HANDBOOK FOR AFRICANS 1: You see only the worst in you

Today, I am honored to feature another post from the inimitable Field Ruwe. Comments are always welcome and feel free to share and reblog.

HANDBOOK FOR AFRICANS 1

You see only the worst in you

By Field Ruwe

 

We, black Africans, seldom feel the urge to jump into the river and swim across, more so if it is infested with crocodiles. Yes, when we stand by the riverside, the first thought that comes to mind is the fear of drowning or being attacked by a crocodile. This mortifying psychological faintheartedness is in the majority of Africans. We are gripped with so much fear, we are afraid to make that most crucial jump out of the nest and fly into the challenging world. It is this feeling of inadequacy that affects our upward mobility, and allows non-Africans to condition us their way. They have managed to make us see only the worst in us.

For centuries we have been victims of a camouflaged psychological warfare, covert and overt racism, that have left many Africans mentally indoctrinated. The belief that Africans have low intelligence remains in the African psyche and is passed from one generation to another. This has resulted in low-esteem, loss of scholastic motivation, and lack of great imagination. Today, there is even a much more sophisticated and massive furtive effort by non-Africans to portray Africans as failures. As a result, many Africans continue to believe that all non-black people are intellectually better than them. This has contributed to the continued deteriorating image of Africa.

 

I am working on a handbook that’s meant to change this perception and bring the best in Africans. It is a psychological conditioning book for Africans that attempts to remove the devastating feeling of self-contempt, self-hatred, self-doubt, self-loathing, disunity, dislike of the other African, and instills self-confidence, admiration, respect, trust, and unity. It urges Africans to rid of negative pathologies embedded within them and turn their thinking around and look at themselves as a brave and intelligent people who deserve to be part of the cognitive elite.

 

Beginning today, once a week, I shall use this platform to confront our Achilles’ heels—the weaknesses that have resulted in the loss of our unity, racial pride, and educational aspirations in spite of our physical and mental strengths. I offer ideas, suggestions, and recommendations that can gain us the acceptance of the world. The benefit of reading this column will be a change from feelings of hopelessness and despair to an awareness of the most urgent issues of our time. We can no longer survive as Africans hanging on to intimidation and humiliation. In order to succeed, we need to engage in critical thinking, reexamine some of our most basic beliefs and prior assumptions.

My first task this week is to prepare you for the most provocative and grueling topics ahead. In doing so, I table ten self-development techniques to help build your self-esteem and self-confidence.

 

  1. Self-acceptance: Know that you will never be the color you are not. Accept who you are and display optimism and confidence. Realize that you can’t change the color of your skin or your features, but you can take personal responsibility and change how you think and feel about yourself. If you accept the way you look, your body accepts you. Always say to yourself: “I’ll not change the way I look to accommodate the people who hate me. I’ve been black all my life and will proudly live with it.” When you hate the way you are, you surrender your willpower to your tormentors. They will gladly kill you. Remember there is absolutely nothing wrong with black skin. It is beautiful. There is nothing wrong with your broad nose. It is no worse than the noses of many non-blacks. There is nothing wrong with your thick lips. In fact they are the admiration of many non-blacks. So, reject the senseless feelings of self-hate that have been forced on you.

 

  1. The Dominance Motive: Understand that the color of your skin and your appearance are tools of intimidation, oppression, and suppression, used by non-blacks to dominate you. The majority of non-blacks are driven by dominance motives because they have been conditioned from childhood. Many non-blacks have made a pledge that a black person will never be their equal or above them. Not because he is brainless, but because he possesses the two most vital qualities of dominance—power and intellect. Overcome by your physic, they have gone after your mind and reduced it to the size of a marble. Driven by their ego and dominance motive, they have managed to replace your self-love with self-hate. It is up to you. You either reclaim your self-love or allow self-hate to consume and kill you.

 

  1. Responsibility: God put you on earth for a purpose. You are responsible for that purpose. You are your own purpose. Teach yourself to shoulder the responsibilities of your life. You find yourself overburdened by self-hate because you have allowed other people to take control of your responsibilities. Develop the courage to be responsible of NOT your self-hate, but self-love. Take control of yourself and begin to love everything about you. God loves you.
  2. Positivity [the quality or state of being positive]. Believe in yourself. Begin to chip in your negative thoughts by filling your mind with self-affirming thoughts. Tell yourself “I’m happy with the way I am. I need not bother about other people’s thoughts and actions.” Fill your mind with black people who inspire you or those who have made it to the top. Put yourself in their shoes and emulate their positivity. They became successful against all odds, and so can you. It will take time, but it is worth it.

 

  1. Understand the psychological motive of your tormentor. Always bear in mind that your tormentor is waging a war against you; that his/her negative attitude toward you is meant to remind you that you don’t belong to his group/race. By doing so he is boosting his own self-worth. When in public study, even for a moment, the people around you. Know that not all have negative feelings about you. Those who do will display their prejudicial attitude through body language. It is their only way to maintain their self-esteem. Always remember that racism is the underlying motive behind the actions of your tormentor. He may not be a racist, but he/she truly thinks he/she is of higher social status. Don’t forget that bigoted behavior can be expressed through words, actions, body language, love or hate, knowledge or ignorance. Most of the non-black people in your presence have been told that black people are bad or dangerous. Don’t show anger or emotion when you encounter any of these attributes. Being angry or emotional gives your tormentor a sense of victory.

 

  1. Isolation: In isolation understand that the people who carry biases are shielding their failures. Take a look or a glance at anyone who is trying to bring you down. On public transport, ask yourself why they are on the same transport, going in the same direction as you; in class, is their intelligence exceptional? Look at their grades, judge their participation and contribution. At work, are they the company’s Einstein? What spectacular contribution have they made—that you can’t make? Let them not intimidate you because of the color of their skin. They could be worse than you. It is possible that they exude confidence in public and curl in misery in private. Remember, tormentors are tormented people. They typically inflict their torment on others. Bare this in mind, and in your seat, keep a smile on your face.

 

  1. Blame: Don’t blame God. Don’t blame your parents. Don’t blame your fellow blacks. It is not their fault that you despise yourself—that you think you are black, ugly, bad, mean, inferior, primitive, and intellectually deficient. Blame those non-blacks who work night and day to ensure you feel the way you do. They are the ones that have imprisoned you and turned you into an object of hate. They have succeeded in making you hate yourself. They have made you dislike anything and everything black—the color, culture, music, sports, and other talents. Understand that you have enough wisdom to realize that self-hate is not doing you any good. Begin to appreciate yourself and your own people.

 

  1. Outlook: Build your self-image by taking care of yourself. Always take a bath/shower, brush your teeth, and kill any unpleasant smell on you. Dress well – clean shirt, underwear, and pants. Remind yourself that your tormentors could be avoiding you because they, themselves, are not clean and do not want you to know.

 

  1. Hope: Always think that you will be much better as a black person someday; that the future is bright for all blacks on earth. Think about where you have come as a black to where you are now. Whereas before you were not allowed to be on the same bus with non-blacks, you are now separated only by a seat. Soon a day will come when all black people will enjoy life in all its richness.

 

  1. Love: Replacing self-hate with self-love is all about loving oneself, caring about oneself, taking responsibility for oneself, respecting oneself, and knowing oneself. You must go further than that and share the same feelings with others. Love them for who they are, respect and appreciate them for their effort and talent in class, sports, etc.

 

 

Remember: The psychological impact of racism and discrimination has long lasting effects. The enormous personal stress that you experience when you are shunned, ignored, snubbed, feared, discriminated against, creates a deep wound in your soul. It gets even deeper when you pay too much attention to what non-blacks are doing to you or saying about you. When in such a situation keep your head high and smile in the face of unpleasantness.

 

Please Note: The reader must understand that this is not an attack on a particular people or race, but an honest attempt to make Africans understand who they are, where they came from, what their history is, where they went wrong, when and why, where they are today, and what to do about their future. An African who reads this article and shares with another African, spreads the word one African at a time. Next week I tackle the history of the color black and why religion takes a chunk of the blame. Don’t miss it.

 

Field Ruwe is a US-based Zambian media practitioner, historian, author, and a doctoral candidate. Learn more about him on his website www.aruwebooks.com. On it you shall access his autobiography, articles, and books. Contact him, blog, or join in the debate. ©Ruwe2012

 

Did 90s R&B Ruin Marriage for an Entire Generation?

I recently had the occasion to take a 10 hour road trip with my four children. Let that sink in: 4 kids – all aged 10 and younger. Obviously it went well enough. I’m back at my computer and have lived to tell the tale.

My musical choices for road trips of this length usually vary between hip-life and heavy metal. I find that submerging my psyche in guitar riffs and subtle misogynist lyrics is a comforting alternative to road rage. But on this particular trip something peculiar happened: on a whim, I decided to shake up my playlist and added a new channel on Pandora. That channel was Boyz II Men. That’s when the trouble began.

If you’re age 34 and over, you will remember that Boyz II Men, Shai, Jodeci and Joe (and who could forget Silk!) defined 90s R&B – and romantic relationships by extension – for legions of impressionable teenagers who suddenly found a rise in hormone levels coincide with the introduction of this new style of music. We were spellbound and with our senses led astray; utterly powerless. “Let me lick you up and down?” Ebei. Okay…sure! Who could resist such an invitation, nasty as it may have seemed at first. You people reading know what manner of salivary bathing rituals you subjected yourselves to at Silk’s suggestion.

The first song that debuted on my playlist was Boyz II Men’s End of the Road. Spiritually, I was transported back to that era I spoke of earlier: that 16 year old crush-giddy-gnashingness that many a girl experienced in those days. Here were four men in various shapes and octave ranges promising to make your evening a long and unforgettable one. For those of us who lost our virginities to clumsy, inexperienced age mates who were eager to cross organism’s finish line, this was only something we could dream of. *Sigh*…

The 37 year old woman listening to these lyrics – the one who was now married with children – was horrified. Lies! So many lies! I suddenly understood why so many modern relationships that began with the promise of “forever” had crashed and burned and disintegrated into a million pieces. These musical groups were feeding us the Oxfam version of a romantic utopia, never taking into account that there are not enough men alive (then or now) who could deliver on the sort of sexual, financial or spiritual fulfilment they were promising hordes of young women and girls looking forward to eventual marriage. In just 4 short years, we were all deceived into thinking that the man of our eventual choice would do whatever it took to keep our relationship intact no matter what the transgression, perceived or real. We were that special.

Look at this:

Girl, I know you really love me,

You just don’t realize

You’ve never been there before

It’s only your first time

Maybe I’ll forgive you, hmm

Maybe you’ll try

We should be happy together

Forever, you and I

 

You know the story. The girl(s) in this story had cheated and were being implored to come back and work on making the relationship a success with promises of being made love to all through the night in later songs. Jodeci only made matters worse by declaring in Feenin’ that we could:

Take my money

My house and my cars

For one hit of you

You can have it all, baby

Cause makin’ love

Every time we do

Girls it’s worse than drugs

Cause I’m an addict over you

And you know that I (can’t leave you alone…etc)

Open your eyes and stop lying to me!!

Open your eyes and stop lying to me!!

So what did we do? Like fools, we traipsed into marriage and long term relationships built on clouds. Jodeci and co would have done us all a better service if they had told us the truth about unprotected sex, STDs, abortions, side chicks, and broke dudes who hole up in your house eating up the last of the gari and using all the hot water. Then of course there’s THIS line of thinking that is the final destination at the other end of the bridge of the “typical African marriage”.

photo(2)

You want your wife to treat you like a baby in the bedroom? What does that even mean? You want her to dress you in a bonnet, wipe your butt, dust your body with lavender scented powder and breastfeed you at 3 am? This is not what 90s R&B promised, but that’s exactly what this president/king/baby is expecting out of his wife.

What else is there to do but divorce? The blame lays at the feet of Jon B and Babyface, guys who promised to work, cook, draw bubble baths and pay bills for the object of their amorous feelings. We each imagined ourselves to be the quality of woman worthy of this level of attentiveness. But what did the 50% of people who decided to terminate their marriages in the last decade get instead? Some chap who wants to know why his underwear hasn’t been washed or why dinner wasn’t placed on the table as soon as he got home from. All this after his wife has usually put in 9 hours of work herself.

Oh ho.

These days, there is no R&B to cloud anyone’s judgment. Many young couples don’t even bother with the farce of aspiring for a fairy-tale marriage. It’s unattainable. They are wiser than we were. Nowadays, music is much more realistic. Men are honest. They want to make truffle butter and cheat on you and have no qualms about admitting it in song. In return, women are delaying or eliminating the prospect of marriage. More people are winning.

In the meantime, I’ve gone back to putting Van Halen and Timaya on blast for long road trips. Unlike K-Ci and Jojo, they are honest gentlemen.

The Strength of Women Reexamined and Redefined

“Being a strong woman isn’t remarkable, it’s normal.” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, in her address to the graduating class of 2015 at Wellesley College.

As she often does, Chimamanda drops these pearls of wisdom and leaves us sorting through the sand to figure out their true meaning or at least to determine if they have real world application. In the end, the majority of us find ourselves concurring with Chimamanda’s pronouncements because, well, they just make sense and they are grounded in much truth. So when Ms. Adichie – or anyone who commands as much influence as she – observes that being a strong woman isn’t “remarkable” because it’s normal, we are compelled to examine the validity and implications of such declarations.

There was quite a bit of buzz online after the transcript of the speech with accompanying video was posted online. By reflex, most people agree that women are “strong” with the primary reason being a woman’s ability or propensity to put up with crap. The depth and width of that crap depends on the economic and social space in which a woman occupies in the moment. For example, instead of working to end wage disparity based on gender, we laud poor women for their ability to raise and feed their families single-handedly on $0.78 to the dollar that a man earns for doing the same job. Similarly, rather than tackling the roots of gender based sexual and gender based violence, we congratulate women on being strong enough to survive, overcome and speak out against the same violence they found themselves victim to. Those who found contention with Ms. Adichie’s observation that the strength of women is normal did so for these reasons.

“Don’t you think this merely invites men to treat women in any way they want to; because it is assumed that women are strong enough to take it?”

Some think this is a very dangerous sentiment, and there is merit to their conclusions. The concept of “strength” – especially as it relates to women – is a very cold, callous one. A woman is considered strong if she shows little to no emotion in the face of injustice, if she is silent in her suffering, if she vows to pick herself up from the ashes like a phoenix without seeking revenge against those who have slighted her. These are false concepts of strength. They are brittle and with enough time and pressure, will crumble. Women are human…but even in the face of the need to crumble, we are denied our humanity. Strong women are not permitted to come apart at the seams.

It is for this reason I believe that we are sorely in need of new ideas of what it means to be strong. When I think of something that embodies the qualities of strength, it is not something I want to provoke or irritate. There are consequences for doing that. When we think of strong nations of the world for example, we do not think of dignified silence in the face of attack. For decades, other countries in the world would think twice before provoking America. This is because America has a “big stick” policy. Aggressors are stricken with equal, if not greater force. Somehow, that concept dissipates when it is applied to inter-gender human relations, with women expected to take the higher moral ground when she is confronted with obstacles like a cheating husband or being passed over for a promotion because she found herself in possession of a vagina at birth. She is expected to stay for the sake of the kids (or her religion) and/or be grateful she’s got a job at all.

Chimamanda addresses these widely accepted concepts when she said, “Victimhood is not virtue.” The ability to endure suffering does not translate to piety, and yet this is exactly the attitude women all over the globe have been conditioned to adopt.

I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s R&B era, when Whitney Houston and Black Street were ubiquitous. In those days, music spoke very much to the condition we found ourselves living on, or at least served as a portent of events for those of us who had yet to truly come of age. In the song “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay”, Whitney Houston uncovers the shenanigans of a philandering mate. Clad in leather and bold makeup, she goes on to croon these words:

It’s not right
But it’s okay
I’m gonna make it anyway
Pack your bags up and leave
Don’t you dare come running back to me

It’s not right
But it’s okay
I’m gonna make it anyway
Close the door behind you
Leave your key
I’d rather be alone
Than unhappy

THIS is the strong woman trope we’ve all been conditioned to ascribe to: that we can banish the source of our pain without requiring him/her/.it to make admit wrong doing or provide restitution for their wrong doings.

Kelis takes a very different (and less popular) approach to the same issue when she encourages female listeners by saying:

Yo, maybe you didn’t break the way you should have broke, yo
But I break, know what I am saying, this is how it goes:

 

I hate you so much right now
I hate you so much right now
I hate you so much right now
Ahhh!!!!

So sick of your games, I’ll set your truck to flames
And watch it blow up, blow up, tell me (How you gonna see her now)
So far from sincere {I love you}, fabrications in my ear
Drive me so far up the wall, I come slidin’ down

kel

Kelis is unhinged, undignified and nearly crazed in her presentation of her pain. She forces the responsible party to acknowledge the monster they have created. She compels him to acknowledge that she is human – and therefore capable of fragility – and he must deal with the inferno of her hatred.

This is not what women and girls are taught to identify as being strong. We are conditioned to expect to be victimized and to operate as the perfect victim, to accept that certain concessions that patriarchal systems allow are enough for now. That’s not strength. That’s feudalism. We would do well never to confuse the two.

 

Misogyny Retards the Growth of Our Nation

 Misogyny

noun

Dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.

 

On April 23rd, Mark Ashong confidently strode into the offices of one of Ghana’s top cellular and data services providers for an interview with the executives that would be deciding his fate. Had had applied for a position as a network engineer in December, and the hiring process had been a long and arduous one. Still, the rewards that came with gainful employment with such a globally recognized brand would outweigh any inconveniences he had suffered over the last few months. Today, he would be meeting with a panel to gauge how he performed under pressure.

A demure secretary with a pixie hair cut showed him into the boardroom where the VP, CTO and his (eventual) team lead were seated. Mark rushed over to shake each of their hands firmly, and thanked them again for the opportunity to meet with them. The team lead was the first to speak.

“I see here that you graduated with a degree in microbiology in 2002?”

“Yes,” replied Mark. He got this question a lot. How does biology support your work in technology? He already had an answer with the phrases “attention to detail” and “creative thinking” prepared.

“So that would make you…what? 35 years old?” the VP asked, her eyes askance.

Mark was taken aback by this query about his age, but thought it best to show respect to these ranking members of the company he hoped to work for and said, “I’m 36…yes.”

“Are you married?”

Mark Ashong grunted his reply. Yes; he had just gotten married in December.

The CTO clicked her tongued and rested her chin in her hands. Finally, she leaned in and looked Mark square in the eye, asking, “Don’t you think this position would be a little too demanding for you? What would your wife think of the long hours you’d have to put in here? Wouldn’t you be better off with less responsibility so that you could better attend the needs of your home?”

By now, Mark was completely aghast. What did any of these questions have to do with his 8 years’ experience as a network engineer? Trying to draw the conversation away from his personal life, he fished out 3 copies of his CV and handed them over to the directors saying,

“As you can see from my work history and references, I am no stranger to hard work and am willing to put in the time needed to get the job done. I would be a great asset to your company.”

“Mark…can you fry an egg?”
“No,” Mark said brusquely, “but I can architect a Cisco enterprise infrastructure for a Fortune 500 company in two days.”

The three executives glanced at one another before thanking Mark for coming in. He would have their decision by the next day. Stunned, Mark Ashong gathered his belongings and went home to wait for the call. The next day, he recognized the voice of the petite officer manager. She was delighted to inform him that the execs had offered Mark the position of Administrative Assistant to the Team Lead. Would he be willing to come in and sign his office letter?

“How could this be? I applied for the position of Network Engineer!” he gasped.

The secretary lowered her voice, telling Mark in confidence that the decision was made to give him a less demanding position out of concern for his home life. It was never good for a man to be too far away from his wife. Surely he understood that? Mark nodded silently on the other end and shut off his cell phone. What choice did he have? He wanted to work for this company. It could possibly lead to future growth, right? He signed the offer letter and spent the next 2 years sharpening pencils and ordering office supplies. Mark Ashong had been passed up for one promotion after another because he refused to sleep with the President of the cellular and data company. It was standard practice if a man wanted to get ahead in this business, but he couldn’t degrade himself in this way. And that is how one of the brightest and best network engineers fell through Ghana’s development cracks.

******

You’re probably reading this and scratching your chin. How on earth could anyone allow this to happen, you may be asking yourself? The fact is scenarios just like this happen every day in cities and towns all over Ghana… and women – not men like Mark – are primary targets of such discriminatory treatment. Women in Ghana are discouraged from reaching their full potential for a myriad of reasons we are yet to make any true sense of. So far, the only justification for holding women back in the spheres of politics, education, spiritual leadership roles and finance is because it is the “natural order” of things…according to misogynists. And make no mistake: Ghana is overrun with misogynist philosophies, doctrines and policies.

I consider Nana Yaw Asiedu to be one of the most thoughtful and inquisitive minds on social media. He is one of the few people I have encountered who has invested the time to ask questions with a true desire to understand a point of view, and to do it with the utmost probity. It was he who asked:

Why is it taking Africans so long to realize the inseparable link between misogyny and underdevelopment?

Why indeed, when the evidence is so clear? Women comprise of 51% of the population and yet are subject to false cultural barriers to their development. There is a dearth of (wo)man power in many sectors that would bring wealth and development to the nation; but where we should be training girls to tinker and build automobiles and aircraft, we rather encourage them to sew and braid hair. There is nothing wrong with pursuing a profession in hair dressing if that’s your passion, but as any woman who has been on the receiving end of burned edges or 3 inches of hair chopped off by a bitter hairdresser will tell you, it would be much better if the coiffeuse had never set for in a salon! It’s devastating for all involved. Women must be encouraged to explore as many avenues as possible and not just acceptable/anticipated gender specific roles.

A student at work

Photo source: Black Youth Project

If we are truly serious about Ghana’s development, we must do away completely with misogynist attitudes, particularly in the realms of social justice and activism. We must begin to address the issues and causes that women champion by their merits, and not judge them by the workings of her vagina. It’s as if Ghana, the lips of a vagina have more power to communicate than the lips a woman speaks with. Whether she has given birth, the number of sexual partners (or lack thereof), or her presumed barrenness are indicators of her worth or whether she’s worthy to lead. Men have never suffered these confines – confines that do not even speak to character.

Ghana is losing yet another valuable and precious resource to the scourge of misogyny. The country is hemorrhaging talent via brain drain – and shockingly – within its own borders. We are killing talent and potential because men are too frightened to admit that a woman might be a valuable ally and too many women view themselves as merit-less. Let’s change this, before it’s too hard and too late to reverse the retarded course we’re on.

“You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.” – Brigham Young

A nation can’t truly function unless ALL of its citizens have their rights respected and their potential maximized.

 

 

Singing about Love in the Black Community: From Barbershop Quartets to Making ‘Truffle Butter’

Warning: This post contains images and descriptions that you will not be able to mentally unsee. Please continue with caution…or not at all.

I had the ‘opportunity’ to watch a rerun of the 2015 BET Awards this week. It would be more accurate to say I was obliged to watch it, since my cousin provided me with the option of watching “Black Sparrow”, “Black Poison” or “Black Scorpion” On Demand. I stared at the title choices in disbelief, so she decided for us.

“BET it is!”

She wanted to watch Diddy take that infamous swan dive through the bowels of the stage. I never tire of seeing it, so I didn’t object. I’ll grudgingly admit that I was glad we watched it. Smokey Robinson was being honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award, and it gave me the opportunity to revisit some of his greatest hits, including Tracks of My Tears and Tears of a Clown. I came up in an era when Motown’s power was just beginning to wane after defining not just Black music, but pop music for decades. It was nice to see a face and hear a voice that I associated with happier childhood times. In that segment, I discovered that Smokey Robinson was credited with writing over 4,000 songs, many of which form the basis of a hip hop hook or two or have been remastered by prolific R&B crooner such as D’Angelo. Cruisin’, Ain’t No Woman Like the One I Got, Baby Come Close to Me, Get Ready, My Girl…the list is endless.

Dudes that set a thousand hearts aflutter!

Dudes that set a thousand hearts aflutter!

It was a beautiful tribute, but it got me to thinking about themes in popular music. Above all, Smokey wrote about love. Love –either in the religious, erotic or filial sense – has always been a strong theme in Black singing, but I sense a shift…a change in the tide if you will. There are no more “love songs”. There are only porn anthems. How did this happen?

Let’s be honest: All music about love has at its core the end goal of getting to sex, but there was a certain beauty in the dance. When the Four Tops sang baby I need your lovin’, got(s) to have all your lovin’, it was implied that at some point, there would be a meeting between the sheets after the proper protocol had been executed. A woman and her beaux might go for a walk, talk about this n’ that, dare to tell her how stunningly beautiful she was, and enquire if he could call on her again.

R&B and pop music have its roots in Barbershop Quartets. Allegedly, Black men who would find themselves spending a leisurely afternoon waiting to get their hair cut would entertain themselves by singing and harmonizing in groups in the barbershop while they waited for their turn for service. This culture was then bastardized by white entertainers who used the technique and its elements during minstrel shows. From Barbershop, doo wop and singing under street lamps was born. Rock was just emerging as a force. Barry Gordy seized the opportunity to bring some order (and to profit off of) to the chaos when he created Motown Records. For the first time, Black artists had more control over their craft than they had previously under white owned labels and management. The foundation and formula for making pop culture hits (and profit) was solidified. There hasn’t been any looking back sense. The only thing that has changed is the heart of the music. In less than 100 years, we’ve gone from expressing hopeful, wistful love with the desire to be together forever to the expectation that one’s encounter with the object of the song’s lyrics will last no more than 10 minutes in the back of the club…or at best, all night long.

Ooooo… All NIGHT long, you say?! How’s that for longevity? Please; people have had yeast infections that have lasted longer. Oh, speaking of crotch yoghurt… The lyrical concoctions in today’s most popular urban music (as they relate to relationships and love) range from amusing to flat out disgusting. They describe sexual acts and/or fantasies that the singer has either played out in real life, or expresses a desire to inflict upon his/her sexual partner for the duration of the encounter. If you’re unfamiliar with these terms I am about to share, please know that there’s no easy way to serve this up to you, Dear Reader, and for that you have my most sincere apologies.

  • Superman Dat Hoe: The act of pulling out at the point of climax while in the lower mammalian procreative position, spraying the female participant with one’s semen whilst laying a sheet upon her back, thus creating the appearance of a “Superman cape”.
  • Strawberry shortcake: After performing fellatio, the female participant in the act will eagerly and unsuspectedly look up at the recipient after he has discharged in her mouth. He will then punch her in the face, as hard as possible. The mixture of blood and semen will create a crimson and cream mix, known as a “strawberry shortcake”.
  • Bucking Bronco: Two “dedicated” lovers must find themselves in the act of sexual pleasure, again in the lower mammalian procreative position. As they near their romantic peak, the male will grab his partner by the waist while purposefully call out the name of another (unknown) woman, much to her irritation. In the moments after, she will undoubtedly twitch and attempt to wriggle away from his grasp, but he must hold firm and continue to “plow”. Bucking bronco.
  • Making Truffle Butter: While in the midst of anal sex, the person in possession of a penis (or a replica thereof) will withdraw from the anal cavity and re-penetrate his partner through the vagina. The tan, buttery substance created in the aftermath is known as “truffle butter”.
  • Spiderman Dat Hoe: Are you still reading? Gosh, you’re a trooper! This one’s not so bad. A man merely gratifies himself, ejaculates into his palm, and flings the stringy substance into his partner’s face…like Spiderman blinding the Goblin, I assume. Who knows? I’m just waiting for someone to create series of maneuvers named after all the Marvel comic heroes and destroy my adolescent memories forever.

 

I admit I have a certain level of nostalgia for olden days and the music that defined my parent’s era. In a time when men were not ashamed to plead with a woman to not take away her affection after he’d committed some egregious act or when crooners sang of forgiving their lovers even though “s/he done did me wrong”. That there would be an intimate make up session to follow thereafter was always implied, but never explicitly explained. There has been freaky sex in private and public spaces for as long as human beings have procreated – but there has also always been a certain mystery to it. You could speculate, but never say conclusively what two people were doing in their private pleasure time; but now folk will just walk up to you and tell you what they cooked up on their 300 thread count sheets. Mmmm mmm! Truffle butter!

I am most forlorn because there is so much emphasis on sex  – and culminating that act in violence towards women – and hardly on love at all. Like, there are 15 year old girls and 20-something men who equate being given gonorrhea or a vaginal rash with “love”. They’ll never experience the wistful longing of waiting for love to bud and blossom, of cultivating a lasting relationship, because they’ll have been too busy sitting in the gynecologist’s office getting that buttery butt seepage checked out…and that’s a tragedy. That’s not love. That’s a UTI.

A Trip to America’s Heartland Helped me Accept my Life of African Privilege

I have lived a pretty good life, by most accounts. In fact, i wouldn’t have known (or thought) I was “poor” if I hadn’t gone to school with or lived in close proximity to so many people who were “rich”. Because of those factors, I have been labelled a dadaba (literal translation: Daddy’s girl; or someone whose parental wealth has afforded them a life of luxury) by association. As  children, my friends went to London for summer vacation, and today they go to Thailand and Dubai just to “check it out”. My summer vacations were spent in the small town of Larteh and now in basements/on sofas in Columbus, Ohio. Not exactly exotic, but family is there. Family makes everything fun.

My cousin died recently, and we drove from Columbus to Detroit to say our final farewells on this past Tuesday. I’ve seen the poverty that is rife within that once great city in pictures and on the news, but to be IN it was something completely surreal. It was disorienting. The funny thing about American poverty – for me, at least – is that it’s hard to believe that it CAN exist in America. This country grows and produces enough food to feed the world, most of which goes uneaten or ends up in landfills; but people are hungry. There is enough land to give every citizen a decent home and a place to live; but people are locked out of home ownership or can’t qualify to rent. Homelessness is an epidemic in every major city in this country. Analyzing America is like staring into the face of Janus.

I thought a great deal about American poverty as it threatened to close in around me when my cousin took a detour through The Bottoms, a crumbling, neglected and predominantly white neighborhood on the west side of Columbus. I was taken aback by what I saw. When my father visited Kentucky for the first time in the early 80’s, he expressed his shock by how people lived.

“Malaka, there are villages… proper villages….in Africa that are more advanced than that area,” he once said while reminiscing. “And you have this in America? Tweeaaa!”

Finally, I could identify with his perceptions. The Bottoms is not a place for human dwelling…but as one Twitter user told me, the people are very happy to be there.

Okay.

The irony of watching America crumble while the the Western Gaze is fixed on “Africa” does not escape me. Africa is a generic term for impoverished. You could post a picture of a starving child in Guatemala and folk would still associated it with “Africa”. (Insert monkey hoots.) I’ll show you what I mean.

On my Delta flight back to Atlanta, I was flipping through their in-flight magazine and saw this article/announcement:

photo 1Read the second paragraph and pause to think about what’s being said here. Got it? Ok. Now look at this:

photo 2

See the photo grid? See the Indian women, the South American looking man, etc? Why weren’t these areas highlighted or at the least, mentioned, in her tribute? Why couldn’t the article’s author(s) simply say this was a tribute to her work against “global poverty”? Of course we already KNOW why: Africa (and African women in particular) elicits a heightened reaction when your selling poverty porn. This is some bull.

You know where the Western Salvation Gaze needs to direct its glare? Inwards. America needs to start looking at itself, because there’s no reason on God’s green earth that white folk in this country or in Greece should live that way. That’s I’m appealing to all Africans to lend a hand in support of these poor souls. We have the resources and knowledge to give them a better life. We’ve been doing it since they made first contact 500 years ago. This is also why I have embraced my African privilege. I may never have nor still not have a lot, but at least I’m not “America poor”…

Sometimes, I wonder what it would look like if there was an Oxfam or Feed the World ad directed at white Americans. Hmmmm.

Just GHC 100 a month can help get a young woman off the streets or give a 40 year old stock worker suffering from malnutrition access to healthy, vitamin packed meals like plantain and spinach…something he’s probably never had in his LIFE. Don’t delay…give today!

 

How can Africans on the continent and in the diaspora find common ground and collaborate?

Bullied for her looks, Kyemah McEntyre claps back at critics for her "African looks" by embracing her heritage and showing up at prom looking like 150% pure African ethereal royalty!

Bullied for her appearance, Kyemah McEntyre claps back at critics for her “African looks” by embracing her heritage and showing up at prom looking like 150% pure African ethereal royalty!

I have to confess, where African and diaspora relations are concerned, I thought that it would be simpler to frame my thoughts and present them than the task has proven to be. I have been – in a word – naïve. There is nothing simple about the factors that separate or, conversely, bind people of African descent in the least. The numerous conversations I’ve either participated in or witnessed have borne this out.

First of all, one has to account for the fact that people of African descent in the diaspora are not even unified around what to call themselves. Names and verbal identifiers have power, something that virtually every African society recognizes, understands, and takes pains to execute with meaning and honor. In the same way, Black people in the diaspora are very conscious of what to call themselves as a group. Some within this microcosm of the African family are comfortable with being identified as “African American,” while others rebuff the label, stating that they are simply “Black.”

Continue reading HERE.