Are children of Ghanaian children lost in the system?

How are second and third Ghanaian generations identified in the U.S? Could they identified as Ghanaians, Americans, or African Americans? And what makes them Ghanaians, Americans, or African Americans? Is it by language, dietary habits, accent or mode of dressing? If these questions cannot be answered with any accuracy and precision then the children of Ghanaians in the U.S. are in a cultural limbo.
Back home in Ghana, what we call first names are also known as Christian names. They are usually names given to children at Christian baptisms. But what is Christian about giving a child a first name such as Kennedy, Antoinette, Alexander, or Robert? Until recently it was a taboo among Christians in Ghana not to give their children ‘Christian’ names. Presumably such names made us feel civilized and gave us access to elitism. But we dare ask what European would give his or her child an African name? The child of a Ghanaian living in the United States bearing European name as his or her first name, speaking English at home and eating pizza and ordering Chinese food for lunch and dinner therefore finds himself or herself far removed from their cultural roots. How likely is such a person going to identify himself or herself with her cultural roots?
Language is an integral part of any culture. Unfortunately, in most Ghanaian homes across the U.S. where both spouses are of the same ethnicity, English is the preferred medium of communication. This is prevalent among the Akans. The practice could aptly be described as originating from Ghana where the assumption is that in a well-educated home, English language defines the social status of the person. This warped reasoning does not hold water because the children of immigrant Chinese, Russians, Hispanics, and others born and brought up in the U.S. on average speak their mother tongues and are at the same time able to attain higher laurels in academics and other fields. In an era where the world is continually becoming a global village and where universities and colleges such as Harvard, New York University, Columbia, and Fordham are adding African languages like Yoruba, Ewe, Twi, Swahili and others to their curricula, it is just prudent for students of immigrant parents to have an added advantage in native or ethnic language.
Bilingualism and multilingualism have become major assets to international business. To deny children their native language is tantamount to denying them their culture, and a people without a culture are a lost flock. Given the fact that the U.S. is a gorgeous mosaic of multiculturalism, each homogeneous group is able to identify its cultural root and/or ethnicity. Where does the average second or third Ghanaian belong?
Here in New York City and elsewhere, the Irish portray their cultural heritage with St. Patrick’s Day Parade with pride and pomp in their plaid skirts and green shirts; our Caribbean cousins have their Labor Day Parade with colorful floats, and tantalizing costumes. There are various other ethnic and cultural parades from Spring to Fall. Ghanaians, and for that matter Africans seem unconcerned. In fact, the average Ghanaian attorney, medical doctor, college professor or engineer would find it “uncivilized” to don a wrapped around cloth of the Akan or the Agbadza of the Ewe to openly parade on 5th Avenue in New York City! Without any cultural direction, our children meander in the system not as Ghanaians, Americans, or Ghanaian Americans. Why then do we lament when we lose our children to the system?

Getting our priorities right
Among the Akan and indeed almost all other ethnic groups of Ghana in the New York Metro area, Friday night is the preferred time for funerals for deaths that occur here. Saturday nights are earmarked for imported funerals. Imported funerals are events celebrated here for the deaths of relatives at home. It is important to note that back home in Ghana, funerals are never held in the night and on Fridays. Rather, they are held on Saturdays from mid-morning till about 6 p.m. The choice of Friday nights for funerals is an aspect of the dynamics of culture.
Some decades ago, when flights to Ghana were weekly, Ghanaians settled and relied on KLM that had Saturday flights to Ghana. And because Ghanaians were almost never used to be buried here, it became prudent to hold funerals on Friday and dispatch the dead body home the following day. Funerals are held at night time to maximize patronage, when majority of the population are home from work. Except in a few instances (such as royalties, government officials, or prior wishes), population increase, and other factors such as the cost of transporting dead bodies may have made Ghanaians decide to be buried in the U.S. these few past years.
Unscientific survey shows that cemeteries in the New York City area work half day on Saturdays as per labor laws (unless one is prepared to pay overtime surcharges). Therefore funerals are held Friday nights for burial to take place the following Saturday morning. It must be realized that in a typical Akan community in Ghana, burial is effected before funeral. The aforementioned is not so much as disturbing as how we dress for funerals.
It is common to see people at funerals wearing gold, diamond, and silver ornaments such as necklaces, hand bracelets and leg bands. This is a cultural taboo among the Akan people. These ornaments are donned on happier occasions and events such as marriages, child naming ceremonies and other rites. The death of a loved or sympathetic one is not the time to portray wealth. It is as simple as that. A cue could be taken from the mode of dressing of our royalty to funerals. None wears gold, silver, diamond jewelry to funerals. No amount of cultural change would make an Irishman wear a suit at a St Patrick’s Day Parade instead of a kilt.
As a community, we need to get our priorities right as far as our social behaviors are concerned. Our culture is unique and our funerals even more unique. Why not hold them at venues and at times when other communities would have easy access to witness and appreciate. We have nothing to lose but economic prospects at eliminating outsiders from joining us in our time of mourning.

 

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Posted by on Oct 16 2014. Filed under top stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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