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‘THE YEAR OF RETURN:’ Bass, Pelosi lead congressional delegation to Ghana

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, has returned from a historic trip to Ghana last week where the local congresswoman took part in ceremonies observing the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved Africans landing in America.

Bass made the trip with a congressional delegation that included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and 13 members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

“This was a profoundly significant trip for the Congressional Black Caucus,” Bass said. “This year marks 400 years since the first African arrived on the shores of America and we know that after the treacherous journey they began a period of 250 years of enslavement.

“To travel to Ghana with members of the Congressional Black Caucus led by the Speaker of the House, the most powerful woman in America, says a great deal about the historical ties between our countries and reaffirms our commitment to Ghana and to the continent of Africa.”

The delegation concluded the trip with a meeting with Aaron Mike Oquaye, the speaker of the Ghana Parliament, and bipartisan leaders of the Ghanian Parliament.

Pelosi addressed the Ghanaian Parliament with a message of respect, reaffirming America’s commitment to security, freedom and justice for all. The speech marked the first time in history that a speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives has addressed Ghanaian Parliament. 

The delegation also paid respects at Cape Coast and Elmina Castles and the “Door of No Return,” to observe the 400th anniversary of slavery.

“It was an honor to return to Ghana with the Congressional Black Caucus as we mark ‘The Year of Return’ and the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in Jamestown Virginia,” Pelosi said. “The sites we’ve seen in Ghana are an inextricable part of America’s heritage and will forever be seared in our hearts and minds. 

“Our discussions and engagements with Ghanaian government officials and civil society leaders were key to advancing our shared interests and cooperative efforts to alleviate poverty, eradicate disease, address the urgency of the climate crisis and ensure economic prosperity and security for future generations,” Pelosi added. “We look forward to building on the progress we have made together and strengthening our friendship to the benefit of both our nations.” 

Prior to the trip, Bass said, “400 years ago this year, our ancestors were first brought to this continent in chains. On this delegation, 12 members of the Congressional Black Caucus will return to the African continent as members of the United States Congress.”

“We have come so far but we still have so far to go. … I thank Speaker Pelosi for leading this important trip and for joining us in sending a signal of mutual respect and partnership to Ghana and the continent of Africa as a whole.”

U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, D-South Carolina, was part of the U.S. delegation.

“As the founding chair of the International African American Museum, which is being built on Gadsden Wharf in Charleston, South Carolina where approximately 50 percent of enslaved Africans arrived in this country, it is particularly meaningful to me to join the first woman Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and many of my African-American colleagues in visiting Ghana’s Door of No Return,” Clyburn said.

“I consider this to be a fitting and proper way to commemorate the 400th year since the enslaved people were forced to leave their homeland and sent in bondage to the New World.  I seek to pay homage to the sacrifices of our African ancestors and honor the contributions they made to building the United States of America.”

Also making the trip were U.S. Reps. John Lewis, D-Georgia; Bobby Rush, D-Illinois; Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, Barbara Lee, D-San Francisco; Yvette Clarke, D-New York; Hank Johnson, D-Georgia; Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio; Terri Sewell, D-Alabama; Frederica Wilson, D-Florida; Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio; and Ilham Omar, D-Minnesota.