In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, legendary musician Stevie Wonder said he plans to leave the U.S. for Ghana, explaining that he wanted himself and his family to live in a place where Black people didn’t have to fight for respect.
“I don’t want to see my children’s, children’s children have to say, ‘Oh, please like me. Please respect me. Please know that I am important. Please value me.’” he said.
Wonder said in the recently-aired November interview for The Oprah Conversation that he hoped he could experience the country “smile again” before he leaves, mourning the nation’s evils and urging it to atone.
“For those who are most responsible, come on. Get into good trouble and do the right thing,” he said.
He later performed the song “Love’s in Need of Love Today” and discussed new music he collaborated on in 2020: “Can’t Put It in The Hands of Fate” featuring Rapsody, Cordae, Chika, and Busta Rhymes, and “Where Is Our Love Song” featuring Gary Clark Jr. — all anthems for justice and change.
A clip from the episode shows Wonder discussing the current tensions and racist history of the U.S.
“It feels more dangerous than ever before,” he said. “The thing that has happened, unfortunately, is we have a nation that is not respected by other nations as it used to be. We allowed love to go out and negativity to come in. What’s that all about?”
Wonder has expressed in the past his desire to move to Ghana and has visited many times. In 2020, Ghanaian politicians urged African Americans “to come home,” welcoming them into a country. In 2019, the country recognized the 400-year anniversary of the first slave ship reaching America through a tourism campaign called the “Year of Return.” According to the Washington Post, the Ghanaian government has set aside 500 acres of land, waiving survey and registration fees for members of the African diaspora (people who are living displaced from their original homeland).
While Ghana became independent from British rule in 1957, echoes from its colonial past still remain. The Ghanaian civil liberties group, the Economic Fighters League said 20 people died from police brutality in the country in 2018. A colonial-era law in Ghana criminalizes homosexuality. In a July report by the Post, activists said the law allows space for frequent discrimination and harassment. This week, police in the country shut down the office of an organization that supports LGBTQ people. Still, the country hopes to offer a more welcoming home for Black Americans who feel unsafe in the U.S.
As for the significance of Wonder making his announcement, and why it struck a nerve with so many, it’s all due to his legacy. He isn’t just a 25-time Grammy award-winner who has written countless iconic songs — he’s also an activist. He played a central role in advocating for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday to be a federal holiday, an 18-year-long fight that spanned from King’s death in 1968 to the holiday finally being recognized in 1983.
In the past year, Wonder has been similarly vocal, condemning the reductive phrase “all lives matter” and continuing to push for progress. In a June 2020 video titled “The Universe Is Watching Us,” Wonder urged the nation to take action, vote and commit to atoning for the sins of the country.
“Black lives do matter,” Wonder said. “This is not another digital viral trend moment or hashtag. It is our lives, literally. Yes, all lives do matter. But they only matter when Black lives matter, too. You know, it’s a sad day when I can see better than your 2020 vision. The universe is watching us … I’m talking about you, I’m talking about me, I’m talking about every single body.”