US rappers bringing new music festival to Ghana

The initiative, expected to be an annual event going forward, forms part of the rappers’ efforts to deepen ties between the black diaspora and Africa. Earlier this month, the two artists arrived in Ghana with high school freshmen from Chicago as part of an educational tour.

The line-up has yet to be release but the pair have stressed that the Black Star Line Festival will be held in collaboration with local artists and partners. The event is expected to draw some 38 000 music lovers to Black Star Square in Accra.

The festival derives its name from Jamaican political activist Marcus Garvey’s global shipping company Black Star Line, established in 1919, which was designed to create a link between North America, the Caribbean and Africa and to facilitate African-American migration to Liberia.

“The Black Star Line was a symbol of pride, not only for Africans but also for black people in all ports of call,” a statement by the festival organisers reads. “After nearly 40 years, the Ghanaian government launched their fleet with the same name, in homage to Garvey, and even added a black star to the country’s new flag.”

“Ghana has something to say to the world, and I’ve been welcomed into Ghana and into Accra in the last couple of years,” Vic Mensa, who is of Ghanaian descent and boasts collaborations with local artists including M.anifestStonebwoySarkodie and Kwesi Arthur, said.

“We realise that as black-American artists, we perform everywhere on the globe … before we come to Accra, to Lagos, to Johannesburg. Our mission is that we want to change that. We recognise that globally, as black people, we’re all one people. And so we’ve created a festival, we’ve created a vessel to bring the black-American artists and black artists of the diaspora globally to come here and connect with everybody in Africa – Ghana being the gateway to the entire continent. 

The Black Star Line Festival adds to a growing list of activities that have followed the Year of Return campaign launched by President Nana Akufo-Addo in 2019 on the 400th anniversary of the first arrival of African slaves in Jamestown, Virginia. The campaign, which urged Africa’s diasporic community to return to the motherland, reportedly welcomed about 1.5 million tourists to Ghana. In 2020, Ghana’s Ministry of Tourism unveiled a 10-year successor initiative to the campaign. 

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