Category Archives: Thoughts raging in my head

In Desperate Search of Black Leather Luxury

My friend Toyah dropped by the house the other night while I was hiding from my children in my room. We struck up a conversation about life – Black life in particular – in America. This is important to tell you, because the discourse Toyah and I typically engage can be described as anything but “deep”. In fact, it’s usually pretty juvenile, which is just the way I like it. But last Friday was different, and it signaled a turning point in my shopping habits as an adult African/African-American consumer.

“Did you know that the Black dollar only circulates once in the Black community?” she mulled.

“Yeah. I know.”

It was a statistic I had grown up hearing: how the Jewish dollar circulates 83 times within its own community and juxtaposing that with the rate at which the Black dollar flees the community. Here’s another way of looking at it from the NAACP:

“Currently, a dollar circulates in Asian communities for a month, in Jewish communities approximately 20 days and white communities 17 days. How long does a dollar circulate in the black community? 6 hours!!! African American buying power is at 1.1 Trillion; and yet only 2 cents of every dollar an African American spends in this country goes to black owned businesses.”

We talked about how the dollars we earn are immediately spent on enterprises we don’t own in part or en masse: utilities, housing/rent, clothing, food, public transportation. If it weren’t for Black barbers and hairdressers, the African American dollar might spend even less time in the cycle than it does now! I thought about my spending habits when I cast my eyes towards my closet where I house dozens (my husband would say hundreds) of shoes and a brand new Michael Kors purse I had been craving and coveting for nearly a year. When I had saved up $300 in disposable income (something that’s hard to do when you have this many people outgrowing shoes and clothes weekly), I went online and gleefully gave Mr. Kors the expendable fruit of my labor. As Toyah and I talked, the less I began to like my red saffiano tote.

“I’m going to return it,” I declared.

She laughed, but I was dead serious.

“No, really. It’s way too big and at $300, I need to LOVE it…not be looking for ways to make it work.”

I sat on my decision for another 24 hours and early Saturday morning, I returned my MK bag to Macy’s. I was further encouraged to return the item when I stumbled across a rather provocative article that intimated that luxury brands like Michael Kors and Coach were losing their value as price points for particular items fell to where they were accessible to middle income and minority shoppers . If you recall, this is the same phenomenon that struck other “iconic” American designers, and we were the segment of society that was blamed for the demise of labels such as Tommy Hilfiger. Humph!

I didn’t expect to feel as much satisfaction as I did when I returned the bag, but that still left me money to spend and a desire to spend it; so I began an online search for Black owned businesses that carried luxury leather items. I would wear them with as much pride as I would any other mainstream label. Have you heard of any Black owned luxury labels? Neither have I – and I didn’t expect it would be so difficult to find one!

After 3 days of fruitless Google searches and inquiries on Twitter, I finally happened on three websites which I held on to for dear life! I felt like a Backyardigan on an imaginary chase. Did these items actually exist, or were they a figment of my imagination? They are real, guys! And I’m pleased to be able to share them with you:

Deondra Jeree – USA

dejereeBorn in a small town just outside of New Orleans, Louisiana, designer Deondra Jeree Morris fuses her southern roots with her big city savvy to create effortlessly stylish handbags.  Already Featured in fashion, beauty and lifestyle magazines such as Lucky and Ebony, 22 year old Deondra Morris is the designer and creative director of the Deondra Jeree collection.  At age 19, Deondra worked for the Independent Handbag Awards located in New York City, where she was inspired to launch her own handbag collection in late 2013.

I love Deondra’s simplistic approach to design. The frames and shapes she’s chosen are timeless and translate easily from one function to another. I would never use a $700 bag as a sleek “Mommy purse” to carry around juice boxes and graham crackers…but it’s a nice idea to think that I COULD.

Price range: $100 – $700

www.deondrajeree.com

Minku – Lagos

Minku-Autumn-Winter-Minku is a Nigerian maker of quality goods established in 2011 and specializing in leather bags for men and women. The brand defines a fresh sub-Saharan aesthetic through its subtle use of cultural elements and artisan approach to contemporary bag-making.

What I love about this brand is the distressed look of the leather and the details the designer incorporates. Those details include the cross-knot stitch that runs along the seams of several of the duffel bags and hobos.

Price range: $60 – $1,000

www.minku.com

Gregory Sylvia – USA

gregCo-founded by husband and wife Gregory Pope and Terri “Sylvia” Pope, Gregory Sylvia is a fast growing luxury leather goods and lifestyle brand.

I got a chance to speak with Gregory, the husband half of this duo and explained what brought me to his website. He was surprised it took me three days to find them. I chalked it up poor search terms and asked him about his business.

“We saw the same thing in the marketplace that you described,” he confirmed. “African Americans with disposable income and a desire for quality, luxury brands, but there were no owners of those brands who looked like us.”

Gregory and his wife, Sylvia, sought out to create a brand that African Americans – and anyone eventually else – could wear. The company was started with the Greek Collection, which offers classic crossbodies and totes in the colors of four African American sororities.

This is where it gets sad for me: red is my favorite color, and the only bag that have in red is under the Delta Sigma Theta collection. These bags are only available to members of those particular sororities, not to rabble such as myself. It took everything in me not to weep! Nevertheless, there is a very elegant bag called the “Ellington” that I have my sights on. I think I will be okay without the Crimson Crave…eventually.

Price range: $110 – $370

www. gregorysylvia.com

 

Are there other Black/minority owned luxury brands that you are aware of? If so, I think you should share in the comments section below! And when you do comment, make sure to leave out the words “Made in China”, “unnecessary obsession” and “first world problems”. We only want positive contributions here. :)

Colorism: Eku Edewor’s ‘Heritage’ Photo Shoot Conundrum

edewo

Glance at this photo. What are your immediate thoughts? Does it offend you? Why, or why not? Think about it for a second. Why are you or why aren’t you offended by this picture? Sure, it looks innocuous, but this harmlessly snapped image has had the Nigerian Twirraverse in an uproar for almost two days now, and the reasons aren’t so simple.

Eku Edewor is a British-Nigerian actress, model and television presenter. It is her façade that is front and center of two controversial images that have rocked African social media this week. Her photo shoot for the cover of ThisDay Style magazine and an accompanying spread depict her leading a procession to meet her betrothed on a beach somewhere in what we presume is Nigeria. For some, these images are painful reminders of the class and color issues that Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora – not just Nigeria – grapple with even today. Elnathan John, Nigerian satirist and author took to twitter to explain the psychology of the uproar from his experience and perspective. The diatribe in its entirety is worth a read. Elnathan is very fair (no pun intended) to those who feel that they have to resort to skin bleaching. He rejects the notion that self-hate leads 77% of Nigerian women to bleach/lighten their skin, and rather pins the trend on a need for survival.

I call these images Eku’s Ink Blots. People see different things in these picture based on their own lived experiences or witnessing colorism as it is experienced by others. If you are one of those people who say that this picture is absolutely offensive and smacks of intra-racism: you’re right. It does. And if you’re one of those folks who see nothing wrong with this image or the arrangement of the cast of characters here: you’re right as well. These pictures are a real (and in some cases, painful) reality of the world we exist in today as Black people.

Part of the reason we are so mad at these pictures, is because we are mad at ourselves. We are angry that we are still mentally chained to the color/caste system that was thrust upon us by our European enslavers. Once upon a time, there were 245 delineations to assign or describe Blackness in America based on a matrix of hair grade, skin tone, bone structure and racial mixture. South Africa implemented something similar during Apartheid, assigning citizens their races based on similar patterns. The result was the fracturing of a people group, with “coloreds” and “blacks” existing in one nuclear family unit – for example – but with each of those individuals afforded certain rights and privileges based on their racial designation – and usually with lighter skinned folks being easily accepted and favored by the oppressor. Fairer skinned blacks were given better clothes, better jobs and treated with a modicum more respect. This system has been replicated all over Africa and the Diaspora, and we still have yet to heal from it. So when we see pictures of a light-skinned woman being ushered to her prince by a bevy a dark skinned boys with her Luis Vuitton luggage balanced precariously on their heads, it causes a visceral, ancestral reaction within us.

For her part, Ms. Edewor has had to defend the images and explain them as best she can. She says the purpose was to celebrate her Nigerian heritage and that the children in the picture were there as family members to greet and help her through her procession. Okay, fair enough…but as anyone from a mixed race family will tell you, it’s impossible that eeeeeveryone in your family is going to be blue berry black while you turn out lily white. Don’t spit in our eyes and call it rain, Ms. Edewor! A more ‘realistic’ representation of the bride’s “family” would have been to have some diversity in skin tone amongst her helpers. Unfortunately, a part of our collective Nigerian/African heritage is that this picture smacks of classism and racism. It is eerily colonial mistress-esque.

For me, what has been most unfortunate is that Eku Edewor has been denied her Nigerianess because of her complexion. I don’t know how hard Eku rides or reps for Nigeria, but as a hybrid myself, I can identify with whatever internal crisis she may have experienced in the past/present by being rejected by a culture and people you call your own. This denial has only been compounded by her foray into the entertainment industry, where many assume she has only gotten to the heights she’s achieved by virtue of her skin tone. While I don’t know her and have never seen any of her work, but I doubt this is true. I’m sure that her skin color likely opened some doors for her, but it is her performance that keeps her in the game. That her skin color that she was born with affords her privilege is not her fault; it’s a system wide disease that plagues us all. It is the same illness of colorstrickeness that keeps darker skinned women from gracing the covers of magazines (unless they are high fashion editorials and exotic in nature) or in music videos. It is the colorstricken gatekeepers at the helm of banking, fashion, advertising and entertain that promote these attitudes and trends…and they largely affect women. As Elnathan John noted, you adapt to survive – even if that adaptation means risking skin cancer and liver failure. Once you are born in dark black skin in this world, society is quick to offer you a prescription for that existence.

Speak ‘whiter’.

Dress in muted colors.

Straighten your hair.

Bleach your skin.

Marry outside your race so your kids won’t be so ****ing black.

Anyway, in a week we will have forgotten all about Eku and her Ink Blot and moved on to something else for which to be outraged. I have a suggestion: Why don’t we talk about child labor? Why were pre-pubescent boys responsible for carrying her luggage? What, there were no big men around? Mmmm, see? Nobody ever thinks about the kids!

Eku-Edewor-Lynxxx-for-This-day-Style-BellaNaija-March2015002

Day 2: What it’s like to watch your child witness racism for the first time

I watched the movie ‘Selma’ when it opened up nationwide last week and determined that my two eldest children should watch it too. At ages 10 and 8, I deemed them old enough to see the PG 13 movie. The girls were fortunate in their choice of mother, for what better boon could there be in having a mom SO well-versed in Black history and culture, and could therefore answer any technical questions about racism or the times that they may have?

Stupid, stupid me.

There is nothing ‘technical’ about heartbreak, and I of all people should have known that. The 128 minutes devoted to watching this film did not elicit the “who” and “what” questions from their young lips as I had expected; only repeated queries of “Why, Mommy? Why?” As anyone who has had their heartbroken can tell you, “why” is often the hardest question to answer.

MX5’s eldest daughter joined our trio at the theater. Our seating arrangement had me at the very end, with Aya sitting next to me. It was too dark to see/hear what the two other girls’ reaction to the film was, so it was Aya’s heart I watched crumble with each passing minute in the film. The scene with the four girls being blown to bits set off an avalanche of tears. She let out a sharp, shocked gasp as the sound of the explosion rocked the theater. Then she did something I haven’t seen anyone do since I was a child myself. She circled her arms around her shoulders, stuck her fingers in her ears, and hummed loudly throughout the entire scene. I tapped her to let her know it was over.

“Mommy! Did those girls really die?” she whispered harshly.

I confirmed that they had, saying, “Yes. This is based on true events.”

She was silent for a moment before she asked what was really burning on her heart. “But the girls acting in the movie didn’t die…did they?”

“No.”

Her reaction to the police raid during the night march on the streets of Selma was no less visceral. Again she closed her eyes and tried to bury her face into the flesh of my arm, as if trying to disappear. Bloody Sunday, which marked the Civil Rights marcher’s first (and failed) attempt to trudge from Selma to Montgomery was more than she could take. She dissolved in a puddle of her own tears. I pulled her close and felt the wild thumping of her little 8 year old heart as police and vigilantes unloaded tear gas, beat American citizens with clubs wrapped in barb wire, and one officer thundered down the highway on horseback, flogging protestors with a bullwhip.

“Why is this only happening to brown people?” she asked tearfully.

I hadn’t expected that. The only answer I could give was “it shouldn’t be happening to anyone.” To that end, watching the white priest from Boston be beaten to death under a hurl of insults, including the repeated use of the words “nigger” and “white nigger” drove the point home, I think. It shouldn’t have happened to anyone, but white supremacy finds declares itself an enemy to anyone on the side of equality…even if that person happens to be white him/herself. I think we often forget that though not as frequently, the KKK and other fringe groups killed white people as well as Blacks. Abolitionists, desegregationalists, and friends of the Civil Rights movement were seen as “race traitors”, and these factions had no qualms with shedding their blood as well.

There are no words to adequately describe what it’s like to see your child come face-to-face with the monster that is racism. It did confirm what sort of child(ren) I’m raising. Whereas Aya shrank away and fretted in the face of this level of hatred and brutality, Nadjah declared that she would have gone to war with the supremacist powers that be, had she lived in that day. While I admired her boldness, it needed to be tempered with reality. I informed her that they killed Black children with as much frequency in those days as they did adults. I spared her the details of the gravity of that statement, however. What good would it do to heap on the bad news in that hour, for them to discover that the America they feel so safe in is ONLY so because of the bubble I keep them trapped in? There’s time enough in the future for that.

postcard1

America has a long history of failing children – children of color and those who live in poverty in particular – for the benefit of commerce and greed. The list is gruesome and extensive. From white men who used Black infants as alligator bait, to hiring out slave children to be nurses or caregivers to (wealthy) white children, to using them to crawl into narrow, dangerous spaces (as Harriet Tubman narrates), to adults spitting at them as they integrated schools, to sending them to the harrowing halls of juvenile dentition where there is neither hope nor help, to child sex trafficking in major cities like the one we find ourselves residents of today. There is a whole world of monsters, driven by lusts and greed in America, feasting on the tender flesh of our children. Every day, powerful men and women LOOK at our babies, but don’t SEE our babies. They see an opportunity or a problem, either to be exploited or eliminated. Slavery is still very much alive and well in America. It never changed its nature. It merely switched costumes.

traficking

What is it like watching your child witness racism for the first time? It’s like reliving that moment yourself – and it’s no less devastating, despite the supposed benefit of age and foreknowledge.

 

* This post is the second in the 7 day #YourTurnChallenge series

Day 1: What it’s like to be lost

One of my earliest memories is of being lost in a store. I can’t tell you how old I was or which establishment I found myself temporarily stranded in, because I have no recollection of either detail. I just remember I was with my mother, who in her impatience to finish shopping, did not wish to devote the same amount of time I had invested to admiring an object that had caught my attention on a shelf. After I had gotten a good eye-full, I turned around she was gone… and I was alone in a strange, massive store.

It’s a surreal feeling, being lost. The first few seconds after the realization hits you are overwhelming. It’s like being trapped under a wave in the churning Atlantic, the power of which tosses you to and fro with unimaginable force. It feels pointless to thrash against such power. These are heavy emotions for a young child to bear, and fortunately, I didn’t have to.  At the time, I recalled some adult voice telling me  that “if you’re ever lost in a store, go to the customer service desk or ask a police man for help to find your parent.” I’m fairly certain I heard this advice from G.I. Joe. The Joes always gave the best advice. So I scurried up to the front of the store and located a high counter with an important looking man sitting behind it. I could barely see over the top, but I waved my little hand to get his attention.

“Excuse me! Can you call my mom for me?” I asked.

The man peered down at me and said, “Is this her?”

Suddenly, my mother turned around and half-gasped, half-groaned her confirmation. She had gone to the customer service desk to look for me too! We had both listened to G.I. Joe. Hooray! But why didn’t she look pleased to see me? After all, I had just proven that I could handle being lost like a big kid. She grabbed my hand and stormed wordlessly to the car, and I decided that my mother was just determined to be sullen and ruin what should have been a moment for celebration.

Being lost that day wasn’t so bad because I was prepared with the information I needed to see me through to the end. As it turns out, the darkness and fear I described to you earlier were to be reserved for an event I would experience much later in life in my 20’s when I got lost on I-285 in Atlanta.

First of all, driving in Atlanta for the non-native is a terrifying sequence of events which starts with trying to get off the exit ramp. The mix of Florida drivers going way too fast, and Alabama drivers going far too slow and Michigan drivers trying to figure it all out is a recipe for a mess. Throw in a tractor-trailer (or 30) and a sprinkle of rain, and you have a guaranteed disaster. It was on this blend of vehicular gumbo that my sister and I found ourselves one night while riding with a group of friends when I first moved to the city. Anyone who has lived in or visited Atlanta knows the inevitable end to this story: We ended up doing the entire loop of I-285, which for the first timer, it is a heinous situation to find oneself in.

Now, this scenarios doesn’t sound frightening to the person who has never encountered I-285. After all, it’s just a stretch of road, right? WRONG! Trust me when I say it is an absolutely terrifying experience for the new driver, particularly one who is not accustomed to the varying ways in which people conduct themselves on the road, and particularly if that driver is unfamiliar with the nature of I-285! The highway is a jagged loop that circles around the city. Eventually, a motorist will find themselves back at the starting point of their journey. But I didn’t know that! All I know is I missed an exit in North Fulton, found myself down past Bankhead (where even the toughest of gangsters tread softly), by the airport, and through a stinking marsh. I was lost and I was terrified, frozen to my very core. I felt anxiety take hold of me and root itself in my rectum.

No seriously.

Think of the last time you were truly afraid. Your physical reaction was to squeeze your eyes shut and clinch your buttocks, wasn’t it? Well since I was at the wheel, I only had one of those options available to me; and that option was to exert as much psi on my sphincter without rupturing it, rather than close my eyes and send a car full of loved ones hurtling into the median because  I had not yet learned to make out the meanings to the exit signs in the gloom of in a city whose government had a major objection to investing in street lights. Can you imagine? It’s dark and every other road is named after a peach. How does one make informed driving decisions in such an atmosphere?

I would have happily traded being a lost child in the department store for the horror of that evening.

Sometimes I find myself spiritually lost in the same way. The first time I discovered I was spiritually adrift and untethered, I panicked. I didn’t have Spiritual G.I. Joe to advise me on how to get centered and find my footing. It was, again, like finding myself trapped under 50 foot waves, with unfamiliar sights and sounds all around me, none of which made sense. Eventually, your spirit finds a way to come up for air though, no matter how deep in the abyss you think you may be. The spirit is more resilient than the body, I believe. However, as time has gone on and I’ve found myself on unfamiliar ground, I have discovered that there is always a spiritual customer service desk – a concierge for the soul – at the end of every situation. Being lost only sucks if you don’t have a game plan… or some vision of where you want/need to be. Indeed, all who wander are not lost!

 

 

 

*This post is the first in part of a 7 day challenge called #YourTurnChallenge

 

How Revolutionary is Abena Appiah’s Choice to Wear Natural Hair at Miss Universe?

“The Miss Universe Organization (MUO) is a Donald J. Trump and NBC Universal joint venture which uses its global grassroots reach to empower women to be self-confident and strive to be their personal best. MUO believes that every woman should be “Confidently Beautiful.” The MISS UNIVERSE®, MISS USA®, and MISS TEEN USA® beauty pageants provide an international platform through dedicated partnerships with charities, sponsors, and brands around the world. During their reign, our winners are given the tools to personally and professionally enrich others by providing humanitarian efforts to affect positive change, all while developing their personal career goals.”

A appiahIn two weeks, 21 year old fashion design student Abena Appiah will be competing on one of the world’s largest stages as she vies for the Miss Universe crown. That in itself is unremarkable, as Ghana has participated in the Miss Universe pageant since 1991 and has sent 17 of the country’s most intelligent a beautiful women to represent the best of the country and of themselves. What is remarkable about Abena Appiah is that she is the first Ghanaian woman to compete while sporting her natural hair.

I’m not into pageant culture, and couldn’t tell you definitively what differentiates Miss World from Miss Universe other than who owns each pageant’s franchise; which is why I culled Miss Universe’s mission statement and posted it. Though the execution of most of these pageants are the identical at the core, Miss Universe’s mission to “reach to empower women to be self-confident and strive to be their personal best” is what makes it the perfect platform for Ms. Appiah to dare to compete with her natural hair – and make no mistake: it’s daring and risky!

miss ghThe world of beauty is notoriously Eurocentric in its standards. We’ve discussed this at length, and there is certainly no need to flog a dead horse. However it must be re-stated that it has only been within the last decade or so that Black women’s choice to wear natural hair in the workplace (or church, or to baby showers, or to one’s own wedding!) has become acceptable in the mainstream. Despite all these gains, there are certain arena’s where our gravity defying follicles are still met with stares, skepticism and flat out questions of “Why?!!?” By and large, people assume that a Black woman wearing her natural hair is making some sort of political statement, which is why I predict that depending on how far she advances in the competition, Abena Appiah’s coiffure will illicit no small buzz once the event is televised. Remember when Viola took off her wig on HTGAWM? Yeah. It’s that big.

popWhen it comes to pageant hair, there is little deviation from the prescribed norm. Pageant hair is straightened, barrel curled, side parted, sprayed and fluffed. There are no afros, braids, twist outs or pompadours. Pageant hair is glossy and shoulder-length (at least). It does not float above the nape of the neck as though it possessed its own orbital pull. What is Abena Appiah thinking? Is she crazy? I say she’s crazy…crazy like a fox about the run up on a hen house full of unsuspecting, slumbering old layers. Those folks in Miami won’t know what to do with her or that good Ghanaian grade hair, and I LOVE it!

As any natural sister knows, there are certain hazards that come along with sporting non-chemically processed hair, and these become more evident depending on the season. Winter is particularly hard on ethnic hair (God, I hate that term!) as the dry air coupled with the constant rubbing on winter fabrics like wool and tweed robs our hair of moisture. Fortunately for Ms. Appiah, she’ll be competing in Miami where it’s nice and warm and sunny all year round. Her strands should be safe. The other thing she must consider is styling, and I’m sure that Abena and her team have carefully sat down to consider how every style she sports must compliment the outfit, occasion and eventually carry the Miss Universe crown should she get that far. There is SO much potential to showcase the versatility of natural hair, which is why I think Abena Appiah is crazy like a stone cold fox for attempting to pull this off!

At the end of the day, this is a competition about judging women based on their talents, developing career goals and how good they look in a bathing suit. While I’m sure (and glad) that Abena Appiah’s hair will be a central focus, I am hoping it will not be the only one. She is also an accomplished musician and dedicated student who pursues excellence. Once the judges and her fellow competitors get over the shock of seeing a Black woman compete in a beauty pageant without some Pakistani/Indonesian grade weave sewn onto her scalp, it is those qualities that should become the central focus. And while her natural hair should be no big deal, there is no disputing that it is. I don’t know what makes wearing the hair that grows out of your scalp “revolutionary” and “daring”, but that’s the world we live in and if Abena gets on that stage and shows out like I suspect she will, we’ll be talking about those moments for months to come!

 

What Makes Ghanaians Such Abysmal Activists?

When it comes to social change in Ghana, Ghanaians obey a strict set of rules and rarely deviate from the following process:

  1. Express shock and outrage about a particular event
  2. Talk about it on radio/Facebook/What’sApp/Twitter
  3. Deride anyone with an opposing opinion
  4. Wait for the next breaking news story to over shadow the aforementioned outrageous event
  5. Repeat

The whole process usually takes a week, two if you really press it. I look at this generation of “activists” – of which I cannot exclude myself from – and shake my head with dismay…for I know that if it was up to us, Ghana would still be in the bonds of colonial shackles. The brand of Ghanaian born today pales in comparison to those born eighty or more years ago. We have no stick-to-it-ness, no value of continuity, no vigor for any cause beyond the initial spark of outrage and shock. If we did, would Ghana find herself in the place she is today?

I was on Facebook early this morning, and some chap in the NDC had written an open letter to Kathleen Addy, who is a member of the opposition party, NPP. In his post, he was goading her about all the projects that his party had managed to get out on paper and included the following:

ndc list

I read this post with astonishment, and wondered how this man had the testicular fortitude to boast of ANY of this, when the working poor can barely afford the price of kenkey, when thousands of Ghanaian children will sleep on the road tonight because they have shelter, when dozens will die of malaria this week alone, when development in the majority of the country is so lagging that the youth flock to Accra with hopes of earning a maid or a driver’s wage just to get by, and with a president who has the gall to get on national media and tell Ghanaians to count their blessings despite all this. If there was ever a time for activism, it is certainly now! At the very least, there should be a clarion call for accountability with required levels of  pressure to bring that to bear.

But what we have instead is that cycle I listed above.

The cycle isn’t working, and Ghanaians know it is not working. And to soothe the national conscience about our abysmal failures, we quote the mantra “This is Ghana!” which might soon be added as the tenth line of the National Pledge.

This is Ghana, so an MP can call for stoning women on the floor of parliament.

This is Ghana, so Accra Mayor Alfred Oko Vanderpuije can arrest a trotro driver for honking his horn at him. No formal charges! Just abuse of power at it’s finest. Has anyone in the media even followed up on this blatant human rights abuse?

This is Ghana so nobody comes to parliament with plans to expand public utilities. They only come in search of kickbacks.

This is Ghana, so a Muslim doctor can rape a 16 year old boy and be pardoned by the community because he was tempted of the devil and is truly sorry.

This is Ghana, so a quack doctor can rape women while he’s performing illegal abortions in disgusting conditions.

This is Ghana, so women at Korle Bu and KATH have to go into labor ‘in turns’ or risk delivering their babies on the hospital floor because there aren’t enough beds.

This is Ghana, where we use taxis to transport the injured and ambulances to ferry the dead.

The list goes on. It’s exhausting. But in the face of all this, what are Ghanaians doing? Making jokes and deflecting our attentions elsewhere. It’s all we CAN do.

Samuel Obour recently wrote a list of the Top 10 Ghanaian Bloggers and posted it on his personal blog. (Disclosure: I was on the list and am honored, but this next statement in his defense has nothing to do with that.) The majority of the bloggers were male, and they write on showbiz, lifestyle and entertainment. They are widely read because of the subject matter they tackle. However, Mr. Obour said his choices were based off of how much social impact these blogs had. I know for a fact that my blog did not impact Ghanaian society. It set tongues wagging, but it didn’t CHANGE anything in Ghanaian society. None of these blogs did. Not one. There is not a single piece of Ghanaian e-real estate that I (or anyone else) can point you to that is a hub for social discourse that has/does/will bring about true social change. Why? Because Ghanaians are horrible at activism. We prefer to be shocked, outraged and entertained than persuaded to make real impact on our spheres of influence. It’s too inconvenient; and this is why Ameyaw Debrah is Ghana’s premier blogger and the kid talking about Cholera prevention, or investments, or what have you is not. So despite the chagrin that other bloggers felt about Obour’s list, he was essential accurate about who the “top” blogs. The Google analytics and retweets bear that out.

There have been so many issues that we have let die in the water because we could not focus. I quipped this morning that Kenyans (Kenyan women in particular) make the best activists. Their effectiveness is seen in results. Consider Akina Mama wa Africa which grew out of Maendeleo ya Wanawaki. Look at the work of Wangari Maathai. See how #MyDressMyChoice moved from online and into the streets! I asserted and still hold that if #MyDressMyChoice had been born in Ghana, it would have died within days. How long did it take Red Friday to fizzle out? Where were the focus and the continuity? Let’s not even talk about the 31st December Women’s Movement. What is their function beyond singing party hymns, waving hankies to greet their leaders, and to collect their portion of chibom and Coke?

I asked around for feedback on why Ghanaians make such pathetic activists and got a handful of reactions:

  • They are cowardly and lazy
  • They are apathetic
  • Is activism going to pay my kids’ school fees?
  • Nobody really cares

The last reason is hard to swallow. Can that possibly be true…or is it rather that people do not care enough?

My personal view is that Ghanaians have not mastered partnerships with each other. We are too focused on divisions and what makes us different. There is nothing more sobering and disheartening than having your views dismissed because “you don’t live in Ghana” and watching people muddle through what would be simpler to solve if we worked together. To that point, returnees don’t earn themselves any allies with their aloof attitudes and insular behavior. Again, this is another area where Kenyans have gotten it right and Ghanaians are steadfastly and committedly trudging down a broken winding road leading to mediocrity.

Discuss? ↓

Year End Review – My last post for 2014

The woman who threads my eyebrows is from Iran. Last year, she told me that 2013 was going to be a “very bad year”. Numerology dictated that it would. She didn’t offer any predictions for 2014 and I’m not due to get a threading until next Friday, so I’ll have to ask her then what her take on 2014 was. Did the numbers lie? Was 2014 supposed to set everything to right that 2013 set out of balance? Questions!

Let’s review the year together, shall we? We’ll take it in the bits: The good, the bad, the WTF?!?

The Good

I started the year off in heaps of debt comprised of medical bills and student loans. By June of this year Marshall and I had all of our debts paid off. I also published 2 books this year, which made me pretty darn happy, and then I joined the Kpakpakpa Movement, which guarantees me success in all my endeavors.

****Confetti!!!****

Lupita-Nyongo-Light-Blue-Prada-Dress-Oscars-2014The world got to see a spectacular super moon, which was pretty cool, and Malala No Last Name Needed Because She’s so Dope won the Nobel Peace Prize. Lupita Nyong’o slayed the world of fashion and drama with her ebony beauty and grace. Gas prices are currently down below $3 a gallon (in the US at least) all thanks to President Obama’s leadership. I don’t know who he had to bomb or snipe to get us there, but it spells out a very merry Christmas for the Murrikans. The rest of the world is on its own.

Also in not so much world related news, God is still awesome and He is proving it through Eddie James Ministries (www.ejworship.org) which mentors, feeds, houses and rehabilitates the homeless and hopeless through worship. Like hardcore, you cain’t deny its power, behind the veil worship. I’m only sad I just discovered this ministry this year.

The Bad

In other God related news, “Men of God” in Ghana and across Africa are ruining the continent with their occultism, foolishness or a mix of both. The people include Duncan Williams, Dag Heward Mills, Bleach-faced/ Pregnant Belly Kicking Bishop Obinim (no really, he kicked an expecting mother in the belly to ‘heal her’) and Lesego Danie,l that dude down in South Africa making his congregation drink gasoline to prove their faith. People who believe these are actually men who hear from God are better off worshipping rocks.

A respiratory virus known as Enterovirus D68 swept through the Mid-West and Western regions of the US and sickened hundreds of kids. Children in Pre-K to third grade were particularly susceptible and a few lost their lives. This virus terrified American parents, prompting some to keep their kids out of school until it had peaked and was on the decline. But Enterovirus D68 had NOTHING on Ebola. Ebola scared the sense out of every living American. I have never seen such unfounded hysteria in my life.

Wait. That’s not true. Americans treated AIDS and obesity the same way a few decades ago. I’m talking “You’ll catch AIDS if you hug this person” and “I don’t walk in the shadow of fat people because I may catch some of their weight”. Ahhh, Murrika.

The WTF?!?!

As for the WTF dierrr, it was plenty. For a complete listing of WTF global events, go to Twitter and dig out a list of the following hashtags:

  • #BringBackOurGirls
  • #ICantBreathe
  • The blue eyed felonious criminal model dude
  • #ISIS
  • #MyDressMyChoice
  • #Ferguson
  • #Jollofgate
  • #CrimingWhileWhite
  • #ElizabethLauten
  • #AliveWhileBlack
  • The Unhinged Ugandan Maid (I don’t think she got her own HT)

2014 was a HORRIBLE year for human rights, and for humanity as a whole. I think human beings showed their collective asses in 2014. Look at the ghastly things we’ve done to the children in Syria and Palestine. Consider how we’ve failed girls in India who can’t even go to the bathroom without risking rape. From Nelson Baani to Oscar Pistorius, and now to Shrien Dewani, we see that men have been given the liberty to both promote and carry out the execution of women with little fear of reprimand or true consequences. 2014 was an awful time to be a woman – white, black or Indian – in Africa. In Kenya, men were stripping and abusing women in the streets in broad daylight. In Ghana, there were several cases of women being attacked by rapists as they went to the toilet. The stories covering violence against women and girls seemed to be endless, and the shame and heartbreak only piqued by governments and police forces who were too lazy or too unwilling to bring justice for fear of the loss of the benefits of patriarchy.

But as deadly as it was to be a woman in the developing world in 2014, it might have been even more so to be Black in America. Sweet heavenly Jesus doused in frankincense. How many street executions have to take place before America wakes up to the scourge that is blatant racism and selective police brutality? Gawker recently released a list of names of unarmed (Black) civilians who were killed by the police while doing some of the following activities:

  • Looking for help after a car crash
  • Walking up a stairwell in the victim’s apartment building
  • Playing with toys in the park
  • Standing on the street corner selling loosies

And because America’s justice system is unrighteous, unholy and clearly given to bias, each of these predators have (or will) go free, never to be prosecuted for their crimes. White supremacy still profits off of the bodies of Black men and women – from book deals to ABC interviews – supremacists still find a way to make a buck off of the blood of our children, sisters, husbands and mothers; and in 2014 the profit mill was in overdrive. It’s disgusting. But as tragic as these events have been the reaction to this sort of violence from a particular cadre of Black folk has been even more alarming.

I am trying to decide if I can (or will) associate with the purveyors of respectability politics in 2015. Honestly, I don’t think I can stomach it. Oh, you know these people. You may even be one of them yourself. Those naïve folks who think that as long as you have your pants pulled up, wear neutral colors, pronounce your R’s and don’t drop your –ings, you’re somehow immune to a police officer’s bullet or chokehold, or more likely to get a job. Niggro, please. There are at least 3 studies that have shown that a drop-out white male with a felony background is twice as likely to get a job than a Black male with no criminal record and a high school degree. And none of these Respectability Niggros has yet been able to explain why Henry Louis Gates Jr was cuffed and arrested while wearing a blazer and an argyle vest on suspicion of breaking and entering his own house. The man was coming through the front door with his own key. These are the same people who would confidently tell you that as long as you obey the officer – regardless of whether you know your arrest/detainment is unlawful – you will be safe. You idiots. Yes! Imbeciles! The man in this video was complying with the officer’s orders and STILL got shot.

These Respectability Niggros want Black Americans to give up all their rights for the sake of white harmony. That’s not harmony. That’s Jim Crow. You’re setting the race back 100 years.

Twinsies!

Twinsies!

In conclusion, 2014 wasn’t a great year; but even in the midst of all this darkness, there were a few points of brilliant light. Those lights go by the names of John Legend and Jessie Williams. I don’t think I’ve ever been as impressed with any celebrity as much as I am with this pair. But as fantastic as these two may be, Franchesca Ramsey takes the crown when an exasperated Ms. Ramsey asks former New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly what we need to do to “behave like good Negros” and to “please enlighten me on how not to get killed”. Ei. Sistah. We don’t say these things to white people in their faces ooo. We mutter them on BET and at the barbershop. The woman has Nzinga and Yaa Asentewaa blood coursing in her veins!

So, as we settle in for Christmas pie and pudding, let us reflect on what 2014 has wrought and how we can make it better in 2015. Happy New Year to you all, MOM Squad! I appreciate each one of you and wish you and your families nuthin’ but goodness and a joy/strength combo pack in hard times should they come your way.