The 19th annual Ghanafest celebrations in Chicago lived up to the pre-event hype publicity as invited guests, attendees, vendors and members Ghana National Council, GNC, openly admitted that this year’s festival is the best organized and most successful in years’. The success story of Ghanafest 2007 was no surprise to Chicagoans who witnessed the best Independence Anniversary Celebrations organized by the Ghana National Council here earlier this year!
Excellent organization, good coordination, good communication, hardworking and dedicated executives, a supportive Community and a picture perfect weather produced the biggest and best African Cultural Exposition in North America last Saturday, July 28 2007.
Among the estimated 20,000 attendees were Honorable Dr.Papa Kwasi Nduom, out-going Minister for Public Sector Reform and MP, Honorable Ignatius Baffour Awuah, Brong-Ahafo Regional Minister, Mr. Chuck Bowens, former Special Assistant to the Mayor of Chicago, representatives from the Governor of Illinois and the Mayors Office of Special events, Dr. John A. Awah, CEO of Korle-Bu Medical Group in Chicago and Keynote Speaker, Members of the Ghanaian traditional council represented by Chiefs, Queens and Elders,Mr. John Abbeyea, former Vice-President of the GNC, Mr. Eddie Quartey, former Chairman of the GNC and Chairman of Ghanafest 2007, Mr. and Mrs. Berko Akoto of the African Spectrum, Alhaji Bashiru Habib, former Executive Member of the GNC, and Mr. Ernest Oware , elder in the Ghanaian Community.
As advertised earlier, Ghanaian Hip-Hop Sensation, Cell-Fis, displayed outstanding talent as he rapped his way into the hearts of most revelers, especially the youth. His short but splendid performance appears to have lured many to seek his autograph before corporate America lures him away from the reach of our community! Papa Shee and Steve Kelly endeared themselves to the Chicago crowd so well that, the organizers of next year’s Ghanafest would be tasked to bring them to Chicago for an encore! Papa Shee was an instant toast of the crowd with his style of randomly involving the crowd in the rendition of his previously recorded songs.
The Adowa and the Borborbor cultural dancers were splendid to watch as their dancing were more coordinated and better this year. The new addition of “waist twisting and arm wiggling” Agbadza dance performaned by the Ewe Youth, won them many admirers.
The usual procession by the Chiefs, Queens and their royal courts and followers was very competitive and fun. The newly elected or crowned Chiefs and Queens were as Royal and Majestic as their Veteran counterparts. In the absence of palanquins, some members of the Chiefs and Queens entourage resulted to lifting up the Royal highnesses amidst wild jubilations by their followers and the expectant crowd.
In the keynote address, Dr. John Acquaye-Awah praised the Pan-African Ideology of the late and first president of Ghana,Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. Dr. Awah cautioned that, amidst the jubilation, high hopes and expectations about the discovery of oil in Ghana, Ghanaians must take cue from other oil producing countries. He referred to the Nigerian experience where the oil wealth has not brought any positive impact in the lives of the ordinary Nigerian.
In a statement to the gathering, Honorable Dr. Papa Kwesi Nduom noted that former president of Ghana, Mr. J.J Rawlings said in New York a few years ago that, Ghana was ready to take-off and that our country was not going backwards. Current President Mr. J.A Kufour also declared the Golden Age of Business and promised to lead Ghana into the ranks of middle income countries with a per capita income of $1000.00 in a decade. Ghana is better today than in 1992.”
Dr. Nduom noted that two factors that have prevented the Ghanaian economy from taking off are excessive partisan politics and giving the economy to foreigners. Partisan politics kills initiative, is winner-takes-all, it is politics of patronage, it is politics of exclusion and it encourages corruption;Dr. Nduom lamented to the gathering. Dr. Nduom was emphatic that foreign investors has failed the country and that government must have a firm and aggressive policy of domesticating the economy. “We must put the Ghanaian at the center of the private sector in Ghana. It is the job of government to prepare its people and give them the necessary opportunities to overcome inexperience. Domestic industries that export products abroad are what we need to break out the poverty because they provide sustainable jobs and living wages and salaries” the Honorable and outgoing Minister of the Public Sector Reform vehemently stated.
Dr. Nduom advised the mostly Ghanaian immigrant audience, “You help the Ghanaian economy in many ways with the funds you transfer every year to support relatives, to build houses and start businesses. This is much appreciated. But I want you to do more. If our economy is to take-off; if we are to reach the Golden Age of Business; if Ghana is to become Africa’s nation of destiny where its people are free and prosperous; you must help us free our minds and hearts of negative and excessive partisan politics. You must, yourselves, not indulge even as you are here in the type of partisan politics and ethnic associations that exclude others to the detriment of the entire Ghanaian community. You must talk to your friends and relations back home of the need to elect competent leaders who will give opportunities based on merit. Think of Ghana First”
In conclusion Dr. Nduom confidently said, “I believe in inclusiveness-because in all we do as a people, whether in government or the private sector, the results affect all of Ghana and not certain ethnic groups or political parties. I believe in merit-because that is how a nation achieves a strong competitive spirit. Most of all, I believe in Ghana and Ghanaians-because wherever we have been given the opportunity in the world, we have excelled”.
The Minister of Brong-Ahafo Region of Ghana, Honorable Ignatius Baffour Awuah asked Ghanaians in the diaspora to contribute to the development of their motherland. He challenged the diasporians who has benefited in one way or the other from their country to give back to Ghana.
On behalf of the hard working GNC Executives, the President, Mr. Reuben Hadzide used the occasion to thank the Ghanaian Community for the opportunity to serve them. Reuben proudly mentioned some of the accomplishments of the current executives as giving voice to the affiliate organizations by passing an amendment for a three fourths majority of member affiliates to be present to form a quorum. “We ALSO passed an amendment that put term limits on the office of the presidency! Before our assumption of office, awards were given to individuals based on personal knowledge and no specific guidelines to guide the selection process. We have streamlined the process with the establishment of a committee for oversight of awards, publication of clear cut guidelines, a nomination procedure, and a fair and impartial selection process. Ghanafest has been attracting more patronage and publicity than in previous years.” Reuben Stated.
In conclusion, the President of the Ghana National Council stated “Ladies and Gentlemen, when painting there is a point where you must step away from the canvas, put down your paint brushes and acknowledge that your work is complete. Anymore brush strokes, would take away credit and essence. We would like to take the opportunity to inform you that it is time to put away the brushes , fold the canvas, clean out the studio and get it ready for the next group of artists . It is our fervent hope that you will continue to give the necessary support to any new leadership that emerges to take over this most thankless, voluntary and sacrificial job. Fellow Ghanaians in Chicago, continue from where we are leaving off with energy and hope, with faith and discipline, and keep on to work until our work is done. The scripture says, and let us not be weary in well-doing, for in due season, we shall reap, if we faint not.”
The celebrations itself substantially represents the African Diaspora. Vendors from Ghana,Mali, Nigeria, Liberia, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Bulkina Faso, Tanzania,West Indies and merchants from Chicago’s African American community made for a blend of cultural history, admiration and entertainment.
Festival goers were treated to seemingly endless caches of African fabrics like Kente Cloth custom-made into Dashikis, sashes, hats, head-wraps, shawls and coats for men and women. Vendor tables displayed selection of African jewelry such as ankhs, butter and Baltic amber-colored necklaces and wrist bands. Ghanaian dishes served by member organizations of the Ghana National Council in such combinations as kenkey, fried fish, shito, Red-Red (combination of fried plantain, cooked-beans and red palm oil), Jollof-rice, okro-soup, waatse, omotuo (rice-gun) was a lasting mouth-watering experience for patrons. On display on most Vendors tables were African Art, Crafts and Paintings.
Attendants were as diverse as the assortment of delicacies served and art and crafts on display. A white American Lady, 34-year-old Joyce Agyekum,, whose husband is a Ghanaian, was visiting the festival for the second time from Dallas, Texas . She heard of the festival from friends.
Christine Williams, a Caucasian, from Lisle Illinois, has been attending Ghanafest every year since she stumbled into the celebrations 19 years ago was there was again present this year.I spoke to you last year, yep, I am here again and this is number nineteen, she says with some pride. What I like about it is that you discover traditions, good food and enjoy yourself with good music,she repeated. I stumbled into, Joseph Peterson, an African-American from New York I met last year visiting for the first time. Last year I promised you to count on me to be back, I love it, my warmest thanks to the organizers for a well organized function again this year.He was visiting this time with his family! I did not meet Tay Agbozu from Italy this year but I met a one guy from Italy, a few from Britain, a lot more from the United States. The largest groups from the USA were from Indiana, Cleveland, Atlanta, Ohio and Michigan. Majority of the visitors learnt of the festival ON Ghanaweb.com. There were many newcomers I met this year. One South African, Mr. Anthony Goodson and his family heard of the festival from friends.
The much publicized Ghanaian Kente weaver from Ghana did not show up to the disappointment of many patrons Ghana Home Page spoke with.
Amongst award recipients this year were; Mr. Kwasi Yeboah, Brong-Ahafo Association and Mr. John Kofie,Fante Benevolent Society,the were given Service Honor Awards; Mr. Charles Nimmoh Ntiamaoh-Mensah (Mr. CNN), The Black Heritage Award; whilst the Past President’s award went to Alhaji Tijanie, of Haske Society.His award was reived on his behalf by his daughter. MoneyGram International was honored for its continued support of activities in the Ghanaian community here.
The Brong-Ahafo Associating (BA) used the occasion to present Meritorious Award to Dr.Gabriel Amoateng-Boahen for his recent sucessful graduation in Doctorial Studies. The BA Association also presented an Appreciation and Historic award to Honorable Ignatius Baffour Awuah, for attending Ghanafest 2007.
MoneyGram International was the main Sponsor of the event.