African Diasporeans defied the cold, misty weather in the late hours of Saturday and early hours of Sunday to join a cross-section of Ghanaians for the ‘Reverential Night’ to usher in the 2021 Emancipation Day on Sunday.
Adorned in all white including traditional rulers, they processed from the Mfantsipim Junction through the Commercial Streets and later gathered at the forecourt of the Cape Coast Castle with lighted candles in a vigil to “invoke the spirits of the night.”
The Day is held on the first of August every year to observe the end of chattel slavery some 400 years ago in the Americas and the Caribean.
It formed part of activities to mark the 2021 PANAFEST/Emancipation Day underway in Cape Coast, which will be climaxed with a durbar at Assin-Manso on Sunday.
The theme for this year is: “Reclaiming our Rights to weave our own narrative and to remember the ancestors who fought for our victory”.
Osabarima Kwesi Atta II, the Omanhene of Oguaa Traditional Area, welcomed the guests into the Castle amidst singing, dancing, and drumming of fontomfrom while others sang “This is a sign of Freedom”.
The participants went through the dungeons at the Castle to the ‘Door of Return’ where libation was poured to invoke the spirits of the ancestors some of whose names were intermittently called out.
Representatives of the Government, Africans in the Diaspora, and traditional rulers laid three wreaths while seven candles were lit in their memory.
At the stroke of midnight, Mr Mark Okraku Mantey, the Deputy Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture conducted a roll call of some renowned Pan-Africanists such as W.E Dubois, Williams Wills Brown, Marcus Garvey and Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela, among others and a minute’s silence was observed in their memory.
During the vigil, Osabarima Atta, described the event as: “A spiritual one that gave Africans in the Diaspora an opportunity to rededicate themselves to meet the challenges of the World”.
He noted that the Castle should be renamed “dungeon” since it did not house kings and queens, but people wickedly captured into slavery.
Osabarima Atta took participants through some history about the struggles, toils, and hardship the ancestors went through in building Africa, adding that, they should be remembered at all times.
Mr Rabbi Kohain Halevi, the Executive Director of PANAFEST Foundation, said he was happy that some of the descendants of slavery have been able to trace their roots home.
“We went through the ‘Door of no Return’ but this time, we are coming through the ‘Door of Return'”, he indicated and appealed to all Africans to continue to love each other and come together to reclaim their lost destiny, adding that, “We are here to liberate African minds.”
He explained that most renowned Africans had fought in the past because they wanted the unity and freedom of African people and stressed that the night should be used to honour such people.
Mr Kwesi Agyemang, the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Tourism Authority(GTA), charged Africans in the Diaspora to join Africans at home to collectively build a society that the next generation would be proud of their ancestors.
He called on them to unite, build and emancipate themselves from the mental slavery that had over the years driven the growth and development of Africans backwards.
The vigil was observed amidst strict adherence to the COVID-19 laid down protocols including the wearing of nose masks, washing of hands, and the use of sanitizers.