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Students cheers from the stands during the celebrations for Ghana 65th Independence Day at the Cape Coast Stadium on March 6, 2022. - Independendence Day is an official state holiday for the citizens of Ghana both within and in the diaspora and celebrates and honors the Heroes of Ghana who led the country to attain its independence. Ghana was the first African State to attain independence on March 6, 1957. (Photo by Nipah Dennis / AFP) (Photo by NIPAH DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

College students cheers from the stands throughout the celebrations for Ghana sixty fifth Independence Day on March 6, 2022. The nation gained independence on March 6, 1957. The creator of this text remembers his boyhood celebrations — which concerned uniforms, marching and a free bottle of soda.

Nipah Dennis/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

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Nipah Dennis/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

On my first Fourth of July in the USA, I awakened within the morning, stretched and realized that my spouse was nonetheless in mattress.

I requested if she was going to work. She mentioned, “Oh, do not you understand at present is July Fourth?”

I appeared by way of our window. Nearly everyone in Fernley, Nevada, the city the place we lived, was on their option to Fundamental Avenue with chairs, umbrellas, drinks and snacks.

I used to be confused. What have been they going to rejoice? I used to be curious, too, so I obtained our camp chairs and headed out to hitch our neighbors. That is when my spouse advised me what was occurring: “July Fourth is America’s Independence Day.”

I jumped out of my seat! This could not be true. Who might have colonized a terrific nation like America?

I assumed colonization solely occurred in Africa, the place I grew up. I did not consider her.

That was in 2014 — the yr I came upon that America was as soon as a British colony, similar to my native Ghana.

I’ve had the privilege of seeing two methods of celebrating independence — and alongside the best way have given lots of thought to what independence actually means.

America’s fireworks: thoughts blown!

In Nevada, throughout my first Independence Day, we sat on the sidewalk, listened to drummers set the beat and watched the parade of bizarre residents, veterans, Native People in conventional garb, college students. They marched and waved the American flag. Some have been on horses, others in slow-moving vehicles and others on foot.

Later that night I watched the fireworks broadcast on TV from Washington D.C. It was mind-blowing. I had by no means seen something like this!

As I appeared on the crowd gathered within the nation’s capital, I noticed not solely America but in addition the world. Each race, each ethnicity was current. Certainly, America is dwelling to the world, and to me, its best magnificence lies in its range.

Ghana’s celebration: Stress and soda

In Ghana, independence was, not less than for us children, a demanding time but in addition a time for enjoyable. Our independence got here not that way back – on March 6, 1957. The three weeks previous to the celebration, college students at my faculty — and at faculties throughout the nation — would follow our marching. A drummer performed the drums loudly to set the marching rhythm, and we children would line as much as begin marching, repeating the phrases “left,” “proper,” “benkum,” “nifa,” [in the local Twi language].

Academics made positive all of us raised our left and proper legs on the identical time so we marched in unison – and yelled at us and generally caned us if we did not. This coaching would go on for about 3 weeks; one of the best pupil marchers have been chosen to characterize the college within the Independence Day marching competitors within the district capital, Kwame Danso.

In 2002, once I was 14, I used to be chosen to characterize my faculty within the march however provided that I might get a faculty uniform. My household could not afford to purchase me one. Fortunately, a good friend lent me his. With pleasure, I washed the uniform, and the night earlier than the march, joined my different associates on the marching crew. Sharing one iron, we pressed our college uniforms. I couldn’t sleep for the anticipation I felt.

By 6 a.m. college students from all the realm faculties had gathered on the massive soccer subject at Kwame Danso, the district capital. Underneath scorching solar and humid climate, we sweated and waited. After a number of hours, the district chief government (DCE) and his entourage arrived. One after the other, groups from every faculty marched. As we method the DCE, our pupil chief shouts, “saaaaaalute!”

Every faculty group had 5 to 10 minutes to point out their abilities. Authorities officers judged us on how nicely we marched (and dressed). I hoped we’d be among the many winners. We received second place and obtained a brand new wall clock for our college.

After which got here one of the best a part of the day for my associates and me: We every got a bottle of Coca-Cola.

For a few of us this was one of many few occasions within the yr that we obtained to style soda aside from Christmas and Easter.

Within the night, we gathered on the pastor’s home to observe the one TV within the village — a small black and white set powered by a automotive battery. We might watch the marching competitors within the capital metropolis of Accra and see the recorded speech by our “osagyefo” – our savior — Kwame Nkrumah, who had helped lead Ghana to independence in 1957.

In his Independence Day speech Nkrumah said that the independence of Ghana is meaningless “except it’s linked up with the entire liberation of Africa.”

Ghana’s unbiased … but dependent

Nkrumah was criticized for his authoritarian model and financial misfires; he was ultimately ousted as president. However I believe again to his phrases and wonder if Ghana — and Africa — are actually unbiased. Many tasks in Ghana, starting from the development of roads and faculties to the supply of vaccines and fertilizer, rely on international help. The place is our independence after we rely on international help for our fundamental requirements? We have to begin considering of independence as a continuing wrestle. In some methods, we’re not but really unbiased.

And once I take into consideration that assertion from Nkrumah, I take into consideration the nation the place I now dwell. I have been struck by the offended phrases and bodily assaults aimed toward folks due to their race, their gender, their spiritual affiliation. I’m wondering if all People at present share the ideology within the Declaration of Independence: “…that all males are created equal, that they’re endowed by their Creator with sure unalienable Rights, that amongst these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

However on July 4, I choose to be an optimist. Despite the fact that independence takes lots of work – and is a piece in progress for nations each previous and new — it’s a second to savor. In order I watch the spectacular fireworks and marvel on the range of America’s crowds, I additionally bear in mind how independence may be present in small pleasures — like marching for my nation as a boy and ingesting that cherished bottle of soda.

George Mwinnyaa grew up in Ghana and now lives in Alaska along with his spouse and two sons. In Might, he graduated with a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins College, Bloomberg Faculty of Public Well being. He at present works for UNICEF and lives in Alaska along with his household.

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