The current refugee crisis affecting people across the globe, from those fleeing to the citizens receiving them, remains an issue of debate and conversation among both American and global citizens. The Star Tribune, citing data from the US Department of State, details how Minnesota is one of the top states in the country in accepting refugees and providing services to help build new lives. The original article I found (on Pinterest)from Muslim Heritage talks about noted 14th century historian al-Umari and his account of travels taken by King Abubakira II, the brother of Mansa Musa. At a time of great debate and discussion regarding immigration and refugees, I found both of these articles important in showing how places like Minnesota accept and embrace newcomers and to remind us all that people have been travelling to the Americas long before Europeans thought to set sail.
For me, the issue raised is that of immigration and the acceptance of a home country to foreign friends. While the history of former King Abubakira II is still being uncovered, archaeological evidence shows that gold spear tips found in South America can be traced to West Africa. We also have the stories of the Griots, West African historians, who have until recently remained quiet on the subject of their former king due to their shame at his actions. But we have accounts of Africans trading and living peacefully in the Americas prior to Christopher Columbus’ voyage, both from oral history and the words of Columbus himself. Immigration has long been a part of the history of mankind, indeed many of us would not be here if it were not for the travels of our ancestors. The idea that this process has been occurring for millennia and, prior to European interference at least, was relatively peaceful can remind us our origins and prompt us to embrace those who have made the journey across vast oceans – whether it was 10,000 years ago or yesterday.
While Abubakira II and his men who traveled the seas weren’t refugees but willing sailors looking to explore new lands, they are representative of the journey that many men, women and children have made since the beginning of mankind: the search for knowledge, safety and a place to call home. As Minnesotans, we can be proud of our willingness to embrace immigrants in the welcoming way that those in 14th century North/South America welcomed weary travelers from places like West Africa and Mali.