Ghana Music Festival launched in Mt. Vernon
By: Paul Stewart
On October 17, 2015, the international launch of Ghana’s Music Festival took place in Mount Vernon’s City Hall. Approximately 100 Mt. Vernonites, Ghanaian artists and dignitaries attended the gathering. The first of its kind in the nation’s history, the event goal was to bring Ghana’s music to the world stage. And since Mount Vernon has such a long standing relationship with the West African Country – particularly the City of Elmina – it was a natural choice for the launch. So deep are the ties between the two Cities, that representatives of Ghana’s Ministry for Tourism, Culture & Creative Arts, the Musicians Union of Ghana (MUSIGA), various artists and dignitaries traveled for more than 11 hours to attend the ceremony.
The relationship between Mount Vernon and the City of Elmina began in the mid ‘90s. Rabbi Kohain Nathanya Halevi, a Mount Vernon native, was instrumental in fostering an appreciation for Ghanaian culture and music in the city. He founded Mount Vernon’s former Bereshith Cultural Institute and was a driving force behind the widely attended African Family Day run out of the city for many years. After introducing Mayor Davis to Ghana and its rich culture, Elmina and Mount Vernon have enjoyed a sister relationship ever since.
Councilman Yuhanna Edwards, President of Bridge to Africa 360 degrees, gave opening remarks. Afterwards, libation was poured to pay respect to the ancestors – which is customary throughout the African Continent. The evening’s speakers included: Mayor Ernie Davis, Bice Osei Kuffour - President, Musicians Union of Ghana and Rabbi Kohain Nathanza Halevi. Emphasis was placed on reminding the crowd of the importance of recognizing the “African Diaspora” in the truest sense of the words. “400 years ago, African Americans were not taken from Africa, Jamaicans were not taken from Africa, Brazilians were not taken from Africa…only Africans were taken from Africa,” said Rabbi Halevi to the roar of the crowd.
Awards were presented to those raised in the United States who’ve had a significant impact on the people of Ghana. They included: Dr. Mark Naison - Professor of African-American Studies and History at Fordham University and Director of Fordham's Urban Studies Program, Professor James Smalls - Pan-African activist scholar & speaker, CEO of Sanaa Lodge Enterprise, Ghana, Ltd., CEO & President, African-American Management Company, Ghana, Ltd., and conductor of educational and cultural tours of Africa for over 25 years, Rabbi Kohain Halevi – Executive Secretary of the Pan African Historical Theatre Festival (PANAFEST) and Joseph Lawson Johnson who is singly responsible for over 50 Ghanaians completing their formal education.
After its initial launch in the US, the Ghana Music Festival will continue to China, Australia, Nigeria and culminate in the UK on December 24, 2015. Near the close of the program, Special Assistant to the Mayor and coordinator of the event, Shari Harris, was asked to speak. “Nobody knows what will happen in the future, but we do have control over what we can do today,” she said. And judging by the crowd’s response, many were in agreement.
Mayor Davis Speaking at the start of the City Hall ceremony