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Diasporian News Mon, 1 Sep 2008

Ghana immigrants rally to raise funds to send dead home

ATLANTIC CITY - Funerals in the West African country of Ghana are loud and lavish and steeped in tradition. The people revere their dead, sometimes waiting months to finally inter a body. Funeral announcements are listed in newspapers under "homecomings."

When members of the Ghanaian Association of Atlantic City experience the death of another member, they come together to raise money for a funeral here, and then raise even more to send the body of the deceased back to Ghana.

"Should something happen to any of us, we can help one another," said Sharon Asamoah, the group's vice president.

Asamoah and about 30 other association members and their families were at Historic Gardner's Basin on Saturday to remember their loved ones and to celebrate the group, now in its third year, and their culture.

Men drummed, and a DJ played African hip-hop, known as hi-life. Women squeezed flour into a pan of hot oil, making a doughnut-like treat called bofrot. People chatted in English and the Ghanaian dialects of Twi and Ewe over plates of fried plantains.

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While the association has been foremost a social group for Ghanaians and Americans interested in African culture, President Peter Owusu said members are becoming more socially active. They have plans to send care packages to Ghana filled with needed computer and medical equipment.

As is common with many immigrants here, Ghanaians have come to southern New Jersey to follow family and set down roots; they often are lured to Atlantic City to work in the casinos. The association estimates about 500 Ghanaian immigrants live in the Atlantic City metropolitan area.

Pleasantville resident Mildred Armah, 13, said she enjoys attending association gatherings because it gives her a chance to further explore her culture. While she was born in the United States, her parents - members of the association - emigrated from Ghana.

In April, her cousin, a Ghanaian immigrant, passed away, and Mildred said she marveled at how the association rallied together to raise the thousands of dollars needed to return her body to Africa.

"I know some people that are African, but they're ashamed," Mildred added. "I love my people."

Source: ERIK ORTIZ