‘I know we did not survive MAAFA in vain’ – Niara Africa

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Niara Africa was born Nikki Scott in Dallas, Texas. The international broadcast journalist received her first experience in grassroots organizing by taking part in organizing the Million Man March in 1995. She knew early on in her life that she could not call America her own, and so Israel somehow became an option to escape. However, after enduring “a different kind of racism” in the ‘Promised Land’, her attention was drawn to Ghana following Prez Akufo Addo’s pleas to Diasporans to “come back home”. After four months of living in Accra, she’s ready for the next stage in her life “at home” despite obvious challenges. She’s co-host of The Unbroken Circle, a new podcast/program on Pan African TV. Niara Africa was the esteemed guest at AUCC’s #IndustryInstituteInteraction last Wednesday. Here, excerpts from her conversation with Nana S. Achampong.

About my parents

I was born in Dallas, Texas in 1972. My mother is from Chicago, Illinois and my father is from Natchez, Mississippi. My parents were very young when I was born and were not married. My father was killed in a car accident when I was 2 years old.

Growing up in the “land of the brave and the free”

My mother reared me in Dallas in a very prominent, white community. I was the only Black child in my environment for most of my early childhood years, which was a horrible experience and definitely the deciding factor in my choosing an HBCU (Historically Black College & University). Growing up in a predominately white environment I was the victim of constant racism. Even though my mother made a highly conscientious effort to instill a strong sense of Black pride in me, I was still negatively impacted. Interestingly I did not start off that way. I would say up until the age of 8 or 9 I had a very high self-esteem. But somewhere around the age of 10 that began to wane.

My Education

My mother married when I was in junior high school and we moved. The school I now attended had maybe 2% Black students, none of which were even slightly conscious and definitely not Africa-centered. I will never forget an assignment we had that entailed sharing our ancestry. Which looking back on that now further illuminates the level of disconnect and denial by white Americans. Knowing the history of the United States why would any educator assign such a task to Black children? How could any true educator not take into consideration how children who are the descendants of kidnapped and enslaved Africans would feel coming to school witnessing their classmates share their Irish, Polish, German, etc. ancestry? And the only history we could point to was in America, maybe a great grandparent. The greatest tragedy in this ordeal was the handful of Black students all wrote on their nametags, Indian as their ancestry. I was the only child who wrote African and I remember like it was yesterday, the immense shame that I felt.

Journalism students at the #IndustryInstituteInteraction event at AUCC with Niara Africa on Wednesday

My last year of high school I was determined to attend a school with a significantly larger population of Black students. Although the Black student body was roughly 30%, we had not one Black teacher or administrator. There were not any racial incidents that I can recall from my peers, however there was one incident involving the principal of the school that I will never forget. During a ceremony in the auditorium the national anthem was being sung and I and another Black young woman did not stand. We were forcibly removed from the auditorium and later taken to the principal’s office where we were verbally chastised and told what we did was akin to spitting in our mother’s faces. Quite naturally, I objected. The following day it was the talk of the school, the two Black girls who “refused” to stand for the national anthem.

Attending Texas Southern University was the most enriching experience of my young adulthood. In addition to being the place where I met my husband and father of my 5 children, it was where I developed my consciousness and Pan African identity. I joined the National Black United Front where I received my first experience in grassroots organizing. My most memorable moments involved organizing the Million Man March in 1995 and facilitating the city council election of the former chair of the NBUF-Houston Chapter.

My senior year of college I worked at the university radio station delivering news briefs. I loved it. I also interned at the Fox News affiliate, which I absolutely loathed. This experience was a window into what I would later on encounter in the television industry. As far back as I can remember I have always wanted to be a news reporter.


As a youth I watched 60 Minutes religiously. The Sunday evening newsmagazine was my church. I took Journalism in high school. My instructor told me I was a natural writer. Iola Johnson, the first Black news anchor in Dallas, Texas was my idol. I had all of the drive, passion, and even “look”. What I would learn down the road was what I did not have was the stomach. The stomach to swallow the overt and covert racism, the intra-racial competition because there’s never enough space for more than one Black star. There can be one hundred Barbara Walters’, Diane Sawyer’s and Katie Couric’s but only one Carole Simpson at a time.

with hubby

I landed a position at a Fox News affiliate in Macon, Georgia. I didn’t last long. Not because I wasn’t good. On the contrary. I knew I was good and so did my co-workers. Lesson number one, it’s not about how good you are or how much you know. One incident that stays heavy on my mind was a story that was supposed to run about some teenage white guys who had broken into and vandalized a business. The boys were from an affluent family. A few minutes before the broadcast one of the executives came down to the news room and told us to cancel the story. Lesson number two, there’s no such thing as objectivity in journalism.

After being fired from Fox News I relocated to Atlanta. I was presented with an opportunity to work for CNN. A former co-worker of mine referred me to a friend who was a producer there. I never followed up. I took a break from the industry, married my husband and became a mother. I still maintain parenting is the most important job in the world. While rearing my children I freelanced as a writer.

I finally returned working in my background but in a different capacity. The industry had changed. The world was now completely digital and I was now living in Israel. I spent the next 6.5 years working for a scientific research institute in the public relations and communications department.

I knew early on in life that I did not want to live in America. I never felt like I belonged, always like an outsider. Even today when I go back to visit I feel like a foreigner visiting a foreign land.


Israel was not at all my first, second or any choice of country to live in. But I was in a phase of confusion in my life where I was trying to discover who I was. My husband and I had visited Israel before we married and knowing the law of return which not only allows for Jews from around the world to immigrate to Israel but also assists in that process, Israel became an option to escape from America.

Living in Israel was worse than America in many respects. It’s a different kind of racism. Institutionally and structurally it’s far worse. The neighborhoods are very segregated. The Black population there have yet to break racial barriers in the workplace. Blacks by and large work in domesticated jobs. Israelis have very archaic perceptions of Black people. I was told on more than one occasion Ethiopians were genetically intellectually inferior. There is a widespread belief that Ashkenazi Jews are intellectually superior, hence the sole reason for their elevated position in Israeli society.

Israel has its own unspoken caste system. As a Black from America that position was not fixed as are the Ethiopians and wretched Palestinians. As I like to say, sometimes my Americaness trumped my Blackness. So my family’s position ebbed and flowed depending on where in the country we were and who we were dealing with. Sometimes people assumed we were diplomats, thus the treatment was good. More times than not it was bad, really bad. My children experienced tremendous verbal and physical racial violence. Parents calling us and even coming to our home to complain about our sons assaulting their child was a regular occurrence. It always ended with the revelation of their child initiating the altercation and of course calling my child “kushie” the Israeli equivalent of “nigger”. If white people are nothing else they are consistent and the same wherever you find them.


For years we researched different African countries to relocate to. We had visited Ghana in the late 90’s right after we married. Even though we enjoyed it we were looking for some place different. We checked out Belize, Tanzania and Kenya. Our sites were set on Tanzania until my husband visited. The Indian and Arab presence was far too strong for our liking. Our attention was turned back to Ghana following Nana Akufo’s pleas to Diasporans to “come back home” and false promises of citizenship.

Arrival at Kotoka International Airport, four months ago

After only 4 months of living in Ghana, I can honestly say I have no regrets, despite the obvious challenges. I greatly appreciate the joy of walking out of my home and seeing a reflection of myself every day.

Whatever difficulties I may encounter with my children’s school, I am grateful that not only are all of their teachers Black, something they have never experienced before, but also the principals and of course classmates.

One thing that I have observed since I have repatriated that is great cause for concern is the heavy Chinese presence, something that did not exist the last time I was here. We as Africans continue to repeat the same bad mistake over and over–trading one oppressor for another. I find the direction the government is taking the country in detrimental and on a path towards re-colonization. This pains me.

The Future

But I remain optimistic. I believe Patrice Lumumba’s words will materialize. I believe Africa will write its own history and it will be one that is glorious. I know we did not survive this 3,000 year MAAFA in vain.

Niara “Nikki Scott” Africa <nj27scott@gmail.com> FB: The Unbroken Circle

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