Across Accra

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When we reached our dorm building in a residential area of Accra called Labone, we were all pleased at the sight of our apartments and our quaint yet developing neighborhood.

The most pronounced aspect of current Ghanaian culture is the 50th anniversary of the country's independence. Everything on the streets is covered in the flag's colors. Red, yellow, and green items are for sale in shops that are painted — yep — red, yellow, and green. From the billboards down to the fabric and jewelry sold, Ghana's national identity is prevalent. The national flag is one of the most important symbols in Ghana. In 1967, the Gold Coast was renamed Ghana because it was not ethnically specific to any of the 79 different ethnic groups living in the country. The founding fathers of modern Ghana also argued that there was an ancient empire located in West Africa between 900-1200 A.D. that settled here. They believed that this ancient empire was worthy of emulation even if the geography was inaccurate.

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Ghana is known as the Gold Coast because of their rich gold resources and cocoa imports. In 1471 when Europeans arrived, the country faced oppression and outside rule. Kings of tribes were overthrown, indigenous people were used for labor, and later hundreds of thousands were taken for use in the transatlantic slave trade.

Thus, the national flag represents a hard-won history of freedom for the Republic of Ghana. The red stripe represents the struggle and bloodshed in the battle for independence. The gold stripe symbolizes their most desired asset, also commemorating the reason why the country was colonized. The green stripe conveys the agricultural wealth of the country. And the black star in the center is meant to be a beacon of hope to all of Africa in the quest for freedom. As the first country south of the Sahara to be self-governed by African leaders, Ghana uses the black star as its most important symbol of true freedom. The symbol originated with pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey's Black Star Shipping Line, and continues to wave proudly across Accra.

During my first weekend in Ghana I traveled all over the city, visiting Kwame Nkrumah's memorial and the Keneshi Market. Driving around the city was an important introduction because I was able to learn more about how people function within the culture.

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