From movie premiers, concerts to other social gatherings, Ghanaians in the United States love to party hard every weekend. Baby naming or Outdooring Parties are high on the entertainment agenda followed by funerals, weddings, birthdays and graduation parties as well as the occasional concerts that feature top musicians from Ghana.
There is the Ghana picnic which brings Ghanaians from all walks of life together every first Saturday of August in New York and a more traditional version in Chicago, dubbed Ghanafest.
Ghana Parade is also another medium of socializing which started a couple of years ago. A new trend that’s catching on with Ghanaians in the States is “Boat Ride” during summer time. Individuals and organizations gather folks to cruise on the Hudson and East Rivers in Manhattan.
Outdoorings are a major part of our lives since our culture demands that every baby be named and introduced to the public. In Ghana, I know it happens a week after childbirth and it is done either traditionally, in a Christian or Islamic way, depending on what the family believes in.
Changing trends have seen a more sophisticated way of this rite of passage, where in New York the baby is named six months or so after birth at home on a Saturday morning with a “heavy” party thrown in the evening, which continues into the wee hours of the morning, depending on the area of residence.
In New Jersey for instance, party curfew is 2am while in New York we could party until 5am. Although outdoorings are meant to celebrate the birth of a child, most Ghanaians have turned it into a competitive event where they try to out-do each other by way of making it more glamorous, stylish, fashionable, entertaining and awash with more hard liquor and beer than the previous party they attended.
Some people have dress codes attached to the invites they send out while most stress that people should dress to impress. Hence, outdoorings in the United States have become the place where people showcase their wealth. Ladies will either sew new dresses specially for the occasion or buy expensive brand name dresses which will either be buried in closets or shipped to relatives in Ghana.
To make their parties more unique, most parents hire the services of expensive caterers, an array of the best DJs in town and a world class MC like Flipman, while some fly big brother KKD from his London base to host theirs. New York’s outdooring parties attract family members from all over the world. When family members from United Kingdom, Asia, The Netherlands and neighboring Canada are on a guests list of an outdooring, the party is rated as an elite type and becomes talk of the town.
It’s funny when some parents expect the invited guests to foot their bills through the expected donations to be presented to the baby. MCs are constantly bugged by these parents to announce that “people should pay” while drinking and enjoying themselves. Sometimes I wonder in a soliloquy “are we paying to enjoy the traditional celebration of a rite of passage.”
Since invited guests sometimes do not get the chance to enjoy meals during such parties, in the case of New York where it is more of drinks, pastries and light finger foods, outdooring hosts entreat their invited guests to “after parties” the day after the main event, mostly Sundays, either in their homes, at a local playground or rented halls.
At such after parties more drinks are provided and assorted local dishes such as Omo tuo, waakye, tuo zaafi and ampesi among others are served. People usually look forward to such after parties and patronize them because that is where they get the chance to enjoy local dishes which are sometimes not common to prepare and can be cooked only by experts.
Patrons who couldn’t honor their financial obligations at the main event also get the chance to pay up and get their names recorded in that “special book” which the parents consult to know who showed love and call up later to render their acknowledgements and appreciation.
Funerals in the United States among the Ghanaian communities are more of a celebration of the life of the departed individual than the traditional rites we observe back home in Ghana. When a relative dies here or back home, family members gather to commemorate the one week of remembrance where people donate drinks for the preparation of the final funeral rites.
The drinks are used for the funerals both here and Ghana, if the family decides on a dual celebration. If the funeral would be held here in the States, the bereaved family gathers with friends and loved ones to party in honor of the dead with drinks, pastries and sometimes chicken gizzards and khebabs.
Unlike Ghana where funerals are held during the day on Saturdays, the funerals in our part of the world are held at nights on either a Friday or Saturday. Timing for this celebration is the same as that of an outdooring or any other party in the States.
Prayers are usually said to commence the occasion around midnight, once again, depending on the area where the funeral is being held. Selected few who believe in traditional African practices still pour libation to invoke the spirit of the dead. Apart from the solemn atmosphere that characterizes the commencement of almost every funeral here, where the bereaved families are given the opportunity to welcome their guests and shed a few more tears, the rest of the funeral is a party.
More music, more drinking, more dancing and more socializing interspersed with biographical reading and presentations by the family and friends. Donations are welcome and people pay under the pretext of helping the family find a befitting burial for the lost one either here in the States or the homeland Ghana.
Everything about our weddings is almost the same as what pertains at a typical wedding in Ghana. Same ceremony in either a church or hall, presided by a man of God and a reception afterwards. It also has that knack for competition so extremely huge sum of money is spent to outdo the previously held one.
Expensive banquet halls are rented and the more assorted brand name liquor the couple will provide their guests, the more accolades they will be showered with after the celebration. In most cases when there are excess drinks, there definitely will be another big after party in the couple’s house the next day, featuring assorted local dishes and more booze.
Birthdays and graduation parties are rare on the entertainment calendar since the elderly in society choose to celebrate their milestones in more formal ways with loads of church members in attendance. There will be food and drinks and a music and dance session to commemorate the event.
The younger generation on the other hand has sort of adopted the American standard of celebration where the party is thrown mostly in a club. There’s a guest list, a charge at the door to get in at times and guests pay for their own drinks while partying with the celebrant and family.
I know it is the smartest way to celebrate because assuming the fellow is in college and wouldn’t have enough money to throw a big bash, it is economically viable to patronize cool places like Sam’s Café on the Grand Concourse in Bronx, Mataheko in Jamaica Queens, Club Zoodoo also in the Bronx or Jay Z’s Forty – Forty, that’s if the fellow is richer, or my favorite joint on 58th and 9th Avenue, Hudson Bar in Manhattan to celebrate a birthday. These are the only names that come to mind out of the thousands scattered on the east coast.
Folks in the Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC area have the advantage of tasting a classic standard of birthday celebrations with Just Quality (JQ) promotion which has served as a party planner and Events organizer here in the States and elsewhere. His style of putting clients’ parties together could be compared to that of the Hollywood bigwigs. The bottle services, the décor, the ambiance and the dress code are always with a touch of class.
Still on how we socialize, I would like to mention that JQ and Rob Definition have always set a standard above their peers in the organization of parties for July 4th weekends and Labor Day weekend parties which have become famous for their all white and all black parties on specific days.
Say… all black Saturdays and all white Sundays from a plush ballroom to a cool poolside. On such events, the youth from across the States gather together in the nation’s capital to show their latest fashion trends and blow all the money they might saved over a couple of months.
Rented cars, exquisite hotel suites and popping champagne are the trend whenever these parties are in session. In New York, Sam Tuga & Associates and Boogie Down Nima are the top notch Events organizers who put together boat rides during summer time.
Boogie Down Nima has a tradition of bringing Ghanaians together for “After Parties” every year on the night of the annual Ghanaian picnic in New York and thanksgiving weekend parties.
Sam Tuga & Associates have a penchant for bringing Ghanaians together through big time concerts annually, where top musicians are invited from Ghana to perform. The crowd grows bigger every year because there’s an improvement on the standard of organizing year after year.
Artists like VIP, Tic Tac, Reggie Rockstone, KK Fosu, Castro, Kofi Nti, Kwaw Kesse, Obrafour, Ofori Amponsah have all mounted stages in The Bronx and Manhattan in NY as well as other States. Sarkodie performed recently in New York courtesy of TM Entertainmentz based in New Jersey and has since been to Maryland and Worcester Massachusetts.
After work, on a daily basis, Ghanaians socialize in the African Markets in the Ghanaian communities and catch up on gossips while some sip on locally manufactured beverages. They also watch soccer matches together and follow news from Ghana via newspapers and the internet at places such as Anokyekrom African Market and Malata in New York as well as Oasis Sahara in Maryland.
So in a nutshell, one will not be far from the truth when one claims that although Ghanaians work hard and try to live simple lives in the Diaspora, those along the East Coast of the US party harder than most do.