By Okon Ekpenyong
Black History Festival organizers have honored posthumously the late Columbus Poet, Charles “I said” Lyons for touching many through playwriting, poetry, and activism, along with the Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo for his commitment to civil rights.
Columbus Poet, Charles “I said” Lyons passed away on February 6.
In honor of Black History Month, the festival’s final event will be the Black History Festival Markers Gala, which will honor Columbus poet and playwright Charles “I said” Lyons, who passed away on February 6. “Lyons’ impact was immeasurable, touching many through the artist’s playwriting, poetry, and activism. He often encouraged travel to Africa and practiced what he preached – making his way to Senegal every year for over 30 years. Lyons’ daughter Annette will be on hand to accept on her late father’s behalf,” the Festival PR Director Jose Cadena stated in a press release. Lyons’ daughter Annette will accept the award on his behalf.
Founder of the Alliance for Change and Ghana’s Committee on Human and People’s Rights, Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo, will also be honored for his commitment to civil rights. One of the President’s cabinet members will accept the award on his behalf.
Elizabeth Sackey, who became the first Woman Mayor of Accra, Ghana, in September of 2021, attended the 2nd annual Black History Festival from February 15 through the 18th at the Renaissance Hotel in Downtown Columbus, Ohio. “Action speaks louder words, so we must not waste our destiny,” Mayor Sackey said while describing this year’s event.
Mayor Sackey was one of the over two-hundred people who attended the 2nd Black History Festival, which featured live panel discussions, performances, and keynote speeches from February 15 to February 18.
The Africans in the Diaspora discussed improving, putting more effort into consolidating the heritage of the African diaspora across the United States and Africa, and enhancing its efforts in Trade, business, technology, media, arts, culture, and governance.
The event kicked off on February 15, with innovation and digital transformation experts participating in the first-panel discussion and interacting with attendees afterward. Day one of the events concluded with remarks from the Mayor of Accra, Ghana, Elizabeth Sackey.
“By sharing ideas and participating in forums, seminars, conferences, and others, we can increase our efficiency in the supply chain and digital transformation, keep our African Diaspora alive, preserve our history, and continue to celebrate our cultural events in partnership with the Bureau for international development Exchange and commerce,” Mayor Sackey said.
A Senior Journalist with Ghanaian Chronicle Newspaper and Editor-in-Chief at the 233 times, Anthony Nana Kwesi Coomson co-hosted this year’s festival and emphasized how successful the first and second annual events were.
“Among the reasons Columbus is this year’s host city is the fact that it is one of Accra’s sister cities; if you have a connection with a person or a place, you need to find common ground where you both understand or share something significant, so hosting the event in the city was crucial,” Co-host of Black History Festival, Nana Kwesi Coomson said.
The keynote speaker on day one was Ursula Owusu, a lawyer, women’s rights activist, and member of the Ghanaian Parliament for the Ablekuma West Constituency.
Mayor Elizabeth Sackey, the first Woman to lead Accra, Ohio, echoes that the President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo was one of her supporters, and thirty-three members of the parliament voted in favor of her. “The journey to implement changes to grow the city would not have been possible without my following parliaments and community encouragement.”
The Mayor thanked Church Leaders for always encouraging and praying for her throughout her campaign and time in office.
“When I took over in September of 2021, I realized we needed to improve our digital technology because we needed the data to support our initiative. One of our primary goals was to improve broadband access, particularly in rural areas, and to develop new networks to help individuals who do not have the resources to send or receive money from family and friends. These areas are improving.”
“The honor of visiting Columbus, Ohio, a sister city, meeting with Ghanaian American leaders and others, and receiving recognition from South Carolina, a sister city, is always a delight,” the Mayor said. Other sister cities within the US are Sterling, Connecticut, and the District of Columbia.
“It has been a great steppingstone to continue our vision of developing Accra through bipartisanship with these cities.”
Africans in the Diaspora were the focus on day two, February 16, in terms of recognizing its history, preservation of its heritage, and celebrating its culture. Doctor Javnyuy Joybert, who sat on that panel, stated that Africa needs another investment. That’s because if it is structured correctly, it could help foreign investors to see that if the government ministers and legislators are here, it will send a strong message that the continent has strong entrepreneurs from Africa. The proper structure will help prevent bribery, corruption, and civil unrest, which are some challenges keeping Africa from advancing.
The festival organizers did achieve their mission by creating a platform for people to network and exchange the correct information. It was the combined efforts of Stephen Selasie Asuo, the founder of the Black History Festival, host Anthony Nana Kwesu Coomson and co-host Cynthia Amoah, producer Sade Sellers, and director of PR Jose Cadena that led to the success of this year’s event.
Day three of the festival on February 17 featured Michael Bartlett-Vanderpuye, Yaa Amoako-Adu, Darren Srebnick, Dr. Evans Duah, and Manny Addo, who discussed Trade and business between the US and Africa. The second panel for day three focused on Investment for Socio-Economic Development, featuring Yofi Grant, COP TiwaAddo-Danquah, Kofi Nkansah, Jannyuy Joybert, and Nana Ama Investment.
“The relationship between Africa and the USA should always be about sharing knowledge and information if we want each other to flourish, and that has been the core of the conference,” Co-host of Black History Festival 2023, Nana Kwesi Coomson, said.
Carlos Kingsley, chair of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Trade, Industry, and Tourism, gave the keynote address for the day.
“It’s important to attend conferences like this to hear from professionals in other fields telling you how Ghana is a “safe haven,” how Cameroon is like this, or how Senegal is like this, for example. On this platform, a person can speak with an expert who has ties to China, Europe, Ghana, or other parts of the world if they want to invest. An individual interested in international business can research and explore before investing.” Nana Kwesi Coomson said.
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