Following a Facebook correspondence, 38-year-old former Goldman Sachs associate Walla Elsheikh registered the Birthright AFRICA website name and collaborated with 33-year-old Chicago artist Ashley Johnson. Ghana was their first destination in October, 2016, to explore their cultural roots and the historic and modern legacies of innovation. In partnership with the City University of New York (CUNY), the two went on to finance the 2017 pilot group trip enabling seven scholars of African descent to tour NYC, DC, and Ghana.
Birthright AFRICA and Black Male Initiative
The university’s higher education student support Black Male Initiative has fundraised to make it possible for Birthright AFRICA to fulfill its mission through tours to cultural sites, museums, universities, and partnerships with African descent innovators, specifically targeting Business, Engineering, Technology, Arts, and Sciences (BETAS).
The aim of the program
All BMI students of African descent between the ages of 18 and 30 are eligible to apply for free trips, which include local and national exposure prior to the international trip to Africa, starting with Ghana. This is to effectuate the vision of establishing global leaders and innovative entrepreneurs cognizant of their African heritage, to maintain integration with the African continent.
The West African adinkra symbols Sankofa (meaning ‘go back [to the past] and get it’), Boa Me Na Me Mmoa Wo (‘let’s support each other’), Adinkrahene (‘greatness and leadership’) and Ananse Ntontan (‘spider web’ or ‘networking’) are Birthright AFRICA’s guidelines for upholding cultural roots and legacy of innovation.
Birthright AFRICA is working with the university’s Office of Special Programs for ten scholars to participate in the summer 2018 program. Co-founder Elsheikh is based in New York, while program director Johnson is handling ground operations in Ghana.