Category Archives: Say what??

You know how stuff happens in real life and you have to ask yourself “Did that just happen?” This section is dedicated to those moments.

The Most Impactful Moments of 2015

2015 will end in just two days. Incredible! It feels as though it was just a few weeks ago that we were doubled over in laughter in response to Two Thoozin’s hopes and prayers that “evultin will be vibely on Nachurrr Gawd!” – and yet a whole year has gone by!

This year has been fraught with memorable events, both good and bad. Personally, 2015 marked what I consider the best year of my life to date. I mean that earnestly. I connected with wonderful people, achieved an astounding number of professional and personal goals, and finally experienced what it was like to walk in divine favor. I believe these successes had a lot to do with my decision to choose to be more selfish this year. I wouldn’t consider myself a “people pleaser”, but I do acknowledge I have a near uncontrollable propensity to come to the ready rescue of others; whether they deserve it or not, whether I am fully equipped to “save” them or not. This has repeatedly cost me heartache and money in the past, and this year I just said “NO!” to all of it. It is the first time in my life I have felt empowered and comfortable with saying “no”. Those “nos” also affected what I decided to write about. I chose less weighty topics for the majority of the year, and it’s done wonders for my psyche and my spiritual health.

I have not yet decided if I will return to fighting form in 2016. Honestly, I’m a little scared to.

And I got to focus on writing and completing a bunch of books!

Plus, I got to focus on writing and completing a bunch of books!

But this post isn’t about my year. It’s about our year as an online family! I’ve asked a number of you to share what you consider to be your most impactful moments of the year and have compiled them here. I have to say, I agree with ALL of them. Some were amusing, others disturbing, some soul-rending and all of them truly stirring. So without further ado, I present to you – in no particular order – the most important moments of 2015, according to the MOM Squad!

 

Social/Political Moments

The Circumstances Surrounding Sandra Bland’s Death: Sandra Bland’s death (some say murder) rocked the conscience of the entire nation. It set us ill at ease. Sandy is but one of many persons of color who lost their lives to police brutality under suspicious circumstances. We were left feeling less safe; more certain that we are being hunted in this country. It didn’t matter that she was “woke”, or knew her rights, or that she hadn’t committed a crime other than resisting arrest while not being under arrest in the first place…she still ended up dead in a rural Texas jail cell. Never forget Sandra Bland.

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Key & Peele Perform Negro Town Skit: Like 2014 (and 2013 and 2012 and…1643), 2015 saw its fair share of public executions of unarmed citizens. Through it all, we used music and/or comedy as a balm to soothe a never healing wound. Often criticized for their failure to/fear of addressing brutality against the Black community specifically, comedy duo Key & Peele ended the five year run of their show with a sketch called Negro Town, a brilliant response to the many ills affecting the Black community frequently wrought by racism. Hilarity did ensue. We were comforted, grateful…even hopeful. A couple of us are still trying to navigate our way to this fabled town.

POTUS pop off play list: Please…! Don’t pop off about President Obama’s response to ISIS or any policies regarding it unless you have some alternatives. If not, get ready for that clapback!

100 Black Pastors shame us: This was a low moment for the Kingdom of God and all who call themselves sons and daughters of the King. 100+/- Black clergymen and women pledged to endorse a hate-mongering bigot and wearer of a strange hairdo. Yes, we are talking about Black pastors who publicly support Donald Trump for no discernible reason other than the fact that he “can’t be bought”.

Y’all.

Judas tried to return his 30 pieces of silver after betraying Jesus, and for a moment, he couldn’t be “bought” either. My Lord n’ Savior still ended up battered on the cross though.

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Music and Entertainment

indexReggie and Bollie nearly win X Factor: Ghanaian music duo Reggie and Bollie catapulted themselves to international fame on the sheer power of vim and determination. While energetic and wildly entertaining, it can’t be claimed that the beloved pair are musically gifted or truly possess any musical talent. They are, however, the ultimate live performers. And they nearly succeeded in carrying out the ultimate coup – and borga fantasy – when they came dangerously close to winning the top spot on the popular English TV show, X Factor. Vim!

Viola Davis’ Harriet Tubman quote at the Emmys: This moment was the epitome of Black Girl MAGIC!!! You hear??? Everything about this moment was magical – from her dress, to her hair, to Taraji leaping from her seat and bearing Viola up with the sister love of the ancients. Just…just watch it again. Relive the moment and fall back in love.

Jem Movie Boycott: I have never seen another movie so roundly rejected. Have you? This movie was doomed to fail from the moment they released the trailer depicting Synergy as an iPhone accessory instead of the intricate holographic program she was designed to function as. There was no saving this film. The words “source material” and “fraud” were bandied about with good reason: the Jem movie offered the ultimate disrespect to all who grew up with and loved the show. The boycott was proof that Hollywood should refrain from screwing with iconic characters, especially if they are female. May the sales numbers serve as a warning – a proverbial head on a spike to all who dare to screw with Jem (or My Little Pony or Punky Brewster) in the future!

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The Hamiltones Sing the Hits: God bless Anthony Hamilton and the Hamiltones for sprinkling Lawry’s Seasoned Salt and bacon grease on these pop hits and making them even Blacker and better. Genius!

Wizkid, Drake, Skepta ‘Ojuelegba’ Mix: For as long as anyone can remember, there has been tension between Africans in the Diaspora and those on the Continent, despite the intermittent spurts of effort to reverse that trend. (Think Nkrumah, Ali, Mandela, Maya n’ dem.) This year, the author of a certain article went further in flaming the fans of unnecessary tension by claiming that Blacks in the Diaspora and African Americans (in particular) ought to stop “appropriating” African culture, because reasons. But in all that noise and clamor, 3 artists quietly collaborated to reprise Nigerian hit-maker Wizkid’s Ojuelegba in a stunning mix of simple creativity and cross-cultural partnership that hasn’t been witnessed in recent history. Naija, UK and Canada one track? Come ON, now!

Pop Culture

Walaba U Girl: This child singlehandedly got an entire nation to look within, reflect and ask their neighbor/hater to do the same with the repeating of one, singular, probing question: Walaba yew?

The Wiz Live: We needed The Wiz, and we needed it at the moment that it aired. We needed to see a star being born. We needed all that Black Excellence on screen and in our homes, and on a mainstream platform. The Wiz Live is/was our crown jewel this year. Watching it with all of America felt like being in a giant living room, filled with love. We needed that moment of unity, even if it came with 4,000 commercials between scenes and a few dozen inbred racist Twitter trolls.

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Patti Pies: Unknown to the rest of the world, Miss Patti Labelle’s sweet potato pies had been on shelves at Walmart for months with tepid sales. Then a little known backup/jingle singer named James Wright Chanel did a review that went viral and one Patti Pie was sold per second for 72 consecutive hours, netting just under $1 million. On that weekend. Never underestimate the power of your voice and a bedazzled hat.

Adele’s Comeback with ‘Hello’ and all the Parodies that Ensued:

Black Twitter featuring #ThanksgivingClapBack, #AskRkelly #masculinitysofragile #BlackLivesMatter #YouOKSis: As Black Twitter is not done doing the Lawd’s work as 2015 has not yet come to a close. In the meantime, I invite you to get online and check out these and other hashtags for yourself in order to witness the glory!

Rachel Dolezal makes ‘Transracial’ a thing: This chick doesn’t deserve any of our energy, and yet, here we are. That’s all I have to say about that.

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Events Shaking Africa

john-boyegaJohn Boyega: Young Mr. Boyega is doing the entire continent proud, and is the latest centurion to join the Nigerian Actor/Mogul World Domination Force (NAMWoDomF). We’re looking forward to seeing what he does in his career in the future!

_82760522_027049507-1Burundi: The violence that has broken out in Burundi – a nation that has already seen its fair share – has all of us watching nervously and waiting.

 

Sucka!

Sucka!

Nelson Baani loses Parliamentary Seat: Known as the ‘Sharia MP’, the man who proposed stoning adulterous women as recompense for cheating on their husbands in 2014 lost his re-election bid almost to the day his absurd utterances came to light. Karma is sweet.

 

Burkina Faso has issued an international arrest warrant for ousted leader Blaise Compaore in connection with the murder of former President Thomas Sankara. Sankara’s death has never been properly investigated, nor justice done on his behalf. This is a day many Africans have waited for for decades.

Africa Trumps Ebola and Sends it to America: This isn’t something to celebrate. This is actually very serious. Considering that Republicans (and closeted racist Democrats) lobbied hard to close off Africa while this disease ravaged an entire region, but then ended up having Ebola resurface in the US by proxy of American carriers was the ultimate boomerang.

KpyRymuOStoreFoundry rips up the online merchant game in Ghana: There’s not much else to say about this. SF is KILLING the game! And if the competition doesn’t get their act together, they will find themselves a distant third in the POS market. (Of course, I confess I’m biased, because they serve as my exclusive online retailer on the Continent. :) )

 

Kantanka-SUVKantanka Cars Available for Commercial Sale: At long last: Cars made in Ghana for the Ghanaian market (and hopefully, beyond). What’s not to love?! Let’s hope 2016 sees this pioneer building a website as part of their brand marketing. I mean…because it’s 2016.

 

 

Sports

Serena Williams: A picture is worth ALL my words.

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Biggest upset of the year: Rhonda Rousey got the smack smacked out of her by a woman who seemed to rise out of the mist like a phantom. In the biggest upset in women’s MMA history Holly Holm handily handed Rhonda Rousey her ass. With a kick to the neck. It was unbelievable. I don’t think Rhonda still believes it.

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The Heavens Unify the Globe

The world gathered to see the Blood Moon: This was my personal favorite moment of all of 2015. The entire world gathered to watch a historic cosmic event, and for those few hours, we weren’t Christians or Muslims or atheists or pro-gun or anti-abortion. We were just human beings trying (in vain depending on geography) to get a glimpse of a rare blood moon on a cloudy night. Many of us had to rely on technology to get a glimpse. (That’s how I got this shot.)

We congregated in awed silence to witness nature’s majesty…and for those few hours, nothing else mattered: Not our political positions, not our race, not what the Kardashians were wearing to their weekly anal bleaching session.

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It was a monumental moment of unity, and it gave me shivers.

 

Deaths

We all lost a number of good friends, family, villains and heroes this year. Not wanting to claim that the passing of some people is/was of more importance than others, I opted not list any names out of respect for all. Most will be missed dearly. Other people left the Earth in a better (happier) position with their passing. That’s our reality. If you lost a loved one this year, may fond memories of them forever live in your heart.

 

What were your favorite moments of 2015? Did this year turn out the way you had hoped, or better?

Well, this is my last post for the year! What will be your last comment? Here’s to a healthy, prosperous, fulfilled 2016, MOM Squad! You all mean the world to me.

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Let Your Haters be Your Progress Gauges

When I moved to Atlanta at the turn of the century, I used to ride the MARTA, switch on my Walkman and listen to the city’s favorite radio station: V-103. Everyone who was anyone that mattered (as far as the world of urban radio was concerned) worked at V-103. Frank Ski, Wanda, Ryan, Portia Foxx. Of the entire crew, Ryan Cameron was my absolute favorite. The man is the emperor of clowns. His inflection, intonation and his reactions and remarks to even the most mundane events left me and half the city in stitches.

Frank and Wanda were a’ight.

Portia Foxx was a’ight too. Something about her voice rubbed me the wrong way. It was a little too soothing… like Kathy Bates with a sledge hammer in that scene from Misery. I didn’t trust Ms. Foxx; not one iota. Nevertheless, there is one thing I appreciated about her presence on the radio, and that was her signature tag line/motto: “Let your haters be your motivators”. Though she went off V-103 in 2004, we in the Atlanta community still quote and live by those words today!

When I first heard the phrase “let your haters be your motivators”, I must admit I harbored a certain level of ambivalence towards the sentiment. I was fresh out of college, just interacting with the world independently for the first time, and therefore wanted everyone to like me…or at least not hate me. Neutral indifference I could handle. But hatred? Now way. So why were all these people who were calling into the radio station talking about their haters? And furthermore, why was Ms. Foxx facilitating a platform on which to “celebrate” this hateration? Well as they say, small girls are young and now that I’m a full grown woman, I understand the value of the proverbial hater.

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The idea that one should make their haters – or detractors, if you will – their motivators is not a new one. The sentiment is actually expressed throughout the bible. You just have to decode it. For instance, both books of Samuel are almost completely dedicated to chronicling one dude’s (Saul) ultimate quest to hate on another dude(David) and how the latter spent his entire life circumventing or triumphing over those hate-fueled attempts. We credit David for the book of Psalms, but what are David’s Psalms without the influence of Saul’s many micro aggressions and/or bodily threats, aka hate?

Selah.

Now that I understand the importance of the hater, I would take the idea of letting them serve as motivation a step further and add that one’s haters must also work in the capacity of your progress gauges. Look at the caliber of your average hater and allow that to serve as an indicator for how far you’ve come.

For instance, I was talking to a young man ago about this very thing. He is a recent acquaintance and is one of those guys who has set himself on a course to receive “everything” in life. He’s building a strong business, he’s talking to people about investing in future ventures, he has a beautiful, smart fiancé, he’s well-traveled and he’s only in his early 20’s. He’s on the track to becoming one of Forbes celebrated 30 under 30 or some such similar list in a similar publication. During our chat, he confided in me that his business (let’s call it the Lemonade Stand for for) has yanked quite a bit of market share from indirect competitors.

“When I set up the Lemonade Stand, we were literally begging people to give us a try. I said if I had 20 customers at the end of 2015, I’d be happy.”

“And how many do you have now?”

“Close to 200,” he replied. “And we’re getting requests from all over the continent to be a part of the Lemonade Stand.”

“That’s great! How has this impacted you personally?”

“Well…it’s interesting. Now that the Lemonade Stand is on the scene, the Ice Cream Stand is struggling because we’ve taken so many of their best customers. They’ve actually set out to destroy me.”

I was shocked. I know the Ice Cream Stand’s reputation and they are HUGE. They’ve had a stranglehold on the market for close to five years now.

“Dude. That’s amazing…but why are they mad at YOU? They sell ice cream. Sure, they’re both cold and sweet, but that aside, neither product is even remotely similar!”

He went on the confide that not only is the Ice Cream Stand out for his blood, but so are the Library and the Auto Repair Shop. His Lemonade Stand has siphoned business from them as well. This is where I got excited.

“You do of course realize that you have entered a whole different realm of influence, right? If within less than a year of operation you’ve been able to fulfill the needs of all these customers, the so-called titans of industry were not truly doing their duty in servicing a segment of the customer base that relies on their product and services. This is HUGE for you.”

He agreed that it was indeed a big deal (and somewhat flattering) to have this class of hater working against him, however with what he has in mind for Lemonade development, he will leave his competition bloodied and in the dust.

“They’re still thinking about meeting current market trends. I’m looking to create market trends,” he said simply.

crunk juice

Well dag.

I took what he said to heart, and now I’m not just assessing my progress as a writer/mother/kung fu aficionado but also looking at the quality and class of individual criticizing my work as well. I advise you to do the same. For instance, if you are accustomed to that one underachieving account manager on your job taking stabs at you for the quality of your work and NO ONE else taking notice of what you do, it’s time to up your game and expand your influence. Get your work in front of someone who matters…someone who signs your check, for instance. Produce work that rivals theirs at their level. Whether they become a hater – in the hood sense of the word- is really up to them (they could turn out to be a congratulator), but at least you’ll know you’re operating in a different league. A better league. A stronger league!

As the old Bahamian saying goes: A dog only barks at a moving car. So get moving and take off at light speed! You are jollof rice. Don’t let white rice talk to you like you are supposed to remain on its level. Conduct yourself accordingly!

 

 

Don’t forget! Madness & Tea is coming out on Christmas Day! Check back here for details on how to get your free copy!

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What Possible Motivation Could That Many Black People Have for Locking Themselves in a Room with Donald Trump?

Like many Black folk around the world, I find myself puzzled by what happened at Trump Towers this week. We want to know how did so many Black clergymen and women find themselves willingly meeting with Donald Trump in support of his bid for president? And furthermore, what was the purpose of mingling with a man who represents the very opposite of Christ’s principles? I’ve been watching videos and reading reports all over the web in a search for answers, and I have to admit that so far, nothing is making any real sense.

Rev. Darrell Scott, senior pastor of the New Spirit Revival Center in Cleveland Heights and ardent Trump supporter said that those in the Trump boardroom “made history” that day. I watched as his face contorted with angst and indignation as he recounted the many wrongs and “mis-characterizations” that the liberal media had levied against Donald Trump, whom they have portrayed as someone that he personally knows not to be. If you were looking for a real life example of a Stephen-Massa Candy relationship, you’ve found it. The good reverend is clearly enamored with Mr. Trump’s wealth and ego. Not all historic events are to be lauded. The Holocaust was historic. The trans-Atlantic slave trade was historic. The first time anyone put ketchup on eggs, it was historic. It doesn’t make it right or beneficial to the rest of humanity.

Rev. Darrell Scott, senior pastor of the New Spirit Revival Center in Cleveland Heights (R) and Republican Candidate Donald Trump speak to the press after meetings with prominent African American clerics at Trump Tower in New York November 30 ,2015. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

Rev. Darrell Scott, senior pastor of the New Spirit Revival Center in Cleveland Heights (R) and Republican Candidate Donald Trump speak to the press after meetings with prominent African American clerics at Trump Tower in New York November 30 ,2015. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

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Roland Martin conducted an interview with Dr. Steve Parson, pastor of Richmond Christian Center. The dialogue was difficult to follow because the self-important doctor either didn’t have the decency or the wherewithal to silence his phone while he was on Skype with Roland. Audio interruptions aside, the entire conversation was a disaster, and if the rest of the world were to judge all Blacks and/or all Christians by Dr. Parson’s performance, we’d rightfully earn the moniker clueless. He was terribly unprepared to answers questions dispassionately or factually, but he did give an insight as to what may have motivated the attendance of these men and women of the cloth.

When asked by Roland about Trump’s proposals or ideas about education in the inner city, Dr. Parson smugly (and ramblingly) replied:

“Donald Trump isn’t talking about education where you sit in a classroom to go get a job to go work for someone else. He’s talking about an education where you create your own wealth and then create jobs for other people.”

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And that’s all dandy. But you can’t create jobs for other people if you can’t read or add, and you certainly can’t hire people to work in your business if they come from socially depressed areas with schools that didn’t prepare them to read or add or speak eloquently or think critically or or or. If these postulations represent the meat of the meeting, then they are indeed the epitome of out of touch, pie-in-the-sky rhetoric. I have no problem if Donald Trump the civilian billionaire wants to build an academy teaching entrepreneurship to low income earners. That would be admirable and much needed. But for all of these Black men and women to clamor and flock at his polished Kenneth Cole soles in hopes that he would/could do something to change Black economic circumstance in the office of president is just foolhardy. For one thing, that kind of dependency is dangerous. If a president can give us those opportunities, a president can take them away. The Jews have changed their fortunes on their own, and so must we. Secondly, we see that the president has very little power (or interest) when it comes to Black/local affairs. Who has shown us that better than our current POTUS himself?

I will always recall with great disappointment and grief President Obama’s response to a query about what he would do to change the economic fortunes of African Americans – specifically – in this country. He said he wouldn’t do anything specific for African Americans because he believed “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Now, whether he was saying that to pander to broad based sympathies or if he actually believed it to be true, the point is that he is on record as having said it and has held true that philosophy. I only WISH President Obama had acknowledged that while this may be true, it is not feasible if one’s boat has had its engine repeatedly sabotaged, a hole blown in its hull and its repair crew members routinely slaughtered. Such a boat will always be destined to settle on the ocean’s floor, not matter the height of the tide. You’d have to be acquainted with the workings of boats to grasp this – and I DO believe that is what President Obama and these Trump sycophants have in common: they are ignorant of the Black condition in America.

In a Periscope event, Pastor Jamal Bryant called out a number of clergymen and women who were anticipated to endorse Donald Trump for president at this meeting, and I have to admit I watched the video with a racing heart and my breath caught in my chest. Yes, I was afraid my pastor’s name would be called; and though it would not have surprised me, it would have sent me scurrying over the toilet in a sick fury. The pastors/deacons/ministers in my church are good people, and are very much focused on racial reconciliation. However, because they’ve preached racial reconciliation for so long, they have found themselves completely distanced from the Black experience…or at least distanced in a meaningful way. This is why one of our pastors referred to inner city youth and minimum wage workers struggling to get by as “the lowly” and not “our brothers and sisters”. It is also why another pastor found herself in knots as she blamed President Obama for a woman for found her death at the hands of an ex-com whom he had pardoned earlier this year. I tried to be as patient as I could as I explained what probably happened.

“The truth is, though that guy may have gone in for a non-violent crime, there was no way he wasn’t going to emerge from prison as a violent individual. Everything in our prisons is solved by violence, from the way you’re fed, to how hierarchies work, to how you resolve the most minute issues.”

Of course, she and other pastors (like the 50-100 individuals who locked themselves in the room with Trump) wouldn’t know this because they expense more time praying for the “lowly” – at a safe distance – than listening to their real struggles in face to face conversation.

I don’t know why any pastor would endorse Donald Trump. Mr. Trump needs prayers, no doubt, but he is a petulant, self-absorbed, egoistical, unrepentant man who endorses violence and racial disharmony. Donald Trump is his own god. Have you ever heard him give honor to Christ for anything in his life? No. No you have not…at least not publicly. What could reside in this man that resonates with you as a pastor? The only thing I can conclude is that it must be his money – because the fact is, Donald Trump could NOT draw the type of crowds he’s been doing while earning $35K a year. He couldn’t say and do the things he’s done and continue to prosper. His wealth is the frequency that this lot have tuned in to. We all know that where there is a coin, you can find a group of Black people to sell the rest of us down the river.

Nothing else makes sense.

However, make no mistake: not ONE of these pastors represents the broad based needs of the Black community. Half of them are philanderers, adulterers and puffed with pride and barely represent Christ. As for this one, they will nevah prospah!

 

 

People frequently want to know when I am going to write a book. I’ve written four. You can check out your new favorite titles (with more to come, Netflix and God willing) by clicking this link right here. Go on. It’s easy! See? *CLICK*

What Countries Would You Like the Jollof Book Tour to Visit?

Corn cobs

Yams

Super glue

No, these are not the ingredients for an abstract art project. These are just a few of the visual props used in Nnenna Marcia’s hilarious, disturbing and erotically bent book of short stories titled “West Africa Hot”. (If you haven’t picked it up yet because you’ve never heard of it, Google dey.)

And as some of you know, I dabble in romance (and occasionally, comedy)  as well so, Nnenna and I have decided it would be a capital idea to take this show on the road! But we need your help, Planeteers. Like Dora the Explorer, we’ll need a Map. Will you be our Map? It’s really simple. Just complete this poll and tell us WHERE in the world this duo should go on the Jollof Book Tour!

Now, you’re probably wondering “What in Heaven’s name is a Jollof Book Tour?” Well, given that Nnenna Marcia is Nigerian and I’m a hybrid Ghanaian and both of our countries are perpetually locked in a battle over whose jollof reigns supreme, we’ve decided to put our culinary differences aside for the purpose of solidarity. Jollof represents the best of  west Africa. The book tour features some of the best writers from west Africa. And if you boil jollof, they will come. You gerrit? Of course you do.

 

Now that you’ve voted, don’t keep this to yourself. Tell your friends, pets, and cohorts to cast their votes too!

Until the lion learns to write, the tale of the hunt will glorify the hunter.

Note: The article that spawned this rejoinder originally appeared in the Independent, a British online publication. I was content to give the content a pass and chalk it up to White People Whiting. After all, the piece was written right on schedule. Every quarter, we Africans are subjected to a written work that describes us in the least flattering of terms. This time, Victoria Stewart repeated (and printed!) claims that Ghanaians don’t know what rolling pins are.

Well, my e-friend Kuorkor said she was having none of it. She teamed up with a colleague and friend to craft this response; and per her request, I’m sharing it. Feel free to share it on your blog as well. Take back your news, dear brothers and sisters. Take back your news!

 

By Kofi Amoo-Gottfried

The stories we tell about ourselves are who we are. Storytelling shapes our past, present and future – and in this way, stories are an incredibly powerful medium. With great power comes great responsibility. A responsibility that’s not always respected when non-Africans tell stories about Africa.

This article is a case in point:

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There’s so much wrong with this article, it’s hard to know where to start. There are two intertwined notions at the heart of the author’s point of view – the first is that Ghanaians don’t appreciate Art, and the second is that Expats are driving an elevation in art culture, a renaissance in art appreciation, and showing Ghanaians “how its done”. Both notions are deeply flawed at best; and paternalistic, offensive and racist at worst.

Let’s take them in turn, shall we?

Ghanaians don’t appreciate art

I suppose it depends how you define “Art”, but in Ghana, where art is culture, this notion is plain wrong. Art is, and has always been, part of the fabric of Ghanaian life and culture. All you have to do is explore.

Explore the masterpieces created by the Kente weavers; bright and bursting with color – each pattern holding a deeper meaning.

Lose yourself in the beauty, depth, and complexity of Adinkra iconography and mythology – an art form that dates back to 1817 and which was designed to support “the transmission of a complex and nuanced body of practice and belief” in pre-literate times.
Art was, and is, literally language.
Art was, and is, literally culture.

Marvel at the intricacy, infinite styles, cuts, and colors in Ghanaian wax prints – and at the thriving fashion industry and globally renowned fashion designers (Tetteh Plahar, Kwadwo Bediako, Kofi Ansah, Christie Brown etc.) these prints and designs have inspired.

Listen to the original masters who created hi-life music – the art form which turned an obscure Ghanaian band named Osibisa into a global icon. Then listen to the new masters, who remixed that art form and gave us hip-life and Afrobeats – Reggie Rockstone, Obrafuor, Sarkodie, M.anifest and so many more.

Even in death, we have art. Marvelous fantasy coffins, designed to bring the deceased into the afterlife with pomp and circumstance – designed by artisans like Seth Kane Kwei, his grandson Eric Adjetey-Anang, and many others.

Our relationship with art goes beyond mere “appreciation”.
Art defines us.

Expats are driving an Art Renaissance

Oh, hello there, “white savior complex”… I was wondering where you’d gone.

Beyond the obvious problems with someone turning up in your country to tell you what “Art” is, and that you’ve been doing it wrong, let’s give credit where credit is due. Today’s vibrant indigenous art scene is simply the latest manifestation of a proud culture of creativity, and its being driven by people like:

Mantse Aryeequaye and Sionne Neely; who helped create and launch the Chale Wote Street Art Festival. Now in its fifth year, Chale Wote is an alternative platform that brings art, music, dance and performance out into the streets. Chale Wote is a smash hit, attracting over 20,000 attendees this year, and the festival has been extensively covered by local and international media. Google it.

Bibie Brew; who created New Morning Creative Arts Café as a space for artists to interact and collaborate. Over the years, the Café has become the defacto grooming space for young vocal and theatrical artists – ask any legitimate performance artist; and they’ll tell you they’ve participated in an event at the Café.

Attukwei Clottey; whose Afrogallonism art – using recycled oil jerry cans to create pieces and installations that comment on society – creates employment for people in his local community of La. His local performance collective Golokal are also making a name for themselves by working on a number of film projects in Accra.

Nana Kofi Acquah, an internationally published and sought-after photographer, who by beautifully chronicling Ghanaian life and blending it with powerful social commentary has demonstrated how photography can be a career choice, and has inspired a new generation of photographers.

Creo Art, a team of designers and animators, and The Black Narrator, a satirical cartoonist, have huge followings and use the power of social media, illustration and animation to comment on, celebrate, and critique the Ghanaian condition.

These are just a sampling of the new generation of Ghanaian artists continuing a proud tradition – I could go on and on, but why belabor the point? This generation creates in their own mold, on their own terms. Their art is not meant to be inscrutable, but rather a public engagement which involves their communities, and often the participation and support of their peers. This is art for our people – not about a foreign audience or foreign acceptance, but for local utility and local relevance.

Someone once said, “Until lions learn to write, the tale of the hunt will be always glorify the hunter”. Which is how what should have been a perfectly routine story about stylish new Western-style restaurants, spaces and events catering to tourists, expats, and upper-crust Ghanaians turned into a commentary on the state of art in Ghana and what expats are doing to save it.

And oh, by the way, that “grilled fermented corn wrapped up in corn leaves”? It’s actually boiled, and it’s called “kenkey”, not “keku”.

If you’re going to tell our story, tell it right.

Why Are So Many African Artists Such Willing Participants in Their Own Degradation?

mammyOn Feb. 29, 1940, Hattie McDaniel took a long, solitary walk from a segregated table in the back of the Coconut Grove Hotel to accept her Oscar award for the Best Supporting Actress category for her role as Mammy in ‘Gone With the Wind’. She was the first Black actor in history to receive the prestigious award. The fact that she was allowed in the hotel in a capacity other than as a Black woman in service was a triumph and a feat that required no small effort, as Coconut Grove, like every establishment that catered to white clientele around the country had a strict ‘No Blacks Allowed’ policy. Although these establishments had no qualms with Black performers coming in to entertain their white guests, they were required to enter in through back entrances of said establishments, never permitted to stay on the premises as guests, and certainly were not allowed to use any of the facilities like the bar or lounges. Nevertheless, these Black performers were at least given the courtesy of having their faces and voices seen/heard on TV or radio broadcasts as they executed their craft from time-to-time.

In time, one of the gains of the Civil Rights Movement would be the end of segregation, allowing these artists freer access to private establishments and all their comforts.

Ironically, 51 years after the end of segregation in America, African artists are being shown the backdoor to receive recognition for their creativity and craft by Black Entertainment Television (BET); and what’s worse, these same artists are glibly gliding through the proverbial kitchen and galley for the benefit of a pat on the head from the guardians of this media outlet. This is not hyperbole or exaggeration: Every year, ever since the inception of the Best International Act: Africa category, African artists receive their BET Awards off stage, off camera, many hours before the larger televised ceremony. At least white folks let Hattie on TV to give her acceptance speech. BET hides the African element from the viewing public like it’s a bad rash. Many have drawn parallels between the treatment that African artists receive from BET and the Black American community at large and that which Black people themselves once received from openly racist white American society.

If you are one of the many Americans who was not even aware that there was an African Artist category on the BET Awards, don’t fret. You are not at fault. It’s not well publicized in the least. The speculation for the secrecy is varied, but at the core, most people agree that it is because Black Americans – or at least those who consume the entertainment fare that BET offers – are ashamed of Africans.

I find this peculiar, especially since so much of what Black Americans enjoy and boast of culturally and musically has its roots in Africa. To that end, (Black) American entertainers have no misgivings about co-opting African styles and melody for their own career advancement… just reservations about showcasing it on television or radio.For example, the bassline for ODB’s ‘Ghetto Superstar’ mirror’s Brenda Fassie’s ‘Vulindlela’ note for bloody note. In addition to that, the entire genre that BET is built on – hip hop – owes a nod of gratitude to Africa as well. Simigwahene Gyedu Blay Ambolley has long asserted that he is the originator of rap and not the Sugarhill Gang who have been crowned with that honor.

“I am [the originator of rap] in the whole world not only Ghana. [But] if you go into the Guinness book of records they said that the Sugarhill Gang originated rap, and if you check the date, their date was around ‘78, ‘79.”

Ambolley first began performing and distributing rap commercially in 1973.

From fashion to music, Black Americans have long drawn inspiration from Africa. This is not to deny that there hasn’t been a trend in the reverse, especially recently, but the flow of cultural exchange has been trended heavily with Africa providing the influences. Lest we forget, the entire thrilling sequence to Beyonce’s “Who Run the World” video was choreographed by and originated with  lesser known Mozambican dance troupe, Tofo Tofo.

In light of this open secret, it can’t be denied that BET’s treatment of African artists is nothing short of appalling. Several artists have made their feelings known in the issue, including Fuse ODG and Whizkid, both of whom were nominated to receive awards, but who, to their credit, refused the second class treatment they were offered.

As usual, there will always be apologists for the poor treatment of Africans and as usual, they exist in blackface. One of such purveyors of this rubbish mentality is the disgraced, former “ace” broadcaster, KKD, who had this to say:

kkd nya

This is crap, because as anyone who follows pop cultural trends knows, the people don’t get to decide what they like: they have their appetites decided for them. From as far back as the Ed Sullivan show, entertainment moguls have long made it a point to individually bring ‘new and exciting’ acts to the viewing (and paying) public and thus direct their enthusiasms and tastes. That was how America was introduced to The Beatles, Ike & Tina and Nat King Cole. The public didn’t decide to make them stars: the industry did. If BET was really avant-garde and in the business of innovation, they would jump at the opportunity to introduce new acts to a hungry public in search of the next big thing. The BET Awards were established in 2001, and in that time, I have never heard of any other minority or ‘fringe’ group – be they from the Caribbean Dancehall cadre or cello-playing Esperanza Spalding – having to receive their recognition off camera just after breakfast or play to an empty auditorium because the ‘American public isn’t used to it’. You mean the kid in the hood can dig an American chick playing strings on a wooden box, but not an African guy rapping flawless in English? Which is supposedly more familiar to him?

What a stupid excuse. The American public wasn’t used to the Moonwalk either, but when MJ debuted it on Motown 25, it was one of the greatest moments in television history. How many possible great TV moments have been passed up while Stonebwoy, Sarkodie and Tiwa Savage have been grinnin’ n’ gigglin’ like grateful (segregated) African urchins backstage year after year?

That’s the point: these artists are not just some of Africa’s finest, but the finest musicians, lyricists and performers in the world today. They do not deserve this type of treatment, and they certainly shouldn’t be facilitating in their own dishonor. So that what? So that people who don’t see them as equals may (hopefully) come to recognize them as such? That they will in time get a “well done, thy good and faithful R&B songstress” from the likes of Diddy? This was the same mistake that African/Black Americans made with they traded the scraps of white mainstream integration for glory of economic independence and self-determination.

Do you remember Tiwa's performance at the BET Awards? No? That's because it was PRE-concert!

Do you remember Tiwa’s performance at the BET Awards? No? That’s because it was PRE-concert!

I hope that next year no African artist will voluntarily debase themselves by paying for their own airfare and lodging to go and pick up an award from a ratchet organization that is as invested in collective Black advancement as presidential candidate Donald Trump is today. BET is owned by Viacom, not your brother. Trust me when I say Viacom don’t give a rats a** about putting your Ghanaian one “on the map”.

 

We better recognize.

Do you think it’s a good idea for African artists to participate in awards shows that treat them like second class citizens? Are the possible long term benefits worth this disgrace? Why/why not? Discuss! ↓

How Is There Discrimination in The Natural Hair Community?!?

I’m not here with questions today, M.O.M. Squad. Questions that I hope you will help me find the answers to.

When it comes to trends in pop culture and social events, I am usually the last person to find out. Mommy and parenting business though? Pshaw! I’m all over that. If there is a cartoon or a sippy cup involved, I know where it’s at, where it’s gonna be and how it’s going down. Grown folks business? Not so much. That can be the only explanation for the total mortification I experienced when I discovered that there is an anti-4C bias in the natural hair community. I have been out of the loop for waaaay too long.

If this post sounds like total nonsense to anyone outside of the Black-o-sphere and Natural Hair Movement, don’t worry. Your hearing is not flawed. It IS nonsense. Nevertheless, I think we must discuss this because I just don’t understand how/where/why it was allowed to happen!

A few weeks ago, a new acquaintance invited me to a hair show in Atlanta. I assumed she was referring to Taliah Waajid’s World Natural Health & Beauty Show, which I attend faithfully annually.

“No, this is a new show by 4C Hair Chicks. It’s the weekend before Taliah’s,” my acquaintance said. “I’m one of the volunteers. Are you on Instagram? It’s called Kinky Hair Unlocked. Here’s their page.”

I clicked on this link  and was pleasantly surprised. It’s always nice to have options when it comes to hair care and events. I thanked her and went home to study the event in more detail.

The Kinky Hair Unlocked (KHU) event differs from Taliah Waajid’s (TW) in two very distinct ways. First, KHU is purely focused on hair education, set in a series of seminars for one evening. TW is completely consumer driven and is more like a market with lots of different vendors. While KHU says there will be some products for sale, selling hair potions and accessories is not their primary aim. Their primary aim is to educate women who have rejected the use of chemical relaxers in their hair. Second is the price point. The entry fee to Taliah Waajid’s even is $10. The price of general admission to Kinky Hair Unlocked will leave your pockets $45 lighter.

Each show has its merits and serves consumers with particular needs; but I have to confess I was troubled by the impetus for the KHU show, whose mission reads (in part) as follows:

Kinky Hair Unlocked is the solution for women with kinkier textures who have felt left out of the natural hair community when it comes to product development, imagery and education on how to care for their unique textures. It is a one-of-a-kind hair care symposium geared toward educating women on how to achieve maximum length and healthy hair from their scalp to their ends.

Hiehn? Warrenthis? Why would women who have kinkier textures feel “left out of the community”? I mean, isn’t the entire community made up of people with “kinky” hair anyway? The mission statement opened my eyes to certain trends I had ignored – or had been blind to, honestly – for a long time. Suddenly, I was seeing rejection of 4C hair everywhere.

Ms Jessies

Here is a visually aid of human hair types to help as we discuss this type of discrimination and the struggle.

hair chart

People of European/Asian ancestry typically have hair types 1 & 2. Middle Eastern hair is typically between a 2 & 3. Folks of African descent usually fall somewhere between a 3 & 4. Then of course there are mixed race people who can experience all 4 hair types all at once. Now that we are all on one accord, let’s continue!

Someone posted this video on my friend’s wall without comment. I snickered when I watched it and kept my cynical feelings bottled up. Of course the dude didn’t have a problem with her hair. It’s gorgeous anyway! It turns out I was not alone in cynicism.

Mam
Of course, she was right. If Gugu (the actress in this film), had woken up with a flat-on-one-side afro and an endless patch of impenetrable naps, there would be nothing to consider “sexy” about her natural hair. In truth, it’s been widely accepted – or perceived – that 4C hair is not sexy unless it has been oiled, coiled and tamed to look like 2A hair. This is just wrong! How did this happen?

I went to Twitter to investigate. Black Twirra is like a well. It’s where people come to vomit all their painful truths and where the world can draw knowledge from. Here’s a sampling of what I found.

4c34c2

4c1

Again, how did this happen? Could it be that even in our “natural hair pride”, too many of us still harbor European standards for beauty? Like, you can be Black, but not THAT Black. Like no, really. Your frizzy hair is holding the race back. Can’t you do something about that? That doesn’t look “natural” enough. You know what? Maybe you’re one of the ones who should be getting a perm… or some locks. Put that 4C away in some locks and then it will look respectable. Because apparently, this is the WORST thing that could happen to a sistah:

4c descrimination

 

Seriously, how did we allow discrimination against a certain type of natural hair become an actual “thing”? Jesus be a hot oil treatment and fix this!