In this Saturday’s episode of Talk To Al Jazeera, five-time Grammy nominee Akon tells Folly Bah Thibault that African-Americans should acknowledge “the rights… and the blessing they do, you know, have actual access to.”
Last year, the killings of Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Ferguson led to protests against police brutality targeting African-Americans.
When asked if he sympathized with the protesters, Akon said he could understand their frustration as “the system in America was never built for black people.”
But Akon added, “I don’t want to speak too much for them, because I think I might have some knowledge they might not quite have, because I’m in the position where I have experienced Africa and I’ve experienced the United States. I always felt like Africa was for Africans. So when I see African-Americans in America dealing with all these issues, my first question is: ‘Why don’t they just go back home… Back to Africa.’”
Born in America but partly raised in Senegal, Akon tells Folly, “In Africa, the way I grew up, let’s just pick a [housing] project in New York, for instance: that’s a five-star hotel compared to the environment I came up in… They actually get money from the government, there actually are programs that help the impoverished and the poor, and you get food stamps. I mean, they have it good, compared to Africa, you follow… If these groups were to be taken from the environment where they are now to the same ‘equal’ environment in Africa, they would be crying to come back to America.”
He says African-Americans should put their challenges in perspective by visiting Africa as tourists. “How many African-Americans do you know actually consider Africa as a vacation spot?… Even, just for knowledge, just to know where they came from, just to get an idea of what that is. There is so much fear instilled in them that they wouldn’t even want to go there to visit. You mention Africa, they start shaking.”
Akon, who has sold over 40m albums and had 45 Billboard Hot 100 songs, also speaks about his charity work in Africa; his views on Band Aid 30’s recent Ebola fundraising single; whether he’s a misogynist; his investments in Africa; and his upcoming five-part album, Stadium, which he says will be out in 2015.