How thousands of diasporans gathered at Ghana’s capital for inaugural Black Star Line Festival

Mildred Europa Taylor January 09, 2023
Rappers Mensa and Chance. Photo: Erika Goldring/Wireimage/Getty Images

More than 50,000 people, including diasporans, united at Ghana’s Black Star Square in the country’s capital Accra for the inaugural Black Star Line Festival on Friday. The free open-air music concert was founded by U.S. stars Chance The Rapper and Chicago-born Ghanaian Vic Mensa.

Besides Mensa and Chance, other top performers at the event were Erykah Badu, T-Pain, Tobie Nwigwe, and Ghanaian stars like Sarkodie, Asakaa Boys, and M.anifest. The concert was a climax of activities held in the week by Mensa and Chance to bring together the diaspora to contribute their resources and skills to help develop the African continent. Those activities included panel discussions, fine art exhibitions and nightlife events.

Ahead of the January 6 concert, comedian Dave Chappelle and Chance had a conversation at the University of Ghana on Thursday. And on Friday, Chapelle, who was also at the concert, said it was “great” to be in Ghana. He had some months ago expressed his desire to move to the West African country. 

Dennis Haze, who came from Washington DC for the concert, told the BBC that “Its beautiful to see the Black American culture and African culture unite.”

In 2019, Ghana’s government launched the “Year of Return” initiative in an effort to encourage Africans in the diaspora to find their way ‘home’, commune and reactivate their love for their roots and people. That year also marked the 400th Anniversary of the first ship from Africa hitting the shores of the Americas – precisely Virginia.

Chance first came to Ghana in January 2022 in response to Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo’s call for the diaspora to return to the ‘motherland.’ What was supposed to be another vacation getaway for Chance eventually turned out to be something deeper than he had imagined. He soon found himself immersed in Ghana’s music culture and learned about Ghana’s rich anti-colonial history. Since his first trip to Ghana, he has returned to the West African nation three times. He decided to organize a free concert and art event for others to experience Ghana’s diverse culture as he did. 

Chance said that the tagline for his concert is inspired by Jamaican activist and political leader Marcus Garvey, who founded the Black Star Line which became a source of economic opportunities and inspiration for black workers between North America, the Caribbean and Africa. 

Mensa, who organized the concert with Chance, told Forbes that he had been visiting his family in Ghana since he was 11 years old. But it wasn’t until the year 2020 that he started to go to Ghana alone and cultivate relationships in the spaces of music, fashion, and art.

“In those moments, I’ve started to recognize the immense privilege that I have to be in direct communication and conversation with my ancestry, as obviously something that’s been stolen by most of the people closest to me in life,” he said.

The rappers hope that the Black Star Line festival will help bridge the gap between Black people abroad and in Africa, they told AP.

“I think that specifically, the story of the founder’s independence is something that all black people should know,” he said “There are no free sub-Saharan African countries until 1957. I think they should know about the revolutionary leaders on the continent and abroad. I think that if we had this connectedness and this interaction, people will actually have a chance to see this.”

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