Frank 5 Fellowship HOY: Building a nation, bridging local Ghanaians and the diaspora

On Ghana’s 62nd Independence Day, I held had an opportunity to host a dinner that is a manifestation of the project/ideal that is this blog/website. The dinner was sponsored by my alma mater, Swarthmore College, through its Frank 5 Fellowship Host Your Own event.

In fact, I became a Frank 5 Fellow on June 11th 2018, when I received an email from the Aydelotte Foundation at Swarthmore College, a small liberal arts college on the outskirts of Philadelphia, PA. The Fellowship hopes to:

“listen in to the national conversation about liberal arts education and to help kindle and sustain new conversations with public audiences through the stories of young alums and the people in their lives.”

Receiving this Fellowship was an affirmation of the path I had chosen to pursue at the age of 25: move to Ghana, join the entrepreneurial/startup ecosystem - at a time I was probably questioning it.

In fact, I have a deep emotional attachment to my alma mater, Swarthmore College, for these three reasons:

1. Receiving a full scholarship to Swarthmore set me on the path to commit to social justice work. Once I didn’t have to worry about paying for fees or student loans, I had no reason not to commit to what was/is dear to my heart: advancing the good of my community, especially African/Diaspora communities.

2. It was through Swarthmore College that I first returned to Ghana in 2011, 11 years after I left the country. The specially curated study abroad program which led to trips to all 10 regions in Ghana, and to Benin and Togo provided me with a perspective of Ghana and the continent that I would not have otherwise.

3. The education I received at Swarthmore was par none. We were groomed to question everything, so much so that I left the school deeply disillusioned and unsure of what my contribution would be in the world. Although I was initially angry about the educational experience that left me disoriented rather than sure, the spirit of discontent would later morph into a thirst for constant innovation and problem-solving ; Ghana has been futile soil providing countless opportunities to solve problems.

It is in light of this experience and deep gratitude to Swarthmore College that I hosted my HOY event: dinner and conversation on “ Building a Nation, Bridging Local Ghanaians and the Diaspora”. I brought together about 30 associates to discuss identity and place as it relates to our collective aspiration to build our country, Ghana. Held on Ghana’s 62nd Independence day at the DANN Residence, the goal was to build community and partnership through dialogue and understanding, liberal arts values I saw in practice every single day at Swarthmore as I learned to question EVERYTHING.

The night was filled with an entertaining ice-breaking activity, a passionate panel, and a jollof-filled dinner and hearty conversation.

I am incredibly grateful to everyone who was able to attend and the energy and insight that was shared.

The main takeaways:

  • Stories of the Diaspora in Ghana are more nuanced than being raised in the UK or US. There are countless other Diaspora perspectives and stories from within our continent, such as those of Nigerians living in Ghana, as well as those of Ghanaians living in countries that are not typically included in the Diaspora narrative: ie. Canada, China, etc.

  • There are many ideas of what it means to be a Ghanaian today and what we should aspire to, which is also being complicated by a Diaspora that is introducing different cultures and beliefs. For example, is being late a part of the Ghanaian identity that outsiders must adjust to? Or must those in the Diaspora insist that the behavior change?

  • Building a better Ghana, whatever that looks like, means that we must all work together and be honest/vulnerable as we negotiate complex identities, needs, and wants.

Many of those who attended the event asked: so what next? Well, I would hope to make this event an annual event, engaging in critical conversation about our development with diverse perspectives each year. But beyond this, I am open to opportunities that allow us to continue to discuss and act on partnerships between local Ghanaians and the Diaspora each day. I know hope you will join me in the effort.

See pictures from the event here.