A Vision for a Black Star: Ghana’s Hopes for the year 2020

Even though I don’t live in the country, Ghana is never far from my mind. The proximity of the state of the country to my consciousness has everything to do with remittances, relaxation and eventual retirement. Although I do not call the country my permanent home, I have invested a lot in its development indirectly, as have thousands of Ghanaians who live abroad. The Kufuor administration even went so far as to name remittances from the Ghanaian diaspora as a major contributor to GDP growth and encouraged the Diaspora to send even more money back home for the cause of development. These claims and calls did not come without controversy, however.

Like any “investor”, I have been doing a great deal of thinking about the impact of my money and what kind of return I can expect. Hitherto I had thought of myself and any other working Ghanaian as a cabal of Angel Investors, whose sole function is to blindly (albeit sometimes grudgingly) provide funds and resources to our dependents on the continent without expecting anything in return. It turns out I was wrong. We were ALL wrong! In 1996, the ruling government DID promise us something in return…they just never talked about it much. There was indeed a vision laid out for the running of the country, however I’m sure they hoped we would all forget if they kept mum on the matter.

When I was in college back in the 90’s, I heard some talking head mention something about Vision 2020 and development goals. Ghana was supposed to be on par with the Asian Tigers – or whoever the competition du jour was – according to the man speaking. I filed that information. Fast-forward nearly 20 years later and there is unrest everywhere, from nursing protests, TUC strikes and the Occupy Ghana demonstrations. The concerns are valid and they are very real.

In conversation, the phrase “Ghana is hard ooo”, followed by the forlorn sucking of teeth is uttered from perspiring, hardworking people every day. All these people want is the Better Ghana they were promised. But what does that look like? For some, it’s just a chance to garner and complete a quality education. They can take it from there. For others, it is food security and a life without fear of where one’s next meal will come from. For another it’s a thriving business in an environment where people are empowered to patronize said business. Others still just hope to have their own home one day. Ghanaians want what anyone else in the world wants. Stability, health and happiness. This is what Vision 2020 was supposed to give every Ghanaian citizen.

I came across a document online that outlines what was supposed to have been achieved in Ghana over the course of 25 years, from 1996-2020. I was compelled to search for it, because I have yet to hear any politician from NDC or NPP talk about a real plan for how to move the country to middle income, and more importantly, self-reliant status. The only things Ghanaians get on a consistent basis from either party are platitudes and finger pointing. Sometimes that finger comes right back to the citizen with leaders demanding that citizens do their share. Well, sir (and it’s always a sir), where is the reciprocity? Everyday Ghanaian life is naught but a series of sacrifices. Our children die in hospitals where there is no water and electricity. There are only 4 oncologists in the whole nation, operating in only TWO cancer centers (Accra and Kumasi). People have no choice but to defecate in the open because each successive government has failed to provide the amenities that would give these folks basic human dignity. What, I ask again, is left for them to give?

The poorly written document that contains the Vision 2020 goals can be found HERE It reads like a wish list and has no concrete plans to guide it, and though riddled with fluff and thoroughly banal in its execution, it makes a fascinating read. I mean, someone actually took the time to put a dream on paper…and that dream would have been glorious if only we have the leadership to execute it. It talks of abolishing customs that hinder the advancement of women; about using science and technology to solve socio-economic problems; and about providing power to the entire nation using the most modern methods available. There’s even a Green agenda in there as well, with talk of reducing pressure on forests for wood fuels and setting up models for biogas use in villages. By the year 2020, Ghana was to have been a utopia. But what do we have instead?

GalamseyNow we have entire woodlands destroyed as people desperate for a living hacked down trees and gutted whole forests in search of gold. The toll ‘galamsey’ (informal mining) has had on the environment has been catastrophic. Ghana was once a global provider of timber…now the country imports it. If your child is lucky enough to go to school, he/she will have to sit in shadow or risk being feasted on my mosquitoes as they do their homework under streetlamps or at banks. One of the most dangerous things a woman can do in many parts of Ghana is get pregnant, as maternal health is so abysmal that a sub-chief who had previously worked abroad as a veterinarian visiting KATH said that he wouldn’t let his dog give birth there. And as far as women’s rights…well, you know about my good friend Nelson Baani and the non-apology he has offered in conjunction with an absence of any sort of reprimand from his bosses.

That’s not to paint a completely bleak picture though. There are some very nice restaurants, a new highway the leads to the Western Region and of course, the Accra Mall – the city’s jewel – a jewel mired with snarling traffic and accessible by a labyrinth of roads that look like they were designed by a lunatic schizophrenic. There is development in Ghana, but it is nowhere near the level we were (secretly) promised or what the architects intended. These are mere trinkets when we were pledged a crown glittering with jewels.

2020viz

This is what makes scandals like GYEEDA, SADA, the CHRAJ spending scandal and a litany of other incidences wherein thievery and corruption are the hallmarks. These monies were to be used to make Ghana great. It was for the citizens and generations to come. Vision 2020 promised that all Ghanaians would be free from crushing, abject poverty by the time my children came of age. Whoever takes control of power in 2016 will then have 4 years to make it happen. But the reality is, I don’t think most political or civic leaders are even aware of this document’s existence, let alone the plans it contains within. One of our complaints as Ghanaians is that we have visionless leaders. That’s not true. Rawling’s NDC took the time to create a vision and it was his party – if none other – that should have endeavored to make that vision a tangible reality. What we have is a group of gluttonous sloths, wholly and solely committed to engorging themselves on the suffering of the people, but they are not ‘visionless’.

That much, we can all see.

An Apology for Benedict’s Confusion in Thinking He Owes Us an Apology

Cumberbatch tired of Ôposh-bashing'Some people have suggested that I might be blind where Benedict Cumberbatch is concerned. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am an unquestionable and unapologetic deaf-mute where Benedict is the topic of conversation (or adoration). I hear and speak nothing else. Blindness to any of his perceived faults is only the beginning of the spectrum. If my feelings towards Benedict Cumberbatch should ever come into question, there is a YouTube video I created two years ago that should clear up any confusion. My frequency is not set to receive bad or disparaging news where Benedict Cumberbatch is concerned.

In light of this, you may well imagine my shock and horror when I saw headlines describing my dear, sweet Benny as a “racist” who had used the word “colored” to describe Black actors.

Wait.

What?

for-colored-girls-bookWhen did colored become a racist appellation? Do we not have an organization that fights for Black rights that boldly features a fat letter ‘C’ in it? (Hint: I’m talking about the NAACP.) Did Ntozake Shange not pen an entire book of poems entitled “For Colored Girls Who have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is not Enough”? I’m pretty sure I’ve heard/read speeches wherein Dubois, MLK and Malcolm X have used the words colored and Negro interchangeably. If the word is anything at all, it is outmoded, but it is certainly not racist. Who are these people making these charges and what in the name of good grits are they talking about?

Tsewwww

I watched the video where Benedict used the “offensive” term in conversation during an interview with Tavis Smiley. In a nut shell, it went something like this:

Tavis: Why do you think actors of color aren’t paid as well?

Benedict: I think colored actors don’t get their due because they can’t shoot glitter out of their bums. I on the other hand, am English, and therefore can.

And for that slip of tongue (and it truly is) the PC Gestapo have come to hunt and incarcerate my Sweet Cumberbatch. Agents of Satan! They should all be ashamed!

Benedict, if you’re reading this (and I know you’re not, but that’s beside the point), I want to assure that no Black person – or person of color – thinks you’re a racist. You know why? Because we know what racism looks/smells/feels like. Unfortunately brother, you ain’t it.

The Black Caucus all got together and gave racism a definition we can all agree on. Nelson Mandela and Christ Almighty were present in the room. Racism is the belief in the superiority that one group of people has over another based on their race or ethnicity. These racists then go about setting up economic, social, educational and legal systems that will ensure their advancement and prosperity at the expense of other races deemed inferior.

Let me tell you who is a racist. John Boehner is a racist. Harry Reid is fo’ sho a racist. (Obama would have been your butler, huh? I ain’t forgot.) Nancy Pelosi is a eugenicist, and is therefore a racist. Ted Nugent is an anagram for the word racist. Rudy Giuliani makes Bull Connor look like he was playing house, he’s such a blood thirsty racist. Your ancestors, dear Benny, who owned slaves and a plantation in the Caribbean were absolutely racists. However, that doesn’t make you a racist…you are merely a beneficiary of racism. You come from wealth. That system built hundreds of years ago worked exactly the way it was meant to: in your favor and the favor of millions of other white folks.

But you know what? I’m not even mad about that. How can I be? I don’t feel oppressed by you for your use of the word “colored”, a word my own elderly aunt still uses in conversation. You know what offends me? When Jay Z calls Harry Belafonte “boy”, or when Kanye is dashing out n*ggers to hungry white audiences like he was a poki seller on a hot Accra day. Furthermore, you apologized for it, and swiftly. You were even self-depreciating in that apology, calling yourself an idiot. Never say that about yourself, my dear Benny. You are NOT an idiot. You know who is an idiot? Nelson Baani, MP for the Daboya/Mankarigu constituency in northern Ghana. After 82, 456 people signed a petition asking him to apologize for calling for the stoning or hanging women who  might be accused of committing adultery, this man has not only refused to apologize, he has withdrawn from society like the slithering bug that he is.  You recognized that you may have caused offense and were quick to repent. You are a MAN, Benedict. Slugs like Nelson Baani are not.

Let me assure you that there is no need for any angst you may be experiencing. I am sorry you were made to feel like you had to apologize for what is truly a non-issue. It’s not as if you were not in the midst of a tirade about how you’d love to conquer the savage races of the third world, or even asking why Black people don’t pull up their pants if they don’t want to get shot. In fact, you were attempting to explain the existence of what you feel is an injustice: unequal pay and opportunity for actors of color. That meddlesome American media and the handful of people who voraciously consume their fare dragged you through the mud and I’m sorry for it. Trust me when I say there are literally two Black people in the world who are offended by your use of the word colored, and that is because someone white told them they ought to be.

In the future, just stick to Black – or better still, call out each actor by name. African-American is now even controversial. Don’t you worry, Benny! I’ll be here to guide and protect you.

With love, devotion and spine-chilling adoration,

Malaka

Welcome to My Church!

Saints! I ain’t gwine keep you long on this Monday mernin’. I just wanted to share a memory that came back to me after I had a conversation online earlier today. Someone had shared with me that she had gone to a wedding this weekend, where as usual, sexism and simplicity (of mind) were on display.

“You are now subject to your husband!” the officiating pastor is said to have declared. “It doesn’t matter what they said at Beijing. You career comes fourth.”

He went on to add that she must never argue with her husband and that she must never deny him sex – even when he has offended her.

The woman recounting this series of events was horrified of course, and I was grateful she could not see my face contorted in laughter. Never deny your husband sex, eh? Even when you’ve got a yeast infection? Even when your underwear looks like the floor of a butchery during your special time of the month? Even when you’ve had one too many bean pies and have wicked gas and he wants to hit it from the back?

These Ghanaian pastors are, like, sooo impractical.

Of course the basis of all this advice is “scriptural”, with that scripture being based on Ephesians 5:22.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.

Eh? You said what? Ephesians 5:21 says what? ”Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”? Please…no. That is contrary to the message we are preaching in Ghana. In GHANA, it is for the wife to submit and obey. She is the body. It is for the husband to be the head; and that head must be stroked, pampered, petted and fed. Is the head not where the mouth is? Com’on then! Bring it food to eat! What is this nonsense about mutual respect for each other? You are a married woman now, and your dreams/hopes/plans only have validity if I say they do.

Oh, Lawd! How I roared to myself this morning!

I asked my husband yesterday what he believes the average man’s definition of “submission” is, as far as a woman (because there are dudes who believe all women should submit to men, whether they be their husbands or not) is concerned. What constitutes a protocol of submission? Now Mr. Grant, who is ever the diplomat, first went on to make it clear that the Bible says that spouses are to submit one to another, that men have the greater responsibility to ensure the happiness and health of their households, and a litany of reasons that solidified why I married him. Is this not a man? I weep for my female counterparts who went to the altar thinking they were marrying men, only to get on the other side of “I do” and discover they were instead wed to a Baby-Pimp-Boss. You know…the guys who want you to be ever ready (and eager) to please him sexually, but relies on you to boil him water for a bath, but at the same time wants you to treat him like a deity, even in the face of his marginal competence? Oh don’t play coy. You know these couples!

Marshall asked if he was to start a church in Ghana, would his message to men be received.

“That message would not be welcome,” I said flatly. “Sure, you’d have a small following, but you would never have to invest in a large edifice or tons of seating. You’d have 8 members…10 tops.”

This made him laugh, of course. Who ever heard of a 10 member church?

The memory I wanted to share with you has to do with my Christian journey. I haven’t prayed for the sick and had anyone recover, I barely led one girl to Christ while I was in college and I don’t have many verses committed to memory. These are qualifications for being named among Christ’s disciples (not whether I choose to wear pants to work or not), so I don’t think I’ve earned the right to be called a Christian. Marshall, who is a deacon on the other hand, has earned this. It grieved him to see his wife so fallen behind, and many years ago he asked me if I could make the effort to become more ‘krife’.

I denied him that request. I know myself. He would not enjoy living with a Christian fundamentalist, krife Malaka. But what might such a woman look like? I can picture it now; I in my pink pillbox hat and ankle length skirt…and white stockings! All female preachers need white stockings…

 

*****MOM MODE******

Greetings, and welcome to Christ Feminist (He came to set the captives free) Church! Today, I want to talk to you faithful few about men.

Yes, men!

Some of you sisters have been causing men to fall, because you have not told them the truth about their place in Gulllld (translation: God). You have not quoted them Proverbs 6. You have not led them to Proverbs 24! You have allowed your Baby/Pimp/Boss mates to wallow in mediocrity, and now look who is suffering? You!

Today, I want to tell you about the parable of the cotton wool.

106HipPastorThere once was a plantation owner who had vast fields of cotton. Year after year, his slaves picked the finest cotton and put them into bales. The children of the slaves picked the seeds from the tiny white buds, and they were all unhappy. The plantation owner didn’t care though. His profits doubled every year and his cotton was used to make the finest clothing for the British aristocracy.

But one planting season, he got a bad strain of cotton seed, and his cotton bolls came out grey and hardly fluffy. When the slaves tried to put them in huge bales, they would disintegrate and often blow uncontrollably all over his field. Sometimes, the wayward cotton would stray into other planter’s fields, polluting their soil. Instead of the cotton being used for fine attire for the rich, it could now only be used as sanitary napkins.

Because you sisters have not fed your husbands, boyfriends and side-guys the proper gospel, they are now that lower grade of cotton. See! See how your men have lowered themselves. They have not taken on the mantle of kingship. They see themselves as poor cotton wool, whose sole job in life is to sit between the legs of whatever woman they find themselves in the presence of.

Whores! Male whores! Did not the Lord Gullllld create you for more than this? Why are you constantly seeking moist, wet environments to perpetually dwell in? Are you sanitary cotton wool?

 

*******

This is why God has never placed in me a desire to preach.

The Diplomatic Importance of General Mosquito’s Faux Fox Coat

There has been much ado made about Asiedu Nketia’s donning of a knee-length tan shearling coat in Germany for the last few days. The NDC General Secretary has been mocked mercilessly by Ghanaians of social media and on local radio. Even BBC for Africa joined in the fray, noting how the Secretary admitted that he had borrowed his wife’s coat to protect him from the biting chill of a German winter. Like President Mahama’s village boy in the city pose in front of the CNN Center post interview, the NDC cadre has declared that General Mosquito (Mr. Nketia’s nickname) in drag is no big deal.

asiedu

“I went to Germany for brain work, not [a] fashion show,” Asiedu Nketia declared. He went on to add that he chose to wear his wife’s coat because he “did not want to use state funds to buy a coat” and that he “borrows his wife’s clothes all the time.”

“In fact, anytime my wife comes down, she borrows my clothes as well,” General Mosquito announced on public radio.

As a married woman, I get this. I sometimes borrow my husband’s underwear as well. There is tons of room in both the crotch and backside. They are also made of the finest cotton. I can slip in and of them without getting my short and curlies snagged in the fabric, which always makes for a pleasant trip to the bathroom. But does Marshall wear my underwear? That, my friends, you will never know…because Marshall is a strong Black man who would rather eat his own knee caps than admit that he and his wife swapped clothes. Marshall is not a pimp, and as Slick Back will tell you, pimpin’ aint easy.

Eish! I'm sure the president is pleased! Got muh pointy shoes, sheepish grin AND dis dead buffalo on my back! Coon crown, here I come!

Eish! I’m sure the president is pleased! Got muh pointy shoes, sheepish grin AND dis dead buffalo on my back! Coon crown, here I come!

It takes a certain amount of disregard for your dignity to don women’s clothing in public. About 89% of pimp garb is comprised of feminine silhouettes, fabrics and accessories. Despite the absence of masculinity in their attire, there is usually no one more ferocious and dominating on the block than the neighborhood pimp. Such a man must be completely confident in his testicular fortitude. Prince – with his spiked heels and lace blouses – has been doing it for decades, and has not come out worse for the wear. In fact, he set trends for a particular segment of pop culture in the 80’s. Similarly, Secretary Asiedu has pronounced that he has also served as a trend setter by making it okay for African men to wear copious levels of fur in colder climates. Only the most confident human beings know what kind of self-assurance it takes to don the skin of a ferocious dead animal, and although General Mosquito’s was cut for the Queen, the simplicity of it still screamed “don’t screw with me! I’ll cut!”

What most people have failed to grasp is that Asiedu Nketia has actually done the nation a great service. He accompanied the President’s delegation to Germany to ask the world’s best engineers to solve our electricity problem. Hannah Tetteh, who cuts an imposing figure was draped in a structured black overcoat, back erect and face set like a flint. She looked too much like a strong African woman. Who then was to play the part of the helpless African child? Bravely, Asiedu Nketia took up the post, and we should all be grateful. Shame on you know-it-alls who have been deriding him for this choice! He did this for you!

Everyone knows white people are far more comfortable in the presence of Black men when they don’t look so…well…Black. For centuries, Black men who have voluntarily eviscerated their own masculinity have been well rewarded for their efforts. White people don’t like thugs, but boy, do they love a Black man in drag! Flip Wilson, Jamie Foxx, Martin Lawrence and most recently, Tyler Perry, are all Black men who have played some version of the Mammie figure, putting on wigs, dresses and hints of poorly matched rouge, flapping, screeching and squawking for cameras for white laughs. In return, they get loads money and live fabulously, while your bus driving, minimum wage-making, masculinity-still-in-tact husband entreats you to “rely on God” and promises you it will “be okay after a while.” Nonsense! Don’t you also like diamonds? Oh that would all Black men just put their pride aside for the advancement for the race!

Similarly, whites only help Africans when they look poor and witless…and Asiedu Nketia played that part convincingly. You think I’m lying? When was the last time you saw a foreign aid commercial featuring African children who were fully clothed, well-fed and living in a sturdy looking home? Who helps people who look like they have it all together? Such children do exist, and they do need aid; however that image does not tug on the heartstrings of white guilt. Asiedu Nketia, a whooooole government official shivering against the cold in his wife’s coat, however, does. The German’s felt guilty, benevolent, patronizing and compassionate. They did not feel like they were in the presence of equals, and this perception is vital if Africans are to receive the technological know-how from the West and Asia if we are to survive. Lord knows it is impossible to conceive of the idea that African governments should think to recruit the veritable thousands of MIT, Harvard or Morehouse graduates to come back home and use their knowledge to develop the nation. Why should President Mahama recruit and court Ghanaians in the diaspora who have worked and led in the fields of physics, CIT and agriculture? Nah dawg! Instead, he would rather let Asiedu Nketia pose for the German camera’s looking like a rack and the Goodwill on Crenshaw.

And God bless him for it.

I can see the scene before the President’s entourage went out to meet Merkel n dems.

“Hannah,” said JDM, entreating the statuesque Minister of Foreign affairs. “Hannah, we need someone to play the poor, stupid African. Can you put on these flip flops with your suit and go and meet the German chancellor? This is the last 15 minutes in the game, and we need a closer!”

Hannah Tetteh gives him that cold, unwavering side-eye she’s known for and offers the president a frosty, curt “no.” But it was okay. Asiedu Nketia slid onto the field and came to the President’s aid, like Asamoah Gyan in the last few critical minutes of a match, ready to defend Ghana’s honor.

“It’s okay, Mr. President!” he cried gleefully. “I have here with me my wife’s winter coat. The world won’t know what hit it!”

Humph. Malaria doesn’t have the power to keep a Mosquito down. What a goal!

Remember: Asiedu General Mosquito Nketia has said that he did not want to use state funds to buy a coat when his wife’s would do. Now, isn’t the General a public servant? Is his salary not provided by the state? Don’t these delegations get a substantial per diem when they travel abroad? Surely, he could have parted with 100 cedis to purchase himself some dignity? What is all this talk of not embezzling funds? Why would you need to? You could afford it on your own!

The only logical conclusion we can draw is that Mr. Asiedu made this breach of protocol on purpose, and in doing so, he has saved Ghana. The Germans will some, and they will end dumsor (rolling power outages) in six months. How could they not? The man can’t even dress himself for an official presentation. How can anyone expect this cabal of “great thinkers” to solve the power crisis? Of course the Germans will come to Ghana’s rescue!

asmFurthermore and in conclusion, Asiedu Nketia and choice of gender bending garb have (probably) ushered in a new era of acceptance in Ghanaian politics, and this is a good thing. This will be an era when Ghanaian men are not so beholden to traditional norms, built on machismo that have held the nation back. You see this man? Behold, and keep beholding! This is the future. I can support someone like this. This is the image of the better Ghana agenda at work!

Day 5: What It’s Like to Read an Uncle Remus Book for the First Time

Hidy and Happy Friday, Folks!

I don’t know if vlogging counts towards my posting goal, but that’s what’s going down today. On this Frivolous Friday, I have the distinct honor of reading from a beloved children’s book, Uncle Remus: His songs and stories.

Most people over the age of 30 have heard of Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby, and all the other Brer Rabbit tales. Uncle Remus is a fictional character who embodies the souls of three people; Uncle George Terrell, Old Harbert, and Aunt Crissy, who told stories and myths when they all lived on the plantation where the author of the book, Joel C. Harris was working at the time. He re-told their stories and sold them to publications all over the country.

It was really uncomfortable to read the stories at first, and there was definitely an overwhelming feeling of “WTH did I just read?!?” when I parted the first few pages of the book, but it gives a valuable look back at what plantation life was like in those days. African-Americans have always used stories, tall tales, songs and humor to get us through the dark times, and these stories are a nod to that reality. Furthermore, it gives one a glimpse at what Negro dialect sounded like in those days. Of course, I sound like a blithering idiot trying to make sense of the vernacular, but it definitely imparts a sense of respect to the unsuspecting reader. After all, it’s not like Negros were handed a Rosetta Stone and given diction classes on how to properly enunciate or communicate using proper verb tense agreement. Quite the opposite, in fact. Sounding too “educated” could get you killed. Our fore-bearers did the best they could, repeating words as they thought they heard them.

Enough of my prattle! Watch what it’s like to read an Uncle Remus book for the first time.

If you ever want to borrow the book to read out loud, give me a holler. It would make for a great evening with friends.

*This post is the 5th in the seven day long #YourTurnChallenge series.

Day 4: What it’s Like to Fall for Miss Forson – A Sonnet

I have not written poetry since that one time I had an assignment in Form 5 when we were studying Robert Frost and Sylvia Plath. It was a grueling task, forcing words to rhyme in a 2/2 format and something-something about stanzas and this that verse. Aba! Hats off to Poetra Asantewaa and Dzyadzorm (two of Ghana’s finest contemporary female poets) who do it so well. I’m sure I got an average grade for my poetry, because I didn’t pursue it after that assignment. I only pursue things that I am naturally good at.

But today, Lydia Forson has changed all that for me. Oh, Lawd!

Despite my trepidation about writing poetry and the slow, dull ache the prospect of creating meter and rhyme inspires within the walls of my skull, the beauty and brilliance of Lydia Forson has stirred me to give it a try. Lydia Forson is a Ghanaian actress who is known for her social commentary which she delivers without the mincing of words. She is stubborn. She is witty. She is unapologetic. She is the town crier. She is everything! I fell in love with her mind first…and then she went and put on some red dress and did a cover for some Nigerian magazine bi. Oh swoon! That’s when I knew I had to stretch myself to tell her how much I appreciate her mattah.

Let me not get ahead of myself. Ladies and gentlemen, MOM Squad and Random Readers, Trolls and Lurkers, I give you:

lydia

What it’s Like to Fall for Miss Forson

Eiiii! S’tah Lydia. E be you dis?

Look at the way you are staring into the camera

The way you have parted your lips

 

I saw you on the cover of Juice

Draped in robes of my favorite color – Red

A hue divinely similar to the words that Poetra bled

 

Your breasts are thick, but your thighs are thicker

Truly, they remind me of a tasty treat

A jumbo sized, $2.49 Snicker

(With tax)

 

On those occasions when you pen Open Letters

I think to myself

Can this get any better?

 

For you have all the wit of Chaucer

And are as intriguing as Hamlet

Oh Lydia Forson! I’ve fallen for you, damn it!

 

There are times when I came just to stalk you on twirra

I don’t make a sound

I just chuckle and titter

(To myself)

 

Oh? Is the thought of me stalking you super, duper creepy?

You just wait! I go hypnotize you

You are now getting sleepy

 

Lydia! Lydia! As for you, you be boss

On the day that we meet, I will gift you with fine things

Like Vlisco, and Delay mackerel in tomato sauce

 

In the future, when you receive your award for Letters from Adam

Just remember this sonnet and think

As for Malaka, this girl dierrr, o bↄ dam

 

You are loved and adored Miss Forson

This much is evident

It’s time to end this poem…because I can’t think of anything to rhyme with “Forson”.

 

 

*This is the 4th in a 7 day commitment to blog every day under the #YourTurnChallenge. Big thanks to Lydia Forson for being such a good sport!

 

Day 3: What it feels like to have your first yeast infection

I’m going to tell you this story in the strictest confidence. You must promise to keep it between you and me! Deal? Great.

I didn’t have my first pap smear until I was 27 years old.

Pause.

I need to call up my OB/GYN and schedule an appointment to celebrate our tenth anniversary. After all, this is the same man who once said with no small hint of admiration that I had “a uterus of steel”. How apropos is it that I should be writing to tell you about my lady bits on this era marked by the giving of tin gifts? Anyhow…

I didn’t have my first pap smear until I was 27 years old because there was no such thing as “vaginal health” when I was coming up in Ghana. If you wanted a healthy vagina, you kept your legs closed to boys, and the rest would take care of itself. Miraculously, as three secondary school boys who served as my boyfriends will tell you, I failed to follow this advice and managed to escape the ravages of a ruined vagina nonetheless. How then was I to ever suspect that there was a foe more treacherous than an erect penis and squirting seminal fluid, and that I would eventually succumb to its power?

You’re curious, aren’t you? For what could be more dreadful to a girl under the age of 20 than a rogue penis? I will tell you now: that thing is moisture. Yes! Moisture! While this element is great for a black woman’s hair, it wreaks havoc on the nether regions of ALL woman kind. But I didn’t know this, because again, vaginal health…or even peeking at one’s own vagina…is not something that Ghanaian girls of my generation did (or would openly admit to doing).

In 1997 I was a freshman at Hampton University in Virginia. Although I had lived in America when I was younger, I was the ultimate JJC. My pants were too short, my clothes were too “ethnic”, my accent was weird and I had no idea how anything worked. I was shocked and pleased to discover that I could go back to the food counter multiple times to get my fill of sugary sodas and sweet, creamy deserts. Ahaaa. You’ve figured out what comes next. Don’t spoil it by interrupting! Just wait.

I quickly packed on 40 lbs (18 kg) in my first year. With my new girth, of course I needed new clothes, and naturally I needed new underwear. I took the opportunity to purchase myself something “grown up”, a departure from the small girl panties I had been handed my whole life while living in Ghana. I left Wal-Mart one spring afternoon with an assortment of satiny undergarments in every color of the neon rainbow. The brand was Vassarette. I remember it clearly. One never forgets the name of the whore who inflicted so much pain upon one’s flesh.

If you know anything about the Tidewater area, you know it’s humid. Humidity, in fact, is Tidewater Virginia’s mascot. Humidity is everywhere in the spring and summer months in Virginia, and everywhere included the now clogged space between my thighs. Combined with my new diet of sugar, sedentary lifestyle and “satin” Vassarette panties, fungus found a happy home in my tulips. I began to itch, and uncontrollably so.

Then came the burning.

Next came an opaque discharge.

Then came the smell.

Sweet heavenly Jesus! Had I not just given my life to Christ? What was happening to me? Could anyone else see/smell/know what was going on with me? Had I offended God in some way? I was no longer sexually active in this new country…could it be He was finally punishing for my misdeeds from years past? You know how it is with we Africans – bad things only happen because we have done wrong and God is exacting His revenge for your transgressions. My mother was right: I had left Islam and now Allah was having it out with me.

For two weeks I took scalding hot, extra-long showers with the hope that water could cure whatever it was going on between my legs. It didn’t. I tossed medicated powder on my mound with regularity. The minty sensation was pleasant for the first 5 seconds before eventually giving way to an intense and painful burn as the medicine found its way into the cracks of my chafed skin. I was sure one of these akata girls had given me something. I looked at each of them with suspicion. Yes…they had to be to blame! I offered anyone a mistrusting glance whenever I was greeted in the hall. Their witchcraft was powerful indeed.

Finally, (and I can’t recall who) someone stopped me as I trudged slowly to class and asked, “Malaka. Why are you walking like that?”

I had been in pain for so long that I had to confide in someone. I described my symptoms to this person whom I’d obviously trusted and who obviously cared enough to ask about the genesis of my odd gait, now resigned that this was to be my new lot in life: to stride around my campus, buttocks bent outward and legs slightly akimbo because it was the only way to achieve some sort of reprieve.

This kindly soul explained that I had a yeast infection. In fact, she had had one a few weeks prior herself.

moni

“Get some Monistat and it should clear it up in a week,” she said. “I got some from the student clinic. It was practically free.”

The student clinic? Oh no, no. I couldn’t go there. Only bad boys and girls with gonorrhea went there. I heard one of the nursing students say so. If someone say me coming out of there, I would never live it down. Instead, I took what few dollars I had on me and went back to Wal-Mart and spent a fortune on Monistat. It was money well spent if it kept people from thinking I had gonorrhea.

I have never worn Vassaretta or gorged on cheesecake since.

 

 

*This is the third post in the seven day #YourTurnChallenge