‘Beyond the Return’ has announced that event proposals are being accepted for programs taking place from September through December 2020. After last year’s successful ‘Year of Return’ campaign which included programs, events and festivals, there have been many requests for ‘Beyond the Return’ to have a platform to continue in these activities and provide new ways for the diaspora to continue to connect with Ghanaians through event programs.
“I’m really looking forward to the events this year. Especially the ones that will give back to Ghana through initiatives that seek to serve the local communities like the commissioning of boreholes we saw last year. It will be great to see more events that highlight Ghana’s culture as part of ‘Beyond the Return’ because it will expose diasporans to the diversity and richness of Ghana’s culture and heritage,” said Annabelle McKenzie, Manager of the Beyond the Return Secretariat.
Event proposals are officially being accepted digitally and a separate form must be filled out for each event using the ‘Beyond the Return 2020 Events Submission Forms’ available at www.beyondthereturngh.com. Hard copy submissions will not be accepted. Event organisers should prepare to explain how their programs fit into the ‘Beyond the Return’ initiative and its ability to include both the diaspora and local Ghanaian communities.
‘Beyond the Return’ is a 10-year initiative with the theme ‘A Decade of African Renaissance’ and its foundation is built on seven pillars: Experience Ghana, Invest in Ghana, Diaspora Pathway to Ghana, Celebrate Ghana, Brand Ghana, Give Back to Ghana and Promote Pan African Heritage & Innovation. Each of the pillars is important because it represents an area that ‘Year of Return’ received feedback from the diaspora and the local Ghanaian community on ways to strengthen engagement between our communities. It’s also the opportunity to create programs and events that represent each pillar. The Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) is coordinating the project under the auspices of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture. Other collaborating organisations are the Office of Diaspora Affairs at the office of the President, the Ghana Investment Promotion Center (GIPC) and the Ghana Tourism Development Company.
To learn more about ‘Beyond the Return’ please visit the website www.beyobdthereturngh.com. Please send questions and comments to [email protected] and you can also follow on social media @beyondthereturn.
The official unveiling of the ‘Beyond the Return’ Pillars took place at the National Theatre on 9th September 2020. ‘Beyond the Return’ is a 10-year project with the theme, ‘A Decade of African Renaissance’ and its foundation is built on the seven core pillars which were unveiled during the event which was filled with a colorful display of dance, music and theatrical performances from the National Theatre’s dance ensemble, dramatic actors and the National Symphony Orchestra. Beyond the Return is the follow-up to last year’s successful ‘Year of Return’ campaign, which commemorated the 400-year anniversary of the first documented ship of enslaved Africans to arrive in Virginia, U.S.A.
CEO of Ghana Tourism Authority, Mr. Akwasi Agyeman, is also the Coordinator for the Beyond the Return Steering Committee. In his speech he acknowledged the loss of African American actor Chadwick Boseman, whose unexpected death last month shocked the world. He died after a 4-year battle with colon cancer. The actor played a pivotal role as the lead character in the movie, ‘Black Panther’. The film contributed to changing the narrative of Africa and proving that Black Superheroes and stories of Africa can connect with all audiences. “May I request that we all rise for a minute of silence? One for our ancestors who went through the torturous journey of slavery, two, for our brothers and sisters who have fallen in recent times, especially our brother Chadwick, of Black Panther fame,” said Mr. Agyeman. He also asked that we honour the late Elolo Gharbin, who died recently. He was a Lecturer at the University of Cape Coast and a strong pillar in PANAFEST and Emancipation.
Mr. Agyeman chronicled the beginnings of the Year of Return and stated that this new journey of Beyond the return would have deeper conversations among the global African family. Beyond the Return, will work towards building bridges and creating activities, events and policies that are inclusive and integrate our local community in ways they can connect with our global African diaspora. Most importantly there is work being done to support the diaspora’s needs when it comes to repatriation.
“Each of the 7 pillars being unveiled today touches on the many areas that are key to developing Ghana and providing an environment that supports the diaspora,” said Hon. Barbara Oteng-Gyasi, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture when she delivered her keynote address. She expressed that the Beyond the Return committees are listening and working diligently to address the concerns expressed by the diaspora community, especially when it comes to repatriation. “Ghana is currently developing a homeland return legislation to facilitate various forms of migration and integration into the country for our diasporan kith and kin,” she said. “Ghana as a leader in pan Africanism, through the Homeland Return Act, will offer the opportunity for citizenship to our brothers and sisters.” This is welcome news to all the diasporans who have been asking how they can also become Ghanaian citizens.
The Senior Minister, Hon. Yaw Osafo Maafo, recognized the significance of the Year of Return, as he officially unveiled the pillars for Beyond the Return. “One cannot speak of Beyond the Return without mentioning the Year of Return in 2019, which was a major landmark campaign targeting the Historical African Community outside our continent,” the Senior Minister said. “Over the next decade, the project seeks to consolidate the gains of the Year of Return and grow tourism in the country, showcase its investment potentials and solidify its diaspora engagement programs to promote the African Renaissance.” The seven pillars unveiled during the event are, Experience Ghana, Invest in Ghana, Diaspora Pathway to Ghana, Celebrate Ghana, Brand Ghana, Give Back Ghana and Promote Pan African Heritage & Innovation.
The unveiling of the pillars was a historic event that has kickstarted a new chapter in Ghana’s journey of reconnecting with the global African family.
As announced earlier, passengers went through to COVID-19 tests at the Upper Arrival section of Kotoka International Airport (KIA) where 70 cubicles had been set-up to test passengers for COVID-19. Passengers were seen going through the process smoothly without hitches.
At the main Arrival Hall, the demarcation was also in place to allow for social distancing amongst arriving travelers.
One of the latest addition to the processes at the airport is the introduction of automated Health declaration forms for passenger use. Passengers could be seen keying-in Health details on electronic systems provided as part of the processes.
With these initial flights, it is expected that the numbers will increase stemming from the increase in demand for Ghanaian Visas at some of the Embassies and Consulates for Beyond The Return and December In Ghana.
Also, departing Accra yesterday were two private jets and Tap Portugal Airlines where passengers observed COVID-19 protocols put in place.
At the airport yesterday were members of the Ghana Airports Company Limited Board led by the Chairperson, Madam Oboshie Sai Cofie and officials of the Ministries of Health, Aviation, Ghana Health Service and Ghana Civil Aviation Authority to observe the facilitation process.
Since Ghana’s borders were closed in March, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there have been thousands of people who were in the country on a visit for travel, business or leisure, who have been stuck within Ghana’s borders. Most are hoping Ghana would open soon so they could return to their respective countries. For many, it’s been a scary situation, while for others, it’s actually been more of a safe haven while watching the rest of the world battle with the Covid-19 outbreak.
For African American Entrepreneur and Writer, Rashad McCrorey, what started off as a possible scary situation, has turned into one of the greatest blessings. He had travelled to Ghana earlier this year for business shortly before Ghana confirmed its first few cases of Covid-19. As concerns grew over the danger of this global health crisis, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo made the decision to close the country’s borders. “At first I was scared,” McCrorey said when asked about his initial feelings when the pandemic broke out. “…but I reminded myself that fear is always a sign for opportunity. Once I calmed myself down, I carefully evaluated all my options.” He said he spoke with his mother and some of his Ghanaian associates in the country and he was able to conclude that his best decision was to stay in Ghana. As the United States arranged for repatriation flights back to the U.S., he could have left Ghana, but decided to stay.
McCrorey is from New York City, which was America’s Covid-19 epicentre, at the time he was making the decision to remain in Ghana. As he watched the news and what was happening there he was very concerned if going back there would be a wise decision. “I thought about my health, as I have chronic asthma,” he said. “..and what effects Covid-19 in New York City would have on my lungs.” He is the founder of Africa Cross-Culture, a travel company that specializes in back to Africa trips to Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt, Rwanda and Ghana. Because of the type of business he does, he thought staying would also be a wise business decision. He could better promote Ghana while he was here rather than in lockdown in New York.
“I believed that being an American in Ghana during the pandemic would be a great news story which it has proven to be. Especially considering my circumstances of only planning to be in Ghana for 2 to 3 weeks for business and now entering my sixth month in Ghana and knowing my stay is truly indefinite,” he said. Since being in Ghana during this time, McCrorey has gained media attention from news outlets in America and here in Ghana. He’s been able to give his perspective being an American in a West African country during a global pandemic. He has even become a contributing writer with reputable media outlets in Ghana and abroad.
Originally staying in Accra, he moved to Aburi when the lockdown started and now he’s fallen in love with the Central Region of Ghana and has spent a significant amount of time in Cape Coast and Elmina. He has connected with people in the diaspora community who have settle in the region. He says it feels most like home in the Central Region.
McCrorey said that he has always had a desire to visit Africa and said his late father was a true Pan Africanist. He says the urge to come to Africa started when he was just six years old. “My dad taught me about the great kings and queens of Africa. He taught me the practice of ancestral worship, meditation and thinking outside the box using intuition.” He speaks highly of his father’s influence on him when it comes to the love of Africa. “…anything I accomplish in my role of the African diaspora is attributed to his teachings,” he said.
His trip to Ghana this year is not his first. “Between 2015 to 2018 I had already visited Ghana more than a dozen times,” he said. “When I first heard about the ‘Year of Return’ initiative it was a dream come true. My mission and vision was for black Americans returning to Africa…it was like the completion of my dream coming into reality. Finally, stereotypes about Africa will be debunked by the masses.” During the ‘Year of Return’ 2019, he brought four different tour groups to Ghana with a total of 102 guests. He said that it was good that black Americans now have African tourist destinations and not just the same old non-African places they are used to like Cancun, Dubai and countless other places.
When President Nana Akufo-Addo announced 2 weeks ago that there was a possibility of the borders opening soon, there was a glimmer of hope for travellers stuck both in and out of the country. On Sunday August 30th, the president announced the official reopening of Ghana’s borders by air. Kotoka International Airport will resume operations on September 1, 2020.
When asked his plans once the country opened McCrorey said he will have to be strategic and consider all his options. He said it would depend on what benefits there are in staying in Ghana versus returning home. He suggested the possibility of simply travelling to Egypt from Ghana before even going back to the United States. “I have a long-term plan, but I am also aware that opportunities can come at any time that could extend or cut short my stay,” he continued. Even though he has been deliberate with his time in Ghana, he says the unknown still lies in returning home to the U.S.
President Nana Akufo-Addo, in his sixteenth update on enhanced measures to defeat the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, announced the reopening of the country’s borders by air. After several weeks of thorough work, the president said he was satisfied that it was safe to open. “I’m glad to announce that Kotoka International Airport will reopen and resume operations from Tuesday 1st September 2020,” he said in his address to the nation.
All international airlines have been informed and briefed on the protocols that have been put in place to keep the country’s continued proactive measures against the spread of the virus. It was noted that the first few cases were imported from travellers arriving in Ghana and that the country will remain vigilant to prevent this from happening again.
There have been protocols put in place to maintain Ghana’s dedication to prevent new importations of the virus with the open borders. Any passenger arriving in Ghana must have a copy of a negative Covid-19 PCR test result from an accredited laboratory in their country of origin. They must have completed the test within 72 hours of travel. All arriving passengers in Ghana must we wearing face masks as they disembark, and they will undergo mandatory Covid-19 testing at the airport terminal. The fees for the test would be the responsibility of the passenger. Results would be available within 30 minutes and those who test negative are free to go to their destination and must observe all covid-19 precautionary measures. Those who test positive would be handled by health authorities.
Ghana’s borders have been closed since March leaving many travellers stuck both in and out of the country. There are also several diasporans who had trips planned to Ghana that were cancelled or postponed. Many of them have been anticipating the reopening of Ghana’s borders. The border reopening is welcome news to those who have been anxious to either leave or return to Ghana. The president added that borders by land and sea are still closed to human traffic until further notice.
Ghana has become the latest recipient of the world’s first-ever global Safe Travels Stamp, (formerly safety and hygiene stamp), launched recently by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).
The stamp created by the WTTC in May this year, allows travellers to identify destinations and businesses around the world which have adopted the global standardised health and hygiene protocols.
A statement issued by the WTTC which represents the global Travel & Tourism private sector said the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has welcomed the Safe Travels Stamp, which places the safety and hygiene of travellers as a top priority.
The WTTC President & CEO, Gloria Guevara said: “Our Safe Travels Stamp continues to go from strength to strength and we are delighted to see even more popular countries and destinations from all corners of the world adopt our global health and hygiene protocols.
“The stamp also recognises the introduction of new measures by governments around the world which positively impact the Travel & Tourism sector, and to that end, we applaud the government of Ecuador for implementing new measures at Quito airport.
“The continued success of the WTTC Safe Travels Stamp demonstrates its importance not only to countries, destinations and businesses around the world, but crucially travellers, and the millions of people around the world who work in and depend on, a thriving Travel & Tourism sector.
“The stamp is critical to re-establish consumer confidence in our sector and ensure travellers can rest assured that enhanced standards of hygiene are in place and they can once again experience ‘Safe Travels’.”
Ghana’s Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Hon Barbara Oteng-Gyasi said: “We are delighted with this milestone of a Safe Travels Stamp for Ghana. Since March 21, 2020, when our borders were closed, we have worked on creating a safe environment for our Tourism and Travel practitioners. The protocols we have put in place are borne out of a shared responsibility to create a hygienic and safe destination.
“With the gradual easing of restrictions, we believe these measures will boost confidence in our tourism and hospitality sector. We congratulate the WTTC for instituting these Safe Travels protocols which is a welcome addition to the tourism industry.”
Since the launch of the WTTC Safe Travels Stamp, destination countries and cities, around the world have now adopted WTTC’s new protocols, including holiday heavyweights such as Tunisia, Indonesia, Egypt, Turkey, Portugal, Kenya, Mauritius and Dubai.
As part of its Safe Travels protocols, the worldwide measures provide consistency and guidance to travel providers and travellers about the new approach to health, hygiene, deep cleansing and physical distancing, in the ‘new normal’ of COVID-19 world.
The protocols were devised following the experience of WTTC members dealing with COVID-19 and based on guidelines from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
According to WTTC’s 2020 Economic Impact Report, during 2019, Travel & Tourism was responsible for one in 10 jobs (330 million total), making a 10.3% contribution to global GDP and generating one in four of all new jobs.
The Ghana Health Service (GHS) has written to the management of the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) detailing safety protocols for the resumption of international air travel amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.
Authorities of the health management body say they have identified overcrowding as one of the major factors contributing to the spread of the virus hence the instituted measures to stem the rate of infection during the easing of COVID-19 restrictions on flight travel.
The GHS says in view of this, the Ghana Airports Company Limited must demonstrate it would not be a place for the transmission of the virus.
Key amongst the four measures is for the airport management to ensure that there is no form of congestion at the facility while ensuring strict adherence to social distancing and compulsory wearing of face masks protocols.
Below are the measures the GHS has ordered KIA to put in place:
1. Ensure there is no congestion at all sections of the airport (arrival, departure and environs) to fail adherence to social distancing protocols.
2. Compulsory mask wearing for all passengers (both arriving and departing) as well as staff
3. Temperature monitoring to continue at both arrival and departure terminals
4. Ensure social distancing and compulsory mask-wearing at the car parks and in front of all terminals.
Ghana Health Service is hopeful should these measures be operationalized and strictly adhered to, the potential risk of COVID-19 transmission at the Kotoka International Airport as a result of the reopening of the country’s air border will be minimal.
It has also assured the airport management of its highest form of cooperation to “develop the enabling protocols for ensuring passengers and staff safety.”
According to the president, he has instructed the Ministry of Aviation, the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority and the Ghana Airports Company Limited to work with the Ministry of Health and its agencies, to ascertain the country’s readiness to reopen the airport.
Already, the GHS has said it was engaging various stakeholders to come up with modalities to ensure all persons who arrive in the country are tested for COVID-19 ahead of the possible opening of air borders in September.
Ghana’s air, sea and land borders were closed on Sunday, March 22, 2020, as part of efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
The closure left thousands of Ghanaians who have consistently appealed for help over the last few months stranded abroad.
The President reminded Ghanaians that “special dispensation will continue to be given for their evacuation back to Ghana.”
But the government’s pre-condition for evacuationwas that the stranded citizens bear the full cost of their ticket 14-day mandatory quarantine when they arrive in the country because of the threat of the novel coronavirus.
In some instances, the government has subsidized the cost of travel and quarantine.
Every year, since 1998, Ghana celebrates Emancipation Day with a series of activities that honour leaders of the Pan African movement and celebrate the day when slavery was abolished in most British Colonies on August 1, 1834. This year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and restrictions on crowds and the number of attendees at events, adjustments were made to accommodate and still have significant conversations to learn and grow from our past.
This year, a Virtual Panel Discussion was held on 28th July via the Zoom Webinar platform. Moderated by Aisha Addo, founder of the Power to Girls Foundation, the panel’s theme was Leveraging Our Resilience; Black Lives Matter. The panelists included African American Actor and Activist, Lou Gosset Jr., Pan Africanist, Professor Kojo Yankah, Leader of Diaspora Coalition of Ghana, Rabbi Kohain Halevi, and Author, Lala London.
The conversation’ theme was in response to the ongoing racial protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, who was killed by a Minnesota Police Officer in May. Since then, the Black Lives Matter movement has become a global phenomenon working to topple racist institutions in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Europe. Black people are standing up and speaking out against the institutionalized racism that exists in law enforcement and other systems.
The notion of Africa as home, is becoming a renewed conversation and the pan African movement has been re-awakened. Professor Kojo Yankah, was the former Chairman of the PANAFEST Foundation for over a decade and has been a part of the pan African movement for most of his career. He said that black lives have mattered from early history when the royal African civilization was destroyed by the Greeks. He said that everything about the black person, the African, was destroyed and it continued through the period of slavery. “The culture of the African was further destroyed, not only by getting the Europeans to put their needs on the head of Africans, but they destroyed the humanity of the African….they were successful in getting the African to feel inferior,” he said.
Lou Gosset Jr. is an award-winning African American Actor and Activist. He is he great-grandson of a slave and took a DNA test that revealed he is of Liberian and Sierra Leonean descent. His role in the 1977 miniseries ‘Roots’ catapulted him to stardom. On the panel discussion he shared his sentiments on the first time he traveled to the continent of Africa. “What I heard about Africa, is nothing in comparison to what I saw,” he said. “I could not wait to go back home and be proud to talk about what I found out.” The way Africa is often portrayed, many first-time visitors are surprised by what they see. He suggested therefore it is important for people in the diaspora to make their own journey and see Africa for themselves to break and dispel the myths.
As someone working in the creative industry of film, he also spoke about the roles he has played and how it is part of the narrative. Yankah added that our history did not start with slavery and it is important for our filmmakers and writers to get to work creating our stories, so we are not so narrow-minded.
Author, Lala London, came to Ghana on a visit from St. Vincent and the Grenadines before the pandemic. Like many travelers, she is in the country until borders open. During the discussion, she said, “My own grandfather was the son of a slave….so these issues are really dear to me.” She spoke of how the Black Lives Matter movement affects her directly, having a son who is an African American. “We see what happens every day in a country that is supposed to be the bastion of democracy…where black lives somehow just don’t matter,” she added.
Moderator Aisha Addo asked the panel what actionable steps can we use to drive the concept of unity and moving forward across the diaspora and in Africa? Rabbi Kohain Halevi answered her saying, “I think we need to set a new paradigm for what a model society should be today….we have to surpass the model in current existence…include respect for human rights.” He continued by explaining that slavery was a mental construct that set a mental state in our people and we need to work towards dismantling that before we can think of reconstructing it.
Mr. Gosset said that we need to work on our communication. Being an elder, he said he sees the importance in that now. Unity is perhaps the most important part of progress in the black community both in Africa and the diaspora. Sometimes we see a division between the African Americans and the continental Africans, and we need to bridge the gap. He added that, “We cannot make it unless we add our Africans to the fight.”
Ms. Addo asked for one power statement from the panelists before wrapping up the Virtual Discussion and Professor Yankah give a meaningful response. “Since we are also commemorating Emancipation, I would like to hammer the point made that we need to get all our creative people to now focus on what we have lost,” Professor Yankah said, “…we need themes that unite and revive the consciousness of our people…in terms of being proud of who we are and raising the consciousness of blackness.”
Rabbi Kohian said that during the season of Emancipation we should remember to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery. “If we are not for ourselves, who will be for us?”
Back to the Motherland is a documentary film produced by Pamela Sakyi that explores the steps needed for relocating to Ghana. In the film, she highlights the testimonies of many Ghanaians who are living in the diaspora and embarking on the possibility of moving to Ghana.
The movie was endorsed as an official Year of Return event commemorating the 400-year anniversary of the first documented ship of enslaved Africans to arrive in Virginia. The movie debuted in October 2019 in London. Unfortunately, there were many diasporans who didn’t get the opportunity to watch the film at the time. This is why it’s exciting to announce that this movie is available to stream online worldwide.
In the film Pamela also investigates her own family’s history in the town of Berekum and she aims to learn about the ways she too can migrate into Ghana’s local culture and make her own contribution to the community and Ghana’s economy.
The movie touches on the many conversations people in the diaspora are having after answering the call to ‘return home’ to Africa. The documentary features Dentaa Amoateng MBE, CEO GUBA Enterprise, HE PApa Owusu-Ankomah, High Commissioner to the UK and Ireland and Lorissa Akua of The Only Way is Ghana and Co-Founder of The VillageGH and many more.
The movie is just £2 and you can view it today by signing in using this link: https://gumroad.com/sparklelight.
Three leaders in the Pan African movement, W.E.B. DuBois, George Padmore and Kwame Nkrumah, were honoured in a wreath laying ceremony on July 27th, 2020. This marked the beginning of activities that lead up to the annual celebration of Emancipation Day on August 1st. This year’s theme for Emancipation is, “Our Heritage, Our Strength, with a sub-theme: ‘Leveraging our Strengths; Black Lives Matter’.
The ceremonies took place at the W.E.B DuBois Centre, George Padmore Library and at the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park. Each of these leaders were honoured with a small ceremony at their respective place they have been laid to rest. Notable people present at the ceremonies included the Minister of Tourism Arts & Culture, Barbara Oteng-Gyasi, CEO of Ghana Tourism Authority, Akwasi Agyeman, Director of Diaspora Affairs, Office of the President, Akwasi Awuah Ababio, Chairperson of PANAFEST Foundation, Professor Esi Sutherland-Addy, Head of Missions at Diaspora African Forum, Ambassador Erieka Bennett, Executive Director of PANAFEST Foundation, Rabbi Halevi Kohain, and Author Lala London from Saint Vincent & Grenadines.
Hon. Oteng-Gyasi delivered a heartfelt message during her keynote address at the DuBois centre and welcomed the youth and students who also joined in the event. The minister said that the writings of DuBois and his political philosophies challenged the notion that the black man was inferior. She said that it was no surprise that former President Nkrumah found a kindred spirit in DuBois and that his relocation to Ghana was a clear demonstration of his Pan African beliefs. “The call for African unity championed by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah is as relevant today as it was in the early days of independence,” the minister said.
Four wreaths were laid at each location to honour the three men: from the government of Ghana, traditional authorities, the global African family and the youth of Africa. Due to covid-19 measures in place, the number of attendees at each ceremony was limited and strict measures were adhered to when the wreaths were laid.
After the ceremony at the Dubois centre, a plaque honouring the late civil rights icon, John Robert Lewis was unveiled on the Sankofa Wall at the Diaspora African Forum. Ambassador Bennett said that, “John Robert Lewis dedicated his life to the emancipation of black people around the world.” The memorial wall has the names of people who have made an impact in the movement for black people on the continent and in the diaspora. Bennett said that Lewis kept the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. alive. It was important to honour him. The name of civil rights advocate, Congressman Elijah Cummings, who died last year was also added to the wall.
Prof. Sutherland-Addy spoke to how significant last year was during the Year of Return when people had travelled from all over the world and what a stark difference the energy was this year as the pandemic has limited our interactions. She highlighted how the current climate of racial tensions have forced us to look at the systemic issues affecting black people around the world. She said that during these times we must question the systems and do the things necessary to make us the owners of our own destiny.