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.

#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! ↓

 

 

MOM is a Finalist for the Social Media Awards!

Of all the things I could have forgotten to blog about, this is certainly the worst. How could I neglect to tell the MOM Squad, Random Readers and beloved Trolls that the blog is up for an award?

That’s right! Mind of Malaka is a finalist at the Ghana Blogging Awards. All of my non-Ghanaian Squad readers who have endured my rants about Ghanaian politics, social issues and economics can rest assured that it has all not been for naught. Even if we don’t win, it still feels good to know – in the immortal words of A-Dub – that “I’m on the list!”. As you will see, there are many wonderful blogs and writers on the list for the competition. No matter who takes home the trophy that night, every individual is deserving. It’s going to be a thrilling contest, and none of us would have it any other way.

In order to encourage you all to vote, I went deep into MOM Mode and made this video in hopes that you will click this link , find my name, and vote for it. I’se be much beholden to you if you would. As an added incentive, you should all know that my father has promised to strut on stage and collect the award in my stead if we win, so get your cell phones ready.  He’s so excited about the possibility of triumph. We’re both hoping his gout doesn’t act up that night…His gout reduces him to little more than a hobble, and we can’t have Daddy hobbling in public.

Over to you guys now! Voting ends on March 28th. I believe you can vote once a day, so don’t be shy or skurrd. Have a Super Saturday!

A Valentine for Benedict Cumberbatch

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Valentine’s Day to you all!

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

How Dwarves have Destroyed Ghana’s Economy

I have no words. Which is why I had to make a video.

 

Dwarves. DWARVES and wizardry are destroying Ghana’s economy.

 

SMH…

The Three Stooges go to Hollywood

I wish this was a comedic post. Lord knows I do… But it ain’t. It’s about a kidnapping, an assault and a violent gang rape. Are you feeling warm and fuzzy yet? Good. You can thank @ABYalley on twitter for bringing this story to my attention and *gasp* requesting my opinion.

The story in question centers around a report that came out of a small Florida town by the name of Hollywood. Hollywood is a relatively small, racially diverse seaside city (72% of the inhabitants identify as “White”), with a total population of 140,768 as of the 2010 census. The median household income is $40,587, approximate $6000 less than the state’s median household income and $10,000 less than that of the US in total. The violent crime index is at a 6 (with 1 being the lowest and the national index at 4), where violent crime is defined by the FBI as being composed of four offenses: murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.

On November 1, 2013, a 16 year old girl was the victim of 2 of these 4 offenses. Her attackers were Erica Avery – also 16 – and Patricia Montes, 15. They conspired with three other men ages 17, 18 and 19 to video record the beating the two girls meted out against the victim, and then to finally gang rape her. When she was finally released from their grip, she was left with shattered bones around her eye sockets (where they pounded her head into concrete), a swollen face, and internal injuries resulting from the rape. One of the girls had been her friend since kindergarten.

I have never been to Hollywood, FL, and intuition tells me that there will be no business that would compel me to ever visit the city. Intuition also tells me that with a crime index that high, and the average purchasing parity that low, there are a lot of bored people wandering around Hollywood. I believe this was the impetus behind this poor victim’s attack.

When queried by the police as to why these girls might attack her, the victim said she “honestly did not know”. The six people involved in this savage incident had convened to “drink beer and smoke weed” at one of their homes. In the video, you can hear one of the male perpetrators saying “these girls really don’t like her” and one of females responding “I told you somebody was getting f*cked up tonight”.

“Somebody” is getting f*cked up tonight.

What else is there to say? That’s all the motive a teenager barely in possession – let alone the development – that God gave her needs to injure someone with such boorishness, it defies reason. It shows a total lack of control, a total lack of reasoning, a complete lack of compassion (obviously) and no ability to look into the future. Or does it?

ericaDuring their bail hearing, Erica Avery grinned and smirked on several occasions and had to be admonished by her lawyer to get herself under control. The child has none. The entire ordeal is a joke to her…and why wouldn’t it be? Florida has a notorious reputation for letting murderers walk free. In addition to that, Avery and Montes have one thing in their favor: they are both under the age of 18. They will most likely be tried as juveniles and be sent to a minimum security prison where they be released upon reaching their respective 18th birthdays and be free to rejoin society where they will sell their stories to LifeTime, get on Dr. Phil and kvetch about how “mommy and daddy never loved me” and possible end up working in the mayor’s office as a communications director one day.

The Three (Black) Stooges – Dwight Henry (17), Lanel Singleton (18), and Jayvon Woolfork (19) – will all face a very different reality. For them, there is no hope of redemption, and I’m not even sorry for it. I hate to say what I’m about to say, but it must be said:

C’mon Black men and boys! Look around you! Stop being IDIOTS! You know what you are to this society, how America views you. It’s in every rap verse about coming out of the ghetto, cops looking for you, bullets flying past you…why would you do something so stupid? Why would you intentionally PUT yourselves in the crosshairs in this way? What, did you think that when your victim got home she wouldn’t tell? Did you think her parents wouldn’t ask who brutalized her in this manner? Did you think she wouldn’t name you specifically? You three cretins – and the other vermin roaming around Any City, USA right now – make me violently ill…and I hope the law throws the book at you.

They ain't lettin' you out bruh!

They ain’t lettin’ you out bruh!

You see, Patricia Montes is already out on bail. That’s why her friend can sit beside her and chuckle. Who’s going to bail you out? 22% of the folks that live below the poverty line in your city, and I’d bet my left cashew that you are smack in the middle of it. No one is coming for you, boys. NO ONE. You are 17, 18 and 19 years old. You will all be tried as adults and you will be sentenced harshly. They built these prisons for YOU! The cops roam the streets looking for YOU! There is a judge that gets a hard on just thinking about sentencing YOU! Stop being idiots! Stop letting people who think they are “down with your clique” use you and your body. If Erica Avery and Patricia Montes wanted to rape that girl, they had every means to do it on their own. You are not an animal to be bred with and used for sexual deviance. I’m sure if anybody asked you if you thought you were “a man”, you’d thump your chest and proclaim it. Act like it.

Here’s the thing: I don’t care if you had a daddy growing up, or your mama was strung out on crack, or you were raised by your senile, diabetic one-legged grandmother – you know right from wrong. You know what it’s like to be hurt and therefore what impact you have when you hurt others. You three had a conscience that night, and you chose to ignore it. What’s worse, you chose to ignore the reality of what it means to be a Black male in America’s justice system. The scales are not balanced, and they are not in your favor. You will rot in prison, and it’s your own fault.

 

Rant over/

The Latest from Field Ruwe: Money is the root of all evil

 Money is the root of all evil

by Field Ruwe

 

“Money is the root of all evil,” the email read. “It is the reason you Africans are a failure; a dependent of the West. It is the reason you languish at the bottom of the totem pole. Don’t blame us. You have put yourselves there. It is your self-interest, pettiness, and meanness that have put you at the brink of economic Armageddon. It is the greediness of your political leaders that makes you an endangered people.”

The lengthy email was from Walter, the Caucasian and former IMF official I had sat next to on my flight from Los Angeles to Boston on New Year’s Eve of 2011. I had not heard from him in months. I read on:

“It is this unbridled greed that is killing you at an alarming rate. It has turned you into beggars at the hands of the IMF-World Bank and condemned you to debt. The indebtedness, superior to colonialism, is the reason for the wanton deaths of African folk and the fast reduction of the African population. It’s a great shame for a people who have enough natural resources to feed, clothe and shelter every single soul on the continent.

“Like children your so-called economists and your ill-informed politicians get excited when IMF-World Bank announces that your economic growth has ‘surged’ to 8%, 4%, 2%… What they fail to understand is such are insignificant percentages of low development. IMF-World Bank is simply putting cheese on its traps and like mice you all are getting caught. Where are the African economists to fight this scourge?”

Walter’s last remarks on African intellectuals steered a debate across Africa that has lasted up to today. From the email it was clear that he was still following closely the activities in Africa.

“I see your president has become a victim of IMF-World Bank placebos. He has removed subsidies on maize and fuel. I will address that later. Let me first inform your readers that I love Africa. I’ve left the New York “Vulture Fund” company I worked for when you and I met on JetBlue. It was too much for me. In 1999, I moved from the loan shark IMF to a broking company that was ripping off countries like yours by buying up the debt at cheap prices and demanding much higher than the original price.

“In 2007, we sued Zambia for $40 million, after buying off some of the debt for $4 million. Chiluba paid us $15 million, and we rewarded him with $2 million. We went to the Democratic Republic of Congo and did the same thing. Overtime, I became disillusioned. I was often haunted by the view from the bedroom window of my Kabulonga home back in the 1980s.”

For those familiar with Walter, you’ll remember his words: “I was part of the IMF group that came to rip you guys off. Your government put me in a million dollar mansion overlooking a shanty called Kalingalinga. From my patio I saw it all—the rich and the poor, the ailing, the dead, and the healthy.”

Walter reminisced: “The daily sight of funeral processions from Kalingalinga to Leopard’s Hill Cemetery have stuck to the walls of my brain—the sound of wailing, and solemn hymns. I have quit. I am no longer a vulture. I have now become a fighter for Africa’s economic empowerment.

“I’m a staunch supporter of Joseph Stiglitz whom I have always admired. I totally agree with him when he says that the IMF must be dismantled. Joe was at the World Bank when I was in Africa. The man has a big heart for Africa. How I wish some of your rational economists like Caleb Fundanga, who is familiar with the IMF, would take a leaf from Stiglitz and persuade your president to find a way of avoiding the IMF-World Bank high restrictive conditions and abominable interest rates that have brought misery to your people.”

For those who do not know Joseph Stiglitz, he is the Nobel Prize laureate in Economics who served as Chief Economist and Senior Vice President of the World Bank in the 1990s. In 2011, TIME magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world. He is a guru at asset risk management, corporate governance, and international trade. The man was inside the World Bank and saw it all.

In a 2002 radio interview with Doug Henwood of WBAI, New York, Stiglitz was asked what struck him when he first got to the World Bank. The reply is quoted in full because it is the reason African states are stuck with IMF-World Bank for good.

Stiglitz: “One of the most traumatic experiences I had there was just a month after I started. I went to Ethiopia, one of the poorest countries in the world. It had a balanced budget, no inflation, and had had rapid growth for five years, had cut back on defense expenditures from 6% to 2%, even though it had come to power through military means. This is a really unusual government – no charges of corruption. And yet the IMF had suspended its program.

“I asked, ‘Why?’ The answer was that the budget wasn’t balanced. But it was. They said, ‘But you shouldn’t include foreign aid.’ I said, ‘Why else are governments giving money if it’s not for them to build schools and hospitals?’ They said, ‘You can’t rely on it.’ The government had a very good answer. They said, ‘As long as we get the money, we’ll build the schools, and when we don’t get the money, we’ll stop building the schools.’ And when we came back to Washington we discovered that tax revenues were more unstable than foreign aid.”

It bothered Stiglitz greatly to discover that both the IMF and the World Bank were exploiting Africa. At the same time it bothered IMF-World Bank that Stiglitz had discovered their horrors and gone public. He was fired.

Walter writes: “I was in Washington D.C. when Joe was fired. Some African presidents and Finance Ministers celebrated. It was Joe who opposed the privatization of national assets. He was against high interest rates, and trade liberalization. But he was alone. Your president and your Minister of Finance disliked him. He was standing in the way of their commissions. They were making tons of money by associating themselves with the IMF and the World Bank. It was in the Washington IMF and World Bank offices that money became the root of evil. It was here that the “carrot and stick” game was played like Russian roulette. Ministers of Finance were staking their country’s assets for a commission and we kept winning, even when they shot themselves in the head.

“Now you know why the Ministry of Finance is the most sought in African countries. African Finance Ministers are the richest of the cabinet and are confidants of the president because they are the carriers of the begging bowl. Their best telephone call is the one from Washington D.C.

By the way, I was appalled, but not surprised when one of your junior ministers was quoted as saying “we will continue borrowing; we are in a hurry to develop.” Watch him. He’s drunk with power.  It is this chronic borrowing that has worsened your county’s debt and increased poverty. A debt results in cutbacks in spending on health care, and is the reason people in your country continue to die from HIV/AIDS and poverty-related diseases. I have seen his picture; he looks chubby and is always smiling. I am sure he has a relative or two who are not as fortunate as he. If I had it my way, I would arrest him, lock him up, and throw away the key for mortgaging a country in which the majority are poor. He’s a half-hearted economist; an impetuous and selfish fellow.

“This is the type of foolish behavior I saw at IMF. The so-called African economists sent to Washington didn’t care how much they borrowed, at what interest rate. They didn’t bother to read the fine print. They did care if they flogged their electricity and water companies. They simply didn’t care about the poor back in their countries. It was what was in it for them and their president—period. And we didn’t care how much we dished out as long as we kept a country such as yours below the poverty line, and within the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC).

“I began to lose respect for African economists, dressed, as they were, in their tailor-made suits, with golden cufflinks and draped bowties. Not one of these African Iscariots I met during my stay at IMF said anything negative about IMF; not one could see the drastic impact IMF and World Bank was having on their people. Not one could see that IMF and the World Bank were merely credit risk agencies.

“Field, how do you like the tag HIPC on your country? That’s what Zambia is and will always be—a Heavily Indebted Poor Country, that’s right. IMF and the World Bank love it. It’s a way of separating lepers from society. Your president, Chiluba, sold everything for a nickel and your country slipped to 164 of the 187 countries on the United Nation’s Development Index of poverty. You are still lepers, all I know. You are a country without an airline, meaningful mining and manufacturing industries, and now no subsidies—nothing. You are a country without health, education and development. Look at your dilapidated hospitals, schools, roads—just look at them. It’s shameful.

“When I read that your president had removed subsidies on maize and fuel, two reasons came to mind. The first is obvious; your president has no choice. He needs to maintain the IMF and the World Bank (your new colonial masters) seal of approval. Your country will not get help from Western donor countries without the IMF and the World Bank endorsement. That’s a smart way of keeping your country colonized, poor and dependent. If your president refuses to remove subsidies he risks having the extension of your country’s loans denied. This is what I call ‘loss of state sovereignty.’ Like you and other writers have hinted, when a country removes subsidies, it allows the market to determine demand and supply for food. This reduces support for farmers, and leads to the poor failing to afford essentials.

“The second reason is often ignored, but true. It is what Stiglitz calls the IMF riots. Stiglitz observes that when a nation is, ‘down and out,’ the IMF squeezes the last drop out of it. I dare add that the IMF-World Bank can be political at times. Don’t forget your president is not a very likable man in the West. They think he has become a puppet of China. He has been placed under the radar and is being watched. When you make the West uncomfortable, they will have you removed. The IMF and the World Bank know that when subsidies are removed, essentials will become unaffordable and people will riot. In your country maize and fuel are good dynamite with which to blast the ruling party. If they fail this time, I can assure you they will succeed next time.

“Joe is right. He’s speaking from his heart when he says IMF has failed. It is true IMF has purloined enough from poor countries, but, unfortunately, it is only Joe and a few like me who understand this. Your president and his economists don’t. We know that the West did not develop under such harsh conditions as those imposed on Africa. They kept subsidies for domestic industries. Your economists know this, and yet they can’t see that your country is being duped through monetary austerity; fiscal austerity; privatization; and financial liberalization. What a shame.”

Walter has spoken. I shall add no more.

 

 

Field Ruwe is a US-based Zambian media practitioner, historian, and author. He is a PhD candidate at George Fox University and serves as an adjunct professor (lecturer) in Boston. ©Ruwe2012