An African Chief in Cabbyâ€™s Clothing
Julie Glassberg for The New York Times
Isaac Osei, who owns a taxi fleet in New York City with his wife, is also a Ghanaian chief who wears a crown and oversees five towns. By CHRISTINE HAUGHNEY Published: August 12, 2011 BEFORE dawn, when most New Yorkers are fast asleep, Isaac and Elizabeth Osei have already been working for hours. On a recent morning, Mr. Osei drove his wife from New Jersey to the half-abandoned outer blocks of Midtown Manhattan to oversee the 4:30 a.m. transfer of their fleet of 50 taxis. With Ms. Osei leading the way and a sliver of moon still hanging in the sky, they scouted three square blocks to make sure all of their taxis had been picked up by drivers. Then, over the screeches emanating from auto-body shops and the smell of gasoline wafting from a Hess station crammed with cabs, they surveyed their troubled taxis just as sunlight faintly appeared over Manhattan.
Julie Glassberg for The New York Times
Mr. Osei with his wife, Elizabeth, who is president of their company, Napasei Taxi Management Corporation.
Julie Glassberg for The New York Times
Ms. Osei and her husband have built a small taxi empire in New York. At 6 a.m., they drove to the Upper West Side, reconfigured the spare tires they keep in their trunk and picked up clothing, a mirror and a table, which a friend was donating to a charity drive organized by the Oseis. The couple, who are immigrants from Ghana, struggled to tie the mirror to the roof of their car, then drove back to their Chelsea office lined with worn-out wood paneling and faded carpeting. By 7:30, Ms. Osei had taken her place in her thronelike office chair — she is the president of Napasei Taxi Management Corporation, after all — while Mr. Osei, who is vice president, took a more modest seat nearby. Then they prepared for the next 12 hours of fighting parking tickets, getting taxis inspected and helping drivers who came in to pick up their cash. But the Oseis call this grueling schedule a vacation compared with the real holiday they have ahead. On Wednesday, when they board a flight to Ghana, their roles will suddenly and drastically shift. As they cross the Atlantic Ocean, Mr. Osei will become Nana Gyensare V, a chief of the Akwamu people, who oversees the residents of five towns across the Eastern Region. After arriving in Accra, the capital of Ghana, he will don a delicate gold crown, take a seat on his throne or stool and work 20-hour days out of his 10-room palace. Rather than focus on taxi tune-ups and inspections, Mr. Osei will assume judicial and other powers, like mediating family disputes. Ms. Osei, who is happiest talking about chassis and alternators, will have to fulfill the responsibilities of a chief’s wife by running women’s groups in each town and helping with preparations for a 1,000-person banquet in September, at which Mr. Osei will bless the yam harvest. Residents are waiting to eat the yams until after Nana Gyensare’s arrival. “Here we are very busy — but at least I don’t have my people around me here, because I am more free,” Mr. Osei, a stout and succinct man more prone to chuckles than words, said of his life in New York. He nodded at his wife and added, “At times, she gets angry because she can’t even see me.” Many immigrants in New York lead double lives: restaurant dishwasher in Queens and family patriarch in Mexico, or manicurist in Midtown and financial provider back in China. But Mr. Osei’s story is far more extreme. It’s as if he spends summer vacation with the hybrid responsibilities of a mayor and a royal, said Richard Rathbone, a professor at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies who has done research near the towns Mr. Osei oversees. As Ghana has grown more stable in recent years, Professor Rathbone said, emigrants are returning and accepting these chiefly roles. They have many of the social responsibilities of politicians, but they also carry the historical gravitas of a royal title. “He’s connected with the past and he symbolizes the past,” Professor Rathbone said of Mr. Osei.
Courtesy of Isaac and Elizabeth Osei
Mr. Osei is also known as Nana Gyensare V. He became a chief in Ghana in 2006 and was introduced in his new role to Ghanaians in Newark. Mr. Osei, one of 19 children, never expected to be a chief. The title, which passed through his mother’s family, had been given to an older brother, and Mr. Osei moved to New York three decades ago to carve out his own life. He started driving a taxi and bought a medallion in 1982. Within a few years, he had gotten married, had two daughters and had opened a restaurant in Harlem. But he soon divorced and found himself wiped out financially. Mr. Osei saw Elizabeth Otolizz for the first time when she stopped to eat in his restaurant in the late 1980s and he pointed out that she had spilled okra on her blouse. She moved to New York in 1986 and worked as a home health nurse, a newspaper deliverywoman and a taxi driver. She spilled out stories about the celebrities she had met, like Snoop Dogg, and the times she had been beaten up by customers. She carried in her purse masses of wires that she used to make emergency taxi repairs. When Mr. Osei went back to driving a taxi, he would occasionally spot Elizabeth at airport taxi stands and chat. Then, when he saw her driving her taxi, he would ask her for her phone number at stop lights. But Elizabeth, who was getting over a previous relationship, demurred. In 1991, Mr. Osei’s taxi medallion was about to fall into foreclosure, and Elizabeth offered to go into business with him. She borrowed $1,500 from an African grocery store owner and alternated with Mr. Osei driving his Chevy Caprice in 12-hour shifts to help pay off the loan. Soon, Elizabeth decided she was ready to take their friendship beyond a trade-off of taxi keys. In 1995, they wed in New Jersey, had two sons and slowly and steadily built a small taxi empire. But in 2006, after his brother died of complications related to diabetes, Mr. Osei was called back to Ghana to assume the title of chief. Suddenly, Mr. Osei was being carried on a palanquin, conducting judicial hearings and officiating at festivals. Ms. Osei still laughs when she describes the expression on her husband’s face when he returned from that first trip back to Ghana. “They spoil you,” Ms. Osei said of her husband’s staff members in Ghana. “When you get to J.F.K., they don’t pick up your suitcases.” But Ms. Osei seems to have embraced her husband’s responsibilities. At 8 a.m. on a recent day, after a long morning of checking on their taxi fleet, the Oseis sat down in a diner in Midtown and ordered breakfast. Just as Mr. Osei began to eat, his cellphone started to peal with calls from Ghana. While Mr. Osei finished eating, Ms. Osei answered the calls and started relaying the details of work that lay ahead, like funerals, charitable walks and social projects. (The Oseis are especially proud of having installed toilets in some Ghanaian towns.) She seemed to have made peace with the coming journey. “When I get to Africa, I have to worship him,” she said with a hint of frustration in her voice and a broad, mischievous smile. “When I get back, he has to worship me.”
Comments: 1. Tim R. Mortiss Tacoma, WA August 12th, 2011 2:41 pm Only in America...and Africa! A good story indeed. Recommend Recommended by 91 Readers 2. TinaR NY,NY August 12th, 2011 3:03 pm Remarkable people and a wonderful story! Recommend Recommended by 53 Readers 3. Brockelman Baltimore August 12th, 2011 3:03 pm What a wonderful story! Reading it caused me to take time out of my day and think and ponder... Doesn't get better than that. Recommend Recommended by 44 Readers 4. Madigan New York August 12th, 2011 3:04 pm New York should be very proud of this couple, and the Mayor should award him with the Key to the City, and include him as one of his advisors for the new comers to New York. Bravo Mr.Osei. Recommend Recommended by 60 Readers 5. r2d2dc Washington DC August 12th, 2011 3:04 pm I find it commendable that foreigners who are "somebody" in their home countries live and work like "nobody" in the US. At times it is also a double edged sword, as they are also facing issues such as racial and cultural discrimination, and its a tough pill to swallow. This was a feel gooder article - thanks for writing it. Recommend Recommended by 99 Readers 6. Gophernevich Las Vegas August 12th, 2011 3:04 pm Amazing. But where did the money for those fifty medallions come from? The fair market value for those items is 30 million or more. They must be leveraged up their eyeballs. In any events, a bow to the immigrant entrepreneurs. Recommend Recommended by 29 Readers 7. Nimesh Fremont, California. August 12th, 2011 3:04 pm
Can happen only in New York! Recommend Recommended by 14 Readers 8. Neel Kumar Silicon Valley, California August 12th, 2011 3:28 pm Every time I go to India, I feel that it is not a vacation - rather an arduous test that I have to overcome. But Mr Osei's work is far far more complex and demanding than what I have to go through. Hats off to you Mr Osei. You have not only handled both sides of your responsibilities with aplomb but you have a really cool mate to do it with. Recommend Recommended by 43 Readers 9. DP NYC August 12th, 2011 3:28 pm Why am I not impressed with his status as Chief in Ghana? This reminds me of expatriot royalty from Communist bloc countries: Bulgarian Vicounts, Romanian Princesses,etc. Not impressed! Recommend Recommended by 14 Readers 10. Margaretleo NY August 12th, 2011 3:28 pm A cautionary tale for anti-immigrant xenophobes. It would be interesting to know how much tax and other revenues have been generated by this one couple. Recommend Recommended by 75 Readers 11. Tru Ny, NY August 12th, 2011 3:28 pm One of the best immigrant success stories i've ever read. So many times, these stories focus on the negative. Here is a couple who work hard in New York and are also working hard to make life better in their homeland. I came to the US as a child and my parents still send money to family "back home". My mother recently retired after working for 25 years as a hotel housekeeper and my father still works as a consumer electronics technician. I wish more of these stories were covered in the news. Recommend Recommended by 91 Readers 12. Kiran Mid-Michigan August 12th, 2011 3:29 pm At least their American Dream came true. Loving family, good life overall. Recommend Recommended by 32 Readers 13. Jennifer North Carolina August 12th, 2011 4:26 pm This wonderful story made me appreciate yet again how wonderful it is to live in a country that allows us to come from many places yet be neighbors. Recommend Recommended by 30 Readers 14. Joe
NYC August 12th, 2011 4:26 pm This country need more people like Osei, who work 12 hours a day without a hint of complaint. As an immgrant myself, I'm proud of Osei. Tire of natives scapegoating all of society's woe on immigrants and acting like they are entitled. Recommend Recommended by 68 Readers 15. Nestevian Brooklyn, NY August 12th, 2011 4:27 pm This story is too common. Here close to nothing and in another country, royalty! Recommend Recommended by 8 Readers 16. HIGHLIGHT (What's this?) CSquared MI August 12th, 2011 4:27 pm A lot of people would be surprised to know who they live, work and play amongst. As the daughter of Nigerian immigrants, my father held chieftancy in our own village in Nigeria. Came to the USA on a government scholarship and achieved a Ph.D from one of the best schools in the country. Put running water and electricity throughout our entire village and was in the process of building a village school and hospital before he passed away in 2009. There are many people here - American and immigrant alike - who have amazing stories. Kudos to Chief Osei! Recommend Recommended by 106 Readers 17. John North Carolina August 12th, 2011 4:27 pm Good story, good writing. Interesting, clean, tight and with a perfect ending. Though it left me wanting more to read. This is why I subscribe (though I resisted). Recommend Recommended by 19 Readers
18. adriana california August 12th, 2011 4:27 pm I love this story. Thank you. Recommend Recommended by 18 Readers 19. MKR The Great State of PA August 12th, 2011 4:27 pm Wonderful, inspiring story. Recommend Recommended by 22 Readers 20. TJP Nebraska August 12th, 2011 4:27 pm "In no other country on earth is their story evern possible. Their story is part of the large American story." As a foreign graduate student from Africa, I know that America has a place for me too. I am not there yet. And I do not
want to focus on the negatives. But I know that this country offers me an opportunity to exploit and fulfill my potential than would have been possible in a closed society. Recommend Recommended by 30 Readers 21. akira NYC August 12th, 2011 4:27 pm Terrific story!! Recommend Recommended by 16 Readers 22. T.F.B. nevada, nevada August 12th, 2011 4:28 pm something tells me this would make a wonderful novel, even a movie... reminds me little bit of that movie with eddie murphy, where he's the prince who comes to america :) Recommend Recommended by 13 Readers 23. Joan California August 12th, 2011 4:28 pm What a great example to all of us, especially urban young people. Before inheriting a ruling position from his late brother he worked his way to the ownership of a successful business after overcoming economic and personal setbacks. Perhaps NYC should declare Mr. Osei's Ghanian home town a sister city. Recommend Recommended by 21 Readers 24. HIGHLIGHT (What's this?) Between Identities San Jose, CA August 12th, 2011 4:28 pm Yes it's a commendable and successful immigrant story with a US national political flavor/fervor as expressed by several online readers. However, the point missed here is how US foreign policy, especially pundits and policymakers miss and fail to factor in the economic and political assets and potentials of the African immigrants. But also the brain-drain impact on the African continent. Recommend Recommended by 36 Readers 25. Jasani Sunnyvale, CA August 12th, 2011 4:29 pm The couple's adaptability and humility are striking. What a stark contrast between their two worlds! Yet, the Oseis have taken their disparate circumstances in stride, carved out roles, created a balance, and succeeded in both countries. Thanks for your coverage of this smart couple. Recommend Recommended by 46 Readers 26. marcusantonius Providence August 12th, 2011 5:21 pm And the help that the Osei's send to Ghana has a ripple effect. Any help to their relatives in Ghana goes a really long way in that kids can go to school, moms get good clothes and so on. And the young people get people that they can look up to. So, #9, if you knew more about Africa, you would be impressed. Furthermore, African kings
and chiefs are not about oppressing their subjects but they are cultural leaders, mediating conflicts, helping the needy and so on. That is why they are revered, not feared as those other cultural leaders you mentioned. While some of his subjects in Ghana may know that in New York Mr. Osei drives a cab, they will carry him shoulder high as a king or chief in Ghana because of the man he is to them. Recommend Recommended by 29 Readers 27. LW California August 12th, 2011 5:21 pm Elizabeth Osei deserves as much recognition as Isaac Osei. It is their partnership that is so effective and impressive. Recommend Recommended by 36 Readers 28. Nadia Kamolz Germany August 12th, 2011 5:22 pm It warmed my heart to read this as I lived there (in Ghana) for eight years.....once upon a time.The easy laugh doesn't surprise me at all.They are a very warm and charming people amd yes a Chief does have a lot of responsibility. Recommend Recommended by 15 Readers
29. gollapudi srinivasa rao,journalist warangal, india August 12th, 2011 5:22 pm very good story indeed. should have been little more featurish. Recommend Recommended by 6 Readers
30. Anthony NY August 12th, 2011 5:22 pm My grandparents came from Naro, Sicily with nothing, a familiar story I'm sure. They were not royalty. They held no stature in society. They had no money and no education. Through FDR"s Immigration Naturalization Act they became US citizens. Dad served in WW II, then worked the nightshift in the old Post Office on 9th Avenue - a job he held for 36 years. They struggled to make ends meet - at one point when they had 3 children, they couldn't pay the rent and lost their apartment. It took 6 months before they could find an affordable place to live. In 1957, they realized their dream and bought a home in the Bronx. They pushed hardwork, responsibility, and education. And so all 5 of their children went to school pursuing a "better life". They produced 1 Banker, 3 physicians, & 1 dentist. Dad passed away, but mom lives on and if you ask her, she'll tell you how grand and wonderful her life has been. America, land of opportunity for every immigrant. Let's keep it that way. Recommend Recommended by 58 Readers 31. Nadia Kamolz Germany August 12th, 2011 5:22 pm To No.9 -DP in NYC. You cannot compare a Chief in Ghana to Bulgarian Vicounts or Romanian Princesses.An African Chief does not just party all the time.You just can't compare Africa to any other place on earth. It's that different. As they might say in Ghana "Travel and see." Recommend Recommended by 40 Readers
32. HIGHLIGHT (What's this?) Ramon San Francisco, CA August 12th, 2011 5:38 pm This brief, well-written article should be required reading for all those who claim that there is no work or opportunities, and that immigrants are “stealing” “our” jobs. It reminds me of the experiences of my own parents. They hit the streets running; wide-eyed at all of the seemingly boundless opportunities. Recommend Recommended by 48 Readers 33. gblico paris August 12th, 2011 5:38 pm Inspiring! Recommend Recommended by 17 Readers 34. HIGHLIGHT (What's this?) Joe Schmoe Brookyn August 12th, 2011 10:15 pm Unless I am mistaken nowhere in this article is there any indication that Mr. Osei is an illegal immigrant. Yet, I have already read a half dozen reader responses cautioning all those anti-immigrant racist Americans out there to pause for thought and consider the wonderful things Mr. Osei has brought to this country. This sort of finger wagging completely ignores that most Americans who oppose illegal immigration have absolutely no problem with, and in fact applaud, immigrants who come here legally. Let's not lump together two very different groups of immigrants, please. Recommend Recommended by 18 Readers 35. Ralph San Francisco August 12th, 2011 10:17 pm All current members of Congress and the White House should be required to spend two years in a similar activity and condition. Recommend Recommended by 9 Readers 36. sam mabry falls church August 12th, 2011 10:17 pm God Bless America...where aspirations to all men can be achieved...then a now, hopefully forever. My Grandfather was an immigrant from the Azores in 1890's and as educated man, who could read and write both Portuguese and English with ease, and who spoke several languages (how he accomplished this I never knew) he like Chief Oseis--albeit in less formal way--would tarvel to the Azores to counsel his family and village on immigration, legal and financial matters and did much the same with the Portuguese immigrants who arrived in the Central Valley of California where he lived. In this wonderful country--some good things never change. Recommend Recommended by 6 Readers 37. AmatureHistorian NYC August 12th, 2011 10:17 pm
There are more than half a million villages in China along. Who cares about a chiefdom? Mr. Oseis is a wealthy guy here and nobody back home unless he overthrows a government and becomes the next president. Then again, who cares about African dictators? Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader 38. Joe Schmoe Kamchatka August 12th, 2011 10:17 pm This is actually quite common . . . we've an African queen working as a receptionist in Silver Spring, just outside of Washington, DC. My best friend married a princess from Lesotho . .. and they live in his parents' basement in the midwest. It is a neato type of story, but don't make too much fuss about it. Being a VIP is obviously a heterogeneous distinction. Recommend Recommended by 7 Readers 39. Yvette NYC August 12th, 2011 10:17 pm How wonderful to see. they worked hard to achieve the American dream. Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers 40. Rudolph New York, NY August 12th, 2011 10:17 pm Ghana indeed is a very primitive and simple country - a real cross section of what Africa is all about. And now to read that Isaac Osei made it here in New York as a cab driver is something to be very proud of - more power to him. He has my support. Recommend Recommended by 4 Readers 41. Jason Brooklyn, NY August 12th, 2011 10:17 pm Commenter #9 might want to learn a bit more about the chieftanships in Ghana. Great story. The Osei's is just one of many stories about hardworking immigrants finding opportunities in the U.S. and improving lives back home. This is America.... But it doesn't have to be done only in this way- the U.S. needs to accelerate business and trade in Ghana and subsaharan Africa, (in addition to the aid packages). I go to Ghana regularly, and Chinese are moving rapidly building infrastructure for resource extraction. It's becoming a land grab, and they do extremely little about improving these societies. This is going to be a big problem in the near future- we are missing the boat, stymied with antiquated towards the continent. Recommend Recommended by 11 Readers 42. Einstein America August 12th, 2011 10:17 pm I would trade a hundred, no, make that a thousand, nasty, bigoted Michelle Bachmanns for any of the wonderful, good-natured immigrants that have blessed this country like the Oseis. Let's send xenophobic Arizona Governor Jan Brewer BACK to the land of HER ancestors and welcome more hard-working immigrant entrepreneurs like the Oseis.
Let's deport racist republican 'representatives' such as Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Steve King(R-Iowa). Immigrant families such as the Oseis understand the American Dream and contribute far more to American Society! Recommend Recommended by 21 Readers 43. Isaiah Kansas City, MO August 12th, 2011 10:17 pm What a nice story, made my hard day at work a little more bearable. Right now I'm a working stiff, going through college and getting a degree in biology and eventually medicine. Growing up poor I think is an immigrant experience in itself. It's kinda like I was always hoping that America's promise would pay off and so far so good. It's good to see that immigrants are exploiting America's opportunity but I am dismayed when people say the American Dream is dead when so many around are getting what they want out of this country. Being poor I never felt entitled to anything, I felt like I had to earn everything that I have. It's almost like people tell others not to try at all, like everyone is so afraid that they'll fail the give up before they start. I think people need to realize that the American Dream is NOT dead but has just changed. You have to do a little little bit more to get what you want, and I don't think that's so bad. Recommend Recommended by 10 Readers 44. BobM Encinitas, CA August 12th, 2011 10:17 pm Fascinating story. Thanks for sharing this interesting slice of life. Recommend Recommended by 5 Readers 45. Jazz Bklyn,NY August 12th, 2011 10:17 pm Mr. Osei and his wife are the type of immigrants, people, New Yorkers, that make this city so great. Love it! Recommend Recommended by 8 Readers 46. Dances with Cows Tracy, CA August 12th, 2011 10:17 pm DP, I doubt that the purpose of the article was to impress you, and I know the Osei family does not care that you are not impressed. These are people living their lives while dealing with extremely different circumstances. They seem to know themselves well enough to handle it. Happy for them. Recommend Recommended by 13 Readers 47. sean Washington, D.C. August 12th, 2011 10:17 pm This is pretty standard for Ghana. Guys in somewhat "normal" jobs even within the country or capital city are chiefs back in the village. Even if he lived in Ghana he would have to carve out an economic existence in some form or another that was separate from his chieftancy. Recommend Recommended by 7 Readers 48. cloudsandsea France August 12th, 2011 10:17 pm
Wonderful wonderful story as other readers have noted already Its what we love about America! Its the nuts and bolts of New York instead of the fluff in Congress. Recommend Recommended by 6 Readers 49. TNette SouthEast August 12th, 2011 10:17 pm Neat story. A good reminder that every person has a story. The immigrant driving your taxi cab likely has a story that is particularly interesting. Recommend Recommended by 4 Readers 50. Otto New York August 12th, 2011 10:17 pm Words? What are to to compare a story like this? This is the making of a perfect movie; these persons are an enlightenment of what a prefect world should be. Thou they word hard and long hours; their relationship is that of a King and Queen, a motherland and a world apart. This is indeed a sweet story. Recommend Recommended by 4 Readers 51. Andre Glendale, CA August 12th, 2011 10:17 pm Thank You N.Y. Times! This is an inspirational and unforgettable story. I will share this with my family and friends. Also, to Marcusantonius Providence, #26: Thank you for your thoughtful response. Recommend Recommended by 4 Readers 52. Deborah NY, NY August 12th, 2011 10:17 pm This is exactly what makes New York City great. It's the diversity of cultures and the optimism of the people coupled with a large dose of hard work that makes this city so unique. Recommend Recommended by 9 Readers 53. Donny D NYC, USA August 12th, 2011 10:18 pm Stories like this redeem journalism and make me proud to be a New Yorker. Recommend Recommended by 7 Readers 54. LRT DC August 13th, 2011 6:21 pm What's the point here? I think I would be better off not knowing about this tribal leader who, with his wife, came here and somehow acquired a multi-million dollar NYC taxi company but yet retained his tribal chiefdom back in Africa. I can't help but wonder who drives those cabs. Whenever I'm in the city I seem to hail only cabs with non English speaking African drivers who attempt to rip me off. Could those be Osie's cabs? They are yellow fords..... Maybe I'll get lucky someday and hail the "Cash Cab" and get my mug on TV. Even if I loose the game I'll be a winner because that guy speaks English. Recommend Recommended by 2 Readers
55. C. RI August 13th, 2011 6:22 pm #40, it would behoove you to do a little research before calling Ghana a "primitive" country. It may not be a Western country, but your suggestion that it is a backward country by dint of its location is sub-Saharan Africa is offensive and unfounded. These people are successful because they are intelligent, just like many thousands of Ghanians around the world (like my parents). Ghana, like other developing countries, is the victim of brain drain caused by lack of opportunity-- a vestige of colonization that still resonates around the world. Ghana, and Africa as a whole, is not primitive. Do a little research and learn a little history, and how you view the continent will hopefully change. Recommend Recommended by 11 Readers 56. misha philadelphia August 13th, 2011 6:22 pm I have one thing to say to Isaac Osei and his wife: Mazel tov. Recommend Recommended by 7 Readers 57. Nan Socolow Cayman Islands, British West Indies August 13th, 2011 6:22 pm An exquisite and beautiful New York/Ghanaian story! God bless Chief Isaac Osei and his wife. the Chieftan's Lady, Elizabeth. OSEI can you see the wonderful only-in-America story? Thank you Christine Haughney for your inspired writing about a splendid couple of Ghanaian/Americans! Recommend Recommended by 3 Readers 58. Warren Evans Bronx August 13th, 2011 6:22 pm This man is of royal blood and yet he does not leech off his subjects like the so called British royal family. Why do our main stream press prints so many stories of these so called royals when they are just parasites living off the blood sweat of their people? Recommend Recommended by 7 Readers 59. steve Ky. August 13th, 2011 6:22 pm These must be energietic people. America's success has always been due to the energy of immigrants and their industriousness. What a dual existence this couple leads. Surely he will name a successor for his tribe sometime. Recommend Recommended by 2 Readers Report as Inappropriate 60. Carole NYC August 15th, 2011 9:01 am What a great story! Being a royal in Ghana and business owner in the New York area is inspiring. Recommend Recommended by 0 Readers 61. Vlad Wallachia August 15th, 2011
9:01 am so owning a cab company is somehow "pedestrian" and "normal"? You people are disconnected from reality. How many of YOU commoners own 50 cabs? pfffft. Recommend Recommended by 2 Readers 62. Practical Dude New York, NY August 15th, 2011 9:01 am The United States is a fertile ground to encourage hard work and dedication. This story illustrates that. Not everyone has to be a scientist, or an inventor or even an innovator. There are enormously wealthy families today whose ancestors only 3 or 4 generations ago were selling wares from a push cart in the East Village. Or mending shoes, or fixing locks. Their families are today in the Forbes list. If there is a will to succeed, and it is backed by a desire to work hard, YES, you can do it!! Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader 63. Upper West Sider NYNY August 15th, 2011 9:36 am (corrections added) Mr. Osei in 1991 was near foreclosure. Several years later he owned a fleet of 50 taxis. Ms. Osei calls herself Elizabeth Olsi in the NYS Dept of State Division of Corporations for Napasei Management Corp filed on Feb 15, 2005. In 2004, medallions went for over 300K. A 20% down payment works out to 60K per medallion. Doing the math, 50 X 60K = 3 million for mortgages. Add in cost of cars plus insurance and maintenance: 50 X 24K = 1.2 million. Factoring 20% down on this is still 240K. Then thereâ€™s the house in NJ. Another mortgage. A modest 250K house requires a 20% down payment of 50K. How does one go from almost catastrophe to riches driving a cab? The photo of Mr. Osei as tribal chief shows a crown of gold. He had access to wealth from Africa from his tribe. Did Mr. Osei also have access to IMF funds meant to help rebuild suffering nations? Looking at ACRIS NYC property public records shows for the address 607 W 47th Street NYNY: 2005 0104 - AGREEMENT CRFN 2005000006255 - 1,750,000 - FRESHSTART VENTURE CAPITAL CORP. and 47TH STREET GROUP, LLC. What is their involvement with Napasei Management Corp? How did a nearly penniless cab driver get millions in funding? Reason Iâ€™m asking: this makes a great entrepreneur story. How to get funding for a venture is key to its growth and success. The dark side of the coin is the question did Mr. Osei appropriate tribal gold as cash to start his personal wealth in the USA? Did he win the Lottery? Is this a scam? Great writing by Christine Haughney. Without quality investigative reporting, where does one find the truth? Recommend Recommended by 2 Readers 64. Upper West Sider NYNY August 15th, 2011 9:36 am #42 Einstein - you're ability to be open minded is amazing. Gov Brewer is simply enforcing immigration laws to keep America for Americans that President Obama is trying to circumvent to favor lawbreaking illegal aliens. Second, regarding the OSEI or OLSI story (check the spelling of the CEO of Napasei Mgmt Corp NYS State Corp records - tell me where did the cash come from to buy 50 medallions, 50 cars, 50 sets on insurance, a house in NJ, and a building on 47th street? All from driving a cab? Genius, be a real Einstein - look into this story and ask the hard question - where did the financing come from? Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader 65. Upper West Sider NYNY August 15th, 2011 9:36 am (Correction) One final thought that has been overlooked: Mr. Osei - owning 50 cabs, paying insurance, cost of cars, cost of a building on 47th street - provides jobs for over 50 people per day. This is the true gift of a
hardworking entrepreneur than must be commended and praised - regardless of where funding came from to start and build his empire. Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader 66. hd brooklyn, ny August 15th, 2011 9:36 am Beautiful story and one that screams "don't judge a book...". Who knows, your cabbie, your corner grocer or your dry cleaner may be royalty back home! Kudos to the Osei's for working hard here for their own dreams and in Ghana for the dreams of their people. Let's not forget that, save for Native Americans, we are all immigrants. It seems the current anti-immigration sentiment is fueled, at its foundation, by racism. I've never heard of anyone complaining about current caucasian immigrants from the UK, Ireland or Continental Europe. My own family hails from Ireland and Germany, yet there are certain members the family who would deny immigrants of color from entering America. Simple racism and hypocrisy at its worst. Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader 67. Richard Europe August 15th, 2011 9:36 am I suspect the entire story isn't being told here with regards to the Osei's taxi business. Mr. Osei, according to the article, spent many years in precarious financial straits: He failed as a restauranteur and was "wiped out financially" in the 1980s, and in 1991 "was about to fall into foreclosure" as a taxi owner. But since then he has suddenly been able to become a successful businessman, due to he and his wife's ceaseless toil (so the article implies). The explosive growth of governmental agencies dedicated to the redistribution of American taxpayers' wealth to "minority business owners" since the 1990s probably explains Mr. Osei's current "small taxi empire". His "work" in his home country overseeing the installation of toilets and other hygiene facilities is probably also a direct or indirect result of state-sponsored wealth transfer from Western societies, or from NGOs. Recommend Recommended by 2 Readers 68. DeepSpace Harlem New York,NY August 15th, 2011 9:36 am African immigrants that come from former English colonies are far more likely to land on our shores with atleast an undergraduate degree. While in grad school studying bioinformatics, there were two african american students, including myself. There were far more students from Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya in the sciences and engineering. The Oseis story is far more common than many of us may think. Big Ups to them! Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader 69. GQ NYC August 15th, 2011 9:36 am This article had me smiling from ear to ear while reading. I was totally submerged into the Osei's story and journey to where they are today. Despite all that may be wrong in the world; the wars, the famine, the global economy, the Osei's serve as a poignant reminder of hard-work, dedication, and the unwavering human spirit. Recommend Recommended by 2 Readers 70. spookywhite Haarlem, NY August 15th, 2011
9:36 am A great, inspiring story that defines what it is to be an American. God Bless them, their village and may their hard work continue to inspire us all... Recommend Recommended by 0 Readers 71. Max Alexander South Thomaston, Maine August 15th, 2011 9:36 am (Apologies, previous comment had an incorrect link.) There are thousands of chiefs in Ghana, most of them quite ordinary. In fact what sets Mr. Osei apart, to Ghanaians, is not his chieftaincy but his status as a successful American immigrant who can hire other immigrants. I have been living in Ghana while writing a book about the country. For more on the NYT story, read my blog entry: http://www.maxalexander.info. Recommend Recommended by 0 Readers 72. Swimmy44 San Francisco, CA August 15th, 2011 9:36 am Talk about leading a double life - truth is stranger than fiction! What a story. Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader 73. Maggie New Orleans August 15th, 2011 9:36 am Wonderful story and a great counter-argument to the idiotic anti-immigrant sentiment in much of the country. Success is based on hard work most of the time, and it seems to me the immigrants are really hard working. They don't all become as successful as Mr. and Mrs Osei, but I know for a fact, after many years of teaching ESL to adults in Los Angeles, that we need to welcome hard workers and not discourage and despise them. This was a great article. Thanks for shining such a positive light on immigration. Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader 74. Lisa Topanga, CA USA August 15th, 2011 9:36 am What a great story. My assistant is from Togo. Apparently, when his father died a few years ago he was supposed to inherit his father's crown overseeing one of the southern kingdoms. Instead, he returns to Togo each summer for a month to administer to his people. He says he loves his life as it is now too much to return permanently to Africa. Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader 75. Lenny Sam Northeast, Pa August 15th, 2011 9:36 am Former NYC cabbie. I don't see how an American citizen can do this. What bank will give them the money or support?. Yeah I worked 18 hour days. Sleeping at Kennedy waiting for the first flight. A wasted over 10 years of my life. Back then It could be done by an American,like Bob Schull he married into it. Good luck to the Osei's and all the foreigners buying up the country. Recommend Recommended by 0 Readers
76. MostlyAmused Out West August 15th, 2011 9:36 am @ #9 >> You should be impressed with this man's chief status for many reasons. Unlike the ex-pats you refer to, he still honors his duties to his people. He could have just walked away and let his people get sucked up into other tribes where they would not be served properly. Instead he and his wife have accepted the challenge and are working to improve conditions back in Ghana. What have you done lately? Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader 77. M. Vizcaino NYC August 15th, 2011 9:36 am Just read this article to my 7 year old. He loved it! Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader 78. KT NYC August 15th, 2011 9:36 am I note that Mr. Osei had lost his first business and returned to taxi driving when he met the future Mrs. Osei, and that she, not he, had the inspiration for and is running their taxi company. Not to slight Mr. Osei in any way, because this is a wonderful story, but the African immigrant who was inspired to start and is now running a taxi company is Mrs., not Mr. Osei. Great couple, but -- you go, girl! Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader 79. Bill Princeton nj August 15th, 2011 9:36 am As the saying goes "only in america". Yet the GOP had inbred immigration fears since it might mean that their privileged brethren might be held accountable instead of creating the wealth that they so often speak of through their cherished tax breaks. This is a great story. Hollywood should take notice. Recommend Recommended by 0 Readers 80. GeniusIQ179 SLO, CA August 15th, 2011 9:36 am To the NY Times Editor in Chief-This is NEWS.. Thank you for publishing it... Can you expand and present more like it??? Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader 81. Michelle New York August 15th, 2011 9:36 am What a fabulous movie this story would make, with no almost no embellishments at all!! Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader 82. JAK
NJ August 15th, 2011 9:36 am Thanks for this insightful article yes the Chiefs still do have more say. They are the first line of deence in Ghana in terms of arbitration thats why we have been "free" of war and conflict in a region perversed and notoripous for conflicts. I am proud to be a Ghanain American also going back and forth between my two beloved countries. Ghana is no longer a primitive country thanks to the diaspora resettliong, and Europeans buying summer homes there. There are houses costing as much as half a million dolars and the country is rich in resource. Hopefully the new government would use the new found oil money and the vast natural resources to better the citizenery this time around. It is a relatively safe country so, whoever is interested in investing should consider checking their free zone board. 10 years of tax free if 70% of goods are exported. China, India, Korea, and the Eastern block are on the move. I hope America after helping them find oil (Cosmos, Anadarko)would share the benefit. There are roughly nine hundred million people in Africa think about the potential market of the new middle class spring up all over the continet. Recommend Recommended by 1 Reader 83. CWH Huntington, NY August 15th, 2011 6:11 pm What a joke, why is this person here istead of being Chief in Ghana? Helping his so called clan, there has to be more to the story. But this goes along the lines of ridiculous as we look at these countrymen who are a sham, helping no one but themselves. Wonder how much in tax dollars are spent to help him and his tribe of people using our system to lay low and to spread the word of chieftain ideology. Recommend Recommended by 0 Readers 84. terry washingtonville, new york August 15th, 2011 6:11 pm What is missed in the article is except for Native Americans we are all Mr. Osei, we are all either similar to Mr. Osei or descended from persons similar to Mr. Osei. As FDR opened to the snooty Daughters of the American Revolution in San Francisco in 1935, "Fellow immigrants...." As far as Mr. Osei's immigrant status, America became great when there were no restrictions on immigration. Sample the daily NYTimes obituary pages and note the high percentage of those who were immigrants or the children of immigrants. Imagine the American bounty if America had opened its borders to the European Jews and Jehovah's Witnesses persecuted by Hitler. Every city I have been in, NYC, Newark, and Utica, were all saved by immigrants, NYC by the Oseis, the Ironbound in Newark, the Bosnian Muslims in Utica. Recommend Recommended by 0 Readers 85. MostlyAmused Out West August 15th, 2011 6:12 pm @ #54, LRT >> Racist much? The man and his wife worked hard to earn those cabs. It isn't easy work, requiring long hours and a lot of expenses you obviously never think about. Even driving one is a challenge, especially when one has to deal with rude customers who think the drivers are their personal servants--or worse. I drove a cab while in college to help pay some of my expenses and, since I am female, there was always a certain class of customer who was of the opinion he was entitled to "extra services". And, just so you don't go all stereotypical on me, I was born in the Midwest. Anyone who can make it these days with the corporations taking over everything has my respect, no matter where they started out from. Recommend Recommended by 0 Readers Report as Inappropriate
Published on Aug 16, 2011
Isaac Osei, an immigrant from Ghana, runs a taxi company with his wife in New York City. But when he visits the old country, he wears a deli...