Among many of the big changes happening in 2021, the great musical polymath and icon Stevie Wonder is fulfilling a long-held dream of moving to Ghana.
Wonder visited Ghana and was impressed with Africa as early as 1974, but it seems his 47-year dream has become more urgent in recent years and has been informed by numerous incidents of police killings and racial turmoil in the United States being protested by the Black Lives Matter movement. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey on Apple TV several months ago, Wonder was deeply concerned about the state of race relations in America and the future of his family.
“I don’t want to see my children’s children’s children’s children have to say, ‘Oh please like me, please respect me, please know that I’m important, please value me, What kind of sh**t is that?’ Wonder said.
With its official “Year of Return” declaration in 2019 – marking the 400th year anniversary of the first arrival of slaves in Jamestown, Virginia in 1619 – Ghana has opened its arms and bosom to the African Diaspora. The country has changed restrictions and regulations for work visas and relaxed fees and application processes for permanent residence and citizenship for African descendants of slavery. The campaign proved to be highly successful, with more than 1 million people visiting Ghana in 2019. Among many travelers from the United States, Caribbean and Latin American countries, Ghana also attracted a number of well-known celebrities including model Naomi Campbell, actor Idris Elba, comedian Steve Harvey and rapper Cardi B. As many African Americans have learned – including Richard Pryor, as famously described in his celebrated comedy performance “Live on Sunset Strip” – a “roots” journey to the African Motherland can be profoundly rewarding for the African descendants of enslaved people. For people considering retirement in Ghana (and many other African countries) conditions are often favorable, as the cost of living expenses in a developing country are typically low and a tropical or subtropical climate can be highly appealing. Moreover, the seismic economic and lifestyle changes brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic and the evolving, ubiquitous presence of the Internet have also empowered many workers and professionals to be able to operate from their homes or in distant locations. In addition to Ghana, other countries in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean are creating remote digital work visa programs with the intention of attracting new residents.
In his 1976 Magnum Opus – the magnificent Songs in the Key of Life album – one of Stevie Wonder’s most beautiful and creative tracks was a futuristic melody about a global world of love and unity. In the dreamy, idealistic ballad “Ngiculela/Es Un Historia/I am Singing,” Wonder proclaimed in Zulu, Spanish and English, that “One day sweet love will reign, in this world of ours.” In 2021, it appears that Stevie Wonder is telling the world that his true place of hope and love is in Africa, the land of his ancestors. Apparently, his fellow Ghanaian brothers and sisters are more than happy to welcome him home.