#OccupyJulorbiHouse: Dear Artists, Here Is Why You Need To Give A F**K!
“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
Who benefits from protests? Which crop of people are to lead a protest? How does one ensure a buy-in from across all sections of the society. These are some of the questions that a protest mostly provokes. One critical question that comes to the fore is: Why should I join?’. Often, this question is asked based on affiliations, the subject of the protests and whether results will be achieved immediately. It is therefore, unsurprising to see a section of people choosing to sit out of some protests.
The above enumerated questions surfaced recently when Accra, the capital city of Ghana, witnessed the #OccupyJulorbiHouse protests. For three-days- from the 21st to 23rd September, 2023, the street from the 37 Trotro Station to the Jubiilee House witnessed a huge number of protesters, mostly youths from diverse backgrounds, with placards expressing their frustrations at the current high cost of living, bad governance,unemployment and numerous corruption cases among government officials.
Despite the challenges encountered on the first day, including arrests and abuse by the police, protesters did not back down. They turned up in their numbers on subsequent days to express their anger, frustrations and call the bluff of the government and police. Those who could not join their colleagues on the streets expressed their support across social networks through tweets, Instagram and TikTok videos and other avenues.
Photo source: Adomonline.com
One group of people who were called out for being silent amidst the protests- both online and in the streets were some prominent Ghanaian creatives. According to the critics, creatives who have chosen to keep quiet over the corruption and mismagement under the current government are playing on the ‘’wrong side of history’’. That is, whether they are complicit in the ‘’crimes’’ of the government or living in a bubble (their wealth shielding them from the realities of the ordinary Ghanaian) or both.
Creatives and Political Activisim
This brings us to the big conversation of whether creatives have a duty to join the fight for better governance? In my honest opinion, creatives are Ghanaians first, and that should be a point of note for them. They should be concerned about the welfare of the country and its people before taking a position. They should not forget that their careers and success are tied to whatever happens in the country- from government policies to the support of the citizens.
For most of the critics, creatives occupy a very important place in society by virtue of their trade. Their voices- or in this instance, their social media comments would go a long way to shine light on the present situation since they owe it to the citizens who have supported and continue to support them monetarily, physically and more to at least, amplify their pains.
It must be noted that fans are not asking for something out of this world. For years, celebrities have added their voices to very important social and political campaigns, which the demand for better living conditions is one of them. #OccupyJulorbiHouse was no different. In October 2020 when Nigerian citizens were protesting police brutality during #EndSARS, celebrities added their voices and helped amplified the situation, ultimately courting international attention. The Nigerian creatives understood the importance of having a just and safer Nigeria were citizens could go about their daily business without the police abusing.
Celebrities being actively involved with citizen activism is not new in Ghana. As recent as 2015 when Dumsor was at its peak, actress Yvonne Nelson along with some of her celebrity friends like Efya, D-Black and ordinary Ghanaians (again the YOUTHS), took to the streets and social media to protest against the national energy crisis. Some used their medium of expression – music and movies to draw attention to the situation. One therefore would argue that if such actions have occurred once upon a time, then it is nothing new if the youths of today, the same youths who are considered the ‘’future of the country’’ are calling on their favourite celebrities stand with them in their time of need
Celebrities have influence. If you doubt, ask why these politicians pay them top dollar to not only make campaign materials for them but to also canvass for votes for them. It is for this reasons that celebrities add their voices to such important socio-political activism because it is the least they can do in their position. They should always remember that if the systems fail the citizens, they will be a casualty as well.
To the celebrities who joined this protest, we hail you, and you will be remembered for your speaking out. To the celebrities who went into hiding, know that we have seen you, and when you need us the most, we will remind you of times like this when you neglected us.
To the celebrities associated with the church, know that prayers are not enough. If you lobby for votes to win awards and call on people to pay for tickets to attend your shows, then you can use those same mediums to support our fight for a better Ghana.
Artists need to ponder over this quote and maybe that will give them some insight into why this cause is important, and why it is necessary to lend your voice and expose your following, fans and audience to such important matters.