The Year of Return has come to an end, and whether or not you were able to make the pilgrimage, it remained a cultural phenomenon, sweeping the diaspora worldwide. This celebrity-studded, year-long event was created by the Ghanaian government to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first African slaves arriving at Jamestown, packaged in an invitation to Ghana. Formally announced by President Nano Akufo-Addo in September 2018, its aim was to celebrate “the cumulative resilience of all the victims of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade” and to promote a “consistent boost in tourism for Ghana in the near and distant years.” Even now, Ghana is unveiling its Beyond the Return tourism initiative, so if 2019 ended without you collecting a Ghananian passport stamp, you could absolutely still go.
Though the invitation still stands, some are unsure where else in the world they’ll be able to readily connect to other black tourists besides Ghana. If you are among them, here are a few places that would be perfect to travel to if you’re looking to connect with the black diaspora in 2020, from other major cities in Africa to cities in the US, Europe, and beyond. It’s a big world, and there’s a little something for everyone within it.
1. For the politically aware: Washington, DC
Because of its seat as the US capital and the home to the notorious incubator of black activists, Howard University, and The United States Federal District, Washington, DC, has long invited black travelers and transplants. While a selfie in front of the Washington monument can be merely Instagram-fodder for some, to a black American, it can be the culmination of a pilgrimage. The monument and its surrounding reflecting pool can hearken memories of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech at the seminal protest of the civil rights movement: The March on Washington. If your interests sway toward the political, DC may just be your perfect destination this year.
In 2020, DC is poised to welcome thousands of tourists for an ambitious multi-exhibit program celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 14th amendment to the US constitution. For those unfamiliar, this piece of legislation, ratified on August 18, 1920, prohibits the federal government and encompassing states from denying an otherwise eligible citizen the right to vote based on gender. Though considered a major turning point in the US’s political history, it also left many states in the position of continuing to limit voting rights on the basis of race, leaving many black women unable to vote for an additional 45 years. This is a fact so frequently overlooked that even the official destination marketing organization of DC devotes only half a sentence to it in their preamble about the centennial celebrations.
But don’t let this deter you from visiting: A presidential election year in the US, 2020 might be the perfect moment for black women to, as Rep. Maxine Waters might say, reclaim your time by celebrating the 55th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. This law formally granted black women the right to vote in 1965. Should you choose to go to DC, be sure to check out Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote, an exhibit that goes beyond the 19th amendment to tell the complete story of voting rights for all women. A comprehensive installation exhibiting documents, photos, and other mementos, it is on view at the National Archives Museum until January 2021.
While in Chocolate City, many black visitors may want to skip the ironically named White House and head instead to the National Portrait Gallery. There you will find Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald’s respective portraits of the former President and First Lady, Barack and Michelle Obama. The paintings will be headed out on a nationwide tour in 2021, so now’s your chance to view them in their rightful home at the Smithsonian.
Also not to be missed is the recently opened National Museum of African American History and Culture, which will only be celebrating its fourth birthday this year. Among the many items in its permanent collections is the uniform jersey worn by none other than the late Kobe Bryant in the 2008 NBA Finals. After he and his wife Vanessa became founding donors of the museum, Kobe himself donated his uniform after being so touched by his first visit. With a massive 85,000 square feet of exhibition space dedicated to the triumphs and struggles of black Americans, you will likely be similarly moved.
2. For admirers of the arts: Dakar, Senegal
In 1966, in combination with UNESCO, then president of the newly independent Republic of Senegal, Leopold Senghor, launched a project so massive and unprecedented that it was only ever repeated twice. Dubbed the World Festival of Black Arts, it was the very first international expo of arts in history to be created by and directed at black people. Himself a poet, Senghor was always committed to an independent Senegal maintaining a strong tradition in the arts. From that cultural legacy, a modern, cosmopolitan Dakar is flush with artists and their admirers.
2020 will see the return of the Dak’art Biennale, a contemporary African art fair first held in 1990. Conceived initially to oscillate between celebrating the arts and literature,