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The Ministry Of Tourism, Arts & Culture In Collaboration With The Creative Arts Council, Beyond The Return Secretariat, And The Bridge Zone Africa Presents ‘Black Stories Matter’



Under the auspices of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts & Culture, ‘Beyond the Return’ presents one of the biggest and elaborate Master Classes ever organized in the Ghanaian creative space.

Under the theme, ‘Black Stories Matter: Forging Collaborations for the Development of Ghana’s Creative Industry’ – a legion of international greats, accomplished in their varied endeavours would partake in the Master Class as panelists.

Professor Eleanor Earl, a Film Lecturer at the Hampton University and TV host, Ivy Prosper, would moderate a panel that would include Chris Roland, Vassall Benford, Lamman Rucker, Baron Davis, Etu Evans, Shelby Stone, Asante Bradford, RJ Bucaria, and Philonese West.

The event comes off on Wednesday, September 30, 2020 at 4 pm GMT, and would be streamed live on Facebook and Instagram on @beyondthereturn, @Ghanatourismauthority, and @yearofreturn. It would also be broadcast live on Hitz 103.9FM.

The speakers and panelists include:


Lamman Rucker is an American actor who has starred in Tyler Perry’s films Why Did I Get Married?Why Did I Get Married Too?, and Meet the Browns, and its television adaptation. In 2016, he began starring as Jacob Greenleaf in the Oprah Winfrey Network drama series, Greenleaf.  He played Jacob Greenleaf, the eldest son of Lynn Whitfield’ and Keith David’s characters until the series ended in 2020. He continues to act in several features films and has also been very successful in producing original content  for film and television


Shelby Stone is an Emmy winning, Golden Globe and NAACP winner producer who is currently the President of Production for the Narrative Film Group, formerly known as Freedom Road Productions, Common and Derek Dudley’s company. They have numerous projects with ABC, Showtime, Starz, Amazon, and, many other distribution outlets. The production company Executive Produces Lena Waithe’s hit show, The Chi, which is in its third season. Ms. Stone has produced over 80 hours of television, including the critically acclaimed and multiple award-winning BessieLackawanna BluesLife SupportSingle Ladies, and more. She is the recipient of over 60 awards and nominations, including Emmys, Golden Globes, People’s Choice, GLAAD, George F. Peabody Awards, the Humanitas Award, and the NAACP awards. Stone is an active member of Women in Film, where she served on the Board, as well as the Producers Guild, Women in Media and Film Independent, where she taught in the Producing Lab. 


Baron Davis is an entrepreneur, investor, and two-time NBA All-Star and record-holder, over a thirteen-year career. Baron Davis played for the Charlotte Hornets, the Golden State Warriors, the Los Angeles Clippers, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the New York Knicks. Known for his electrifying style on the court, Davis was a powerful point guard, who won national acclaim for executing in crucial, high-pressure moments, when his team needed him the most. As a businessman, Baron was one of the original investors for Vitamin water and helped launch Thrive Market. Baron is also the founder of several companies, including Sports and Lifestyle in Culture (SLIC), The Black Santa Company, BIG, and No Label—each with the objective of combining creative talent with original publication and production to develop and provide educational and heartwarming stories that appeal to global audiences of all ages.


Etu Evans is a shoe, clothing, and accessory designer, interior design consultant, and philanthropist. Etu Evans has made a name for himself as a tastemaker to celebrities.  His parent company, The Evans Guild (TEG), is a lifestyle brand with high-end execution and specialization in Fashion, Furniture, Film, Farming, and Foundation. In the design space, including fashion and furniture, Etu has garnered a celebrity following and has been featured in several international print publications and on major television networks. He has served as a consultant to Harlem Textile Works, designed for Ducati in Italy, and featured on the “Hottest Designer” segment on the popular television show, “The View.” His style and design impact led to his appointment as a brand ambassador of a premium French spirits brand.

The New York Daily states “He’s one of the hottest shoe designers in the business and has turned the world upside down on its stiletto heel. Beyoncé bounces in his footwear, Tyra Banks says she’s a fan and Lil Kim strapped on some boots for a sexy photoshoot.” Footwear News has hailed Etu and his purple bottoms as, “the Prince of luxe footwear.” Evans’ designs have graced the pages of German Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, Essence, GQ, In Style, Ebony (30 Leaders of The Future), and Black Enterprise. His designs have adorned Halle Berry, Sharon Stone, Queen Latifah, Cynthia Bailey, Michael B. Jordan, and John Singleton, just to name a few.

Evans is focused on the cultivation of fashion, style, and beauty content for the mediums of film and television. He created the “Republic of Style” television show for WBLS radio and internet in New York; and, serves as the Creative Director of Harlem World Magazine.  Evans has an additional talent of public speaking; and, is often called upon to contribute as a style correspondent to major networks; and, has opened up for motivational guru Les Brown.  Most recently, he delivered a thought-provoking talk- Leaving a Footprint– when featured on the Tedx platform.


Vassal Gradington Benford III is an American music mogul, film producer, and investor.  Benford has stamped his indelible imprint on the music scene as one of the world’s most prolific producers in the entertainment industry today.  In 2017 Benford landed a platinum EDM pop hit with 2x Grammy Award winner DJ Diplo (Justin Bieber, Skrillex) song titled “Be Right There, also performed by superstar DJ’s Marshmellow and Major Lazer generating over 1 billion internet streams. In 2019 Benford executive produced the hit film “After”. The film was a commercial success after grossing 70 million at the Box office.  Combined, Benford’s productions has generated over $400 million in sales revenue for such companies as Universal, Sony, BMG and Warner Bros.  Benford is Chairman/CEO of The Benford Company(TBC), which is distributed by Universal with Mark Canton( Partner/film producer of the 2018 box office Blockbusters “300: Den Of Thieves” “Immortals” and the hit TV show “Power”). TBC capitalizes on music, film, Innovative technologies, and digital media platforms.

Benford’s production has helped create platinum hits for superstar talents DJ Diplo, Major Lazer, Toni Braxton, NAS, Marshmellow, Flo Rida, Fat Joe & Remy Ma, Queen


RJ Bucaria is Co-Founder and C.E.O. of Prolific Media Holdings LLC. He has been a trusted advisor and consultant to companies ranging from top Fortune 100 with over US $300 million in revenues to start-ups. He has also had the pleasure of compiling a client list of the entertainment industry’s top names such as Sony Records, Universal Music, Warner/Chappell Music, Sony/ATV, Radio City Music Hall, Charlie Murphy, Nokia, MPL Communications, Wyclef Jean, NBA, Discovery Channel, A&E, E!, Comedy Central, Warner Bros. Pictures and many more. Prolific’s operations, deal flow, and investment targets typically fall inside of 5 core verticals which include: Music, Film & Television, Facilities & Venues, Entertainment Marketing, and Entertainment Technology & IP.  Creativity in the Arts has always been a central part of his life. By the time he was 17, he had already recorded 3 full-length albums, performed off Broadway, produced 3 benefit concerts, written/directed/scored 2 original plays, was the chief lighting designer for over 20 stage productions and had added over 15 instruments to his performance repartee. Through his 20+ year journey in the business of the entertainment industry, he has held positions as A&R, Talent Management, Music Supervision, Producer, Executive Producer, Director, C-Level Executive, and as a member of the Board of Directors for public, private, and non-profit organizations. He has had the great pleasure of working with a large number of companies and talent from both the “A list” and those who have yet to make it on any list. Bucaria has said, “I have a very deep passion for every aspect of what I do and always look forward to the challenge of tomorrow.”


Professor Eleanor Earl is a film and television content producer, entrepreneur, and educator who has an unwavering commitment to making the world a better place through education, entrepreneurship, and the creative arts. Since 2003 Earl has been an Assistant Professor of English and Film Studies in the School of Liberal Arts & Education, at Hampton University, an HBCU, and has served as the Film Studies Program Director since 2007.  In 2009 she received the E. L. Hamm, Sr. Distinguished Teaching Award.  Earl served as director, writer, and sometimes host of a regional newsmagazine/talk show, with over 100 episodes completed during her tenure. from 2010- 2019. Prior to joining the faculty at Hampton University, Earl spent six years in Los Angeles, CA.  She produced the feature-length documentary, Searching for Shaniqua, which won the HBO Best Documentary Award at Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival in 2016.  Currently, she is the executive producer on the feature film adaptation of Dr. Van Whitfield’s best-selling novel, “Something’s Wrong With Your Scale” and several other independent film and television projects that are in various stages of development with legendary film producer and mentor, Reuben Cannon of Reuben Cannon  & Associates. Most recently, Professor Earl partnered with music mogul and filmmaker, Mr. Vassal Benford of The Benford Company, and continues a more than 10-year partnership with Shomi Patwary, an award-winning video director, of Illusive Media. She took undergraduate and graduate degrees, respectively, from New York University, Old Dominion University (with graduate credits in English Literature from a program held at St. Anne’s College, Oxford University, in Oxford, England), and The University of Virginia.


Asante Bradford is Project Manager for Digital Entertainment and Media for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the sales, and marketing arm of the State of Georgia.  The Global Commerce Division conducts extensive business development, sales, marketing, and promotional activities in order to attract entertainment projects and businesses to the state. The division’s team also assists the local, national, and international entertainment industries with information, expertise, and resources.

Asante helps promote the growth of the digital media industry as well as identify initiatives that will help grow businesses for the state of Georgia in interactive entertainment. He also helps educate potential prospects and provide clients with information about the Georgia Entertainment Industry Incentives Act.

His area of concentration with the Global Commerce office is to increase the impact of interactive entertainment for the State of Georgia as well as being a dedicated liaison to assist with promotions, logistics, and business development for attracting digital media companies outside the state to relocate in Georgia.

Asante was the Digital Entertainment Liaison for the Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainment division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development from 2007-2010 which helped Georgia become known as a center for video game development, animation, and digital media. The economic impact of the entertainment industry in Georgia jumped from $413 million to $2.4 billion in that time span.


Philonese West Is a Celebrity Hair Stylist with over 30 years of experience in the hair care industry. Having worked in Hollywood, Atlanta, South Africa, and many others Philonese has traveled internationally teaching Natural Hair Care with Aunt Jackie’s including  The UK, South Africa, and Nigeria.
Philonese currently works behind the scenes with the Film & Television Industry where she has worked on shows such as Tyler Perry’s “ If Loving you is Wrong”, FX Atlanta with Childish Gambino, HBO The Watchmen as a personal stylist for Regina King which led her to The Golden Globes and The Oscar Awards bringing her career to its highest peak.


Chris Roland is an award-winning American producer, director, and writer living and working in Cape Town, and has been involved in 80+ productions. In September 2020 Chris’ latest film Santana was ranked #1 in the world on Netflix for six straight days. Chris owns My Movies, a sales and distribution company, and previously owned ZenHQ Films and The Imaginarium, both leading production companies, and the South Africa Film Finance Corporation (production financing), and Basecamp Logistics (unit equipment rentals). As a consultant, Chris provides a wealth of experience that helps turn challenges into opportunities and ideas and dreams into realities.


“God Healed Me” – Actor Waakye Reveals



Veteran Ghanaian actor Prince Yawson popularly known as Waakye has confirmed he was sick but God has healed him. The filmmaker was reported to have been hit with a mild stroke some years ago.

Some people alleged that he was rushed to a spiritual home in August this year when his condition detoriorated.

However, the actor in an interview with Hitz FM’s Doreen Avio said he felt bad hearing the numerous misinformation put out by people about his health status.

He stated that a lot of media houses failed to crosscheck information they put out.

“I watched a video of a newscaster who said I had a little chance of survival. It is as if you are the one who gives life, as if God told her He was going to kill me. I don’t know where they got that from” Waakye said.

Waakye assured that at the right time, he will come out to clear the air on all matters related to his health.

“Once Upon a time I was sick but I am well. The Bible tells us not to say I am sick but say I am well, that is why God will touch you but if I say I am sick then you will go sick but I have been well, God has touched me, God is busy on me,” he added.

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Arts & Culture

Elizabeth Ofosu Agyare Denies Claims By Mark Okraku Mantey Against NDC



Former Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Elizabeth Ofosu Agyare has stated that, contrary to claims by President of the Creative Arts Council, Mark Okraku Mantey, the erstwhile John Mahama administration left notes on the sector during the 2017 transition.

Mr Okraku-Mantey, who was speaking during an event at the Accra Tourist Information Centre, had stated that workers of the Ministry had informed him that, zero investment had been made since the Creative Arts was added to the Ministry of Tourism and Culture.

But speaking on Hitz News @ 1 on Thursday, Elizabeth Ofosu Agyare urged Mr. Okraku-Mantey to stop the blame game and get serious. This according to her is because there is a lot of work to be done.

“He should stop the blame game and work. Ghana needs money, the Creative Arts industry needs money so if you just sit there and say they didn’t leave any money for us, there is no money in our coffers, what is that?

“He should get serious please, and please let Okraku-Mantey know there is a lot of work to be done which he hasn’t done.

“For him to say he is President of the Creative Arts, he should make sure that the law is passed otherwise he is president over nothing,” she said.

While listing some achievements by her office, the former Minister said they drafted the Creative Arts Bill which was ready for cabinet but lost power in 2016.

She added that they also ensured the passage of the Film Law which would include a fund.

Madam Agyare revealed that the Creative Arts industry was given GH¢1 million to work with, making allegations that investment was not made in the sector false.

“The Creative Arts industry was given GH¢1 million and Okraku Mantey can speak to that as well, and so if you say we did not make any investment in the Creative Arts industry what does he mean?

“Every year we took money from the Tourism Development Fund, so we could have given them another GH¢1 million if we hadn’t lost power in 2016,” she said.

Rating the works of the NPP, she stated that the government has not paid attention to the Creative Arts and did not continue from where they left off.

She advised Ghanaians especially the Creative Arts stakeholders to re-elect former President John Dramani Mahama to continue his good works.

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Arts & Culture

“Mahama Made No Investments In Creative Arts Sector” – Mark Okraku Mantey



The President of the Creative Arts Council has stated that the erstwhile John Mahama administration left no notes on policies initiated for the Creative Arts industry during the 2017 transition. According to him, workers of the Ministry also alleged that zero investment was done since the Creative Arts was added to the Tourism Ministry.

“In 2017 we met the Tourism Minister, Elizabeth Ofosu Adjare to find out what they left behind in terms of monies, investments and after an hour of talks, nothing was mentioned about the Creative Arts.

“So I took time to find out why and her team told us that since the addition of creative arts to the Ministry, they have not made any investment,” he said

Speaking at the CreativeArts4More campaign at the Accra Tourism Information Center on Wednesday, Mark Okraku Mantey disclosed that his team had to start from scratch.

“Indirectly, this government inherited zero note for the creative arts so we are starting afresh,” he said.

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Bisa Kdei Serves Us With New Single ‘Sika’, Features Gyakie



 From his 4th album, ace Highlife act, Bisa Kdei brings to the music world ‘Sika’ which features the peculiar female vocalist, Gyakie. The beautiful highlife song talks about how economic hardships could disturb a healthy romantic relationship.

The song ‘Sika’, which means ‘Money’ is a love themed track that reminds us that, love is what keeps us grounded even though life may be easy with money at hand.

Bisa Kdei showed the master he is in making music in this genre as Gyakie adds a sultry depth, making Sika a beautiful and authentic duet. This alone makes music lovers believe that the Ghanaian music can not be sided and that its original sound is timeless.

Enjoy the official audio for Sika.  

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