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LKJ’s GHANA INDEPENDANCE TEXT

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Opening remarks at ‘Reflecting the Past, Celebrating the Future’
Elmina’s Castle, Ghana 25 March 2007

I am a Jamaican who grew up in Britain and therefore belong to the African diaspora in the Caribbean that has been re-diasporised in Europe.

Opening remarks at ‘Reflecting the Past, Celebrating the Future’
Elmina’s Castle, Ghana 25 March 2007

I am a Jamaican who grew up in Britain and therefore belong to the African diaspora in the Caribbean that has been re-diasporised in Europe.

Ever since I was a young man, when I began to embrace my African ancestry, I’ve had a strong affinity to Ghana. Notwithstanding the fact that I was born on a Sunday, it is no coincidence that I adopted the name Kwesi.

I come to ‘this place’ with the knowledge that William Wilberforce and the Anti-Slavery movement in Britain played a significant role in the abolition of the slave trade. I come here knowing that the numerous slave rebellions and in particular the revolt in Haiti in 1791, which saw the defeat of the armies of Britain and France and the establishment of the first black republic in 1804, was decisive in bringing about the end of the slave trade and slavery.

I come to this place knowing that the 1807 Abolition Act was the result of a convergence of the exigency of political economy and moral imperative. In the characteristically undiplomatic words of Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, ‘It was black resistance and economic development that destroyed slavery, not white philanthropy.’

So today I not only remember Wilberforce and Clarkson, I also remember Nanny of the Maroons, Sam Sharpe, Toussaint L’Ouverture and the other black heroes and heroines of the fight against slavery and, as we celebrate Ghana’s 50th year of independence, I remember Marcus Mosiah Garvey’s clarion call ‘rise up, ye mighty race’ inaugurating the struggle for black self-determination.

I come here knowing that CLR James and George Padmore, two great West Indian revolutionaries, played a significant part in the fifth Pan-African Congress held in Manchester in 1945 that set in motion the decolonisation of Africa, with Ghana as the trailblazer.

I come to this place knowing that Kwame Nkrumah’s vision of a united Africa is the only way forward for Africa in a globalised world.

I come to Elmina Castle knowing that the legacy of slavery continues to blight black life in the Atlantic world and that we have a long long way to go in the struggle for racial equality and social justice.

I am going to recite two poems which speak to the historical reality of the African diaspora. The first was written by the late elder statesman of black Britain, John La Rose, political and cultural activist, publisher and poet and founder of the George Padmore Institute in London. It is called ‘Prose-Poem for a Conference’. The second is an elegy I wrote for my father who died in Jamaica in 1982 aged 56 after losing both his legs to diabetes. It is called ‘Reggae fi Dada’.

© Linton Kwesi Johnson, 2007
LKJ Records – www.lkjrecords.com

Listen to his Politik Kills guest appearance on Dennis Bovell’s remix : http://www.politikills.com/les-remix.php

LKJ