The region's native Ghanaians spoke up, and the African American Museum in Philadelphia listened.

Ghana has been selected as the focus country during the museum's second annual Celebrate Africa! festival, which kicks off at 9 a.m. tomorrow at the museum, 701 Arch St.

The event is free and families are encouraged to attend.

Ghana, the first African country to win independence from British colonial rule, is set to be celebrated by a parade featuring a Ghanaian drum float, a Highlife band float, and a succession of flags representing each African country.

"Last year, we celebrated Nigeria, but had no parade," said Dr. Samuel Quartey, chairman of the museum's Celebrate Africa! committee.

"We felt that we didn't have a parade in Philly, so why don't we take the initiative. There will also be a noon 'Ghana Day' proclamation, and a 3 p.m. naming ceremony for those who want to adopt a Ghanaian name."

The festival also features African drum, bead and dance workshops, live performances, an all-day marketplace and the participation of Ghanaian dignitaries.

Celebrate Africa! isn't just a big party. Quartey also hopes that it will foster unity between Africans and their extended African-American family.

"African-Americans will also march in unity and in harmony with the Africans," Quartey said.

"Everyone is excited. We are hoping that at the end of the day, people here in America know that the people of Africa, we are the same people, uniting for a common cause, and that the most important thing is that we are all brothers, sisters and cousins."

Next year, the museum will focus on Ethiopia, which is celebrating its 2000th birthday. *