Friday, March 14, 2014
By: Senah Yeboah-Sampong
Editor’s note: Check back later for photos from the event or text GHANA to 24587 for an alert when they are posted.
The Ghanian Association of Minnesota (GhanAM) marked GhanaвЂ™s 57 years of Independence with a night of dinner and dancing.В GhanAM also announced the creation of a scholarship for youth working in the community to pursue higher education.
The dinner was held in Coon Rapids, where Reginald Chapman, WCCO reporter was the guest speaker. Chapman outlined the critical role of civic engagement in building strong communities, past present and future. He said it would take more than just giving money to people for school, however.
вЂњYou also have to nurture them,вЂќ Chapman said. вЂњYou have to be there along the way to help them through the rough spots, to guide them around the potholes so that they can be as successful as you are.вЂќ
On March 6, 1957 the British colony of Gold Coast gained independence along with a new name: Ghana. Less than a hundred year earlier Western superpowers had divided the African continent among themselves. В Yet by 1961, Kwame Nkrumah, GhanaвЂ™s first president, offered all primary and middle school students a free education.
вЂњThose traits and values that led to the liberation of people back then still exist today,вЂќ said Chapman. вЂњWe must pass them down to young people in this room as gifts from one generation to the next.вЂќ
By listening to elders and watching out for one another, the dream of achieving a degree that can become a reality for young people in the Twin Cities and beyond, he said.В Chapman, also an adjunct professor at St. Cloud State, sees mentorship as critical to the success of young people, which influenced his decision to teach at their school of mass communication. Enrollment of African American students in the program has increased 60 percent since he joined the faculty.
At a time in the nationвЂ™s history when job-growth remains sluggish, the disperate impact on communities of color is undeniable and most severe in Minnesota, according to a 2013 federal report; the telling numbers in terms of educational outcomes, home ownership and even the possibility of wealth building speak volumes. Chapman said that those who volunteer benefit through increased job prospects, better health and overall well-being.
I think volunteering in the community also helps us gain that visibility,вЂќ said hostess Akosua Larbi-Osei. вЂњWe want people to know that yes, we live in Minnesota, but we also want to maintain our sense of identity as Ghanaians.вЂќ
To that end, GhanAMвЂ™s Academic Foundation Committee will grant scholarships regardless of religion, creed, sexual orientation or disability status. All Ghanaian high school seniors on track for college or trade schools and those already enrolled can submit applications through June 30, 2014. A complete application will include a resume and essay portion that focus criteria like community involvement, academic accomplishments and professional goal-setting. Scholarship recipients will be announced at an awards banquet later this year.
When Collins Ofori-Amafo arrived in this country in 1986 there were maybe 100 Ghanaians.В Now there are over 6000 of them living statewide, said Amafo, a member of the Committee.В In that time, heвЂ™s seen the Association grow from something of a social club into a group of established leaders planning for the long-term.
вЂњParents have the mind-set of people living in Ghana and these children are growing up as AmericansвЂќ Ofori Amafo said. вЂњThey are torn between the two cultures. He said it was it was important to, вЂњhelp them move up slowly, or else we are going to regret it.вЂќ
Maintaining that momentum will may critical to many communities that must deal with similar cultural dichotomies as the age of globalization and a more service-based economy, where following oneвЂ™s passion can seem terribly risky. ItвЂ™s adversity like this however, and the thought of past victories that encourage so many to persist and to thrive. That night, once all was business was taken care of, В Tiyumba Cultural Group provided song dance, while DJ Za Za played afro-pop until the night finally came to an end.
Young people are hungry for a careerвЂ¦ to follow their passion,вЂќ Chapman said.В В вЂњOn this day that we celebrate the independence of a great nation, letвЂ™s also celebrate the young peopleвЂ™s re-commitment to service in the community.вЂќ