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Ghana's #OccupyFlagStaffHouse Movement Hits Accra On Republic Day

Okayafrica reports on a social media-driven #OccupyFlagStaffHouse movement hitting Accra on Ghana's Republic Day.

In the early hours of July 1st, Republic Day in Ghana, a mass of about 500 Ghanaian citizens decked in red and black gathered in hopes of staging a peaceful protest at the front gates of the Flagstaff House, the official residence and office of President John Dramani Mahama. The social media-driven movement, which is operating under the #OccupyFlagStaffHouse moniker, was spearheaded by Ghanaian tweeters in an attempt to ignite change in governmental policy-making by drawing wider attention to the worsening economic conditions of the West African nation.


The delegation, led by a non-partisan civil society known as the Concerned Ghanaians for Responsible Governance (CGRG), marched with a petition in hand that outlined a myriad of social ills meant for the incumbent president to address, including nationwide power outages and fuel shortages, the incessantly depreciating value of Ghana’s cedi, the current high cost of living, non-existent job opportunities, and a lack of necessary funding allocated to the upkeep of social infrastructure (among numerous others).

The fact that the march took place on Ghana's Republic Day, the 54th anniversary of Ghana severing colonialist ties with Britain and the election of its first president Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, gives the movement a significant place in Ghana’s democratic process—a symbolism that was by no means lost on the organizers behind the demonstration. An official statement from CGRG member Nana Akwasi Awuah reads:

“The focal point of convergence is directly opposite the main gates of the Flagstaff House, right across the street. We chose this venue because we want to register our dissatisfaction and frustration with the status quo right at the doorstep of power. We also chose this date because it is on this day in history that we started choosing our own leaders for responsible governance as a sovereign state. We do not seek a regime change, nor do we wish to see the country plunge into chaos. After all, this is the only place we can and do call our home!”

An official request by the CGRG to hold the protest at the Flagstaff House was initially denied by the Ghana Police Service, though they later rescinded the decision on the grounds that the demonstrators would need to relocate to the Efua Sutherland Children’s Park, and only appointed leaders of the march would be granted access to the Flagstaff House to present the petition. All routes to the Flagstaff House were cordoned off by the police so organizers quickly diverted the crowd to the studios of nearby television station, TV3.

The petition was eventually received on behalf of the president by his Deputy Chief of Staff Valery Sawyer, who attempted to reassure the crowd that President Mahama was indeed aware of and sympathetic to their concerns. The official #OccupyFlagStaffHouse petition outlining the harsh economic atmosphere under Mahama’s government is currently gaining steam on Change.org, with almost 2000 signatures amassed so far. Read the full petition here and check out our gallery (via #OccupyFlagStaffHouse twitter users) of the peaceful action in Accra this morning above.

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Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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