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

 

I’m participating in the #YourTurnChallenge …Yikes!

Dear MOM Squad:

Blame Tosinger oooo. Blame her! Last week she quietly knocked on my Twitter door, entered my mentions, and gently threw set down the gauntlet, asking me if I’d like to participate in the #YourTurnChallenge. I could have ignored her if not for the word “challenge” hanging on the end of the hashtag. Me to back away from a challenge? How!

Naturally, I said yes…without even bothering to find out what I was getting into. It’s  a reflex I have; like William Wallace chopping off the heads of English nobles. I just can’t help myself!

The #YourTurnChallenge isn’t nearly as grotesque as that, thankfully. It merely encourages bloggers to post something every day for seven days, starting January 19th. A year or more ago, this would be no difficult task at all. I used to write two posts a day without any real effort (one here and one on  Adventures). And then the trolls found me…After that, let’s just say my zest for writing was far less zesty.

Anyhow, I’ve devised my strategy to get through this challenge and to come out victorious! For the next seven days, I will be writing under the theme “What it feels like to…” wherein I will describe in very raw terms what it feels like to endure a particular event. One of the posts I’m most looking forward to penning is “What it feels like to have a boil on your arse.”

“Well, Malaka,” says you, “how would you know what it’s like to have a cyst upon thy buttocks?”

Oh don’t be so coy. How is a writer to write effectively about anything if she has not experienced it, or spent a great deal of time studying it? Clearly, someone very close to be has suffered a boil on their butt. Yes sir! This will be a week of hard hitting journalism and provocative topics! (Not really.)

Feel free to skip reading this week, MOM Squad. I just wanted to give you a heads up to prepare yourself for what’s to come. Hopefully, nothing of serious consequence will happen in popular culture or society at large that will cause me to deviate from my task.

See you tomorrow on Day 1, and if you’re on twitter, follow @Tosinger to see what she’ll be up to as well!

 

Untitled and Pissed Off

Caution: Rant

I’m about to say some things. And those things will be directed at misogynists, whether they possess a penis or a vagina; because yes – there are many women who are doggedly dedicated to the subjugation of their own sex. As low as a misogynistic man may be, a woman who is devoted to the defeat of those who share her gender is lower than that. She is a grub.

I am about to say some things about Ghanaians and Ghanaian culture, and though those things may (and probably do) apply to other African cultures, I am not here to admonish them. They have their own warriors. If you know you are one of these ‘men’ who gets all in his feelings over words published online, click the ‘x’ on your browser now.

 

In 2010, I visited my father in Ghana and he said something that shocked me during one of our conversations. “I can’t speak for other African nations, but I know that we Ghanaians treat women very badly,” he said.

I’ve told this story before. I’ve recounted how I met his assertion with skepticism. I’ve told anyone who would listen how proud I am to be of Ghanaian heritage, and how –despite all their wealth and global influence – I am grateful to have never been born a woman in Saudi Arabia or any other Arab country. THOSE women have no rights at all. I’d rather be Black, poor and hungry than a woman of living under an obviously repressive Arab regime.

What nonsense I was talking. Five years on, I have discovered what my father was talking about. Middle Eastern countries tell a woman her place and compel her to conduct herself accordingly from the outset. She is not raised to have hopes because of her gender. As cruel as this is, it is nowhere near as fiendish as what Ghanaians do to our girls. Where gender is concerned, Ghanaian society is built on a foundation of deceit, broken promises and lies. We tell ourselves we are progressive and egalitarian, dedicated to the advancement of ALL, but it is not true. Because time and again, Ghanaian men have proven their strength not based on innovation, vision or advancement, but rather based on the oppression of Ghanaian women.

A Ghanaian man is only strong when he makes women around him look/feel/act weak.

Today we got news that 19 year old college student Ewuraffe Orleans Thompson, who reported that she had been raped by broadcaster KKD, has withdrawn her rape case from court, because she is “no longer interested” in pursuing it. Now, take a long hard look at that sentence and tell me immediately what’s wrong with it. Most intelligent people can already gather what has happened here, and how this girl got to this point, but I’ll help the rest of y’all out:

  • We know how old she is.
  • We know her name
  • We know she reported an alleged attack by a beloved Ghanaian personality
  • Though I did not insert it into the sentence, anyone with access to the internet knows where this girl lives and goes to school.

How, and furthermore, WHY do we know all this? This is precisely the sort of divulging of information rape advocates in America have fought against (and successful won over) for years. There is no reason to publish the name of a rape victim for a myriad of reasons. This child – and she IS a child – is 19 years old. She is still under the care and protection of her parents. She has barely begun her tertiary education. Publishing this information about her is literally akin to assaulting her all over again. Who knows what her future in Ghana will be, with a society that has devoted itself to lowering the posture of women? You think that’s hyperbole? Listen to what your “relationship counselors” say on the radio about women! Listen to your mega-pastors misquote the Bible and tell women they will rot without the proposal of marriage of a man to save them! Listen to an MP come to parliament floor and THEN go on national media to advocate for the stoning of women. Now go to your social media feed and look at the kinds of things men AND women are saying about this girl, despite the fact that four more women came forward in the wake of this revelation to divulge how KKD raped them in their teens and ‘tweens. Let’s not forget that William Nyarko, formally of the Chronicle, recently admitted that his publication routinely killed stories about KKD and his preying on ‘small girls’ in an effort to protect him.

Image widely circulated of the wrongly identified victim.

Image widely circulated of the wrongly identified victim.

Now you tell me: how is a 19 year old girl supposed to stand against a system that was designed to destroy her? When it comes to KKD, the media was – and IS – singularly bent on protecting their own, with Citi FM leading the charge in the most abysmal display of a lack of journalistic ethics. There is no way this outlet and the others like TV3 and co. would have gotten away with what they have done to Ms. Thompson in a civilized society. In a vagrant display of intimidation, they hounded her for every tidbit of information they could find and published it, some times without verifying facts. Need I remind anyone of the supposed image of Ms. Thompson in a backless dress that went viral? That was actually a picture of Grace Omane, who threatened to sue all the media houses distributing images of her and tagging her as the alleged victim.

Tell me again: how does a girl/woman gather the strength to fight for justice in a toxic climate such as Ghana’s?

The problem with Ghana is Ghanaians. Secretly, we are convinced of our own superiority. We think certain things can never happen in Ghana. @Ayawuku actually alludes to this on a blog she wrote recently entitled Trigger where she discusses a bout she had with depression. When she tried to broach the topic with an aunt whom she felt would identify with or at least acknowledge what she was feeling, she was shot down with the words “You have been brainwashed,” and informed only white people suffer from depression. This is why there are “no suicides” in Ghana. People either stumble to their deaths from a balcony or accidentally overdose on some pills. In order to be truly mentally ill, you have to be drooling on yourself and eating your own shit. Similarly, this is also why there are “few rapes” in Ghana; because if you don’t scream and your assailant happens to be powerful – a chief, a pastor, a radio DJ – you are an attention seeking harlot who wants her 15 minutes of fame at the expense of a “good man”.

I’ve said before that I don’t know if KKD raped that girl, but I know for a fact that he is a predator and a nasty ass man. I know this because just a week after I published my story, my cousin contacted and told me how KKD got grabby with her outside of his bathroom, but she managed to fight him off. When she’s ready, she’ll tell her story. I know he’s nasty because of the four other women who were brave enough to tell, but too scared to reveal their identities. And I know for certain that after today, fewer Ghanaian women will feel confident enough to come forward and name their attackers, and Ghanaians can move forward believing that theirs is a just and civilized society, albeit a false assumption.

 

David Oyelowo’s Wife is Wicked

Last night’s Golden Globes Awards ceremony was chock-full of surprises and memorable moments. Prince, His Royal Purpleness and wielder of diamond studded scepters, made an unexpected appearance and doled out the award for Best Original Song. After accepted the award from His Purple Majesty, Common went on to make an electrifying speech in which he referred to Ferguson, slain police officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, and a part of his humanity which had been awakened during the making of the film ‘Selma’.

“I am the unarmed black kid who maybe needed a hand but was instead given a bullet,” he said.

And then there was Ricky Gervais, who with the dismissiveness and aloofness of a colonial era slave auctioneer, purposefully mispronounced Quvenzhané Wallis’ name.

But of all these water cooler chatter worthy moments, none eclipses David Oyelowo’s choice of garb for the evening. Just as Lupita stunned the world of fashion on the same night just twelve months before, David Oyelowo left the world breathless in this suit…though for very different reasons.

Look at his suit. Then look at his shoes.

David O

My brodda. Why. Eh? WHY?!?

Look, just because you are a star, it doesn’t mean you have to dress like one. What do you mean by leaving the house dressed up as the Milky Way? Are you a galaxy? No, no, no.

But it is the wife I blame. She is not a good woman. Look at how nicely she was dressed. Now look at how she allowed her husband to leave the house. And she is totally to blame, because she knew weeks in advance what he was going to wear! One does not procure a glittering disco ball of a suit like this from a shelf at Brooks Brothers. No, no. This suit was made to order, and it was ordered by someone who hates Black people – someone like John Galliano. Because anyone who hates Jews certainly couldn’t care one whit for a Black male. You mean to tell me Mrs. Oyelowo looked at that suit and said “Yes, babe, you look dashing in those sparkling trousers, and people will take you seriously?”

Wicked woman!

Let me advise my white sisters who marry Black men: You don’t have to let them do whatever they want oooo. You are his rib. Ribs don’t let the other side of the chest collapse in this manner. Mrs. Oyelowo. Yes, you! I’m talking to you! Is your husband auditioning for a part in ‘Sailor Moon’? Then why did you let him leave the house in those twinkling shoes? His money is your money ooo. His image is your image ooo. Please, next time, advise yourself accordingly.

David Oyelowo is not the first African man to play the fool with his clothing on such an auspicious occasion, and he won’t be the last. Look at these two men of West and South-eastern African descent, for example. Obviously, these men were heading down the aisle towards wedded bliss and towards the total surrendering of their fashion choices to soon-to-be wives…and for good reason. These are not men who can be trusted to dress themselves, and they know it. This was their last hoorah.

photo 2(1)

One of them came to meet his wife dressed as a horizontal silver serving tray, and the other as King David. What are you supposed to tell your great-great grandchildren about that day? What answer do you give when they ask you why Grand Poppi looks like an extra from the Wizard of Oz? Of course these unsuspecting wives couldn’t have known that their new husbands were going to pull this stunt on the most important day of her life. A man shows up in a black or white suit to a wedding. He doesn’t come dressed as a slice of cake or the dish on which to eat it from. These women can be forgiven for their ignorance. How could they have anticipated this? They were as shocked as the rest of us!

photo 1

There is no excusing David Oyelowo’s wife.

He is a Nigerian, and you are the wife of a Nigerian man. Your husband is a rogue by nature of his DNA. You cannot be scared to tell him ‘NO!’ You think it’s easy to marry and help carry the legacy of an African man in Hollywood?

Humph. Know your place and do your job accordingly.

Tsewww. Look at her wicked face.

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? ↓