Developing Our Youth to Embrace Our Culture

Transcript of speech given by Dr. Janet Araba Aikins (Former Ghana Association President) at the Ewe Association of Houston 35th Anniversary Celebration

Akoo! Fie nami loo!  Miawoe zor!  Eve harbirbor le Houston xor fe blator voator” Hip Hip, Hurray!!! Akpe loo!

Salutation/ Recognition: Mr. President ……
  • Define Culture
  • Attributes of Culture
  • American Culture versus African (Ghanaian) Culture
  • Our Youth – Millennials Characteristics
  • The Problem Our perspective; their perspective
  • The cultural COMPROMISE
  • Culture is a word for the 'way of life' of a group of people, a.k.a. the way we do things.
  • It is an integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior. Humans have culture
  • Culture influences our outlook, attitudes, values, morals goals, and customs.
Sociologists have identified about 20 elements common to all cultures. I will only consider a few here:
  • Family Patterns: family is the most important unit of social organization. Through the family children learn how they are expected to act and what to believe.
    • i) Nuclear family; ii) Extended family
  • Social classes: rank people in order of status, depending on what is important to the culture (money, job, education, ancestry, etc.)
  • Customs, traditions or rules of behavior that enforce ideas of right and wrong. Restricted use of the left hand.
  • Norms keep us within the boundary of society and its culture, it molds our behavior and gives as knowledge about wrong and right.
  • Answers basic questions about the meaning of life. Supports values that groups of people feel are important. These beliefs are responsible for spiritual fulfilment of the needs and wants of the society.
    • Monotheism is a belief in one god. Polytheism is a belief in many gods. Atheism is a belief in no gods.
  • Language is the cornerstone/foundation of culture. All cultures have a spoken language (even if there are no developed forms of writing).
  • Language is a ticket to the entrance of a social life. People who speak the same language often share the same culture. Although language varies from culture to culture, it is transmitted from one generation to another.
  • Many societies include a large number of people who speak different languages. Each language can have several different dialects.
They are the products/symbols of the human imagination, that help us pass on the culture’s basic beliefs. Examples: art, music, dance, literature, and folk tales. Symbols are anything used to represent, express and stand for an event situation. Symbols direct to guide our behavior. For example: Bowing head, handshake, kneeling to apologize etc
People form governments to provide for their common needs, keep order within society, and protect their society from outside threats. Definition of government: 1. Person/people who hold power in a society; 2. Society’s laws and political institutions.  Monarchy – by birth Democracy:  people have supreme power, government acts by and with consent. Republic:  people choose leaders who represent them. Dictatorship: ruler/group holds power by force usually relying on military support for power.
How people use limited resources to satisfy their wants and needs. Answers the basic questions:  what to produce, how to produce it, and for whom. Traditional Economy:  people produce most of what they need to survive (hunting, gathering, farming, herding cattle, make own clothes/tools). Market Economy:  buying and selling goods and services Command Economy:  Government controls what/how goods are produced and what they cost.   Individuals have little economic power Mixed Economy:  Individuals make some economic decisions and the government makes others.

Nuclear family (husband, wife, children) Extended family (plus grandparents, etc
Less respect/care of the elderly Strong respect for the elders
Individualistic, competitive, committed to work ethics Inclusive, less competitive, interdependent Less work ethics
  • COMPOSITION: Born from the early 1980s – to early 2000s.
  • CHARACTERISTICS: digital natives (connected every waking hour, internet savvy, smartphones, ), entrepreneurial (72% want to open up business – Uber, lift), diverse (black president not unusual to them, grew up experiencing diversity, racism and discrimination; open-minded about diversity- not unusual to have a gay friend!), less religious identification, blurry (no absolutes same sex marriages, Technology has wiped the line between work, school, home, entertainment; public and privacy everything is okay out there – facebook, twitter etc), overwhelmed (information overload), lonely (human need for each other, weak interpersonal skills), progressive (they still want to marry, have children buy a home – they don’t want your house), individualistic (grown up having everything personalized their room, bed, toys etc, they don’t share nor compromise easily)
  • This is the description of the youth of today, be it in Houston TX, USA or in Accra, Ghana!

Ladies and Gentlemen, as King Solomon penned in the bible long ago, “there is nothing new under the sun”. Although there is a tendency to be either overly romantic or critical about new generations, the reality is that millennials face the same life challenges as previous generations, but in a super-connected and rapid-moving technological age. No wonder they have the same deep needs for love, significance, meaning, and belonging as every previous generation.

Secondly, we must acknowledge that they are bicultural not monocultural! Early in life, they are confronted with racism, and discrimination at school and workplace without support! If we do not support them they will mostly abandon our culture and heritage in ways that we have not yet imagined. In this adopted culture let me make  it clear to you they may fake assimilation, but they are not accepted – Example. My brother’s Keeper initiative

Thirdly in Houston, TX and on foreign lands we may not be able to duplicate exactly what our forebearers did for us while we were being raised in Ghana, but let’s begin somewhere. Let’s try!

Not too long ago, I asked some of our youth what seems to be their challenges in embracing the Ghanaian/African culture? 1st Language; 2nd Norms (why we do what we do); 3rd Strict expectations at school; 4th Disregard for time

As to what they liked: 1st Doing the best for them to succeed academically; 2nd Our connection and commitment to extended family

Brothers and Sisters, it calls for compromise , NOT Assimilation – it has not worked well for us. Note, that Asians do not assimilate they compromise!

  1. Language (foundation of culture)
    • Deliberately teach the children at home, church (I acknowledge the Ghanaian churches where the local languages are used to teach)
    • Speak the language with them while they are very little it is harder when grown
    • Work together to ensure the Ghana Association includes some of this language training on its agenda – engage all Ghanaian Associations and churches.
      • In the 1990s, I recall we the executives of the GAH had SAT classes at TSU (Dr. Reagan), later at the Methodist Church located at Beltway 8 and West Park
    • Most of the Asian children can speak their local language and outperform their peers at school.
  1. Family support the African Village Concept
    • Community leaving, support, and life! My neighborhood – tennis court (played tennis); soccer and tai-chi. Transformed from predominantly white to Spanish (Islanders, and S. American) to Asian (Vietnamese, Indians). Saturdays – fixing fences, painting.
    • Why do we not create our own community – fear of gossip, distrust, lack of societal will for the common good of all
  • Economic well-being
    • Houston has more minorities than Whites. And we should learn from them
    • Asians
      • Put their $ together to help each other (as down payments for houses, businesses etc)
      • Patronize Ghanaian businesses
      • Temples for social activities
      • They occupy the same neighborhood – Changes in my neighborhood, clinics built
  1. Love of country –
    • Take the children home on vacation
    • Expose them to culture in Ghana (unfortunately, the cultural divide is experience in Ghana too, today’s children may be speaking English even at home in Ghana, they may eat INDOMIL instead of “agbli kakro, or aboloo and fried fish”).
    • Discuss some of the extended family issues with them
    • Allow them to relate with their home relatives
    • Engage them in community associations (trust me it works, they will question, and you will use the opportunity to teach
    • Be proactive with their schools sharing the Ghanaian with the school at the local level – Black History (provide art, snacks --)

On a positive note, fashion (arts) is creeping in more and more, recent weddings have accentuated the African traditional method. Again, in Houston we have Ghanaian churches that portray the way we worship as Christians as Ghanaians be sure to visit them as families. Let’s be intentional in what we expose our youth to ensure that they find our culture their true culture attractive to embrace.

Finally, Long Live the Ewe Association of Houston, Congratulations on you many achievements both locally and in Ghana.