"Go back to Africa," a phrase usually conveyed with racist or offensive intent, is one that Eric Martin and Kent Johnson have heard too many times. So much so that they were determined to reclaim the negative connotations surrounding it and reframe it into a more positive proclamation.
The pair are the founders of Black & Abroad, a travel and lifestyle company. Launched four years ago, the Atlanta, Ga.-based company curates "culturally conscious" tours and travel experiences for Black travellers.
Martin and Johnson told HuffPost Canada that they had been doing research around terms used frequently and found that that "go back to Africa" had been used 4,500 times per month online, according to the analytics platform NetBase.
"We wanted to take ownership of the term and show that Africa has plenty to offer, to show people traveling there and having wonderful experiences. We found that media representing Black travellers is often overlooked and we saw this as an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone," Johnson said.
The founders said that with the current U.S. administration's anti-immigrant and anti-minority views and racialized politics, they found that the term was being used more frequently in recent years.
"It's the go-to card for someone who is looking to offend people," Martin said. "The number of people using that term is a lot higher because there's an anonymity to being able to say it now online."
To counter this, Black & Aboard partnered with FCB/Six, a Toronto data-led creative agency to create the GoBacktoAfrica.com website. They also launched the "Go Back to Africa" campaign with a video that starts off by showing hate-fuelled Twitter posts using the phrase, but then reframes them against words and images showing the beauty and diversity of African countries..
Watch "Go Back to Africa." Story continues below.
The campaign, which includes ads on Twitter, YouTube and other digital advertising, drives viewers to the website GoBacktoAfrica.com. The campaign highlights each one of Africa's 54 countries then invites viewers to "See themselves there."
Martin said they use AI technology to source social media posts from folks traveling on the continent in real time and compile them on the website, enabling these images and posts to be viewed on a single source outlet.
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"That way we can show ourselves on the continent enjoying the 54 countries and create a place where our memories extend beyond ourselves and where our communities can grow, which will help shift the negativity around 'going back," Martin said.
"It's extremely important for us to have people recognize that Africa is not some wasteland. There's been years and years of the same narrative being pushed down our throats about Africa being a place of diseases and political upheaval and all sort of situations that would deter you from going but I think what people need to take away from this is that Africa is a place where everything started and it's a continent worth exploring," he added.
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