Citizens of Ghana living in Minnesota have called for togetherness as they marked the day the west African country broke free from British rule 65 years ago.
The event, which was held Saturday in the city of Mounds View, was organized by the Ghana Council of Minnesota (Ghacom), a coalition of eight Ghanaian immigrant organizations based in the state.
“We are here to acknowledge and celebrate ourselves and our history,” said Rose Adofo Anthems, the emcee of the event. “By coming together in remembrance of our independence, we build a sense of togetherness that is so desperately needed in our community.”
On March 6, 1957, Ghana became the first African country to gain independence from European colonial rule. The day is celebrated not only by Ghanaians in Ghana and abroad, but also pan-Africanists worldwide, who see the day as catalyst in the struggle to free the rest of Africa from European colonialism.
“At long last, the battle has ended, and thus Ghana, your beloved country, is free,” Kwame Nkrumah, proclaimed in a memorable midnight speech, shortly before he began to serve as the country’s first post-independence prime minister.
But it was Nkrumah’s conclusion to that speech that endeared him to Black freedom fighters on the continent and beyond.
“Our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with total liberation of the African continent,” Nkrumah said.
Dr. Kofi Mensah, a member of the Ghanaian Association of Minnesota, said he carries the vivid memories of the first Independence Day celebrations.
“For me, Ghana’s independence is personal,” Mensah said. “I remember being eight years old and parading in celebration on that day many years ago.”
Mensah immigrated to Canada on a scholarship to study engineering at the University of Guelph. He later married and moved to the United States, where he obtained his doctorate in food process engineering from the University of Ohio. After years of working, he is now retired and dedicated to serving Ghanaians here and back home in Africa.
The celebration and Mounds View Community Center featured a night of music, food, and entertainment, with a theme of “Building a Strong and United Community with a Voice.” Daniel Ofori-Som said uniting through cultural celebrations was crucial for communities and the generations to come.
“It used to only be the Ghana Association of Minnesota under Ghacom, but we’ve expanded to include 7 other local groups because we believe we are better together,” Ofori-Som said.
Cultural gatherings and positive promotion of the nation was the key to a thriving Ghanaian Diaspora, Ofori-Som said, warning that he had witnessed the detrimental effects of communities that did not unite to preserve their culture.
“If you don’t maintain your roots, in three generations your identity will be forgotten,” he told the audience. “I’ve seen what happens when we move to the US and don’t maintain the village mentality. I’ve seen children get into drugs and other bad activities. However, if we promote unity, we can curb this.”
Ofori-Som shared some of Ghacom’s goals to support Ghanaian youth, including growing their resources for a collective scholarship fund and establishing a network of mentors.
Mensah, the retired engineer, agreed that it was important for Ghanaians to preserve their heritage. One way to do that is by maintaining a constant link between the homeland and the Diaspora. That’s what he has been doing in his free time, he said. Mensah said he has established a foundation to support the development of schools in Ghana. He recently returned from the country for a progress report on one of his projects, he said.
“Right now we are updating toilets in schools,” he said. “I love that I get to improve these facilities for students.”
Additionally, Mensah is on the board of Educational Pathways International, a Nevada-based nonprofit organization that gives financial aid to college students in Ghana. Mensah’s duties include reviewing and evaluating scholarship applications, he said.
“It is a great feeling to know that you are giving a student a chance—that you are helping to make their educational dreams come true,” he said.
Mensah said that engagement with the home country has to extend beyond education to creating employment for the youth. He has been using his experience as a food processing engineer to help a former college classmate to establish a shea butter processing plant in Ghana, a business project he said he’s very optimistic and excited about.
“I love using my food processing background to help Ghanaians achieve great things,” he said.