Religious Intolerance and Education in Dumsorland

Evenin’, Saints. I ain’t gonna keep you long. I just have something that’s heavy on my heart that needs sharing is all. For those of you not interested in Christ, Allah and Ghanaian affairs, feel free to sit this one out.

I have been keeping tabs on trending Ghanaian news and have been horrified by what I’ve witnessed. Ghana, Africa’s “shining example of peace”, has been exhibiting some pretty distasteful behavior where religion and education are concerned. Most African countries exist with a mix of religions, with Christianity or Islam dominating the population, depending on how determined the Arabs or Europeans were to convert their subjects and keep them converted. It’s easier to control people who believe in (or fear) the same spooky deity as you. This is why there was so much hostility towards indigenous African religions… the invaders couldn’t figure out how to turn it against our ancestors. Conversion was therefore often forced, and anyone practicing traditional religion frequently severely punished in the colonies. In return, “devout” Africans were rewarded with jobs, elevated social rank and schools in return for their obsequiousness. In time, people handed down their adopted religions to their children for these new benefits – some going as far as to change their names to more Anglo sounding or “Christian” names – and the rest became history. The work was done, now that the slave identified more with the oppressor than with his ancestor.

Fast forward a few hundred years, and Ghana is dealing with aftershocks of this mental enslavement we like to call enlightenment – and our children our suffering for it.

An African child, like any other child of the global village, typically has no choice as to what religion they are going to operate under until they reach adulthood. The religion one’s family practices is your inheritance. In my case, I lived in a multi-faith home where my mother was a Muslim and my father some sort of Christian. He drank beer, never went to church and rarely prayed, but he grew up Anglican so that’s what he identified as. My mother was responsible for my siblings and my religious upbringing. So we prayed 4-5 times a day, fasted at Ramadan and gave alms to the poor (when it was convenient). We also went to Soul Clinic International, a Christian school founded by an African-American pastor. Coming from America myself, I thought that our school’s Director and his family would help me ease into my new life as an elementary school student in Ghana since we had a “common” background, but my religion would prove to be a barrier from day one.

Every morning at assembly, I would have to say a prayer declaring Jesus Christ as lord. I was forced to memorize and recite Bible verses. My teachers often had unsavory things to say about Muslims. One afternoon, my 5th grade teacher stood at the chalkboard and told a joke about the salat (posture a Muslim takes to pray) wherein the punchline was “I sh*t, I was my nyash. I sh*t, I wash my nyash. Oooh God, if I’m lying, look inside my nyash!”

My classmates burst into uproarious laughter while they banged on my desk, willing me – forcing me – to find humor in this insult. I’ve never forgotten that day.

You would think Ghanaians would have matured by now, but recent events in the news prove otherwise. We still haven’t learned how to respect each other or get along yet.

The fact is, Ghana is nearly split 50/50 along Christian and Islamic lines. There are a sprinkling of atheists and a few animists, but these are the two dominant religions. The legacy of colonialism is that most of the development in the country took place in the Christian south while the Muslim north languished in the dark ages. It is a legacy that continues today. The north of Ghana has the highest illiteracy rates, less access to technology and abysmal access to healthcare. The north is also predominantly Muslim. So what is a Muslim who wants a better education/job opportunities to do but come south into Christian terrain? That terrain includes better schools – and in a few cases, like Wesley Girls – the very best the country has to offer. This is the situation we find ourselves in today. Students who are of varying ethnicities and religious backgrounds want to better themselves for their progeny’s sake and are being told that they MUST adhere to “compulsory devotion” or leave the institution of their choice.

Compulsory devotion. If those two words strung together don’t smack of the colonized mind, I don’t know what else does.

For the record, I am not a Muslim anymore. I converted to Christianity in college, and it was a traumatic experience. In fact, I don’t recall it with neither fondness nor pleasantness. Still, it needed to be done to save my soul from sin and death, etc etc. As traumatic as that was for me, I still had some level of choice, even though I knew my mother would be furious. What choices are these Muslim children who are being forced to attend Sunday worship being given? Of course, Ghana’s kneejerk reaction from a barely thinking public is “Go build your own schools!” I cringe every time I hear this. It sounds eerily similar to “Go back to Africa!”?

logo2One of the best things to ever happen in my tenure as a student was to SOS HGIC, even if it was only for the last 2 years of high school. It saved my life and my mind. The school’s motto is “Knowledge in the service of Africa.” There were no devotions held on campus. The Christian students were ferried by bus every Sunday to worship, and the Muslims prayed wherever they wanted. My sister and I would pray on Friday in my dorm room. It was far less stressful and we were all able to focus on our academics. HGIC graduates are some of the greatest minds in West Africa today.

I sincerely believe that we need to take God out of education in Africa if we cannot figure out how to implement the tenants of love and compassion. Telling folks to “go build your own” is not Christian compassion. Christ never forced anyone to follow him. In fact, the Bible says if anyone does not believe in the gospel to shake the sand from your feet and carry on to the next town. It does not say bend their heads into your religious yoke.

Forcing people to “worship” together doesn’t build a nation. Stable infrastructure builds a nation. Equal distribution of resources builds a nation. Tolerance for your neighbor’s beliefs – as long as they don’t harm anyone – builds a nation. But telling folks who want to do their part to participate in the economy via better education to kick rocks because you have your head in an ungodly religious cloud isn’t going to make that happen. These mission schools were created to make the Ghanaian a better brand of servant. They were created for the white man’s benefit… not ours. They have served their purpose in that regard. Isn’t it time we grew up? For whose benefit are we now seeking knowledge for?

It’s time to take God out of schools in Ghana, because clearly, we don’t know how to handle nice things.

 

My Daughter Wants to Go to College to Learn How to Sew, Knit and Cook

Happy International Women’s Month! I have been struggling to decide how I should celebrate the month on the blog in a meaningful way and as they often do, my children provided me the answer without intending to do so.

This morning, my daughter informed me that she wants to go to college to “learn how to sew, knit and cook” …and I am perfectly fine with that. I can see the tips of your ears turning red right now. I can almost see the steam rising off of your heads. What! Spend all that money to go to college to become some stay at home cook who darns socks? Heaven forbid! Just wait, my friend. It’s not as bad as that.

MaryMcLeodBethune0“Maya and Kennedy said that they will go to Mary McLeod’s school when they go to college,” Aya chirped in her pleasant voice.

“You mean Bethune-Cookman University?” I asked.

“Yes! Bethune-Cookman,” she grinned. Then she settled back in her seat and watched the rain softly beat the windows of our car. “They teach you how to sew, cook and knit. Isn’t that cool?”

I’m the antithesis of crafty. Nothing about sewing or knitting sounds “cool” to me. But my baby is into that stuff, which means I have to put on a mask for her sake, just like I have to pretend I love trains for Stone or My Little Pony for Nadjah. I happen to like mermaids, so Liya and I have a grand time talking about them. The rest of the crew is missing out.

“Yes: that’s pretty cool. Would you like to visit the university one day?”

Aya’s face broke into a wide, toothy grin. “I’d love to!”

As I watched her from my rearview mirror, I could see the wheels in her head turning. Soon, she’d be in class telling all her little friends about how her mom and she would be going on a road trip – probably this summer – so she could see the school Mrs. Mary McCleod built. None of this has been discussed with me, of course.

I won’t lie: A small part of me is disappointed that she doesn’t want to get into science or computer aided drafting or any sort of 21st tech pursuit that will net her an easy six figure salary. But the honest truth is that we are always going to need people to sew, cook and knit. Obviously, Bethune-Cookman University most likely doesn’t over these as courses anymore. These were the foundations the school Mary McLeod began her Literary and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls in 1905 on. Although the school’s beginnings were humble, McLeod Bethune had high standards for her students:

“The rigorous curriculum had the girls rise at 5:30 a.m. for Bible Study. The classes in home economics and industrial skills such as dressmaking, millinery, cooking, and other crafts emphasized a life of self-sufficiency for them as women.”

mmc schholIn the early days, students made their own ink from elderberry juice and pencils from burned wood. The students seats and desks were made from converted crates housed in a rented home that served as the school. She began with 6 students and within a year, that number swelled to 30. The success of Black church was instrumental in her early success, and in time, Mary McLeod Bethune would go on to form alliances with some of America’s most influential businessmen and women, including J.D. Rockefeller, James Gamble and the Roosevelts. Through their financial support and fundraising efforts, she was able to expand her school. Soon Bethune added science and business courses, then high school-level courses of math, English, and foreign languages.

Mary McLeod Bethune was the daughter of former slaves. She herself began working in the fields at age 5 until education radically changed her life. Her passion for learning took her to heights that few Black women at that time could dream of. She was one of the few women (Black, white or otherwise) to be the president of a college in the 1920’s and beyond. She would later be appointed as an advisor to President Roosevelt. She was on the boards of numerous women’s rights and education organizations. She fought tirelessly for the rights of all children to have a quality education, and was an advocate for Black to take pride in and share their accomplishments. It was essential if they were to be seen as equal not only in the eyes of the American (white) majority, but in their own view as well.

“If our people are to fight their way up out of bondage we must arm them with the sword and the shield and buckler of pride – belief in themselves and their possibilities, based upon a sure knowledge of the achievements of the past.”

“Not only the Negro child but children of all races should read and know of the achievements, accomplishments and deeds of the Negro. World peace and brotherhood are based on a common understanding of the contributions and cultures of all races and creeds.”

 

Mary McLeod Bethune was an extraordinary and resourceful woman – truly remarkable. It was her great faith that buoyed her in the most trying of times. And if my daughter wants to go to her school to learn how to sew, cook and knit, I can’t find fault with that, because I know she will come out with knowledge, skills and an experience that reaches far beyond that. If the school still holds to McLeod Bethune’s original standards, Aya will emerge from their halls as a true entrepreneur and inventive woman. I doubt she will end up merely mending anyone’s socks for a pittance.

mary bethune

President Mahama Does Not Believe in Ghanaian Excellence, and Neither Does His Cabinet

Caution: Melatonin induced rant.

 

Isn't she glorious?

Isn’t she glorious?

Excellency, honorable, Oga… monikers and attributes that get tossed around our political landscape like parched corn husks after a harvest. They are plentiful and useless, for how many of our parliamentarians can we truly consider to be of the excellent variety? Ursula Owusu readily comes to mind, but women (or men) of Ursula’s character and constancy are few and far between. Is this not evident in the manner in which the country is run?

This week, President Mahama gave the State of Nation Address, where he made more promises when he had just promised two months ago not to make any more promises. He said that moving forward, the nation would not be run as it had in the past, and that he “owed it to Ghanaians” to fix the power crisis. Yes, that is true, Mr. President. Not only do you owe it to us, but it is your JOB. These are the promises you campaigned on (and won) in 2012. You’ve spent enough time sitting in the mirror practicing your Colgate smile for the international cameras. The time to get to work has come and passed!

Can I just say how disappointed I am in John Mahama, his entire appointed cabinet and his party in total? The NDC is the worst thing that could have happened to Ghana and it is imperative that they be relegated to the toothless minority as soon as possible. They certainly must be kept as far away from the nation’s funds as possible. They have placed Ghana in a ruinous state, and the reason is simple: John Mahama and his NDC cohorts do not love Ghana. They are false paramours in this relationship, and they certainly don’t believe in Ghana’s potential.

Throughout any country’s history, there has been a man or woman of the hour. This person later becomes a symbol of the desperate times in that moment in history and a testament to overcoming. When Ghana needed independence, she had Nkrumah to see her through. When the country was mired in coup after bloody coup, JJ Rawlings unleashed a coup to end all coups. To everyone’s shock, he allowed the country to enter into a democratic era. (The IMF may have had something to do with this.) Now Ghana finds itself at a crossroads: do we go back to the dark ages, or do we forge boldly ahead and become the Black Star of the region once again. One could argue that a light shines brightest in darkness, but the depth of the blackness John Mahama and his sycophants have plunged the country in have utterly snuffed out even the faintest glint of light. Bootlickers, the lot of them!

At every opportunity that there is a camera or a reporter present, Ghana’s president admonishes Ghanaian citizens, chiding them into consuming made in Ghana goods. This despite the average citizen is mired in poverty and cannot afford a single ball of kenkey for each member of their family. But you know what these destitute souls can afford? Ramen noodles. Salty Ramen noodles encased with a layer of plastic that slowly poisons the consumer. Is this product made in Ghana? No! It’s made in China. China is force-feeding and strangling Africa with its cheap unhealthy exports, and Ghana is impotent in its presence.

You know what else China and India do? They build our chairs in Parliament…and this doesn’t seem to bother our MPs a bit. If it does, it doesn’t nearly enough. Every MP of good conscious should have refused to sit on chairs made in China during the chamber and made the bold decision to drag in a made in Ghana seat. But no! All these unimaginative, brain dead folks could do was “bemoan” the situation that Deputy Speaker Alfred Kwame Agbesi and the other leadership had placed them in. According this this genius, it would have taken 1-5 years for a local manufacturer to make the chairs and Parliament needed a quick turn around, which was why a delegation was sent to China months before the chairs were to be delivered and hurriedly put in the building. There was no bidding process, no query about how local manufacturers could split the order if needed and deliver on time, because Alfred Agbesi (NDC) DOES NOT BELIEVE IN GHANAIAN INGENUITY! I wonder how much he was able to skim off of the top of that Chinese transaction? A pretty penny, I’m sure. Did I mention the chairs began falling apart a day after they were assembled? A female parliamentarian crashed to the floor in an undignified heap a day after they were set up in the chamber. As is their normal custom, the NDC reps deflected and placed blame on the victim, saying she needed to lose weight. The woman is a size 8-10! Come on, you people!

kantankaOh, but that’s not all. In a stunning move of blatant disregard, Sports Minister Mahama Ayariga confirmed that after placing second at the recent AFCON games, each member of the Black Star football squad was awarded $25,000 in cash and a new Jeep Grand Cherokee which retails at at a cost of $76,000. 30 Jeeps meant a total of $2,280,000 spent…on cars. Now, this wouldn’t be so bad, if Tankanka hadn’t just begun selling made and manufactured cars in Ghana this December. What kind of a symbolic gesture would it have been for the Sports Ministry to decide to invest that $2million back into a Ghanaian company? What kind of signal would that gesture have sent to the nation, to see a Black Star cruising the street in a made in Ghana car? Unfortunately, such a move would have required intelligence, planning and forethought, and the Sports Ministry has this in short supply.

I can’t even say John Mahama has failed to inspire his leadership to believe in Ghana, because he hasn’t even been inspired himself. Oh, but Malaka! He wears Horseman Shoes, which are made in Ghana! Oh, but Reader! He just spent millions of dollars to vacation in Dubai instead of one of Ghana’s numerous – and beautiful – beach resorts. Why? Because the man DOES NOT LOVE or have pride in his country. These are but a handful of examples of how he and the NDC have shown their contempt for Ghanaians. Let’s not even start on how we went from being debt-free to puckering up and rimming the IMF for loans in less than a decade.

Time is progressing. Technology is only going to get smarter. People are working more efficiently. It’s time we had a man – or a woman – in office who is fit for the task of leading the country into the challenges of the new millennium. All Mahama and his cohorts have managed to do is re-introduce the country to the horrors of the 19th century. If Ghana were coasting, we could allow a handsome guy with speeches on fleek to carry us through, but we need a president who has the strength to lead the nation in this uphill battle. It’s time for John Mahama to resign. There is no shame in confessing you are not good enough for the job. You just look desperate and pathetic when you hang on for too long.

Perpetuating Half Truths and Whole Lies: My History of Black History Failure

As Black History Month draws to a close in a few hours, I find myself reflecting over the past 28 days – as I do annually – to determine what grade I would give myself for how the month was celebrated. I fret over whether my family attended enough events, whether the information my children was exposed to was impactful or useful, and most importantly if they remember any of it. This year I would give myself a C.

As any parent will tell you, there is so much other stuff out there competing for ones’ kid’s attention, and I often doubt how much they can retain with their little brains struggling to recall anecdotes from Martin when Monster High demands so much of their grey matter. Nevertheless, kids have a strange way of surprising you with their powers of recall. Last night, I tested Nadjah with an easy question, just to see if anything she had learned since kindergarten had stuck.

“Who was the first Black woman to be arrested for not giving up her seat on the bus,” I quizzed. This was an easy one. Ask any third grader this same question, and they will invariably answer with an excited ‘Rosa Parks’!

But Nadjah is in fourth grade.

“Rosa Parks,” she said confidently.

“Wrong,” I replied.

“Wait…what? No! It’s Rosa Parks, Mommy!”

I nodded. “Yes. That’s what they told you in school, because that’s what certain people want us to believe and accept…but it’s not true.”

maxresdefault1I went on the tell her that the first Black woman to be arrested for sitting at the front of the bus/not giving up her seat was a 15 year old girl named Claudette Colvin. Though both women were summarily arrested for their “crimes”, it was a full 9 months after Ms. Colvin had been arrested first that Mrs. Parks would commit the same crime. Nadjah wanted to know why she didn’t learn about Claudette Colvin instead, and I was more than happy to tell her. It was the first step in erasing my shame for my part in erasing key elements of Black history.

“The SCLC – Martin Luther King’s organization – did not think Claudette Colvin would be a “good symbol of defiance” for the unjust bus laws in the South,” I told her. “They thought she was too dark, and she was also a soon to be unwed mother. (I left out the bit about her being impregnated by a married man. I’m not ready for conversations about statutory rape just yet.) Rosa Parks was married, lighter … and therefore prettier… and had the prestige of working for the NAACP. They felt she would be a better face for the cause.”

“Well that’s just stupid. Wasn’t the point of the Civil Rights Movement to protect people who had darker skin in the first place?” she seethed. This was a good segue into the issue of colorism in the Black community. I made a few statements on the issue that made her lip curl.

“I wish I could just go back in time and slap a lot of people,” Nadjah lamented. I told her I’d often wished the same. She then went on to declare this: “Just because someone made a mistake, doesn’t mean that they can’t help make a difference. It shouldn’t have mattered that she was a pregnant teen…even if it was awkward.”

Yes. Yes! I cheered inwardly and sent her on her way, reminding her to remember Claudette Colvin’s name.

The history we have been and are being fed in this country – and the world over, really – is a sham. It is a bleached down, candy coated version of events, made digestible for species that now has the same capacity for remembering as a gold fish. Time and again, we have found African history (and African American history, by extension) white washed to fit the 21st Century imagination. The horrid story put out by Jezebel a few months ago describing Saartjie Baartman’s captivity and sexual exploitation as a girl “looking to travel and monetize her body in the process” is only the latest in a trend to downplay the true horrors that came hand in glove with colonialism and slavery. What’s worse is when Black people perpetuate these outright lies because it makes us feel a little better and a lot less ashamed. I no longer want to belong to that camp.

bronzeI realized in early February that I had failed my children by not giving them a complete picture of their Black experience in America and in the world at large. We were at our local library and the Griot Society was hosting an Are you Smarter Than a Griot session. People of all ages were encouraged to participate, so even my 4 year old got a chance to come up to the podium to answer a number of questions. When one very pretty 5th grader took her turn at the podium, she was asked this question:

“Ancient Africans were astronomers, architects and mathematicians. True or false.”

She crinkled her nose, looked up at the sky and thought for a minute.

“False?”

“No…that’s actually true,” said the moderator.

She raised her eyebrows in surprise and took her seat. She shared the same look of surprise that clouded my children’s countenance. This is how I know I have failed.

My children think that Europeans came to Africa and took away slaves. Nothing could be further from the truth. European slave traders and their African allies took away hairdressers, soldiers, princes and princesses, fiancés and nursing mothers. They took away little boys who loved to practice their aim with catapults and 16 year old girls who were to celebrate their rights of passage into womanhood. They stole the lives of people like me and you and turned them into slaves. This is what I must impress upon my children.

I am now trying to do better with presenting history – not just Black history – to my kids so that when folks say things like “Thomas Jefferson had a love affair with Sally Hemmings”, they can respond with reasons, and confidently so, as to why that was highly implausible as Sally Hemmings had no agency over her body as a Black female slave. What was she supposed to tell the old goat that was married to her half-sister in the face of his advances? No? Denying a white man his “rights” was a recipe for death and/or dismemberment. But doesn’t the idea that Thomas Jefferson really loved her make you feel better about her repeated rapes? This is part of that white washing we discussed earlier.

More importantly for me though is for my children to understand that our history as Africans/African Americans does not begin with slavery and end with Barack Obama becoming president. They should know that we are connected by blood with the Haitian, the Bajan , the Brazilian as well as the Georgia native. They are our cousins. There should never be a doubt that their ancient ancestors were medical practitioners or healers, skilled craftsmen and women, and architects who built tremendous palaces…because this was all true. The average person believes that there were no buildings over the height of one storey constructed in Africa outside of Egypt until the Europeans came along. This is another lie that I have perpetuated by not taking the initiative to introduce it into conversation.

I want us to know the truth, in all its beauty and blemishes. I think we must begin to speak the truth about ourselves, our past and our future, whether it is bitter or sweet.

Every Man Sounds Like a Wounded Wookiee to his Wife

Good day to you, saints! I ain’t gwine keep ya long today. There is just a quick observation I have made that I wanted to share with you. Perhaps you have noticed it to.

This is an exercise for both men and women: Close your mind’s eye if you would, and imagine a might grizzly bear sniffing for berries and shrubs. Is he making the most horrific sounds…like he’s farting through his nose? Good. That’s a healthy grizzly bear. Now, if you’re a man imagining this, what you may not know is this is the sound your wife hears when she thinks you are talking absolute nonsense. No, honestly.

I repeat: A male mate who is making no sense to his female spouse sounds like a wounded galactic beast clinging to the last vestiges of life.

You are getting offended, eh? Just wait.

I had the pleasure of having coffee at MX5’s house about a month or more ago, and on this rare occasion, FX5 happened to come home early. Just 60 days ago, Bill Cosby was still a hot topic that was being heavily debated around not just this nation, but the world. A cadre of Black men came gallantly to Mr. Cosby’s defense – not necessarily for his sake, but for the sake of preserving the virtuous image of Black manhood – and FX5 seemed to be one of them.

“Why is it that every time the culture or the government wants to take a Black man down, they use sex?” he wondered aloud. “They did the same thing with MLK. They have done it scores of our national leaders.” He went on to ask rhetorically. “They didn’t have nothing else to take Bill Cosby down with?”

MX5 responded, saying “I agree, but perhaps the answer is for Black men is to stop doing these things – like drugging and raping women or having affairs on their wives – and then they wouldn’t have to use sex as a weapon against them.”

As the conversation raged on, I found myself a mere spectator. I could not get a word in edgewise between husband and wife. Finding himself on the ropes in the face of MX5’s dazzling mental dexterity, FX5 conceded a few of her points, revised the wording of some of his statements, but stood by his initial premise. This did not go down well with MX5, who to my amazed me with what she did next.

AngryWookiee-TEA“That’s not what you said!” she exclaimed. She hunched her shoulders, pouted her lips and spoke with a huskiness I had never heard before. “You said ‘I duh wnana huuhh muh wana wah’!”

I was gobsmacked. What was I seeing? What was I hearing?! I was seeing myself, that’s what. I was seeing myself (and every other Black married woman, apparently) in MX5. This was something other people did? Surely, this could not be so. As I typically do when I doubt I’ve interpreted something correctly, I ask Marshall his thoughts.

“Babe…I KNOW when I think you are being insensitive/unwitty/regressive I make this weird noise while imitating you.”

“Oh, you mean the one where you make me sound like the teacher in a Peanuts cartoon?” Marshall replied with a scoff.

“Yes! That one! Only today…I saw MX5 do it to FX5,” I said pensively. “He doesn’t even sound like that.”

“That’s just something you Black women do,” Marshall said flatly. “My mom does it. My aunt Wilma does it. You all do it.”

Unfortunately, I don’t spend enough time with my white female married friends outside of the virtual world to refute his assertion, but somehow I doubt that’s true. Instead, I thought back to all the instances where I’ve seen this behavior and have come to realize it’s an actual thing…a veritable female tic. Ironically, the Cosby Show provided one such example.

Do you recall the episode where Bill had prepared a bar-b-que for the family, but all his kids where fighting with their spouses? It was the episode where Lisa Bonet (aka Denise Huxtable) was wearing that odd yellow jump suit that made her look like a hungry banana. Anyhow, Elvin had said something sexist and Sandra called him out on it immediately. Martin (Denise onscreen husband) didn’t give a reply when he asked about his feelings about what Elvin had said. Instead, he laughed and walked out of the room. As the episode progressed, Denise made a mockery of Martin’s visceral response by contorting her face and making her imitation sound like something out of a Willy Wonka nightmare.

Oh Gawd. Maybe Marshall was right!

Now if you’re a woman, pause and think about the last time your husband/partner said something you consider dumb. When you regurgitated his words back to him (and we always do), what did you voice sound like?

I already know; A wounded wookiee.

MegatheriumI’m sure there are many reasons women do this, and I’m sure some of it is evolutionary. I think a part of it has to do with the mysterious aura of your spouse dissipating over time. I the beginning, when the love was fresh and you guys are just getting to know each other, the dude still held some element of danger. He wasn’t completely known to you, right? So even when he said something you thought was off, you may have privately rolled your eyes passive-aggressively. But 10, 15, 35 years down the line, this is a guy who’ve nursed through fevers, coached through awkward interactions, sat up waiting for to come home until dawn and in some cases, had to bail out of jail. All that passive aggression morphs into full on aggressive aggression when the mystique is gone! And that gentlemen, is why you sound like a hurt Megatherium to your woman. But take heart fellas. We only hear this sound when we think you are being willfully obtuse and because we love you.

M.O.M. Squad of all ages and races, have you noticed this behavior? Are Black women the only ones guilty of it. Are you going to pause the next time you find yourself to make these grunting noises? Are husbands going to exclaim “See! You’re doing it!” the next time your wife imitates you? Discuss! ↓

 

 

Shouts Out to Cameroonian Coffee. It Changed My Life

I was going to blog about the noises Black women hear when their mates speak, but a little bag of coffee got in my way.

As a Ghanaian, I didn’t grow up with coffee culture. As British subjects, the mark of sophistication was to start one’s day drinking tea, and so we have a tea culture. Do we grow tea in Ghana? No! We import it from India and China, but that’s not the point. Successful white colonialists drink tea, and therefore so do we. If we DO drink coffee, it comes in the form of that swill better known as instant Nescafe. If you are even a slight coffee connoisseur, it would not be a stretch to consider it a cup of some of the worst stuff you will ever choke down your throat.

As the Ghanaian palate expands and develops with travel, migration and interracial relationships, coffee is becoming a more integral part of our appetite. Food makes up a huge part of culture, and as our culture shifts to one that is more capitalist in its existence, the business of what to drink takes center stage. A guest of any importance who walks into an office will be greeted by the secretary with a series of questions which often include what said guest would like to drink.

“Would you like coffee, tea or water?” she/he may ask.

If the guest replies “coffee”, how cool would it be to follow up that request with “Ethiopian or Cameroonian coffee?”

Ahhh, but you see, the Ghanaian mentality would be to continue to import Nescafe because it is “French” or to get coffee from Colombia…because well, it’s Colombia. How many of us on the continent know that some of the best coffee in the world is grown right on African soil? I knew this in theory – because I consider myself a part time champion of made in Africa goods – but I didn’t have a chance to confirm it until today. And now that I have, I am SO mad at Chantal Biya, her husband, and the entire nation of Cameroon. African Unity is about sharing, and they have been keeping the good stuff from us for all these years!

In 2013, Marshall and I went on vacation to South Africa, and I wanted to buy myself a souvenir outside of the typical mask, painting or jewelry. While in Cape Town, we went to a wonderful restaurant called Moyo that also sells a myriad of items in the stalls that encompass its grounds which included CDs, some art and coffee. My coffee purchase was a last minute decision, as I only had a few Rand left in my pocket after a day spent shopping and eating. The merchant allowed me to smell some pre-ground beans from different parts of Africa, and the Cameroonian variety appealed to me the most. It was a sweet, earthy scent. It clung to my senses like a long lost cousin. Part of the coffee drinking experience is not just how it tastes, but the aroma as you sip from your mug as well. I gave the man my last R49 (about $5) and took my bag back to America where I vowed to only drink it on the “most special occasions”.

And for two years, it sat in the back of my freezer, completely forgotten. Why do we treat “special” things in this way? Like good dishes. Why do we only use our best dishes on special occasions? Isn’t every day you draw breath a special occasion? Anyway.

This morning, I found myself out of my usual brand of “American” coffee (which always comes ground). That’s when I remembered the small bag I had purchased from SA. I fished it out of the back of the freezer, assuming it was “ready to prepare”. I was so excited that I live tweeted the process of making myself a cup.

coffee1 coffee2 coffee3 coffee4 coffee6 coffee7 coffee8

It changed my life, you guys. I don’t think I can ever go back to regular, pre-ground coffee. Geographical limitations will not allow me to get coffee from Africa (and I refuse to give the exploitative Borg that is Starbucks $22 for a bag of Ethiopian, no matter how good their marketing is supposed to make me feel), so I will make do with what I can get a hold of. But for the rest of my people on the Continent: Please. Let us stop all this suffering, eh?

Let us commit to partake in the goodness that the land has yielded for us. Let’s share our resources with each other. Boko Haram is sharing war and plunder with Cameroon and may expand to the whole west African region…why should we expect evil to spread and not love, ESPECIALLY the love that sits at the bottom of a great cup of coffee? I have seen the light. We need a summit on intra-African trade. We need Moroccan argan oil to be on every beauticians shelf in Africa. We need Malian cotton to cover our African beds at night. We need Ethiopian spices to flavor our African dishes. We need to trade within Africa at a higher level, because this is some bull! I can’t believe I lived this long without ever tasting a cup of Cameroon coffee. Jesus be a commodities trader and importer!

Fix it, Lawd… fix this!

 

Lazy Intellectual African Scum Revisited

In 2012 I received an email from a good friend and mentor that completely blew me away. Those were the days when I was not averse to opening and reading chain/bulk emails, now a relic of the Internet’s past. The article was so biting, poignant and graceful in its delivery that I was compelled to copy and paste it without further addendum or comment on my blog. This was the sort of thing each reader needed to ingest and decode for his/herself.

I titled the article “You Lazy Intellectual (African) Scum” in absence of an original title. (I later learned it was originally entitled ‘Zambian Intellectuals are Lazy’, which is a much nicer moniker than the one I assigned the piece!)

Field Ruwe is the author of that piece that went viral within days. I suspect it was also shared widely within email circles as well, but once the blogging and online publication communities got a hold of it, it spread with ferocity. The article was liked, shared, reblogged and commented on thousands of times. EVERYONE was talking about Walter, the article’s protagonist, encounter with whom we assume is Field –or at least someone very much like him. Walter speaks the words that most Africans are too afraid to acknowledge in their hearts: that we are willfully submitting to being taken advantage of. Worse, he is unapologetic in his tone, as if seeking to give offense.

“I spent three years in Zambia in the 1980s,” he continued. “I wined and dined with Luke Mwananshiku, Willa Mungomba, Dr. Siteke Mwale, and many other highly intelligent Zambians.” He lowered his voice. “I was part of the IMF group that came to rip you guys off.” He smirked. “Your government put me in a million dollar mansion overlooking a shanty called Kalingalinga. From my patio I saw it all—the rich and the poor, the ailing, the dead, and the healthy.”

The sentiments in the piece were not universally received with happiness. There were several rebuttal pieces written, decrying Field’s supposed resolution that this is the way things “ought to be”, and for his not using his time to build Africans up, rather than tearing them down. Some folks were flat out offended. Others still saw the piece as spot on, and took it as a challenge to change the status quo. Others still were inspired to turn the piece into film, and for months there was talk about how/when that might happen. And then the chatter died down and as we humans do, we forget and move on.

Or so we assume.

Unbeknownst to the rest of the world, Field had collaborated with a young Kenyan filmmaker to bring this stunning think piece to life on the small screen. ‘Intellectual Scum’ will make its debut this Spring, and from the looks of the trailer, it adheres the same standard of excellent story telling as the original written piece.

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Njue Kevin, the film’s director will join me in a conversation about the creative aspects of the film, and will talk about how Field’s article impacted him. I hope you will be able to join us on Thursday February 26th at 11am EST/4 pm GMT on Google Hangouts (Link to join: https://plus.google.com/events/ckrop2mdsnbdmbmjikrrgm7h24c) Kevin and I want to hear from you too! Submit your questions and comments using the G+ Q&A feature and follow the conversation on Twitter using the HT #IntellectualScum.

You can see the film’s trailer here: