Materialism, Mindsets…and Heck; Why Not? Jets.

“I wish I had been better prepared for this moment.”

“You are the descendant of a mighty people…of kings and queens. Their blood flows through your veins and they have prepared you for this moment.”

-Paraphrased conversation between Coretta Scott King and Amelia Boynton Robinson in the movie Selma

 

A few friends and I have been talking about world views for the past few weeks, an exercise we engaged in regularly in college but really haven’t had time for as we got older. The basic questions we ask ourselves are:

“What is your world view?”

“Have you even taken the time to develop one?”

“Why do you/we accept the things we see today as truth and reality?”

Since we are a group of Black women, we concern ourselves with Black life and how it is experienced globally. Our shared analyses were pretty sobering, to be honest. My friend Tosha* talked about many of the young people she works with – most of whom are in their late 20’s and early 30’s – who have no true concept of how the world works around them, or worse, how it relates to them. Many of them are men.

“They just don’t read,” she sighed. “A lot of these guys think that life is about getting a check, having occasional sex, and repeating that simple cycle. They don’t read!”

The conversation was all over the map, ranging from racial profiling, internalized racism/colorism, spending, forecasting and economic (dis)advantages for people of color. It was the lattermost topic that struck a chord with me: Economics. It drew me back to the scene in Selma I referenced earlier.

I am going to raise my hand and admit that when we talk about being descendants of a “great and mighty people”, I have never invested the time to explore what that means. On the surface I, and I think the majority of people, look at Blackness as the embodiment and epitome of physical strength. We have greater bone and muscle density than whites; we are capable of running long distances faster than any other race; we have proven a capacity to endure and overcome intense and unspeakable torture and terrorism. But what does all that mean? Where does that come from? What is the purpose of being able to endure beyond endurance sake? The idea that we are descended from a “great and mighty people” led me to query what made our ancestors so special that an entire continent of Europeans felt it imperative to erase their history and memory and appropriate their accomplishments as their own. In just 30 short minutes, I felt like I had entered another dimension.

Last night I read excerpt s from two books which are available online. The first is Proceedings of the Royal Colonial Institute  and the other is Empires of Medieval West Africa by David C. Conrad. In them they describe observations made by European traders and explorers who were so astonished by the great wealth of these empires and even went as far as to attempt to draw parallels to their own. One explorer suggested that the aristocratic airs of Songhay rivaled those of the Tudors.

“This most interesting spot was the capital of Songhay, a country described as being very fertile and rich in gold. The origin of its kings was from the East. At a later period it entirely dominated Melle, and established at Timbuctoo a dynasty about contemporary with our own Tudors, of which I wish that time per mitted me to give you some account.”

Later, he goes on to describe the magnificence of the Empire’s Court “in which the ladies were served on pure gold, and men on occasions of state wore velvet tunics, were booted and spurred, and had all their weapons mounted in gold or silver.”

He went on to describe the clothing of those who dwelt in various parts of medieval West Africa, and noted the intricate brocade, vibrant cotton tunics and gold woven into hairdos of the most influential aristocrats. Because gold was in such abundance in West Africa, only the leadership of the day was allowed to trade in nuggets while the proletariat was permitted to trade in gold dust, lest it lose its value. (The roads and trade routes that allowed each ruler to trade in knowledge and goods were also well maintained.) Medieval West Africa was sounding more advanced than 21st Century West Africa with every sentence!

So what happened?

We all know about the scramble and partition of Africa, and something tells me that destruction of an entire continent had more to do with Europeans attempting to cover their own shame than trying to expose our own. They literally swapped histories with us. It is no coincidence that the Renaissance period that took place in Europe also coincided with European contact with Africa and Asia. While we were wearing silk and cotton, they were still making their clothing from jute (a smelly plant substance) and wool. The gold that guilds the Versailles came from Africa. Much of the “enlightened thought” that reached old Europe was being taught in our universities for centuries. And of course, women had greater rights and influence in society, an idea medieval Europeans found boorish.

This is what it means to be descended from a great and mighty people. And yet, how do we see ourselves today?

I am not advocating for Creflo Dollar to get his jet, but I think his predicament offers a useful example in this instance. Let’s say he gets his $60-65M jet. So what? Out of all the jets that crisscross the world that are owned by Saudi princes, American CEOs and pop stars, how is this one jet going to change anything about our condition as Black people? It won’t . A jet is a tool. It is a thing. It is a vehicle to fly a person from one point to another in the most efficient manner possible. A group of men (and two women) got together to decide how much to sell this thing for, but what gives that jet value is you and I. If Boeing wanted, they could give that jet away for the price of a hug. Didn’t McDonald’s just end a campaign giving away meals in return for acts of kindness? But today, that same burger is back to retailing at $2.99.

“Oh! But Creflo can’t afford it!” I’ve heard folks say. Ah. The federal government with its trillions in debt can’t afford any of the programs it is touting, but it hasn’t stopped them from mortgaging their goals on the backs of our unborn great-grandchildren!

It’s all arbitrary. YOU are the great value in the earth. When Miles Monroe and all those who perished on the Germanwings airline died, we did not mourn the loss of metal and plastic. We mourned life. And yet every day – we as Black people in particular – put possessions and wealth above human life as though we can’t grasp this.

I have changed my world view on economics, things and wealth…or at least I’m trying to.

Queen Ekuba is one of our contributors on Adventures, and in 2013 she shared a series called “Gran” on the site. In it, she uses her grandmother’s voice to talk about the sexual shenanigans of women in her village of Ajumako, about love, lust, loss and coming into womanhood. It’s a thrilling, informative read which you can find here.

Ekuba’s grandmother tells us about the day she started her menstrual cycle and how it was event celebrated by everyone in the community, from the Queen Mother down. On the day her transition into womanhood was celebrated in her family’s courtyard, she was dressed in the best kente, brand new sandals and adorned with gold bangles and earrings. One of her aunts rubbed gold dust on her face to make her skin glitter. Bear in mind that this was only about 70 years ago and 115+/- years after the slave trade ended. Judging from the stories Ekuba’s grandmother tells about having to go to the farm as a child, she sounds like she came from a solid middle class background…certainly not a princess in a royal palace. But a middle class Ghanaian girl from a Fante-speaking farming community was draped in kente and gold because she got her period…and we’re losing our minds over cars and jets? We are so brainwashed we can’t even create fantasy for our brown children to imagine themselves as anything besides dirty, barefoot things that play in the mud. Isn’t this the image we think of when we think of ancient and “typical” modern African childhood?

When I bought my luxury leather bag from F&W, I got quizzical looks and furrowed brows from at least two women when they asked me the cost.

“$290 plus tax,” I replied flatly.

Eish…Malaka…”, one of them breathed.

goldI offered a half smile in return. Our ancestors, yours and mine, were walking around with gold braided into their cornrows…and it’s a stretch for us today to carry a quality leather purse? It’s just leather! Once we begin to see ourselves in new and through the lens of a different world view, this will be easier to grasp. I believe that our history of wealth, intelligence and enlightenment is what kept those mighty people now trapped in the bowels of those slave ships alive and thriving. When you KNOW your life has instrinsic value, you fight to protect it.

For those bent on missing the point: I’m not advocating that we all go out and buy a whole bunch of stuff we don’t need, but I am saying that I am no longer going to feel guilty for pursuing quality. Besides, don’t we have enough junk in our lives already? We deserve better. We deserve to treat and think of each other better. We are capable of much better.

Elton John’s Campaign Against Dolce & Gabbana is Very Much in the Spirit of WEB DuBois

photo source: nymag

photo source: nymag

 

The worlds of high fashion and pop culture were set ablaze this week when Dolce & Gabbana were asked how they felt about homosexuality, family values and procreation. These are the quotes that were attributed to them:

“We oppose gay adoptions. The only family is the traditional one,” Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce recently told Italy’s Panorama magazine. “No chemical offsprings and rented uterus: life has a natural flow. There are things that should not be changed.”

“You are born to a mother and a father — or at least that’s how it should be,” Dolce added. “I call children of chemicals synthetic children. Rented uterus, semen chosen from a catalog.”

Their opinions are neither revolutionary nor shocking. There are many people who feel this way, although they are not as verbose about stating them. What IS shocking who these views emanated from – that being two gay men who once shared a romantic relationship with one another. These views are what are known as “traditional” values, and only rednecks and people with a third grade education hold “traditional values”, right? No seriously. Read the comments on any online forum and that’s what people think/say.

There is little room for differing opinion in the public discourse anymore, and if you do not toe the mainstream line, one runs the very real risk of being vilified and destroyed. This is what Elton John has set out to do to Dolce & Gabbana: annihilate their brand and tarnish their reputation.

I have only watched the ensuing feud between these titans of fashion and entertainment with passing interest. I’m neither an Elton John fan, nor can I afford D&G. Besides, when white men start fighting, it doesn’t bode well for the rest of us, so I try to stay as far away from white fire as I can. Oh, you don’t believe me? Ask the few remaining AFRICAN veterans of WWII what the consequences of white struggle and ego were for them. How many Black lives and limbs were lost fighting on European soil for the white man’s cause? We will never know, because they won’t even include images of our ancestors fighting in their precious historical movies. So, yes! I was very happy to leave these 3 men to duke it out on their own…until Dolce & Gabbana called Elton John a fascist. Whoa now! Given Italy’s history with fascism and Mussolini, these are pretty strong fighting words! Now suddenly, my interest was piqued.

MOM Squad, I have to tell you, I am pretty intrigued by the dynamics of this quarrel. Something about it was so eerily familiar that I honestly gasped when I realized when I had seen this before. What Elton John has set out to do for gay people is the very same thing that WEB Dubois did to Black people: and that’s to silence opposition.

HarlemIf you ever have the opportunity, please pick up a copy of The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader, edited by David L. Lewis. The introduction goes into great detail about how the Renaissance was spawned (or manufactured), what constituted as an “acceptable” Negro message or expression, and who those acceptable Negros would be. WEB DuBois was one of the head architects of the Harlem Renaissance, and he was also instrumental in the destruction and demise of any Black thought or artistic expression that he felt beneath the worth of white acceptance. In truth, DuBois’ entire agenda was to be accepted by white people, something that was fundamentally contrary to the goals of his greatest nemesis: Marcus Garvey. While Garvey felt that there should be a push for Africans in the diaspora to return home to their roots on the Continent, DuBois felt that Negros in America ought to push for white acceptance and integration.

GarveyvDuBoisThe feud between this pair was legendary, as each man (and their supporters) had their own ideas about what Blackness ought to look like in America/globally. There was name calling, mudslinging, and sabotage. Ultimately, DuBois triumphed over Garvey in the end by doing the unthinkable: He colluded with the FBI to have Garvey tried and imprisoned for mail fraud, which led to his eventual deportation. The infant Back to Africa Movement died soon after, the NAACP triumphed as it repeated these tactics again and again against “fringe” groups, and now there was ONE way to be Black in America…just as DuBois had envisioned and advocated for all along. As a people group, we have had to fight against the scourge of homogeneity that has been imputed upon us.

So I have to ask Elton John and his celebrity supporters and his (eventual) federal supporters: is there only one way to be gay in this world? And who gets to decide what way that is? Is there not enough room for differing views and opinions in your existence? You see how far we as Blacks have gotten with this sort of mentality; and it’s done us a great disservice. We are poorer, less educated and probably more internally disenfranchised and disconnected than we have ever been in our history. Seriously, with all this information and technology within Black grasp, we are still having childish and churlish light skinned versus dark skinned wars or looking down upon one another for being ghetto or bourgeois. How many years into emancipation are we?

Open gay expression has only just become mainstream recently. I would hate to see gays as a people group go through what Blacks have because three wealthy guys have had their egos bruised by sentiments expressed that the other did not appreciate. History would literally be repeating itself, and the possible repercussions extend far beyond the nuclear gay community. There isn’t a people group on the globe that hasn’t been affected in some way by the shenanigans that took place during the Harlem Renaissance, and they haven’t all been for the best. It might look like a worthy fight today, but is Elton John ready to be the catalyst and bear responsibility for a possible calamity because he isn’t tolerant enough to allow people to express their opinions? We’ll have to wait and see.

 

 

Before there was Creflo, there was Jesus Christ: the Original Recipient of Crowd Funding

jesus donkey

It has been pretty well established that if Jesus Christ were alive today, nobody would like or follow that dude. Republicans would be so averse to his teaching that they would have denounced him as a Middle Eastern radical socialist whose only purpose is to serve as drone fodder – but that’s only if he managed to live long enough to escape Mary’s womb. Liberal Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Bill and Melinda Gates would have done their best to convince Mary that the best course for her as an unwed, teen mom would be to abort her baby and pursue a career retailing olive oil. Given how successful Democrats have been in convincing the poor and disenfranchised that the unborn among their ranks have little to no human value, it’s safe to say that there would be no Jesus, no salvation story and no blog to entertain you today. Praise God that His Son lived!

Saints, did you know God is can be relied on to be completely unpredictable? 1 Corinthians says:

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

I don’t know why God chose a cowardly stammerer to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt’s bondage (Moses), nor do I know why He chose the architect of a Jewish genocide to later preach salvation to Jews and Gentiles alike (Paul). All I know is, God works in mysterious and wacky ways and those methods don’t always make sense to us Earthlings.

There has been much ado in the last few days about an appeal that Creflo Dollar made to his congregants and ministry partners concerning a jet he needed to purchase. Creflo already has a jet, which was purchased in 1999. He uses it to fly all over the world to preach God’s word and do the work of the ministry and the call he believes he’s meant to accomplish. God called John the Baptist to live in the wild, eat locust and wear camel hair. Believe it or not, John’s lifestyle was just as offensive to the Jews as it rankles many that Creflo Dollar would choose to cruise the planet in a private jet.

I don’t know many Americans who keep anything for 16 consistent years…and before y’all scream “My parents have lived in the same house for 30 years!” ask them if they really want to. They don’t. Even the celebrities we blindly adore that live in mansions cycle out their homes every 3-7 years. Shoot, we don’t even keep cell phones for that long! And when it comes to automotive equipment, we ALL try to upgrade as frequently as possible…sometimes without having the means to do so. (This is bad stewardship of your funds, by the way.) So Creflo has had his jet for 16 years and I’m sure after the demise of Miles Monroe (God rest him), he took a look at his craft and thought it prudent to get a more current model. This sent the world into a tizzy. A veritable fit! Why? Not because Creflo Dollar stole church funds, or asked the government for a grant or bailout, or prostituted kids or charged his congregants a penalty for not adhering church law (I’m looking at YOU Obama, with your healthcare penalties and ridiculous tax policy!), but because he asked for the money. Made an appeal. Didn’t try to swindle anyone ooo! He merely asked the people who support his ministry and believe in his vision anyway to assist him in this way.

Well, what does a pastor need with a jet if he can’t afford one anyway? Well, what did Jesus need with a colt he ain’t buy nor could afford? Remember this story from the book of Matthew?

 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me.  If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

“Say to Daughter Zion,
    ‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
    and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them.  They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Source: Nairobi Wire

Photo Source: Nairobi Wire

Jesus had his disciples go and jack a dude for his colt AND his donkey because he needed them both to do his work and fulfill a prophecy. That donkey money didn’t come out of his pocket…it was crowd sourced! This looks selfish, self-serving and haughty, does it not? I’m not in Creflo Dollars prayer closet, and I don’t know if the Lord told him to “get thee thine own jet so that thoust may preach my word hastily!” I don’t know and I don’t care. Creflo Dollar wasn’t holding a gun to anyone’s head when he asked for the money, and as far as I know, he also didn’t promise anything in return for the donations. He didn’t promise a blessing, double honor or any of the manipulative language real charlatans employ when they are trying to fleece true believers and gullible people alike.

Am I going to be giving Creflo Dollar any money for his new aircraft? Probably not. My church needs all the pennies I can spare. And although I am not a part of his ministry, I do appreciate the work Creflo Dollar has done in support of the victims of Hurricane Katrina and several of the other projects he’s sanctioned in the city of Atlanta…and I do hope his partners will not abandon him and help fund this need. I mean that sincerely. Out of ALL the crazy things we put our time and energy into supporting – the Kardashian empire, the Disney juggernaut, the porn industry – it should not be so shocking (or appalling) that a group of men or women who want to support their pastor in this way should be allowed to do so, despite the offense that it might cause YOU.

Locust, anyone? I’m fresh out of tea.

 

Is President Mahama a Satanist?

goathead3

Now keep in mind I’m just asking a question: I’m not making any accusations– but what’s with the mysticism and animal references in Ghanaian politics? Well, specifically NDC politics, if I’m just going to be completely honest. Ghanaian politics is more like a circus than a serious venture focused on nation building, and every good circus has a zoo element to it. But the NDC has just taken it too far with this whole “I have dead goat syndrome” thing.

For those who don’t keep up with the news from back home *ahem* A-Dub *ahem*, YOUR de facto president and mine just went to Botswana and said:

“I have seen more demonstrations and strikes in my first two years; I don’t think it can get worse. It is said that when you kill a goat and you frighten it with a knife, it doesn’t fear the knife because it is dead already. I have a dead goat syndrome.”

Don’t you dare laugh. This niggro actually got up in front of his constituents in another African country and referred to himself as a hollow-horned ruminant zombie.

Less than a year ago, Anita De Souza was holding dwarfs culpable for the rapidly depreciating cedi, saying that they were slipping into banks, stealing the country’s currency and using it for all manner of nefarious activities. Fine. We all had a laugh about it.

Sprinkle in the Tweaa DCE incident and there was enough comic relief to keep tensions at a minimum. But NOW, President John Mahama has not only pushed the envelope, upped the ante and crossed the line, he has set our whole house on fire by intimating that he is not only ineffective as the country’s president, but the cries of the nation fall on DEAD ears. Not deaf that can be restored by the power of Christ or Shiva ooo.

DEAD.

goats_head_soupBut why a goat? Isn’t that the symbol of Satan? Is President Mahama into demonic worship? Nah dude! I’m serious! I made a joke about Ghana and its leadership being covered in the blood of Satan and under his power…but it was a JOKE. Mahama n dem done took it too far this time. It was all fun and games until he busted out with the Baphomet idioms and that half-crazed look in his eye. Did you SEE his face when he made the announcement that we can shake a blade at him and he would be unmoved? He can’t feel what the ordinary citizens are going through because mentally, he’s not even on this planet y’all!!! Dude is saying there is NOTHING we can do to make him work any harder to ease the suffering of the people ‘cause he’s a spirit. A phantom. A specter. A deceased freaking GOAT.

That’s not okay.

Mmmmm. Discuss. ↓

 

I Want to Go on a Safari Adventure…in Detroit.

poor africans

I was minding my own business on Twiraa early this morning when this image floated down my time line. Ah. What was this poverty I was seeing? And why had it been retweeted so many thousands of times? Oh. My. GAWD. What were these sanctimonious responses to the image?

“Don’t ever complain about the cost of water! Just be happy you can afford to pay it!”

“The poor, poor African kids. Makes me appreciate what I have more.”

Saa? You needed images of African children drinking from a river of slurry mud to make you grateful for what you have? Don’t you live in the United States of America? Do you know how many people living in third world conditions right in your own back yard? You pass them every day! One of them may have even served you coffee or flipped your burger this afternoon. They are America’s working poor, my friend, and there are 10.4 million of them.

Well, just who are the working poor? Here’s a quick snapshot:

  • 7% of the total work force
  • 14% of Blacks; 14% of Hispanics; 6% of Whites; 5% of  Asians
  • 8% of women; 6% of men
  • 21% of the labor force with less than a high school diploma; 9% of high school graduates with no college education;  5% for those with an associate’s degree and 2% for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher
  • Most likely young: rates were highest for 16 to 19 year olds (13%) and 20 to 24 year olds (14%) and lowest for those over 65 (2%)
  • 16% of part-time workers; 4% for those employed full-time

Now, that’s a LOT of people and chances are, you and I encounter these folks regularly and don’t even know it. After all, the working poor do work, which means they interface with the public at large. My question is: Why is American poverty so much easier to hide than African poverty? I’ll tell you why. It’s because African poverty is sexy…and just like all things sexy, it’s out on display for everyone to see. Like GG breasts – just hanging out there BOLD for anyone to get an eyeful of. American poverty employs a lot less temerity. It is shy, and tries to remain hidden. Or perhaps it is America itself that tries to keep it from the view of the rest of the world. But if you know where to look for it, you’ll find it; and its reality will shock and awe you just as much as African poverty will.

That’s not true. American poverty will render you more awestruck because it’s AMERICAN, and therefore bigger and better.

Sometimes when I go home to Ghana, I encounter a cabal of foreigners who approach children playing by the roadside and briskly begin snapping pictures of them. These kids are often muddy and barefoot because it’s easier to play ampe or football without your flip flops on. 3 times out of 10, one of these kids will end up on a Feed the Children poster in the UK. You want to know why those kids in those posters are smiling “despite the fact that they are poor”? Because the photographer caught them in the midst of play! Poverty doesn’t look like that. Really, really poor people don’t have rosy cheeks and a shine in their eye. Really, really poor people look like those rascals in Detroit.

They are mean muggin’, tobacco chewing, liquor drinking, hopeless souls muttering to themselves and praying for Spring to come. Honestly, I don’t know why so many Americans travel to Africa to see how the poor survive and to “do some good for the less fortunate” when they could save time and money and just do to Detroit.

It’s abysmal.

Did you know that there is a water crisis in Detroit? The city has shut of access to water to hundreds of its citizens. Yet the face of every water program I’ve EVER seen is an 8 year old African boy, just a-cheesin’ at the sight of gushing water coming out of a pipe.

Did you know that the unemployment rate in Detroit is 23%? Twenty-three percent! This rivals any African nation. At least we have a burgeoning informal sector. We will sell tomatoes and dog chains. Detroit just has 23% of its population that is unable to access work that they are qualified for…period.

Let’s not even discuss housing in Detroit. Okay, yes…let’s discuss it. Here’s a picture.

Not quite a shack in a Township, but has just as much "character".

Not quite a shack in a Township, but has just as much “character”.

What kind of person do you think lives in a house like this? The kind of person you’d like to take a picture of, eh? The kind of person you’d expect to encounter whilst on safari in Africa, right? Just wild and brooding and speaking unintelligibly. If you’re nice, he/she might even let you snap a photo of them with your kids.

So folks, this summer when you’re thinking about where to spend your dollars on some expedition or adventure, think about Detroit. There’s plenty of gunfire. There are people warming themselves with open flames in barrels. The infrastructure is crumbling ALL around you. You don’t have to go all the way to Africa to do your well-meaning liberal work! You can just go to Detroit.

The husband doesn’t know it yet, but that’s where we’re going for our 10 year anniversary. He said Zanzibar or Ibiza, but who needs blue ocean water and sandy beaches? That’s so played out. I’ve been wanting to do something exciting and out of the ordinary. What can be more thrilling than running for your life in a decomposing city? Shhhh….don’t tell him. It’s a surprise!

On Trading my Sin with my Lesbian Friend’s

It seems like the biggest test to prove one’s Christ-likeness in the 21st century is how you deal with the gays and the gay problem. There are certain prescribed courses of action that a devout Christian (and probably a Muslim too, I dunno) should take when confronted with the gayness. I had my chance a decade ago, and I’m ashamed to admit upon reflection that I failed miserably.

My friend Antonia* called me one sunny fall weekend. I remember the season because I was into my second trimester of a pregnancy resulting from sex outside of marriage…what we know in the church as “fornication”. It was a sad and lonely time in my life, and I was very happy to receive Antonia’s calls. She always made sure I had fruit and veggies in my diet, took me out to get my head off my sad unhappy situation and was a dear friend in general. Antonia’s and my friendship was only made stronger because she was Kenyan and I a hybrid Ghanaian, and we liked to rib or compliment each other over the shenanigans in our respective countries, depending on what was going on in the news.

breakup-600x420Antonia was also quite, quite gay: A femme lesbian of all lesbians if you will; and on this afternoon she called me in anguish. Her words were hardly intelligible, she was sobbing so bad.

“Nancy dumped me,” she heaved.

I didn’t like her butch partner Nancy very much because she was so unkind to Antonia and was living in her condo rent-free for almost a year, so to me, this was great news. But Antonia was crestfallen and heartbroken. I asked her to tell me what happened and then I prayed.

Oh, Jesus. I know I dun asked this woman to tell me what went on…but you gotta steer me through this one, Lord…

Antonia went into detail about what caused the break up as best she could. There were typical relationship problems: Nancy felt she was too needy, not ambitious enough and declared again and again that Antonia was making her unhappy in general.

“And then she said ‘When I’m between your legs, it just doesn’t fit’. I kept asking her what she means by ‘it doesn’t fit’?” she blubbered.

Dear, God! Are we talking about a dildo? Am I actually having this conversation? Brace me, Lord!

“Maybe she meant you two weren’t compatible…in that way, Antonia,” I ventured. “I honestly don’t know.”

Antonia began to sob harder now that her tale of woe had been told in its entirety. That meant it was my time to be the loving sista-girlfriend, full of advice and anecdotes about sunny days and rainbows to come ahead. But there was a problem: Antonia was a lesbian and I was a Christian. This would be the right time to tell her that God didn’t want her to be gay anyway, that she was a sinner who needed to repent and that she would go directly to hell if she didn’t do so immediately.

But that’s not what I did or said. I’m sure my baby housed in utero would have kicked me viciously if I had done so, and for good reason. What kind of a hypocrite would that have made me?

“I’m so sorry you’re sad, Antonia, and it crushes me to hear you so upset,” I began. I took several deep breaths before continuing. “But sometimes, you just have to release things and people from your life so that God can bless you with something better. You are holding on to Nancy, but you have to open your fist and let her go so God can replace her presence with something else…something that’s not going to cause you so much pain.”

Antonia sniffled. Suddenly, she wasn’t crying as hard. She told me I was right. I think I cracked a joke about her chasing a lion to get her mind off things. I’m certain she told me I was a fool. By the end of the call, she declared she was feeling better but I could tell she was still sad. Break ups are hard, no matter who you are.

I know I failed the bible thumping standard for this scenario, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. What is the point of my Christianity if it does not exhibit compassion first? What earthly or heavenly good would it have done in that moment to tell Antonia that God hated her lifestyle and that it was better off this way? Surely, God hated the lifestyle I was living that year as well. To declare condemnation in that hour in that instance was not my task. Besides, Antonia knew me well enough to know my beliefs and could have easily adopted them as her own should she so have pleased.

But she didn’t and I didn’t force her. That aside, she was a leader in her school’s Scripture Union back in Kenya. She probably knows the Bible better than I do. The best I could have done for my lesbian friend was try to share the same or greater measure of love and concern she had shown to me since I told her through my own stream of tears about my unplanned/unhappy pregnancy… not destroy her with my religion.

Does that mean I compromised my beliefs? I don’t think so. Compassion does not weaken the manifestation of God’s perfect love.

Religious Intolerance and Education in Dumsorland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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