The diaspora is uniting in Ghana for Black Star Line Festival

By Jonas Nyabor
Posted on Friday, 6 January 2023 17:37

Vic Mensa holds tickets to Ghana's Black Star Line festival (photo: @VicMensa)

After the largely successful 'Year of Return’ campaign in 2019 Ghana has become the favourite destination for black people in the diaspora and now through the arts. Chicago-based Vic Mensa and Chance The Rapper are rallying the diaspora to permanently contribute their skills and capital to the cocoa-rich west African country.

When US-based rapper Vic Mensa visited Ghana in 2020 it didn’t take long for him to decide to cultivate meaningful relationships that will keep him deeply connected to his ancestry.

Leveraging his talent and influences, he birthed an idea to create a common platform that will bridge the gap between black people and artistes in the diaspora with Africa.

Starting the first week of January, Mensa and his old pal Chance the Rapper are hosting the inaugural Black Star Line Festival in Accra which features a weeklong series of events and panels across the capital and a climax  music concert.

Throughout the Christmas holidays Ghana hosted some of the continent’s largest music concerts and festivals themed on Africa’s diverse cultures and the vibrant creative sector.

‘Detached from the mother continent’

The Black Star Line Festival, drawing inspiration from civil rights leader Marcus Garvey’s iconic 1919 shipping line will differ slightly, offering avenues for education and cultural diffusion.

“Black Americans have become detached from the mother continent, not just physically but also mentally but it’s time to accept who we are as African people. The idea for the festival came after I sat back and looked at how we as Black American artists have performed ten-times over in places like Europe before we ever make it to do a show in Africa,” Mensa tells The Africa Report.

“I’m starting this festival so that we can not only perform for our African fans, but it is also my vision to immerse the artists in Ghanaian cultural experiences while they are here,” he adds.

The Roc Nation signee is bringing onboard US-based T-Pain, Erykah Badu, Tobe Nwigwe and Jeremih and Ghanaian afrofusion torchbearers Sarkodie, Asakaa Boys and M.anifest for the maiden project.

Vic Mensa believes Africans in the diaspora like him who have the privilege of growing up with the knowledge of their ancestry and culture must find a way to support others who don’t to develop stronger ties with the continent.

Connect to one’s ancestry

This belief is also driving his involvement in African/American, an upcoming film that tells the story of the rise of South Africa’s hip hop scene during the post-apartheid renaissance period.

“In recent years I’ve just come to really grasp the weight of the privilege that I hold to have that direct conversation and connection to my ancestry. That’s something that has been stolen from most of us in this nation and most of the people closest to me. Being that I have this privilege I just started to realize that privilege comes with responsibility and opportunity,” he said.

Since December last year Ghana has opened up to the world by rolling out a visa-on-arrival policy until January 15 that is attracting more visitors particularly to major events during the yuletide including Afro Nation and Afrochella which will not return after five years in Ghana.

The policy plays into Vic Mensa and Chance The Rapper’s vision – an open Africa receptive to its people in the diaspora.

“The many things that are going on in Ghana right now based off the influx of tourism are quite out of reach for the average Ghanaian. I think that in making The Black Star Line Festival a free festival, it’s just changing the landscape a little bit and creating our own narrative. Now is the time for Black Americans to get to Ghana because the momentum is there, thanks to events like the Year of Return. Ghana is welcoming us back home.”

Last year the duo met with president Akufo-Addo to discuss the event and courted the government’s support through the Diaspora Affairs office at the presidency.

Massive momentum has been built on the ground with the arrival of Grammy-award winning comedian Dave Chappelle whose session at the University of Ghana is fully booked.

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