Wreaths were yesterday laid at the W.E.B. Du Bois Centre, the George Padmore Library and the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park in Accra to officially start the celebration of Emancipation Day 2006.
The wreaths were laid in remembrance of Dr William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, the most prominent political activist of his generation of black intellectuals, George Padmore, a pan-Africanist and Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana's First President.
This year's Emancipation Day is on the theme: "Our Heritage, Our Strength" and has the sub-theme: "Honouring our African Heroes." Representatives of the Youth of Ghana, Ghana-Caribbean Association, African-American Association, traditional rulers and the Government of Ghana laid wreaths on the graves of all the three African heroes.
The wreath laying ceremonies were attended by the Malian, Brazilian and Zambian Ambassadors to Ghana. Others included chiefs from the Osu Traditional area as well as members of the Du Bois Club from Bono Manso in the Brong Ahafo Region, school children and well-wishers.
At the George Padmore Library, Mr Duane Howell from the United States Virgin Islands led the group to light the perpetual flame and file past the flame and the grave of Padmore. An enactment of the slave trade and a cultural performance at the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park preceded the wreath laying ceremony.
Mr Boniface Abubakar Saddique, Minister for Manpower, Youth and Employment, noted that the Emancipation ceremony was the most prestigious cultural event. He said slavery, emancipation and reparation had been subjects of intense universal debate in recent times.
Emancipation, he said, was a stepping stone towards the idea of total freedom for people of African origin. "We need to find out more about the slave trade to enable us to understand our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora and find out how the tragedy can be turned into something more positive for the African Continent, the black community universally and the whole world."
Mr Abubakar Saddique said Ghana had been designated as the gateway to the homeland as it was the major exit point for slaves on the West Coast.
The Minister said emancipation should not only be a remembrance day but should also serve to create and develop the unique sense of unity, cooperation and understanding amongst all Africans. "Let us allow the blood, sweat and tears of the ancestors to inspire our lives as we prepare to meet the challenges ahead," he said.
Mr Joseph Badoe-Ansah, Deputy Minister for the Ministry of Tourism and Diasporean Relations, noted that Ghana had established the link between the homeland and the Diaspora, as there was the need to work together to build a better Africa.
Emancipation celebration is a historic commemoration of the abolition of the slave trade in the British Crown Colonies in 1834 and the United States in 1865.
Ghana was the first African country to celebrate Emancipation Day in 1998. The annual celebration is climaxed every August 1 and aims at developing a unique sense of unity among Africans on the Continent and those in the Diaspora.