Monday, June 19, 2006

Black Stars - shining on and off the field

My post yesterday about the euphoria over the Black Stars' victory, and the unifying effects of football reminded me of something else I've been meaning to post about.My post yesterday about the euphoria over the Black Stars' victory, and the unifying effects of football reminded me of something else I've been meaning to post about, The 'I am a Black Star Campaign', an initiative of the NeoAfrica Foundation. The campaign website has an explanation of their project:
Every Ghanaian must strive to be a "Black Star," an individual who embodies excellence, integrity and sacrifice beyond personal gain, for the greater good of our country and our continent.

The premise is that the Black Stars' commitment to excellence has earned them a place in the World Cup, and has the whole country rallied around them. What excited me about the project is not just the commitment to excellence, but the aim of recognizing people who are living that excellence. I was talking to a Zimbabwean friend of mine a couple of years ago ( how time flies!), and we had a long conversation about role models, and which people were celebrated as we grew up. He spoke of Strive Masiyiwa of Econet Wireless, and although we went off on a tangent, there were several other people he mentioned as well. What struck me though was the fact that growing up in Zimbabwe Masiyiwa's example was one that a lot of people wanted to emulate. He spoke of how he and a lot of his friends wanted to replicate Masiyiwa's phenomenal success in business. I thought of Ghana, and who we saw as examples of success when we were growing up. Sure there was Sam Jonah of Ashanti Goldfields fame, and a few others, but to a large extent the only people who are widely know to young people and celebrated as successes are people with political power.

I've thought about this a lot, and the lack of visible role models for young people. Although I miss every moment I'm away from Ghana and I'm always looking for opportunities to go back, or to work on projects that impact communities at home, I don't for a minute regret having left to go to school. My horizons have been expanded beyond anything that was possible at home. By that, I mean not only the opportunities I have access to, but more importantly what I perceive as 'possible.' There are people at home who I like to call 'professional pessimists' . Quick to deflate people's dreams, doubting that anything other than what they have already seen can be successful. Now on the other hand, I firmly believe that if you can dream it, you can do it. This attitude relates to entrepreneurial culture ( which I will be disciplined enough to leave at that, since that is an entire post on its own), but fundamentally to all aspects of everyday life.

It is partly a culture, but also the ability to see people who have excelled in their fields and conceive of what has not been done before as possible. The really cool part about the 'I am a Black Star' project is that it doesn't celebrate people in business, or politics or other select fields, but celebrates people setting examples in their everyday lives.
The teacher extending education to the most remote villages; the ethical public official upholding integrity in our government; the business owner committed to giving back to his community; these are all Black Stars! Our nationwide campaign will feature inspirational profiles of such exemplary individuals and beseech all Ghanaians to discover and exercise their own power to make a difference in their communities.
This is a great start at developing a culture of role models, and hopefully one of people who have enjoyed more success mentoring others. One feature of the campaign is wrist bands which remind people of their commitment to live out the example of the Black Stars in their everyday lives.

certainly commendable, let's see how it plays out


nii adom said...

Yeah, definitely commendable. Fell in love with the idea the first time I saw it. I will soon be sporting my new wrist band :).

Anonymous said...

maybe it is just me but the name Sam Jonah never fails to turn my stomach...honestly he should be allow to stay in Ghana, should take his Sir and stay in England haha, sorry for the randomness but I could not help it. Thanks for the post.

Many blessings