Tsehai Gebreselassie, August 2023, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
I was fortunate to be doing research here, on the continent, when it first got out of control. But at the time, being so close to the Arabian peninsula, we weren’t so sure…
It was the most bizarre thing…you had all these people who had proudly left — gone to study at universities in the United States and Europe — coming back in droves, desperate. People were clamoring to enter African countries like never before, even some white people. But I think most of them, the rich ones especially— they thought their resources would let them survive without lowering themselves to our level, so to speak. Or they were afraid — some Westerners, it’s like our country isn’t even a real place to them, you know? It’s like it is so full of poverty and disease that I really do believe they did not consider it a legitimate option.
John Oyejide, February 2024, Abuja, Nigeria
I didn’t think I would escape New York with my life. It was the most hellish thing I’ve ever done, that trip. You name a method of transportation, I’ve taken it — to finally end up here. When I arrived, the National Youth Service Corps — almost all of them were reassigned to the coast guard that year — pulled me out of this awful, stinking boat. I just sat there heaving and looking into their faces, basically kids, straight out of college. They gave me food and water and asked me my name. I couldn’t even respond, I just burst into tears.
I still dream every night about my brother, who didn’t make it out. He lived in D.C., he said to go ahead of him and we’d meet up here in Abuja where we have some relatives. But he took the Amtrak train that was hijacked. As soon as I heard it in the news when I was passing through Miami, I knew.
When I saw my grandmother I couldn’t handle telling her, so I didn’t say anything. I didn’t speak for three days. I think she understood the moment I walked in the door.
Terry Gardner, April 2024, Yaounde, Cameroon
We knew if we could just make it to The Bahamas, we could catch this flight going to Ghana and be resettled somewhere in West Africa. I had only ever been to Cape Town in South Africa for a few weeks, and my wife Theresa had never been to the continent at all and she was terrified. But I told her, somewhere in our blood, that’s home anyway. That’s where our ancestors are from. It wasn’t going to help us, or our children, to stay — or to live.
It wasn’t an easy transition to life in Yaounde, and I still miss Chicago. I think we switched roles in a way — Theresa speaks French better than I do now.
Nana Essandoh, July 2024, Kumasi, Ghana
Probably the thing that has surprised me most so far was the Decade of Return emergency treaty between the Association of Carribbean States and ECOWAS. I thought for sure we would not be able to pull that off, even if it was really World War III. Yet, even though it was only signed by ECOWAS, Ethiopian airlines had flights from Haiti and Jamaica leaving every day, and at least once a week in the surrounding countries. Of course, it wasn’t easy. Afterward there was all the political infighting and xenophobia I expected. But at the end of the day, so many people made it out alive, and that’s a miracle.
Salome Diop, January 2023, Dakar, Senegal
We were some of the few Diasporans to escape with not only our own lives, but our whole families, and for that I am forever thanking God. They tell me Europe has been decimated, North America uninhabitable with all the radiation poisoning. Even some parts of Eastern Asia were badly affected.
This is the last safe continent.
I recognize this is still an ongoing news story as well as a controversial and potentially emotional or upsetting topic. But this is just a snippet of fiction, which I hope never becomes real. It is a coping mechanism for when unilateral decisions with far-reaching consequences are made, ones which never take into account the so-called “sh*thole countries” and yet, undoubtedly affect them.
Now is the time for unity.