Thursday, April 5, 2007
By: Marcia Ashong
Thousands of Ghanaians and well-wishers stood in silence at the capital of Accra on that faithful hot day of March 6th, 1957, as the thunderous speakers of the independence square blurted out the famous words of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, “Ghana, your beloved country is free forever,” he shouted. The jubilant crowd roared in response. Nkrumah, the founding president of what is now the republic of Ghana, was the hero of the day. Many listened and hung on to his words as if their lives depended on it, as though they had been waiting for that moment all their lives, and in so many ways they had.
Ghanaians in the Diaspora joined in the celebrations to mark their country’s golden jubilee. On March 10th, 2007, the Chairman of The Council of Ghanaian Associations of The Washington Metro Area (COGA) Mary Damaoh, conveyed to a crowd of over seven hundred at Howard University, the importance of Nkrumah’s speech. “We became politically free forever,” she shouted.
“We preferred self-government with danger to servitude in tranquility, quite a bold and courageous resolve, but we did it,” she said, as the crowd nodded and cheered in agreement, she then went on to thank special guests.
COGA hosted the dinner and dance with the Ghanaian Ambassador to the United States Dr. Kwame Bawuah-Edusei a special guest. The celebrations were aimed at allowing Ghanaians in the Tri-State area (Maryland, Virginia and D.C) the opportunity to celebrate their country’s independence in high-style. High-style, was perhaps an understatement for there was excitement in the air and attention to detail in attire was indication that many had planned months, or perhaps even years ahead for this moment. The dominant attire of choice was Kente, a traditional woven cloth of Ghana which is easily identified by its dazzling, multicolored patterns of bright colors, geometric shapes and bold designs. The second favorite of the night was a special 50th anniversary cloth specially designed in Ghana, while some just simply came in western formal wear. Undoubtedly, the amalgamation of traditional and non-traditional attire allowed for a wonderful display of style and color.
As guests seated themselves at round carefully decorated dinner tables, a parade of local Ghanaian royalty was ushered in adorned with gold jewelry displayed from top to bottom, accompanied by talking drums and huge gold rimmed umbrellas, several non-Ghanaian watched in amazement as they paraded in and took their assigned seats.
Later, the United States Army was invited in and marched across to the front of the hall where the crowd respectfully stood as first, the U.S, and then, the Ghanaian anthem filled the loud speakers of the hall. Almost as if by chance everybody in the crowd blurted out the last words of the Ghanaian anthem “and help us to resist oppressors rule with all our strength and might forevermore”, followed by a huge roar in the crowd, the party then began.
“We are here to celebrate 50 years of independence, and we are going to do so by having fun,” a guest shouted, as the DJ instinctively selected crowd pleasers from the famous high-life era such as ‘Adwoa Yanki’ and ‘Sika Nye Moja’. What sets high-life apart is its unique ability to grab a crowd’s attention with one note, a momentum that lasts through a whole song. High life music has an incredible fusion of African roots and western beats allowing for an exclusive sound. On this night, Ghanaian revelers were proud to dance to the glory of a genre of music they helped make successful. It is not just the music that sets high-life apart, but also the rhythmical dance that accompanies it, a wonderful mixture of medium paced bodily movement, using the hands as a guide to the movement of the rest of the body, a routine many on this night had mastered years ahead.
As the servers started rolling in with the three-course dinner, the DJ toned down to an African jazz mix, allowing the ambassador, Dr. Bawuah-Edusei to take to the podium to address guests. The ambassador, a former physician at nearby Greenbelt Medical Center in Maryland, reiterated the importance of sustaining the independence dream.
“The euphoria of Ghana’s independence had a ripple effect across Africa,” he said concluding that Ghanaians should be proud of such legacy, but also urged all in the Diaspora especially those in the U.S to ensure that the vision of Ghana’s founding fathers is sustained and rationality kept at the fore-front of all endeavors.
The ambassador’s address was a continuation of theme of President John Kufuor’s speech four days earlier at Independence Square in Accra as he led Ghanaians and heads of states and governments from around the world in celebrating the golden jubilee. In his address, president Kufuor said: “as we celebrate fifty years of independence and sovereignty, it is worthwhile to remind ourselves that freedom is a living flame to be constantly fuelled and not a monument to be saluted and revered occasionally. Ghana’s freedom, indeed, Africa’s freedom must be an eternal flame to be continually fuelled by all our governments and peoples, because it defines our humanity.”
The evening in Washington continued with the DJ mixing high-life for the older crowd and hip-life for the younger crowd.
Mr. and Mrs. Affortue residents of Virginia where pleased to have come to the event and spent the night dancing to the sound of high-life, “This is what I call music,” said Mrs. Affortue, “this event is a rare treat.”
In Minneapolis, clad in traditional regalia, the chair of the Ghanaian Association in Minnesota, Kwami Ahlelegbe, was enthusiastic about the progress that Ghana has made in the last fifty years. While he credited founding fathers for their role in developing and shaping their country’s destiny, Ahlelegbe cautioned Ghanaians at being complacent in advocating for further development.
“It is our duty as a new generation of Africans to set our destiny. Our past leaders have played their role, it is our turn. “
The guest speaker, Benjamin Kodjo Taylor, a renowned entrepreneur, echoed Ahlelegbe’s sentiments. He encouraged Ghanaians in the Diaspora to consider taking the risk of investing in Ghana as market risk is similar in all parts of the world. Taylor challenged the current Ghanaian administration to take on development projects such infrastructure development, health and nutrition and economic growth among other things.
“What role will you play in the future of Ghana?” he posed to his audience.