The subject matter of this feature is a paraphrase of an original 1967 book by African American Baptist minister, social justice campaigner, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and one of the greatest organic intellectuals in American and world history – the Rev. Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. The title of the book is; Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? In writing this book, Dr King spent a long period in isolation, living in a rented residence in Jamaica with no telephone.
The book which advocated for human rights and a sense of hope was Dr King's fourth and last book before his assassination. One of the central themes of the book’s messages is that of hope, the audacity of it. Dr King reflects upon the Civil Rights Movement. He discusses the question of what African Americans should do with their new freedoms found in laws such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He concludes that all Americans must unite in order to fight poverty and create an equality of opportunity.
In a similar fashion and in a symbolic shadow of thought processes, I want this feature – “Where Do We Go From Here: Filthiness or Cleanliness,” to serve as Accra and a people’s right to choice with associated consequences, and to choose cleanliness over filthiness, good over evil, right over wrong, positivity over negativity. Just as Dr King and the modern American civil rights movement, when faced with a choice between violence and nonviolence, chaos and community – they chose nonviolence over violence and ultimately community over chaos, Accra must do same; choose cleanliness over filth.
On this endeavour, there is the need to transform the attitudes of our people – residents and visitors alike, with regards to sanitation, can certainly not be overemphasized. We have to really make a bold and enduring choice between Filthiness and Cleanliness in our nation’s capital, Accra. Accra in this sense stands as a symbolic representation for all other Ghanaian cities and towns; from 2018 and even beyond when proposals are being discussed to facilitate twinning city arrangements between Accra – the capital city of Ghana (where Dr King visited in 1957; and was greatly inspired to continue the black equality rights struggle), and Atlanta – the capital city of the State of Georgia - USA; which served as the institutional capital for the civil rights movement and where Dr King was born.
I trust 2018 is truly a momentous year. It is the 50th anniversary of one of the most tragic, catalytic and meaningful events in American and world history – the death of US civil rights activist Dr Martin Luther King Jr. A man who has been celebrated worldwide for his role in helping America end racial discrimination and served as well, as an inspiration for oppressed people everywhere to assert, strive and stride towards freedom and justice.
It was in Accra that, Dr King remarked to Vice President Richard Nixon that, Ghana's independence signifies in its true essence the desires and aspirations of black people everywhere for freedom and justice, and solemnly requested same for the African American people of the United States, as the civil rights movement was at its zenith in those times. Furthermore, Accra is the symbol of the independence struggle of Africa and its people; and consistent with its position as a pioneer, remains today one of the biggest stars of the new African Hope after it led the way in bequeathing to a continent and its people and diaspora an audacity of hope.
Additionally, Accra is the home of the Diasporan African Forum, the first Diasporan Mission anywhere in Africa at the William Edward Burghardt (WEB) Dubois Center with the objective of encouraging Diasporan participation in the development of Africa, coupled with its symbolism as an umbrella organization for all Pan-African organizations the world over. It is in this light that, Accra, a city which was established in 1898 and would be celebrating 120 years of cityhood has since the assumption of Akufo-Addo’s government launched a bold and ambitious project to make Accra, the cleanest city in Africa; as finishing touches are afoot to officially unveil a modern City Hall in the coming months, for a city on the go.
To this vein, a young and dynamic Chief Executive Officer – Mohammed Nii Adjei Sowah, was appointed to take charge as the Mayor of the City of Accra. He is together with his dedicated team, to drive the President’s vision and mission, as well as his to make Accra the great city it was and must be, as captured in this catchy slogan hashtag #AccraLiveInLoveIt. In an era characterized by keen global and national interest in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) issues, the Akufo-Addo government thought it wise to create another Ghanaian first, the Ministry of Sanitation and
Water Resources to help Accra in its quest to provide 21st-century winning solutions to choose cleanliness over filthiness. Let Accra keep the engaging synthesis with her people - residents and visitors alike; thought leaders and other public intellectuals in a sustained manner going forward. Revelations from the recent Graphic Engages Experts on Sanitation forum and the IMANI Africa event at the British Council Hall in Accra to show Ghana's sanitation has failed. Why should it be so? And how Do We Get It Right?
In conclusion, it was again, in Accra that Dr King is reported to have told Vice President Nixon, “I want you to come visit us down in Alabama where we are seeking the same kind of freedom the Gold Coast is celebrating.” Dr King told a radio interview during his visit to Accra: “This event, the birth of this new nation, will give impetus to oppressed peoples all over the world. I think it will have worldwide implications and repercussions--not only for Asia and Africa but also for America...It renews my conviction in the ultimate triumph of justice.
So that, this gives new hope to me in the struggle for freedom...” The strategic role and what Dr King witnessed in Accra played in; inspiring him to do a lot more for the fight against racial injustice and wanton abuse of black people in the United States, is something we in Accra are excited about. There is a lot we in Accra have learned and are learning from the achievements of Dr King; the first being that excellence in whatever endeavour is something we can all achieve as humankind if we put our minds to it.
Dr King’s track record and what he achieved encourages us in Accra to work towards making it a world-class city to live, work and play; and which provides equal opportunities for all its residents and visitors alike. And we look forward to renewing our energy to do the above as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of his passing in collaboration with the people and City of Atlanta; so we can make Accra a better place for all of our people.
Unfortunately, Dr. King’s strong ties to Accra where he felt inspired to do more for the fight to end racial discrimination on March 6, 1957; have not received prominence over the years; thus in the year of the 50th anniversary of his death, let us, commit and rededicate ourselves to keep this great city of Accra; the city which Dr King visited for inspiration in his leadership of the modern American civil rights movement. Dr. King had so much fond memories of his time in Accra, that on his return to the United States, he was still thinking about his time in Accra, and a few weeks later, on
April 7, 1957, he delivered a sermon to his congregation at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. The Birth of a New Nation was the title of his sermon, which underlined Dr. King’s belief in the significance of what he had seen in Accra.
“I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” is the popular name of the last speech delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. Dr King spoke on April 3, 1968; at the Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ Headquarters) in Memphis, Tennessee. The speech primarily concerns the Memphis Sanitation Strike. At this speech he also made reference to Accra. Accordingly, as a city and a people, let’s have our mountaintop moment and from all walks of life, people of faith and of conscience leading the way to choose Cleanliness over Filthiness. An Accra without filth is a choice, you choose, I choose and we choose!!!
Stephen Hicks Acheampong; doubles as the Country Lead, for the Association of Global Citizens-Ghana (AGC-GHANA); and the Chief Executive Officer, of the International Mindedness Front Ghana Limited (IMFG LTD). He can be reached at the following corporate contact details: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
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