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The visit to Essex County College by His Majesty, Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori Panin, Okyenhene, from the Ghanaian Akyem Abuakwa State on Friday, April 21, will not be forgotten by all who saw the awe-inspiring procession and heard the King’s words. The visit mixed both centuries old traditions and a 21st Century outlook by His Majesty, who assumed the Ofori Panin Stool (throne) in 1999, following the death of his brother.
The historic was on full display as the King and his entourage entered the Newark campus and moved across the College’s main forum in a slow procession accompanied by the sounds of a flute and the steady beat of drums. A member of his entourage was entrusted with a golden staff, topped with a leopard and the Ofori Panin Stool. When the staff is raised, that means the King is about to speak.
Accompanied by his wife (Nana Asabea Ofori-Atta), the King spoke at a small gathering in the College’s Africana Institute followed by a public program in Smith Hall.
During his address, the 35th royal ruler of Akyem Abuakwa talked about the history of his country – before, during and after European colonialism – and what the future can offer. “Hope for all will come when we make investments in education. The best use of technology is through the education of all people. But we can’t do that if we leave our women behind. Change is not for the faint of heart; we must prepare a better future for our children.”
The King is a proponent of equal rights and education for all citizens, and protection of natural resources.
The Akyem royal lineage goes back to the 13th Century. The Rev. DeForest “Buster” Soaries noted that His Majesty has broken a royal tradition of rulers having a number of wives. “He has distinguished himself; his wife with him today is his only wife,” the former New Jersey Secretary of State said to applause from the audience.
ECC’s President, Dr. Augustine A. Boakye, said the College has students from more than 32 nations, including many from Ghana. “I was very pleased when I learned that His Majesty would come to our College during his short visit to the United States. We have a rich history and culture to teach the next generation,” said Dr. Boakye, who was born and raised in Kiamasi, Ghana. ECC President Emeritus, Dr. A. Zachary Yamba, who took part in the program, was also born in Ghana.
The visit to ECC was coordinated by Dr. Akil Khalfani, Director of the College’s Africana Institute and Sociology Professor. “We think the distances between our countries is so great. But the land never ceases beneath the ocean, so we are always connected. We have to understand our long histories for us to continue to exist,” stated Dr. Khalfani.
Other guests included Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, Newark Deputy Mayor Ligia DeFreitas, and former Akyem Association of New Jersey President Richard Antwi Bosiako.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, His Majesty was presented with an ECC gift basket and a plaque. In turn, the College received a book on the history of the royal Akyem and a colorful mask symbolizing leadership.
In 2001, the College welcomed another king from Ghana on the occasion of the African Institute opening. Then President Dr. Yamba hosted His Majesty Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, of Ghana’s Asante Kingdom.