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Linguists at Ghanafest Chicago.

Sankofa:BI-ANNUAL REVIEW OF ACTIVITIES OF THE GNANA NATIONAL COUNCIL (GNC)…November 2002

Introduction

 This report is an attachment to the final treasurer’s report I presented a month ago, but I did not have the time to do so at the time. When the GNAMW join the council three years ago, like any Ghanaian who just arrived in this beautiful city, I did not know the in and out of the GNC. I would be privileged if you could permit me to give my candid opinion about the council for these three years, and hope that by the end of this presentation, you will agree with me as to the changes we need to make to improve on the viability of this noble body. I hope this document will be a focus of debate, discussions and attention-that is, not to meet the same fate others before it had met, accepted and forgotten.

 

There has been many sacrifices made by all of us to keep this council going, and together we have achieved a lot, but we cannot rest on our laurels and let our achievements slip by. I must say with certainty though, that the council cannot move forward if we keep doing business as usual. We need a President and or a Secretary who will dedicate his time and efforts to the call of our community. A president who will lobby at the walls of “city-hall” and the State of Illinois, answer the calls of other communities to foster unity and progress amongst us, write and follow-up with proposals that will benefit our people. If we look closely at the Mexican, Ethiopian and other minority communities (who have the same tax-exempt status, 501(C-3), as we do); one will notice immediately that they have permanent paid staff and offices to serve their needs. Undeniably they get sponsorships and grants.

 

The 501 (C-3) cannot look for money by itself, people do, it is time we call a spade a spade! I know we do not have the means for a permanent paid staff now, but we can devise means to solve this important setback at no cost to the GNC. This to me would be like opening a new door that could benefit our people immensely.

 

Since this meeting is not geared towards this kind of discussion, I will quickly address the concerns I feel both new and old members of the council have to be abreast with, to enable this body be more proficient, effective and rise up to the needs of our community. Instead of detailing the activities of the GNC, I would like to talk about where our money comes from, ways we spend it and how we should control expenditure, increase revenue and services to our community.

GHANAFEST

Income:

Our major function in terms of income and expenditure is Ghanafest. For Ghanafest 2001 and 2002, the council spent about 30,000 dollars. As much as this figure sound staggering, we would easily admit that these two Ghana fests has been well attended and unlike previous festivals has among other things, the presence of the Chicago police, outdoor light, foot security patrol and brochure booklets that brought a steady income of about $8500. This income was not achieved without the efforts of Bashiru Habib and I. We virtually have to go to every advertiser to collect the advert money, take pictures and design the adverts to reduce cost to the Council. At the cost of $25 dollars per page of design work, we have saved the council well over $5000.00 for the two books printed. Indeed, only 9 pictures scanned by our previous printer, Print It Co., cost the council $50.00; whereas we scanned more than 70 pictures and adverts, “burned” them on a CDRW for the two books and took digital pictures of some of the advertisers! I will not even try to estimate the cost and savings of these works to the council.

 

Despite mailing return addressed envelopes  to our vendors for both Ghanafests, more than 99 percent of them still pay on the festival grounds instead of mailing their donations in advance. This might pose serious financial difficulties to the council if we should have a bad weather and lose the vendors participation. We generated over $5000.00 in vendor donations for both Ghanafests.

 

Corporate sponsorship is another way we fund Ghanafest. I would like to thank the president and others for their time in writing and follow-up on proposals that enabled us increase corporate funding for both festivals to the tune of $15000.00. As a matter of fact, Bashiru and the president had to fill forms I call “Sunday Chicago tribune” size, which enabled the City of Chicago support the two festivals with $2200.

The Illinois Board of Arts sponsored our children’s program last year with $700.00 donation. Bashiru and President Timpo looked for the funding and wrote the proposal for it. Proposal writing is big business in this country, we have been fortunate to have it free so far.

 

The 12 affiliate Organizations are our traditional sponsors; we expected $6,600.00 from them for raffle ticket sales for both festivals. We are still expecting some organizations to pay  for their tickets.

Ghanafest will be fifteen years old this year, for it to be a profitable venture; we need to explore better marketing, permanent vendor ticket outlets and sponsors.

 

Expenses:

Our major expenses are mainly Live Band fees, over $4000.00; tent rental, over $5000.00; Ad book about $5000.00, tables and chairs about $3000.00. There are other expenses that were capital expenses, like portable two way radios, tents for our Chiefs and Queens (The ten by Ten feet sized tents).

 

Ghana’s Independence Anniversary Celebrations

Income:

Income for the celebrations of Ghana’s Independence is mainly by ticket sales. Donations are minimal and negligible. The only major individual donation during the period was $1000.00, made by Dr. Davis, which was restricted to our dream Ghana House Project.

Expenses:

Expenses are largely space rental fees, over $3500 and live band fees, about $3800.00. We did not get corporate funding for both Independence celebrations.

It is imperative to note that some of the tickets given out have not been returned or paid. Revenue for both celebrations in 2001 and 2002 are lower than expenses!

CALENDAR

 

This year we started a calendar for our community. Due to last minute decision to print the calendar, coupled with late additions and the rush in printing, there were mistakes that could have been avoided if the council had the time to review the draft before it was printed. However, I believe if we do it right next time, the community will love it and will demand “their calendar” every year from us.

WEBSITE

 

The Ghana National Council website, like any corporate or individual website, is an important way of propagating our image, activities and functions of the various affiliates and the community at large. We spent $750.00 each year on hosting fees; presently we do not pay anything for site maintenance and updates.

 

We had a total of $375.00 dollars income from our website, this, being adverts placed on the site.

We are not sure we can continue to have free site maintenance and uploading of new information. We therefore requested the site manager to create news section on a user friendly server, which could allow appointed council members upload news and information in our community to the site. This information does not have to be in Java or HTM/HTML format for upload. Web pages are like stack of cards, fragile and could collapse if not handled well; otherwise I would advise that all council members have access to post messages on the site.

 

To get more advertising dollars to enable the site to pay for itself and maybe generate revenue for other causes of the Council, we need to update our affiliate information, post news in our community and the world at large constantly. We also need to invite articles from members of our community to the site.

 

Another way to get advertisement money is to advertise our web site on other websites to attract visitors. Site traffic is the largest determinant of web advertisement fees and affiliate programs that could bring income to the council.

The importance of our website could be summarized by a visitor who wrote:

“I frequent your web sit quite often and I really enjoy your links as well. I was not born in Ghana; however I was initiated obrafoo into the Akan/Akom tradition. Therefore I have been practicing, studying, and connecting with my Ghanaian roots.

I was reading your objectives and I was immediately intrigued especially by the following:

  • · Promote general welfare and unity in the Ghanaian, Africans, African Americans and Caribbean communities.
  • · Foster a sense of national pride by promoting the Ghanaian culture and heritage.
  • · Establish and maintain friendly relations with other organizations of African origin.
  • · Promote and organize annual African cultural festivals and events, which would serve as a means of educating the general community, especially the youth about the African heritage.

I am please to know that the Ghana National Council aims to promote unity between all African people located here in Chicago as well as educate about the African heritage. I am interested in knowing how I can become involved in the Ghana National Council. I am 24 years old and I am willing to volunteer. I am a student at Northwestern, I work full time, I want to own a jazz coffeehouse, and do the things that are necessary to be an Okomfo. I love myself, my community and my people, no matter where we are from.

Love, Peace and Blessings unto you! Obaa Yaa”

MEMBERSHIP DUES:

GNC like most organizations expect its 12 affiliates to pay membership dues every year. We expected a total of $5760 for the 2001 and 2002 fiscal years from all the affiliates. Some organizations, including the GNAMW, my organization, are yet to pay their dues. I propose that the organizations should pay their dues quarterly or every six months or forfeit their voting rights at council meetings. The smaller payments schedule could make it easier for them to honor their dues.

FISCAL CONTROL:

I have always held the belief that we have to maintain prudent fiscal control over our income and expenses. Since year 2000, we initiated and have continued with volunteers helping the treasury to collect vendor fees at Ghanafest. At the last two independence anniversary celebrations and the 911 fundraiser, we had volunteers who helped in ticket sales at the gates. Though these might sound insignificant, they are important ways of checks and balances at the sources of income for the Council and I would encourage that to continue. The basic form of check and balance is to control the source of income and expenses. We cannot afford to withdraw from these vital responsibilities only to be whining later about loss of revenue due to imaginary malfeasance. Expenses are mainly approved by the council and  by means of approved budgets or programs. I employ the council to form a committee to analyze every major event and come out with ways to cut cost and improve revenue.

LEADERSHIP

 

We could all discern from what I have said so far, that the council has been moving forward on the volunteer of members and its leadership;  recently only by a few members. We cannot expect any meaningful leadership and progress in our community on “volunteer hours” alone!

To enable us serve our community better and forge into the 21st century united, strong and provide proficient leadership, we need to take new routes for the long term survival, sustenance and growth of this council and service to our community. We dare not to! I expect a part-time or fulltime leaders to be able to meet with other leaders of the African, Caribbean, American and the political leaderships of Chicago and the State Of Illinois, build strong relations and look for revenues, avenues, opportunities and programs that could help our community.

My friends, brothers and sisters, we have reached a stage of no turning back, to move forward, we seriously have to think of a part-time or full time leadership! This is my candid opinion!

 

SPONSORSHIPS

We cannot ride on the free will of our leaders forever; it is time to hearten our leadership to find sponsors for programs in our community. These programs should include but not limited to Ghanafest, Ghana’s Independence Celebrations but also youth programs and activities; and our lofty Ghana House Project. We came across a few viable and lucrative grants, which could serve our community’s needs, but those donors demand paid staff and office to release their grants. We need to find ways to satisfy these requirements to enable the council have more options in looking for sponsors.

GOALS

In our quest to advance our courses, we should not pander to people but implement the hard choices needed to enable us attain leverage with other communities. We need to set goals that we could tackle with fervor and re-evaluate our achievements and failures to enable us accomplish our goals successfully.

I therefore suggest that the council  adopt as matter of urgency the following proposals:

a)      Find ways to encourage participation of the affiliate organizations in the GNC activities and pay dues owed to the council.

b)      Revisit the issue of Ghana House and as a matter of urgency, find ways to acquire affordable place for our dream Ghana House project to be realized.

c)      Maintain part-time or full time position or positions, to lobby, write and follow-up on proposals for our programs, including but not limited to Ghanafest, Independence Anniversary Celebrations, Ghana House Project and youth activities; attend meetings and invitations by the City and other sister organizations, review new city, state and federal government policies and tap resources and benefits our community may be eligible from. This is the standard we must set for our new leaders!

d)      The council must form committees, with each committee empowered to tackle specific project or program and obliged to report their findings to the council within specific time frame. Failure of such committees should not be a factor for finger pointing but bases to find solutions for its failure! Previous attitudes or comments against committees of the council make members elected to serve in committees feel they have poison chalice in front of them and refuse to work. In the past, failure of a committee is tantamount to labelelling its members as ineffective or useless; whilst so many factors beyond the control of the committee could have contributed to its failure. We can definitely learn and mature from our failures and not breakdown from them!

ELECTIONS:

 

I am urging all and sundry to note that these elections should not be business as usual, or about personalities, it should be about a new era. An era to re-construct a new chapter of commitment and dedication to our community’s needs. People who will offer themselves or answer the clarion call to serve our community should do so with the knowledge that we are on the threshold of challenging ourselves to build a new family, a family of Ghanaians sojourning in Chicago, proud, intelligent, industrious and hard working; their roots are full of rich and enviable culture and heritage, waiting to be explored by its new generation, hosts and fellow countrymen.

We have to utilize the human resources we have, and challenge them to these new leadership qualities. In short, if you cannot bear the weight of the crown, do not take it!

  CONCLUSION

 

Today, our children are still scattered all over our community without any meaningful activities or programs to bring them together. They need a forum to learn, appreciate, adore and enjoy our rich Ghanaian culture and heritage. We at times think of each other in terms of tribes and associations, but it is time we shed the feathers of these latent and destructive feelings and unite. In unity lays our strength, divided we fall together! We have the opportunity now to carve a brighter future in this Diaspora for ourselves, our next generation and generations yet unborn, but we must first make good choices.

 

In spite of good intentions and efforts by any leadership, if the people being led harbor mischief, suspicion, mistrust and refuse to cooperate, any meaningful program conceived and implemented would be hobbled almost on its outset.

 

I am looking forward for the council to stand united behind whoever emerges as its leader, for we cannot miss another opportunity to uplift our community.

 

I would like to express my sincerest thanks to all who made my term as treasurer something I will forever remember, cherish and be proud of; for I have learnt a lot about the good people of this family in Chicago.

I sincerely urge the council make a committed effort to address the urgent proposals put forward today.

God bless you!

 

Thank you.

 

(GNC Treasurer, 2001-2002)

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