Generational Clash as Ghanaian Teens Become “Americanized”

By Brenda Bota

“I remember when my teacher called my mom saying I cursed at her and my mom didn’t believe it,” said an18 year-old Ghanaian teen, Kobby Sackey. “When I got home from school she was like oh blah blah blah, now you’re trying to be like these Americans and stuff like that.”

“I think our generation is really bad,” says Sackey who lives in the Bronx at 167st. “There’s a lot of bad influence, you just have to take care of yourself.”

Ghanaians value essential morals for their children, especially teenagers, so that they may grow up to be responsible and respectful young adults. However, when some Ghanaian children travel abroad to the United States or get exposed to social media, they change who they are and dishonor Ghanaian traditions and beliefs.

“Of course. The fact is America runs the world, at least for now and Ghanaians are copy cats so who else to learn from?’ points out Dada, a Ghanaian barber at 167st when asked what impact her thinks the American society has on Ghanaian teenagers.

Some of these values involve the way people dress, talk, act and so forth. According to the 2010 census from Wikipedia, the Bronx ranked 6th place in having the largest amount of Ghanaians out of the 91,322 Ghanaians in the United State. How do Ghanaian adults feel about the integration of Ghanaian teenagers in American-Ghanaian communities such as 167 Grand concourse and 180-188 streets, in the Bronx, where many Ghanaians reside?

Because Ghana is not financially prosperous, many parents stress to their children that they must take their schooling seriously and make the best out of their education. They stress that even more if the child gets a chance to come to America, as immigration gives them the opportunity to go to public school.

Many young Ghanaians in the United States have adapted to American ways and taken up some American ways of interacting and making them their own, while still maintaining their Ghanaian culture. But in the eyes of many Ghanaian adults, Ghanaian teens have changed, they are too involved with online culture and they are trying to act like Americans. They “overdo it”, or as people say in the Ghanaian language Twi, “sua tr3aa.” Hado gives an example when he says,

“Gangs. In Ghana no teen will never think of joining or organizing a gang. But when you get her, pressure causes teenagers to fall into the arms of friends as a second home or second shoulder to cry on and because they are already influenced, they pull their friends along as well.”

Photo by Brenda Bota  Jeffrey Hado

Photo by Brenda Bota
Jeffrey Hado

To the eyes of many Ghanaian parents, Ghanaian teens have changed a lot living an “American lifestyle”.

“Disrespect,” says Adowa Owusu, a Ghanaian mother of a 10 year-old son and a 16- year old daughter. “They talk to adults anyway they please as if they are age mates and they act like they are grown,” she continues but however points out that her kids are not disrespectful.

“Sometimes it’s the parents fault, sometimes the kids are disobedient,” says Owusu as she explains why she thinks some teens are disrespectful. Dada, a barber at a barbershop on167st as he shaves the head of a man says, “in America for instance, most parents work two jobs just to pay bills. Therefore, they have less time to spend with their children,” when asked what whether he thinks parents are doing their jobs right as parents.

photo by Brenda Bota Dada the barber

photo by Brenda Bota Dada the barber

“Adults think most of, not all teens have gotten accustomed to the “American” lifestyle which they’re not a fan of,” says 18 year-old college student Jeffrey Hado who was born in Ghana and came here at age 13.

Many Ghanaian parents try to be strict in terms of what friends their children are allowed to hang out with, because they don’t want their child to be negatively influenced. When looking to punish their children, some Ghanaian parents threaten to “send them to Ghana,” Hado pointed out. He continues by saying “I disrespected my dad. I was talking back at him in a harsh way then my dad threatened to take me back to Ghana if I don’t behave and stop following the attitude of these kids.”

For many young immigrants, integration might come with an identity crisis.

“They start to change once they know the area more and start to network,” says 18 year- old high school graduate Kujoe Boakye, as he explains his observations of teenagers who freshly arrive the United States. He shares his experience of arriving in the United State saying, “I came here at the age of 5. It was hot around the time I came and everything seemed so big.”

Boakye added that, as teens get used to their life here, they might fall behind in their education. They are serious about it for a while, “but some get influenced by things and slack off,” he said. “It’s only actually a small percentage of people who do not take their education all through,” he added, happening to be among the people who do value education.

Sackey also talked about the challenges of adapting to a new culture.

“When you come here it’s a total different environment so you’ll definitely pick up some stuff,” he said.

Many of these teenagers find that exposure to US media has a major impact on their changing personalities.

“Media is like number one,” said Boakye explaining that there are things here that teens can get access to which they would normally not get in Ghana.

Boakye explained that things shown on TV such as naked girls, and foul language used in music videos, make teenagers want to imitate what they see on TV

“The media does have an effect on teens because they try to practice some things that the media displays to them,” Hado said. “Some teens are usually influenced by what they see and hear and this is not only with Ghanaians but worldwide.”

Ghanaian teens have their own point of view about other Ghanaian teens that surround them.

“They try to act like gangsters and they always travel in groups. They like that group life,” Boakye said, adding that he sees himself differently.

“I have a limited amount of friends. That’s not to say I’m better, I’m just not with the crowd,” he added. “I don’t try to be part of what they do. They act certain ways to fit in.”

Boakye, like most Ghanaian teenagers, experienced the disapproval of Ghanaian adults.

“A Ghanaian man and woman asked me a question in twi and when I replied in English, they said in twi that you Ghanaian kids think you’re all that so now you guys speak English and not twi,’ so on and so forth,” he recalled.

However, Boakye feels he and other teens have not abandoned their culture completely.

“Nobody is fully consumed so they still hold on to something,” he said. He added that no matter the amount of influence, he cannot be completely “American”.

Photo by Brenda Bota Kujoe Boakye

Photo by Brenda Bota
Kujoe Boakye


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