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.

I Racially Profiled a White Man…And He Didn’t Seem to Like It

We all don’t use social media the same way. We can agree on that, right? Some people create accounts which are simply used to follow/stalk certain users. Some people are actually interested in contributing to the discourse on a particular subject. Some people never comment on anything; ever. Others still don the cape of the QWERTY Crusader and believe it is imperative that they comment on every tweet, like or status on the Interwebs.

A decade ago, I myself was a QWERTY Crusader, on my way to becoming a keyboard thug. A few encounters with some people who had no conscience, no line, broke me of that. These days, when it comes to other people’s conversations, I keep my comments light and happy unless specifically asked. This has become the norm on social media these days. Nobody really just butts in on someone else’s conversation…unless they are a troll. That is why I was so surprised to find this guy in my mentions today.

I’ve already told you all I’m not doing Ferguson. I did Trayvon Martin and that took too much out of me. And it hurt. I cannot spare the emotional currency that is going to be required of every person in this nation who sees Mike Brown’s killing for what it is – murder – when the end comes and the officer in question is exonerated and escapes all of this unscathed and nothing changes for another 100 years. So no, I’m not doing Ferguson. I’m burying my head in the sand on this one.

And yet…and YET!…Ferguson seems to find me. No matter how deep I plant my head in the mud, Ferguson always finds a way to locate me!

As the list of Black White Supremacists grows ever longer with that über bootlicking porch monkey Larry Elder leading the charge, I was horrified to find Juan Williams in their company. As a rule, I respect Mr. Williams. I think he’s a great journalist and very center when it comes to his opinion. Except, that is, when it comes to Black American affairs. Larry Elder may be a porch monkey for the establishment, but Juan Williams is right behind him, grinning, slapping his knees and “ham boning” in time as my kids call it.

He made some remarks today about Black people acting like thugs and not being disparaged against if they didn’t act like thugs, etc. This from a man whose son Raffi was described by a former fellow student while at Haverford as a “disrespectful, loitering, drunk, rude ass”. Fortunately, since Daddy sat on the board of this college, young Raffi went on to boast with glee that he could “slack off, because he would get in no matter what.”

But, you know, Raffi is an RNC staffer, so that’s not “thuggish” behavior. That’s just a college kid enjoying his daddy’s influences and his personal privilege. Funny how the same behavior on Crenshaw can get you shot. Funny…

Anyway, I expressed my displeasure with Mr. Williams’ opinion by calling him a Black White Supremacist, as he is indeed pushing the agenda of the KKK and all the baby terror groups and policy that are offshoots of the Klan’s ideology. A few hours later, this dude shows up in my mentions.

race guy

Just read it. It’s funny. Go on!

Now, anyone who knows me – and truly knows me – is aware that I am a habitual line stepper. Was it wrong for me to say the man looked like he raped babies in his spare time? Perhaps. But that’s why you don’t talk to strangers. I am a STRANGER to J Michael Coleman. I’m liable to say anything. So is anyone else on Twitter, which is why I only follow a handful of people. But this isn’t about social media etiquette; this is about Mr. Coleman’s intense reaction to being racially profiled. From what I can tell, he didn’t like it one iota. Nope, not one bit.

You all know I work at a shoe store. Guess what group causes the most shrink – the most loss due to theft – in our store? Hmmm? No, you’re wrong. It’s White women over the age of 40. They will steal anything: the umbrellas from a London Fog twin set, change purses, those god-awful Grasshopper shoes, Kenneth Cole sling backs and anything Tahari. So while my manager is mobilizing her team to chase after a gaggle of “thugs” in the athletic department, Mildred and her pet dog will be walking out of the store with a pair of Ralph Lauren boots this autumn.

Mais, quelle horreur, let’s all gasp at the idea that I or anyone else on the team should shadow an old White lady around the store like she was going to steal something. The crazy thing is, she IS. She’s going to steal something…tonight!

“The boogie man wears khakis.” That’s what Akuba Sheen and I used to say. It’s not the guy in the hoodie and baggy pants you need to be afraid of: it’s the dude in the boat shoes (with no socks) and Dockers you need to fear. These are the men who steal millions of dollars from corporations, destroy families, and shoot up movie theaters. But no, let’s everyone panic when a corn-fed Black kid is walking through a new neighborhood with an iced-tea in his sweatshirt pocket.

I wondered if J Michael Coleman knew what that felt like. You know: to be looked at with suspicion before you had a chance to say three words? Because bath time with kids was done and my blood sugar was relatively stable, I had both the time and the energy to give him a glimpse into my Black world of perpetual assumption and bias .

race guy2

Gosh, he seemed not to like being judged so severely by appearances, or to have someone assume the worst of you because of one attribute or another. Now why would that be?

Hunting for Happy Twitter

Good Lord. I’m suddenly struck by the First World Problem-i-ness of this title. They are shelling babies in Gaza. Some people are hunting for food and shelter, but I’m hunting for “happy Twitter”? Like that’s a real thing?? Moving right along…

Fans of Dave Chappelle might remember a skit he did back in ’09 about what the internet might look like if it was a real place. For those of you who don’t remember or (gasp!) have never known, click here: http://FunnyOrDie.com/m/2p5u

All manner of bizarre things happen in Chappelle’s virtual search engine world – from questionable encounters with goats and negroid fawns that spontaneously break out in song. At that time, Twitter was pretty much in its infancy, and Facebook was approaching the height of its popularity. It was hard to imagine that the internet could be a real, actual place that one could visit. But like the emergence of Super Gonorrhea and no bake cheesecake, if you give time enough time, your worst/best dreams can come true.

As we hit the apex of 2014, we now have a new macrocosm known as the Twitterverse. The Twitterverse exists within a celestial body known as the Innanets (or the Interwebz, to some), and has numerous distinct fields of thought and realities. No, I’m being dead serious.

I have visited or heard of these different social media colonies. I’m an active member of African Twitter. I seldom visit Black Twitter, but will only of drawn in. A friend of mine resides on Russian Twitter. A good number of my friends live on White Reddit. Old people and religious groups dwell within the barren land of Facebook. And of course, there is Chinese Twitter…which is actually made in China and known as Weibo. (Those dern Chineses can’t stand to be like the rest of us. Gotto go and have their own ‘made in China’ Twitter n’ such.)

A friend of mine attended a conference a few months back about communications in the 21st century or something like that. Part of the meeting was to discuss what a feminist internet might look like. Not just a community within the Twitterverse ooo…they mean a whole new Feminist Innanets! I wondered what that might look like as well, and decided that it’s not a place I’d like to remain permanently. The feminists that I encounter on Black Twitter aren’t particularly nice or happy people. But then neither are the Africans on African Twitter and so forth.

Imagine if Happy Twitter looked like this...

Imagine if Happy Twitter looked like this…

Is there a Happy Twitter? If so, I want to find it.

When I first opened my Twitter account, I was completely baffled by how it worked. I took some advice from Kobby Graham who said (and I’m paraphrasing) “Your time line is like a garden: you have to cultivate it”.) I took that to mean that you can’t just let anyone and anything into your precious space. You have to be selective. So that’s the rule I’ve followed… And I have tried very hard over the last few years to be attentive to who/what I allow my eyes to see on my TL. Despite my best efforts, my TL isn’t the most inspiring place. It’s usually full of rage/outrage/disappointment and recently booty cheeks. I follow this one guy who is ALWAYS posting nude pics of girls. Ugh.

If you spend as much time on social media as I do, you run into all sorts of people. I think we all like to think we’re “good”, but those 84 keys on our laptop/PC brings out a brand of boldness in us, and that brand isn’t always particularly HAPPY, you know?

I have a ritual every morning: I wake up, check the time on my phone, enter in my passcode, check my email (which is a deathscape of spam), check my Facebook (which is a deathscape for ads promoted by Facebook) and then finally I check my Twitter account for some real, authentic human interaction. It’s always so…depressing! Kola Boof has dedicated the last 8 hours to talking about how women in Arab nations have to sip a man’s pee to demonstrate their subservience, YNaija often has stories about raped toddlers or rappers who are breaking women’s hearts, and everybody else is RT’ing the very most shocking news of the day. And then I jump in and contribute my portion to this mess. Once in a while there is a skirmish with some random stranger who has taken offence to a stand or statement I’ve made or retweeted and then my mentions become a battlefield. Was I alone? I asked an e-buddy of mine.

sad twitter

Ah-ah! Things can’t go on this way. If I am to exist in this Twitterverse within this here Innanets, there has to be a happy place I can retreat to…like the Bora Bora of the Twitterverse, if you will. That’s why I created an @LaikaHappy account last night and asked for suggestions on who to follow. The criteria was simple: I wanted all my currently followers to send me the handle of any particular person or group who was perpetually positive and happy with their tweets so I could follow them back. So far, the response has been abysmal. I only got 5 recommendations. Could it be that most people on Twitter are just unhappy? Again, my e-friend confirmed my suspicions.

happy tweets

So here’s my question to you:

Are the people you interact with on social media primarily negative? Are you comfortable with that? Is happiness in the e-universe an important pursuit, particularly in the face of Ebola, rigged elections and all the other ills that are plaguing our planet and taking up so much of our attention? Are we as a race more devoted to outrage than to the pursuit of joy? Discuss! ↓

 

Oh, and if you are a happy tweeter, holler at me so I can follow you! :)

happy laika

 

#YouOKSis, Black Men, and Their Fragile Egos

*Note: I know this will open me up to a great deal of scorn from SOME Black men, but the majority of those are not my regular Random Readers or in the MOM Squad, so…. Yeah. Kick rocks.*

Hashtag activism is like the ocean tide: raging one moment, a ripple the next. Sometimes our “hashtag issues” are so far from shore that you wonder if they have any significance of them at all – and then BOOM! – dawn breaks and you are enveloped and swallowed by the concerns that once seemed so distant to you.

I am not one of those people who believe that a hashtag is really going to change anything. I do however believe that hashtag activism is a precursor to change. I believed strongly in the #BringBackOurGirls campaign because:

1)      It was a mandate for the Nigerian government to GO and BRING back our girls, rather than an onus on Boko Haram graciously returning them, and more importantly

2)      Because it put pressure on the Nigerian government to do something more than spin lies and propaganda to keep their citizens quiet. (Remember how they told us 3 days after the attack that all the girls had been rescued? Swine.) Now suddenly, the world was watching and making them accountable for their action and inaction.

A little over a week ago, #YouOKSis started making the rounds on my twitter time line. I didn’t know what it was, and honestly didn’t care to investigate until a Black male e-friend of mine DM’d me asking to explain. I was at a loss. A quick search informed me that it was about street harassment that women, in general, and Black women – in particular – face. We both concluded that if Black men stop the catcalls, and Black women learn not to be offended by every sort of Black male attention, we might begin to take some mutual steps in learning to respect each other.

And then I found this article by Rebecca Carroll which told me why I was both right and wrong in my assessment on how casual interaction among the sexes might work, particularly in the Black community.

I tweeted it with the accompanying #YouOKSis hashtag.

A few hours later, I got this in my mentions.

Nigger wench

I was shocked. Me? The paragon of Black female ‘respectability’? (Don’t laugh.) That was like calling the Queen a stable boy! Of course, I blocked this fool without response. There is no dialoguing with a person of limited mental faculties. I’ve held more intelligent conversations with a cactus.

His tweet reminded me of those afternoons I spent walking home from school, dreading the portion where I had to stroll by a group of men/boys that routinely sat on a certain wall cat-calling and harassing my friends and I. After a stressful day of classes, this only compounded my distress.

In calling me a “bed wench”, he managed to do the miraculous:

  • He proved that he cannot/did not read the article.
  • Dismisses the very real tension that all women feel when they are harassed, sexually and otherwise.
  • He proved that rape culture is very alive and well.
  • Lost the opportunity to engage with a very witty woman. (And yes, I mean me!)

The term “bed wench” as it applies to Black women is about as low as you can take a woman. Bitch, whore, c*nt…none of these can hold a candle to the shame and torture implicit in that word. As the MOM Squad knows, I love to read/watch/hear about anything that has to do with slavery and the colonial era. It informs me on how I live my life today and how I instruct my children.

I once read a slave narrative about a runaway woman, who had her breasts torn from her flesh by the hounds after they had prevailed upon her. Among other things, she was being forced to breed with one of the male slaves on the plantation. When she refused, she was whipped and made to breed with (read raped by) this particular buck all the same.

Don’t forget: Black men were called “bucks” in those days. Women were wenches.

Rape was not just something that White men meted out on our women. Black men were also forced to rape us as well. My best friend did a search on her family’s lineage, and discovered that two of her male ancestors were used as breeding stock and fathered 100 children between the two of them.

100 kids.

Sold, and probably re-sold, and never knowing their Daddy because he was used as an instrument of rape.

And this guy has the nerve to go ahead and harass and call me a bed wench because I have the gall to point out the very thing he and his ilk are – ironically – guilty of? I have no time to nurse your delicate ego!

I really wanted to use this example for a post I was planning to do on America’s pervasive rape culture, but I guess it applies now.

I didn’t touch #YouOKSis initially because I didn’t think I needed to. I didn’t think it applied to me. I live in white bread Roswell. I am familiar with the majority of the Black folks I regularly interact with. Most of us moved up here because we want no parts of the very ugliness that #YouOKSis has brought out in Black men and women alike. We have not dealt with the issues of our ancient and recent past, and it’s showing. However, as I just said two seconds ago, NO ONE has time to nurse a Black man’s ego because he got shut down after asking “when he can hit dat” or hollering “ ‘ey, shawty, ‘ey ‘ey ‘ey!” while he begs for change to get on the MARTA.

In that regard, I suppose I should thank Mr. Bed Wench Intimidator (as he calls himself), because he has shown that this is not an issue I can insulate myself of my children from. We are not immune. His actions prove that there is still so much work needed to be done in raising a better caliber of Black male. One who is intelligent and informed about his culture’s past. One who does not stoop to insulting and harassing women whom he has no kinship to or relationship with…and even if he did, would have enough self-respect not to do so anyway. I really thought we had come a little farther than that; like certain things were a given – i.e. don’t chew gum during a job interview, and don’t call Black women bed wenches (unless she’s willfully and gainfully employed as one).

Feminista Jones, the originator of hashtag, was kind enough to check in on me.

femjones Yes. I am fine. A little stunned, but just fine.

 

 

 

Are you Going to #OccupyFlagStaffHouse?

“Chile, I don’t want you mixed up in all dat revolution, y’hear? They gon’ KILL your scrawny ass!”

This phrase was repeated in various forms in Negro homes all across America in the 50s and 60s. Parents who had lived through Jim Crow and whose own parents and grandparents had come out of slavery and Reconstruction knew what a cagey government and ruling class bent on the destruction of a people was capable of. Asking for change was dangerous. They could (and often would) actually kill you – the fed up, ordinary citizen – to maintain the status quo. The fear of these parents whose children were seeking radical change and ‘revolution’ was real and absolutely warranted. They had often witnessed the fiery destruction that comes with change, and thus became apathetic.

That’s why I know for a fact that if I was in Ghana on July 1st, my father would absolutely forbid me from attending #OccupyFlagStaffHouse. It’s too risky, and that is why he would never permit his grown daughter to attend this event. And you know what? Despite the fact that I am a 36 year old woman with four kids of my own, I would have to acquiesce to his wishes or risk the shame of being branded a ‘disobedient daughter’ in the course of attempting to usher in change through civil disobedience. There are thousands of women and men who will have to make that same choice on July 1st.

For the benefit of full disclosure, allow me to state now that I do not live in any part of Ghana. I live abroad with my family and visit Ghana annually. Regular visitors to this blog know this, but for those who are coming here because of this hashtag, I do not want to give the impression that I am championing this cause from the comfort of my climate controlled home sipping imported coffee because I have the luxury to. I will neither condemn anyone who wants to attend this rally nor those who see no use in it. I understand each position equally. People are afraid, and they have every right to be.

For those of us old enough to witness or remember the stories “Rawlings Chain”, firing squad, people disappearing in the night or having your home razed because you had one too many toilets, #OccupyFlagStaffHouse is akin to courting trouble. Why do all that? Why not wait until 2016 and vote these NDC bums out!

The problem is Ghana’s decay is not an NDC or NPP problem. This is a Ghanaian problem. These “leaders” come from among us. My uncle went to school with JJ Rawlings. One of your uncles or aunties went to school with Kuffour and Co. Some of you went to school with Victoria Hammah. These individuals did not sudden garner a new set of mores when they got into political office and acquire power. For example, if a politician does not build a house for his mother within his first 2 years in office, he is insulted mercilessly. The entire family expects “to chop” some of the benefits that come with his position. The rest of us have to wait your turn to put a son in power! The politician then therefore becomes “hope” in himself, rather than working to create hope for the nation. No wonder these guys think they are demigods.

We have a culture of service and respect, but we keep it relegated to the realm of the traditional. You would never go to Nana’s house and drop your waste in his courtyard. But what do you find outside of the chief’s palace in our streets? You find people dropping Fan Ice and Pure Water wrappers in the road, plastic waste everywhere, and hawkers selling dog chains on barren patches of land with a sign commanding “Do Not Walk on the Grass”.

wasteIt’s all very cyclical. Ghanaians do not have the structures in place to allow them to be a better brand of citizen and so they in turn exhibit behaviors of poor citizenship. Our streets would not be so filthy if we had proper, reliable waste management, and the ONLY body sanctioned to provide that right now is the federal government. Give Ghanaians waste baskets and recycling containers on the streets, educate the masses on the hazards of improper waste, dispose of it properly and we will change our habits! But for Heaven’s sake, please stop this practice of moving our metropolitan garbage into the countryside and polluting their landscapes and water bodies. It’s demonic.

This is but one of the many, many issues that Ghanaians are protesting against on July 1st. People are asking for:

  • A commitment to better governance and transparency
  • An end to wanton, indiscriminate corruption
  • A tangible plan to power and provide the whole of Ghana with basic, necessary utilities like electricity and water
  • Access to better education for ALL Ghana’s children
  • An overhaul of the tax code and revenue accumulation practices
  • Ensure a proper functioning health insurance scheme
  • Scrap all policies which inhibit establishment and growth of business
  • A commitment to stop dicking with our progress as a  people

(Okay, okay! I confess. I added that last line item. It is not on the official list.)

 

What is so “revolutionary” about these requests in 2014?

That is why #OccupyFlagStaffHouse is not a “revolution”, although the idea itself is. It’s a peaceful protest asking and providing ordinary citizens a platform to exercise their right to protest the needlessly harsh conditions under which they find themselves. In a country as where the populace is as apathetic and conditioned to accept scraps as ours is, movements like One Simple Step and Occupy Flag Staff are paramount civil disobedience indeed!

Now, they naysayers who say there is no need or benefit in protesting want a “wait and see” approach. They say Ghanaians are lazy and that that they need to “innovate”, rather than demonstrate. But really, who is more innovative than the kindergarten boy who has to make his own toys out of milk tins and flip flops because his dad cannot find a job in Ghana’s abysmal economy? And every day, whether they are seamstresses or event planners, men and women have to get up and go to work doing the same thing: building their enterprises out of milk tins and chale wote. We cannot “innovate” our way to progress when there is only one functioning imaging machine at the harbor and your imported food items for your cold store go rotting in the container for an eternity while the officials scan other boxes that have been sitting there for months. A Ghanaian entrepreneur cannot “innovate” his way to success when he suddenly lands a long awaited deal and upon discovering he needs to renew his passport in order to travel and close said deal, is told that he will have to wait 3-6 months to get it because the passport making machine is broken!

Ah ah!

I get it. I understand people are afraid. They don’t want these Occupiers rocking the boat. Some say Ghanaians are not ‘fearful’ but rather apathetic to their plight. An apathetic population is the biggest gift you could give to a corrupt, inept government, because they no longer have to use bully tactics like firing squad and search and seizure to keep you in check: you’ll keep yourself in check. It’s easier to just shrug, suffer, sleep and repeat.

I think Edward Tagoe summed up the necessity of #OccupyFlagStaffHouse quite nicely:

edward

It’s a fascinating idea, isn’t it? That the Black African who all have said can only be ruled by force and the gun can use his/her wits and civility to change their circumstances? Isn’t that how we got our independence in the first place? And for all those asking “Ehhh…you’ve gone to sit in the sun on the grass and then now what?”

Well, that really depends on the Mahama Administration, doesn’t it?

 

 

 

 

 

RMart: Ghana’s Largest Online Shopping Mall

In May of 2000, I moved to Atlanta with 2 suitcases, a bag of toiletries, a newly minted degree and delusions of grandeur. Coming from Tidewater Virginia, everything in Atlanta was fresh and fast. People jogged. Everyone drove a luxury car. You could quit your job at noon and by 4pm land a new one! I had everything I would ever want or need in Atlanta…except for a car. I rode MARTA faithfully (and grudgingly) for three years.

It was also in the year 2000 that the Dot Com Era had taken off in earnest. Because of Atlanta’s constricted (and inconvenient) public transportation system, the online world served a life-line to the rest of humanity outside of the confines of my shared Buckhead apartment. Thanks to our trusty dial-up connection, suddenly I could shop online, find jobs, visit virtual chat rooms and download music…as long as nobody was on the phone. It was in 2000 that I discovered Overstock.com, which quickly became my go-to online market for virtually anything I needed. If I needed a new rain coat in the midst of a torrential downpour outside, I’d sit at my desk and order it. If I needed a new set of pots because my roommate had burned rice in it for the nth time, I clicked away. I even ordered my first set of dining room chairs online, all conveniently shipped to my front door. (No way I was hauling chairs and boxes of pans on the backseat of the bus!)

It think back to my 20-something year old self and I’ll be honest: It never occurred to me fourteen years ago that there would ever be an e-commerce site in Ghana. I never thought it would work. Our cities –apart from Tema – are not built on any sort of grid, mail came (and still does come) to PO Boxes  rather than to your home, and in 2000 most of us were still using pay-per-minute phone cards to contact folks back home! I figured it would “be nice” to have online shopping in Ghana, but that’s all it would ever remain – a wistful fantasy.

Guess what? Fast forward a decade or more and someone figured out how to make e-commerce work in Ghana.

ghanas-biggest-online-mall-21774828Like many of today’s most robust startups Roger Adjadi was a student at the University of Ghana at Legon when he conjured the idea for RMart. He began by setting up an e-commerce site online that served other university students in the country from Legon to KNUST. Working with EMS – a subsidiary of the Ghana Postal Service (GPS) – Roger developed a model for delivery of goods and services built around convenience. He overcame the challenges of sub-par urban planning by employing a system already in place (the GPS) and combining it with cellular technology. If the delivery driver encounters any issues locating his drop point, he/she merely needs to call the customer to verify the location. When he graduated from Legon, he expanded his idea from targeting the student market and taking it to a wider customer base.

The linchpin of Roger’s business model is and has always security, which is how RMart distinguishes itself from Ghana’s other mega-online merchandizer, Tonaton.com. Whereas Tonaton (which literally translates as “buy and sell”) is an online classified platform that models itself more along the lines of an Ebay or Craigslist, where individuals can buy and sell used products or excess merchandise, R-Mart exclusively serves as a platform to purchase from vendors who have been verified by Ghana’s Registrar-General. This means that the consumer has the confidence that the product they are buying online is precisely as they see it online and has a greater chance of redress should the item not turn out as expected or promise. Tonaton offers no such guarantees, since the consumer is purchasing not just from reputable companies, but from individuals as well.  And RMart’s website is verified as completely secure which means a lot to anyone who has more than ₵200 in their personal account. With e-fraud and 419 running rampant across the globe, shoppers can trust their purchases as well as their finances are guarded from infiltration from nefarious forces of evil.

If it sounds like I’m doing a commercial for RMart, I absolutely am. As a Ghanaian living in the Diaspora, RMart will soon prove to be an invaluable tool, just as Overstock.com was to me when I was a car-less Johnny Just Come to Atlanta. There are a thousand ways in which this service is beneficial to adopters both in Ghana and abroad. I’m thinking of Father’s Day, for instance. I haven’t been able to purchase a proper gift for my dad in years (the challenge being the expense of mailing an item from a different continent and his unwillingness to drive into Accra to check his mail), but through RMart’s delivery service and secure website, I can purchase and pay for a gift for him from the comfort of my living room and it will be delivered on time to him in the comfort of his.

I am definitely looking into using RMart as my vendor of choice to sell my books, as I believe it will solve the challenge for many an indie author’s distribution woes. Ghana’s publishing industry is lagging, and it’s like pulling teeth to get one’s books on shelves as prime shelf space is reserved for “better known” (read Western) authors. RMart will provide a level convenience and professionalism that Amazon affords my US and UK readers.

*Throws confetti*

You can visit R-Mart at www.rmart.com.gh to learn more about the company and to view their product offering. They offer competitive pricing, great customer service and their site is easy to navigate.

Are you big into online shopping? Do you have options like this in your country of origin? How reliable are they? Let’s discuss when you’ve had a chance to look at it!

 

Why Is it so Hard to Bring Back the Chibok 200?

It’s been 16 days weeks since they were taken at gunpoint. Sixteen WHOLE DAYS. I’ve waited this long to make any remarks about the abduction of the 200+ girls in Chibok, Nigeria, snatched from their dorms as they prepared to take their final exams because I was truly hoping for a different result. With the exception of the military’s blatant lie concerning the rescue of all the students (who in their right mind would do that?), everything has turned out as I privately predicted.

The world has been largely silent.

The Nigerian government has proven itself hapless and hopeless in the face of insurgency.

The girls have been sold off into forced marriages and slavery.

I understand what we’re dealing with here; I really do. We have known for centuries that the Black woman – African women in particular – sit on the bottom of society’s totem pole. Throw a hijab on her and she may as well not exist. What is an African Muslim woman? The stereotypes are set like concrete: She’s uneducated, fit for childbirth and a life of drudgery, the property of her father and eventually her husband. This obviously explains the Nigerian government’s lackadaisical response to this crisis – and make no mistake, it is a crisis now and setting the foundation for several others to come in the near future. Bet on another 12 – 14 years.

I don’t think Africa’s governments as a whole have any clue what we are dealing with. If they did, they would be clamoring to offer military assistance, aid, intelligence and any other support they can muster to bring these girls back, because mark my words – this is just the tip of the iceberg.

young girl is a victim of abductionWhy would a group of men kidnap girls between the ages of 16-18? They are vulnerable, impressionable, and more importantly they are of childbearing age. This crop of insurgents didn’t pack all these girls into a caravan to ferry them to a magical land of joy and plenty. These girls will be raped (if they haven’t been already), the most defiant of them will be made an example of in front of the others, and the children they bear will be used to feed the next wave of Islamic Militant Insurgency and then West Africa is going to have a real pile of crap on its hands.

Unless ECOWAS does something to act NOW.

There should have BEEN aerial surveillance going on in the region from day one. The military should have BEEN mounted up and chased them into the forest to recapture the girls. And there should have BEEN immediate calls for neighboring countries to lend their assistance. But again, we are dealing with impoverished Muslim girls, so authorities thought it would be cute to proclaim that they had ‘rescued’ 40 girls (they escaped), fudge the numbers of the number kidnapped, and hope that we would all go back to watching Berenice on YouTube or Big Brother Africa.

Humph.

These people are not serious.

As anyone who has dealt with children and criminals will tell you, there is one allowance you can never afford these two groups of people: they must never be made to feel as if they can get away with anything.

We’ve seen it in Ghana. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s there was a spate of robberies and murders, particularly surrounding the stealing of cell phones. Since technology is ever developing and evolving, would-be thieves backed off cell phone theft as models would be considered obsolete within the year. But what they learned from that experience is that Ghana’s police structures are weak and its task forces are ill-equipped and under motivated. It emboldened hardened criminals; and now we find ourselves in a juncture in history never seen before. Government officials are being attacked robbed and/or murdered in their own homes. 30 years ago this was unthinkable!

The fact that Goodluck Jonathan and his crew have done so little to curb insurgency in the North has not gone unnoticed.

“Ahhhh…so long as they keep their foolishness in the North, we are okay, eh?”

And then they bombed the very cosmopolitan city of Abuja and killed 88 people. This act of terrorism is but a taste of what Boko Haram is willing to do and WILL continue to do if African forces do not band together and quell this. They are a disease, and like any other sickness it will affect everything that it touches. Ghana, Togo, Ivory Coast and Cameroon should never imagine themselves fully sheltered from such a movement. There is a storm brewing. The time for meetings and strategies has long come and gone. It is high time for drastic measures.

All hands must be on board to rescue these girls. One group in particular must be engaged, and that is the Islamic religious leadership. They MUST speak up against this insurgency and others like it. The international media MUST give these voices a stage. These acts of wickedness and barbarism must be condemned by those that profess to share the same “faith”. When insurgents yell “Allah Akbar!”, they must do it with the shameful knowledge that imams all over the world condemn their acts. Western education may be forbidden, but there is no god but the devil that would ever tolerate these rape, murder, terrorization and evil.

I urge every reader to do their part to pressure governments all over the world – in your corner – to quell this unholy revolt and #BringOurGirlsBack . You think they will stop at just 200? Think again.

When Will Simply “Being African” Be Enough?

Living in the digital age is exciting, isn’t it? I imagine our predecessors in the Stone Age felt the same sense of euphoria after they discovered the many uses of fire that we now feel whenever some new technology emerges that makes our lives easier, better and more fun.

“Oooh! Hey guys! Look what I made!! Let’s call it fire…”

“Ooooh! Hey guys! Look what I made! Let’s call it Skype…”

See?

Living in the Digital Age means we can gather and disseminate news and information at speeds never seen before, and for once, Africans have not been left out on the wrong side of the divide. We have embraced social media like a pair of too-small khaki school shorts on a secondary school boy’s buttocks, and as such, our diverse cultures and talents are being seen and recognized in unprecedented ways. Just a few weeks ago, “tweaa” was trending worldwide on Twitter, and British news anchors were fixing and twisting their lips to get the “tsch” sound at the beginning of the word just right. It was a moment of personal pride for me.

But what does “tweaa” mean? They would ask. What can we compare it to?

Well of course, there is not definitive answer. Tweaa, like ugali, exists all on its own. It’s unique. Ghanaians grappled to find something in Western linguistics that would help our European friends understand it better.

“It’s like ‘rubbish’ or ‘nonsense’.”

“Kind of like ‘pshaw’.”

Ah. What were these lies these men were telling the international media? It’s none of these things! It’s TWEAA!!! It was annoying, so I did what I do when other things irritate me: I turned on Star Trek and refocused my attention on Patrick Stewart’s tight pants.

It is only recently that I have become more aware of the trend to compare the African human experience to that of the supposed superior Western one. I wouldn’t mind if these were one off instances, but it is pervasive inclination, now turned a rule. It has become the norm to hold up something African and juxtapose it to something American…as if this African cloth, song, shoe, literature or what-have-you cannot exist on its own merits.

MajidIn Ghana for example, Majid Michel has been dubbed “Ghana’s Brad Pitt”. Joselyn Dumas has been nicknamed “Ghana’s Oprah”. At her recent reading in Atlanta, Chimamanda recounted how her American agents fretted over how to market her to the US audience because she is so unique.

“We don’t know what to DO with you,” they said. She remarked her surprise, mulling over her belief that American publishers did not have much faith in the reading American public.

When you’re an African, you become accustomed to being compared to some higher Western standard. In time, I think you become numb to it. But once in a while, a comparison so absurd and so hurtful prods you in the backside that it jerks you out of your sleep, and this week, the BBC did the unthinkable:

They compared WizKid to Justin Bieber.

Now, let me be clear. I don’t care too much for WizKid (although that Caro song is my JAM). His fervent #TeamLightSkin stand has high school girls all over Nigerian bleaching their skin and dying in order to achieve some ungodly, unnatural standard and I despise him for it. However, I will not sit by and allow ANY African artist to be compared to Just Bieber. How possible?!? This is a gross injustice, a diss and an insult that parallels no other. To quote Edith Faalong “WizKid is NOT Nigeria’s Justin Bieber. He is Nigeria’s WIZKID.”

Full stop; the end.

Will there ever come a day when Africans are recognized for the merits of the art and innovations we produce? What will it take? I am of the view that if we are always trying to make ourselves and everything we do marketable to “them” we will never truly achieve the prominence we so deserve and are capable of. Chimamanda said something to address this at the reading I attended which I thought was so profound. An audience member asked her if she thinks of US audiences when she writes her books. Her answer was a resounding “no”.

“When Faulkner was writing about Mississippi, I don’t think he ever imagined a Nigerian girl would be sitting down to read it and possibly loving it, but I did. In the same turn, I don’t think my ancestral Nigerian village is any less important or relatable than his small town in Mississippi.”

Comparison analysis in culture is nothing new, and is still as sinister as it has ever been. African Americans have endured similar experiences throughout their history in the country, culminating in the phrase ‘credit to one’s race’ whenever one did something considered exceptional. Nat King Cole, Jackie Robinson and Diahann Carroll were all considered ‘credits to their race.

Have you ever had your work compared to something else as an inferior standard? Are there examples you have seen in the media that give you pause? Do you think it’s not such a big deal to have African culture compared to Western culture? Discuss! ↓