Author Archives: Malaka

What Does ‘Independence’ Mean For You?

Ghana is 57 today. Wow. The gravity of that statement really just struck me. Fifty-seven years old as a sovereign nation…

I wonder if Kwame Nkrumah, Ebo Taylor and my sainted grandmother imagined on that glorious Independence Eve that Ghana would look as she does today fifty-seven years on. Most likely not. I shall never forget my grandmother sitting in her courtyard on a stool, spitting and muttering that Ghanaian life was “much better under colonial rule.”

“You could go to town and get a job just like that!”

Then she finished feeling her cassava and set about pounding her fufu.

Today, African twitter will filled with messages about Ghana’s independence. Most of them will be negative. We will gripe about waste, water shortage, dumsor-dumsor (power outages) and the disobedient cedi that refuses to rise. Other’s still will throw an obligatory ‘Happy Independence Day’ on the status line of their Facebook wall and continue with the day. Between the griping and the compulsory well wishes, would it be possible to spend some time thinking about what our independence means to us?

Sure, Ghana is a mess, but it’s a beautiful mess. It’s OUR mess: Ours to own and ours to clean up. Being independent means that we do not have to look to outside forces to save us from ourselves. The Big 6 and the thousands of unnamed and unsung heroes and heroines in the fight for freedom from colonial rule did their part individually to prove that we are a nation that can conduct its own affairs. We are a sovereign nation. We owe our allegiances to God, our country, each other and no one else!

Would we really trade our freedom for running water and constant electricity? It’s easy for me to ask that question from where I sit in comfort in the Diaspora, isn’t it? To be honest, I don’t struggle with half of the ailments that afflict the ordinary Ghanaian. The currency I deal with is stable. My kids eat 3 meals a day with snacks in between. The roads I drive on are safe and well maintained. Still, I don’t think any of these physical comforts would ever comfort me in the event that I found myself subject to foreign rule. The knowledge that I am allowed to enjoy certain liberties but still be considered a less than free is unfathomable.

We have an incredible opportunity to begin to learn some form of patriotism and pride for our country. My generation was never taught civics, patriotism or any sort of history about Ghana unless it was in relation to someone else’s. Thankfully, these attitudes and trends have changed recently. We are seeing more and more young entrepreneurs turn their focus on Ghana’s problems and try to figure out creative ways to solve them. The generation that were the immediate beneficiaries of our Independence Dream turned reality are partnering with us too. You see these partnerships in several facets, including the arts, science and business. Ambolley, the Simigwahene of 1960’s fame (and beyond) has recently done collaborations with Sway and several other current hip-life artists; Dr. Yaba Blay consistently and doggedly engages young female writers, guiding them on how to hone their thoughts and their craft; and Patrick Awuah built and implemented a university and new way for the young Ghanaian to think about and engage their society. This is what independence is! That we are free to think, believe and choose how to live our best lives under our own terms. Ghana is FREE forever!

(Unless you’re a criminal.)

ghPerhaps we might spend this day being grateful for the gift and opportunity we have been given. It has not escaped any of us that our government is a failed one. We can wait for them to get on board with innovative ideas, or do what every other individual in any progressive independent society has done to date: band together and fix our problems ourselves. And when election time comes, vote on ideas; not on party and tribal lines. This is what a responsible citizen of a free nation does. We have the resources, and Heaven knows we have the education. Let’s spend this 57th year continuing the good work that has been executed, and destroy practices that have failed us thus far.

Long live Ghana!

 

What does independence mean for you? Does it mean greater dependency on the government? Do private citizens have a duty to their nation, or only to their families and themselves? How does the concept of independence play out where YOU live? Discuss!

What if Rachel Canning Had Been Born to African Parents?

rachelBy all means, you’ve heard of Rachel Canning. You may not know her name, but you certainly know her story. She is the 18 year old high school student from New Jersey who is suing her parents for failing/refusing to pay her college tuition and weekly child support. The details come right out of a local “WTF” newsletter.

As I gather, Rachel is a fairly good student and is on the cheerleading team. Her father is a police officer. Her parents have rules, some of which demand that Rachel do chores and be home by 11pm to meet her curfew. This is standard parenting procedure, because as any parent (and certainly any police officer) can tell you, nothing stays open past 11 pm besides legs, Krispy Kreme and the occasional Wal-Mart. These rules did not sit well with Rachel and she ended up moving out. She contends that her parents kicked her out; they say she moved out voluntarily.

I know Rachel. I know Rachel because I’ve BEEN Rachel. I went to school with dozens of Rachels.  You’re 18, you’re popular, you’re accomplished in your own right, and you’re pretty sure that you’re grown. Never mind that you can’t legally have a drink. You CAN vote and you’re eligible to work for most American employers, which translates into grown. The difference between this Rachel and all the other Rachels you and I have grown up with is that we are/were not stupid.

As any African, Haitian or Jamaican individual will confess, there was NEVER a time they would even fathom suing their parents for their upkeep, particularly when that individual has failed to hold up their end of the bargain in the parent-child dynamic. That dynamic is very simple: you do as I say as long as you depend on me. Sometimes, that tentacles of  that dynamic extend into adulthood, with African parents desperately trying to assert some level of control over their adult children.

“Why aren’t you married yet?”

“When will you born grandkids for me?”

“If you had been a lawyer like I told you to, you would not be suffering as you are now!”

I cannot imagine anyone from Africa or the Diaspora suing their parents for bi-weekly support or college tuition after so vagrantly disregarding the terms of an established parent-child contract. Hei! Your parents will come and catch you in your sleep should the thought ever cross your mind! Of course we have all grown up with issues with our parents, and you may have thought certain unflattering thoughts about them and their rules…but to utter them was inconceivable, let alone pursuing court action on the matter!

I asked some people from the Diaspora and at Home what would happen to Rachel if she had been born of African parents. After they stopped laughing, these were their responses:

Male from Haiti: My mother would have laughed. Then she would have punched me in my face. Then she would have called my father to come and collect me from the hospital because I was making her late for work.

Female from Georgia: Oh, God. What? No, no, no, no….

Female from Ghana: Haaaahaaahaaaa!!! Have you met my father? You lie bad!

Male from Ghana: You see, the thing is we have all grown up watching our parents struggle to pay for our education, work so hard to maintain even the most basic comforts of modern life, and boast of our accomplishments to others that we identify with the struggle. Their struggle is our struggle. We are not so far removed from what it takes to raise a child in this world. That’s why we would NEVER consider suing our parents for something like this!

Male from Ghana: Malaka. Come on. Ask me a more serious question. Sue from the where??!

 

As for this one, I blame her parents. Obviously she did this because 1) someone put her up to it and 2) She felt like she could get away with it. Of all the stupid things my friends and I cooked up together, all the inane plans and things “I woulda done if it was me”, it never crossed my mind, even briefly as an actual option. Those things were for girls far more stupid than I was. I remember I ran away from home at 18, thinking I was going to get a job at a radio station and go live in a flat in Tema or something. My parents kindly informed me that if I didn’t come home, that was the end of my college education (which I’M still paying for, mind you). After some prodding from an auntie, I was smart enough to realize in that moment that I could not make it in this world alone at 18…which is most likely the conclusion that Rachel came to. However instead of begging for her parents’ forgiveness for breaking their rules, she has mustered the gall and impudence to sue them!

 

Hmmm. Mom Squad. Mom Squad from Japan, New Zealand, Accra, Nairobi, Atlanta, Nigeria! What would YOUR parents’ reaction have been if you tried to sue them for any reason at all? Discuss! Discuss!!

Rsas

It’s Never Too Early to Get Your Baby ‘Resume Ready’

It’s a joke in the Black community: giving your child a “resume acceptable” name at birth. Failure to do so will almost ensure that he or she will end up in prison, or worse, reduced to a lifelong career in field during which the highlights consist of inquiring if a patron “wants fries with that?”

I think it’s important that we pause at this juncture and lay some basic truths on the carpet. Everything we do in this world is controlled by a select group of people known as Gatekeepers. These are the people who set your salary, determine where you’ll live, determine what quality of education you’ll get (if any at all), even down to if you’re fit to shop in one establishment or another! Gatekeepers are the decision makers of our existence. They determine which of us gets access to our desired “thing”. It’s nice to think that we are all masters of our fate and captains of our destiny, but even the indomitable Oprah Winfrey was denied the opportunity to look at a hang bag by a Gatekeeper.

In short, if you give the power of decision making and gatekeeping to a power hungry douche bag, we’re all screwed and will suffer for it. However, there ARE things you can do to thwart, or at least stave off, the wily tricks of an ignorant decision maker. And these days, job seekers need as many weapons in their arsenal as possible to help distinguish them from the pack of other job hunters out there. As middle class ranks begin to swell globally, it is more and more important to find ways to adapt quickly t the needs of potential employers!

In the world of the employment search, giving your child a benign, unremarkable, culturally acceptable name like “Eric Thompkins” or “Sue Pine” will go a long way in helping them make it across a recruiter’s desk and into the candidate pipeline. (Unless you’re recruiting for IT, in which case names like Reddi Rahmahanjan and Sundhi Patel are like catnip for resume miners.) We have not yet reached the point culturally where Gatekeepers do not make assumptions about a person based on their given name. Parents can help with that. The next steps, however, require a joint effort between parent and child: i.e. building the contents of said resume.

I came across this blog post last week about Millennial Candidates, the hurdles they face in the hiring process, and why employers should not be so quick to dismiss them. It got me thinking: It truly never is too early to get your kids on the path to success. Every decision we make on a daily basis affects the next outcome for the future. Consider this scenario I found myself in over the weekend. I was out with the girls selling Girl Scout cookies at a booth at Kroger. I wanted to get a gauge for how the other moms were doing with sales, so I inquired on their progress individually.

Me: How many cookies has Isabell sold so far?

Isabell’s mom : About 600 boxes ($2,100 worth)… Almost the same as last year.”

Me (muttering): Dag. 600 boxes…

Isabell’s mom: Oh yes. I make her do her own sales and pitches. I’m part of the Whatever Important People’s Club that meets once a month. She got to stand in front of a room of 300 or so people, give her pitch and take down her orders.

Me: I see…That’s, well, that’s brilliant! Getting her acclimated to public speaking like that, I mean.

Isabell’s mom: Yes girl. She’s gonna need it.

Me: Yeah…all our girls will.

Isabell is 9, by the way. She’s been reading since she was 4 and doing public speaking since she was 5.

The conversation was brief but impacting. It is the essence of what the Millennial Hiring blog post is about. Sure a recent college grad may not have all the working world experience of a 15 year veteran, but there are still certain real world SKILLS that a recent college grad can (or should) possess that will make them successful in the market place. Getting acclimated to selling yourself, your knowledge, a physical item or an idea and then translating that into digestible fodder for a hiring manager or business partner can never come too early. As we move further into the tech era, negotiating and demonstrating these skills has become crucial if one wants any measure of reasonable success. The prophecy that the Geeks shall inherit the Earth is quickly coming to pass, if it has not already.

I have quickly come to re-realize (because I frequently forget), that most American success comes down to the proper application and implementation of keywords. The right keywords at the cash register will get you a discount. The precise keywords at the bank will get you a loan. And sometimes ONLY the exact keywords on your resume will get you a job, or at least closer to landing it than the other guy. Parenting today, just as it has in eras past, has to go through a revolution in order to prepare our kids for success in the future. With these thoughts heavy on my mind, you can therefore imagine my displeasure when Nadjah’s teacher offered her free tutoring classes (which means I no longer have to fork out $x00 for Kuman classes) and I came home from a long day at work to a weeping child at the dinner table.

“What’s wrong with her?” I asked

“She’s just mad because she has to go for extra studies.”

“Oh shut your face and quit crying, Na!” I exploded. “Stop crying because me and your Daddy are trying to make sure you don’t fail at LIFE.”

The crying immediately stopped. See? Keywords.

I firmly believe that guiding your child’s activities both academic and extracurricular is essential in ensuring their future success. Most American parents in my opinion have yet to strike a balance in this area. They either let the child have total control or impose their demands on their children’s experience. So if a kid likes to draw, encourage them to do that, but also enroll them in a camp that will show them other aspects of art, not just working with crayons. Diversity in your specialty will be key in this changing market.  This is just one of the many things I wish my parents had told me, or known to tell me. So many of us assume that college is going to teach our kids how to make it in this world. It doesn’t. All a university degree gives you is a piece of paper that says I can sit through a class and see it through to completion.

Are you a parent? Have you begun ‘templating’ your kids future? Do you ever worry that you are not doing enough to secure their success? Have you ever thought about it, or do you just pray for the best? Discuss!

 

 

The ‘Price’ of Panty Theft

They never shoulda gave you Negroes malls OR independence!

They never shoulda gave you Negroes malls OR independence!

Are you all fired up? Good. Then we can begin.

A story that is quickly eclipsing all others in Ghanaian news this week centers around three girls, a few bagful’s of panties, and human rights abuse in Ghana. The “facts” have been hard to decipher, since everyone with a smart device or PC has managed to put their own spin on it, but what is clear is that there was a theft and public humiliation afterward.

When I first got wind of this video, it was accompanied by a message that Ghana police were stretching their powers in making the three young women (allegedly Legon University students) crawl on all fours from Shoprite to the exit doors of the mall. As it turns out, neither Ghana police nor Shoprite had anything to do with the incident: it was the management and security personnel from Mr. Price, the South Africa based retail company that are the orchestrators of this miscarriage of justice.

The incident has truly knocked at the conscience of thinking Ghanaian society, particularly those who identify as ‘middle class’. If this sort of treatment can be meted out at an establishment like the Accra Mall – the symbol of upwardly mobile society and pulse of the city – then one has to wonder if any of us is safe in any establishment.

Thieves are routinely abused in Africa. That’s always been the case. I was seven when I saw my first mob attack. A young boy – he may have been 16 – had stolen a shirt that was hanging on a drying line. I was living with my grandmother in some flats at Asylum Down. In the midst of the caked, black earth, a throng of people came out of nowhere after the boy had been caught. They hurled insults at him, bloodied his face, kicked and beat him until a tall man in blue rescued him and locked him up in a ‘volcanizer’ shop. I don’t know what happened to him afterward, but that vision stuck with me. My cousin said he got off easy.

“In Teshie, we burn thieves with car tires,” she said simply. She was 10 years old. Burning people for theft was normal.

People are deeply polarized when it comes to how these girls were treated. Some say they got exactly what they deserved. Others say they even got off way to easily. Others still are appalled. I say we should all be disconcerted, and for good reason. There is no doubt that what these young women did was wrong. They cannot be excused for stealing. However, because anyone who has ever owned a business or baked a biscuit knows that people DO steal, we set programs and policies in place to cover that vice. That’s why retail store have loss prevention departments.

What Actually Happened

Unaware that there are security cameras all over the store, the girls were captured in the act, marched up to the front registers, and made to pay for their items. There are reports that they were made to kneel on the floor of the store premises before made to crawl out of the store by mall security. They were then jeered at and taunted by the (overwhelmingly male) crowd. The whole affair is sickening, but the worst has to be when a man reaches down to jab his finger between one of girls’ exposed butt crack. Their humiliation and molestation complete, they were eventually let out of the mall into the night.

What Should Have Happened

Every retail chain has a policy on how to handle theft. Some work hand in glove with law enforcement and have police on the premises to arrest perpetrators immediately. Others have loss prevention personnel on site with powers to detain thieves until they are arrested, made to pay a fine, or locked up in lieu of payment. Other retailers literally give thieves a pass, hoping that “good customer service” will encourage thieves to put down their stolen items and either leave the store or pay for them. Are we then to understand that Mr. Price’s policy is to compel thieves to pay – which would then mean they are paying customers, not thieves – and then force their customer to crawl through the floors of the enterprise on all fours? I truly hope they will release a statement clarifying their policy.

What is Our Role as a Society?  

When I saw the video, I saw a horde of Black men abusing three defenseless Black women. That’s what I saw. I sent a tweet, saying that I “hate feeling ashamed of Ghanaian men.” The gender police were quick to jump on pieces of my tweet.

Women were in the crowd too!

Women should have spoken up and intervened for these girls!

Are we now saying it is only men who bear responsibility in these instances?

And my favorite: Malaka should not feel ashamed of Ghanaian men. Judging the whole for the actions of a few is not fair.

Anyone who knows me (or vaguely thinks they know me because they read this blog) knows that I am a big supporter of Black men – on and off the continent – whether they be accomplished or have the potential for accomplishment. I praise them when they’ve earned it, and when they’ve disappointed me, I let them know. It seems to me to be a balanced approach; until the Thought Police insinuated otherwise.  There are some brothers and sisters may deride me for saying this, but I have absolutely no problem with a man leading…but you better freaking well give me something to follow. Ghanaian men in general continuously harangue about their role as “men” (a loaded noun on its own), as the heads of “this or that”, as “God-appointed leaders” because God made man first, and made woman from man (a point that is rehashed at virtually every wedding ceremony), and do this with such consistency that most of society not only accepts this, but believes this. But part of leading is protecting, and even more than that, deeply considering what true leadership is.

So if I as a woman am supposed to abdicate my role as a potential leader in order to make space for your presumed gender-based leadership, does that then require that I sit aside and allow abuse to unfurl in my presence even when its meted out against someone of my own sex? The presence of the women who also did nothing to stop this atrocity says yes.

Let’s face it. Women in Ghana are scared to speak up. We are raised to be silent, and when we do speak, we must choose our words carefully so that we say the “right thing”. Those that do buck the trend (of the Ursula Owusu  order) are called all manner of names. Still, that hasn’t stopped these women from speaking up against gender based violence, nor should it.

There have been some who have asked if the security guards would have been as quick to force a group of high school/university boys to crawl on the floor as they did these women. No one can answer that question definitively. What if it had been an old lady and her husband caught stealing? What if the thieves had been a group of White women? What about if they had been a trio of Lebanese men? Does the treatment you receive in our consumer establishments –whether you are in engaging in dishonest enterprise or not – hang so much on your race, class and gender at the time?  Does one’s privilege protect you from certain types of treatment and furthermore, liberate you to intervene (or not) in the face of another person’s mistreatment?

The bottom line is we all have a duty to protect one another, because we’re human beings, and because it’s right. Our first reaction in grotesque instances like these should not be to whip out a camera and hope that YOUR version of the video goes viral. To do anything else reduces our society to the lowest denominator of barbarism. If we as a Ghanaian society are going to adopt Western comforts, ideals and amenities like malls, independence from colonial rule and camera phones, we’d better be prepared to adopt the rules and norms therein.

 

What are your thoughts? Did Mr. Price’s personnel behave appropriately? Should specific cultural norms take precedent over corporate values in these instances? Discuss!

Open letter to God and His Part Time Servants: No. Really. We Need Fewer “Churches” in Ghana

Saints and the Most High:

We need fewer churches in Ghana. Considering Jesus never once preached in a church (churches differ from synagogues, right?), I don’t think this is a very controversial statement. Jesus preached on mountains, by rivers, in the city square…if you – Mr. Pastor – really want to get the gospel out into the world for the love of the gospel, get out of the four walls of your church. I have a proposal for you: Give up your church real estate and allow the people to use it for something more useful.

You use your church building – what? – twice a week, maybe? That’s five days out of seven with no use! The Lord doesn’t approve of waste, and as soon as I can think of a proverb about waste, I’ll drop it on you. In the meantime, let’s get back to that proposal.

If you take a look back at history, you will find that many of the world’s prominent scientists were also Christians. George Washington Carver, the famous African American botanist, was a devout Christian who refused to accept any glory for his breakthrough work, and Gregor Mendel was a monk. Who is more devout than a monk? There are dozens of other names from antiquity that I could throw at you in order to serve my purpose in persuading you, but we must look ahead, not behind.

What I would like to ask is this: Why not turn your houses of shouting into centers of science? I mean, let’s be honest; it hasn’t done the majority of the country much good, has it? You’re all still praying to God for food, jobs and clothing, but nothing of note has happened, has it? That’s not fair. The pastor and first lady are probably getting fitted for a new suit or a brand new Benz this week…but that doesn’t do the rest of the congregation much good, does it?

If your church is supposed to reflect the glory of God, why doesn’t it have a garden? God feeds the beasts of the ground and the birds of the air…so why haven’t 20% of you dedicated part of your property to feed yourselves from the very ground that you own? Take a Selah on that and join me in a few minutes.

How else might your church be more productive? I don’t know…how about you ask all your barely employed – but very educated – members to offer remedial classes to the kids in the area who can’t/don’t go to school for a number of reasons so that they are not so behind in their classes?

Selah.

Or how about this? How about you just abandon the whole enterprise if that seems too hard (or won’t generate enough money for your pockets) and turn your church into an Imaginarium. There. I said it. Your church, just 100 feet from two other churches in either direction, would be better put to use if you allowed people to come inside and daydream for an hour or four.

Of course, this is nothing more than my own personal pipe dream. Church in the 21st century is a big money making machine. Every month there is a new churchprenuer sprouting on the scene with a “fresh revelation from Gaaad”, and he is not going to let the chance to fleece hapless sheep go by. By Lord, I wish you would make it so!

I beg you: Hear my prayer, oh Lord of hosts, because it’s probably one you don’t get to hear that often.  Open the minds and the hearts of those who claim to be your people. Cause them to give up the ground they covet so deeply. Cause them to suffer the little children to come into the church not to sit, but to THINK, Lord! Compel these your saints to invest in scientific tools so that they can assist in their own deliverance. Did Christ not even have to carry His own cross in order to save the world? Why must these your people, who claim to have the mind of Christ, not also believe they have to put their hand to the wheel or their wit to the test and generate their own vehicle of deliverance?!

Oh, Gaaad!!!

Sorry. I didn’t mean to slang your name like that.

Oh, God!

What?? A pool table made of mud, dung and bamboo. Genius!

What?? A pool table made of mud, dung and bamboo. Genius!

Imagine what our country would be like in just five short years if we had an Imaginarium every 100 feet or so in our midst? Where people – young and old – could come and meet and share ideas…no matter how impractical or ridiculous…and NO ONE would laugh! Imagine if teams of students got together and said “You know what? We can make that happen. Let’s begin to build some prototypes!” After all, the iPhone began with someone’s idea, did it not, Lord? And other people bought into it, did the not, Father? And those with a mind for vision invested in it until it was perfected, did they not Great One?!? But what is a smart phone to You, You who created those creepy, electrified jelly fish things in vast deep of the ocean?

ATV made of tin, wood and flip flips

ATV made of tin, wood and flip flips

Our country is teeming with youth who are full of creativity and ideas, but they have nowhere to make their creations come to life. They need houses of science and thought. Ghana needs her own Renaissance. I see the buds of change beginning to show, but we need your rain to bring the change! The universe screams that you are a God of art as well as science. There’s just too much cool stuff out there in the dirt, the sky and the sea to prove that You are.

So, I beseech you Lord, download into your Ghanaian (and several folks in Atlanta) there is a need to develop the whole human being. I know why You don’t answer many of these prayers, Father, because me sef, I roll my eyes when I hear them. Science will save us, not shouting.

Ummm. Okay. Amen.

Have you ever been to an Imaginarium? Aren’t they amazing? If you hear of any projects in Africa that need funding that will improve lives through science, kindly share the link in the comments section below. There’s always someone on MOM ready to give towards intelligent enterprises!  

Hats, Gloves and Coats off to Single Parents

I don’t know how you guys do it – you single parents out there. I’m not just referring to single moms. There are plenty of fathers who have been left in the sole care of their children for the same reasons women do, albeit less frequently. Perhaps you’ve suffered the pain of losing a spouse/partner to death. Maybe you woke up one morning and found yourself abandoned and suddenly completely responsible for raising a child or four. It could be that you fled a horrible relationship and elected to raise your children on your own, rather than be beaten, abused, or whatever. In some cases, maybe you’ve even CHOSEN this path of single parenthood.

However you got here, I salute you and where I can, I will support you.

Raising children in a two parent household isn’t easy, so I can’t imagine the pressure that comes hand-in-glove with raising a family alone. My husband and I routinely lose our children (seriously), neglect laundry, throw some frozen pizza on the table, and send our kids to school with homework barely done. There are TWO (supposedly) responsible adults in the house, and it’s still chaotic. In those moments, my mind often turns to the single moms and dad who dot my neighborhood. How do they do it? How do they manage the insanity? I suppose they do because they must – some of them with a scowl and others with a weary smile. Still, they raise their children and send them out into the world, perhaps with more worry than you or I could fathom.

batesI have confessed before that I am a constant and consistent worrier. Sometimes I worry so much and so hard about things that I find myself chained to my bed in fear, waiting for the anxiety to pass. I worry about everything: Will Mr. Bates go to jail if he’s falsely accused of murder? Did that homeless guy with the sign find shelter for his dog during the ice storm? If I eat this gallon of ice-cream, will I REALLY blow back up to my previous quarter ton weight? These things, though they may seem trivial to you (Okay, yes, they ARE trivial.) persistently occupy my mind, and I am happy to entertain them. If I make room for them, I cannot have space to allow a more sinister thought to camp out in my thoughts; that being “what would happen to my kids if I died?”

Instinctively, I know that Marshall can care for the kids and do a very good job at it. That gives me some comfort. He’s their dad, and a very good one too. But who does the single parent have to rely on? Who is their rock that they can lean on? America’s foster program is full of kids who have found themselves in the system because American families are so disjointed. Gone are the days when you knew for certain that your aunt, brother or neighbor would look after your children should harm befall you. The breakdown of the American family is not at the nuclear level alone: its disintegration extends to the extended family as well. Think about the last time you walked over to a cousin’s house – unannounced – just to say hello, or spent the afternoon with your grandmother. Have you ever even done so? Be honest!

I worry for single parents, though I know it’s not my place to. All the same, I do. This Tuesday I got a call from the kids’ school telling me to come and pick one of them up.

“Your child was hurt during PE,” the nurse said.

“What happened to her?” I asked frantically. “Hurt where?”

“Her wrist. She can’t move her hand and I have her at the front desk,” the nurse replied. She sounded irritated that I was asking her questions.

“Ah. So is her hand broken? Is she bleeding?”

Why was this woman calling me at work if my child’s hand was broken?

“I can’t tell that without an x-ray, ma’am,” she snapped.

“So you’re saying I have to come pick her up?”

“Yes.”

*Click*

Puzzled – and fuming – I sent an email to my boss, hoped into my car, and went to retrieve my child who was sitting at the front desk with ice on her hand and a grin on her face. The school “nurse” (because none of them are really trained nurses, are they?) looked at me sheepishly. I scowled at them both a wordlessly whisked my child away. After purchasing her some lunch and a math book from School Box, I dropped her off at daycare and went back to work. The entire enterprise cost me $4.65 for lunch from Chick-fil-a, $7.45 for the book from School Box and $30 for the drop in rate for daycare, not to mention the hour worth of wages I lost during my excursion. It was an irritation – yes – but I could afford to do all of it, even if it pained me to do so. I called my husband, livid.

“Humph. I was a good thing they didn’t call me,” he laughed. “I would have told them to put the ice pack on her hand and send her right back into class. If she was really hurt, she would have been screaming.”

Duh! He was so right. This particular child cannot handle true pain in any measure. The fact that she had told me, post Chick-fil-a consumption, that her hand was feeling better told me I had made the wrong choice. I should have left her there at school!

“I don’t know how single parents do it, man,” I mused. “This is ridiculous.”

I am fortunate that I have a job that allows me some modicum of flexibility, but many working women – black women in particular – are not as fortunate as I am. Had I been a single mother with limited funds, what choice would I have made then? Would I sacrifice part of our rent/grocery budget to pick up a child who wasn’t truly injured, just to keep up appearances? Would I have let her sit there and tough it out despite the possibility of others judging me as a “neglectful mother?” Decisions, decisions, decisions!

Carson Scholars FundSo hats and shirts off to you guys. All of you who do this day in and out and put the rest of us to shame. You have raised presidents, MVP basketball players and neurosurgeons. Well done!

 

Oh No She Didn’t: Toni Braxton Calls Her Divorce “Very Caucasian”

Malaka:

I mean…in way, she’s right. *shrug*

Originally posted on The Michigan Chronicle:

tonibraxton

The internet is buzzing around the recent Toni Braxton interview on the talk show Bethenny. On the show singer/entertainer Toni Braxton made some stereotypical comments on why her divorce to husband Keri Lewis has been going so smooth.

According to reports by Madame Noire, the transcribe interview went as follows:

Bethenny: So on the break we were talking about you living in LA?

Toni: Yes, I am in LA and my ex-husband is there but we get along great. We are very caucasian, very white about it.

Bethenny: You are having a very white divorce?

Toni: We are really. We did.

Bethenny: Really. Then I have a very black divorce, no?

Toni: I got that means, I hate you Jodi, I hate you Jodi. That’s what it means to black people. (“Baby Boy” reference)

Bethenny: Got it, so a white divorce is your are bffs

View original 54 more words

Inspecting Ghana’s Police Force

The sun had long set and we were on our way back home late one evening. Something flickered and reflected in my father’s headlights. He switched on his dome light and pulled up slowly to one of the many makeshift police barriers that spring up on the N1 highway after dark and greeting the officer who approached his car – a man half his age – with the cordiality worthy of a superior.

“Good evening, sah,” my dad said quietly. His tone was kind.

“Evening, boss,” the officer replied in equal measure.  He ran the beam of his flashlight over the length our car, peeked inside at me at in the passenger seat, and nodded his head. I was busy staring at the screen of my phone and only looked up to give him a curt nod before I went back to tweeting, texting or whatever I was busy doing. He waved us on. “Please, you may pass.”

My father thanked him, turned off his dome light and pulled off. It’s a scenario that repeats itself all over the Accra metropolis night after night, but something about this encounter struck me as different.

“Daddy, why did you turn on your dome light?” I asked “And why did you thank him so profusely?”

My dad hummed a little and snorted in that way he does when something ironic has suddenly struck him.

“It’s good to be nice to these officers,” he replied. “Many times, all they are looking for is a little bit of respect.”

I snorted and kept my thoughts private. Good luck with that! Ghana police, looking for respect? Ghana police, the most inept force on the planet? Please.

Last year, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Ahmed Alhassan urged Ghanaians to be proud of their police force, declaring that they were ‘amongst the finest in the world’. The response from the general public was swift and mocking. Though the force has gotten moderately better in recent years, the Ghana Police Force are still seen as little more than barely literate licensed thugs who exact bribes from the public and routinely abuse their power. They are ill-equipped, always arriving on the scene of a crime when it’s too late and have a poor track record of solving cases. No one has any real confidence in the Ghana police, a fact that they themselves are well aware of.

So when my dad said that all they are looking for is a “little respect”, it made complete sense. Having full knowledge that the public that you have been sworn to protect and serve has little regard for your position or your ability cannot be easy to contend with. People obey the Ghana Police Force because they fear them, not because they believe they are an honorable or competent outfit that is dedicated to defending the masses.

Media headlines concerning the Ghana Police Force are consistently laden with certain themes, most often containing the words “fail”, “beat” and “cannot.”

Armed Robbers Escape Police by Running into the Bush

Police Officer Leaves Driver Unconscious after Beating Him

Officers’ Salaries not Paid for 6 Months

Certainly, the Ghana Police is not an entity in which an ambitious man or woman of distinction wants any association with. Sure, their uniforms are a nice shade of blue, but that doesn’t professionally compensate for the abysmal failure of the Force’s mandate to serve and protect. An encounter with the average Ghana police officer frequently leaves both motorists and pedestrians shaken, furious and bewildered. Very often, they cannot be reasoned with. What sort of training for their profession do they receive that renders them such brutes?

Perhaps the answer lies in this video which is quickly going viral. It shows how a drill sergeant brutalizes his recruits during inspection by beating them on their heads and asking them repeatedly what “S.S.S.” stands for. (Shave, Sh*t and Shine for those who cannot make out the accent.) Wincing in the face of such an attack only rewards the cadet with further blows and mockery. Some of these “men” are little more than boys fresh out of secondary school, some of them obviously very poor. I watched in disbelief as the inspecting officer taunted one cadet for his inappropriate footwear – a pair of white ladies’ walking shoes. Obviously, this was all that the kid could afford.

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10151958456833443&id=732573442

Now, I ask you reader: If Ghana’s police force is supposed to be amongst the finest in the world as the Inspector General would have us believe, it implies that their training methods, too, are being stacked up against those of the best in the world. Can you imagine police cadets in London, California, Switzerland or even South Africa being subjected to this sort of base treatment? It would never be tolerated!

Unlike a military operation like the Navy SEALS or the Marine Corps where you are trained to undergo and bear physical torture to prepare you for field combat – during which you may be captured by enemy forces – the police are supposed to be the more “cerebral” arm of a nation’s defense. The police deal with the general public on a daily basis, not armed military combatants. They deal with you and me. This sort of ‘training’ only teaches Ghana’s police that it is not only appropriate to physically assault and bully those whom you have a sworn duty to, but it is to be expected! It’s utterly disgusting and a complete disgrace.

As usual, it begs the question: what are we going to do about it? The answer as always lies with leadership.  I am encouraged by Mr. Alhassan’s call for police personnel in various regions to work together to rid the unit of individuals who are tarnishing its reputation and image, but I daresay he may have to begin at the top, not the bottom. We need to rein in this sort of behavior and nip it at the bud, because it cannot be allowed to fester. Beating people in the head never produced a modern, thinking individual. Beating people in the head has given us the Ghana police force as you see it today!

What do you think of this video? Do you think it reflects the “best”? Were you as shocked as I was?!

 

A Valentine for Benedict Cumberbatch

It’s no secret that I dig on Benedict Cumberbatch. He’s a weird looking dude, but that voice…my word! *swoon*!!

I was going to write an open letter to my latest crush, but three things have persuaded me to abandon the Open Letter Course; at least for the moment.

1) My sister, whom I primarily blog for, doesn’t have as much time to read as she previously has now that she’s given birth to her second child

2) I read out there in the ether that Open Letters are soooo passe, and that we need to close the door on open letters…which is a shame. I really like reading open letters, but admittedly, I am usually a year (or 4) behind on web trends.

3) Now that hubby has kitted me out with this video maker software, I find that I rather enjoy vlogging! But don’t despair! I will keep writing always and forever.

4) I know I said three things persuaded me, but I’ve just thought of another: a video montage that assaults the eye is far more pleasurable than a bunch of still shots of Benny Cumberbaaaatch…. at least that’s what I convinced myself at midnight when I was up cobbling this video together.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you all!

Oooh, ooohhh!! Let’s play a game! What are you wearing RIGHT NOW? Did you choose this outfit to honor the day or to spite it? Who’s wearing black because they HATE  Val’s Day. Confess! I know you’re out there.