Some Africans in the diaspora and a cross section of Ghanaians defied the cold weather and intermittent showers of rains that was characteristic of most evenings in Cape Coast, to hold a vigil in memory of former slave ancestors.
Christened “Reverential Night”, the solemn ceremony is held at the Cape Coast Castle on July 31 every year to herald the commemoration of the Emancipation Day on August 1 at Assin Manso, a section of the former Slave Corridor in the Central Region.
This year’s Emancipation Day celebration which is the 18th since its inception in the country was on the theme: “Our Heritage, Our Strength,” with the sub-theme: “Empowering Our Youth through Pan African Culture.”
The vigil was preceded by a candle light procession from the Mfantsipim School junction to the castle by the Africans from the diaspora, clad in white, after they had gathered around a bonfire amidst singing to fire up the spirit of the evening.
The procession was welcomed at the Castle gate by the Paramount Chief of Oguaa Traditional Area, Osabarima Kwesi Atta II and other chiefs in the traditional area and thereafter led some selected participants into the male dungeon for a wreath laying ceremony.
Wreaths were laid on behalf of nananom, government, diaspora and the youth after which seven candles were lit in memory of those who perished in resistance, capture, rebellion and struggle of African liberation and emancipation.
Intermittent showers of rain nearly marred the rest of the ceremony at the castle forecourt, as the congregation had to relocate twice, carrying their chairs, until the organisers finally settled on the “Palaver Hall” in the castle as new venue.
The rest of the ceremony was characterised with indigenous and choral music from some choirs, dance by cultural ensembles and other groups from the diaspora, spoken word and speeches from various dignitaries.
In a speech read on her behalf, Mrs. Elizabeth Ofosu-Adjare, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts recounted the slave trade and the uncertainty that engulfed Africans after the declaration of emancipation.
Citing the recent shootings of Africans in American and other countries, she expressed worry that decades after the declaration of emancipation, Africans in the diaspora were still discriminated against, stressing that black lives matter.
She said the celebration of emancipation day should remind Africans to unite as one, be each other’s keeper while urging Africans in the diaspora to invest in the continent to create jobs, reduce poverty and solve other problems the continent was facing.
Osabarima Kwesi Atta II in a welcome address challenged Africans to move beyond the commemoration of emancipation every year and actually take action as the celebration would be meaningless if Africans continue do what foreign countries deem right.
He said instead of making the celebration an annual talk shop, Africans should let the world know they were really free and could take their own decisions and while expressing worry over the incident he indicated the need for Africans to let the celebration reflect in their lives.
Professor James Small, a Pan-Africanist said some African leaders had missed the mark in the ancestral instructions and this had led to some frustrations on the continent and that if ancestors were willing to give their lives for the continent, they should build on their efforts.
He said every act done by the ancestors was in the DNA of Africans and they should revisit their history and identity, unite and develop the continent and this he said would be possible if Africans decide to be Africans and adopt the spirit of principles.
The vigil organised by the Ghana Tourists Authority under the auspices of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts and the Pan-African Historical Theatre Festival (PANAFEST) Foundation, recorded an unimpressive turn out as compared to previous years, The Ghanaian Times observed.
From Jonathan Donkor, Cape Coast