African American Association holds maiden Juneteenth festival


The African American Association of Ghana (AAAG), in collaboration with the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA), has hosted its maiden Juneteenth festival celebration in Ghana to commemorate the freedom of enslaved Africans in the United States.

The festival marks the day when over 250,000 enslaved African Americans in Texas, the westernmost confederate state, were finally declared free on June 19, 1865.

The liberation, which was issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, legally ended the enslavement of people of African descent; but many southern states resisted and continued to practice slavery.

Speaking to B&FT, deputy Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mark Okraku Mantey, stated that Ghanaians should adopt the habit of purchasing made in Ghana products in order to grow the economy.

“The mental slavery Bob Marley spoke about is not a challenge with the Diasporas anymore. It’s a challenge for those of us who live on the African continent. We are the ones who find everything from a different country better than what we have.  Challenges have a lot to do with how we always want to patronise something from another country. It starts from the schools and from how we were brought up; because we think that if it comes from our part of the world, then it’s not good. So, it’s an orientation that must start from my mother, my father, from the teacher who will teach me,” he said.

Mr. Mantey added that the Year of Return and Beyond the Return have contributed greatly to tourism and the economy at large, since they serve as mediums to tell the story of Ghana and why people of the diaspora should visit the country.

He added that the initial target for 2023 Beyond the Return was 1 million visitors, but that has been changed to 1.3 million after the first and second quarters’ performance.

President of AAAG, Diallo Sumbri, speaking to the press stated that celebration of Juneteenth is a very important event, since it commemorates the freedom of Africans from slavery.

“Africans didn’t just give up, roll-over and say ‘take me as a slave’. They fought here, some fought in the prison, some jumped off the ships and chose death by sea instead of being shackled; thus Juneteenth marks the day that all those people who were under slavery were set free,” he added.

On her part, the deputy Director for Diaspora Affairs, Office of the President, Dr. Nadia Adongo-Fynn, noted that: “The Diaspora Affairs Office’s mandate is to save the interests of the diaspora, and that’s AAAG. So as part of the celebration, we saw the need to come and support them, to endorse it and be part of it – to signify government’s strong support and let the diaspora community know that government has their interest at heart”.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA), Akwasi Agyeman said: “In order to make Ghana and Africa the best place to live, we still have work to do in terms of national orientation, freeing our minds and making sure that there are opportunities for everybody. We have to inculcate the habit of showcasing our things, eating our foods, wearing our clothes, listening to our music and watching our films”.

Juneteenth holds a special place in the hearts of African-Americans as the longest- running ‘unofficial’ holiday celebrated for over a century.

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