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From Africa to America

Religion and Adaptation among Ghanaian Immigrants in New York

Moses Biney

Publication Year: 2011

Upon arrival in the United States, most African immigrants are immediately subsumed under the category “black.” In the eyes of most Americans—and more so to American legal and social systems—African immigrants are indistinguishable from all others, such as those from the Caribbean whose skin color they share. Despite their growing presence in many cities and their active involvement in sectors of American economic, social, and cultural life, we know little about them.

In From Africa to America, Moses O. Biney offers a rare full-scale look at an African immigrant congregation, the Presbyterian Church of Ghana in New York (PCGNY). Through personal stories, notes from participant observation, and interviews, Biney explores the complexities of the social, economic, and cultural adaptation of this group, the difficult moral choices they have to make in order to survive, and the tensions that exist within their faith community. Most notably, through his compelling research Biney shows that such congregations are more than mere “ethnic enclaves,” or safe havens from American social and cultural values. Rather, they help maintain the essential balance between cultural acclimation and ethnic preservation needed for these new citizens to flourish.

Published by: NYU Press

Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix- x

Hama behu soro a efi dua (a climber [such as a vine] can see the sky only with the support of a tree). As the Akan proverb points out, it is only with the help and support of others that one can accomplish a great feat. Definitely, writing a book is such a feat that leaves one indebted to many people. The research and writingHama behu soro a efi dua (a climber [such as a vine] can see the sky only with the support of a tree). As the Akan proverb points out, it is only with the help and support of others that one can accomplish a great feat. Definitely, writing a book is such a feat that leaves one indebted to many people. The research and writing...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-8

“You drive all the way to New York City to attend church services?” Virginia asked in disbelief. She could not understand why we would drive almost sixty miles from Princeton, New Jersey, most Sundays to worship at the Presbyterian Church of Ghana in New York, a predominantly Ghanaian congregation...

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1. Coming to America: Ghanaians and U. S. Immigration

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pp. 9-29

Eddie Murphy's 1988 movie Coming to America tells an interesting story. In the movie, Akeem, the prince of the kingdom of Zamunda, travels with his companion servant, Semi, to New York City to seek a bride, an independent-minded lady who will marry him for who he is, not for his royalty and wealth. They arrive in New York City with their huge boxes of gold and other expensive...

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2. By the Hudson River:The Ghanaian Presence in New York

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pp. 30-45

In August 2003, I was at the John F. Kennedy Airport in Jamaica, New York City, seeing off my wife and two kids, who were visiting family back in Ghana for a few weeks. Their flight had been delayed for several hours as a result of a major blackout that had occurred the previous day in various parts of the north-east. We sat at the departure lounge of Terminal 3 with several Ghanaians...

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3. Remembering the Homeland:Ghana and Its People

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pp. 46-64

A European researcher went to Ghana to research the hypothesis that Ghanaians generally answered questions with questions. Upon his arrival at the Kotoka International Airport...

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4. How Shall We Sing the Lord's Song?PCGNY: An Overseas Mission

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pp. 65-101

It was Christmas day of 1998. This was my first winter in the United States. At about 30 degrees fahrenheit, I was freezing. Ahenkorah, my newfound friend, and I had traveled together with his wife Akua and their two children to a church about sixty miles from their home in New Jersey to attend the Christmas...

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5. The Compound House: Communal Life and Welfare

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pp. 102-119

This was a great day for Kofi. He was celebrating his fiftieth birthday. Actually, he was fifty-one years old and celebrating the birthday a week before his actual birth date, which was September 7. He was not able to celebrate his birthday ...

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6. Conflict and Cohesion: Gender and Intergenerational Relations

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pp. 120-136

Community life within the PCGNY is characterized by both cohesion and conflict. Central to this dialectic are the relationships between men and women, and also those between the young and the old. The nature of these relationships often reflects the cohesiveness or chaos inherent in the congregation....

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7. Ebenezer: Spirituality and Identity

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pp. 137-158

Just before I began my research for this book, I received a letter from the secretary of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana Overseas Mission Field.1 This was in response to my request for information about Ghanaian Presbyterian churches in the United States. The letter, parts of which I reproduce here, raised some...

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8. Paddling on Both Sides: Analysis and Conclusion

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pp. 159-178

"A canoe must be paddled on both sides" (okorow, wohare no afanu). So goes an Akan proverb. In plain English, this means, "ooperation engenders success." But the motif and context within which it is used provides us with...

Notes

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pp. 179-196

Bibliography

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pp. 197-204

Index

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pp. 205-208

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About the Author

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pp. 209-

Moses O. Biney is Associate Pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Irvington, New Jersey and an adjunct assistant professor at the New York Theological Seminary.


E-ISBN-13: 9780814789810
E-ISBN-10: 0814789811
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814786390
Print-ISBN-10: 0814786391

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2011

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Ghanaian Americans -- Religion -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • New York (N.Y.) -- Religious life and customs.
  • Presbyterian Church of Ghana in New York (New York, N.Y.).
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