African American Studies
Mohammed Mardah is the head of the Ghanaian Association of New York, and is heavily involved in the Bronx Ghanaian community, as well as the public school system. Mardah was born on February 28, 1966 in Accra, Ghana. His father was head of the Ghana Publishing Corporation, and he died when Mohammed was ten years old. Mardah’s mother was uneducated, but was a businesswoman who traveled the world in search of goods that she could sell for a profit in Ghana. Mohammed grew up a practicing Muslim, and Hausa was his first language. His upbringing took place during a time of political instability in Ghana—the “coup-coup” years, in which the military would overthrow the civilian government every few years. Mardah thoroughly enjoyed his high school years in Ghana, but then Jerry Rawlings’ Marxist government, which took power in 1979, shut down the universities because there was too much anti-government sentiment among the students.
Mohammed thus immigrated to the US in 1988 to pursue his education. However, first he had to establish himself and go through the naturalization process. He first settled in New Jersey and set about getting a green card. While waiting for his green card, he worked as a security guard and as a laborer in the garment district. He married an African-American woman before he obtained his green card in 1994, and the marriage survives to this day. Mohammed and his wife have two children. Mardah sent money back to Ghana throughout these years of struggle, and he attended Bronx Community College and Lehman College, where he earned an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree, respectively. After completing his education, Mardah worked as a purchasing manager at the Pure Hotel, which is a position he still holds.
Soon after coming to the US, Mardah got involved with the Yankasa organization, which is a Ghanaian cultural and religious organization in the Bronx. The organization was started in Ghana in the 1970’s in order to counteract the anti-Muslim government and soon spread to countries with significant populations of Ghanaian immigrants. Mardah belongs to the Accra association of the Yankasa. He is also a leader in the National Council of Ghanaian Associations, which is the organization which supervises a variety of particular Ghanaian cultural organizations in the US. Due to the success of the National Council, many of the differing organizations freely converse with one another, across racial, tribal, linguistic, and religious lines. While the Yankasa organization functions as a general community center for Ghanaian immigrants (and especially Muslim Ghanaians), one of the major areas of concern that the organization addresses is the education of the children of Ghanaian immigrants. The center provides weekend classes for its members. The classes take place at Bronx Community College, and the students range from 6-16 in age. Mardah sent his own children to PS 75, where they obtained a good education. His son now attends Mott Hall 3, and his daughter attends the Manhattan Center for Science. Over the past few years, the Yankasa organization has expanded to include computer training, and Mardah is in the midst of trying to obtain state funding for the initiative.
Mohammed Mardah, April 14 2009, Interview with the Bronx African American History Project, BAAHP Digital Archive at Fordham University.
Click below to download supplemental content.Mardah, Mohammed.mp3 (72941 kB)