Growing up in a Ghanaian household meant many things. It was learning bits of the mother tongue (Twi and Fanti, in my case) as a kid. It was eating kenke, friend plantains, and peanut butter soup, while your American friends are eating hot dogs and pizza. And of course, it meant learning a bit about your history.
If there's one Ghanaian name that my mom mentioned more at home than my own — which is Kofi — it's Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the first president and prime minister of Ghana. I knew he was born two years after the country gained independence from Britain. Yet I never truly understood how significant his efforts were to make Ghana the first country to be liberated from Whites.
In a fascinating piece for The Root, John Dramani Mahama, the current vice president of Ghana, says, "What is not as widely discussed is the impact that Ghana's independence also had on America's civil rights movement, or the impact that black America had on Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the man who would ultimately lead his country to freedom." Needless to say, my mind was blown.
Mahama paints a vivid picture of a determined, studious Nkrumah who chose to attend college in America, instead of Europe, like many of his fellow intellectuals. He set up an African studies section at UPenn, as well as various African American student association. And with those choices alone, many notable African Americans during the 50s (especially one Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr) noticed Nkrumah's efforts to free his land from colonial rule.
Click here to read the rest of this story — the bit about Dr. King's visit to Accra is simply uplifting. I'll be the first to admit that I never had the opportunity to learn about any of this in grade school.
During my trip to Accra this summer, I will make sure to stop at the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park — not just to snap some photos, but appreciate his impact civil rights thousands of miles away.