Category Archives: Thoughts raging in my head

Why I Grossly Dislike Tithes and Offering Messages

“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings. – Malachi 3:8

You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” – 2 Corinthians 9:7

If you’ve been to church – pick a church; ANY church – you’ve heard these two scriptures read, quoted or paraphrased at the all critical offering segment of the church service. It is the most wearisome portion of church to me.

Do you know what I just realized? In all my days, I don’t think I’ve ever heard any pastor recite the first portion of II Corinthians “You must each decide in your heart how much to give”. Typically, they encourage you to give more! Give abundantly! Give according to the blessing you want God to bless you with! I can’t tell you how many Sunday’s I’ve had to check the bile swelling up in my throat to prevent myself from puking all over a church pew.

I don’t want to sound like a disgruntled Christian. I am not, I assure you. I actually look forward to giving my tithes and offerings in church. I look forward to showing the Lord my gratitude with my gift. My little white envelope and check is my way of saying “You know what God? You got me up every morning, kept me employed, kept me healthy, and saw that all my needs were supplied. I can’t repay you (after all, what price can you put on good health?), but I can bring you this gift to say ‘thanks’!” I come to church READY to give, and I think that any serious Christian should as well. After all, you go to work ready to do your job, don’t you? Does your boss have to come by your desk every morning to give you a 30 minute exhortation about all the wonderful things that will happen if you put your 40 hours in? Then why in Christ’s holy name do we have to suffer through an offering message about how God will “Open up the windows of heaven” if we give?!?

I sincerely believe offering messages are for new converts/believers. We are trained in Western society to get all we can and keep as much of it as possible. This thinking has seeped its way into the church, and because the church was instrumental in the (neo)colonization of Africa, this stingy mentality festers in African congregations as well. That’s why you can have a church where the members are dirt poor and the pastor honks for them to clear the road in his air-conditioned Benz on his way to Sunday brunch. Ekene Onu calls them “church-preneurs”. (But that’s another topic for another day.)

As I was saying, it is the duty of a Christian to give his/her tithes and offerings. It is the least of your reasonable service. How are you going to call yourself Christ representative in the earth if you can’t give money? Common money o! Can you really be expected to give of your time, talent and love – nontangibles which are far more valuable – if you have to be goaded and coerced into your reasonable service? Explaining things at this level are for folks who are babies in the things of God. If you’ve been a Christian for 15+ years and are still struggling with giving, you might need to do a spiritual check-up.

The other thing that absolutely makes me violently ill where offering messages are concerned is that I sometimes feel like I’m being sold a bottle of snake oil. This typically happens at big conferences and retreats, which is why I no longer attend big conferences and retreats. Offering messages in these arena sare typically manipulative.

cheerful-givingI remember when I was in college and just newly born again. A big named Prophetess who was very popular at that time had come into town. My friends and I were giddy with excitement because we’d watched her on VHS in our dorm, and by virtue of the power of her words and worship ON TAPE, found ourselves prostrate on the ground in prayer. Her arrival in town heralded the first conference I would ever attend. Before she came on stage, there was the typical business of praise and worship (four fast songs and two slow ones), some introductions of some other leaders who were profiling on the arena stage, and then the offering message which was, without exaggeration, 40 minutes long. By time he was done, he had convinced me that God would double (or even triple!) my blessing “but only if I gave big”. God would perform a miracle! He had a $50 line, a $100 line and a $1000 line going. I was working at Walmart on minimum wage at that time, and had a little less than $19 in my account. I knew this. But the man had spoken with such urgency, and I didn’t want to miss out on the blessing that the anointing THIS prophetess would bring, and despite the niggling voice in the back of my head wrote a $50 check…which then proceeded to bounce, and bounce and bounce like a jilted lover. I made the same mistake two more times in my life before Bank of America taught me the lesson that Darwinism could not.

This scenario repeats itself all over churches across this country, every Sunday and sometimes on Wednesdays during Bible study. If you are reading this and find yourself pressured into giving something you don’t have (be it time or money), STOP. Don’t do it. It’s only going to create bitterness in you. That is why I believe there is a special part in Hell for all these preachers and pastors who have had a role in creating hard-hearted, bitter Christians.

Instead of offering messages, many churches (particularly Black churches) would do well to have a financial literacy class. This is the other reason I despise offering messages. They keep people at a need-based, subsistence level. Let’s say I and everyone in the congregation in already walking in financial freedom: we have no debt and no lack. What would the “blessings of God” look like in that case? Why can’t we then begin to think and operate in THOSE terms, rather than “Gawd gonna pay yo’ bills if you open up yo’ heart and yo’ purse my sistah!!”. Is God a pimp? No really.

Is.

God.

A.

Pimp?

No one should be goaded into giving; and besides, no one wants to receive a ‘gift’ reluctantly given. If it’s not of your free will, it’s ransom money…and last I checked, the Lord wasn’t holding any of us hostage. We all have free will.

What about you, Reader? You might not be a Christian, or have any religious tendencies at all, but if you’re human, you probably have some method of organized giving. How do you feel about “offering messages”? Do they bother you? Motivate you? Or not really matter at all? Discuss! ↓

 

 

Open Letter to My Broken Heart: Requiem for the Black Stars’ Loss

Dear Broken Heart,

How is it you are still beating? I marvel at your strength. To endure such a blow and to choose to carry on…My; that that is a testament to your tenacity indeed.

I suppose you’ve been here before though. You’ve had a lifetime of being ‘swerved’ and have come back from it. Remember when I was in primary school and my parents told me I’d be travelling to America for the long vacation? The dates that they gave me coincided with part of the final exams, and I gleefully skipped around Soul Clinic smugly informing my classmates that I not only would I not be on campus while they were figuring maths and social studies questions, but I’d also be in the air eating fine airplane food which would most likely include some sort of pudding for desert.

Do you remember the devastation when my parents informed me that my trip had been postponed for another month? Oh the shame…the shame of it all! In my heart I would rather die than go back to school to take an exam (which I had foolishly not studied for) and face my friends who would undoubtedly shame me. And shame me they did. Joanna Aryee had asked me to bring her Jehri Curls upon my return from America, and there I was – sitting by her in my beige and brown. Still, you kept beating, insisting that I carry on living.

My parents did this to me once more before I learned to shut up and stop bragging about events that had not come to pass and that were not certain for the future. From then on, whenever I got news of a big event, I kept quiet until it had come and gone. It was too stressful for you, my dear and one and only heart. I forgot that lesson and look what I’ve done to you again!

Do you recall how we spent last night? It’s not as though the memory is not fresh. I dug up the archives of all the old love songs – or gnashing ballads, as I like to call them – in an effort to soothe the pain of the loss to Team USA.

Team USA.

Kai! How can a whole Ghana lose to a marshmallow team like the Americans? (And this is not a racist quip ooo. I mean marshmallow as in ‘soft’, not ‘white’!) A team whose country neither prays for them, thinks of them, knows a single member of their squad and whose scoring average is similar to that of a Li’l Kickers soccer league? How, how, how?? It is because we were over confident. After all, they haven’t outmatched or outplayed us in 12 years. But it was that over confidence rendered me weak and curled up in a fetal position playing and replaying End of the Road, Where do Broken Hearts Go?, and Naija Baby until the pain went away. The remedy didn’t work. Still, it persists. Even Boys II Men can’t fix this one!

It’s not even so much that Ghana lost oo. It is specifically that we lost to America. When your day starts with reading articles such as this gem from the WSJ whose opening line consists of this string of despicable wording:

Of all the possible nemeses in world soccer, the American national team is haunted by a team from an impoverished West African nation with a population less than one-tenth the size of the U.S.

it kind of puts a sting in your bum. Who told him Ghana was ‘impoverished’? What an odd choice of words when the Appalachian Mountains are just a few hundred miles away from where this post was written. Now that’s real poverty!

And then when this same soft American team goes on to score in the first 40 seconds of the game, it boggles the mind. But even that vertigo inducing moment isn’t nearly as bad as when Ellen dissed my homeland with this tweet:

ellen tweet

You stupid wench. Do you know where the slave labor and chocolate that you give to your guests in your greenroom come from? No? Ahhh…okay. You are just all the way ignorant then. Your nyass, wae?

Finally, as the game came to a close, another titan of American industry took a swing at my beloved Ghana. Delta airlines, which has weekly flights from JFK to Accra posted this image on twitter to congratulate the US team.

delta-airlines

Hei?!!? How?!?! Has any Delta pilot seen a giraffe walking around Kotoka International Airport as he’s landed? Why would Delta Airlines make America look so unyieldingly ignorant when Google could have provided a myriad of images? Even if they had used a crocodile, I couldn’t have been offended. After all, we used crocs in our adinkra symbolism and as tourists’ attractions. In addition to that, our climate isn’t even hospitable to giraffes. You want to kill one of nature’s most majestic beings with your ignorance? Delta, Delta, Delta…

Anyway, I believe the Football gods didn’t want Ghana to prevail, though we prayed desperately. Yes, we would have loved to have won, but a win would only serve as a distraction to the real issues we are facing. We can’t print passports because the only passport making machine in the country is down and has been for nearly 3 months now. We are borrowing power from our neighbors just to ensure every citizen has the assurance that he/she can watch the Cup (come July, it’s back to erratic supply, so charge your appliances while you can!). Parliament is going to pass the Plant Breeders Bill while our noses are fixed on our TV and enslave the nation to Monsanto while MPs line their pockets with kickbacks. And then we have also forgotten the Chibok 234, which is why Nigeria found herself in a scoreless tie against Iran and Ghana was late to lend her support for Nigeria! The Football Gods are punishing us for being foolish! And back to the WSJ journalist’s point: Ghana is not impoverished, but it certainly is mismanaged.

But where does that leave you, dear Broken Heart? What can I say to comfort you? Nothing. This is a pain that neither Coke, nor chocolate, nor ice cream, nor sex could cure. We must wait until Saturday when Ghana plays Germany and pray for a win…this time with humility and silence. Continue to beat as strong as you can.

With all my love,

Malaka

Do White Males Make Better Managers?

Note: For the benefit of full disclosure, I think I should tell the reader than I am a Black female posing this question. I don’t want anyone who stumbles upon this piece to think that it’s some form of White Supremacist propaganda. Now that we’ve got that out of the way…

As you dear MOM Squad and Random Readers know, I began working in corporate American this February. It’s had its share of disadvantages, but the greatest boon thus far has been that it’s enabled me to strike down the 14 year old, gluttonous albatross that’s been around my neck since I strolled across that wood and iron stage at Hampton University.

My job has me working on a number of accounts, and I can get switched from one client to another in a moment’s notice. This means that before I can truly master one account, I get moved. It also means I never have a chance to be bored. Since I generally find that I don’t like working for more than one singular employer for more than 6 months, it works pretty well for me. However, I’ve found that the ease and pleasure of those six months entirely depend upon two things:

  1. What the client wants/needs
  2. Who is managing the account

I’ve had seven jobs over the course of the last 14 years (not including my current one). Two of those went belly up after the DotCom bubble burst, and three of those dissolved when the housing bubble imploded. I’ve had both male and female managers of both races. (Fyi – In America, there are only two races: White and Not White.) The majority of my managers have been White. I have only worked for one Black female…wait!

That’s a lie.

Remember Big Lou and my cleaning job during a Real HouseKeeper of Atlanta. That’s eight jobs.

So as I was saying, the majority of my managers have been white and male; and honestly, they outperform every single manager I’ve ever had!

Now you may be asking yourself “Malaka, what is causing you to sit here and ponder something so mundane?” This ferocious headache I’ve been nursing for the past 3 days is what. I work from home, which should in essence be a stress-free exercise, but this female manager I have is making my existence about as enjoyable as having Stevie Wonder at the helm of the Titanic.

“Stevie! You see that iceberg?!?”

“C’mon man. You know I can’t see jack…”

The results are just disastrous.

Without getting into the specifics, I really want to answer the question about why White males just make more superior managers, or more specifically is that really true? I posed the question on Facebook, and for those who have bothered to respond, the majority would say yes. Why is that? I have a couple of theories.

  1. Historically, White men have been running things a lot longer than anyone else has: Plantations, factories, advertising agencies, you name it. They are more comfortable with assuming control because they see it as a birth right. Look at the male-centric cartoons on Disney or Nickelodeon, for example. What race is the kid on Paw Patrol? What race is Ben Ten? Yup… Dude is SUPPOSED to be that color.paw patrol
  2. Because they have been doing it longer, they can do it better. White men are more likely to mentor younger white men, to take them under their wings and help them navigate around potential “icebergs”. Every manager is going to make mistakes, but there are certain obvious pitfalls you can avoid if you take the advice of someone who’s been there and done that. We still live in an age where we are still welcoming the “first black this” and “the first woman that”, which tells me that minorities and women do not have the experience in those arenas as their male counterparts.
  3. Women are focused on procedures, men are focused on results. This trait and what you may classify as who makes a “good leader” I think is industry specific. For instance, you want someone who is building a bomb to be focused on procedures. That’s a great trait to have. HOWEVER, I think it’s counter-productive to ask a recruiter in 3 different conference calls HOW and WHERE they found a candidate to fill a position when the guy is about to start working and the position has been vacant for 90+ days. Who cares?!?! He’s working! And he’s not a criminal! And besides, why am I repeating myself on 4 calls that you’ve sat in? Good lord…
  4. Women are focused on fairness, men are not: I have observed that in all the positions I’ve held that were headed up by women, each employee got the same treatment. Sure, this sounds like a good thing, but when your co-workers are dumbasses, trust me, it’s not. Don’t treat me like a dumbass. I don’t deserve that. What I have always appreciated about my male employers and managers is that they consider the individual needs of each of their charges and manage and reward to those strengths. Under woman-led rule, everybody gets a cookie, and that’s bull.

I have only worked for one Black male, and he was never in the office. He was a sales manager and always out playing golf. I can’t speak to the strengths or weaknesses of the Black male manager, so I’d love someone’s perspective on that. I know we should all judge people on their individual talents and not on race and gender and blah, blah, blah, but in this area, White men rule!

business man and his team

Think of THE best manager you ever had. What made them so exceptional? Do you think race and gender have anything to do with management style and getting results from your team? Discuss! ↓

Is My Christianity Enough; and Must it Be At Odds With Feminism?

I feel like I’ve discussed this before, but here goes again…

Fresh off the heels of my conversation with Wiyaala I contacted my BFFFL, Nana Darkoa, who is as all who are even vaguely acquainted with her the consummate feminist. I gave her the highlights of our first conversation since the audio had failed and she would be unable to hear Wiyaala’s comments herself. Wiyaala talked about how she is a feminist advocate because she believes in girls’ education and is against child marriage.

“Awww. I’m touched by what she said about feminism,” Nana said in her voice note on What’sApp. “Ah. But, Malaka. You clearly care about these issues. You need to accept that you are a feminist and admit that your problems with feminism derive from the weird/warped way in which white women have practiced feminism! Just call yourself an African feminist…declare the type of feminist you are and be done with it!”

I replied with a voice note of my own, laughing and saying that I needed to look into this feminist thing a little more before I go about declaring anything.

So naturally that got me pondering about my existence, which is my second most time consuming portion of my day. (The majority is spent pondering the existence of my offspring.) In earlier conversations with Nana – like years back – I told her how passionate I was about girls’ rights. She admitted then that she never really took girls into consideration when she thought of rights, but it made sense.

“After all, girls grow into women, don’t they?” she mused.

That gave me pause. If my friend – the consummate feminist was not concerned about girls, and I had by that time borne two of them, could I really ally myself with this cause she was always preaching? That statement just gave me one more reason to eschew feminist tendencies for something I felt that was far more meaningful…that being my Christian faith.

It is because of my faith that I care about the causes that are so weighty to me. Human beings are not one dimensional, but I have to confess there are times when I feel the establishment would try to convince that we are and attempt to pigeonhole humanity in nicely labeled boxes. Think about yourself and your passions for a moment. Is there any one paradigm big enough to encompass all that you care about? My Christian faith does that for me.

I am a Green Girl

The first job that God gave to man was to tend to His Garden – our Mother Earth. Man and woman were charged with protecting it, naming the animals, and ensuring order. Then Man fell because he just had to have a nibble of some forbidden – albeit tasty- fruit. For my own part, that means picking up where Adam and Eve left off by making sure I treat the Earth with care, disposing of waste responsibly, only using what I need, and more importantly, teaching my children to do the same. Anyone who does not care for the Earth is a worker of iniquity and an agent of the Devil!

God is into Sci-Fi, therefore so am I!

I love my fantasy and Sci-Fi, yes I do! The majority of feminist friends I have are atheists (or agnostic at best). There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s their choice. Salvation is a gift freely given and should only be received freely. Anyone who has had religion shoved down their throat is in peril of never experiencing the full spectrum of what God has to offer. I mean, who else could come up with this stuff? Let’s just take Moses in Genesis for example. God instructed Moses to go into Pharaoh’s house and demand that he let His people go.

“Who shall I say sent me?” asked a rather perturbed Moses.

“Tell ‘em I AM sent you,” God replied.

For real? I AM? And then I AM is going to empower your staff to split the sea in half so I AM’s people could pass though? Yes! That just brings me to another element in my Sci-Fi fantasy as it relates to the Judeo-Christian God. I don’t believe God is a “he”; as in God has a penis. I think God is on some other genderless stuff that is going to blow our minds when we get to Heaven and we’ll have no choice but to bow down as the Bible says and cry “Holy, holy is the Lord Almighty!”

God is a comedian

This is by far my favorite experience within my Christian faith. All you have to do is look at God’s creation and get in on the joke. What the heck is a platypus? A half duck mammal that lays eggs? A mammal that lays eggs? What is that?! The wonders of the depths of the sea are beyond what we can imagine. Take the angler fish for example. God had to have been trippin’ when he made that thing. And then there’s the piece de resistance of His/Her creation: humans. People are pretty funny too. They come in all shapes and sizes and can’t figure out how to get along. I believe this is the reason the Bible says “God sits on his throne and laughs”, when he hears of our plans.

Jesus Loved the Ho’s

Religious people like to turn Jesus into a personality that best fits their comfort level, and Jesus Himself proved that he and the very religious did not get along. There are a lot of “Christians” running around here that are foes of Christ.

Unlike Snoop and Dr. Dre, Jesus loved dem ho’s. He defended them. Remember the prostitute who was fleeing the mob dead set on stoning her to death? The Son of Adam stood in the gap for her, looked them square in the eye and dared them to try it.

“Let any one of you who has no sin among you cast the first stone,” he said simply.

As the shamed crowd dissipated, He helped the woman to her feet and told her to go and sin no more. Was that sin prostituting? I don’t know. She may have been a thief as well. I can’t imagine a group of men would chase a woman through the streets to stone her merely for selling her body. Maybe she was a thief or had a VD. I don’t know. I DO know Jesus had a soft spot for prostitutes, probably attributing to the fact that his great-grandmother x 9 was Rahab…one of the bravest and honored prostitutes in human history.

God is sensual paa…

Please. Go and read Song of Solomon. There’s oil and breasts and honey and… just go and read it, okay?

God is into architecture and fashion

When I had more cash (i.e. before children), I used to LOVE to change my look. I would change my look with the seasons. It was a godly exercise. The Lord cares about tassels, colors, perfume and sweet scents. He cares about angles, square footage and decorations. These things are also near and dear to my heart.

I care about equality and so does God

These skins that we wear are just temporary jackets. The real us is our soul. We are eternal beings. Galatians says:

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.

Once we are baptized into God’s grace, we become a new creation. Therefore all this emphasis we put on externals is a work of inequity and therefore of the DEVIL.

I am against the shedding of innocent blood

There are dozens of scripture that talk about God despising the shedding of innocent blood, and I believe that extends to the unborn. This is probably one of the biggest issues I have with feminism, because I feel as though I am not “feminist enough” if I don’t support abortion. I don’t, I won’t and probably never will.

I was recently asked to participate in a discussion about “safe abortion”. I backed out with a snort. Abortion is always deadly for at least one other person, so the discussion was moot in my estimation. I wished the participants well and went on to spend the day with the four people who had safely been evacuated from my womb.

Many of my favorite heroes and heroines did their work for God

Harriet Tubman led her people to freedom not for the cause of women, but because she believed in the word of God that promised liberty. She spoke frequently of having visions from God, leading and guiding her. Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth were useful allies to (or pawns for) white feminists, but at the end of their respective days, tell me where their help came from? I’ll wait.

George Washington Carver, who our current economy owes a great debt to because of his numerous inventions spoke passionately about his devotion to God and God’s inspiration.

Maya Angelou, who taught me how to write like a Black woman, spoke and wrote incessantly of the love of God, which covers ALL things.

And then there’s Prince… Give me a moment please.

*Selah*

 

Look, all this is not to say that I am anti-feminist. Quite the contrary. If feminism or women’s rights as my friends describe it is about human rights, then of course I have no quarrel with that. It’s all this other nonsense like free bleeding and emasculating men that I have a problem with. I’m just saying feminism as an entity is not big enough for me, and my Christian faith is. It’s just a pity so many false preachers and prophets are ruining it for everyone.

 

Whew! You made it this far. Thoughts?

 

When is it a Woman’s Turn?

I just got one of those calls that set my britches on fire. You know the ones that have you seeing red and looking at your own partner/spouse with a side eye, daring him or her to “try that mess if they want to”? Yeah. That call.

I have a brilliant acquaintance who has a degree in engineering. She and her partner have been together for almost four years and have a child together. I care about both of them deeply, but he became my friend because she was my friend first. He’s a nice guy: hard working and dedicated, but not very ambitious. He is comfortable in his job and has no designs to move up, move out or move on in order to earn more. She on the other hand has her life and its trajectory planned out for the next six years; but now the unplanned has happened.

Because she has poured so much into her work and performed her duties with such excellence, the VP of her organization has singled her out to take on a position he’s creating based on her skill set. She is thrilled, of course, but hesitant to take the offer because it requires a move to a small town. She knows that her partner is comfortable where they are and would not want to move. I’ve seen this scenario too many times. Heck, I even lived through it myself! The man is comfortable where he is, and the woman is supposed to kowtow and abandon her ambitions for his benefit.

I lived with resentment for this very reason for almost three years, which is the only reason I gave her this tidbit of advice when she asked me thoughts.

“Don’t be like me o! If you get a chance, take!” The words could hardly leave my mouth fast enough. “There are so many women who have left America – and their husbands – to return to work in Ghana and make a life. It’s not like you’re leaving the country. If he wants to follow you, he can. If not, he can just get an apartment as you suggested. Why should you suffer and lose out on an opportunity just because he’s not comfortable with it?”

Ladder to successWhy indeed? There has been a long standing tradition in just about every culture that expects women to drop everything – to delay their hopes, dreams and ambitions until a man figures out what he wants to do with himself. It is rare that a man has the gall, compassion, fortitude or whatever you want to call it to put his woman’s professional needs above his own…even when she’s the major breadwinner in the family (as it in this case). It’s rare, but it’s not unfathomable or impossible, which is why I don’t understand this dude’s deal! Two women who have trumpeted the unwavering support they have had from their husbands are Ruby Buah, creator of KUA and Tosinger. Can you imagine your wardrobe without a KUA bag, or your playlist without Tosinger’s happy-go-lucky melodies? I mean COME ON!

Ooooh, I’m so furious! Every day I look around me and I see women who have missed out on fabulous opportunities because of the sacrifices they are expected to make for children, family, spouses and mates. It sickens me. What’s even more stomach turning is the amount of vitriol that women who chose to do the very opposite are subjected to. I have a small number of friends and acquaintances who took the brave step to initiate divorce when their mates had become dead weight, and for that they were rewarded with ridicule and scorn (never to their faces, of course). I say bravo to them! A woman’s burdens in this life are far too heavy already to compensate for the failings of a man or his tender feelings on the matter.

TSEEWWWWW…

There is an adage that says “Well behaved women rarely make history”. Let’s do a test. Grab a pen and paper and write down the names five prominent women. Go!

What were their attributes? Would you consider them daring and determined? What kind of obstacles did they face? Did they overcome them by playing meek and subservient, or did they attack and conquer them?

It’s already too late for me, but I’ll be damned if I let another woman live a life of mediocrity without putting my two pesewas inside her palaver. I’m so TIRED of seeing women walking down their individual boulevards of broken dreams, grinning and bearing it because this is what life for a “good woman” is “supposed” to look like.  My dear friend, if you’re reading this: Go for yours. The path to greatness is trodden by few. Don’t let ANYONE stop you from achieving and obtaining what is specially carved out for you!

 

Do you agree women are expected to make sacrifices for the benefit of others? Is it selfish for a woman to consider herself before her family/mate? What would you advise my friend to do in this instance? Better still, what advice would you have for her man? Discuss! ↓

What’s The Point of Learning a New Language?

When I was an elementary school student at Soul Clinic International School, a stout, fair-skinned woman was ushered into my sixth grade classroom and introduced. Her name was Madame Naomisi.

“This is your new French teacher,” the Headmistress told us.

She then went on to explain some things about how we were all required to study French, expectations about respect, and a host of other things that Headmistresses say to students that nobody ever really remembers unless it involved the promise of a prize or a whipping. When she was done prattling, she left.

Madame Naomisi stared at us and we stared back. You could see the boys in our class sizing her up. At 5 foot dead, most of them towered over her. I’m sure they thought they could overrun her for sheer virtue of their size, but we quickly learned she had a tongue that could shred steel.

“What are some of the reasons to learn French?” she asked.

I had no reason to learn another language, so I looked around at the smarter kids in class waiting to hear what their reply would be. We were forbidden from speaking “vernacular” – Ga, Twi or any indigenous Ghanaian language – on school grounds. Just a few weeks before a few of the kids from La had been lashed for speaking Ga on the playground. We were told we must speak English and English only at school. And now you wanted me to learn French?

No, no, no…

En Francais? Pardon! Non.

Eventually, a very short list of reasons was drawn up and put on the blackboard. The two that Madame Naomisi seemed the most adamant about were:

1)      Because Ghana is surrounded by French speaking countries and

2)      Because French was (at the time) the second most spoken language in the world

Since my travels only took me to America and occasionally, England, I felt very uninspired. I decided at that moment that I would only ever do enough to pass the class and not to master the language. What was the point?

It’s a decision I’ve come to regret in my older years. Jemila Abdulai, my co-sojourner in creative writing wrote something on her Facebook page about the importance of shared language. With her permission, I’m sharing an excerpt with you. She was out having breakfast when she had the following encounter with a stranger. He asked:

 

“Where are you from? I have a daughter who looks like you. She lives in London and works with Pricewaterhouse Coopers. My other daughter is a fashion designer.”

After I respond, Ghana, he goes:

“Oh Ghana! I’m from Benin. When I was in grammar school, we would do an exchange with students from Ghana at Achimota School, Tema Secondary School. One year they would come to Benin and the next we would go to Ghana. It was good for learning English and French.”

That’s great, I respond. Unfortunately I don’t think they do that anymore.

“No they don’t, it’s quite a pity. But they should. Do you speak French?”

Yes, I do, I answer.

“That’s good. It’s important and we’re right next door to each other. I’m a business lawyer and I did an internship in London; when my daughters were growing up I made sure they went to London every year for a month – now they are bilingual.

I tell them that because of them, I couldn’t change my car as often as I wanted. But I don’t regret it. The best investment one can make is in their child’s education. Everything else goes, but that remains.”

I answer, laughing: My dad says the same thing.

“He’s right,” the man responds.

She nodded in agreement and went about having breakfast.

languageHer encounter reminded me of several times when I’ve looked helplessly on as Spanish only speaking laborers have been yelled at by their American employers in angry English, or that time when an elderly Chinese woman missed her stop on the bus because she couldn’t explain to the driver where she was trying to go, or any of the other times when language has been a barrier to progress. If we were all better versed in other languages, perhaps we’d better at showing respect, kindness and love.

In recent years I have come to understand that there are two things that bond humans: food and language. You might not be able to relate to anything else in another person’s condition, but nothing solidifies a bond like a good joke and a great meal.

I think if Madame Naomisi had opened up our young minds to the possibilities of what the future may bring, we might have taken our French courses a little more seriously. Apart from those two aforementioned students, we all failed her class abysmally term after term. What was the point in learning this language?

Perhaps if she had told us we might find ourselves in America working one day with an Ivorian co-worker going through depression and anxiety, it might be useful to speak words of comfort to her in her own language.

Or she might have told us to imagine ourselves on an adventure in Monaco – perhaps as a Formula One racer – you would need to know French.

What about a career? You might find that you want to become a diplomat and travel the world. You can pick up several languages along the way!

These would all be better reasons than “Ghana is surrounded by French speaking countries.” She made it sound like a rash – some sort of imminent invasion in which we would all be swallowed up in a cloud of ‘r’ induced spittle. (I couldn’t stand the way she said cherchè…like her throat was going to rupture at any moment. She took it as a personal affront if we did not hawk phlegm when we pronounced our r’s.)

 

Is there a language you wish you had the opportunity to learn? Have you encouraged your children to learn your native tongue? Some people have shame surrounding their mother tongue. They feel it is not “genteel” enough. Discuss! ↓

 

Oh, and if you’re ever in the mood for a literary treat, visit Jemila’s blog at http://www.jabdulai.com. The woman is sick with the vocabulary. You will be amazed!

Susu for Ghanaian Writers

Say what you want to about Nigerians, but I don’t know of another group of people – as a collective -more driven towards success in our corner of the continent. And they love to flaunt it. They are ostentatious, extravagant creatures, and couldn’t care less how you feel about their unabashed display of their vibrant plumage. So renowned for their self-assurance that when Komla Dumor met Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Finance Minister for Nigeria and a woman whom he had at that time always wanted to interview, she addressed and greeted him as ‘Kola’ – a Nigerian name.

He corrected her politely saying “Excuse me, Ma, but I’m a Ghanaian.”

“Really?” she replied, her eyes apparently widened in shock as Komla re-enacted the events. “But you are so confident!”

He revealed at the TedEx event where he was relaying this story that he often got mistaken for a Nigerian for that very reason: he exuded confidence.

What is the trait that Ghanaians are noted for? If someone of a different nationality behaved in x way or exhibited a certain peculiarity, what would that thing be? (Hopefully no one says cowardice!)

In many ways, Ghanaians are playing catch up and second fiddle to Nigeria. They outdress us. They outspend us. They are shrewd businessmen and women, have virtually taken over Ghana’s banking industry. And the one that pains me the most, the area that caused me many a sleepless night in 2013 after Chinua Achebe passed from this world: they are known as the literary giants of Africa. How! How I say when Ama Ataa Aidoo is sitting in Accra!?!

No, no, no…

I can’t do a daggone thing about fashion or banking, as these are not my areas of expertise, but I can lend my voice and apply some pressure to the literary shortcomings that now beset the land of my birth. I humbly admit that our go-to-market strategies as Ghanaian authors is severely lacking, but I find that in that regard, there is no better time to Act like a Ghanaian, and Think like a Nigerian.

My friend and fellow young Ghanaian author, Boakyewaa Glover (The Justice) recently wrote on her Facebook page that it was increasingly “getting hard out here for a writer”. Her books have been stocked (and sold out) at SyTris and Sylverbird, two of the biggest bookstores in the capital for weeks. She wants to restock the books, however she can only do so if she agrees to what amounts to a 40% levy on the sale of each book. As she broke down what amounts to highway robbery, a violent beating and a “Dear Jane” letter left of the night stand, I saw the dilemma. Independent writers often spend more money than they make on the release of every work we do. There are printing and shipping costs, stocking fees at book stores, travel expenses for promotion, not to mention the dollars/cedis we spend in creative time. The time it takes to write something worth reading is not cheap. It requires sacrifice on several levels: sleep, time with family and friends, and in my case, time to exercise. I only know of one author who seems to have found the formula to independent success, eating right and exercise, and that is the inimitable Nana Malone.

All this is to say that we writers – and the people who love our work – have a unique opportunity with a new go-to-market strategy in Ghana. (Now, I’m going to say what I have to say and let it be known immediately that I have not talked to any of the people involved in the business aspect of this idea. I just told you I’m not a finance girl. I’m big picture.)

Many of Ghana’s authors are part of the country’s burgeoning blogging community. I took the foray into becoming a novelist after garnering some respect and success in the online space. So when I saw that BlogginGh had launched an Indiegogo campaign to finance new space in Accra for their offices, I was geeked. And then I saw Boakyewaa’s Facebook post and my head almost exploded.

It all made sense.

Why don’t we just cut out the vampires at the book store and have our books stocked at a space where writers (and therefore readers) gather? Why don’t we incorporate the idea of a Writer’s Alliance into the Ghana Blogging new physical space? They basically have the format in place with the Citi FM hosted events highlighting authors every month. What we need is ‘susu’ (communal donations for an individual or group cause) for writers. This is a natural progression! Of course we can work out the details of the susu, but that’s not the point of this post.

The point I really need to get to is that we really need to encourage our readers to give to this Indiegogo campaign. I’ve done my bit, and I’ll be having my brick on the wall when the project is done, but I and the 5 other people who have donated at the brick level can’t get a wall without the generosity of like-minded people.

And can I go ahead and tell you something? There is nothing more painful as a writer than having someone ask me where they can get a physical copy of my book.

“Oh! You can get it on Amazon.”

“Ah. I see…well, I live in Takoradi.”

Then there is that pregnant pause in the conversation. The conception that happens every time I have this conversation with someone on the continent. I calculate the cost of mailing one book from Atlanta to Accra and sheepishly,  I ask:

“Do you have a Kindle?”

We have 21 days left to fund this endeavor, and I KNOW we can do it. We saved the Rex. We raised money to fight jaundice. I know we can and will save (or create) a viable biblioindustry (yes, I just made up a word) in Ghana!

Hey…I just thought of a Ghanaian trait! Optimistic.

 

*Click here for a link to the campaign http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/support-ghanaian-bloggers-to-tell-more-stories–2/x/5297180

A Greener Ghana Is a Better Ghana

“Ghana was ‘green’ long before there was a Green Movement.”

That’s one of the expressions my Green friends and I have often smugly repeated to one another. Our pride is in a Ghana that just 30 years ago was so verdant and eco-responsible, it put Norway, Denmark and all those other northern European countries who now boast the top spot in the Earth’s friendliest nations to shame.

I took this picture about 50 feet from the beach

I took this picture about 50 feet from the beach

There was a time – and I’m only 36 mind you – that you could drive for miles without seeing a single piece of trash on the street. Truly, I promise you! Oh sure, there was a carelessly dropped newspaper here or a pile of dog crap there, but overall, people respected the environment. There was this understanding that we ALL share this space and that it doesn’t just belong to you or I; we are merely tenants of what God and the ancestors gave us to look after until the next generation comes. I vividly remember going to shop for groceries with a woven basket to put all our foodstuffs in. Canned goods were at the bottom, rice or gari in the middle, eggs and tomatoes were at the top. When you wanted a drink, a girl selling ice water would scoop it from the bucket on her head from a calabash and pour it into one of 5 or 6 cups dangling precariously from the side of said bucket.  Very rarely was there a need for any sort of plastic material to get ones food from the market to the house. And then suddenly, like crack in the Black American ghetto, plastic was everywhere.

And I do mean everywhere.

Now there is a plastic bag for everything. If you buy an egg, it’s robed in plastic. If you buy a bag of rice, it’s cloaked in plastic and then secured in yet another bag of black plastic. One has merely to look down any main street in Accra to see how much drinking water the metropolis consumes. Empty sachets of Everpure and Ahenfie Nsuo clog gutters and drains like opaque boils waiting to be lanced. Ghana embraced the benefits of the Industrial Revolution without the assumption any of responsibility. It’s been 54 years after the first plastic bag was used for consumerism, and we still haven’t implemented a plan for proper disposal.

I don’t need to rehash the problems that come with failed (or lack of) waste disposal policy. You can see the results for yourself on any given street in Accra, Tema or Kumasi, or simply take an hour’s drive in either direction of those cities to the villages where Ghanaians from big cities have their garbage dumped. What else are we to expect from a government whose Speaker of the House does not know that GMOs are obtained through genetic engineering or whose Deputy Minister for Gender, Women and Social Protection recent relevant job experience includes standing on the road with a tripod making B-movie Kumawood class films. Heaven have mercy, do we need new leadership in this country! Did you hear what John Mahama said in Davos about his government’s failure to implement a windfall tax policy on mining because the big mining companies threatened to lay off workers? Say what you want about Mugabe, but he would never brook such blatant impudence! You come to my country to mine gold and won’t “let” me tax you?! How ludicrous!

Okay, okay. That’s for another day.

Let’s talk about what Ghana can do differently. There are a few individuals who are making small scale impacts on the environment with green initiatives that I disgustingly proud of. Green Ghanaian (@GreenGhanaian on Twitter) regularly sounds the alarm about destruction of forests, rivers and lakes and lagoons that often go unmentioned in mainstream media until all the fish have died and the children have contracted unpronounceable diseases. Golda Addo  works tirelessly in the field of renewable energy development for Ghana, and has devised creative ways to repurpose discarded materials such as empty juice cartons and ice cream wrappers for practical uses. I recently discovered there was a bamboo bike manufacturing initiative going on in Ghana, although it’s hard to say how many people have embraced the idea.

These are just some of the small steps that can and will implement change and bring economic prosperity to many more Ghanaians if we have the right people leading the charge. Let’s take a simple problem and solve it here on MOM today. Are you ready?

Eggs.

How do we get eggs from the seller to our houses now? Some of you reading will send your house girl to the shop to buy for you, but for the rest of us who are forced to do our own grocery shopping, we buy them either in crates of singly in plastic bags. What if instead of cardboard crates (which I have no problem with because cardboard is biodegradable) and plastic bags, we each carried our own dozen or half dozen egg container to the market with us? What if that container was manufactured in Ghana, using technology implemented by Ghanaian polymer scientists who have studied how to reuse that discarded plastic in our streets and mold it into something useful? What if the government actually rewarded Ghanaian innovation, instead of begging Swiss and German contractors to fix our 18th century problems (i.e. how to dispose of our own poo)? Suddenly, we’ve got a new industry that can train and empower people, and solves the problem of ecowaste. Will people still litter? Of course they will – but their trash would eventually and inadvertently serve as the nation’s treasure.

You know what would make my nipples sit on edge? Is if parents and teachers would start talking to kids about creative ways to birth new industry in Ghana. Kids are full of wonderful ideas, and I daresay there are many primary 4 pupils who could run Ghana just as well as if not better than many of our sitting MPs. I know at least 3 dozen children who have told me they would harness the power of the sun to power all of Ghana’s houses, cars or bicycles if they could. Someone should look into that. Someone with some decision making power. Someone who is bloody fortunate enough to live on the equator…

Some of you reading are from Australia, Japan and other parts of Africa. You can’t hide. I checked my stats this morning. What green innovations have you seen in your countries? Are they working? And finally, what steps have you taken to make the earth a cleaner, safer place?

Could Lupita Nyong’o be the Face of ‘Errthang’?

Question: Would you buy a can of Pepsi from someone who looked like this? Really think about it, so we can talk about it.

Photo from People Mag

Photo from People Mag

It’s no secret that I am an unabashed fan of Lupita Nyong’o. She literally burst from obscurity to superstardom overnight. I’m sure she is absolutely brilliant in 12 Years a Slave, a film that has won critical acclaim for dealing with the heavy subject matter of slavery and man’s inhumanity to man as told by Solomon Northrop. I say “I’m sure” because I have not watched the film and have no intention of doing so. You all know how emotionally invested I get in – well – everything. So instead of looking at Lupita’s portrayal of Patsey, we’ll look at Lupita’s portrayal of herself. In real life. As the face of everything!

I asked this very question to a new e-friend of mine yesterday, i.e. did she think Lupita could usurp Beyonce’s place as being the Face of Errthang? Beyonce sells/has sold perfume, Pepsi, cable TV (as in Lemme Upgrade You to cable TV), hair color, cosmetics…the list goes on and on. There was a stretch in time for about 3 years where ALL you ever saw was Beyonce singing and selling something. She was overexposed and became an irritation, as far as I was concerned. But advertising agencies and corporations kept booking her and throwing her in our faces, whether we liked it or not. Is the world ready to receive Lupita in such a manner?

Let’s just state the obvious. Lupita and Beyonce are two very different looking women. However, there is no question in my mind that there are rivals in beauty, and certainly in style. While Beyonce is often overtly sexual in her dress, Luptia’s style is more demure and structured, and yet no less sexy. The story of her rise to fame is absolutely compelling. She got her start in show business as a production runner (the go-and-get-it girl) on the set of The Constant Gardner, and has been running towards her dreams ever since. She speaks eloquently, works with passion, and has been gracious in every interview I’ve seen her in to date. Did I mention she’s drop dead gorgeous?

Would I buy a Coke from her? Heck yeah! But I don’t think the rest of the world is ready.

Back to my e-friend to whom I posed this question: Could Lupita Be the Face of Errthang? Her reply shocked and saddened me. She said:

I fear this may be a phase. I don’t want it to be but it’s all too sudden. There is a tokenism about it that I’m not keen on.

I was shocked because we’re supposed to be living in a “post racial society” now. I was saddened because she is most likely right. I had taken deep gulps of Kool Aid and now this woman was forcing me to gag and spit it back up with her bloody common sense, practicality and truth-talk! All the same, we admitted it would be nice to dream; and so we did. We conjured a campaign through which Lupita Nyong’o would sell us all Malta, and we would like it!

It would be interesting to see how well African’s would receive Lupita as the Face of Errthang on the continent itself. On my most recent trip to Ghana, I was struck by how images of lighter skinned Ghanaians – and most noticeably, mixed race Ghanaians – were being used to sell everything from life insurance to Indomie. In fact, the only time I saw a dark skinned woman in an ad campaign was on a Guinness Black Lager poster in which she had been artistically molded into the liquid contents of the bottle.

What say you? Would you be willing to receive Lupita as the next overexposed starlet? Why?  Or do you like my friend think this is all a phase which will soon pass?

I for one hope she gets a Cover Girl contract. It would be nice if Procter & Gamble could mix up some nice dark girl foundation for once…The darkest paint they have gives me this weird Casper in Mexico ghostly glow. Ech.

 

At the Heart of it All/What Komla Might Want from Us

I feel strange writing this piece today. It’s been four days since Komla Dumor’s passing, and in this Western society in which I’m firmly planted, I’m supposed to be over the shock by now. But I’m not. When someone of importance dies, we talk about it for a few days (or in some cases a few hours), mourn for an “acceptable” amount of time, and then go back to talking about the antics of the rich and stupid on Real Housewives, or Vanderpump Rules,  or politics, or whatever one’s daily cup of poison may contain. It seems to me that the “acceptable” time of mourning is getting ever shorter with so many items competing for our attention.

This is why it feels so strange to write this post today. I can’t seem to move on or get past Komla’s death as quickly as some of the people in my circle seem to have done. I can’t conform to these new rules! But then I pause and consider: Maybe Komla might want me to?

I’ve spent the last four days poring over tributes that have poured in from across the world. It’s amazing to see that at just 41, Komla Dumor touched so many lives and affected people in such a positive way. Someone summed up what I have been struggling to conceive in my heart: He was the big brother you never knew you had, and just when you got a chance to meet and love him, he’s gone. I have yet to read any negative expression where Komla is concerned. None of us is perfect – and I’m sure he would certainly never claim faultlessness – but he is in my humble opinion an impeccable example of what the pursuit of perfection looks like.

I believe he would all have us do the same; that is pursue excellence and compete at your own best level in whatever it is you have chosen to do with your life. I think for those of us who are looking for ways to honor him, this would be the best course of action. They say Komla was a man of great faith, and this is borne out in his many motivating Facebook posts and tweets concerning his trust in God and his gratitude for all that he had been blessed with. Certainly he had much to be thankful for: an envious career, a beautiful family and the adoration of his many fans across the continent. But having lived with Black men my entire life, I know that none of these things came without some sort of cost. A man of his stature, build and coloring (and by that I mean big and black) living in the UK would have faced prejudice at on or many junctures, but you never got the sense that it got him completely down. I think Komla had love for his enemies, which is why he died with more admirers than he did adversaries. Matthew 5 says in part:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

If those are the requirements for “perfection” then I’d say he got top marks. Again, I have yet to hear a solitary disparaging word spoken against him or that he had spoken against someone else…not counting primary school yard insults. Who can get through life in Ghana without screaming “Your MODDA!” at least once?

It was reported that Komla died of cardiac arrest in his sleep and that his blood pressure was a concern. Heart disease is the 10th leading cause of death in Ghana, and yet it is one of the least talked about and most neglected illnesses in the country today. With so much focus on “brand recognizable” diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria, chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease get swept to the side. I clearly recall several men dying of hypertension when I was young, but I don’t have a clear memory of any sort of media campaign to stem the flow of these deaths.

Studies have shown that before age 50, men of African descent’s heart failure rate is 20 times higher than that of men of European descent, yet they are least likely to pursue or receive treatment. On the continent the reasons are varied, and are fraught with problems including access, availability and affordability of decent healthcare. Living in the UK, Komla Dumor was in a better position to receive quality healthcare, but I get the sense he didn’t make the time to do so. The man was dedicated to his craft…was it that dogged dedication that was his undoing in the end? Only God and his doctor know for sure.

Komla-ftSo what might Komla want for us all who would seek to honor his memory and legacy? Each of us will make up our own mind about that, but I think he’d want us to find balance and honesty. Have an honest discussion about the real issues affecting people on the African continent; not just what’s considered “sexy” by the media. Let’s start talking about heart disease and high blood pressure, and how it disproportionately affects our people. Let’s continue to tell the African story as seen from African eyes and spoken through African lips. Let’s pursue excellence and perfection, yes, but let’s make sure we are assigning proper weight and importance to those things that deserve it.

It took you from us in the end, but we thank you for your big heart, Komla. Thank you for sharing your gift with the world.