Monthly Archives: July 2013

I Have Finally Unriddled the Mystique of ‘Caillou’

Caillou's_familyFour kids. Nine years of motherhood. (Yes, I count those seven months I incubated Nadjah as part of my motherhood experience.) Almost a decade of pain, ushered in by one, whiney, obstinate, self-centered little brat: Caillou.

I’ve talked about Caillou on M.O.M. on more than one occasion, I’m sure. I’ve told you how much I hate him. If you have kids who watch PBS or whatever its Canadian equivalent is, chances are you hate Caillou too. But as much as you abhor that little bald-headed ridiculer of all that is good and sane in the world, your kids love him. They adore Caillou. Chances are, your toddler has dropped everything he/she was doing to rush to the TV when the first notes of Caillou’s theme song blared in the background.

I’m just a kid who’s four

Each day I grow some more

I like exploring

I’m Caaaaiiillou!

Oh, kill me. Now.

I have tried in vain to steer my children away from Caillou. The problem is, Caillou comes on between two shows I actually like very much: Word World and Between the Lions, both shows about reading and letters. By the time I would lunge for the TV to turn the channel to something less destructive – say Sponge Bob or Legoman Ninjago – the first notes of that irritating Caillou song were already in full swing.

So many things to do

Each day is something new

I’m Caaaailllou!!!

Stay-at-home-moms and dads, can you hear it? It makes you want to crawl into yourself and eat your own innards, doesn’t it? And the melt down that follows your attempt to shut if off is equally painful, is it not? It makes you feel like you’re losing the game of life… at least it does me.

For almost ten years, an entire decade of my existence, I have struggled unsuccessfully to understand why this brat has been such a hypnotic force over my children. At long last, Liya, the last born of my offspring helped to uncrack the code. I thank God for Liya’s birth, for through her I have come to understand all the former antics of my older children. Without her, all of this would have remained a mystery. And now, I’m going to explain to you the reason you have suffered or are suffering with life with this fictional being who causes so much displeasure. Are you ready?

It’s because Caillou’s behavior is forbidden, and children know it.

Oh yeah. They know he’s a kvetching little snot wipe who deserves to get put over his dad’s knee and have to tar beat out of him. They are well aware that his antics are unacceptable. Every two or three year old knows they aren’t supposed to speak to his/her parents the way Caillou addresses his mother or bosses his little sister, Rosy, around. And that’s why they’re so drawn to him.

How the heck does he get away with it all? Is real life like this at any point in my existence, they wonder?

This is how I know this:

We now have HuluPlus, which means the kids have tons of shows to watch on demand. One of those shows, is of course, Caillou. If you know anything about Hulu, you know it plays whatever show you are viewing on a continuous loop. There are over 300 episodes of Caillou, I’m sure of it. Being that I’ve been at this parenting thing a long time, I have absolutely given up on trying to steer my kids’ cartoon options. Instead, I’ve chosen exile and will reemerge from my room when they are all 16.

Well today, I happened to come out of my room and walked into the kitchen to get myself some oatmeal. Liya was sitting on the edge of the sofa with a Ziploc bag full of Special K cereal, wearing her new Tinkerbell sneakers, a skirt, and nothing else. She had dressed and fed herself at age 3, and that was a proud moment for this mom. On my way back up to my self-imposed solitary confinement, I took note of Liya’s posture and countenance.

She wasn’t moving.

She was hardly breathing.

Although her hand absently dipped into the plastic bag to feed food into her waiting mouth, I’m sure she didn’t taste it going in.

All her faculties were trained on the TV. Where have I seen this before? Why was this scene so eerily familiar…? Good God in the highest. That was it! Caillou was her Love & Hip Hop Atlanta.

My baby – and millions of other American babies – was hooked on trash TV.

You adult reading this. Pick your poison: Real Housewives of X. Jerry. Maury. Tabitha Takes Over. Sunday Night Football. Whatever it is, you know there is ONE show that takes you to a place of pure (and sometimes sordid) fantasy.

Overweight and elderly men like to watch football because they are no longer or have never been athletes: it’s a fantasy. Real housewives watch ‘Real Housewives’ in awe. Are we allowed to behave this way? Surely not! But what if I tried it just once…

No, no and NO! You can’t try it just once, and you know it. You know the consequences of behaving like a brain dead caricature, which is what makes this characters so intriguing… which is WHY toddlers love Caillou so much! He’s a hero, of sorts. He gets over on the big bad guy and gets to break all the rules. And what does he get in return? A hug and a kiss from Mommy and Daddy and his own theme song. If Liya acts a fool, she gets punished. When Caillou is being a jackass, he gets a lollipop. Just like Kim Zolciak got a big fat ring and a hot pro-footballer husband for being a drunken, chain smoking mistress to some phantom named Big Poppa. If I act a fool, I lose my job. If she acts a fool, she gets her own spinoff show. These things ought not be so- but here they are, in living color, on our TVs!

This is the last year I will ever have to watch Caillou. Liya will be off to 3 year old Pre-K and from the hours of 8 – 2:30 pm there will be no toddlers in my house. No cartoons. No reminders of the pain I have endured for all this while. How fitting, that in the last week of summer, that Almighty God Himself would send me this revelation?

Bump that. That’s cold blooded, Lord. I know the song says we will understand it better in the sweet by and by, but daggonit, 10 years is a mighty long time!

The Joy of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Julia is a woman and mother I have long admired and striven to emulate since we first met in 1997. She is one of those mothers who has it “all together”. You know the ones: Great husband; a genius mind; well-mannered, good looking and accomplished children and a house that probably smells like mint chocolate chip cookies. (I don’t know for sure. I haven’t visited her home since she moved out of state.)

On the surface, one might be tempted to think her ‘perfect’ life was as a result of careful planning, directed by a  copious creation and supply pie charts, behavioral analysis and financial forecast, but it turns out her success as a mother – which I admire so greatly – is  all just a happy accident… if you count Generalized Anxiety Disorder as an ‘accident’.

Enough of my chatter. Read, enjoy and laugh.

*****

I come from a long line of worriers. It is hard to tell how much of this is genetic and how much is social conditioning.  But regardless of whether scientists ever identify the “anxiety gene” in my family stock, it surely cannot help to be forced by one’s parents to rehearse every single tragic possibility—car accident, kidnapping, mugging, assault—every time one is attempting to leave the house.

I also blame my parents for never letting us watch television. My sister and I were, without exaggeration, allowed only one hour of non-public television a week, which meant The Cosby Show, Family Ties and lots of Life on Earth with David Attenborough. (“The cheetah stalks its prey patiently, waiting for the perfect moment to strike…”)

Sure, there were advantages: my brain didn’t rot and drip out of my ears, for one. But I also developed an extremely vivid imagination which continues to haunt me to this day. Add to that all the literature they constantly exposed me to, and my brain naturally rejects the idea that life is a big predictable joke that will be happily resolved in half an hour. Instead, it’s convinced life is a hopelessly complex series of unexpected developments that will result in conflict, character development, and a resolution that is tragically ironic more often than not. (Also, in the battle of man versus nature, nature always wins.)

Side Note: I am deliberately continuing this cycle with my own children. As part of their homeschooling, they are not only required to read good literature, they also have to convince me afterwards that they understood and enjoyed it. So far, this has not translated into as much voluntary literature reading as I had originally hoped. It has, however, resulted in very good taste in television. And at the end of the day, both Sherlock and Lord Grantham speak with decent vocabularies, so there’s that.

As an adult, and particularly as a mother, my mild Generalized Anxiety Disorder has taken on a life of its own. The way I have learned to cope—besides popping the occasional Benadryl before a gymnastics meet—is by trying to take a couple steps back and enjoy its performance. Because honestly, what is a potentially incapacitating mental problem if you can’t have a little fun with it?

So, in an effort to spread the joy around, here are a few of my GAD’s greatest hits:

1. I am driving my (relatively new) car, flowing with traffic. As I brake for a red light, I hear horrible sounds—sounds I imagine an engine makes either just before it gives birth or departs for the Big Advanced Auto Parts Store in the Sky. Immediately, I picture myself and the kids by the side of the road, late to wherever we were going, waiting for a tow truck.

And then…then of course I realize that it is the dump truck next to me—which (go figure) just happens to be braking at exactly the same time as I am for exactly the same red light—that is making those horrible noises. Crisis averted…for now.

2. I am at church, and the pastor makes an altar call for a particular illness. (If you have never been to this kind of church, it’s just an invitation at the end of service for people to come to the front to receive prayer for specific needs. At some churches, if you come forward and have mistakenly worn what the Church Mothers consider to be undergarments instead of appropriate church attire, you will be draped with a tablecloth at this time.)

Now when I hear the illness named, I know that I do not have it. I may have just come back from a doctor visit with a clean bill of health. But part of me wonders: should I go forward anyway, just in case? Fortunately, by the time I am done turning this question over in my mind, church is over.

3. My responsible almost 14 year old child has biked to swim practice with a friend. Although the trip takes less than five minutes, she is only required to cross one street, she always walks her bike at the crosswalk, and she is wearing a helmet and appropriate footwear, I still require her to text me when she arrives. She does not text. I know this is because she has biked with her friend and has forgotten. (But I still drive to the pool and check to see that they are there.)

4. Every few years, I get a sinus infection. My primary care doctor very dutifully checks me for walking pneumonia, because he knows that’s what I think I have.

5. I will not TMI you with what I discuss with my OB-Gyn, except that he assures me that all the things I am concerned about are “normal for a woman my age.” I think that’s supposed to make me feel better.

6. Yes, I still sneak into my children’s rooms at night to ensure that they are breathing.

7. Whenever my husband is out of town, I will hear mysterious noises in the house. This will force me out of bed to ensure that my children have not been abducted out of their bedrooms, even though we have no money for ransom, and we are not totally confident we could get those windows open in case of an emergency.

8. My child receives a superficial scrape. I google the symptoms for tetanus even though her shots are up to date and it is a superficial scrape. Then I make my friend who is a nurse examine the scrape. (Thanks, Angie!)

9. My husband fails to text exactly when his plane lands. By the time he does text (three minutes after he lands) I am already choked up from fully visualizing our daughter’s wedding and the moving tribute someone would give to his memory.

10. These are things I actually did when my kids were younger:

Called 911 for Amani for what ended up being a sneeze (the firemen were very nice)

Went to Urgent Care for Michaela for what ended being a hangnail

Went to the pediatrician for Michaela three times in five days for the same stomach virus (“She has a stomach virus, Mrs. Nelson”)

Brandon’s infancy and toddlerhood were much less eventful, partially because he was asleep most of the time. Also, I was way more distracted.

Shockingly, I do not always assume something medical is more serious than it is. When I took Michaela to the ER on Christmas Eve a few years ago, I thought she had a sinus infection. We found out the next day it was a septic infection that could have gotten really bad really fast if the ER doc hadn’t proactively given her a broad spectrum intravenous antibiotic. And, with the same child, I was weeks late to visit the doctor for what ended up being a fractured ankle and (on another occasion) a stress reaction in her lumbar vertebrae. So I’ve learned that GAD doesn’t actually make you more likely to err on the side of caution—that is a separate skill. It just helps you quickly imagine the worst possible outcome of your current situation and obsess over it.

In life, there are problems you solve and problems you manage. For me, GAD is a problem I am managing for now. In practical terms, that means prayer, exercising, deep breathing and trying to limit caffeine. (I could theoretically eliminate caffeine, but at that point you really have to ask yourself what you’re living for in the first place.) So take heart, fellow sufferers! Someday, our children will be grown up and we can worry about them worrying about their own children!

And if you are one of those mellow, optimistic people married to someone like me, follow my wonderful husband’s example: give her a squeeze and a kiss and tell her that everything is going to be fine. That’s all she really wants. And be sure to keep the Benadryl handy.

Meet the Man who is Ruining Ghana: Mr. Stephen Adongo Director of The Department of Social Welfare

“Honey, what’s for dinner tonight?”

“I didn’t know if you wanted tilapia for beef, so I told Constance to prepare both.”

“You’re so attentive. I’m lucky I married you. Hey! Did you hear about what happened at the Osu Children’s Home?”

“You mean that Anas report? Yes! It was shocking!”

“We should try to do something about that. Let’s pray about it tonight.”

“Yes… let’s. Now: would you like pepper or barbeque sauce for your meat?”

And there the discussion ends. This scene plays out in many affluent neighborhoods in Accra and Kumasi, and probably some less well-to-do communities as well. Certainly, this happened after Anas Aremeyaw Anas blew the lid off the scandalous conditions prevalent at the Osu Children’s Home in 2010, a place I could see from the front lawn of my house in Labone and walked past almost every day. Even back then, it didn’t look like a happy place, even in the smallest measure. It turns out my childhood premonition was dead on.

Regarding the hypothetical dinner discussion, let me be the first to admit my part in this absurd sequence of events. People like me – compassionate, but busy people – see something as disturbing as this eighty minute blight on the consciousness of Ghanaian humanity, and genuinely want to do something about it. So we pray, and we throw money at the problem, and we discuss it with clicking tongues and downward turned lips at Afropolitan events, we hope it works itself out, and then we forget. But in the midst of all that shallow activity, other people, in this case children, are still suffering.

Orphans Home of Hell from John Doe on Vimeo.

A question that was asked repeatedly in the ghastly video was “who is responsible for caring for and protecting society’s most vulnerable?”

Is it the responsibility of government or civil society to care for these? As you have/will see in the video, thousands and thousands of dollars in private donations have been poured into Osu Children’s Home in the forms of cash and equipment, clothing and food provisions for the orphans. So, civil society has certainly done its part when it comes to this orphanage in particular. That’s where any sense of responsibility and accountability apparently stops. If you’re familiar with the video, you’ll see that these children are subjected to conditions that are so deplorable that Charles Dickens couldn’t have imagined them in his worst nightmares.

Crippled children left to eat off the ground in the middle of a courtyard in the scorching West African sun.

Children suffering from dysentery defecate on themselves and are subjugated to the merciless teasing of their peers and left to wallow in their filth until its convenient for an adult to clean them up.

Orphans being whipped, slapped, and having their heads bashed into concrete walls by those charged with caring for them.

Children being forced to do the work of grown men and corporations who are being paid (but not rendering the contracted service) to clean out gutters and rubbish heaps with bare hands and feet!

And last, but certainly not least, the refusal of the staff to take ill children to the hospital for treatment until it’s absolutely critical, and usually too late. These are conditions that rival those of slavery in the Deep South, when those in power made it a daily priority to dehumanize and degrade their captors; in this case, these prisoners are children who have already suffered the loss of one or both parents or have been trafficked into a life of sexual exploitation or drudgery.

Who’s to blame for all this? Who are those who are responsible for these contemptible conditions? Who are we paying to fuck up on such a grand scale? That would be Sharon Abbey, Manageress of Osu Children’s Home, first in this line of failed defense, and Stephen Adongo, who serves as her superior and cohort in complacent, clueless crime. I watched in virtual amazement as this pair extolled the virtues of this putrid operation which deals so abominably in young human flesh. Were they that ignorant of the goings on in Ghana’s largest, and certainly most well-known orphanage, or were they merely regurgitating “acceptable” answers to the interviewer? In either case, their behavior is not to be tolerated. There is no excuse for ignorance or lying at their level, and they should both be fired immediately. As I understand it, conditions have not much improved at the Children’s Home since this exposé aired in 2010.

In fact, this dubious pair has been rewarded for their negligence by the Ghanaian government!  Just last April Mr. Adongo’s department was awarded seven vehicles to help his department “further their initiatives” in addition to ten other vehicles they had received in the past.  Did these initiatives include enriching the lives of the children he is ultimately in charge of? Because volunteers at the Children’s Home (whom I am ashamed to say are overwhelmingly expatriates) admit that they are met with extreme resistance whenever they attempt to take the wards out for excursions, and even met with insult for their efforts. The sad reality is that the kids never leave the compound unless it’s to attend school, where they suffer further physical abuse from cruel teachers charged with educating them. According to Mrs. Abbey, the children at OCH receive personal tutoring from their house mothers who are engaged and invested in their academic success. The marks of 12% on exams tell a different story, however.

Let me just be blunt, if I have not been obviously so thus far: Sharon Abbey is either a liar or has a severe personality disorder – one that allows her deny reality and create her own delusions. In either instance, she has no business whatsoever being in charge of the lives of other human beings and should be fired immediately.

Look at each of these pictures of individuals who have come in to provide donations to Osu Children’s Home and into Mrs. Abbey’s hands in particular. They cause me intense nausea. They are staged, formulated, pretentious, insincere, and just disgusting.

keita OSUMs-Marian-Adjei-presenting-the-items-to-the-head-of-the-Osu-childrens-home-Mrs.-Sharon-Abbey

Eerily similar, aren't they?

Eerily similar, aren’t they?

Want further evidence of her incompetence? Just have a glance at this article from February of this year, where Mrs. Abbey complains about the quality of donations she receives. She laments that many of the food items are near expiration or that the clothing is not fit to be worn, and will cost nearly 300 cedis to discard. Well, you dimwit, why haven’t you appointed an officer to INSPECT the quality of donations before you have them carted to your facility? If they are of no use, let the Port Authority deal with them. Or better yet, make your quality standards clear to your donors!

And Stephen Adongo? With a shrug, he admitted that his staff is overworked and might resort to physical violence against the children in their care. They get “frustrated and overwhelmed” you have to understand.  And just where does he think these kids – who have suffered neglect, abuse, engaged in inappropriate sexual acts with each other, and had their innocence ripped from them – will end up? If they’re lucky, in a shallow grave somewhere outside the city limits. If they are not so fortunately, they will end up living a life of crime and vice. Has anyone noticed the increase in violent crime in Accra recently? Pundits put the blame on the influences of hip hop, hip-life, and the recent influx of Nigerians, but fail to look within our own borders and dusty cupboards for evidence of homegrown terrorism. And make no mistake: we are breeding terrorists in Ghana by mistreating our most vulnerable citizens. This type of evil does not go unrequited.

And this is precisely the point: there is something nocuous to be borne from all this. Whether it ends up being on a national level or sequestered to certain pockets of society remains to be seen, but make no mistake – Sharon Abbey and Stephen Adongo are ruining Ghana, one neglected child at a time. And it’s not like these people don’t know about the adverse consequences of their actions… they just don’t care. We deserve better than those who merely pay lip service to the problems that they are responsible for solving. It was reported that 15 under-performing of Ghana’s 127 orphanages have been closed, which is encouraging. But where are the reports on staff training, therapy for children and plans for better educating this lot? Missing; non-existent.

Ghanaians, it’s up to us to improve our nation and demand better of our leaders. “Leadership” is not just confined to those have a ministerial title. It includes any person who would presume to exert influence in our society in any capacity. We deserve better than the likes of these two, and so do these kids.

My Atlanta Book Reading and Discussion

With all the hustle and bustle and horror of the last two weeks what with the Trayvon Martin case, the shooting death of Darius Simmons, the row over the Boston bomber on the cover of Rolling Stone, and the unpleasantness in the news in general, I forgot to bring you the details of my book reading and discussion earlier this month.

The event was by all intents and purposes a huge success. In addition to people that live here locally in Atlanta, one of my cousins flew all the way in from Texas with her daughter which meant a great deal to me. Certainly the most saccharine of all gestures was the attendance of @thefabsdion, whom I only know from Twitter. The event never would have come to pass if not for the efforts of Sangima who among others has been hounding me not only to write a book, but absolutely insisted that I do a reading in Atlanta as well. She organized the entire event which was held at Kat’s Café.

Kat's cafeKat’s Café is located in fashionable Midtown, and has all the trappings of urban cool: Cement and wood floors, mixed media art adorning the walls and drapes of satin and sari material hanging from the rafters to section off space. I felt a little out of place there, this hefty mother of four who rarely gets out to anywhere that doesn’t have a slide or a field of grass, so I ordered myself to calm my nerves – clasping a fruit punch mixture of pineapple juice and pomegranate with lots of ice to bring on the effect. (That’s what celebrity authors drink, in case you didn’t know. ‘Sober’ is the new cool.)

reading picI wrote my book for “us”, and since “we” often have to go through uncommon hoops to make special arrangements for childcare, quite a few of the attendees brought their kids, all of whom were under the age of 10. I was in danger of having to bring my brood as well as we had no one to watch our four, but Marshall kindly offered to stay home so I could focus on the reading. With three little girls scampering about, stealthily eavesdropping on every other word, it made the reading quite a challenge. It was supposed to be a night of intellectualism and stuffy seriousness (isn’t that what all book readings are renowned for?), but turned into an exercise that had all the gravitas of an episode of Who’s Line Is It Anyway?

“When Tony lifted her round bee oh tee tee you em, he marveled at the sight,” I half muttered. “The sound of their lurid ess eee ex filtered through the air.”

Yes. I was reduced to spelling out descriptions of sex and sexual acts so as not to corrupt or scandalize anyone’s child; Not that Abercrombie & Fitch and every other TV ad aren’t doing a fair enough job of that on their own.

Friends traipsed in and out of the event the entire evening.

“I can’t stay for long, lady, but I definitely wanted to come by and support you.”

I hand out hugs and ‘thank yous’ like the creepy old man in your neighborhood who waters his lawn barefoot, donning only faded cotton shorts in the dead of winter.

There wasn’t much chatter during the reading, which was neither good nor bad. It just was what it was. Everyone who has read the book has either finished it in one go or read it in a record “two days” if they are slower readers. I have come discover that Daughters of Swallows is unique in the sense that it is written in a context and a genre that is not generally associated with African women: romance and suspense. And while some might dismiss the work as an ode to smuttiness, others have and will discover and deem its contents current and refreshing. I recently did an interview with a journalist in South Africa about Adventures, and I ventured to ask her what the general European view of African women was. Why was this blog – and my book which was also a topic of discussion – so intriguing to her audience?

“What do YOU guys think of African women,” I asked. “Tell me honestly.”

“We think African women are just victims, you know… and [their] husbands oppress him them.”

That’s what we are to the rest of the world? “Victims”? This narrow narrative is the precise reason I am SO glad that you all pushed me to publish this book!

Eva kennedyAnyway, the reading: The second half of the night was just as amusing as the first. By the time the doors opened to the general public at 7:30 pm, Kat’s Café was bustling and bursting at the seams. That night’s entertainment was Eva Kennedy and her band. Good Lord, that woman has a set of pipes on her. And what a mouth!

I tried to feign modesty that evening, but she would have none of it. There were three celebrants at Kat’s that night: a couple celebrating their anniversary, a birthday, and a certain author who had just published her first book. One by one, she instructed us to come to the stage.

“Turn around, Malaka,” she said solemnly. I obeyed, waiting to see what she would have me do next. “The crowd wants to see your butt.”

The band struck up the chorus of Doin’ the Butt, and I involuntarily began to stop, drop and roll said butt, for which my knees cursed me the following morning.

Eva encouraged the crowd to buy copies of my book with the following admonition.

“The dollar turns over seven times in the Jewish community y’all,” she purred before raising her voice. “We need to support our own!”

A drunken woman in a brown weave and very tight clothing named Sam bought a copy of my book in that instant. She paid with a wad of one dollar bills.

The Daughters of Swallows, huh?” she asked with a wicked laugh.

“Yes. That’s swallows like the noun, not the verb,” I replied over the loud music. I made flapping gestures followed by a fist to the mouth to illustrate my point. Her table erupted into a fit of laughter.

At 11:30 pm I got up to leave. Eva was taking a break at the bar when Sangima and I got up to inform her of our departure. I hugged her and Kat, thanking them for a wonderful evening.

“Where do you think you’re going?” said Eva. “Did you sell all your books?!?”

“No, I have about five left, but it’s ok,” I smiled.

“Stay!” she commanded. “Gimme them books and I’ll sell all five by the end of the night!”

I shook my head, explaining that I worked at a shoe store and had to get up and whore shoes in the morning.

“And you gonna keep ‘whoring shoes’ if you don’t sell more of your books,” she sneered.

It was meant kindly, in that old school “I’m only beating you with this black plastic comb so you can learn to be tough” kind of way.

Eva was so authoritative that I almost relented, but I knew I would pay for it in the morning.

So there you have it MOM Squad! The next reading will be in Accra later this year. My hook ups have arranged for Daughters to go on sale at SyTris Café in Osu, so look for it on shelves in a few months! (Here’s their FB information https://www.facebook.com/SyTris )

Happy Friday, one and all. Click here if you want to buy a copy and just simply didn’t know where to.

Oh wait! Before we go, let’s play a random game! What was the last thing you were thinking before you clicked this link or opened your email to read M.O.M. today? Tell! Tell!!!  ↓

Malaka Grant. Occupation: Terrorist

Eiii! It’s not me ooo. But if you do a Google search on my name, you might mistake this criminally inclined woman for yours truly. Allow me to explain.

Last night I was indulging in my not-so-secret fantasy of becoming a Ghanaian script writer/call center operator. My obsession led me to Google Shirley Frimpong-Manso, whom you’ve heard me mention on M.O.M. before, Ken Attoh, Charles Novia and Pascal Amanfo, all heavy hitters in the West African movie scene. I was friends in secondary with one of these gentlemen.

Now of course, when you’re in the entertainment industry, your private life becomes fodder for blogs, gossip columns and other places where low information thinkers seek amusement. Yes, I am counted amongst this tawdry group, and I am NOT ashamed.

Thread after thread, I discovered something shocking about each of these individuals. Shirley was secretly carrying one of these men’s child. Pascal had swerved some up-and-coming actress who had spent oodles of money coming to shoot a film in Ghana and had left her project DOA. I didn’t even get a chance to ‘investigate’ Charles Novia further, because all this information got me wondering ‘what is out there about me on the innanets?’

I plugged in my name and waited for a firestorm to erupt. To my relief, there were no nude pictures of myself or clandestinely sourced images of me puking my brains out in an alley somewhere. Everything was pretty standard: reports of radio interviews I’d done, my blogs, my work with KBFF, and an arrest report for making terroristic threats.

Wait. What?!?!

terror mg

Who is this woman tarnishing my fairly adequate name? I was frantic. Images of Malaka Grant buying property in my name, opening credit accounts and waving a gun while at it whizzed through my mind. A quick scan through her file revealed that she had lived in several places that I had also lived and worked. Oh, God. No wonder the recruiter for the job I had applied for had not called me back. I was a criminal!

When I woke up this morning, I resolved to sort out this issue as quickly as possible. There have been way too many incidents of innocent people being pulled over and arrested for crimes they didn’t commit simply because another individual shared similar information. I am too pretty to go to prison. I wouldn’t last ten minutes in there. I high tailed it to the one place that could assure me that I would not be serving unjust time: the police station.

I explained my worries to an unconcerned clerk who told me to fill out a background check form and take it upstairs to the admin. Ah. Why couldn’t she seem a bit more sympathetic? I mean there was a woman out there named MALAKA GRANT making terroristic threats! In Fulton county! How is that even statistically possible?

“Maybe you guys just have the same name,” said the balding, pink-faced man in a green polo behind the window pane where I submitted my form.

I looked at him like he was crazy. There aren’t many Black women called “Malaka”, no matter what his prejudice might inform him. Malyka, Malika, Malayka – yes – but NOT Malaka.

“It’s not likely,” I replied tersely before asking him if this step was even necessary. “Should I just get my credit report run?”

“It doesn’t hurt to make sure your BGI (background information) is clean,” he replied. He then told me it would cost $15 to run.

Yeah. He just wanted to make that money. He didn’t care about my safety (or paranoia) at all! I thanked him and prepared to leave. That’s when the receptionist informed me that I could call the police station to get a copy of the arrest report.

“Is that standard protocol?”

“Yes,” she said incredulously. “It’s public record. You have a right to see it.”

Well okay then! I would do that. But first, I needed to run my credit report to make sure I wasn’t an arms dealer or money launderer or anything like that. For some reason, I assumed my bank could help me with that. They could not.

“We can protect your credit for $10-15 a month,” the manager informed me congenially.

“No. I don’t think I need that for right now,” I sighed. “I just want to investigate my credit and make sure nothing fishy is on there. I mean, the odds of another woman with MY name living in Fulton County are pretty slim.”

“Yeah… I’d be concerned if I were you too. Your name is pretty unique.”

Finally! Some validation of my fears!

I thanked the manager and stepped outside to call the police station where Malaka Grant was arrested. A bored officer of the precinct picked up the phone and asked how she could help me. I told her I needed a copy of an arrest report.

“Do you have the incident number?”

“No.”

“Did you get a copy of your victim’s rights pamphlet?”

“No.”

“Were you involved in the incident?”

“No! I just want to make sure some woman isn’t using my identity to blow up planes and federal buildings!”

This made the officer pause. Crap. You can’t say “fire” in a movie theater and you probably shouldn’t say “bomb” on the phone with the American police. She was probably putting a trace on my phone at that moment.

“I see,” she said. “What is your name? Spell it. Date of birth?”

I provided her with all my information and waited.

“Okay. Got it right here. This is not you. This individual has a different birthdate.”

“Oh. Really?”

“Yeah,” she said, finally letting out a small chuckle. “I guess someone just has your same name!”

“Yeah… I guess. Thanks for all your help!”

*Click*

I should have been more grateful, but for some reason I was disappointed. Oddly, I was looking forward to the drama of filing a police report and telling Malaka Grant how repugnant she was to me for presuming to steal MY identity! It was going to be an epic showdown, and I was now feeling robbed. However, it’s far more likely that I’m just pissed because I’m not as unique as I had previously presumed – or at least my name isn’t.

Have you ever Googled yourself? Did you find something that gave you cause for concern? Go ahead and share. I promise we will laugh at you.

 

 

 

Yet Another Open Letter to Idris Elba

idris-elba hotHeh. You this Idris Elba. You’ve come again, eh? Humph. I thought we had come to some sort of understanding after the Smart Water incident. Clearly, my words have fallen on deaf ears. I even tried to communicate with you using sign language, by my fingers must have encountered blind eyes as well. But you paa, what is your problem? Why do you insist on troubling me so?!? Ad3n na wo y3 me saa??

Oh, you don’t know what you’ve done? Oh get away. Get. A.Way!

Look at this:

Oh, you said what? You were ‘just portraying an international icon’? Foolish man. Who told you Nelson Mandela was hot? Heh? How dare you sexualize this beacon of forgiveness and humanity with your… sexiness. Because that’s what it is, Idris. SEXI-NESS.

I’m so tired of these your shenanigans. You take the most vital elements – our most basic human necessities, like water and freedom – and singe them with your searing, sultry, scorching, scalding sexiness! I’m tired, Idris.

I don’t know how much more of this I can endure.

JamesCaviezelChristIt’s not your fault though. They did the same thing to Jesus Christ when Mel Gibson made The Passion. Why nkwaaa would he cast hot-as-dry ice Jim Caviezel as our Lord and Savior? Me? I know why! To distract us from the salvation story! How can I focus on the state of my soul when this fine man is being whipped into oblivion? And how am I now to focus on Mandela’s unjust imprisonment for 27 years – nearly three decades – with these your eyes staring back at me in the movie screen? Heh?

I say I won’t have it!

Ok… actually, I will have it, but I won’t enjoy it.

Ok… I’m lying. I will actually enjoy it very much.

Idris Elba as Nelson MandelaBut that’s the problem, isn’t it? I am supposed to be watching a depiction of Nelson Mandela, a gripping personal story about a ‘terrorist’ who eventually became a beloved president, with solemn respect and reverence. How can I train my thoughts on reverence  whilst my loins involuntarily dictate that I lust after the man who is carrying out this portrayal? Idris! What you are doing is not good ooo. God sees you!

I wholly respect Mr. Mandela, and you are threatening that respect with your broad shoulders, well-water deep voice and intense gaze…

Huh? Yes. I was saying. When Danny Glover played Mandela in 1987, THAT was respectable. Have you ever seen Mr. Glover on the cover of GQ Magazine or any list that contains the phrases “hottest man” or “women HAVE to have” or “dark chocolate feast”? No. No you have not. But you, Idris Elba are on each of these lists and more. When women (and quite a few men) flock to see this film, do you REALLY think that they are going to be focusing on the words coming out of your mouth? Are you not ashamed of what you have done to Mr. Mandela’s legacy? Answer me!

You. It’s okay. If they had simply cast Terrence Howard as Mandela, I would have been completely happy to wait for the film to come out on Red Box. But I see that Hollywood wants to bleed my pockets dry, which is why they cast you and the Black Bond chick in this film together. Whatever her name is. Lucky sod.

You should be ashamed. Close your legs!

idris legs

I Finally Understand Zimmerman’s Supporters

Note: They’re still inbred idiots – and I by no means AGREE with their fanciful depictions of what happened that fateful night – but I understand them… and that is the point. This post contains graphic images. Be warned.

There are some things that you just cannot unsee, no matter how hard you close your eyes or shake your head when an unpleasant vision suddenly creeps into your consciousness.

There was a time when my family wasn’t doing so well financially, so we cut back on a lot of things: spontaneous lunches out, excursions with the kids, and cable television. All these things went on the chopping block in order to live a more frugal life. None of them were true necessities anyway, so that year of ‘deprivation’ went by pretty quickly.

I did a lot in that year. I walked. I ate more fruit. I watched a lot of PBS. And one night, just by chance, I caught a documentary about American history. I have wracked my brain to remember the name of the documentary or at least who it was produced or narrated by, and I just CAN’T recall. I desperately want to tell you what it is so you can see what I saw. I can recall none of these things, but there is one thing I do remember and that was the picture of a lynching.

The lynching of Rubin Stacy

The lynching of Rubin Stacy

In some backwoods town somewhere in 19th century America, a group of White men stood smiling, waving their guns and nooses over the corpses of about a dozen or so Black men. I can’t remember what their ‘crime’ was; these dead Black men. In those days it could have been anything from looking at a White person in the wrong way to petty theft. There’s just no telling. I don’t remember all the details, I will admit, but the point of the story was that they had taken justice into their own hands because the sheriff was taking too long to do so. They subversively and promptly executed these men because it was ‘expedient’, I suppose.

However, upon closer inspection, it was discovered that the bodies heaped there were not all male. There was one woman, with wide, shocked doe eyes lying at the bottom of the pile, staring into the camera. In their shame, the vigilantes apparently dressed the woman as a man, placed her at the bottom of the pile, smiled for the picture, and hoped that nobody would notice.

But someone did… and they made a documentary about it… and that image has stuck with me ever since.

I’m not a man, but I know something of the male ego. There is always this struggle for dominance, and the need to triumph while simultaneously looking heroic in the midst of that struggle. No one likes it when you pick on the smallest kid in the class – which is why we abhor bullies and put boxers in the same weight class. A ‘real man’ doesn’t need an unfair advantage to win. An unfair advantage makes you look weak, and does not play well into the heroic narrative.

This is why George Zimmerman’s supporters have fought so hard to control and redirect the narrative about the night he encountered Trayvon. How can they look at themselves in the mirror and their children proudly in the eye, knowing that they support a child killer? The answer is, they can’t – which is why they NEED to paint Trayvon as something other than a child who was just coming home from buying candy on a rainy night.

My husband says I need to stop engaging in twitter conversations with the masses. It’s not constructive, and the majority of these people are idiots, he said. He is also concerned about the toll it takes on me. I am achingly empathic, to the point where I physically feel the pain of others in my own body. So last night, when I was engaged in a war of words and (dim) wits with four or more Zimmerman supports, I felt myself becoming drained.

“Just put down the phone,” Marshall said.

“You’re right.  I should. I have work to do in the morning,” I replied. “This is a waste of time anyway.”

However, the conversation I had with these people did not leave my mind. Their assertions about Trayvon Martin were laughable at best, and delusional to say the least.

He was NO child.

TM No child

Trayvon Martin was big and strong. He was 6’2”!

Big trayvon

I know this game! It's called "All y'all darkies look alike".

I know this game! It’s called “All y’all darkies look alike”.

He was a gansta wanna be thug and he paid for his life with it.

tm thug

The community was grateful to George Zimmerman because they were tired of the break-ins!

crime

You’ve heard all assertions, I’m sure. There’s no need to go on. They get crazier as the days go by, anyway.

I had to ask myself “Why, why, why do these people keep talking absolute nonsense?” Trayvon Martin was 17 and neither old enough to legally drink or vote. According to the coroner, he was 5’11”, unless he magically grew and shrunk between the time he encountered Zimmerman and was fatally shot. Apparently, he had started putting in applications to colleges and wanted to study aeronautics. There aren’t too many ‘thugs’ with those aspirations. And finally, he was not breaking into anyone’s home that night – unless you believe that that was his intent and you also count a  can of sweet tea and a bag of candy as break in tools. I dunno. Maybe Trayvon could have launched the tea into a window like a grenade and distracted his target with Skittles.

Suddenly, the twitter conversations I was having were not so fruitless after all. When I remembered the eyes of that dead Black woman at the bottom of the pile, it dawned on me: They NEED Trayvon to be a thug, just like those vigilantes NEEDED that defenseless woman to be male. They NEED Trayvon to have been big and strong. They NEED him to be the aggressor in this instance. They NEED to feel that his murder was justifiable.

TM corpse

Look here, you “real Americans”. Get this into your thick skulls; a child in a hoodie doesn’t make him anymore a thug than tying a towel around your neck makes you Super Man.

You will have to live with your shame for your support of a child killer. A man with –unlike Trayvon Martin – a proven history of violence against women; a man whose prejudice was demonstrated through incessantly calling the police on Black teens in the area; and a man who faced termination from at least one job for failure to control his temper. Oh. And let’s not forget a man with the balls to lie under oath about his finances. Or is lying under oath now honorable to you lot?

You should all be proud of yourselves, you “real Americans”.

You are cowards.

You are predators.

You are terrorists.

You are pathetic.

I understand who you are. Will there come a day when you understand yourselves?