OUR CULTURAL LINKAGES : Keynote address by Dr. Agyenim Boateng
Here is the key note address delivered by Honorable Agyenim Boateng, Assistant Attorney General of the State of Kentucky at a fund raising-dinner- dance organized by Asanteman Association of Chicago and Midwest at the Marriot Hotel on Saturday July 2.
Let me throw your minds back for a while by asking you this brief question of your history. a. How old is Asanteman; b. What was the land mass of the great Asante empire? c. Name any four kings who did contribute to the growth and development of Asanteman? d. What was the name of the Dagomba warriors who formed alliances with the Asante warriors? e. Name four contributions of Asantes to the art history of the world? f. Name the first Asantefuohene and Hemaa of Asanteman Association of Chicago? Answers, if you don't remember anything else about my speech, please, remember these snippets of Asante's history and tell it your children and friends.
Mr. Chairman, Nananom, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen: I am going to express a solidarity message to you because I share the same vision and sentiments, which many of us share as Asantes and as Ghanaians.
I bring you greetings as a Ghanaian and an Asante. It is always better to look at the two distinctions in order to gain a proper perspective of knowing who you are and where you are going. First, you are Ghanaian because Ghana is the land of your birth. Each one of you came to U.SA on a Ghana passport. Even though you may have severed off your legal ties with your home country, this was your land of birth as we say "wo funuma she ho". No one can break off or take away your emotional ties with the land of your birth. You are also an Asante because that is the root of your cultural heritage and that is where your mother taught you your first language. Most importantly, Asante is your cultural root that laid the foundation for the development of your self- esteem and provide you with the psychological stimuli to be what you are and which gave your creative power to develop your confidence as well as succeed where ever you may reside.
The question is, does being a Ghanaian make your membership in Asanteman Association irrelevant or triabalistic? As you may remember, the implosion of the Soviet Union was along the lines of ethnicity. This goes to show that ethnic pride cannot be destroyed by the all embracing power of the state. Our home country Ghana evolved from the old Gold Coast that consisted of multiple ethnic groupings. Each group has contributed to the development of our country. We believe in "diversity" but not in forced "uniformity". Our objective is to use our ethnic diversity to advance the human happiness and prosperity. Ghana is more like a "salad bow" instead of a "melting pot" whereby each ingredient maintains its own uniqueness and flavor but they come together to make a delicious meal. For this reason strong and viable Asante region provides strength to the country as whole. Thus, any donation to either Okomfo Anokye or Tete Quarshie Hospitals serves more than the ethnic environment the hospital is located.
Who has forgotten such traditional values as truthfulness, respect for the aged, integrity, loyalty, and hard work drilled in you in your earlier formative years by your fathers, mother, and uncles' grand father/mother? All the ethnic groups share these valued principles.
You are an Asante because you descended from the lines of great warriors and Kings: Osei Tutu, Opoku Ware, Tweneboa Kodua , Ejisu hemaa Yaa Asantewaa, Obuabasa Opoku Mensah and Opoku Frefre, Atwima Antwi Agyei, who built our great land upon their vision, sweat, blood and hard work.
How did the Asante Empire expand? Through wars and diplomatic alliances. Our alliance with the Dagombas was achieved through war and diplomacy whereby the Naa Yaa Gbewa Zimblim the nephew of Gariba and others signed a peace treaty and treaty of friendship with Asantehene Osei Kwadwo around 1770. From this special relationship emerged the tradition of Dagomba Kambonse. Kambonse is of course the Dagomba word for Asante, but also refers to the musketeers in the Dagomba army who were equipped and trained by the Asante, and who have Asante's day names. The Dagbon Kambonse have their own separate traditions, which have survived to this day.
The Asante/Dagomba alliance accomplished two things: extended the Asante Empire to greater geographical boundaries larger than the present day Ghana with Yaa Naa as the overseer of the northern sector. It also kept the British/ French at bay for over 90 years from colonizing all parts of Ghana until after the Yaa Asantewaa War of 1900. Whereas, as far back as in 1844, the rest of Southern Ghana which then known as the Gold Coast Colony has ceded their freedom to the British for protection against the onslaught of the Asante and Dagomba armies.
After 1945, Asante and North lost their status as a protectorate or territory under British Colonial rule and became part of the then Gold Coast. In 1957 Gold Coast was renamed Ghana, both Asante and Northern Territories became integral part of the new country. The checkered history of post independent Ghana is too complex and well known for me to elaborate on further at this function.
Life in our present day home country Ghana is considerably different from when some of us here were growing up. After 45 years of Ghana's post independence checkered history, there are over 2 million of our citizens who now reside outside Ghana carving out a living to support themselves and their families back home. Some of us through dint of hard work, drive, and perseverance have achieved some semblance of material or educational successes (American dream) at our new homes. We are also raising our children here. But the question is, is that all we came here for? Our new home has given us the creature comfort on the high side; but on the low side, look at some aspect of the debilitating environment we live under. Racism, drugs, teenage pregnancies, teen school drop out, gang warfare, drive by shooting thereby putting our children at risk. What can we do anything to change the status quo?
Fortunately we have a home country which gives an option to our children to emigrate if life becomes unbearable in our host countries or if people freely want to leave. This is where you and I come in. This calls for us to regroup and readjust our thinking about our long-range plans for us, our children their children. Bear in mind that the experience is not only common to us but also, to other Africans and immigrants from the third world countries.
What can we do? I am suggesting the following actions plans: Build bridges and network with other ethnic groups from Ghana. Your organization and its umbrella association the Asanteman Council of North America (ACONA) and Canada, have taken the lead integrating the various associations and building network among Asantes as well as mobilizing resources to finance different community projects in our home land.. We can learn from each other, network with others such as the Ghana National Council member associations to find the best way to pool resources to help our people back home and engage economic development of the regions in Ghana. A donation to the Okomfo Anokye Hospital not only serves also people of Asante, but also, part of western and Brong Ahafo We must begin teaching our children our cultural heritage including our languages because it is through language that one preserves as well as transmit the values of a culture to the next generation..
We must raise funds for development of our regions and also help to send business back. In the words of the late American President "Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country". There is none among you here who did not benefit from some of the social infrastructure in of health; education during our growing up years. Now is the time for us to give something back. It is a moral imperative.
You are here today to celebrate and renew your commitment towards your Association and raise funds for the construction of a library in Kumasi. This is a pilot project which if it succeeds will be duplicated elsewhere in Ghana. The importance of a library formerly used to be among our old men and women, as the repository of knowledge cannot be under estimated. Indeed the first Regional Commissioner of Asanteman, a British by name of Sir Francis Fuller wrote as far back as in the 1900's that "the unborn generations of Ashanti's will indubitably suffer from impaired memories the spread of education, a lack of reverence for and love of past deed; already noticeably among the school children for present day, and unless the ancient national traditions are to be entirely, lost they should be set for publication. These publications must serve as an excuse for the present publication". Libraries are where knowledge are kept and incubated for present and future generations. Our people need it. Our children need it. Therefore, look into your heart and dig deep down into your pockets to help build a first class library, first of its kind, in Ghana.
In conclusion, our children are our future; let us leave here by remembering the advice the grand old man gave to his grandson who was going to seek his fortune in a distant land: He said; Me nana, your life is not just about shouldering your way past others; it is about serving others along the way and building bridges for those who follow. The legacy of Asanteman cast a broad shadow of bright lights over us. Let us therefore, walk within its directions . Always remain to be inspired by the pioneering spirit of our ancestors. Don't forget that you're a product of over 300 years of courage, integrity, perseverance, adaptability and service as you build your future. Remember that if you try you may fail. If you don't try you're guaranteed to fail. Remember your power is in your brain and God is your strength!