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“Being there, it was like a weight was lifted,” Nebraska State Sen. Terrell McKinney describes his trip to Africa

On the west coast of Africa, near the Gulf of Guinea, Nebraska State Senator Terrell McKinney sensed a sensation he rarely experiences in the United States.


“Being there, it was like a weight was lifted,” he said from his seat at Culxr House, a community hub inside the North Omaha district he represents in the Nebraska Legislature. “Whatever sense of alertness I had here, I didn’t have there. I was able to just relax.”

Willie Hamiltion, president of Black Men United, sponsored the senator’s mission to build a sister city link between Omaha and Jameston, a township in Accra, Ghana’s capital. “Giving our kids an identity so they can understand where they came from,” McKinney explained.

However, an intriguing occurrence occurred as McKinney attempted to develop this sister city relationship with Ghana. In addition, he found himself better comprehending his own individuality.

Accra’s metropolitan center, renowned as “Africa’s Capital of Cool,” the pleasant climate, superb restaurants, a vibrant bazaar, and a lively nightlife scene were all reasons for tourists to enjoy Ghana. All of these factors compelled the Ghanaian government to promote “The Year of Return” in 2019, aiming to establish Ghana as the premier destination for Black people worldwide.

However, the Nebraska state senator also had ties to the nation’s past. For instance, he was astounded by tales of the mighty Ashanti Empire fending off the British under the leadership of women.

“You always hear about the warriors in Africa, but you rarely hear about the women,” he said. “The women stepped up in a major way.”

McKinney, who grew up amid North Omaha’s poverty, felt a connection to the Ghanaian people’s suffering. During his stay, the inflation rate rose to over 30 percent. He observed urban poor exhibiting an entrepreneurial spirit and hustler’s mentality. He believes that, for a variety of reasons, African American communities often lack this trait.

“How they address their issues is to get in the street. Let’s make some money in a legal way,” he said. “The people that are not in the best situation aren’t walking around with their heads dropped.”

According to the state senator, the fact that the majority of African nations and African American areas such as North Omaha share consistently low conditions is no coincidence.

“It’s crazy to me that our ancestors come from a natural resource-rich continent, but the people are the most impoverished in the world,” he said while comparing his hometown to Accra.

“Then you look here. Supposed to be in the greatest country in the world, but every Black neighborhood is impoverished and that’s viewed as a coincidence.”

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