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Ghanaians Celebrate Obama's Visit

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

In Ghana, there have been elaborate preparations for the president's visit. It is Mr. Obama's first trip to Sub-Saharan Africa since taking office. Tomorrow, he'll confer with the Ghanaian president and visit Cape Coast Castle, that's a notorious site where slaves were imprisoned before being shipped across the Atlantic.

As NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports, it would be an understatement to say that Ghanaians are excited about hosting the Obamas.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. BLAKK RASTA (Singer): (Singing) Barack, Barack, Barack Obama. Barack, Barack, Barack Obama.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON: Ghanaian singer Blakk Rasta composed this song for the then-candidate Barack Obama. It became a huge hit all over the airways in Ghana during President Obama's inauguration.

Mr. RASTA: (Singing) How come black man become president in a moneymaker? Barack (unintelligible)…

QUIST-ARCTON: Now, the very same reggae song is again raising spirits during a very rainy season here in Ghana. Yet, torrential downpours have hardly dampened enthusiasm for the Obama family visit. Everywhere you look, it's Obama, Obama, Obama. Obama t-shirts, specially printed cloth with Obama's picture, wristbands, key holders, flags with the president's image, and giant welcome home billboards for Africa's first family.

TV, radio, newspapers, businesses, you name it. Everyone in Accra appears to be proud that President Obama has chosen Ghana. And out of sheer admiration, Nancy Sam said she set up an association, Friends for Obama, last year, when he was a senator trying to become president.

Ms. NANCY SAM (Organizer, Friends for Obama): We just want to say (foreign language spoken). Welcome home means (foreign language spoken). It is a warm welcome. So, we say (foreign language spoken) to Ghana. Come, and we are ready to receive you.

Behind every strong, successful man, there is a woman, and we are happy to have Mrs. Obama coming with him, meet with the women in Ghana. Oh, we can't wait to see her because we've realized that she has the African spirit in her. She's a dynamic woman, and we want her to put some of the vibrate in us, the women in Ghana.

QUIST-ARCTON: Dr. Robert Lee(ph) is an 89-year-old U.S. war vet. Born in South Carolina, he trained as a dentist and met some of Ghana's future independence leaders at Lincoln University. Those encounters lit a fire in Dr. Lee, with his rich baritone voice, and he moved to Ghana in the 1950s. He's been here ever since. Lee says he's thrilled at what many African Americans who settled in Ghana are calling a homecoming for President Obama.

Dr. ROBERT LEE: This fellow also shows that being black doesn't have much to do with what you become. Because Africans in the past, in America and in Africa, always felt that they could never do these things. These were reserved for white people. But Obama has proved this is not true.

QUIST-ARCTON: So, what song would you sing for President Barack Obama?

Dr. LEE: He would probably want to sing that…

(Singing) God bless America, land that I love, and beside her, and guide her.

Like that, something like that.

QUIST-ARCTON: Keep going.

Dr. LEE: (Singing) On the mountains, through the prairie, through the oceans white with foam. God bless America, my home, sweet home.

QUIST-ARCTON: I've come to Mary Mother of Good Counsel School, and they look as if they're having sports day today. But I want to know what they feel about the Obamas' visit here to Ghana.

Ms. HARIA SADU(ph): I'm Haria Sadu. I'm 13 years old. I think he has fulfilled Martin Luther King's dream of there being a black American president, and that's cool.

Ms. STEPHANIE AFAKUMA-AFQUA(ph): My name is Stephanie Afakuma-Afqua. I'm 12 years. And I'm so happy because Obama has encouraged all Ghanaians and all Africans to go ahead with your dreams. And I'm so glad he's coming to Ghana. And they should keep on doing what they are doing. We love you, Obama, and everyone.

QUIST-ARCTON: Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Accra, Ghana.

(Soundbite of music) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton
Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is an award-winning broadcaster from Ghana and is NPR's Africa Correspondent. She describes herself as a "jobbing journalist"—who's often on the hoof, reporting from somewhere.