During the 70s in Ghana, teens were experiencing a unique fusion of identity and influence, shaped by the magnetic pull of African American culture. And as a Ghanaian teen, I immersed myself in the captivating rhythms, dances, and styles that emanated from the other side of the Atlantic. I was fascinated by everything Black American and was not alone in my cultural admiration. Many of my schoolmates equally shared my enthusiasm and curiosity for our distant cool, hip, and outta sight cousins.

Saturday night entertainment featuring musical happenings were a highly anticipated affair in secondary boarding schools across Ghana. A local DJ would spin vinyl hits from soulful African American artists that connected with us spiritually. For a couple of hours, the entertainment halls resonated with the sounds of soul, disco, and funk, transporting the youth to the magical world of Black American music.

Author Edward Kusi as a teen in Ghana

The Commodores, Earth, Wind & Fire, The Whispers, Brass Construction, Kool & the Gang, Evelyn “Champagne” King, Teddy Pendergrass, Luther Vandross, Barry White, and many others were the reigning musical deities of the times. After five days of rigorous study, my classmates and I looked forward to Saturday night, the one great moment of release where we would just get loose on the dance floor. We learned the latest African American dance steps, and soon mastered them–The Hustle, The Bump, The Robot, The Bus Stop. I will never forget doing The Bump to Joe Tex’s Ain’t Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman).

Some of the boys at my school were more adventurous and daring than others. They would sneak out of school to frequent the nightclubs in town. They’d mingle with the locals and take-in the disco scene. They were well aware of the risks of getting caught and facing severe punishment, even suspension, but they did not care. They risked it all just to have fun and fully experience the nightlife.

Another way we expressed our admiration for African American culture was through our appearance. We adopted the Afro hairstyle, which was popular among Black Americans at the time. Some of us used all kinds of hair preparations, both foreign and local, to “blow out” our hair in an effort to achieve that perfect fro! We thought fros looked cool and stylish. Those of us who were naturally blessed with a lot of hair were the envy of our peers.

The 70s fashion trends of Black Americans in the US were bold and varied. We wore vests, bell bottoms, Qiana shirts, applejack hats, and the quintessential platform shoes; these fashions became must-have items in every Ghanaian teen’s wardrobe.

One of the fashion crazes at this time were overalls which we copied from the Car Wash movie. We wanted to look like the stars we watched on TV and read about in magazines. Adding a touch of flair, some boys adopted a fake American accent, and even playfully incorporated slangs into their speech that sounded pretty authentic.

Speaking of TV and magazines, we consumed a lot of African American media. We watched memorable films like Super Fly, Cooley High, and Shaft. We identified with movie characters, their stories, and picked up a lot of slang words, phrases, and fashion stylings from them. The hats worn by the actors in Cooley High became an instant fashion craze; nearly every teen wanted to sport one. We also read magazines like Ebony and Jet, which featured articles and interviews with famous Black Americans in various fields like Muhammad Ali, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Richard Pryor, Angela Davis, and Rev. Jesse Jackson. We learned about their achievements and challenges, and admired their courage, resilience, and creative talents.

School seniors who were into activism and Pan-Africanism were heavily influenced by African American movements like the Black Panther Party and Congress of Afrikan People. Some classmates have even gone on to become noted Pan-Africanists in their adult lives and founded organizations that champion the political causes of Ghana and Africa.

Growing up in Ghana in the 70s was an exciting journey into the heart of African American culture. The fusion of arts, fashion, activism, and Black achievement from the United States shaped the experiences of our teens, creating a unique kaleidoscope of identity that blended local traditions with global influences. Young Ghanaians embraced the spirit of African American culture that transcended borders and left an indelible mark on our teen years. This unique and memorable experience helped shape our identity, worldview, and gave us a sense of connection and belonging. We were proud to be African, but we also felt a solid kinship with our Black American brothers and sisters. We were influenced by their culture, but we also contributed to it in our own ways. We were part of a global community of Black people, united by history, heritage, and hope.

All this acculturation of Ghanaian youths on African American culture in the 70s was heading somewhere or had to lead to the ultimate for some of the boys. It silently instilled in them a yearning to live in America and to become a part of the culture. But getting to America was not easy. One of the main ways to achieve this dream was to apply for scholarships to study in American universities and colleges. These scholarships were highly competitive and limited, but they offered us a chance to live in America. The process of applying to foreign universities was an intricate affair, with the absence of guidance counselors making it a daunting task. Yet, the enthusiasm and the hunger for opportunity fueled these teens to overcome linguistic barriers, navigate complex application procedures, and tackle unfamiliar essay prompts.

While not everyone would embark on the journey across the Atlantic, the pursuit of American scholarships marked a significant chapter in the lives of our generation of teens. It was a testament to the resilience, ambition, and the belief that those who persisted could make it to the other side. And that is what happened.

Some of the boys were lucky enough to receive acceptance letters and scholarship offers. They were overjoyed and proud, but they also faced challenges. They had to obtain passports, visas, and make travel arrangements. They had to leave their families, friends and prepare for a new life in a foreign land. They had to adjust to a different culture, climate, and education system. They had to deal with racial discrimination and stereotyping. They had to balance their studies, work, and social life. But nothing compared to the elation they felt in knowing that their dream of living in America had finally come to pass. The joy and prestige attached to such a prospect was overwhelming. Many who left after secondary school made America their home and have remained there until now.

In retrospect, many of my peers did fulfill their dreams, stepping onto American soil to pursue higher education, and to live the African American culture in situ. But for me, my life’s path led elsewhere. Their stories, woven into the fabric of the 70s, reflect a generation’s pursuit of aspirations that transcended cultural boundaries, an enduring testament to the universal appeal of the African American influence on Ghanaian and African youth during that period.




Edward Kusi is a lifelong student/teacher in this adventure called Life, who stands for the betterment of humanity. Edward lives in Accra, Ghana, and enjoys reading, writing, and researching.