You're a Ray of Hope for Africa, Mr President; for One Writer of Ghanaian Descent, Barack Obama's Visit to West Africa Is Hugely Symbolic for the Continent

The Evening Standard (London, England), July 10, 2009 | Go to article overview

You're a Ray of Hope for Africa, Mr President; for One Writer of Ghanaian Descent, Barack Obama's Visit to West Africa Is Hugely Symbolic for the Continent


Byline: Kwame Kwei-Armah

WHEN Bill Clinton became the first US President to step on African soil in 1998, he chose the land of my ancestry, the nation many call the Switzerland of West Africa, Ghana. Being the first African nation to gain independence in 1957, it seemed a fitting first stop for the president of the United States, a nation that many believe was built on the backs of imported West Africans.

President Clinton began his opening address to the people of Ghana with the words "Mitsea mu. America fuo kyia mo" (roughly translated as "My greetings to you. Greetings from America.") He continued: "Now you have shown me what akwaaba [welcome] really means."

But if Bill thought he was given a good akwaaba, wait until we see what's in store for President Obama and his wife Michelle when they arrive in the state capital Accra today. As the young people say, it's gonna be off the hook, for no one cannot overestimate the huge enthusiasm the first African-American president returning to his ancestral homeland has created across that country. I'm getting emails and texts from family and friends who say the streets are awash with images of Barack: it is as if he were one of them.

Of course we all know that Barack's father hails from the other side of the continent, Kenya, a country White House officials say is too unstable for the President to visit, but he is going to Africa. And the popularity of Barack Obama throughout the continent is second only to Bob Marley, in my opinion; actually, I think maybe he's pipped him, at least for now.

I was in Ethiopia last year when Obama beat Hillary Clinton to the Democrat nomination to run for President and within a week, three Barack Obama cafes had opened in Addis Ababa. I then flew on to Ghana, where the front page of a popular newspaper carried the headline "The woman who taught Barack to be black", accompanied by a huge celebratory picture of his white mother.

A few months later in Uganda, I jumped out of my vehicle on a dusty high street to take a snap shot of the "Obama butchery" - strap line, "a better kind of meat", next to a huge photo of the man and a leg of beef. It seemed the whole continent had taken Barack's victory personally.

And why not? In this much-maligned continent, the sight of a child of direct African ancestry ascending to the highest position in the world has almost biblical connotations. Africa has many presidents but arriving in Ghana today is the president of all presidents. The welcome, I believe, will match the symbolism.

We are told that after having breakfast with Ghana's new president, John Atta Mills, Barack and Michelle will then fly to visit the monument that many describe as the symbol of the African holocaust, Cape Coast castle, the former headquarters of the British slave trade in West Africa.

Suffice to say, I have never walked out of the slave dungeons that held so many Africans at this huge "temple of pain", nor walked through "the gate of no return", the last point at which the now enslaved would see their homeland, without feeling as if my heart had been broken in several places. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

You're a Ray of Hope for Africa, Mr President; for One Writer of Ghanaian Descent, Barack Obama's Visit to West Africa Is Hugely Symbolic for the Continent
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.