The 12th annual Ghana Fest celebration kicked off last Saturday at Crotona Park in the Bronx.
Catharine Cujo heads the National Ghana Parade Council which has been organizing the Ghanaian festival for 12 years. She was very proud of the presentation of her culture, native dances and food at the festival.
“You want to see the cultural performance, the dressing, the singing, the native tone, the dialect and everything. You love it and it’s an experience, ”Cujo said. “We wanted to leave something, a legacy for generations to come. “
Cujo has lived in Claremont near Grand Concourse Parkway for 20 years and is a first generation Ghanaian American.
“I love the Bronx, don’t ask me why, but I love the Bronx! Cujo laughed amid the jovial drumming of the background music.
The festivities began with an elder blessing the event with a traditional prayer and libation ceremony.
Next, the Woshe Cultural Group, a group of drummers and three women performing Indigenous dances and songs, gathered on stage. In the cool of the tent that shielded the singers from the blazing summer sun, the traditional singers howled to the steady beat of the drummers behind them. The group was dressed from head to toe, and some barefoot, with white cloth wrappers and markings.
Later, the group Wusa Wusa, consisting of a drummer, dancer and instrumentalist wearing an elaborate headdress, jumped off the stage and led a small parade around the park’s lawn as spectators cheered. and were dancing.
“Music is therapeutic, music heals,” she said of the meaning of the festival for the community.
She said the genesis of the festival dates back years, when a handful of Ghanaian Americans from the neighborhood came together to honor their heritage as they already saw other nationalities do. Cujo took over the organization in 2014 and integrated other community services into the organization.
“When they go to the community, they find it difficult to communicate in the African dialect,” Cujo said of the district. “It’s something that has become a stumbling block.”
Due to language barriers, Cujo said, they offer translation services for those who speak Ga and Twi dialects as well as other enrichment and cultural workshops.
She said the Ghanaian community faces many challenges, such as immigration, housing and COVID, that she hopes to unite her people against every day. She is keen on community engagement and advises local authorities on how to connect with her community, she said.
“Rent is killing us,” she says. “You can see a family of 4 to 5 living in a one bedroom apartment because they cannot afford the rent. “
Cujo said that even when families ask for affordable housing, it takes “forever,” causing people to abandon the process. Many people are also afraid to admit they are undocumented, Cujo said.
Dr Kwabena Boakye, who heads CEDI’s medical office, said the COVID-19 tests and vaccine response were disastrous at his home in Ghana.
“Basically in Ghana, people don’t take COVID seriously,” Boakye said. “There isn’t enough vaccine for everyone and those who are qualified to get it are not getting it.”
Boakye said there was as much mistrust, obstacles and lack of resources in the overseas health system as there was in the city.
“It’s hard to know how bad it is in Ghana because not everyone gets tested,” Boakye said. “Like, for example, I had a friend who fell ill for two weeks with high fevers and chills. He went to the hospital. Four different hospitals. They treated him for malaria, typhoid, and then sent him home. I’m like man, they gotta check you for COVID. No one was researching COVID, not at all. ”
Frank Boateng, an elder at the Ghana Apostolic Church on Morris Avenue, said it was the first time the church has pitched tents on the park’s lawn and grilled food during the festival.
“COVID has affected every church, but it has affected our membership, our finances, everything has gone down. Our mortgage we couldn’t pay, ”Boateng said of last year’s stress.
Boakye said education is essential to change the situation. He started doing weekly broadcasts on Amansan Radio, a local Ghanaian radio station broadcast on AM 1620 from Bronxdale, with the aim of connecting with more Ghanaian residents on health care and immunization.