Washington Park, Chicago Illinois, Saturday July 29 2017: “The African Nation of Ghana was on display right here in Chicago; Traditional dancers were just part of the fun at the 29th annual Ghanafest, including a parade of chiefs, queens and tribal costumes at Washington Park. There were plenty of food; Traditional arts, craft and jewelry brings smiles to all the faces there, even Illinois governor Bruce Rauner got into the Ghana mood by downing some costume clothing to help celebrate a unique culture”. This is how CBS, Channel 2 news, summarized one of the greatest African cultural festivals in the diaspora, Ghanafest, in their reportage!
Ghanafest has over the years become a great annual phenomenon that depicts Ghana’s traditional thanksgiving celebrations and cultural exposition of great significance that showcases the diverse and rich Ghanaian culture to the American public and the world at-large. It is also a day for reaffirming our national unity, identity, pride and brotherhood.
This year’s event was a masterpiece! Kudos to the Ghana National Council of Metropolitan Chicago, GNC, led by Paa Kwasi Sam and the Ghanafest planning committing chaired by Mr. Eugene Frimpong. These guys did a yeoman’s job in the planning, publicity, organization and execution to optimal level. Earlier on Saturday morning, July 29 2017, ABC Channel 7 News televised a footage of previous Ghanafest and a clip of a Chief and Queenmother; and Adowa music and dancing by Akua Agyeman at their studios. This and other promotions over the weeks leading to the festival gave it a huge publicity. When attendees of the festival started trooping in around 230pm, it was quite a scene to observe.
As many attendees that participated in the celebrations were equally quite a number of dignitaries who showed up to grace the occasion. The governor of Illinois Bruce Rauner; Ghana’s Ambassador to the USA, Dr. Barfour Adjei-Bawuah; Deputy Minister of Chieftaincy and Cultural affairs Paul Essien;The Cook County Recorder of Deeds, Dorothy Brown; Former Presidents of the GNC and elders in the community were there to grace the occasion.
In a short speech, Illinois Governor, Bruce Rauner, noted that “Today, the people of Illinois and Ghana celebrate a great culture! Illinois is a place welcoming of people from around the world! God bless you all!” The Governor was presented with a beautiful Ghanaian shirt, made by Alegnaa Fashion House Ltd, Cantonments Accra, (Tel 011233 208139838) and a larg gold necklace.Bruce Rauner attracted rounds of applause from the large audience when he wore the shirt immediately it was presented to him.
The Deputy Minister of Chieftaincy and Cultural affairs, Paul Essien , congratulated the GNC for keeping the Culture of Ghana alive in the diaspora. He asked Ghanaian immigrants to teach their kids the culture and traditions of Ghana. “ You should come home and register when the National Identification Register opens to enable you to vote.” Paul Essien entreated Ghanaian immigrants in the audience!
In his address, Ghana’s Ambassador to the USA, Dr. Barfour Adjei-Bawuah congratulated the organizers for a very good attempt to display the culture of Ghana here in Chicago. This he said, enhances the relationships between Ghana and the United States. Dr. Baffour Adjei-Bawuah told the audience that “We may have our differences but I remind you, Ghanaians we are, and Ghanaians we would be! Continue to forge the unity. We will work hard with you to make sure your concerns are addressed by the government back home.” He continued by telling the audience that President Nana Addo is a good President who has the country at heart and that the president is doing everything possible to address the needs of the country. Baffour Adjei-Bawuah concluded by saying “ We need a new attitude , a new dedication to work hard for the one country we have. Thank you for the gift of the audience. Long live Ghana” . He attended the event with his wife Diana.
The main sponsors of the event, Group Nduom has its President and founder, Dr. Nduom and other executives from Ghana represented at the festival. In a short remark Dr. Nduom said “As far as there is unity amongst you, every year we will support you.” He informed the audience that Group Nduom has an office in Chicago to promote and sell products Group Nduom offers when he said “We are bringing our services in Ghana to you here. SD Mobile Television has an app you can download on your phone and other mobile devices to enable you watch Ghana Television anywhere in the world.” In conclusion, Dr. Nduom said “We want you to patronize the ISF Bank, so that together, we can make it one of the largest banks in the world”
The Clerk of the Cook County Board, Ms. Dorothy Brown, informed the audience that her offices are opened to all immigrants. ” If you have issues or problems with your immigration status, we are there to help you” Dorothy Brown assured the audience.
The President of the Ghana National Council, Paa Kwasi Sam , rallied the community to unity and to the cquisition of a community center for Ghanaian! “Unity in Motion” is our theme for this year’s Ghanafest celebrations and it was the same theme for the Ghana@60 Independence Day celebrations because of our strong conviction to bring members of this community together.” Mr. Sam said.
“At this juncture, permit me to touch on a project which has been dear to our community, but its achievement has eluded us all these years! That is the Ghana House or the Ghanaian Community Center Project. The Ghanaian community has for over 20 years dreamt of acquiring a “Ghana House” which will not only serve as a center to project the culture and heritage of Ghana to the world, but also host functions in the community and bring us all together. My Executives and I want to turn the Ghana House dream into reality! A center which could pay for itself within a short period because of the anticipated heavy patronage should not be residing in our dreams for these many years!” The GNC president continued.
President Sam concluded by saying “Each of us must hold the torch of the Ghanaian culture and heritage in our hearts and minds. But none of us can finish the race alone. We can only achieve our collective destiny with one hand, one generation, one Ghanaian heritage connected. Our chorus hence forth Shall be: “We will not passively experience change. We will make change happen.”
As expected, The newest high-life sensational musician, Joseph Nkrumah Buaben , popularly known as NeroX’s performance mesmerized the audience and instantly became the toast the revelers! The Bɛsabi Band did not disappoint attendees when they took over the stage from 910 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sticking to favorite Highlife, Hiplife, Jazz, Funk, Fusion African, Latin, R&B Cool jazz, Afro-beats Palmwine Music, Reggae, Caribbean and Gospel tunes, the crowd could not help than to dance and sing along joyously!
The healthy competition amongst the various groups constituting the Ghana National Council during the procession of chiefs and Queenmother’s adds grace, elegance and color to the celebrations! This year’s event welcomed new entrants Wor Gbe Dzeke and the new GaManye,Naa Ohui Amachoe Ablade I. We believe the procession of chiefs and queens needs to be given more time. The chiefs and queens must also avoid the tardiness that has characterize or been the Achilles-heel of the festival for years.
The food court drew long queues of people waiting anxiously to buy Ghanaian dishes in such combinations as kenkey, fried fish, shito, Red-red ( fried plantain, cooked-beans and palm oil), Jollof-rice, okro-soup, waatse, omotuo (rice-gun). A Caucasian man who was waiting in the queue was in such a hurry to lay hands on Jollof rice asked if there were other food courts besides the ones lined up to serve the audience! He claims he visited Ghana a year ago!
As anticipated, Ghanafest substantially represents the African Diaspora. Vendors from Mali, Ghana, Sierra Leon, Liberia, Senegal, Tanzania,West Indies and merchants from Chicago’s African American communities made for a blend of cultural history, admiration and entertainment. Festival goers are treated to seemingly endless caches of African fabrics like Kent Cloth custom-made into Dashikis, sashes, hats, head-wraps, shawls and coats for men and women. Vendor tables display assortments of African jewelry such as ankhs, butter and Baltic amber-colored necklaces, wrist bands etc. On display on most Vendors tables were African Art, Crafts and Paintings.
Chicago’s ace Emcees, Jennifer Nartey and Nana Yaw Marfo must be congratulated for the way they handled the program smoothly.
The next Ghanafest is scheduled for Saturday July 28 2018!