At this point, most Black people are probably familiar with the Year of Return, Ghana’s invitation to the African diaspora to come home—400 years after the first enslaved Africans arrived in Jamestown, Virginia—and celebrate the resilience of our ancestors who were sold and stolen from their homeland during the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
However, not all of us have the time and resources to make a pilgrimage back to Ghana and explore our native culture. That’s where Twitter Blackbirds, Twitter’s internal business resource group for its Black employees and allies, stepped in to bring the Year of Return to those who couldn’t make the journey.
Not only can everyone experience the Year of Return through the Blackbirds’ tweets, users of the platform will be able to “choose their own adventure” through an immersive tweet thread, choosing what they want to see and experience.
“The #YearOfReturn won’t happen again for another century. We saw the value of documenting this moment in history for those who weren’t aware of it and those who knew but weren’t able to make it to the continent themselves,” Jade A. Williams, the Blackbirds’ Global Co-Chair told ESSENCE. “We hope this interactive thread experience gives people a taste of what they may have missed in Ghana, inspires them to explore more on their own and continue the global conversation about our shared origins, what the future holds for us and how we connect right now.”
Blackbirds tapped Ghanaian-American photographer Joshua Kissi, co-founder of TONL, a stock photography platform which highlights images of diverse people and their stories across the world, to visually document the experience so that people can look at what’s happening.
“Ghana is such a multi-layered experience and country I truly hope to continue to express the many parts of the culture and country for people to experience,” Kissi said. “There are over 250 languages and dialects spoken here alone. The continent at large has been viewed from a warped perspective so there’s a ton of work to undo stereotypical narratives that the rest of the world is so accustomed to seeing.”
Kissi acknowledged that there was pressure, especially being Ghanaian, to ensure that he is doing the culture justice, still, he says, “I’m very excited for Black people from other cultures to have their own experience here in Ghana.”
“There aren’t many places in the world where the African diaspora could show up [and] interact with the culture at large,” he added. “Ghana is HOME for many whether directly tied to the country or [here] for the first time.”
The icing on top of the cake? Twitter has partnered with the continent’s biggest day-into-night event, Afrochella—the ultimate party that gives you serious FOMO. The social media giant will have exclusive dedicated space at the festival to capture moments with celebrities and other thought leaders. Additionally, Twitter plans to support the festival’s philanthropic efforts with Afrochella Reads, which will aid in the renovation of the Genesis School of Orphans.
“Partnering with Twitter is a dream manifested for Afrochella Festival,” Afrochella Founder Abdul Karim Abdullah said in a statement. “We are an example of what is possible for creatives and creative platforms in Africa.
“Representation is everything,” Abdullah continued, “and we are excited to be the first Ghanaian company to serve as a conduit between the tech giant Twitter and the local community supporting Afrochella Festival.”
Dzidzoli Quist, the Entertainment Partnerships Manager at Twitter, said the partnership is one built on a shared commitment to telling rich, beautiful Black stories.
“We’re partnering with the Afrochella Festival to tell a story of music, culture, and pride,” Quist said. “Abdul has done an amazing job at bringing people from all over the world together to experience the Year of Return via Afrochella and it was very important [to me] as a Ghanaian-American and Blackbirds lead that we support this vision.”
The Choose Your Own Adventure #YearOfReturn will start on Twitter on Dec. 30. So when you launch the app or the website on Monday morning, make sure you’re wearing your favorite sunshades along with your finest garments to show up and show out, because Ghana is waiting for you, even if you can’t physically be there.