What New York calls "mini" is easily "mega" in other places. So what the National Council of Ghanaian Associations in New York had dubbed a "Mini Cultural Festival/Picnic" turned out to be a huge colorful event that was anything but mini. It took place on August 10 at the Crotona Park in the "bogey down boro of the Bronx".
A sizeable (by New York standards!) crowd of Ghanaians and friends of Ghana turned out for this year's edition of the long standing picnic. The national anthems of the motherland and the US, followed by a brief remark by Consul General Mr. Joseph Ackun, sounded the official opening and the joyful mayhem began in earnest thereafter.
The usual trappings of food and drinks flowed in abundance everywhere you turned. A resident disc jockey did quite well with his highlife (or is it hip life?) and 'azonto' selections. Young children ages between 10 and 15 would not be denied their fifteen minutes of fame and recognition. Many of them took over and mounted the stage and vigorously showed off their 'azonto' dancing skills much to the admiration of all. They were preceded by a team of young beautiful girls, the Ghana All Stars Dance Group led by their choreographer Ms Rita. They stole hearts and captivated all with dances choreographed to authentic Ghanaian numbers. According to an elderly picnicker," it felt good to see our children and grandchildren eagerly showing off their roots and heritage". Others saw this as a clear message from the youngsters to the organizers -- "please include us in your programs!!" Then there was a brief appearance by the rap artist and performer Shane Dean. The renowned entertainer flew in from Los Angeles for the sole purpose of sharing the "spiritual experience with my African brethren". Mr. Shane's interest in Ghana is rooted in a bore hole water project he has initiated to make good drinking water available in villages in the country. Kudos to him! It being an election year in New York, politicians would not be denied a fine opportunity to be heard. Bill Thompson, Vanessa Gibson, and "home girl" Naimat Mohammed, all seeking political offices, made their speeches and promises and left as noisily as they came.
The event really hit another stratosphere when it took on the form of a mini durbar of chiefs. The rich colors of kente (outfit of kings and queens) and the extravagance of gold and silver ornaments transformed the mood from a mere gathering of fun seekers into a glittering and colorful lecture in Ghanaian cultural foundations. Royalty representing Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Eweland, Fante, Ada and Northern regions of Ghana stepped forward, led in procession by the ever-throbbing sounds of drummers and beautiful maidens telling America how we do things back home. And then there were the teeming throng of people who could not resist the agbadza, adowa, atsiagbekor, kpanlogo, takai and adossa music the drummers served. They danced and danced and danced so much that it took some doing by the organizers and police to empty the park long after the allotted time had passed.
In the end everyone left. The teenagers left peacefully, albeit reluctantly, to continue their amorous schemes elsewhere. Already they and everyone else are looking forward to the next event. The flame is rekindled and smoldering. It will smolder until next summer when Ghanaians in New York, led once again by the National Council of Ghanaian Associations, will put up a bigger, better and an all consuming show befitting the world's capital city!
G. Ofori Anor New York