABOUT BLOOM: In 2012, CCF launched BLOOM, a $7 million initiative to address the overwhelming disparities faced by Black male youth impacted by L.A. County’s juvenile justice system. Over seven years, the initiative has blossomed, with Brotherhood Crusade (BHC) and Social Justice Learning Institute (SJLI) delivering programs that uncover the true potential of Black boys and young men. Now a community-led Alliance, BLOOM continues to expand opportunities for young people who face steep and entrenched barriers.

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