Celebration of Black History Month can boost Beyond the Year of Return agenda (3)


The theme for this year’s Black History Month celebration is “African Americans and the Vote”.  The year 2020 marks the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment and the culmination of the women’s suffrage movement.  This theme has a rich and long history, which begins at the turn of the nineteenth century, i.e., in the era of the Early Republic, with the states’ passage of laws that democratized the vote for white men while disfranchising free black men. Thus, even before the Civil War, black men petitioned their legislatures and the US Congress, seeking to be recognized as voters. Tensions between abolitionists and women’s suffragists first surfaced in the aftermath of the Civil War, while black disfranchisement laws in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries undermined the guarantees in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments for the great majority of southern blacks until the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  The important contribution of black suffragists occurred not only within the larger women’s movement, but within the larger black voting rights movement. Through voting-rights campaigns and legal suits from the turn of the twentieth century to the mid-1960s, African Americans made their voices heard as to the importance of the vote.  Indeed, the fight for black voting rights continues in the courts today.  The theme of the vote should also include the rise of black elected and appointed officials at the local and national levels, campaigns for equal rights legislation, as well as the role of blacks in traditional and alternative political parties.

In Ghana, we don’t face the issues of colour discrimination when it comes to voting. We are seen as one people with one destiny. However, we face our own challenges associated with voting. One of such challenges which keep occurring irrespective of the reforms which have happened since the inception of the fourth republic is the issue of a new register. The EC has explained to all Ghanaians why we need a new register whiles the opposition has also disagreed with the stands of the EC. Black History Month celebration and the theme for this year should remind us all of the millstone we have made during the fourth republic and how respected Ghana has been in the eyes of the world for upholding credible elections and transfer of power. Indeed, no voter should be disenfranchised and its is the right of all eligible Ghanaians to vote in this year’s election. Therefore, whatever the finale decision regarding the register may be, peace must prevail. The beyond the return agenda is on and many more diasporans are preparing to return to the motherland. In recent years, US presidents have visited Ghana beginning with Bill Clinton. Whatever people may say about President Trump, his wife did at least visit Ghana.

Before her visit, the Obamas had also visited Ghana. Analysts said their coming to Ghana sent a non-verbal acknowledgment of Ghana’s democratic successes – and a non-confrontational scolding of the third-term presidents and corrupt dictators that preside elsewhere in Africa.

“It seems to me he chose Ghana for its symbolism,” says Steven Ekovich, a policy analyst at the American University of Paris. “He’s making his first visit to a country that has had successful democratic transitions where the opposition won. That’s a very powerful message to other African populations, and to other African leaders.”The State Department calls Ghana “one of our most trusted partners in sub-Saharan Africa” –

“Ghana is this poster child for democratic reform,” said Director Larry Diamond of Stanford’s Center of Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law. In Nigeria, complaints that Obama bypassed West Africa‘s powerhouse country encouraged a reaction from its famous playwright, Wole Soyinka. “The message he is sending by going to Ghana is so obvious, is so brilliant, that he must not render it flawed by coming to Nigeria any time soon,” the Nobel Laureate said, praising Ghana’s democratic progress, and lamenting Nigeria’s lack thereof.

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Prior to the visit of the Obamas, Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama’s great-great grandfather had told his family that the last point they arrived at before being shipped to Virginia, USA as slaves, was the Cape Coast Castle. This was disclosed to DAILY GUIDE in an exclusive interview with Hon. Fritz Baffour who acted as a tour guide during their tour. He said President Obama’s mother-in-law, Mrs. Robinson, was the most emotional during the tour of the castle.  Mrs. Marian Robinson, Michelle Obama’s mother, was very emotional when she reached the ‘Door of No Return’ at the Cape Coast Castle in the Central Region of Ghana. Her great grandfather was among the slaves who were transported from the shores of Cape Coast to Virginia.  Their visits and many other high profiled visits had put Ghana on the world map and today we are reaping the benefits and the Beyond the Return agenda will ensure even greater economic gains. As we celebrate Black History Month, we need to be inspired by the works of many great men and women of African descent. One Such persons again is Michelle Obama who has written a book intitled “Becoming” It is her memoir published in 2018. Described by her as a deeply personal experience, the book talks about her roots and how she found her voice, as well as her time in the White House, her public health campaign, and her role as a mother. One million copies were donated to First Book, an American nonprofit organization which provides books to children. It sold more copies than any other book published in the United States in 2018, breaking the record in just 15 days. It is also reported that “Becoming” was the bestselling hardcover book of 2018. According to Penguin Random House more than 2 million copies were sold in the first 15 days of its release and sales continue to soar. In celebration of Black History Month, BHM UK gives an insight into her remarkable story.

In the epilogue to her book BECOMING she says “I’m an ordinary person who found herself on an extraordinary journey. In sharing my story, I hope to help create space for other stories and other voices, to widen the pathway for who belongs and why.” An ordinary person who found herself on an extraordinary journey, the former First Lady of the United States of America Michelle Obama is one of the most talented and admired women in the world. As First Lady—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history,  establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the United States and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives whilst standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments.

In her strikingly candid and honest memoir, BECOMING, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent in the White House, and to her transition back to being a private citizen.
With warmth and wit, Mrs. Obama describes in BECOMING her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms.

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She shares personal stories about various aspects of her life including:

  • Her years at Princeton, where she was among only a few other African American students, and where she focused on the path she set for herself to succeed—having learned to block out the doubters, like her high school guidance counsellor who had told her that she wasn’t Ivy League material.
  • Her early professional life as a Harvard-educated lawyer, landing a job as an associate at a top Chicago law firm where she mentored a young intern named Barack Obama, a “unicorn” who would become the love of her life despite their very different experiences and personalities.
  • How her experience of personal loss—the death of her father and of a dear friend from college— left her questioning life’s purpose and the career she had chosen, and transformed her from being a “box-checker” to a person willing to “swerve” and take on a new career in public service.
  • Her candid reflections on adjusting to the realities of marriage, including the challenges she and her husband both faced as they sought to excel in their chosen fields while wanting to have—and then raising—children at a time when he was pursuing a political career that she never really wanted.
  • The difficulties she and Barack Obama experienced in getting pregnant, as well as the stresses on their marriage that lead them to seek out counselling—a process through which she recognised her own agency in her happiness.
  • Details of the 2008 Presidential campaign, and of her adjustment once again to a new phase in her life. Her ability to connect with ordinary people’s concerns and frustrations lead her to become a force on the trail, but as she rose, opponents and haters quickly tried to tear her down and define her on their own terms. After bottoming out, she learned to keep finding and asserting her own voice on this new stage.
  • Her behind-the-scenes story of the historic election night of 2008 and of her transition from private citizen to First Lady, the speed and magnitude of which was overwhelming as she worried about her daughters and what they would go through—new schools, new friends, new lives.
    The highs and lows of the White House years, as Mrs. Obama asserted her voice as First Lady, opening up the White House and connecting directly with young people. She planted a garden and launched meaningful initiatives in her own style.
  • How she experienced intense public scrutiny of her causes and of how she dressed and wore her hair—and developed a “fashion strategy” to bring attention to her issues, all while supporting her husband through his two history-making terms and raising two growing girls.

This is Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama’s story of becoming. It is a story of hope and optimism, one that chronicles the still-unfolding journey of a girl from the South Side of Chicago whose life has been filled with highs and lows, extraordinary opportunities, and ordinary moments that have proved definitive to whom she has become.

It is my hope that former Ghanaian first ladies will also write similar books telling our young men and women the story of hope and I believe all and sundry shall be eager to read and be inspired by the lessons of the greats.

Philip Gebu is a Tourism Lecturer. He is the C.E.O of FoReal Destinations Ltd, a Tourism Destinations Management and Marketing Company based in Ghana and with partners in many other countries. Please contact Philip with your comments and suggestions. Write to forealdestinations@gmail.com / info@forealdestinations.com. Visit our website at www.forealdestinations.com or call or WhatsApp +233(0)244295901/0264295901.Visist our social media sites Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: FoReal Destinations

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