Address By Jerry John Rawlings at GhanaFest 2006

Source: Archives Ghana National Council Of Chicago.


Address by Guest of Honour at Ghanafest 2006 Organized by the City of Chicago and the Ghana National Council of Chicago on July 29, 2006.

Chicago,USA, July 29 (Chicago Defender) — It has been six years since J.J. Rawlings ended his reign as president of the Fourth Republic of Ghana, but when the flight lieutenant appeared Saturday at GhanaFest in Washington Park, many of the more than 1,000 greeted him with enthusiastic cheers.

As he emerged from a limousine provided by Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan – a longtime friend – the former president greeted his countrymen now living in Chicago as they were all back in their native land. The city is home to about 25,000 Ghanaian immigrants.

Dressed in traditional garb, many of the native Ghanaians spoke fondly of Rawlings, saying his resolve led them well through the difficult years of economic renewal and his strong character allowed them to regain their self-respect and national pride.

Rawlings’ administration (1979-2000) is regularly referred to as Ghana‘s “period of rebirth”, as he was the common denominator behind the country’s positive social and political changes.

Farrakhan spoke of his relationship with the former president before Rawlings took the microphone.

“When I went to Ghana, he knew that I came to help solve problems, not create them. I love and admire him. He’s done so much for Ghana,” Farrakhan said.

As the fest’s guest of honor, Rawlings spoke with intensity to his fellow Ghanaians about taking pride in their cultural traditions.

“We each have a duty to ourselves and to our children to celebrate our heritage and cherish its values,” Rawlings said. “But we must also respect the cultures of others.”

Before proceeding on with his speech, he could not help but comment on Chicago’s weather, “You’d think we’re back in Ghana, it’s so hot and humid.”

Rawlings said it was heartwarming to be a part of the celebration and he was happy to see a great number of children and young adults in the crowd.

“This celebration is evident of its golden ornaments and Kente colors. This helps keep our heritage alive,” he said.

Rawlings, who earlier in the day spoke at the weekly meeting of Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.’s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition meeting, advised the community to avail themselves to the many opportunities around them by working hard, staying focused and staying united as a community. He also warned them to not forget the many people that are suffering as a result of global wars and poverty.

He also touched on today’s trends and youths.

“Language has evolved from ‘I want’ to ‘I need’ to ‘I don’t care how I get it,’” said Rawlings, who currently serves as the United Nations Eminent Person for International Volunteerism. “This just isn’t enough. We as parents need to be more aware and involved. Our society will become more selfish and immoral. We have a duty to instill pride and integrity.

“As we celebrate today, we must be proud of who we are. It’s the only way to keep our heritage alive.”

After speaking, Rawlings sang a couple of songs in his native language and joined the crowd at center stage dancing, shaking hands and posing for pictures.

GhanaFest, organized by the Ghana National Council of Metropolitan Chicago, educates the Ghanaian-American youth and community about its culture. Ghana was the first Black African nation to win independence from Britain in 1957.

“We want to teach people about our culture. We are here to bring Ghana to your doorstep,” Reuben Hadzide, president of the Ghana National Council, told the Defender.

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