Home News and Features Shidaa Projects to Hold Celebration for Ghana Independence Day

Shidaa Projects to Hold Celebration for Ghana Independence Day

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Shidaa dancers Theo Martey, left, and Michael Osendah, right, catch air at the annual Celebration of Community and Diversity held in September at the First Congregational Church of Berlin. Photo courtesy of Shidaa Projects.
Eat, dance, and enjoy traditional drumming music with the Shidaa Projects at a celebration in honor of Ghana Independence Day, at the First Church in Barre, Universalist on Saturday, March 9, from 6 to 9 p.m. 

The event is organized by Shidaa Projects, a local nonprofit that uses West African drumming and dance and other cultural activities to promote diversity, said Jordan Mensah, artistic director.

While Ghana Independence Day is on Wednesday, March 6, “we decided to do it on the ninth, because that is Saturday, the weekend which we thought people would be able to join us,” said Mensah. In case of icy or snowy weather, the event will be rescheduled to March 16.

This will be the first year Shidaa Projects is celebrating this holiday, “but this year we decided that since most of us are from Ghana, I am originally from Ghana, it would be in place to observe the day with celebrations of food and dance and drumming.”

“The central point is the fact that there is freedom and justice for the Black man, who was able to gain independence from the European colonizers way back in 1957,” Mensah said. Traditional dancing and drumming is “a core part” of the celebrations, he added. 

Asked about any tie-in with the U.S. Black History Month in February, Heather Mensah, Shidaa Project Executive Director, noted “There is so much Black history that does not fall into the established month of February. Every month contains historical events and contributions made by leaders, artists, and influencers that are important to our history.” 

She also noted that “Ghana’s first Prime Minister, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, invited Martin Luther King Jr. to the first Independence Day celebration in Accra, Ghana. In a speech (King) gave that day, he drew a strong parallel between resistance against European colonialism in Africa and the struggle against racism in the United States.”

The March 9 celebration,  local musicians and students’ drum performances will include djembe, oblenten, and dunun drums, and “all the West African musical instruments that we have here,” he said. “We use all those instruments to make a melody and have fun with the community.”

All skill levels are welcome, Mensah said. “In Ghana, we have a saying which means ‘a bad dance does not kill the Earth.’”

 The audience is equally important, he noted, because having an audience encourages the performer. “Even if the person doesn’t want to dance, they are invited to come and see for themselves the spectacle and to enjoy the flavorous music.”

“The celebration is not for only Ghanians, it’s not for only Shidaa, it’s for the community. So anybody who lives in the community and knows how to dance, or does not know how to dance, and loves music or can drum is welcome.”

Any footwear is welcome “as long as you can dance in it,” Mensah said, but he noted that the church has a beautiful wooden floor, and, ideally, “We don’t want shoes that ruin their floors.”

Jollof rice, a popular West African meal, will be served. The tomato and rice dish is popularly served with chicken. Fried plantain will also be available as a vegetarian option. There will be no peanuts. 

Parking is available at the church and nearby. Mensah said to support the nonprofit, a $20 donation is suggested but guests will not be turned away.

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