Last week, a friend sent me a post about African American actor, Michael Jai White’s, recent enstoolment in Ghana and asked me to share my thoughts on it.
White was enstooled by Odeneho Kwafo Akoto III, the Akwamuhene (Akwamu king) in the Akwamu traditional area this past December. White along with 90 African American celebrities were in Ghana for the Full Circle Festival, as part of the government’s Year of Return initiatives.
White was bestowed the name Nana Akoto III, Odopon, which means “The tree with strong roots that does not fear the storm”.
There is beautiful footage of the ceremony here. White and his wife have expressed deep gratitude for the honor.
Perhaps my friend asked for my opinion because some people, perhaps Ghanaians, have been murmuring or insinuating that White does not deserve the honor - I’ve heard one or two people reason that he hasn’t done anything for the Akwamu people.
Firstly, chieftaincy has its own familial, metaphysical/spiritual honor system for appointment that has nothing to do with merit or “deservedness”…so the point is mute.
Secondly, White’s contribution to the African-American community and by virtue the African diaspora makes him deserving of the honor. He is a fighter, educator, and respected author, extending his success to positively influence many others, especially youth, in the black community.
Thirdly, White’s enstoolment is a beautiful gesture of unity and embrace between Ghanaians and African Americans that really has little to do with White. White, his wife, and those with him probably felt more deeply tied to Akwamuhene, Ghana, and the continent as a result of the gesture because of the event but its ripple effect on others will be told for generations to come.
In other words, this historical moment happened through White but it is not for White.
The gesture is really a TANGIBLE note of Ghana’s investment in making African Americans feel at home and reconnected to the land. It seemed to say, “we are willing to welcome, embrace, celebrate, and bestow great honor to you should you return”.
This will not be the first time Ghana has made such symbolic gestures of inclusion to our African American counterparts. In 1957, Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, invited prominent African American leaders, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X, to the country’s independence day celebration.
Nkrumah also invited Du Bois to Ghana to work on Encyclopedia Africana three years later. Many other prominent African Americans and other Black people of the Diaspora have made the journey home. Hundreds, if not thousands, have fully repatriated, and many have gained citizenship in Ghana. In 2016, then president, Mahama granted 34 members of the African-Caribbean diaspora full citizenship which made them entitled to every privilege deserving and due any Ghanaian.
Other countries in Africa also have also made great strides in this area.
King of Pop, Michael Jackson, was enstooled as the king of Amalaman Anoh in Krindjabo, a village in the southeastern corner of Ivory Coast. The chief had asserted that Michael was Sanwi royalty and, accordingly, invited him to be crowned king-in-waiting. Apparently, civil rights leader, Jesse Jackson, has been enstooled in Krindjabo since Michael passing.
Are there other African Americans who have been enstooled as royalty in the continent? Perhaps there are but I can’t seem to find a list.
Nevertheless, this moment is worth celebrating by us all!