My Daughter Spoke to Me in a Tone That Nearly Sent Me into a Rage

I was once a child, and it seems like it wasn’t that long ago. I remember ages 5, 10 and 13 quite vividly, in fact. Because those emotions and memories of childhood are so intense…nearly tangible… I find that I have a great deal of empathy for my own children as they navigate this phase of their existence. I know what they are thinking and what they are feeling when faced with scenarios that most –if not all – children must go through:

  • The disappointment of being sent to bed before your favorite show is over.
  • Being compelled to eat your broccoli/spinach/tomatoes before you can have a cookie.
  • Controlling your impulse to talk back to your parents after they’ve informed you that you smell and must re-take a shower, when they don’t smell quite so rosy themselves.

I get all of that, and I have tried to demonstrate that I understand their plight and that I commiserate with it. That is why I CANNOT understand why my eldest daughter came into the room and spoke to me in the manner in which she did last night.

My body was aching from a morning spent dropping freight at my part time job. I also had some errands I had to run, a task which is stressful enough on the body when that course is the maze that is North Fulton. By the time I picked up the kids, I was battered, exhausted, hungry and irritated. By bedtime, I was completely undone. It was at this point that Nadjah, freshly showered and clothed for bed came into the room and nestled her long body next to mine. She sighed.

“Mommy?” she squeaked. “I was just thinking to back to when I was a kid and well…I…uhhh…squeak squeak mumble mumble…”

I sat up.

“Heh? What did you say? I didn’t understand what you said!”

SpeakHer voice was barely a whisper as she repeated herself and continued to masticate her words. Somewhere in the midst of that auditory mess, I deciphered that she was reminiscing about when she was a little girl and pining for the days when we visited the bookstore and played at the YMCA. She wondered if we could revisit those days again…maybe in the summer?

I was confounded. Not so much by her request, but by the manner in which she was asking it. Ah, ah. Does she not know who I am?

“Nadjah. When you are talking to me and asking about these things, talk to me from your CHEST, you hear?”

She giggled…nervously.

“No! I’m dead serious! Have I not spent nights working so that I could spend our days taking you guys to the pool, or send you to summer camp, or all of the activities you’ve named?”

“Yes, Mommy.”

“You know you will go, don’t you?”

“Yes, Mommy.”

“Then ask me from your CHEST! What is this squeaking, mumbling noise you’ve come to bring to my ears? Eh? Talking as if you don’t have confidence! Now, here’s what you need to focus on NOW. For the next 8 days, what needs to be your focus?”

She thought about it a little before answering, “The Georgia Milestones tests.”

“And when those are completed and you’ve passed, you can ask me about summer activities. But when you do, how will you ask me?”

“From my chest.”

I kissed her goodnight with a scowl on my face and sent her to bed with a terse “Love you.”

 

This girl. These children! Behaving as if she is not the daughter of Abena Owusua Malaka Gyekye; sliding into my room like a phantom, as though I have not spent her whole life conjuring ways for her to enjoy it. My children cannot name a single thing that they’ve ever needed that we haven’t provided. They can’t name a single attraction in this city that I haven’t taken them to. How many of their friends can say that their parents have taken them to the other side of the world? And then you want to mumble-mumble squeak-squeak to me about the YMCA? Herh! The disrespect! I was livid!

Did you ever watch those old movies starring the likes of Peter O’Toole or Richard Harris set in medieval England? The King would always have a son who was a valiant daredevil, and then there’d be the other son who was quiet and cowardly? The King could never stand the sight of the soft, unobtrusive son and the Queen would always have to protect him from the King’s wrath. I never understood why a monarch would revile his own offspring in such a way, but I halfway get it now. You are a prince. The son of a King. Act like it.

Speak with authority! Communicate with clarity and confidence! Rest assured that when you take bold steps, your mother/father will be there to catch you when you fall! What is mumble-mumble squeak-squeak? You think Oprah got where she is today with mumble-mumble squeak-squeak? You think Toni Morrison became Toni Morrison with mumble-mumble squeak-squeak? You think Serena Williams conquered the world with mumble-mumble squeak-squeak? Or are you saying that the daughter of Abena Gyekye is so low that she must only speak in mumble-mumble squeak-squeak? What an insult to me!

Yes, I know. When Black women speak up for themselves and make no compromises on their positions, they are labelled as “angry”, “aggressive” and “bitter”. Better that my daughter should be labelled as any of those things over “invisible”, “insignificant”, and “expendable”. I am not raising little brown doormats.

Ah. What do I look like?

 

What Happens When You Trap Death in a Basket?

Greetings MOM Squad, Random Readers and Lurkers!

You are shocked by this question, isn’t it? After all, who would so something as foolhardy as to trap Death in a basket? No one you or I know… but once upon a time, a fearless girl named Yaa did just that.

Yaa Traps Death in a Basket is my latest children’s book – although you adults seem to love them too – and it’s available to pre-order internationally now when you click this link!

Want to save a little bit of money? Enter D4S35P6H at check out to save 20% on the list price of the book. I know, I know! It’s all so thrilling. Check out this video for a peek at the fabulous illustrations done by Poka Arts.

Yaa Traps Death in a Basket from Malaka Grant on Vimeo.

Yaa Traps Death in a Basket will be available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iBooks in May. It will also be available from the trunk of my car if you’re in Atlanta, and Writers Project in Ghana will have some copies on hand in June  if you’re in Accra and want to scoop up a few. Contact them on twitter @writersPG or on their website at writersprojectghana.com

I ain’t gon’ lie. The book is pretty dope. This is one of those rare times when you guys will call/inbox/email/drum beat me to tell me how great it is, and I won’t reply with a humble “Oh, eheh eheh. Thank you. Na God ooo…”

I will simply reply with “Yes. I know!” :)

Peace!

Cash for Coverage: Ghana’s Media Elite Are on Consignment

At the core of journalistic professionalism are the ethics of honesty, integrity, non-partisanship and objectivity. In Ghana, it appears that those ethics have been brushed aside in order that the most elite of the country’s journalists may benefit from the ruling NDC government’s goal of fostering a culture of generosity with news outlets.

That’s what they are calling bribes in the annals of politics these days: “A culture of generosity.”

Tweeaaaa….

Like all evil times, there is always a remnant of men and women who possess enough strength of character and honor to expose rot, even when that decay swaddles those whom they call comrades. Had it not been for the bravery of Ato-Kwamena Dadzie who has been credited with breaking this news, none of us would have ever known that the Chief of Staff called 100 senior journalists to Flagstaff House for a meeting, and then shelled out a total of GHC100K to these individuals at its conclusion.

Ato Dadzie

When we think of media collusion and bribery involving powerful entities like the government or multinational conglomerates, we often imagine huge sums of money passing between hands in dimly lit rooms. At the other end of the spectrum, a terrified and conflicted journalists may take a bride in an attempt head off a bodily threat or harm to his/her loved-ones. Not so in this case. Greed was the only factor at play here.

It’s common knowledge that media professionals are sometimes pressured to either kill a story or slant it in a way that benefits the rich, powerful and/or famous. It is the masses who are either lulled into forgetting the undesirable or cajoled into  eagerly consume fables presented as fact. This was never the goal of journalism. The code of ethics journalists are bound to compels them to serve in the public’s interests, not those of the powerful few. Usually, a journalist – a senior and seasoned one at that – who has studied his/her craft and perfected it over time would balk at the idea of betraying that hard won trust. It takes years to build the reputation as a trusted news source, and that investment is not something a true journalist would throw away for a pittance…unless that journalist was part of the Soli 100 in Accra this week. The term “soli” is short for “solidarity”. In the simplest terms, it is ‘Cash for Coverage’. It is immoral, unethical, and it does not serve the public interest.

This is how pathetic the situation with our most trusted reporters is. About a month ago, I gushed about the designer bag I had purchased from F&W Style. The embossed leather accessory cost me $315, after tax. At the time, I felt it was a good investment. However, had I known that for a mere $15 more – or 45 more minutes of paid work at my part time job – I too could be the proud owner of a Senior Ghanaian Journalist’s fealty, I might have saved my money and picked up a journo on the way home. One never knows when one will need to bend the will of the public in your favor, so it’s always good to have a “respected” journalist in your pocket, isn’t it? That’s what every journalist who took the NDC’s money this week did: sold their honor for the price of a handbag.

The identities of the journalists who took the bribes have been kept very hushed, with some reportedly threatening any colleague with “brimstone” if their names are leaked to the public. Now, what have these men and women got to hide, if their actions were so honorable and do not betray any ethics? What is there to fear? I am curious as to what “brimstone” might look like, but I have a general idea.

Ato Dadzie2

It is no secret that the media landscape in Ghana is dominated by male chauvinists who are highly invested in preserving a culture of patriarchy. It is also no secret that many women in media have had to compromise themselves morally in order to advance their careers. Some have had to turn blind eyes to practices that violate ethical codes. These women are frequently bullied on the workforce and in social spaces. I myself witnessed this (albeit on a moderate scale) when Gary Al Smith and I had the following interaction on Twitter:

photo

This exchange was in response to my most recent vlog on online harassment, of which Mr. Smith was one of my subjects. Notice how I referred to  “people” in my comment. Notice how he then includes the twitter handle of Ama Agyemang Asante (a female broadcaster), identifying her as the sender of those texts. This tweet went out to Gary Smith’s 14,000 followers, some of whom are mutual colleagues of the two media professionals. Do you think she went unscathed by this, as vindictive as Ghana’s media corps have proven itself to be? Furthermore, is this the type of individual (Gary Smith, I mean) who you would want at the helm of sensitive information in an international news organization…one who would publicly name a colleague in a private texts that YOU sent and put her at risk for a potential vicious backlash? I have never worked a day as a journalist, but even I know from 101 that you don’t reveal sources. I am ashamed for this man and for his uncontrollable impulses. This was cyber-bullying at its least refined. He knew exactly what he was doing when he pulled that move, and if he claims he didn’t, mores the pity. It reveals an acute lack of self and professional awareness. This gender based hostility just one aspect of the type of unprofessionalism that is rampant in Ghana’s media and further fueled by an atmosphere that politicizes everything. Only God knows what the journalists who took this bribe would stop at to keep up their facades of decency while attempting to hurt those who they feel “betrayed” by.

I am amazed at how the government located GHC100,000 to extend as a gesture of “generosity” to the media during a time when the country finds itself under IMF scrutiny. Is there a line item in the austerity budget for such “generosity” that we were not told about? What about the cripples and the homeless? Can they expect some fruit from this new culture of goodwill? Some who have benefited from this blatant  criminality or see the sum as “minimal in the grand scheme of things” are attempting to normalize this corruption by diminishing it. Well, little acorns grow into mighty oaks. It is not the $330 received that is of utmost importance: it is the potential long term benefits to an incumbent government in a campaign year that are. How many favorable stories (or unreported calamities) is $330 worth?

Our eternal gratitude goes to Ato-Kwamena Dadzie for revealing this scourge. Those few journalists who refused to prostitute themselves in broad daylight also have our admiration. The rest only deserve our disgust and scorn… and they have it.

To Live Free For a Day

parakeet-love-wallpapers-1

“Hey, Charity! What you doin’?”

“Girl… my momma is moving in with me next week. She’ll be down here from Detroit. Just tryin’ to get the house ready.”

“What’s with the cage?”

“Oh, these? These are my birds. Momma hates birds. She says they stank.”

“Hahaha! Well, let me leave you to it then. Catch ya later.”

“See ya!”

 

My neighbor’s mother moved in 4 days later and our neighborhood was never the same after that. In North Fulton, you get accustomed to certain noises. Woodpeckers, crows, finches…the occasional cat in heat, even. Nothing prepared me for the continuous chirping of the two parakeets that now called Charity’s carport their home. It’s not that their song was unpleasant – it’s just that it never ended. They chirped all day, late into the night and early in the morning. I didn’t notice it until my husband pointed it out one day this winter, and I haven’t been able to un-hear them since.

My kids adored Charity’s parakeets. Since I mistook their beta fish for a dying cockroach and beat it to death with a broom, they have had no pets of their own. That was not my fault. It was late and the frikkin’ fish startled me. If it wanted to live, it should have stayed in its bowl.

“Can we go over to Ms. Charity’s house and look at her birds?” they often requested.

“Sure. If she’ll let you.”

Moments later they would scramble across the cul-de-sac where the parakeets chirps were mingled with Liya’s own shrill cries of delight.

Hi birdies! Hiiii biirrrrdieeeees!!!!    

Every once in a while, Charity would let the kids sprinkle some bird seen in the cage. You would think she had given my tribe the password to the Matrix, they were so excited.

People were always coming in and out of Charity’s house: Cousins, aunts, nieces, nephews who had managed to escape the long arm of the law and on their way to community college. One day, a woman who possessed a girth so large that it could have been acquired by a lifetime of Southern cooking and a refusal to indulge in minimal exercise came by to visit Charity. I do not know her relation to the family. All I know is that her enormous buttocks knocked the cage over and set the two parakeets free. They seemed stunned for a moment and then they hopped away. Charity screeched. She loved her little birds so.

My husband saw the whole thing unfold and went over to assist. He crept (as well as a man of his stature can “creep”) up behind one of the birds that had perched on the trunk of her car. Sensing his approach, the parakeet flew away. Its cage mate followed suit. They were never seen or heard again.

Marshall and I have surmised that there is no way that either bird lived beyond that day. They were domesticated and used to eating birdseed. They had never had to build a nest or find shelter in the wild. Never mind that we have our own Crazy Cat Lady just down the road who has accumulated a host of feral felines. And then there are the hawks.

“This ain’t Rio with no happy ending where the two of them find a new home and start a new family. Them birds is dead.”

“Mmm hmm. Dead.”

All the same, I couldn’t help but think the final moments the winged creatures might have experienced. What was it like to see a human approach you, and then suddenly for the first time in your life, be able to spread your wings and fly away? Fly anywhere you wanted to go, even if you didn’t know where exactly you were going. How frightening and exhilarating that must have been for them.

But was it worth it? Was freedom worth losing the predictable comfort and security of their cage? What about you? Would you return to your cage, or would you choose to live free – even if it was only for a day? I think these are the options we are faced with every day: in business; in love; in any thing that requires a risk. What kind of bird have your instincts made the person you are today?

 

And I’ll beat the first person who replies with “Ah. But I am not a bird.” Beat you, I say! ;)

The Prowler: Part 2

Rape? What sort of absurdity was this accusation?

Rape

The word swirled around in Kwafo Danso’s consciousness like a sour note…a bad tune. The tall girl had accused him of rape! How dare she…she who made no fight to push him off. If she didn’t fight, it meant she was willing. Everyone knows that Ghanaian girls say “no” when what they really mean is “try a little harder.”

Kwafo rubbed his temples and sucked on his lower lip. It was dry and cracked. The air at the Airport jail cell was decidedly different. This air stank of despair, human excrement and forgotten souls. He did not like this air at all. But at least he had his friends and supporters who never wavered in their devotion.

“Kofi, did you bring the croissants like I asked?”

Kwafo’s sidekick handed him a parchment bag through the bars. Then he handed him a cup of Nescafe.

“How are you bearing up, boss?”

“Chale, it’s positively wretched in here,” Kwafo spat. “I can’t believe this foolish girl took me to the police for rape!”

Kofi curled his lip and said, “They all want the sex, but when you give to them, they act like they regret. Don’t worry, boss. God is on your side.”

God. Yes…yes! That was the answer. Kwafo furrowed his brow and gave Kofi a hard stare.

“Send the lawyers to visit the family. Send them to her church too. She was a virgin, which means definitely she’s under some church leadership. Get them to tell her she must forgive me for Christ’s own sake. Tell them how I am suffering!”

“Yes, boss,” Kofi nodded.

“Remember: She must forgive me for Christ’s sake!”

It worked. Just weeks later, Kwafo was out of jail and the tall girl had withdrawn her complaint. He was a free man! And not a moment too soon. He had not had a decent shower or eaten from decent dinner wear in ages. The first thing to do was to find his best suit, his cane and show everyone in town that the law in Ghana works as it should. Even though this child-turned woman had harmed him, he would show benevolence and pen a letter on her behalf. His friends in the media would happily disseminate it.

“Afi and I gave in to our mutual lusts and for that we have sinned. I humbly ask the public to respect the privacy of both her family and mine in this difficult time…”

Heh heh heh… Prince Charles himself couldn’t have written that better. Hmmm… He wondered if Oswald Boateng would consider making him a new bespoke suit? Ah! Now what? What was this news that his lawyer was bringing him?

“What do you mean, the Attorney General is bringing a case against me?”

“They say they still have a duty and a right to prosecute the crime, Kwafo,” the lawyer replied.

Kwafo Danso was enraged. “This is nonsense! The girl’s church and parents got her to back off. Now what does the State want here again?”

He flung his teacup against the wall. The crash brought his nineteen year old daughter rushing into the room.

“Daddy! Is everything ok?”

“Nothing to worry about, pumpkin. I’m just a little frustrated, is all.”

“Don’t worry, Daddy,” she grinned. “It will be okay.”

Kwafo Danso stared into his daughter’s eyes. She was so young, so innocent, so trusting…

 

*****

 

The battle for his freedom went on for four months, but at long last on April 22, 2015, Kwafo Danso was acquitted of the crime of rape. The Church had pleaded heavily on his behalf. The public had made it clear that this pursuit was a waste of taxpayer money. News had reached him that Afi was on suicide watch, but she was a Ghanaian girl. She was strong. She could handle it. What was he to do now, now that his image was in tatters? He would have to rebuild. But it was okay. All great men have to rebuild at some point.

His daughter breezed into the foyer where he was straightening his tie. She brought him his favorite cane and his white fedora.

She was gushing, and she was a vision in white. “Ready to celebrate, Papa?”

“Absolutely! Everyone is going to be there, you know. It will be such a fun time.”

“I hope the chef makes those salmon croquettes I love so much,” she grinned. “Come on! Everyone is waiting!”

“You know I would do anything to protect you… don’t you, pumpkin?”

The child laughed heartily. “Yes, Papa. I know. Now come on!”

Father and daughter pulled up to the African Regent, where the air was heavy with exotic cologne spritzed on Accra’s elite and transient residents. They were there to celebrate his acquittal.  As the double doors loomed, Kwafo felt a stirring in his pants…excitement in his loins. A waitress with a slim waist and long legs brought him a warm croissant and cup of tea soon after he was seated. She looked at him with stars in her eyes and a warm grin. As she leaned in to set his food before him, he whispered how beautiful he thought her legs were.

“Thank you, Mr. Danso! I grew up listening to you on the radio. I’m one of your biggest fans. Would you be kind enough to autograph this napkin for me?”

“Of course! Tell me…do you know if suite 202 is vacant?”

She shook her head. “I don’t know, but I can certainly find out for you.”

Kwafo Danso barred his teeth in a wide, secretive grin.

“Thanks love. Don’t stray too far. I may need you later.”

Yes: life in Ghana is good for some men. God bless the system. God bless Ghana.

The Prowler: Part 1

The air at the African Regent Hotel is distinctive. Perhaps it was the combination of exotic colognes – of Jimmy Choo and Burberry – carried on the bodies of Accra’s elite and transient residents that gives it that quality. All Kwafo Danso knew was that he loved being there and loved that he was the main attraction that evening. Gigs had been few and far between, but his legacy in this city gave him weight…enough to carry on the façade of wealth and importance until the next pay check. Someone squealed behind him. It was a sound that was all too familiar.

“Oh my God! You’re Kwafo Danso…the DJ! I’m such a fan of yours!”

Kwafo smiled. She was a pretty, perky thing. The girl standing next to her wasn’t hard on the eyes either.

“Thank you, my dear,” he said with a winning smile. “It’s always great to connect with my fan base. You’re so tall. How old are you?”

She smiled shyly and replied that she was nineteen.

“About my own daughter’s age,” he mused.

“Do you mind if we take a picture together?” she asked hopefully.

It would be his pleasure. He motioned for a member of staff to come over and perform the task.

“Big smiles, everyone!”

*Click*

“Hey listen, I have a few minutes before I have to get on stage. I’m MC’ing tonight, you know. Would you ladies like to come up for some drinks before I entertain the crowd?”

The tall girl and her short cousin giggled in delight. Their eyes were wide and full of stars. He could see she trusted him implicitly. How he savored that look. So young…so innocent…so tender…

Their breathless “Yes!” was all the permission Kwafo needed.

He whistled for his sidekick to join them, winking and saying “We’re going to the suite for drinks.”

Kofi understood immediately and grinned as he led the way to the elevator. He sized up the shorter girl. Not bad. Not bad at all.

The suite was immaculate, as well it should be. He was Kwafo Danso, and only accepted the finest. The tall girl and her cousin yammered on about whatever things university girls talk about while Kofi poured some juice. Kwafo opened up the bathroom door and feigned distress. He locked eyes with the tall girl.

“Afi? You did say your name was Afi, right? Could you help me with my makeup in the restroom? I hate to have shine on my face while I’m on stage.”

“Of course!” Afi replied. She was so eager to please. This was good. Very good.

Once she brushed past him, Kwafo shut the door firmly and kept his gaze fixed on hers.

*Click*

Afi grew timid and skittish “Where’s that make up?”

“You know we’re not in here to do make up.”

The eyes that were once full of stars were now clouded in fear…confusion. She looked like a frightened woodland creature. Kwafo felt the bulge in his pants grow into a full on erection. Her fear excited him. He took two steps forward and grabbed her by the wrist, slathering her exposed skin with the wetness of his salivation.

“Please let me go,” she said quietly. Her voice was trembling.

“No, not until I get what I want. You know you want this too.”

She paused before asking “Do you have a condom? We really shouldn’t do this without a condom…”

She was trying to smart, eh? The tall girl was backing away, trying to move his hands away from her body. Kwafo was having none of it. He shushed her, telling her she had thought of everything; she needn’t worry.

As he spoke, he bent her at the waist and yanked her panties off of her. She seemed to go limp, as though all the life had been drained from her. He heard her heart racing in her chest. When he prepared to penetrate her, she screamed and begged him to stop.

“Please, Mr. Danso. Please stop! I’m a virgin…”

It was true. Kwafo felt the resistance between her lengthy thighs. The idea that he’d been where no man had been before only fueled his fiendish desire. Kwafo Danso plowed into her core until she gave up begging and began bleeding. With every thrust, he robbed her a little more of her innocence, her tenderness, her life as a child. He had made her a woman. He had brought so many girls into womanhood. The thought of the dozens of others before this tall girl thrilled him to the point of no return. He exploded in her and pulled out after he had gone limp. He looked in the mirror and saw her reflection. Her ebony skin looked ashen, her face frozen in shock. Then he saw the blood.

This was his least favorite part. It was so…dirty.

“Take some of this toilet roll and wipe yourself up. Make sure you flush it all the way down.”

The tall girl complied, dabbing her delicate broken flesh with a wad of two-ply.

“Now take one of these,” Kwafo demanded.

“What is it?”

“It’s Postinor-2. I always keep them in case of emergencies like these.” He winked and laughed, straightening his tie in the mirror. “Shall we go out now and join your cousin?”

The tall girl nodded. Her eyes had lost all of their light, but Kwafo knew she would be okay. She was Ghanaian. She was strong. This was her culture. She even sat next to him at the event when his duties were done. See? She wanted to be with him too! Ghanaian women are so good. God bless Ghanaian women.

Social Media in Ghana and Online Abusers

Why do so many Ghanaian men use the threat of physical and sexual violence to silence women online? This is a global issue. Many of my fellow African female bloggers and content creators talk openly about the name-calling, overstepping of boundaries and attacks in general from men who cannot handle either rejection or a difference in opinion. I am discussing it in the Ghanaian context because that’s my lane.

Ultimately, I’d like to see this go away. I welcome any comments that will lead to a healthy conversation and promote the abolition of online abuse.