Photo of Former Minister by Robert Eilets
The purpose of “The Joseph Project” is to make the 21st. century the African century.
To reconcile and unite the African Peoples so that their positive spirit and strengths are released in a focused manner to elevate Africa and Africans worldwide.
After more than 400 years of slave trading, colonial exploitation, cultural and economic and post colonial political manipulation much of Africa is a waste land of woes and war.
The African peoples everywhere have been taught to be self loathing, to see everything African as a negative: Taught to believe that Africa is a definition of failure and ugliness.
The time has come to put an end to the negative and begin the positive. The time has come for us to till our own vineyard; to produce inner and outer wealth for ourselves. The time has come for us to stand and state,” I am a proud African, proud of my land, proud of my people, committed to making the third millennium the African millennium”.
“The Joseph Project” is the code name for a series of activities, actions and interactions being spearheaded by Ghana to re-establish the African Nation as a nation of all its peoples, capable of delivering on the promise of God to Africa and the African peoples.
“I am black and beautiful, O daughters of Jerusalem … I am dark, because the sun has gazed on me. My mother’s sons were angry with me; and made me work hard in their vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept”. (Song of Songs 1,5-6 )
The Ghana Government intends to use the year 2007, the 50th Anniversary of the country’s independence, to celebrate African excellence and to inaugurate “The Joseph Project”. Ghana will use the year to bring together, more closely, people in Ghana and brothers and sisters in the Diaspora and establish herself as the true gateway to the Homeland for Africans in the Diaspora.
Over almost 400 years, millions of Africans were transported across the Atlantic Ocean from West and Central Africa to be enslaved in the “New World”.
Almost as many as survived the crossing died during the journey.
The Atlantic Slave Trade remains the greatest example in history of man’s inhumanity to man. The memory of it can never be erased and so many of its negative consequences continue to divide and weaken us as a people today.
The Slave Trade happened and we must continue, with a contrite heart, to question why it happened so that we can make sure it can never happen again and also so that we can come to terms with what happened. We must also gather some strength from this otherwise cataclysmic event and to lay rest the disturbed spirits of our ancestors who have never known peace. It is the continued disturbance of their spirits that stops us from coming together as one reconciled people.
Those of us who believe in the promise of God to Africa, take our hope from the story of Joseph in the Bible. For we believe that God loved Joseph and yet saw him cast into the hell of slavery and brought out in triumph, to magnify the scale of his favour.
Genesis 37 vrs. 28 – “Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt.”
Genesis 45 vrs 26 – 28 – “And told him, saying, Joseph is yet alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt. And Jacob’s heart fainted, for he believed them not;
And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them: and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived;
And Israel said, It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die.”
While it is miserably true that there are far too many Africans held down by the legacy of their chains, it is also true that there are many, like Joseph, who have risen above their captivity and are shining examples of the best of the human spirit and of what man can achieve.
History is replete with the names of Africans who rose not only above their chains but rose above those who sought to chain them.
Today there are still, by God’s will, many such distinguished Africans, in so many diverse fields, who pursue excellence and so continue to be held high and to inspire us all.
GHANA THE GATEWAY TO THE HOMELAND
Ghana is a nation of similar achievement to these luminaries, these Josephs.
Ghana was the first African colony south of the Sahara to gain its independence. The Black Star of Africa inspired and drew inspiration from the fight for the full emancipation of Africans in the Americas, especially the Civil Rights struggle in the US in the 1950s and 60s.
Dr. Martin Luther King attended Ghana’s Independence Day, March 6th, 1957, and made no secret of its impact on him.
Even before Ghana became fully independent she had reached out to kith and kin in the diaspora to return home to share in the great vision of creating the New Africa.
It is in Ghana that the remains of the late W.E.B. Dubois and George Padmore are interred.
Ghana has struggled and continues to struggle for the full emancipation and dignity of the African peoples.
Ghana today is a beacon in Africa of good governance: Ghana is the example of the capacity of the African to manage his/her own affairs in a decent, humane, disciplined and respected manner.
Ghana is a natural inspiration for African pride.
Ghana is a natural choice to spearhead the research into the slave trade and tell the real story of what happened. From Mauritania to Angola from where the slaves were taken, Ghana lies at the centre.
There are some 40 Slave Forts, Castles and trade posts that were used in the transportation of the slaves still existing in Ghana. Many of these are well preserved.
Ghana has dedicated itself to finding out the full story of the evil trade and making sure that this truly African story is told by Africans. Ghana has set up a Multi-Sectoral Committee to research and trace the slave routes of West Africa with special focus on Ghana. There are historians, archaeologists and restorers working together on this. Routes that captives took have been identified, where they bathed, ate, camped, and exited to the Americas.
WHY LAUNCH “THE JOSEPH PROJECT” IN 2007 ?
In addition to being Ghana’s 50th Independence Anniversary, 2007 is also the 200th Anniversary of The Act of March 2nd 1807, passed in the U.S., which forbade trading in slaves with Africa.
The Act of the British parliament in 1807 abolished the Slave Trade within their colonies. This had an immediate impact in South America leading to the trade being declared illegal in Venezuela and Mexico in 1810, Chile in 1811 and Argentina in 1812.
1807 is a historically acceptable date for the beginning of the abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade.
The 200thanniversary of this date, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Ghana’s independence, gives the year a resonance suitable to the launch of this momentous project.
1. The Healing
“The Rapprochement of the African Peoples”.
There can be no African century without unity of the Afican peoples.
The constraint to unity lies in the restlessness of the spirits of our ancestors. Un- atoned violence leaves the spirit disturbed; the 300 years of the slave trade and the years of slavery and subjugation that followed, subjugation that has yet to end, have been years of violence to our people.
We must lay the spirits to rest .This will be done through Act of Expiation and Forgiveness.
The HEALING, a ceremony of rapprochement in traditional and multi faith forms, to be mounted in Accra in July 2007, will assemble the traditional rulers of those tribes that engaged in the Atlantic slave trade from across the West and Central Coast of Africa: the traditional rulers of those tribes whose people still have living memory of being hunted by slave raiders; and recognized leaders of and the Africans in the diaspora.
There will be expiation, based on the recognition that great evil was done by those who traded in their kith and kin, by those in the Homeland for whom the memory of being hunted is still alive and by the ancestors of those who were forced into the agonies of the middle passage and chattel slavery. And there will be forgiveness of one another. This Act of Healing will begin the process of reconciliation.
This “Healing” will be in both modern religious and traditional forms. This Act of healing will begin the process of reconciliation and rapprochement.
The Act of Healing will be celebrated by the HEALING CONCERT, a concert by the best musicians of the Diaspora and West Africa, a concert of praise that will signal the new beginning, to right a terrible wrong, to get good out of bad.
2. A Pilgrimage
As every Muslim must visit Mecca at least once in their lifetime so we want to establish a pilgrimage to Ghana, one that every African in the Diaspora must undertake at least once in their lifetime.
This pilgrimage will be the re-introduction of the Diasporan African to the homeland.
Every Joseph must return home.
It was not enough that Joseph was honoured in Egypt – “Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all of them that stood by him ……………… And he wept aloud…………………. And Joseph said unto his brethren, ; doth my father yet live? …………. And Joseph said unto his brethren, come near to me, I pray you”. (Genesis Chap. 45 vs. 1 – 4)
For our Pilgrims there will definitely be sadness and anger in the homecoming pilgrimage but yet it will be an upliftment, a catharsis, a self re-discovery – a Strengthening.
They will reverse the Journey that started four hundred years ago with the “Door of no Return”.
Once in Ghana they will retrace the route from the coast to the areas where people were hunted.
They will visit the Slave markets, the slave baths, the rest stops on the long journey from the hinterland to the slave lodges, slave forts and slave castles from where people departed to suffer the agonies of the inhuman ” middle passage”.
This part will be painful. But it will be essential to coming to terms with the past so as to lay it to rest, to then gather strength to deal with the present and the future.
Along the pilgrimage route our pilgrimage will also experience the rich culture of Ghanaians. We will seek to expunge the years of being denied who they are and reintroduce them to their roots.
They will also meet ordinary Ghanaians; fisherfolk; farmers, traders, teachers, doctors, lawyers, schoolchildren. They will re-establish a kinship with their brothers and sisters here in the homeland.
In the Bible story of Nehemiah, the descendants of the slaves returned to Jerusalem, the homeland, to rebuild the wall that had broken down and the gates that had been destroyed. Thereafter, those in the diaspora covenanted to return to Jerusalem to the temple “To bring it (the wood) into the house of our God, after the houses of our fathers, at times appointed year by year, to burn upon the altar of the Lord our God, as it is written in the law:
And to bring the first fruits of our ground, and the first fruits of all fruits of all trees, year by year, unto the house of the Lord:
“Also the first born of our sons, and of our cattle, as it is written in the law,”. Nehemiah 10 vs. 34 – 36
We want to create an experience in Ghana that will make our diasporans want to come back and hopefully use Ghana as the gateway to the fuller return to the homeland.
Without knowledge and understanding there can be no genuine reconciliation. Without reconciliation there can be no forward movement.
Every African in the Diaspora must draw strength from his/her roots, his or her sense of belonging
2a. The Slave Forts
Ghana has some 40 slave lodges, slave forts and slave castles still in place. The condition of these range from well preserved through deteriorating to mere remnants. These are hallowed memorials of an agonized past. They must be preserved for posterity and used to keep alive the memory of the evil times.
“The Joseph Project” will source funds and partners to preserve what we have; to develop each site into a unique experience ranging from a grave site at Elmina, to the “African Excellence Experience” at James Fort.
We will have diasporans returning to help in rebuilding and restoring these shrines to the suffering of our people.
2b. Assin Manso – “The Last Bath”
At Assin Manso captives on their way to the coast for shipment were given their last bath in the River Prah prior to leaving the shores of Africa. Here in Assin Manso we are developing a Garden of Commemoration for meditation, an interfaith prayer hall to pray for the spirits of the ancestors, a wall of return on which can be etched the name of a returnee/ pilgrim or that of an ancestor or deceased relative to proclaim the return.
2c. Salaga and the Slave Markets
Over the last 5 years Ghana’s historians and archeologists have been carrying out a major project to identify the “Slave Route”; those areas where captives were hunted and the routes by which they were marched to the coast.
The “Slave route” map that this scholarship has revealed has shown us the key way stations and markets on that route. We are now developing methods to be able to share the experience with our “returnee/ pilgrims”of what happened at some of those locations.
We have collected oral history, handed down from generation to generation, that can be shared to deepen and broaden the knowledge of those terrible times.
2d. The Walled Town of Gwollu and other Hideouts
We cannot but be aware of the real bitterness felt by many of our brothers and sisters in the diaspora against those of us still in the homeland.
However, it is important that those outside realize that their pain is shared by many brother and sister Africans still in Africa: For every son who went out to play and never returned and who grieves till today, there are the parents still lamenting their son who disappeared; for every mother who disappeared when out gathering firewood, there are the motherless infants; for every father who left to go hunting, there is the fatherless family.
Gwollu, in the North West of Ghana, was walled as a protection against slave raiders.
We have also identified hard to find caves that hid fugitives; forests where the porcupines allowed fugitives to enter and then protected them by firing their quilts at pursuing slave raiders.
These and other sites are being preserved and restored so that the voices and stories of the victims in these areas can also be heard.
What happened during these 400 years must never be forgotten. Already there are signs of a growing amnesia about the slave trade in the homeland. The young, and not so young, in the diaspora are also showing a lack of interest in knowledge of that terrible period.
Almost all of what has been written to date, has been written by the “Europeans”. It is time that Africans told the story of this very African tragedy.
Underpinning everything we want to do in the field of education is the “Slave Route Project” being carried out with the support of UNESCO, not only in Ghana but across Africa and in the diaspora.
From the learnings of this project we intend to do the following:
Introduce studies of the Slave Trade into our schools in Ghana at all levels. We will create the syllabus and write the books. We will encourage others to follow our lead.
We will build the knowledge that we are one African people.
We will encourage our authors to produce the books, comic books, pop up books, etc. that will tell the story in a way that will generate interest and understanding.
We will use the new technologies including the internet to make the full history and the stories available to as wide a range of interests and intellects as we can reach.
4. Our Culture and Tradition
Along the pilgrimage route, from the coast in the south, through the middle of the country, Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, to the North we will display and explain our culture and our traditions, all part of our heritage that the years in the diaspora have erased the memories of.
The re-establishment of their culture in our brothers and sisters will provide a more solid root, a rock upon which to build our self awareness and self value.
5. The African Excellence Experience
While we lament over the wickedness of the Slave Trade we must not lose sight of the display of greatness of the African spirit that it showed.
Our people were in bondage in the land of the oppressor, chattel slaves, yet they turned round to dominate their oppressors so that, today, African culture, African language ,African music dominate world culture, world language, world music.
The strength of this spirit is epitomized by those Africans in the diaspora who rose and continue to rise far above their chains to attain and display excellence.
The Ghana Government intends to convert one of the slave forts, James Fort in Accra, a fort that kept first slaves and then prisoners, a true example of the attempt to chain mankind, into the home of the African Excellence Experience. We will build in this slave fort, from which our peoples were shipped out supposedly never to return, a museum dedicated to those Africans in all walks of life who triumphed over slavery, who triumphed over every adversity; who triumphed and continue to triumph over those who sought to enchain them: – we will build a monument to The True Josephs.
At this monument you will relive the story of Mary MacLeod Bethune, Frederick Douglas, Harriet Tubman, Marcus Garvey, Toussaint L’Ouverture, Duke Ellington, Martin Luther King, George Washington Carver et al.
All the “Josephs” of blessed memory and you will also meet the Josephs of today, those still alive, whose lives are an inspiration to us, whose lives are blazing torches of the true African spirit.
Here in the “African Excellence Experience” we will find the inspiration to overcome all of life’s challenges.
Here we will share the strength and power and inspiration of those who rose and triumphed and continue to triumph over the greatest of all adversities.
In this fort we will mount a state of the art exhibition of the slave trade; from hunting captives, through the march to the coast, the middle passage and onto the plantations of the Americas and to the continuing struggle for civil rights.
We will tell not only the story of the gross inhumanity but we will also tell the stories of the continual struggle for freedom and against the imposition of the yoke. We will tell the story of Toussaint L’Ouverture, the Maroon revolts, the refusal by so many of our people to accept the shackles of those who have sought and continue to seek to subjugate us.
Having passed through this exhibition you will then enter the cells and dungeons of the slave fort/prison and here we will exhibit the life stories of the “Josephs”. Those who triumphed over the extreme adversity of the slave trade, its aftermath and consequences and triumphed in all areas of human endeavour.
An African, whether homelander or diasporan, visiting this experience should emerge strengthened, better able to overcome whatever challenges he or she may face through the examples of the “Josephs”.
Truly it will show that the African spirit can never be chained.
6. The “Josephs of today
There are “Josephs” alive today and new ones still being born, so it is our intention to form a nominating committee of Africans in the homeland and in the diaspora who will select those men and women who qualify to become a “Joseph”. These will then be en robed and featured in the “African Excellence Experience”.
7. The Diasporan visa
It is the Ghana government’s intention to introduce “A Diasporan Stamp” which when granted after an initial visit will allow the Diasporan visa free entry to Ghana.
The African Union (AU) Diasporan office is to be located in Ghana. It is this office, an adjunct of the AU that will work on Diasporan issues with AU member countries.
8. Owning land in the homeland
A variety of land and home ownership schemes are being evolved that will allow Diasporans to have real ownership of a piece of the Homeland. These will range from symbolic plots, real ownership but of a very small piece of real estate, time share apartments and land for private development.
9. Know your Roots
Programmes for the youth in two categories, Gifted but Poor and the Socially Difficult. Holiday tours and pilgrimages will be sponsored for these young people so that they can learn how privileged and culturally rich they are to be African. The installation of pride will hopefully benefit both groups.
10. The “gene map”
To irrevocably establish the genetic link between our returnees/pilgrims and the homeland, we intend in the medium to long term to collect DNA samples from across the length and breadth of West and Central Africa.
With this genetic database map we would hope to be able to establish for every returnee/pilgrim interested, a personal report on his/her antecedents: to be able to organize visits to the villages of the ancestors.
Ministry of Tourism and Modernisation of The Capital City,