Category Archives: Motherhood

It’s High Time For a Discussion About Postpartum Depression in African Communities

I gave birth to my eldest daughter 9 weeks premature. Her early delivery by C-section was the result of external factors plaguing me; mainly stress. Between the numerous healthcare professionals, well-wishers and hospital cleaners, I was also visited by a number of consultants: lactation, AM Care, etc. However one of these professionals was not on the list of people I expected to meet after having a baby.

“Here is a list of all the numbers you can call or centers you can visit if you feel like you’re going to harm yourself or you baby,” said the mental health advocate after a brief but pleasant chat. She put a brochure on the table next to me.

Why would I ever harm my baby? I gave her a quizzical look, one I’m sure she was accustomed to receiving from patients, as she stood to leave. She re-iterated that someone would always be available if I ever experienced “baby blues”. I scoffed inwardly. I would never need any of those numbers because I could never harm my baby. It was a happy event, after all! But even the most joyful of occasions can be the impetus of a tragedy. Many years and three more children later, I’ve often wondered where I lay that brochure. The stress of raising children in virtual isolation can drive one to harbor very dark thoughts. The chemical and hormonal changes that take place in a woman’s body after having a baby can sometimes act as kindling for a pending firestorm. And if you’re a mom reading this and are familiar with that sense of anxiety, moodiness, despair or hopelessness I’m referring to, you are not alone. You are one of a reported 14% of all women who experience Postpartum Depression (PPD).

The national conversation surrounding mental health in Ghana is sorely lacking in general, but when it comes to PPD it is barely whisper. It seems no one wants to admit that it is a very real and – albeit unfortunate – very natural occurrence. Our attitudes towards childbearing is that a baby is the ultimate gift, but every gift comes with its responsibilities. Oftentimes, we measure a woman’s value by whether she’s given birth and masculinity by the number of children a man has/can sire. There is little talk about the physical, emotional and financial changes – and appending assistance required – after a baby arrives…just an admonishment to “go and marry, go and born.” The adjustments required can drive even the most stoic person to the brink.

A preventable tragedy

This week we saw what happens when postpartum depression and mental health are not taken seriously in the harrowing case of Naana Bray. Bray is a 45 year old former chartered accountant who allegedly killed her two daughters ages 8 and 6 by mixing and administering poison in their beverages. According to her family’s spokesperson, she had a psychotic break after the birth of her 6 year old daughter and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Her mental condition was severe enough to cause her husband to seek refuge away the family home, yet curiously not harsh enough for the courts to get her children away from her and under his care after he had sued for custody. The court’s judgment was that the children were young “and therefore needed to be with their mother.”

Naana Bray's arrest with the backdrop of a hooting crowd demonstrates how little compassion or understanding about mental illness there is in our society. image source: mdernghana

Naana Bray’s arrest with the backdrop of a hooting crowd demonstrates how little compassion or understanding about mental illness there is in our society.
image source: mdernghana

It’s true. Little children do need their mothers…but they need mothers who are whole, healthy and able to function independently. According to a Joy News report, Bray had been committed to two mental wards and was on medication. The psychotic effects of mind altering medications come with numerous warnings about side effects…thoughts of suicide among others. Her family says that there was no warning that she would ever harm her children, but how could there be? Mental illness, like any other ailment, is not predictable.  I doubt we will ever really know what happened in Naana Bray’s mind the day her children died. The court’s job is to work in the best interest of the children ALWAYS, and it failed these two girls with its ruling on that day. I pray it doesn’t fail Bray again when she is tried.

Gaps in delivery of service

At present, there Ghana employs only 18 psychiatrists to service the entire nation. Like the patients they serve, social stigma also affects the professionals who work in the field. For one, psychiatry is not afforded the respect of other medical professions like pediatric surgery or oncology, even though the practice of psychiatry is just as life-saving. Because mental health is so misunderstood and so stigmatized, people frequently suffer in silence or secrecy. There is therefore no understanding of it by the wider population, giving rise to what I call the Myth of the Superhuman African. There are millions of people, many of them “educated”, who think that depression is a white man’s disease and that if they had not heard about it from Europeans, an African could never claim to suffer from it. In effect, these people think an African can only be evangelized into depression. Like homosexuality and women who cannot cook, depression is “un-African”.

The time has come and passed for there to be a long term, ongoing discussion about mental health so that people in the community can be watchful for signs, and so that this tragedy is not repeated with more frequency. Trust me when I say Naana Bray is not the only woman who has or will kill this month. Her case has only managed to get press because of her social class and proximity to a metropolitan area.  The women in the hinterlands with PPD go unseen, and therefore do not exist.

There are many barriers to the mentally ill seeking and receiving the help they so desperately need. Cost, availability, provider choice and stigma are but a few. Sometimes depressed people don’t think they can get better, and give up before they even get in the fight. Until we can fix the overriding hindrances, we have an obligation to look out for our neighbors, friends and family. We need to be supportive – and not condescending, offering empty platitudes –  towards their very real issue. We need to have an honest chat about what it means to live with mental illness and how we can all serve as allies.

Before my 89 year old aunt lost her faculties to depression, she told me about what she was suffering in a moment of cherished candor. “Many, many people are walking around here in despair. They look like they are alright. They look normal. But they are not. They need help.”

Let’s not let the window dressing fool us.

Wouldn’t it be Great if We all Treated Each Other Like Kindergartners?

“Mommy. NOBODY likes me.”

My sister stiffened at the declaration. Her son is five, and is the only minority in his Fairfax county kindergarten classroom. Standing at no more than 38” and weighing about the same in pounds, Aiden is one of the smaller children in his age group. He is a jumble of emotions and personalities, at once sensitive and nonchalant. He is the type of kid you want to protect for fear that a strong wind will blow him away for the Piglet he reminds you of.

My sister was incensed, concerned that he was being made to feel excluded at school. “What do you mean, “nobody likes” you?”

Aiden insisted that no one did: not at school, not at his karate class, not no one, nowhere ever on God’s green earth. Adj (his mother) made it a point to be more vigilant the next time she dropped him off at his next activity, which happened to be karate. What happened when Aiden walked into the dojo stunned her. It stunned me. It rocked us both to our core.

“Look everyone! Aiden’s here!”

“Hi, Aiden!” the kids sang in unison.

Aiden gave a half smirk, half self-satisfied smile and returned their greeting with the panache of a young man who had just broken into the Coca-Cola vault and was hiding the secret formula in his shoe. One of the students invited him to come sit next to them, and he merrily complied. My sister walked out of the dojo, sucking her teeth. By the time she finished telling the tale, I was perspiring having laughed so hard.

“This boy isn’t for real life eh?”

“I mean, what more did he want? Confetti?”

“Even if they gave him confetti sef, he will insist they don’t like him because it wasn’t falling fast enough.”

“These are the best days of his life. He just doesn’t know.”


And it’s true. I honestly believe we are our best selves in that kindergarten stage. We are kinder, more compassionate and eager. We’re fearless risk takers, for the most part…and even when we aren’t, we don’t discourage anyone else from taking a risk. There are many reasons that the world would be better place if we all conducted ourselves like kindergartners, but for the sake of time, I’m going to outline three.


Everyone is a “friend”

kg joyI was impacted by this when I started putting in volunteer hours at school when Aya was in KG. Her teacher always referred to the children as “friend”.

“Dear friends! May I have your attention?” or “Nicholas, would you go over to the reading center and help your friends put away the books?”

In essence, before you really knew anything about your classmates, you identified them as friend and associated with them all the warm n’ fuzzy feelings that go along with that moniker. Everyone wants to sit together, everyone gets invited to Sophia’s party. Everyone is made to feel included. In Nadjah’s KG class, there was a boy with a severe learning disability that each of them took personal responsibility for. They protected and looked out for him as a unit, because that’s what five year olds do.

This all stops around 4th grade.

And by the time you enter the working world, there are no “friends” to be had. There are only bosses, snitches, opposition and foes. You are suspicious of everyone and everyone questions your motives. There is no room for “friends” in the adult world, which is why everyone looks so beat up and sullen on the bus/subway.


Everyone is soooo enthusiastic about everything!

When you’re a kindergartener, everything is just wonderful. Wonderful, wonderful! Well, except for bedtime. Bedtime sucks, but at least then you get a story, a kiss on the cheek from mom and then fall right out. There is no tossing and turning in the kindergartener’s sleep cycle. Why? Because your mind is filled with nothing but the wonder the world has to offer. Like knock-knock jokes.


“Who’s there?”

“Feet who?”

“Feet the rabbit!”

Does this make any sense? No! But to your fellow KG’ers you are a comedic GOD. You have mastered the nuances and execution of a knock-knock joke, and that makes you pretty cool. It makes all of us pretty cool, because we’re all going to tell the same joke to each other for the rest of the day. That’s right. All 30 of us.

Can you imagine what would happen if you were the originator of a joke and 30 other people in your office told it without giving you credit? There would be disorder… chaos… sulking… salt in the punch bowl and Christmas!

That’ll show ‘em. Tell MY knock-knock joke without proper attribution…

"My knock knock joke. Mine!!!" image from

“My knock knock joke. Mine!!!”
image from

You can do/be/have ANYTHING in kindergarten

kidsciThe needs of a kindergartner are pretty basic. Some milk, a Hotwheel or two, a door to slam shut multiple times a day. Given enough freedom and hydration, a kindergartner can achieve anything in an afternoon. He can journey to space in a cardboard box. She can rule a kingdom from the sofa. The kindergartner is the master of all things, and (s)he doesn’t require money to accomplish any of the goals that have been set at play time. Goals which shift frequently.

“Hey guys! My mom said we can use this chalk to draw on the sidewalk!”

“We’re not chalk drawing anymore, Charles! We’re playing chemistry.”

“Oh. Well, I guess we can crush the chalk up and turn it into science powder then. Right?”


And then all of a sudden, your kids are playing Breaking Bad without even knowing it.

You know what happens to adults who “play” Breaking Bad?


In all, if I had to pick one thing from that kindergarten life it would be the exuberance with which one is greeted by one’s peers. That same excitement that my nephew takes for granted every week. It would make going into public so much more pleasurable. We don’t even make eye contact with people anymore. And why are you so happy…for no apparent reason? Happiness without cause is grounds for committal in an institution; unless you’re a kindergartner, of course!

Can you think of other ways kindergartners are better at life than adults are? Tweet me or put them in the comments!

A Faded Cotton Dress

It was 11:34 am and time to leave the hospital. The nurses had been wonderful, the delivery without complication. It was time to take Baby home. But Tope couldn’t decide between the three coming home outfits she’d narrowed down from ten others she’d shopped for over the course of the past 9 months. Her husband, a longsuffering man who made allowances for his wife’s eccentricities because of his great love for her, was beginning to get impatient. They’d been agonizing over this decision for an hour now.

“You know it doesn’t really matter what you bring her home in,” David noted. “She will certainly be able to wear them all in the near future. See?” He held up the delicate white dress with yellow daisies printed on the border and pointed to the tag. “It says 0-6 months…”

Tope was incensed. David didn’t know what he was talking about. This was their first child. Their only child. The child they had spent years trying to conceive! Let the other moms take their babies home in that awful hospital issue blanket and stripped cap. Tope wanted people to look at Baby and see a mother who settled for only the best! But David couldn’t understand this. She swallowed the venomous insults burning in the back of her throat and pointed to the periwinkle blue set with pink embroidery. Carefully, so carefully, she tucked Baby into the fabric and beamed with delight. She was beautiful.

But Tope was a new mother and not very adept with diapering. A stream of Baby’s newborn poop seeped onto the seat of the dress and now she had to be changed!

David was laughing.

“Don’t worry. One day, she’ll have to wipe her own bottom and you’ll never have to change her clothes again.”



Today was Baby’s first day of kindergarten. She wanted to wear polka dot stockings, the purple/orange/pink sweater Granny had mailed all the way from Portland, a khaki skirt and Twinkle Toe sneakers. Tope was horrified.

“Baby…you just can’t wear that in public. Nothing matches! What will people think?”

“But I want to wear it, Mawwwmmmie! I look good!”

Tope held up a dark blue pleated skirt, a cream Peter Pan collar blouse and patent leather Mary Janes. The ensemble was conservative, respectable, and in Baby’s 5 year old eyes, ugly.

“No! I won’t wear it Mommy!”

Tope frowned. Baby sulked. The two glared at each other until David broke the stalemate with a suggestion of his own. Perhaps Baby could wear Mommy’s blouse and the Twinkle Toes? Then everybody could be kind of happy.

Mother and daughter agreed to the compromise and Baby bounded onto the bus for her first day of school, waving her good-byes. Tope watched as the other kids oooh’ed and ahhh’ed over those ghastly sparkly shoes.

“Ugh! I can’t wait for the day when I don’t have to dress her anymore!”




Macy’s was packed to rafters. Teen-aged girls were squealing, giggling and groaning over their gown choices. Prom was in three days and everyone was doing last minute shopping. But this wasn’t last minute shopping for Tope and Baby. This was the fifteenth time they’d been to the mall.

“Baby…this is prom. Don’t you want to make a grand entrance? Don’t you want to take everyone’s breath away?”

Baby fought hard not to roll her eyes. It only made their fights escalate faster. She tried a different tactic instead: partial pleading.

“Mom. I just want to be comfortable. I just want to dance with my friends!”

“But, Baby. It’s PROM. You should look like a princess!”

Tope held up a high-collared sequence covered affair with skirts that swung and swished with every move. She begged her daughter just to try it on.

“Maaaawmmmie! I’m the editor of the school newspaper…not a Hapsburg countess!”

The girls on the other side of the dressing room were watching, mocking, laughing. Baby glared at her mother as she ducked behind the curtain and hoisted the 15 lbs midnight blue monstrosity over her head. Then she looked into the mirror and smiled. The dress was so huge that it could conceal the outfit she really wanted to wear under it. She emerged from behind the curtain with a mischievous grin on her face.

“I think you’re right, Mom,” she whispered. “This is the dress I should get.”

Tope was busy fussing with the skirts and zippers, muttering her irritation.

“I don’t know why you fight me on these things, Baby. I know what you look good in. You know, one day I won’t have dress you anymore. And I can’t wait for that day….”



A robin was pecking at the window, its feathers dusted with the gentle winter snow that had just begun to fall. Baby tiptoed over and stared at her reflection in the glass, the robin seated serenely on the other side. It made a beautiful picture. Perhaps William would paint it one day, if she could describe it to him.

The door burst open and the robin flew away.

Tope charged towards Baby and guided her towards a plush ottoman. She was fussing. “Why are you staring idly out of the window, eh? The wedding will start very soon and the guests are being seated. And look, your hair isn’t even done….”

The roar of Baby’s laugh halted her mother’s jarring chatter. She informed her that her hair was indeed done. She intended to wear it down. Tope was aghast. She turned to the stylist whom she had hired, demanding an explanation.

“I thought I told you how I wanted the hair to look for today! I showed you a picture!”

The timid beautician shrank into a corner. This was only her third gig, and she wasn’t yet accustomed to dealing with half-crazed mothers of the bride.

“I’m sorry…but that’s not what Ms. Baby told me to do. And well… since she is the bride…”

Tope held up her hand, demanding silence. She turned her attention to Baby and her lace-up bodice. She asked once more if they could make it tighter, so that she didn’t appear so pregnant.

“But I AM pregnant, Mom,” Baby reminded her.

“But that doesn’t mean you have to look it,” Tope wailed.

“Mom…everyone out there knows it. I just want to be comfortable!”

Tope shook her head in disgust. She turned her attention to her own reflection and straightened her wig.

“Even on your wedding day, I still have to show you how to dress. Eh? What is this! Why should you walk down the aisle looking like a donut? I can’t wait for the day when…”

“…when you won’t have to dress me anymore, Ma. Yes – I know. You’ve been saying it my whole life.”

Baby grabbed her mother by the waist and gave her a quick hug before taking her bouquet from the maid of honor and waiting to meet her prince William at the altar.



They said it was a drunk driver who lost control on a patch of ice.

Baby clung to life until she got to the hospital. She begged the doctor to save her child before she drifted into a coma. The nurse said Baby’s heart stopped when her baby took its first breath and  cried.

Tope’s Baby was gone.

“Darling, you have to eat something,” David begged softly. “You’ve been staring at her closet for three days. What are you looking for in there?”

Tope rested her head against the white frame of her daughter’s closet door and stared. In it was a wardrobe of which she didn’t approve. Faded jeans. Oversized sweat shirts. High top sneakers. In the corner she spied a massive midnight blue dress with sequencing that had long lost its shine. Tope smiled wryly as she picked up a simple cotton frock, covered in polka dots. It was faded and well worn. It was Baby’s favorite. She would want to be comfortable for her final journey. Tope planted her head in David’s chest and sobbed.

“I’m looking for something to dress my daughter in for the last time.”



Why Don’t Churches Spend More Time Teaching Men to Respect and Protect Women?

It’s always a low point on my Sunday when a pastor or Bishop or Archbishop goes into a tirade about hemlines at some point in his message. This happens week after week at Any Church, globally. My own house of worship is not immune to this scourge. Nevertheless, as a “devoted” member of my congregation, I manage to stoically sit through the man of God’s admonishment of women’s fashion choices which include – but is not limited to – shorts, jeggings, heels, or certain types of deodorant. Can you imagine my horror when I discovered that these sessions that I had relegated to white noise had taken root in my mind and managed to cloud my perception?


There is a woman in my church who is 15 years my senior. She is gorgeous. She has a beautiful family. Her three daughters are intelligent and are as unique in their personalities as they are in their outward attractiveness. The eldest is boho chic, the second born always looks like she stepped out of a Marie Claire photo shoot, and the youngest has adopted an urban fashion vibe for her look. Each, as I said before, is stunning in her own way. I’ve watched them grow and was dismayed to discover that they drive, go to the mall, and engage in all of the mundane pursuits (like working and looking for their first apartment) that women of ages 18-22 should engage in. Their advancement in age is an indicator of my own.

Marveling at how focused and accomplished her children were, I told my friend what a great job she had done in raising her girls. However her second born, Denise*, outshines her sisters in wit and beauty. She’s always been my favorite.

“You’re going to have to put a decoy ring on Denise for when she goes out,” I joked. “I used to wear one when I started riding MARTA.”

My friend snickered. “Yeah. I know what you mean,” she said wryly. “Rachel has to wear one every time she heads out to the grocery store with her little brother. I’m thinking of getting her a fake wedding band.”

I looked at Rachel’s hand and she was indeed wearing a tiny cubic zirconia “engagement ring”. Rachel nodded with upturned lips as her mother described the onslaught of men who approached her daughter at the oddest and most inconvenient times.

“They look at them as see prey,” she concluded. “Even the engagement ring and the sight of her baby brother whom they assume is her child isn’t enough to keep these rascals away. They have no respect. None.”

Her three girls were silent, possibly because each was recalling a time they had been “holla’d at” by some dude and had to find a polite/aggressive/passive way to rebuff unwanted overtures. Their plight, and that of millions of women globally, is why I have very little patience for preachers whose sole focus on morality begins and ends with the conduct of women or the ways in which they dress. God’s anointed generally – and wrongly – assume that dressing like a harlot attracts a certain type of attention, or even that these women are hunting for the attentions of men. I have never put on a whore’s uniform, but I can tell you with certainty that I have been requested to share my phone number after coming out of the gym, in the meat aisle at Publix after leaving church, or while waiting for my train in the dead of winter while being completely covered in a wool coat and boots. Do I think that any of these men wanted my number so that they could pray with me? No. The request for my number and my personal information was in the pursuit of sex.

Ahhh. But no one ever talks about the lusts of men in church.

I came across Candice Benbow’s status on Facebook recently. Her query encapsulates the precarious situations that many women have to navigate just to get through the day  and conduct normal business.

Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 11.32.17 AMShe wants to know where women can go and be safe. I would add to that question: Why doesn’t the Church make it a priority for women to feel safe? Why are so few messages aimed at the conduct of men? Your pastor and Any Church probably doesn’t fashion himself a chauvinist, but I divine that either 1) He hasn’t devoted much time to thinking about the pervasive lusts of men or 2) He doesn’t see anything wrong with it.

It’s easier to tell women not to wear high heels or tight skirts and all will be right with the world, you see?

Even the Bible illustrates a ubiquitous rape culture that we have not managed to suppress since humanity began keeping written records. The story of Ruth is one that pastors and pastors’ wives love to use to exhort (older, unmarried) women who have not yet found their Boaz to come rescue them. But even as Boaz rode in to save the day (literally on a horse in this chapter), he revealed something about the nature of men in his locality.

Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 11.59.32 AMFor Boaz to have to have issue a decree telling the young men NOT to touch Ruth means that these dudes had made it a habit of taking liberties with women’s bodies…liberties that Boaz knew Ruth would not appreciate. He was protecting her. Where is the theology that teaches men to protect and honor women’s bodies?

This is where many people who devalue women get stuck. It would be argued by these unexceptional minds that Ruth deserved Boaz’s protection because she was a good woman, not a ho like these female outchea today. Really? And did you know that Jesus was descended from a prostitute  and that it was a ho who washed the Son of God’s feet with her tears and dried them with her hair while in full on whore regalia? The value of a woman is not in the way she dresses or even how she has to feed herself or her family.

Many of the struggles that the Church has devoted much prayer and head shaking to can be overcome through changing the hearts of men, and particularly changing their attitudes towards women.

You want to stem the tide of abortion? Exhort men to be more holy. After all, there can be no unwanted pregnancy without a penis. If men spent more time honoring their own bodies than trying to break into somebody else’s the abortion center at Planned Parenthood would go out of business.

You want to lift families out of poverty? Encourage men to save and stop wasting money or foolish pursuits like new kicks or cars they can’t afford to fuel.

You want women to be “submissive”? Well then give women something to worthy submit to! I will never council a woman to make herself appear less capable or intelligent than she is just to be a poultice to a man’s ego.

The list is endless. And the work is plenty. Go and talk to your men so that my young friends can browse at the mall in peace. Christ be with you!


Do you attend a progressive church? Does the gospel of morality seem to have more to do with how feminine attire and behavior than anything else? Have you ever had to wear decoy ring? Discuss!



Consequences for the African Child After Allowing Him/Herself to be Kidnapped

Kidnapping is real. It’s scary. It’s the reason I stopped watching Law & Order:SVU once I began bearing children. The very idea that a stranger could muster the unmitigated gall to not only initiate conversation with MY child, let alone approach him/her with the intention of stealing them away from our home causes ice to form around my heart. It drains the blood from my veins. It causes me to think irrational thoughts.

This is why I was baffled by the conclusion of this video.

There is a PSA that’s been floating around of social media for a little over two weeks. I’ve taken my time watching it, because in all honesty, I didn’t want to know HOW easy it was to kidnap your run of the mill American child with access to technology. If you haven’t seen it yet, please take a few minutes to watch it so that we can discuss this in proper detail. Perhaps you will share my befuddlement at its end as well.

Seen it? Good.

I admit, if my husband and I had more resources (read: if we weren’t so cheap) our eldest two children would have access to a cell phone. We live in the age of technology, and despite my husband’s protests, I have gotten each of the kids a laptop. The compromise is that he has put stringent parental restrictions on them. They can only go on 4-5 websites, none of which has a social media feature. BUT, if it were not for my husband’s insistence, I’d probably allow them unfettered access to the world wide web and all its banes. And again, if not for my miserliness, they would have text and telephone capabilities just like all their little funky friends who wave their Apple and Samsung products in my girls’ faces simultaneously singing a rousing chorus of “nah nah boo boo”.

The kids in each of these videos had the trust of their parents. They had an “open relationship”. One of the moms screeched with incredulity at her daughter – who at just age 14 – had the impudence to leave her parents’ house at night to go and meet a boy.

“We’ve watched movies together…we’ve read stories about kids who get taken away together! These are real life situations…”

Herh! What does she mean? Do you know there are 36 year old women who are not permitted to leave their parents’ house after 6pm as we speak? Nonsense! African parents don’t trust their kids. That is why the 36 year old woman is sitting in her house right now, since she didn’t have the sense to find a husband at 23.

Then her father reached around and demanded that she give him her phone. Do you know this little American girl refused to hand over the device? Her father, the one who has gone out to work every day to provide for her, who cuts the grass so she can play in it, who provides at least half of the payment of her cell phone bill HAD TO FIGHT HIS KID to get the device out of his daughter’s hands.

Jesus. Come and take me now.

I understand what was happening in the minds of each of these children. They have been sheltered. They think the horror of being kidnapped and/or sex trafficked could never happen to them. They live in safe neighborhoods and only interact with “good people”. For that, I blame their parents. Jaren Fogle and Josh Duggar have proven once again that the Boogey Man wears khakis, not a hoodie. What I don’t understand is how each scenario did not end in exile.

Yes ooo. For the child of African immigrants, even if they are hybrids or second generation like myself, there are only three possible ways that putting yourself in a situation like this can end:

  1. Deportation back to Africa
  2. A beating
  3. Deportation and a beating

Take the girl who left her house at night. (I’m really stuck on that one.) How was her mother able to sit in the back seat of that white van for such a long time? As soon as I saw the door to my house open, the sliding door to the van would also be opening in sync.

“Hei! Hei! Hei! Akua! Where do you think you are going!?!?”

You think Usain Bolt himself could catch me in that moment? Think again! That is when the beating commence.

And after the nice white investigative reporter/prankster has had the chance to calm me and my husband down so we can have a “heart-to-heart” with our child, we would politely ask him to leave. We have the situation under control, we’d say. Your services are no longer required. Thank you for showing us the way.

Behold! Your return to Africa starter kit!

Behold! Your return to Africa starter kit!

“Ehh…Akua. Please go and pack your bags tonight. You have a flight in the morning.”

“Wait. What? Are we going on vacation, Dad?”

“Oh. You could say that. You will arrive at Kotoka by dawn. By noon, you will be in Kyekyebiase.”

Akua (who has hitherto gone by the name “Kelli”) is in shock. She cannot believe the speed with which things have escalated. She’s heard the stories her father used to tell about his ancestral homeland. Her heartbeat becomes irregular.

“No, Dad. Please. I don’t wanna go! I promise I’ll never do it again!”

The African Father acknowledges her repentance with a shrug, saying, “Oh yes. I know you won’t. The networks are very bad in Kyekyebiase. You’ll be lucky if you get one bar on your phone sef!”

“But how did you get a ticket so fast, Daddy?!”

Bemused, African Father lets out a soft chuckle. “Every African family has a special ticket on standby for wayward children. Based on the B’s and C’s you’ve been bringing into this house, we knew this day would come…although we hoped it wouldn’t. Oya! Why are you standing here? I say go and pack your bags quick-quick!”

Kelli is looking around for help from her mother, but the mercurial woman has busied herself by praying in tongues and pouring anointing oil all over the furniture, the door posts, the walls. And true to their word, Akua is on thing smoking, on her way “back” to Africa.

This is why Diasporans never completely lose touch with their connections back home. We never know when we will need the community to stand in where we’ve failed! You think I’m exaggerating? Turn to your Nigerian co-worker (and yes, you DO have a Nigerian co-worker. Everyone does) right now and ask him/her how many “American” kids were in their boarding school growing up. Those people went on to become exemplary human beings, didn’t they? They went on to take over the world.

You know why? There is nothing that can scare an American child straighter than an old village woman/a house master/school director with a mandate from your parents and their motivation to honor the ancestors by turning your leaf anew.

I pray my children never try me. Larteh Kubease is no one’s Disneyland. Someone needs to re-shoot this entire sequence of events and cast the Agbedu family so that children of African heritage understand what is in store for them should they every try this trumpery.


Are you the child of an immigrant? Would you ever send your kids back to India, China or Mexico to straighten them up, or is this only something only Africans do? Do tell!


A Little Something about Birth Certificates, Choices and Shaun King

Before I begin, I must implore Black people not to allow ourselves to get distracted. We must not be driven by sheep or led by the nose-ringed bull at an agricultural fair by its handler. Make no mistake: when we allow our focus to be lost to petty diversions – of any sort – we are being handled. For whose benefit is only revealed in time, but at the present, we know it is not for our own. In other words, please stay woke.



The most vocal voices of the Black Lives Matter group have found themselves under attack in recent days. The timing couldn’t be more conspicuous, if you ask me. In the wake of the terse encounters with Bernie Sanders and the placing of BLM representatives in “overflow rooms” (read, the Colored Section) at Hilary Clinton’s stops, it would appear that forces and will behind BLM have some folk rattled. There are no clear leaders for the Black Lives Matter movement. As far as I know, no one is on any sort of payroll or has been appointed head. That vacuum is occupied by a cadre of activists who speak with regularity and clarity on the ills of white supremacy and the need for Black liberation. Shaun King is one of those voices.

Shaun King may or may not be white.

Now, why is this important? For the thinking man/woman who has the capacity for foresight, Shaun King’s ethnicity is a nonissue. There is an old adage that says “not all your skin folk is your kin folk.” Indeed, many of the most famous rebellions and great escapes never to have taken place have been thwarted by Black people more beholden to white supremacy than their own freedom. The issue is in the long run, who is our ally? And the fact is, white people have always been an integral part in the struggle for equality and liberation in America. The homes of white Quakers served as stops on the Underground Railroad. White people marched, bled and died during the Civil Rights era. The enemy of Black liberation isn’t whiteness: It’s White Supremacy. This is what gets so many people tripped up when media outlets like publish…well, anything. This week, the site just happened to post that Shaun King has deceived Black America and the world by living an impostor’s life as a Black man when he is “in fact” white.

Andrew Breibart. I bet that dude holds morning meetings in full Grand Dragon Klan regalia and lights his cigarettes with a burning cross. Ugh.

Breibart’s report casts suspicion on Shaun King’s credibility by asserting that his birth certificate has the name of a white man listed as his father, therefore not be Black (or bi-racial as he has intimated in the past), therefore he is a fraud and a liar and Black Lives Matter is based – in part – on fraudulent lies! Let me tell you a little something about birth certificates and lies and the American family.

Readers of this blog know that my husband is not my eldest daughter’s biological father. I’ve written extensively about the biological contributions her Douche Bag donor made to her existence while eschewing his fiscal obligations. Douche Bag is and always has been a Black man of the lowest quality…but at one point, I laid down with him and I conceived with him. Two days after my daughter was born, my head still foggy from the near stroke I had suffered, I had a decision to make: Should I put Marshall’s name on the birth certificate or Douche Bag’s?

Douche Bag actually robbed me of that choice (something else I’ve written about) when he slunk into my room after I had been on medication – barely able to make use of my limbs – and refused to leave until I had signed paperwork listing him as the father. He would proudly go on to call it a “pimp move”. When I told Marshall about it later on, he looked crestfallen.

“I thought you were going to put me down as the father,” he said quietly. He implied that it was not too late to ‘fix’ it.

I looked at this man who had just been ordained a deacon in our church, who had lived an upright life for as long as I had known him and yes –had protected and nurtured me during my pregnancy when I most vulnerable. Though I desperately wanted to put his name down as “father” of this child he had helped bring safely into the world, I couldn’t make a liar out of him. The ‘sin’ of having a child out of wedlock was mine to bear and mine alone. And even though I knew it would mean 18+ years of grief, inconvenience and ineptitude, I didn’t alter the document. That’s the only reason Douche Bag’s name is on my daughter’s birth certificate. It would have made life easier to strike him from the paperwork and put the more suitable man’s name on the document, but I decided not to.

Shaun King’s mother did not make that decision. He wrote about his mother’s past and her choices quite eloquently here. Whatever her reasons were, perhaps to save face, perhaps financial, and certainly none of our business, she listed a man who had not sired her son as the father on his birth certificate.

Shaun King’s story is not unique by any stretch of the imagination. There are hundreds of thousands of Americans who do not “belong” to their family in one shape or another. I just recently discovered that one of my most beloved cousins was not related to me at all. Her mother was my great uncle’s step child. When I was 15, it was revealed to me in hushed tones that my older cousin Steven* (on the Ghana side) was a foundling but he didn’t know. His paperwork listed my aunt and uncle as his parents, however. I was instructed not to say anything. I did my best to forget.

And that’s the problem with everyone who takes umbrage with Shaun King’s alleged deceit. There are too many people who are prone to forgetting that the average American family has been infiltrated and happily blended with the presence of people who do not share the same DNA, that every Black funeral features a revelation that the man you just put in the ground wasn’t your daddy after all; that if there were birth certificates issued in his day Thomas Jefferson would not have been listed as the father of Sally Hemings’ six children.


Shaun King is fighting to preserve and improve Black life. That he may have some ambivalence about his genetic make-up is not the pressing question at hand. We have already put too much stock in his mother’s sexual choices and the morality attached to it, which is ironic given the liberties this generation regularly takes with copulation and sexual exhibitionism. Is he using his voice to ensure that fewer Black people are killed in the street and that more get justice from a system built to stand against them? If the answer is yes, kindly shun the Trump shenanigans and worry less about the birth certificate and more ending the hunt and gradual extermination of our people. Stop giving white supremacy a hand. We’re smarter than this.

I am an African Mother. Why Don’t My Children’s Friends Fear Me?

“Stone! Come and pick up all these strips of paper from my floor. Who did this?”

“Argh! I told Castillo not to do this, but he said he was Sharp Boy. He was using his head to cut pieces of paper.”

I paused and looked at my son, in order to process what I was hearing.

“On my bedroom floor? What in the… You know what? Never mind. Just put it all in the trash.”



Image source:

Image source:

When my children are hungry, I give them rice. When I need to throw on something quick to collect the mail or answer a knock on the door, I throw an enormous bubu over my head. It’s purple and is embroidered with silver thread on the borders. I make it a point to inconvenience my children by calling them from downstairs to hand me something at the foot of my bed. I have all of the trappings of a “real” African mother…and yet I am lacking in one thing: the awestruck fear that washes over my children’s playmates upon encountering my presence!

I don’t understand it. My husband and I are not small people, and as a pair of Big Black People, there is a certain level of trepidation we ought to expect from people smaller – and infrequently, less black – than we are. And yet, when it comes to the snot-nosed, trilling little urchins our children have selected as friends, we are denied that satisfaction. These people do not fear me at all! This is distressing, because we’ve skipped over an essential step in the African parent/friend of the African child dynamic. They are not my co-equals, but they have already assumed the benefits of co-equality. They are comfortable in my presence, and I am not comfortable with that.

There are two children that my kids play with on a daily basis. Castillo* and Carmen* are from Columbia. Castillo is Stone’s age (5/6) and Carmen and Aya are in the same grade. Sometimes the other girls play with them, but Stone and Castillo have made it abundantly clear that they want nothing to do with the sticky, glittery, cardboard universe that the girls recreate day after day on my poor hardwood floors. About six months ago, I got tired of stepping over dolls, bits of cut out paper and rubber bands, and decided I would be safer (and saner) within the confines of my bedroom, watching Crackle. I don’t know what motivated these people to follow me into my sanctum, but a sanctuary it is no longer. Just two days ago, I realized a pattern had emerged because I had failed to be vigilant. Castillo was in my bedroom…and he had brought all of his toys.

Don’t be alarmed. I would never allow a neighbor’s child and I to be in private, secluded company with each other. This is America! Castillo was in my room, and so was Stone…and so was Liya…and so were Aya and Carmen. I was watching Star Trek and Worf had just engaged in battle. Covering his ears and closing his eyes, Castillo declared that the Klingon was scaring him! I picked up my remote and changed the channel to Sesame Street.


I did this while leaned up against my headboard in MY room. He made this declaration while sitting on the ottoman at the foot of my bed. And for the next 20 minutes, we all watched Sesame Street until the collective decided they had had enough of Abby and Elmo counting and went to play in other parts of the house.

Dude. This is really scary.

Dude. This is really scary.

Why don't I stretch out while I make your moms watch Sesame Street? Awww yeah.

Why don’t I stretch out while I make your moms watch Sesame Street? Awww yeah.


Now, I don’t know about you, but as an African child, it would never even occur to me to enter the bedroom of a friend’s parent. As a matter of fact – and depending on the friend – it would never occur to me to try to gain entry into their house. And yet, Carmen and Castillo feel perfectly fine coming into my house, eating my popsicles and leaving a trail of Lays chips on the floor without a hint of hesitation. They don’t even call me “auntie” in deference. They don’t even call me “Miss Malaka” in mock politeness. But they are consuming my food like I birthed them.  How did this happen? When did this happen? Do you know how bad it is? Listen to this:

Marshall often gets home around 6 pm. His A/C in his car has been out for well over a year. He hasn’t bothered to get it fixed. We live in Atlanta. People do not live in Atlanta without A/C. By the time he gets home, he is a sweaty frustrated mess of a man. The house is destroyed from where six children have been playing for hours. He takes it all in stride, stepping gingerly over the mess to make his way up the stairs where I am hiding in my bed. Except I’m not “hiding”, because Stone and Castillo are in the room with me. Marshall walks to my side of the bed to salute me with a kiss. Then he turns to greet the boys.

The boys have not greeted him ooo… My husband is greeting these two impudent small boys.

“How was school today, Stone?”

“Fine, Daddy.”

“Castillo…how was school? Do you like your new class?”

Castillo looks at him as though he has asked him to define and explain quantum mechanics. Like Dude. You know I don’t know the answer to that, and you’re a douche bag for even asking me that.

Eventually though, he takes a break from sucking on the popsicle he has retrieved from MY freezer to answer with a single, sullen word.


What is this?!?!?

My sister says I am entirely to blame. She cannot imagine sitting in her bedroom for some kid from across the road to perch in her bedroom and inform her that Matlock is boring, with full expectation that she will change the channel. She says Marshall and I have gone mad.

“It’s not that we are mad,” I reply gloomily. “It’s just that we are tired.”

My sister is disgusted with my explanation and summarizes her feelings with “Humph!”

No, but seriously. Even amongst the many Americans who are reading this now: Could you ever see yourself just chilling in your friend’s parent’s bedroom with your little Hot Wheels and racetracks and doll clothes like it was YOUR house? Like you belonged there? No! You cannot! I only recently got comfortable entering my BFFFL’s mom’s room two years ago, and we’ve been friends for 21 years. Na you 5 year old boy?

I have accepted that these people will never fear me. I have accepted that they consider me their co-equal. By the time they are taking your wrapping paper from your craft box in order to execute the pretend powers of Sharp Boy, it is futile to think otherwise, isn’t it?