ADDRESS BY REUBEN HADZIDE, PRESIDENT OF THE GHANA NATIONAL COUNCIL OF METROPOLITAN CHICAGO TO THE AMBASSADOR AND THE COMMUNITY AT 500 E OAKWOOD BLVD. CHICAGO,IL –FEBRUARY 22 2005. Mr. Chairman, Your Excellency, Nananom, fellow executives, council members, the media, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the opportunity to address you this evening. It's an honor for us that your excellency chose to come to Chicago to meet with Ghanaians in this city. On behalf of the affiliates of the Ghana National Council and the Ghanaian community, we welcome Your Excellency, and your entourage to Chicago. Since assuming office, we have followed with keen interest the great work you have been doing on behalf of the government and people of Ghana in this short period. We congratulate you on the excellent job you have done so far.
Currently, the Ghana National Council is the umbrella of 9 affiliate Ghanaian organizations. The council's main objectives are noteworthy:
1. Promote general welfare and unity in the Ghanaian and non-Ghanaian Communities.
2. Foster a sense of national pride by promoting the Ghanaian culture and heritage.
3. Educate the general community, especially the youth about the African heritage.
4. Acquire a Ghanaian cultural and community center to be called the “Ghana House”.
5. Develop fundraising mechanisms to support, promote and maintain the organization.
The Ghana National Council serving as cultural ambassador has organized the largest annual African cultural festival in the Continental US for the past 16 years in Chicago. The impact of Ghanafest is not only felt among the American people but on our children born here in Chicago. The latter, for example, actively participate in our cultural activities. Attendance has grown over the years with attendees from all over the globe. Ghanaian businesses attending each year's festival use the occasion to advertise their products to both Ghanaians and non-Ghanaians. Past guests of honor include your predecessor, Allan Kyeremanten and the Mayor of Chicago. We use this opportunity to ask you to convey to his Excellency the President of Ghana, Mr. John Agyekum Kufour, our invitation to attend Ghanafest 2005 which will be held in July.
The Ghanaian population in Chicago and its Metropolis is about 10,000 strong. We are part of Ghanaian immigrants who send over two billion dollars through remittances to our mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, fiancées, wives, and husbands annually. Chicago has been without a consul-general for a long time now. A consul-general will not only serve as economic representative of Ghana and the embassy, but will serve Chicago and more than ten states in the mid-west that presently rely on Washington for everything.
The consular may serve our visa, passport, dual citizen application and other vital needs. Recently, we had the Cook County Board of Commissioners open the door for application of the Matricular Consulate identity card. This Identification card will enable Ghanaians living in the Cook County or visitors who do not have insurance to be treated at county hospitals and clinics. They will be able to have driver's license and open bank accounts. We believe a consul general will work with your office to help our people enjoy some of the amenities this country offers whilst at the same time help to generate income and open new doors of investment for our country.
When it comes to the selection of a consular, we appeal to you to invite the GNC's counsel since we have among us qualified and hard working Ghanaians who over the years have dedicated their time, money and energy to keep our community together and will serve you and our people honorably.
Technology has evolved very quickly and it is necessary that the Ghana Embassy move with the times. We think that the visa application forms should be downloadable from the embassy website and the form fees merged into the application fees. This will speed up the application process. The present system is cumbersome and too bureaucratic.
The Ghana National Council has a website called ghananationalcouncil.org. At peak periods we register over thirty thousand hits within twenty four hours. We invite the embassy to send us news items to enable our visitors know what is going on in Washington.
The GNC is in the process of change. We are in the process of identifying viable and accomplishable programs to sponsor in Ghana. Locally, the youth are assuming leadership roles in the council more than at any other time and it is our hope their contributions will serve these future programs well.
Amongst the priorities of the councils administration is to have a cultural center where we can host dignitaries, use as a nerve center for Ghanaian businesses to display their products to other businesses and individuals, a place our children can come together to interact socially, a place we can celebrate new lives, new relationships, and a place to pay our last respect to the faithfully departed.
In the future, we appeal to you to channel all communication through to the Ghana National Council since it represents majority of the Ghanaian population in Chicago and its metropolis.
Your Excellency, on behalf of the Ghanaian community in Chicago, we wish you and your entourage a happy visit. Thank you.
Reuben Hadzide, President, GNC.