By Solomon Crenshaw Jr.
For the Birmingham Times
Paul Amamoo, MD, is a pediatrician—except for the two or three weeks of the year when he becomes an ambassador and a tour guide. The 67-year-old annually takes friends from his hometown of Birmingham to his home country of Ghana, a nation on West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea.
“I take different people, different groups … so they can visit and see the country,” he said.
Amamoo ventures across the Atlantic to maintain a connection with his native land. Moreover, his aim is to enlighten those who take the sojourn with him.
“I do it mostly to introduce people to my homeland, so they can get a better understanding,” the doctor said, noting his first trip in 2011 with school students. “Our kids need to know that there are other things happening around the world outside their little cocoons. It changes their lives.”
And not just the children.
“Adults, when they go and come back, they’re not the same,” he said. “You understand the benefits we have in this country, why some of us made it to this country, why some of us stayed in this country, and how much more we can do for our native land.”
In a sense, Amamoo and others took several people on a figurative trip to his native land recently at the Drums of Apaaso Gala at Birmingham-Southern College, a fundraising event for a school in Ghana. The program featured African drumming and dancing, and the menu included beef stew, chicken stew, jollof rice, white rice, and cabbage stew.
Born Amartey Amamoo (Paul is the Christian name he received when he was baptized), the pediatrician came to Birmingham as a 19-year-old on a scholarship to Miles College in the summer of 1970. To his surprise, he stayed. He knew a little about the city from his study of history and geography in high school.
“But at the age of 19, what do you know?” he said.
Amamoo knew he wanted to pursue a career in medicine, and he enrolled at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Medical School. He got married. He and his wife, Gwen, raised a family. And they stayed in Birmingham.
“It was the first place I visited that the weather conditions were very similar to back home, except for the cold-weather days in the South,” he said. “I almost froze in New York.”
Amamoo has called Birmingham home for 47 years.
“I’m proud to be called an African-American,” he said. “I don’t differentiate myself from anybody who’s born here. I’ve lived here many more years than I lived in Africa. So, what do you call me? I just say I’m African-American and leave it at that.”
To read more about the African community, click here.