Diasporian News of Saturday, 19 May 2012

Source: Joe Kingsley Eyiah,

“Ghanaians Speak” Event in Toronto was Successful

By Joe Kingsley Eyiah, OCT, Brookview Middle Toronto-Canada The first “Ghanaians Speak” event held in Toronto on May 12, 2012 was a big success!

About 50 Ghanaian-Canadian activists from a cross-section of the community including teachers, social workers, NGO workers, nurses, youth leaders, pastor, journalist, accountants, business owners, students, adults and youth/children gathered at 121 Kendleton Drive (Kipling & John Garland) to share ideas and listen to each other on how to move our community in Ontario-Canada forward. The meeting was at the initiative of Across Boundaries (Canada), an NGO that assists immigrant communities to mobilize themselves from the grassroots for development within the Canadian cultural mosaic. It was sponsored by some Toronto-based organizations such as Youth Unlimited, Y-Connect, Youth Development and Empowerment Project (YoDEP) and Ghanaian Canadian Social Services Network. The keynote speaker for the function, Mr. Eyiah, OCT, a seasoned professional teacher, writer, parent and youth activist, as well as a social commentator and motivational speaker led the participants to identify the strengths and opportunities for the Ghanaian community in Canada. The interactive and relaxed approach used to handle the discussion yielded many dynamic and soul-searching comments from most of the participants including the youth who later had their own semi-conference meeting to air out their concerns and expectations! A guest speaker, a criminal/family and immigration law practitioner, Mr. Ali briefed the gathering on legal aid services and rights of the individual in Canada. Participants learned at first hand that when Police in Canada stops a driver, the driver needs not to panic and stop immediately in the street/road anywhere! The driver has the right to signal to stop and carefully drive to a good spot to stop! He advised African immigrants to patronize the services of the members of the African Lawyers’ Association in Canada, access legal information on the Internet by goggling with the key words, and make our legal choices wisely when necessary.

The next to share his astonishing personal life journey from Africa to Canada was Mr. Benjamin Osei, a Youth & Family Outreach Worker at Jane/Finch in Toronto. His story, which held both the adults and youth spellbound, stressed the need of determination, dedication and disciple in life. “Though I was disappointed and neglected by my own countrymen (Ghanaians) in my sojourned struggle from Ghana through Sierra Leone to Canada I have vowed to help any Ghanaian who would need my help wherever I am!” Osei said this to the applause of the gathering.

Later, the gathering broke into two focused groups with the youth in one group led by Ben Antwi and the adults led by Daniel Sem of Across Boundaries. Upon re-conveying as a large group, Nana Boateng, on behalf of the youth group filled in the following wonderful ‘state of the youth’ report:

The Challenge of working as a Ghanaian Youth: Part time and or summer work is an essential part of building experience and the professional network of high school and post secondary school students. Ghanaian Youth as compared to other nationals are limited in opportunities.

Then the question came up: What do we do to break out of this trend? Ghanaian Youth should not only associate themselves with other Ghanaians at the High School and Post Secondary levels however in their daily dealing with friends of other cultures to network on a professional basis also. The argument was the fact that our parents are already affiliated with Ghanaian friends and if we just mix with people of the same culture, our network will be very limited. It was noted that the intention was not necessarily letting go of Ghanaian friends but it's imperative we break out as early as possible to ensure a solid integration with other nationals in school and subsequently the workplace.

It was agreed that the generational gap between our parents and their Youthful children is wide. However we also identified that some of the parents who immigrated here at a much younger age are able to somewhat relate to their kids better than the average Ghanaian Canadian parent. One solution members suggested was confidence building on the part of the Youth to be able to connect well with their parents.

The issue of discipline measures also came up. Even though most of the young persons present sympathize with the Ghanaian Canadian parent in their way of thinking, the general pitch was for them to ONLY try to adapt to more effective ways of discipline like reinforcement and other Western methods as compared to the known traditional Ghanaian methods like screaming and threatening. Inevitably, the next question was what could be done to change the situation? A younger member of the group suggested parents should listen more to their kids. An example was the fact that most Ghanaian Canadian parents are stereotypical of certain jobs hence making it difficult for them (the Youth) to gain any work experience even if they found a job. The way forward to deal with this: We suggested that Youth should speak to other adults (say relatives or friends of their parents) if they find it difficult to communicate with their parents. Also Youth should have open conversations with their parents as we found out that most of us don't know the stories behind our parents coming here. That will break the ice to a large extent and bridge the current gap.

To me, the foregoing report is a testimony of the good job done by the youth who happened to be at the “Ghanaians Speak” event.

The adult group confirmed the youth/parent conflict and suggested on-going dialogue between the adults and the youth of our community and also, to seek better ways without compromising our Ghanaian values of hard work, respect for each other and spirituality in our treatment of the youth.

The other challenge identified by the adult group is the unnecessary exclusiveness of many sub-groups in our community! The many Ghanaian churches and ethnic or tribal associations in our community are most guilty of this cancer. They have become over-protective of the members and debar any good thing coming from outside their group. Hence, they are failing to truly reach out to the entire community in their mission. Cutting themselves and weakening the oneness of the community with their divisions! Very unfortunate! We look forward to a small group of committed members from across the divisions to begin the building of a vibrant community devoid of exclusiveness.

It was pointed out that language at sometimes become a barrier to some Ghanaians when it comes to dealing with schools and hospitals! Confidence is the key and assistance from Ghanaian interpreters is also necessary,

All said and done, the need to build a strong and effective network for Ghanaians was on top of the way forward. The gathering was furnished with community resources compiled by Daniel Sem of Across Boundaries. The facilitator for the event was Mavis Tekper and Abraham provided entertainment by drumming. Participants were also refreshed well. This event was just the beginning!