Dozens of celebrities, politicians, and activists have published an open letter pledging solidarity for Ghana’s LGBTQ+ community, following a surge of anti-gay protest and discrimination.
Much of the outrage is connected to the opening last month of an LGBTQ+ community center in Ghana — the first in the country — which was intended to be a place of safety for people who are LGBTQ+ to find support.
But on Feb. 24, the center, set up by LGBT+ Rights Ghana, tweeted that the center had been raided by police — and said that it had to close its doors for the safety of its staff and visitors.
Homosexuality is still a crime in the West African country, and after the raid, the center’s co-founder, Alex Kofi Donkor said that he fears for his safety.
In response, 67 influential activists and celebrities have now signed an open letter to Ghana’s LGBTQ+ community in order to show their support, and also to call on Ghana’s government and influential leaders to take meaningful action towards achieving inclusivity in the country.
The past couple of weeks have been difficult and as a proud African Ghanaian Queer women, I am encouraging all Ghanaian's to live up to our historical and cultural integrity. All LGBTQ+ people deserve safety, love and a life free from violence. #GhanaSupportsEqualitypic.twitter.com/CKjsnO26fQ— Phyll Opoku-Gyimah (Lady Phyll) (@MsLadyPhyll) March 1, 2021
The letter, signed by designer and DJ Virgil Abloh, model and businesswoman Naomi Campbell, actor Idris Elba and model Sabrina Dhowre Elba, rapper Jidenna, and actress and comedian Yvonne Orji, to name just a few, kicks off with a reminder to Ghana’s LGBTQ+ community that they are not alone and they deserve a safe space to turn to.
“We are in awe of your strength, your bravery, and your audacity to be true to who you are even when it is dangerous to do so,” the letter reads. “You are loved, you are important, and you deserve a safe place to gather in your shared experience.”
It continues: “Even though at present you might be feeling alone and cornered, we want to assure you that we are here. We are watching and listening and we will use our collective power to shield you and raise you up.”
“We, your allies, friends, and fellow Ghanians, Africans, and diasporans, are deeply disturbed by threats to your community,” it adds. “And we are encouraging all who support you to let their voices be heard now.”
Further signatories include Vogue Editor-in-Chief Edward Enninful; Netflix's Chief Marketing Officer Bozoma Saint John; Co-Founder of UK Black Pride, Phyll Opoku-Gyimah (also known as Lady Phyll); model and activist Adwoa Aboah; and actor and DJ Reggie Yates, among many more.
Before the raid, US President Joe Biden sent out a memo calling for the decriminalization of being LGBTQ+ in countries where it is still illegal. However Ghana responded to the memo by saying the the country’s laws are “supreme”, and the legislation criminalizing same-sex relations would remain in place.
After condemning the recent raid, the open letter, published on March 1, turns to the country’s leadership — calling on Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo and both political and cultural leaders to reach out and engage in a meaningful and purposeful dialogue with LGBTQ+ community leaders, and “create a pathway for allyship, protection, and support.”
The letter ends with a call to action from the signatories. “Ghana is a welcoming smile, a proud country of friendship, a nation of cultural integrity, and a caring gateway, but above all, Ghana is the definition of Akwaaba [a Twi word meaning “welcome”].”
They add: “Let us ensure that we live up to its fullest meaning for all.”