Category Archives: Thoughts raging in my head

Did You Know Books by Malaka are Available for Delivery All Over Africa?

Ho, ho, ho, Friends!

The rainy season is here (unless you’re in South Africa, where it’s summer) and the season of ChrisKwaHannuFestivus is upon us!

Formerly known as ChrismaKwanzaHannukah, ChrisKwaHannuFestivus is a celebration for those of us who do not discriminate against any of the holidays that traditionally take over the month of December.  It is celebrated by those who enjoy a good bean pie as they take their turn spinning a dreidel with a rousing rendition of ‘Oh Holy Night’ in the backdrop. ‘Festivus’ has been added to the amalgamation in recognition of those people who have no religious allegiances  and have identified themselves as ‘The Rest of Us’.

Whatever the case may be, it’s the season of giving. And what better gift to give than a good book?

For those of us who live in the Western world, online purchasing is our new normal. And when it comes to buying hard copy books, few of us visit the old brick and mortar stores where our beloved tomes were once house. For one thing, so few of them are still in operation. Remember when Borders closed it doors as did your whimsical, independent book store? Remember the pain you felt when they were converted into a Jett’s Pizza cum pet grooming store? Of course you do. It was devastating! Fortunately, Amazon and were there to pick up the slack (or in some markets, were the direct cause of it). All of a sudden and for a small fee, you could browse for your books online and either have them delivered to your Kindle or to your doorstep.

The era of self-publishing and direct marketing to your readership was officially on! As an author based in the US, this was a great shift for me. However as an author who primarily writes for an African audience, I was perplexed. Where was the consideration for non-Diaspora African markets? There was very little, if any. Geography-based price gauging is the norm for a number of e-merchant sites, and shipping costs from the US to the continent have given many of my readers pause before making a purchasing commitment. This has grieved me… grieved me profoundly, I say! All this pleasure denied because of discrimination and stereotypes, I say!

Enter StoreFoundry. They have soothed what has been a nagging itch and thorn in my side.

Are you in Kumasi? Takoradi? Johannesburg? Addis Ababa? Lagos?!?! Are you one of the numerous people who have asked when my books will be available at your bookstore and have been disappointed when I report back that your local retail store will only stock white writers, Christian books or crayons? Suffer no more! Now you too have the power of point, click and purchase with delivery to your door with StoreFoundry. Yes, you heard me right: you don’t HAVE to have Books by Malaka delivered exclusively on your e-reader. You now have options.

*Throws confetti*

E-published books are great, but sometimes you just need that connection with paper and ink. Besides, ‘Sally and the Butterfly’ isn’t on an e-format because it’s a pick your own path book. (Did I mention that ‘Sally and the Butterfly’ is  Ghana’s first pick your own path book for kids? Because that’s important to someone besides me; I’m sure of it.)

Why are you still reading this? What are you waiting for? You should be browsing! Click, click and share HERE!  And while you’re on StoreFoundry, check out the beauty section. It has all your new favorite beauty brands for 2016 and beyond. :)

Ho, ho, ho click and go!



Exploiting Black Rage for Clicks and Online Ad Revenue

We live in the digital age, and we consume much more news and information than our fore bearers just a generation ago did. Studies have revealed that we are assaulted with 174 newspapers worth of data, and that we receive five times more information than we did in 1986. If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information you have been receiving recently, you are certainly not alone.

If within that onslaught of information, you’ve found yourself furrowing your brow about some questionable (or just plain misleading) headlines, you are not alone. As traditional newspaper and magazine sales and subscriptions have continued to fall in favor of online consumption, publications have had to make up the shortfall by employing a number of creative methods to get eyeballs on their content. In the digital age, clicks convert to dollars and there is no better way to get clicks than through riling up the emotions of an influential group of people. That being said, have you noticed how many headlines recently seem to have a disparaging bent where people of color are concerned? Yeah, I know! I too thought I was alone, but my Twirra Sistah Sensei published this vlog on her YouTube channel discussing this very thing.

No dear friend, you are NOT paranoid. There is indeed a trend of trolling Black rage for clicks, and those clicks – and our accompanying chatter – mean big dollars for American corporations.

There is no question the power and impact of Black opinion and culture. From whips to worship, Black culture drives how business is done and dictates consumer tastes…globally.  Black buying power is expected to reach $1.1 trillion this year, according to Black Enterprise. Most of that money will not go to Black owned businesses. And in addition to the physical dollars that will be diverted away from corporations that neither have our communities’ best interest – or any interest at all – at heart, there will be an additional economic siphoning with our dignity as the conduit for exploitation.

These are just a few of the headlines I can recall from various online and print publications that have targeted Black rage for clicks. The folks sitting in the meeting rooms of these media organizations know exactly what they are doing. They know that nothing spreads faster than outrage, or an outrageous attack. This is known as “click bait”, and we fall for it every time. The most irritating thing (for me) about click bait-y headlines is that you rush in expecting to read one thing, and come out on the other end experiencing a mix of emotions you weren’t prepared for – and in some cases, utterly sullied. It’s psychological abuse.

ghetto bulliesThis is probably one of the most obvious examples of trolling Black rage for clicks that I’ve ever seen. I was pleased when Black Twitter saw it for what it was and swam away. At the time of this posting, Tyga was shagging a very under age Kyle Jenner, Amber Rose had some thought about it, Kourtney jumped in and got verbally smacked down, and Blac Chyna was being awesomely petty on Instagram during the whole affair. We were all there for the drama.

Then comes THIS guy.

By calling Blac Chyna and Amber Rose “ghetto”, he was betting on setting Black tongues ablaze with anger…and hopefully clicking on his newly launched blog to tell him about himself, thereby rewarding him with traffic and revenue. We saw right through this, fam. I’m proud of us. I made it a point to forget his name and the name of his fonky little blog. I hope it dies with his ambitions.

venusAfter Serena’s grand slam hopes (and the hopes of millions of people along with them) were dashed this year, this article surfaced a few weeks later. In the headline, the author boldly declares that Williams’ sister “nearly cursed out” her opponent during the game.

Gosh. This sounded very much unlike the poised and professional Venus I knew from TV. I clicked to read the article. What did I discover?

I discovered that it was Roberta Vinci who actually screamed the words “What the f***?!?!” at Venus for “taking too long” to serve, to which Venus frostily replied “Excuse me?”

That was it. There was no cursing. There was no head rolling. There was nothing in the encounter to give this false headline any credence. Even a good number of white folk were upset by this one and called BS. Thank you, concerned white folk.

hillaryI haven’t decided who I’m voting for, and up until her Benghazi grilling, I was certain I wasn’t voting for Hillary. However, she came out of that storm looking like she was made of Teflon and ice. Nothing could stick to her, nothing could burn her. One of the (many) reasons I disliked Hillary was because of this headline in particular, which was accompanied by a redacted soundbite. Why would a seasoned politician make a blunder of these proportions?

As is turns out, these words were not only taken out of context, but paragraph and tome as well. But ooohhh weeee! Were Black people mad. And oooooh weeee! Did online publications have a field day and rake in a lot of money with the shares.

hutsThis is just repulsive.

The story of the emergence of Africa’s middle class has been told congruently with that God-awful “Africa Rising” narrative plastered on the cover of Time magazine for  past 15 years. Africa has been rising for almost two decades, usually with an amber dawn and a solitary acacia tree illustrating its ascent. Images are powerful. That’s why I don’t understand why The Economist had to evoke mud huts in its title. They could have mentioned the middle class without either mud huts… or high rises for that matter. Do we talk about London’s class disparity by juxtaposing pissy pubs with Windsor Palace, or are the pissy pub dwellers generally accorded more repect?

There are some people who see this as an illustration of the truth. After all, there are indeed mud huts in Africa. No one is disputing that. However, because the image of the dirty, plodding, ignorant, diseased ridden mud hut dwelling African is the one that has endured the longest in Western imagination, it is the one we of a certain class and privilege have long had to battle on behalf of our less affluent brethren. There is knowledge and information that could save the world in those mud huts…but those values are not depicted here in this headline. The Economist is not innocent on this one. And as one twitter user pointed out, the article itself was spot on – and I have no doubt it is, these ones usually are – but I refuse to reward them by contributing to their traffic when the intent to mock is so clear.


Really? Do I even have to explain this one? Trolling on steroids!


I invite you all to be vigilant and watch the headlines. Really take note. From the Cosmo cover declaring the Kartrashians as the “America’s First Family”, a launched rock guaranteed to infuriate the beehive BECAUSE the Obamas, to headlines that court sympathy for child rapists, click bait is all the rage. Decide for yourself who you are going to reward with the power of your fingertips. I, for one, will no longer support outlets/celebrities/wannabe celebs that troll my emotions to buoy their bottom lines.

Remember: you have 174 options from which to choose on a daily basis.


How my Search for Native American History Turned up Black

On October 12th, most of America marked Columbus Day by shutting down all federal holidays and grieving parents with the closure of school. As a child, I loved Columbus Day. I was completely committed to the narrative that I had been sold by my elementary school teacher: That Christopher Columbus had sailed to America, discovered a new land (that was already populated, but only sparsely so) and settled it for the Europeans. Then, they had a great feast and invited the Native Americans to join them. The natives were poor and hungry and had never partaken of Honey Baked ham, you understand. It was their lucky day, the day Christopher Columbus arrived. Yes, sir!

This land was your land. This land was MY land. This land was made for you and me.

Of course, I could fully buy into this narrative because we hadn’t covered chattel slavery and as a child, I identified with the noble frontier men and women and not the ‘savages’ who – seemingly unprovoked – took delight in shooting up my American ancestors’ caravans when ALL they were trying to do was settle and make a new life for themselves.

This is the attitude that many in my generation held. I feel sullied, looking back on the absurdity I was made to swallow as truth. Fortunately, my children will never have to struggle with the need to sanitize their psyche where Columbus Day and Native American – European colonialist relations are concerned. Not to worry! I have furnished them with enough facts about the true nature and horrors on which this nation was built that they’ll have to do an entirely different mental sweep of their own in 20 or more years. My children now harbor the same contempt for Columbus and his “achievements” that I do. When I asked them how they would like to celebrate the day, Nadjah replied – without hesitation – that she would like to burn an effigy of the Great Navigator in the back yard. After all, this was a man who said of the natives who welcomed, sheltered and fed he and his scurvy crew:

These people are very unskilled in arms… with 50 men they could all be subjected and made to do all that one wished.

I love that girl.

Things are escalating quickly! Someone put an axe through this bust in Detroit.  *image source: DFP

Things are escalating quickly! Someone put an axe through this bust in Detroit.
*image source: DFP

Many more people are taking a stand in opposition to Columbus Day and have taken the opportunity to celebrate it as ‘Indigenous People’s Day’ or ‘Native American Survival Day’. I think this is a step in the right direction; however, MX5 and I have concluded that Columbus Day ought to be abolished entirely. We’re just waiting for Congress to get on board. And if I’m honest, I don’t like the idea of retro-fitting Columbus Day with Native American accessories. It’s about as creative as a Baptist church choir’s futile attempt at “redeeming” a Beyonce ballad. Just replace Jesus with surfboard and voila! The image of a man skeeting in your face is supplanted by the magnificent shimmer of the Holy Ghost.

So as I was saying, we decided to mark the day by exploring some Native American history right here in Roswell, Georgia. It was absolutely the most depressing undertaking we’ve done all year. We visited the old Roswell Mill and hiked along Vickery Creek (now called Big Creek), which was named after Charlotte Vickery, a Native American woman who lived near the head waters of the creek. I discovered that the area we now know as Roswell was once called the Enchanted Land by the Cherokee Indians and that whites were prohibited from living here. A number of treaties were drawn up to protect the area and the white settlers – unable or unwilling to honor their word – broke them all. For a time, the Cherokee, Creek and Oconee tribes tried to get along with white people by adopting their customs. They opened shops for trade, their women dressed in gowns and some Native Americans even held African slaves. Nevertheless, the land and its natural resources would prove to be too valuable for white settlers to ignore and Native Americans would find themselves driven off their land and their property distributed to white settlers in a lottery.

The most influential settler in this area was Roswell King, for whom the city would be named. The fertile land and rushing waters from the creek would power the cotton mill he envisioned. In 1838, he began work on the first cotton mill and in 1839 it was incorporated as The Roswell Manufacturing Company. This is where history got Black: because where there is cotton to be picked, there are Black people.

Roswell King emigrated from Georgia’s east coast where he was affiliated with the workings of the Butler Plantation. The farm was a rice and cotton plantation and a veritable hellscape. It was a concentration camp. There wasn’t an atrocity on Butler Plantation committed that isn’t a part of slave life lore…and probably far more than we could imagine.

I once had the occasion to speak with one of Roswell’s few Black natives, a woman whose ancestors were brought here as slaves. Judging from her appearance, neither history nor the economy had been kind to her people. With her wild greenish-brown eyes and pockmarked skin, she looked every bit the caricature from a Dicken’s novel.

“Bey-bay, lemme tell you somethin’. My people is 100%, full Geechee,” she growled, glaring at me from the two feet that marked our distance. “If you wasn’t Geechee, Roswell Kang (King) wasn’t f*ckin’ witchu!”

The unnamed woman (who I made it a point to avoid in carpool from that day forward) was apparently very proud of Mr. King’s tribal preferences and proclivities. At first I was skeptical and dismissive of her claims. But now that I have learned more about the history of this area, I see their merit. If Roswell King did indeed re-settle from Butler Plantation, it would make sense that he would harbor a certain affinity for a certain “type” of African…one that was presumably pliable and easy to control. There were hundreds of categories under which Blackness was cataloged in that era, with white slavers holding preferences for one breed of slave over another. Igbos – it’s been said – were not desired “stock” because they were uncharacteristically defiant. That notion may have something to do with the mass Igbo suicide that took place on St. Simon’s Island.

Painting depicting Ebo Landing, where slaves chose death in dignity over a life in bondage.

Painting depicting Ebo Landing, where slaves chose death in dignity over a life in bondage.

I took time to reflect after our afternoon hike and was struck by how intertwined our paths and pasts are in general. My little corner of the world has so much global history woven into it, and it’s incredible. Roswell is a great city, but it’s sobering to have to accept that its roots are mired in blood, murder and tears and not the enchantment the natives held so dear.


How did you celebrate Columbus Day? Have you ever given any thought to the holiday and its significance?


How We’re Rapidly Evolving Into a Mad Max-ish World

Do you remember watching Mad Max when you were a kid (or young adult, if my dad is reading today) and thinking to yourself “Ah, ah. Is this Earth? Why are these people so cruel, selfish and reckless? More importantly, why are they dressed like this?” Everyone was attired as if scurvy had switched its desires for human flesh and for an appetite for rough cotton instead. Everyone except Tina Turner, of course. Even in the Thunderdome – which essentially represented Hell’s putrid navel – she managed to appear angelic and regal. That she was heartless and merciless and incapable of conjuring pity could be completely forgiven. Because beauty. And also because reasons.


But back to the point: Do you ever feel like we are living in the days of the Thunderdome…or at least exhibiting behavior that’s going to lead us there? I know I do. The evidence is all around us.

This is the point where the Rainbow Glitter Squad whose magical powers consist of an innate ability to solely see the world through rose-colored glasses shouts “Well, Malaka…if you see so much evil in the world, it’s because there is evil in your heart!” That’s bunkum. I see Lexus trucks and other luxury cars whizz by me on a near hourly basis and they no closer to parking themselves in my garage. Just because I witness something doesn’t mean I possess it. No, no, no… we have to observe and analyze what’s going on in our surroundings objectively; and once we do, you’ll see the kerosene explosion on the horizon. As always, I am happy to furnish you with examples from my own life to promote further understanding.

The world of Mad Max was marked by violence. It was rabid and explosive, peppered with the presence of humans beings constantly baying for blood. Our present day world is very much the same – with the exception of HONY, where every subject is a member of the Rainbow Glitter Squad. Nevertheless, there are lessons to be learned from this cabal and that’s this: The problem with our world today isn’t that there is an abundance of violence, but a dearth of kindness. Violence is just a symptom of a deficiency in benevolence and courtesy. Once we begin to address the slow bleeding of kindness in our society, perhaps we can delay our eventual relocation to an address on Fury Road.

As usual, the examples are in the small things. When I wrote this post about dating in 2015  examining what many men (at least of the internet variety) expect in return for a dinner date, I don’t believe I devoted enough time to explaining exactly how vile this line of thinking is. Treating another person to dinner or with gifts does not amount to a transactional process if you possess a modicum of dignity. The caterwauling of the person whom the article was based on included a grievance with women who expected to have doors opened for them or seats pulled out for them…all acts of person who possesses and exhibits basic kindness. He wanted to know what expectations a woman ‘had for herself’. My assertion remains that a woman need only BE herself in a dating situation.

Did you ever see the movie A Bronx Tale? When Colagero was about to take Jane out on a date, he asked his father, Lorenzo, for advice on how to vet her as a lady. Lorenzo’s advice went something like:

“When you get in the car, unlock the passenger side and let her in. Then go to the back of the car and see what she does next. If she reaches over and unlocks the driver’s side for you, then you know you got a good woman who’s thinking about you. If she just sits there and waits, she’s a selfish broad who (insert choice words here).”

Spoiler alert: Much to his delight, Jane unlocked the door for Colagero, and that should have resulted in a happily ever after…but Jane was Black and Colagera Italian, so there was a race war instead.


Selfishness and the inability to accept that some others perform acts of kindness for the sake of the act itself have colored almost every aspect of our daily interactions. I am guilty of being tainted too, as I find it difficult to accept help/gifts from others because I don’t want to find myself unexpectedly in their debt. (There’s a story behind that.) This weekend I decided to take my kids to see Pan. Carmen from ‘Cross the Street was at our house, and I told Aya to ask if she’d like to invite her to join us. Her mother said she could come…but she wanted to know how much money to send with Carmen.

“Go back and tell her I got it,” I told the girls.

5 minutes later, they came pounding back up the steps.

“Carmen’s mom wants to know if you can tell her how much the ticket is so she can pay you back.”

I felt a headache coming on. “Tell Carmen’s mom that she is our guest and that I will be buying everyone popcorn and a drink. But if she wants to send money with Carmen to buy something extra for herself, she certainly can.”

See? Even among parent interactions, we find it difficult to accept or expect certain levels of kindness. If I have been invited to an event, I certainly don’t expect to pay my way and vice versa! But I understand why people think this way, and it likely stems from being burned in the past. A little over 25 years ago, I found myself in the Thunderdome because my sister mistook a classmate’s gifts as genuine kindness that wouldn’t need to repaid.

Her name was Mary Osei.

We had just moved into our new house in Labone and begun making friends with kids in the area. Mary and her siblings attended our primary school and lived just down the road from us. Naturally, we became friends. Mary took her friendship with A-Dub to a new level by purchasing sweets and toffee for her on a daily basis. I considered her lucky. None of MY new friends ever bought me anything! And then Mary and A-Dub had a falling out. Mary stormed up our driveway and banged on our door, demanding that A-Dub repay her the 90 cedis she had spent on her over the last few weeks. Our weekly break-time allowance was 10 cedis, so it would take the rest of our LIVES to repay 90 cedis. I opened the door and told Mary to leave. That’s when she attacked my sister.

That’s when I snatched her back.

That’s when she wrestled me to the floor and started to strangle me.

That’s when I looked up at my sister and wondered why the hell she wasn’t trying to help me.

That’s when my sister looked down at me and wondered how I was going to get myself out of this mess.

That’s when I lobbed my fist into Mary’s face to break her hold. She scrambled to her feet and A-Dub pushed her out. I locked the door behind her. Mary stood on the veranda insulting our mother and telling us how useless we were: “Common 90 cedis, you can’t pay!”

Reluctant to have another go with her and now knowing that my sister would allow me to perish for her fight, I let Mary stand out there and yell to her heart’s content. The girl had the strength of ten kubolor boys. She was sinewy and stout…probably from years of pounding fufu or assassinating soldiers.

You might be reading this and thinking that being placed in a choke hold ought to be enough to kill the propensity for selflessness in anyone. But I say NO! We must push through the pain of proverbial esophageal compression commit more acts of kindness without expectation of reciprocation. If every does this, reciprocation will be inevitable. It’s the only remedy to keep our world from burning.



*All images sourced from IMDB

Why Is Yaa Asantewaa The Only Brave Woman in Ghanaian Antiquity?

Yaa Asantewaa, Queen Mother of Ejisu and holder of 157 other titles. If you don’t know her name, you must live in a Hobbit hole devoid of books or access to the internet. She’s part of the Sovereign Women’s Pan African Council; up there with Queen Nzingha and Queen Nandi and Harriet Tubaman n’ dem. And to hear Ghanaians tell it, she is the only woman in the country’s history to ever make a difference or exhibit bravery.

Yaa Asantewaa Statue, Ejisu, Ghana

Yaa Asantewaa Statue, Ejisu, Ghana

Of course, Ghanaians don’t ever say this expressly, but the implications during praiseworthy moments cannot be mistaken. Whenever a woman shows a modicum of valor or persuasively expresses an opinion that counters the pervasive culture, she is referred to as ‘Yaa Asantewaa’.

Yvonne Nelson led the #DumsorMustStop campaign and she was christened Yaa Asantewaa.

In reviewing Poetra Asantewaa’s soon-to-be-released EP, Mutherfuckitude, my best friend and troublemaker Wanlov Kubolor had this to say about her:


At times, the appending of Yaa Asantewaa’s virtue to one’s person is not always meant as a compliment. For example, when the police went on a rabid rampage against peaceful and unarmed marchers during the Let My Vote Count exercise last month, this was one of the many images to go viral. An individual I follow online tweeted contemptuously: Who does she think she is? Yaa Asantewaa?


Interestingly enough, a quick search on Twitter will also find everyone’s least/most loved feminist on Twitter @Obaa_boni likened to this historical figure…and not always in the most flattering of ways.

Excuse me for a moment.

Obaa, did you know this, girl??? Do a search! Folk love to hate you. There’s some life out there that some folks need to get.

Pardon that segue. Anyway, as I was saying, because we have deified Yaa Asantewaa to this extent, it has only succeeded in lulling ourselves into the belief that she alone has and/or will ever embody the strength and fortitude a woman needs to agitate for positive change. Inherently, we know that this is impossible, but this is the narrative we’ve allowed to take root and thrive. This makes Ghanaian history “rich”, but it also renders it incomplete and therefore only partly true. We’ve allowed Yaa Asantewaa to become a messiah, and I don’t think she would be pleased with that.

Of course, she’s not the only firebrand in history we’ve turned into a mythical savior.

Nelson Mandela singlehandedly ended apartheid from the confines of a prison cell on Robben Island.

Kwame Nkrumah delivered Ghana from the clutches of colonialism with naught but a handful of speeches and a kente robe.

Malala Yousafzai was the only Pakistani girl to defy the Taliban in pursuit of her education and be shot for it.

It was Martin Luther King alone who ensured our civil rights.

The list – short as it is – goes on, and I’m sure if we had a contest, you could come up with a couple of messiah figures of your own.

It would serve us all better if we had the opportunity to learn more about who Yaa Asantewaa’s allies were. It would make the tapestry of our history so much richer. She was human. She was taking on the British army…a legion that had managed to do what no other conglomerate had managed to do before: subdue the Asante Kingdom. Who were her generals? Who did she confide in on those nights when she was preparing for battle? Who was her right hand woman? Certainly, there was an equally hot-blooded woman she had in mind when she stood in the council meeting and said:

Now I see that some of you fear to go forward to fight for our king. If it was in the brave days of Osei Tutu, Okomfo Anokye, and Opoku Ware I, chiefs would not sit down to see their king to be taken away without firing a shot. No European could have dared speak to chiefs of Asante in the way the governor spoke to you this morning. Is it true that the bravery of Asante is no more? I cannot believe it. It cannot be! I must say this: if you, the men of Asante, will not go forward, then we will. We, the women, will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight! We will fight till the last of us falls in the battlefields.

Whenever I endeavor on a big venture – and I’ve never done anything as noteworthy as defy the world’s most savage, marauding forces to preserve my freedom – I’ve always had a cadre of women to support me in that. Behind every strong woman is an army of strong women pushing her ahead. So why have we allowed these women’s names to be lost to the point of erasure? The idea that women are catty and can’t cooperate is a fabrication meant to confuse and isolate us, and to keep us from collaborating for progress. Sadly, there are enough women around to perpetuate this stereotype.

There are times when I think about Yaa Asantewaa as she’s preparing for battle. She would have been surrounded by people helping her get dressed in battle regalia. She would have been receiving reports from spies and military tacticians. Someone took the time to prepare her a power-packed meal before riding (or running…did she have a horse back then?) off into battle to face the British. She would only be able to ride into the storm with the confidence that she was flanked by women (and men) of equal determination. Who did she cast her eyes over to and say:

“You ready, girl?”

“Yeah. I’m ready,” would be the rumbling reply.

“Then let’s do this.”


I’d love to know their names.



Were There Inns in Ancient Africa?

Just hang in there with me.

I was watching a kung fu film set in ancient China called ‘Drink With Me’ earlier this week, and a wandering warrior named Golden Swallow was passing through town in search of her brother, who had been captured by bandits and was being held for ransom. Golden Swallow and her brother were the children of the local magistrate and the bandits wanted to do a prisoner swap for the return of their leader. Of course, Golden Swallow didn’t negotiate with terrorists, so she had to go in there and handle her bidness.

Anyway, her first encounter with the bandits was at an inn, which also served as the town’s only restaurant. After she single-handedly whopped up on 15 or so men and sent them off, licking their wounds, she informed the inn keeper that she needed a room and a hot meal. (Her first order of food never arrived in all the chaos.) He bowed obsequiously and showed her to her room for the night.

So of course, that got me to thinking: Were there inns, hotels, motels or traveler’s rest stops in ancient Africa? If so, what did they look like? Who manned them? How and where did they operate?

My interest stemmed from some reading I’ve been doing to try to make sense of how Africa got to the abysmal state she is now. With all this bootlicking prattle about how Africa is ‘rising’ or ‘on the move’, if you want to dress the same tired narrative in different attire, I believe the we Africans have allowed ourselves to be lulled into a false sense of security about the true state of affairs with the deceptive praise of the West.

“Oh! You guys figured out how to get pipe borne water to your village square, but are still using communal pit latrines to do your poopy business? Never you mind. Great job! Africa is on the move!”

There is a wealth of information and opinions available online, so I turned to social media for a reaction – any reaction – to my query. Africans have been trading and learning from each other for centuries. I recently read that kente, Ghana’s unofficial official national cloth, did not originate from Ghana. The Asantehene commissioned artisans and weavers to go to Ouagadougou to learn and perfect the art from other weavers in the region and return to the Ashanti Empire with their knowledge. One can justifiably deduce that there was some sort of relationship between the two empires, most likely rooted in trade. If there was trade, there were trade routes. If there were trade routes between the Ashanti Kingdom – and any other kingdom – people had to have somewhere to sleep and eat along the way. So were there inns?

tents tents2

I know that these two people were half-joking, but they wisecracking still betrayed a certain mindset about African life as it was lived and conducted prior to colonization. Neither of these people, or yourself included, could conceive of the idea of Africans running a hotel-style business for profit. It’s never been depicted in film or popular culture. There are no famous (or fictional) inns or taverns sporting romantic names like The King and Cross or The Red Dragon that excite the Ghanaian imagination as these names do the Anglicized fancy; so maybe there never were any to begin with. And let’s be honest: From Cape Town to Cairo, Ancient Africans wouldn’t be smart enough to dream up such an enterprise at all, since this was the Dark Continent, waiting to be civilized by the Europeans…right?

What if I told you you were on the right track? Indeed, there were no inns or temporary rooms for rent in either Ghana or possibly the rest of Africa. (An episode of Globe Trekker (PBS) told how the Venda people in South Africa keep a vacant kraal to host the occasional traveler in need of rest.) The reason is, real, uncorrupted Africans are civilized and kind. I asked my father for his input on my query.

image source:

image source:

“No. There was nothing like that in the old days,” he replied sleepily. “It was only until these Europeans came with their concept of hotels to charge hungry and tired people that we started doing these things. If you were a stranger or a traveler from out of town, the people in the area would put you up for the night. In fact, as long as there was no war, you could even go to the chief’s palace and he would host you for the night. The people would feed you and in the morning, see you off as you continued on your way.”

“Did you have to leave a gift or a token for the chief or whoever put you up for the night?”

“How? No! It was a kindness and a duty of the people in the area. The next day, all you had to do was thank your host and they were happy. That’s all they would expect. The thanks was like a blessing.”

He then went on to tell me how as a teen, my grandmother was traveling from Larteh to the coast and when they got to Adoagyiri, she spent the night in the chief’s palace. She was terrified the entire night, but she was well looked after and obviously lived to tell the tale.

I was incredulous. Kindness without expectation of something in return? Was this even possible in today’s modern Ghana? I have lived all of my youth and teen life in Accra, the country’s capital, and the attitude of the people is nothing like that. It’s even worse today. From the president to the street hawker, everyone is looking for a way to exact their pound of flesh from their neighbor. A friend recently told me that if you really wanted to experience Ghana, “leave Accra at once.”

If this was the attitude adopted by our ancestors, that you have a duty to look after the alien once they arrived within your vicinity, it certainly explains how easy it was for the Europeans to trade with us and then eventually trade us. We were (and still are) too trusting, too hospitable and too eager to see the humanity in our fellow man. The first thing a white person does when they visit alien shores is to build walls and forts to keep danger out. They are suspicious. This behavior has been exhibited from the time they landed on America’s east coast, all up and down the West coast of Africa, and any other place Europeans have “discovered” and resettled.

So what do you think? Is it possible that in all the thousands of years of the African’s existence, there were never any pay-to-stay dwellings on the continent? As always, I welcome any comments that will lead to further enlightenment! ↓

The History of Black Hair from Chime (HairCrush)

This is not what I intended to write about today, but once again, this is one of those videos I couldn’t help but share. I love history and I love hair, so when the two collide it gets shared!

Hey…I made a rhyme thing.

This video by Chime absolutely struck a chord in me. It was not a week ago that I was reminiscing online about hairstyling techniques and monikers with a few friends. My children (and yours) will never know what it’s like to go to a hair braider and request a cornrowed, threaded or plaited style by name. I vividly remember asking my trusted coiffeuse for intricate styles such as  “basket”, “bridge” or “starfish”. I was fortunate because I had a mother who was very Afrocentric and went to a school where I had the “privilege” of keeping my own hair. Almost every girl in the Ghanaian school system is required to shave off all her hair, a throwback to slavery and the propagation of neo-colonial mindsets and Black self-hatred.

Black hair has always been a source of pride and fascination. It is capable of defying gravity or submitting to it. It has its own story and serves as a herald for the wearer before he/she utters a word. Its versatility and beauty make it a heavy crown for the wearer. And of course, our hair is what has served as a binding agent for all Africans the world over. Any sister or brother from the Virgin Island can commiserate with the native North Carolinian about hair struggles and/or triumphs – about being forced to sit (nervously) still while Momma pressed the back of your head or the uncomfotable drip of a Jehri Curl.  Our hair connects us as family.

Anyway, enjoy the video and PLEASE leave a comment either here or on the HairCrush website. I hope you find it as educative as I did – or at least served as a reminder for those of us who are more ‘conscious’.

I think this is where I am supposed to say Hotep