We, the members of the various Ghanaian Associations in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area, in due recognition of our common National Heritage and shared aspirations, do hereby resolve to form the Council of Ghanaian Associations, to promote and preserve our heritage and to seek the general welfare and prosperity of our member-organizations, while at the same time maintaining the autonomy of each association.” Preamble to the Council’s Constitution.
The inauguration of the Council of Ghanaian Associations and the swearing-in of its executives in August 1990, by H.E. Ambassador Eric Otoo, marked the realization of the dreams of many Ghanaians who, over the preceding eight years, had hoped for, and worked diligently towards the formation of an umbrella organization.By 1980, the Ghana Community Association (GHACA), which had been operating since 1968, had seen its best years, and significant internal turmoil threatened its existence. The community responded with the formation of numerous myriad ethnic organizations through the mid-80s, along with the expressed need for an umbrella group.
Two isolated unification attempts were made in 1982 and 1984 without much headway.It was not until October 5, 1985 that the seminal event took place: twenty four representatives of the twelve existing associations met at Harvard University Inn, at the invitation of Joseph Agyeman-Gyau, (Brong-Ahafo Association) to begin work on the protocols for unification. There were many contentious issues at that October meeting, and at subsequent ones on October 18 and November 9 1986.However, of critical importance was the role GHACA would play under an umbrella organization.Yet, in spite of continuing difficulties, the various associations successfully co-hosted the March 1987 Independence Anniversary Dance.
At a conference in Arlington, Virginia, on May 7, 1987, GHACA faced a clear choice: to become one of the many associations under the umbrella or to disband. Following a frustrating year, with very little activity, a meeting was convened on March 10, 1988. In attendance were Mohammed Baba (Zumunta), Kudjo Ave (Volta Club, Inc.) Sam Agyeman-Duah, (Asante Kotoko) Timothy Cudjoe, (GHACA), Nii Okai-Adjei (GaDangme), and Gil Jones-Quartey, (GaDangme). Fruitful meetings were held by this group, which called itself the “Leadership Conference”, on May 7, and May 21, 1988.The work of the Leadership Conference gathered tremendous momentum and significance.By February 11 1989, the group had expanded to include all the ethnic and pan-ethnic groups, (Ebusua Inc and United Women of Ghana, and GHACA.On that day, the Leadership Conference became the Council of Ghanaian Associations, and work on its Constitution and Byelaws then began in earnest.
After much debate, the draft Constitution was ratified.In response to events and other developments, the Constitution has been amended since then to reflect the wishes of the representative organizations. (GHACA found it difficult to operate under the umbrella structure, and formally resigned from the Council in 1993).The goals and objectives of the Council include:
- The promotion of Ghanaian customs and culture through educational programs,
- Serving as the mouthpiece of all member-organizations,
- Coordinating activities of member-organizations,
- Resolving conflict among member-organizations
- Establishing and maintaining relations with other umbrella Ghanaian organizations in the United States and Canada,
- Celebrating Ghana’s Independence, and
- Holding jointly sponsored activities (such as the successful Ghana Bazaar in 1992).The Council believes that all the objectives will be accomplished with the on-going interest, support and involvement of the community.
Since its inauguration, the Council has received the support, counsel, and encouragement from His Excellencies, Ambassador Eric Otoo, Ambassador Dr. Joseph Abbey, Ambassador Ekow Spio-Garbrah, Ambassador Koby Koomson, Ambassador Allan Kyeremateng, and Ambassador Fritz Poku, and Ambassador Dr. Kwame Bawuah Edusei, who, incidentally, became the first Ambassador to attend a COGA general meeting on its "home turf". They have all served as Patrons of the Council, and have encouraged the Council to expand its membership, to undertake meaningful projects and to exert its leadership within the community. As COGA bids "farewell" to Dr. and Mrs. Bawuah Edusei, with our sincere thanks for a job well done, we, along with the general Ghanaian community, anxiously await the arrival of Ghana's next Ambassador to the United States.
THE COUNCIL IN ACTION
In addition to hosting Ghana’s Independence Day Celebrations, the Council is always hard at work on a myriad of fronts. Here are a few highlights over the years:
- The Council held a banquet for former President Jerry Rawlings and the former First lady, in a joint effort with the Ghana Development Fund (GDF) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC).
- The Council held a successful symposium on May 10, at the Ghana Embassy, in partnership with Ghana Airways. The issues at hand included: (1) the new US Immigration Law and its impact on Ghanaians residing in this country; (2) understanding the social security retirement benefits system, etc.The Council also launched a letter-writing campaign to influence the Parliamentary debate on dual citizenship.We would like to take a little credit when the bill becomes law.
- In the works for two years, the Council inaugurated its Scholastic Achievement Award Program, a beneficiary of the Council’s Education Fund.
- The Council played a role in the successful bid by Ghana Airways for landing rights at the Baltimore-Washington International (BWI) Airport.In appreciation, the airline treated Council Representatives to a paid round-trip visit to Ghana, on its maiden flight from BWI. In addition, Council members were special guests at the formal airport ceremonies, where Maryland’s Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend delivered the keynote address.
- The Council voted to publicize its activities in the form of a Newsletter, to be published in the “New Ghanaian” newspaper, edited by Sonny Vanderpuye.
- COGA was one of 22 participants at the first “African and Caribbean Initiative Round Table”, at the Montgomery County Executive Office Building in May. The forum explored opportunities for Empowerment and Partnership within these two communities.
- The Council was featured in the Montgomery Times Newspaper in an interview with our Chairman.
- The Council filed its Articles of Incorporation.
- In June, the Council’s leadership met with, and presented a plaque to Ghana’s President, John Agyekum Kuffour at the Embassy.
- In expression of sympathy for the families of those who died in the terrorist attack on September 11 2001, and in keeping with the sense of loss that the U.S. and the rest of the world felt, COGA cancelled its planned annual picnic in September.
- COGA collected and donated several boxes of non-perishable foods, blankets, and clothing, to the Shepherd’s Table Charity of Silver Spring, Maryland.
- On March 2, COGA completed Phase 1 of a major clean up of the visa section and the Library at the Embassy. The walls were given a fresh coat of paint, the carpet in the visa section waiting room was replaced and the brass plates and handles on the doors on the first floor were polished, as were the adinkra symbols.
- The council’s another successful Unity Festival Picnic at Bohrer Park in Gaithersburg.Gracing the occasion was the Ambassador Kyeremanteng.Among the many highlights at the picnic were the Ga Dangme Association’s celebration of the Homowo festival, and a soccer match between the Virginia Black Stars and the Washington DC Black Stars.
- GBC TV filmed the entire event for later telecast in Ghana.
- COGA increased its membership with the admission of Asante Association.
- COGA’s Ghana Crime Prevention Project continued to generate community interest, and modest funding throughout the year.
- COGA received 100 beds from Howard University, and shipped them to designated hospitals and medical facilities throughout Ghana.
- COGA participated in an Immigration outreach program for Africans living in Baltimore, MD.The program offered assistance to Ghanaians and other Africans in matters related to refugee status, citizenship and entrepreneurship.
- COGA participated in “African Voices”, a program sponsored by Trans-Africa Forum, and hosted by the Forum’s leader, the renowned actor and activist, Danny Glover.
- COGA’s intense lobbying efforts, and those of other interested parties, resulted in direct flights from Thurgood Marshall/BWI airport to and from Kotoka International Airport, Accra via Banjul, Gambia.
- COGA donated approximately $100,000.00 in goods and services to the motherland in 2005.
- COGA’s Ghana Crime Prevention Project was successfully concluded, with enough funding to purchase the communications equipment requested by the Ghana Police:15 Motorola Portable Radio Communication equipment, along with 15 rechargeable batteries, at a cost of $6,690.00.Many thanks to former Ambassador Fritz Poku for his assistance with the delivery of the equipment to Washington DC through the Ghana embassy in Copenhagen, Denmark.
- COGA representatives flew to Ghana, as guests of Northern American Airways on its maiden flight from Thurgood Marshall/BWI airport in June.
- While in Ghana, the Council made the formal presentation of the communication equipment to Senior officers of the Police Department, in a televised event at the police headquarters.
- COGA made a significant donation to the Tetteh Quarshie Memorial Fund, the Black Stars National Soccer Team during the world cup competition and to Miss Ghana during her run in the Miss World Beauty Pageant(She made us all proud when she was named Ms Congeniality).In addition the Council has earmarked $1000 as its contribution to the Volta Boat Disaster Fund.
- COGA had another successful Winter Coat Drive.All items collected were donated to the African Refugee Resettlement Centre in Baltimore, MD.
- COGA became a bona fide Tax-Exempt organization.
- The highlights of the year was COGA’s celebration of Ghana’s 50th independence anniversary at Martin’s Crosswinds.Over 600 people attended the event.
- In partnership with H.E. Dr. Kwame Bawuah-Edusei, Ghana’s Ambassador to the United States, the Council and the Embassy hosted a ceremony to celebrated high school graduates of Ghanaian parentage.
- COGA again organized a successful winter clothing drive for distribution to the needy.
- The Council donated $1000 to the flood victims in the Northern and Upper Regions.The council’s chairman made the presentation personally in Ghana.
- The Council earmarked $1,000.00 for donation to the Neurosciences department at Korle Bu General Hospital, in Accra. Formal presentation of the funds is pending final logistic arrangements.
- COGA’s 2008 Annual Winter clothing drive was, again, a smashing success.
- The Council elected a new Executive Committee to steer its affairs in the next two years. The new leadership is headed by Honorable Adolf Kofi Afful, Chairman, and Honorable Julius Caesar, Vice-Chairman.
- The Council's Ghana Unity Picnic was a smashing success.
- The Council bid a fond and heartfelt farewell to its former Chairman, Ms. Mary Damuah, on whose watch COGA made great strides to re-define its image, mission and vision. Her tenure was one highlighted by numerous successful ventures and initiatives. The Ghanaian community in this metropolitan area owes her a deep debt of gratitude. All the best, Madam Chairman, in your future activities, and thanks for your service.
- The Council donated $1,000.00 to the Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund.
- COGA signed a contract for the construction of its new website, "www.COGAwashingtondc.org". The main site will have links to sub-sites of the Council's member-organizations. The website will be officially launched by this summer.
- The Council was an honored guest at the National Press Club ceremonies marking the inauguration of United Airways' direct flights to Ghana. Also in attendance was H.E. Daniel Ohene-Agyekum, Ghana's Ambassador to the US, who gave a keynote address to the audience, which included federal, and Virginia transportation officials.
- The Council decided that the time has finally come for COGA to have its own multi-purpose building, to be known as "Ghana House”, and has set aside initial funding for this important project. It is envisaged that "Ghana House" will be the place for Ghanaian organizations to hold meetings, along with hosting cultural and educational events, among other uses.