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The first time Rashad McCrorey was in Ghana was in January 2015. The visit to the West African country was unplanned. His school in the United States, Drew University, where he obtained his master’s degree in theology, had a course called “Cross-Cultural Experience” which prepared him to go to Cameroon. But the Ebola epidemic at the time disrupted the route.

McCrorey then offered Ghana to the group leader. There were no reports of the virus there. Additionally, there was Ghana’s appeal as a haven for black Americans, historically linking civil rights struggles and anti-colonial efforts in Africa. The political movement of Pan-Africanism opened up Ghana to the black diaspora. At a young age, McCrorey’s father told him stories about Africa, featuring leaders, spirituality and culture.

When he first arrived, aged 35, Ghana exceeded his expectations. Little did he know that years later he would be appointed chief in Elmina, a town in southern Ghana that resonates with a dark history. Elmina Castle was a passage that unloaded enslaved Africans into ships during the slave trade. What kept McCrorey rooted in this town was the community he found.

McCrorey launched his tourism business Africa Cross-Culture, a nod to his course title, in 2016. As a tour operator, he organizes trips to African countries like Egypt, Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria, Uganda and Ghana. With the government initiative of the Year of Ghana Return in 2019, the country is using tourism as a tool for cultural diplomacy and national branding. Last month, he was named head of tourism. He is the first to hold such a title.

OkayAfrica recently spoke with McCrorey about what the title stands for, his identity as a Black American re-entering Africanness, and the state of the Black Diaspora.

Photo credit: Rashad McCrorey

Any black man could have been appointed head of tourism. Why do you think you were chosen for this title?

The royal family and the village of Iture explained that their desire to make me one of their leaders was based on my constant presence in the family and in the community. When I moved to Iture in May 2020, I joined the Royal Family. I did my traditional baptism ceremony, which many black Americans attend when they return to Ghana. But, I also went further than many other black Americans. Besides already living in the community, I immediately started attending monthly family meetings.

I paid all my family’s monthly dues. I paid all my funeral expenses in addition to the contributions necessary for the maintenance. I visit our king and our family members every week. I help out in the community, attend events and even have disagreements in the suburbs because nothing is always perfect. When you live somewhere and interact with people consistently for almost two full years, conflicts arise, but our conflicts have brought us together, created boundaries, and helped us develop a sense of trust and respect. mutual. They kept explaining to me that they didn’t want to give me a ceremonial, non-transferable stool like the development leaders with the titles of Nkosuohene or Impuntuhen.

These titles can be demolished and moved at any time. During his meeting with the Omanhen of Elmina Nana Kojo Condua Edina VI, he also spoke of my reputation as one of the first black Americans in the city of Elmina who seemed to have chosen to integrate fully into the community. In return, he made me part of the Ednia Traditional Council.

What are your missions in this role?

Regarding my title of Nserahwehen, or “head of tourism”, I have a successful tourism business where I take clients to different countries in Africa. Iture is the first sub-city of Elmina. You cannot get to Elmina Town or Elmina Slave Dungeon from Accra-Takoradi Rd. without going through Iture Village. The location is ideal for tourists and visitors. Drop-in centers such as One Africa and Mable’s Tables are staples of the African-American community in the United States.

I shared that tourism is not just about taking guests from one place to another. Tourism is planning, budgeting, marketing, branding, security, research, people management and more. With over 10 years of event planning experience, this is a stool I was prepared for.

u200bRashad McCrorey camel

Photo credit: Rashad McCrorey

What prompted you to come to Ghana during a pandemic?

I was already in Ghana when the pandemic broke out. I arrived in Ghana on February 27, 2020, for a tour group where I was hosting Americans for the Ghana Independence Day festivities. Once news of the pandemic broke in the United States and travel bans and border closures started taking place around the world, I decided to stay and not return home.

Did you set up your tourism business before or after you arrived in Ghana?

I started my tourism business after my second trip to Ghana in March 2015. I was previously a relatively successful event planner in New York. When deciding what business I wanted to invest in while in Ghana, I thought to myself: if I can get 30-50 people a week to party in New York, I can get 30-50 people a year to visit. MotherAfrica. I had the idea in 2015, started working on the business in 2016 and organized my first trips to Ghana and Egypt in 2017.

Elmina Castle is historically known as a holding passage for enslaved Africans who were shipped to the Americas. How does it feel to be close to this important place?

I have mixed feelings about being cooped up in a city with such a dark history. Elmina is historically known as the first place in West Africa that Europeans settled. Elmina slave dungeon is also known as the oldest and largest slave dungeon in West Africa. To have such an important role in a place where many of my ancestors had their worst nightmares, I feel honored and blessed to know that I am someone who firmly honors them and has a vested interest in transforming this ancient black hole. into a beacon of light for their descendants to return home.

Some black Americans feel that some of the revenue from the Ghanaian government’s 2019 Year of Return organization was not intended to help black American communities. Their grievance is that it was only used to improve the Ghanaian economy. In your opinion, is this a reasonable complaint?

Yes, that’s a reasonable complaint. As black Americans, we are constantly viewed by other races and groups of people as cash cows. There is a secret financial war against the “black dollar” in which Ghana is also participating through its incredible outreach to black investors. It is up to the black American community, both at home and abroad, to not only advocate for more opportunities to leverage our money in other countries, but also to create more businesses and opportunities in states where we can practice group economics and grow more Black and Resource-owned businesses.

Do you have a strategy for building positive, communal relationships between Africans and Black Americans?

I believe that communication and patience are the most important practices we can have during these early stages of our integration with each other. I consider 2019 to be the first official year in which there is a boom in tourism and migration to the African continent in such large numbers. It is the first time in history that an African country has been a mainstream option for Black Americans to visit and relocate. We are a multiplicity of different cultures merging. If we choose not to express patience and communication with each other, many disagreements could spin out of control and irreconcilable differences could arise. I believe government, chiefs, community leaders need to meet with diaspora community leaders, investors and key influencers to ensure that all parties involved get their needs met.

Do you miss America and do you sometimes think of going back to your family?

As we speak, I am currently at home in New York. I have been home for two weeks and will return to Ghana in the next month. Part of my job as Head of Tourism is to bring Black Americans and Diasporas home to Africa and, in this case, Ghana. So returning home to the United States to campaign, network and build relationships is a key part of my duties. Yes I miss my family very much. I miss my mother, my two daughters, my family friends, and I plan to visit my father’s grave while I am in the United States.

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