Bionic Nostril Woman

In time, you and I must come up with a better name for our heroine; but for today, this one will have to do.

Beast-x-menHei! The world is clamoring for diversity in the comic book arena. They say we need more people of color and disabled heroes. I say we are just not looking hard enough at what we have. Beast is a person of color. Professor X is disabled. (With their combined intellectual powers, they can outwit us all. Damn them!) And even though Marvel has gone through several stages of execution in the visual representation of its universe on screen, one thing has remained consistent: all of the characters –save one – have maintained a sense of their national identity. Wolverine is unmistakably Canadian. Hank McCoy is American Charles Xavier is English. Who is that one character who has lost her identity you ask?

Storm! Storm who is an Igbo goddess! Storm who is played by Halle Berry. Halle Berry who didn’t even have the decency to accent her speech or add a “jor” or a “sha” to the delivery of her lines. The cheek… the very cheek, I say!

What I propose therefore, is that we need more African women super heroines, because let’s be honest, we don’t even have one. Now that Hollywood has gotten a hold of Storm, she is biracial and non-African, and that’s not fair. They have hijacked and neo-colonized and erased our goddess and I don’t like it.

But yoooouuuu, it’s okay.

As always friends, I never want to present a problem without a solution…which is why I want to propose a prototype for a new African Super Hero. She will have to tackle some of the major issues plaguing our continent. You might be tempted to suggest corruption, but that would confine our heroine. In order to fight corruption, she would first have to sit in her car, fight traffic, arrive at work in a tight skirt to get any sort of notice, and spend all her super hero time beating the mess out of her itching weave and filing papers.

No.

Our lady will not fight corruption. She will fight a foe that ALL women across the world – regardless of race, nationality or socio-economic status frequently contend with and are highly sensitive to. She will fight against the tyranny of foul odors.

First we have to come up with a name for our heroine. I propose “Fiew!” or “Ugh!” (And yes, her name must be pronounced with an exclamation point.) Oooh! I know. Let’s combine the two: Fiewugh(!)

Hey look! We came up with a name for our heroine in just a few paragraphs. Look at us go!

Fiewugh’s(!) costume is all black, of course, but it’s not made of leather. It’s made of breathable cotton. She cannot fight foul odor if she reeks of it. Have you had the opportunity to sniff one of those London boys who come to Accra or Lagos cloaked in a leather coat during the Christmas season? Sweating like the Christmas goats that they are. Nonsense. This is Africa and you come here with leather jacket? Kwasiaba like your type…

Sorry.

This is an orange seller. Look at her fine face. Tsew.

This is an orange seller. Look at her fine face. Tsew.

Now that we have dressed our heroine, we must give her a secret identity. We could make her a reporter or a CEO, but that’s so predictable. Let’s make her someone that people see every day, but are hidden from our greater conscience. Let’s make her a street hawker. She can’t sell roasted plantain or kele wele seller, because they are highly sought after individuals. She will sell PK. Yes! PK, to combat bad breath. You can find Fiewugh(!) on any busy street in Dakar, Accra or Cape Town. You will know her by her steel bionic nose. However, she has covered it in Iman Cosmetics…so you might not know her by her nose. Besides, she’s supposed to be a secret super hero. Why are you so nosy?

Of course she has a tiny waist and perfect C-cup boobs that float atop her chest sans support bra. In fact, her boobs have their own gravitational pull. Why? Because action hero = perfect boobs.

Great! Fiewugh(!) is ready to fight crime! All over Africa, men are refusing to bathe properly, apply appropriate amounts of deodorant or get those back teeth. That in itself is not the problem. Poverty, poor public utilities and water shortages have ravaged the continent, and hinder good hygiene. Ghana doesn’t have a cholera epidemic for nothing! The problem is, these men do not recognize that they smell and yet STILL insist on macking chicks. This is where Fiewugh(!) swoops in and delivers a mighty blow by thrusting PK in the faces of the offenders. She could smell him from across the room, thanks to her bionic nose.

But wait! What is this? Hol muh Guld! (Slangs for ‘Oh my God’.)

diry

A stench so foul has accosted our African Super Hero Princess that she can barely stand on her feet. Her flawlessly muscular thighs begin to quiver. It is the Korle Lagoon!

Crippled by the pong, she drops to her knees and nearly dies. PK can’t fix this one. What can save our heroine now? How can she level up and crush this foe? Tune in next week for the Adventures of Fiewugh(!): The Bionic Nose Woman!

 

 

Photo credit: Ghanamagazine.com

Wiyaala to drop new single for Peace and Unity in Africa

Wiyaala press

Wiyaala drops her new single “Africa” on the 29th September. The song was debuted live at “A Night of 1018 Laughs” to a wildly enthusiastic crowd in a performance described by critics as “immense”, “awesome” and “the Angelique Kidjo of our time”.

Following her knock-about antics in the hit songs, “Rock My Body” and “Go Go Black Stars”, Wiyaala turns her attention to more serious issues:

“I was partly inspired to write ‘Africa’ by Sherifa Gunu, who helped me during some difficult times. Like my dear sister, I want to send out a message for peace. Africa is blessed with huge natural and human resources, yet we refuse to live in harmony? I’m not just talking about wars and terrorism, I’m also talking about hatred and jealousy on a personal level where we fight as individuals, bear false witness and create enmity between ourselves.”

“Africa” is the first single to be released from the self-titled album “Wiyaala” due out in November. The song, on which the singer plays the acoustic guitar live, was produced and recorded by Jurgen Von Wechmar at Sunset Recording Studios in Stellenbosch, South Africa. A video for “Africa” is expected soon.

 

Leave your comments about how giddy with excitement you are about this here. I’ll lead you.

Indian Mom Introduces Herself to Me at the Bus Stop in the Most Epic Way

Our routine for dropping off and picking up our kids at the bus stop is concrete. My husband takes them in the morning, and I pick them up in the afternoon.

Finished.

There is no finesse, no juggling of schedules, no wringing of hands and fretting about who has to leave work early to get to the stop on time in the morning and the afternoon. Thankfully, getting our children to and from school is one of the most unremarkable aspects of my day…but then, that it because I have never taken the outliers into account.

The bus usually arrives at 3:50. I sit in my car and play on my phone until the children hop into the backseat sometimes laughing, frequently frowning, always screeching. We all have the same routine – the other parents and I – we sit in our individual cars and wait for our kids to scramble off the bus and we drive away without a word to another adult. How was I to know that one of my fellow cultivators of loin fruit might be craving some adult conversation? It seems that was the case on yesterday.

A petite Indian woman, very round in the middle and swathed in a dainty pink head wrap approached my car moments after the bus unloaded our kids. She had a grave look on her face. I geared myself for a scolding on account of something my children had done to hers on the bus. Black and Indian relations in Roswell aren’t exactly what you would term “friendly”. They look down on us, and we treat them with the same ambivalence we accord other races (Mexicans included) who do the same. I took a sharp breath and waited.

She smiled.

“Every time I come to the bus stop you are always on your phone,” she said with shy laugh.

Ei. What was she accusing me of? Now I can’t be on my phone?

“Yes,” I replied. “It’s just something to keep me occupied until the kids come…”

Why was I justifying my being on the phone with a complete stranger?

“I wanted to show you something on my phone.” She pulled out her device and thrust it through my window. “See? It’s a boy being attacked by a tiger.”

“What?!?”

She nodded her head and smiled a sad smile. “It happened in New Dehli. He was 16 years old.”

Indian Mom went on to explain how the boy was trying to get a closer picture of the tiger at the zoo and fell over the railing into the enclosure. The curious tiger approached him and gently pawed at the terrified boy for a long time without exhibiting any violence. Some of the other zoo visitors tried to get his attention to lure him away from child until some genius decided to throw a rock at it. That’s when the tiger grabbed the boy by the neck, crushed his gullet and killed him.

“That poor baby!” I gasped. “His poor mother!”

“Poor baby,” she echoed solemnly.

Then I started yammering about zoo reconstruction and how they should educate the public and why-oh-why didn’t the crowd just wait for the zoo keepers to come…

Her face had drawn a blank. Obviously, she had no interest in discussing architecture or things that will never be or behaviors that are not likely to change in the short term. This is New Dehli. Hadn’t I heard what she said? I was probably ruining her high.

Her son ran over to my car and yanked on her arm, desperately begging to see the video.

“Ok, ok! I’ll show it to you,” she said with the same exasperated tone I’ve used several times myself.

We smiled at each other and I waved as she walked away without telling me her name. If she had been a less interesting character, I would have been content to keep referring to her as ‘Indian Mom’ and carried on with life…however, I think I have made a new friend. Any woman who introduces herself with a gruesome video of man versus nature has the potential to be a good friend of mine. I can’t wait to get to the bus stop this afternoon to find out her name!

What’s the oddest way you’ve ever made a friend? Did it involve gore? Did it involve ponies? Did you do a Masai dance at their desk when they revealed that they were Kenyan? (That’s how I met and became friends with ‘Nanny McPhee’)Has that friendship endured?

Testimony of a Reformed Child Beater

Note: Emotions and views surrounding corporal punishment are very strong and raw right now… but I’m not here to debate your feelings or coddle your visceral need to be violent towards people who are smaller than you. I’m here to talk about how we’re failing these kids.

Beating. Whuppin’. Whipping. Spanking. Choose whatever verb is most acceptable or familiar to you, it comes down to an adult hitting a child with something. Within the realm of corporal punishment, particularly in America, one may use either one of these words to determine the severity or assuage the guilt of inflicting pain on a child. Charles Barkley recently exemplified this when he make the distinction between a “beating” (which sounds awful – like something a cruel master would do to an insubordinate slave) and a “spanking” or a “whipping” (words which I suppose are supposed to conjure images of love?). Again, it doesn’t matter what you call it, the intent is to inflict pain on a child for some infraction, sometimes even imaginary ones.

Today, I’m going to keep my conversation centered around two groups: Black folk and church folk. If you find yourself in either category and are prone to offense, I’m going to warn you and give you the opportunity to stop reading now. Here’s a hint: my assessment doesn’t end well for you.

Still reading? Ahh, ok.

spankingThe conversation around the subject of beating children in recent days in light of the Adrian Peterson case has been absolutely heartbreaking, and quite frankly, revolting. The depths that Black folk and church folk have gone to to defend the act of taking a switch or belt or branch or extension cord to the tender flesh of their children has been staggering. I’ve seen comments where people say they’d beat the autism out of their kids, beat the gay out of their kids, beat some sense into their kids. These words are often written with the letters ‘lol’ following the statement, but you know the QWERTY Crusader opining on the issue isn’t sitting there laughing out loud. Their reaction at the thought of NOT beating their child for an infraction likely more resembles a smug, sinister grunt. And no one, I mean NO ONE, beats their children as frequently as church folk and Black folk. The numbers bear this out. 8/10 African Americans believe that spanking is an acceptable form of punishment compared to 7/10 whites who were surveyed. Asians numbers were even lower, with 47% of Asian males in favor of corporal punishment compared to 12% of Asian females. In the church, 8/10 born again Christians are in favor of spanking.

I understand these numbers, and before I became a reformed child beater (as of last week), I adhered to the reasons and social drivers that have contributed to these numbers. Blacks in America have carried on a tradition of beating their children into obsequiousness, often in the hope that it would keep them safe. Encountering a “sassy black gal” or “uppity negress” (terms which are still sprinkled over the internet today) would cause white lips to curl and often resulted in horrific rape and/or murder of the offender. In order to keep their children in line with society’s expectations that they be silent, second class citizens, Black parents beat their children at the moment sass, questioning or a challenge reared its head. The idea was – and still is – that if you beat the obstinateness, spunk and even the curiosity out of their children, it will somehow save their lives or set them on the course for future success. And yet, our prisons are filled with Black men and women who have had more than their fair share of beatings, while their absence is noted key decision making arenas across the country. May I humbly suggest that Black success experienced in this country is as a result of beating one’s children is in spite of its application, and not because of it?

The only thing beating your children does -or any living being for that matter – is it teaches them to fear their assailant…in this case YOU. Whipping someone is not an act of love. It is an act of rage. And before you get all “it’s a biblical principle” on me, let’s consider the two biblical principles that church folk are quick to quote in the midst of a good ol’ fashioned child-focused scourging:

  • Spare the rod, and spoil the child.
  • Pr 13:24 He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.
  • Pr 22:15 Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.
  • Pr 23:13 Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.
  • Pr 23:14 Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.
  • Pr 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.

Notice I have no scriptural reference for the very first quote, because just like oft quoted “God helps those who help themselves” it’s not in the bible.

I went ahead and listed these without context because that’s what people who manipulate the bible for the benefit of their own agenda do. Let’s take Proverbs 29:15 for example, which implies that beating a child will eventually keep his mother from experiencing shame on account of his misdeeds. The same chapter goes on to say in verse 21 that “he who pampers his servant from childhood will have him as a son in the end”. So what are we to do? Pamper children into loving us or scourge them into obedience in lieu of it? Perhaps beating your children is not a biblical requirement. Maybe there are other, less violent ways to bring your children into alignment.

The average American Christian’s relationship with children (not just their own) is a reflection of their relationship with God, and usually it’s a screwed up relationship. Too many are locked in a cycle of breach of law, expecting severe chastisement from God, pleading for forgiveness and reoffending. They then impose this dysfunctional relationship on their children.

beatingI had a neighbor who had taken on the care of her 6 year old grandson named Shiloh. At 6, he was still wetting the bed. Her response was to whip his behind. At least 3 times a week, Shiloh would get a whipping for peeing in the bed because “he was too big for that”. She would often tell me with pride how she “beat his ass” every time he wet the bed. And yet, the more she beat him, the more he peed, which she then read as willful defiance. Eventually it was discovered that his incontinence was as a result of some pretty f*cked up potty training tactics he was subjected to when he was a toddler. How much pain and effort could both have them been spared if she had opted to investigate his background first and rely on archaic Negro/Christian ideas about how disciplining the child made her a good grandma last?

If we think about the rod in Psalms 23, where David says the Lord’s “rod and staff” are a comfort, can we really (and logically) assume that God beating him in the Valley of the Shadow of Death give him the warm and fuzzies? Shepherd do not use rods to beat their sheep: they use it to change or keep them on course and out of harm.

I have been accused of thinking I am better than other parents because I no longer opt to spank my kids. I know that people making these assertions are doing so out of their own sense of guilt and reluctance to do the hard work of thoughtful childrearing. I don’t combat their allegations. After all, from the beginning of my life as a parent, I relied on spanking because it was the right thing to do. Spanking has been handed down for generations and I and many people inherited it. Women I respect have advised me on what instruments to beat my children with (wooden spoons, fly swatters and paint stirrers) in the quest to quell ‘foolishness’. However, after much reflection, I have discovered that there is a difference between foolishness and childishness. Childish behavior has everything to do experience and the lack thereof. Foolishness is generally the province of adults who have had the benefit of wider experience, and in my estimation, makes grown-ups better candidates for a good spanking. Too many parents are bullying and punishing children merely for being children.

My younger sister is my model for many things, and though I gave birth first, she has surpassed me in terms of being an exemplary mother. She recounted an exchange she had with her four year old son with me.

“Mommy, can I climb on shelf?” he asked.

“No,” she said firmly.

“But why not?”

As you can imagine, they have had this conversation numerous times before. She looked up from her whatever she was reading and looked him in the eye.

“You tell me ‘why not’.”

My nephew thought about it for a moment and replied, “Because I’ll fall down?”

“And then what will happen.”

“And then I’ll get hurt?”

“Do you want to get hurt?”

“No.”

“Are you going to climb the shelf?”

“No…”

“Okay then.”

And away he went.

Children are far more intelligent than we give them credit for, and they learn by repetition. As a culture, I think we would do better and go farther if we relied on our words more and our fists less.

Sun & Moon: Wiyaala’s Lesson on Tolerance

One of the hallmarks of what makes an artist great is the subject matter they choose to address through their craft. Indeed, the idea and the messages that an artist adopts as their core mission will determine whether he or she will be remembered and revered in the annals of music history, or will fade from memory like a dying star. This is why Bob Marley is an icon, and Buju Banton’s music was something we boggled to for a few years in the 90’s and haven’t brought up since. Marley’s music had – and still has – a timeless, relevant message about poverty, love and pride; and since “boom bye-bye in a batty boy head” is considered hate speech… well, you get the picture.

Consumer appetite for music is ever changing. There was a time when “message music” was the order of the day until record executives decided that people no longer wanted to be preached to. Somewhere between the late 70’s and early 80’s, you begin to see a shift in themes covered in popular Top 40 songs, most centering around partying, every so often around romance, and eventually exclusively around sex.

I don’t know if we’re better off for it, but that’s the state of things.

For those of us who grew up on and in love with Bob Marley, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye and others who occupied space in the musical vanguard, there has been an unfillable void in contemporary music in this area. It’s the reason we clutch so dearly to John Legend, Janelle Monae and the High Priestess of Musical Mind-bending – Erykah Badu. Instead of relying on tired, 10 for a dollar, sexually explicit matter like many of their contemporaries, these artists express a range in the themes they cover: sometimes sensual, often political, always relevant.

In my opinion, Noella Wiyaala absolutely belongs in this rank.

I’ve had the privilege of meeting my fair share of Ghanaian artists; some because we shared the same social circles or educational opportunities, and others by happy accident… but I am hard pressed to think of any who is as generous and genuine as Wiyaala.

She recent shared her single Sun & Moon with me, which will be on her album coming out in November (*gleeful shriek!*). I played the song for my children, and we shared similar reactions.

“It’s so peaceful,” my second born remarked with a sigh. “But I don’t understand what she’s saying…”

“It doesn’t matter. It just matters how it makes you feel.”

Wiyaala sings the song in Sissala and it is based around a traditional folk song sung from the villages of the Upper West. The Sissala have earned a reputation for being needlessly aggressive and war-hungry, which makes the story around the song and the song itself reason to pause and consider it more deeply.

The song is about a group of villagers who are sat round discussing life (in the days before TV) and chatting. The elder poses the question:

“Who amongst us doesn’t have issues?”

After much debate, the conclusion was that everyone – no matter their background – has concern and problems. The elder who posed the question then goes on to suggest that everyone in the village pause, reflect on their actions before making rash decisions and exercise patience since “whatever our issues, the sun will give way to the moon and in its turn the moon will give way to the sun.”

 

 

The stars are out

They shine so bright

Sun and Moon 

Anxiously wait their turn

But who can tell what

Judgement day will bring?

 

 

If you happened to catch the Tamale Summit online, you may recall Wiyaala talking about the global marketability of Northern culture and language, and the huge opportunities that are being missed.

Her assertion is that songs/rap from Northern region are just as palatable as hip-life done in Akan/Twi, however many potential artists from other disenfranchised parts of the country are led to believe that their mother-tongue is not marketable. However, the brilliance of King Ayisoba – who hails from the North and is making inroads on the path to international acclaim – dispels this myth. Unfortunately (and shamefully), one is more likely to hear Ayisoba on German radio than to hear him in Accra at drive time. It is another case of Ghanaians not valuing our culture and its purveyors at home.

Image from ghanajist

Image from ghanagist

Wiyaala is the most generous musical artist in Ghana in my estimation because she looks at fame beyond herself and does it so effortlessly and unconsciously. During the Tamale Summit, she mentioned plans to build a stage in her hometown where young men and women can come and practice singing and stage presence. While other musicians’ goal is to “put Ghana on the map” through their personal rise to fame, she seeks to empower others and provide tangible structures to enable them to do so. This is what cements a woman’s honored place in history: to be remembered as someone who lifted and encouraged others to go beyond the heights even she has achieved.

Unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t allow me to share mp3s on the site, otherwise I’d happily order you to click ‘Play’ and prepare yourself for auditory pleasure. The song is a lesson about tolerance, about preferring others above oneself, and about patience. In the end, everyone gets their turn, as no state of existence is forever, is it? I guess we’ll all have to wait until November when the album drops to have this conversation again!

 

2 hours later:

Oh look what I have for you! Click ‘Play’ :)

 

Raising Enterprising Kids

I used to live in an apartment on Roswell Rd in Sandy Springs that featured one of those huge dumpsters when you first enter the complex. You know the ones I’m referring to: sometimes they’re “tastefully” hidden behind a wooden fence…sometimes not so much. There’s nothing like coming home from a hard day’s working and witnessing a 3 ton bin vomit its contents because some genius thought it would be a good idea to stuff his soiled mattress right at the bin’s opening.

If you haven’t gotten the idea, I used to hate taking out the trash. Fortunately, I lived with 2 other roommates, so we rotated the duty weekly. I suffered this task every third week until there came a knock on my door one Saturday afternoon. An unsmiling boy with brown hair and a red t-shirt was standing on our step.

“Hi,” he said.

“Hey,” I replied.

What did this kid want?

“I’ll take your trash out every week for a dollar,” he said, pointing to his wagon which was sitting at the bottom of the stairs. I nearly dropped my glass. Bless this child!

“Yes. Yes!” I said with the enthusiasm of a woman who’d just been asked to be married. This boy was my knight in shining armor, and his little red wagon was the token of his sincere affection. “When can you start?”

“Today,” he said. He didn’t elaborate.

Ahhh. A man of few words; a man of action! Good lad.

I scampered off to the kitchen, tied up my bag, and handed it to him. Then I rooted around my wallet and fished out a dollar’s worth of change. He took it, unsmiling, and set off towards the dumpster.

“What’s your name?” I called after him.

“Neil,” he replied…. and then he was gone; until the next week when he showed up to collect our trash. Unfortunately, it was not my week to take care of trash duty, and that particular roommate did not want to part with his dollar. Undaunted, Neil returned again until we established a pattern.

He took out my trash for the next two or three months when our lease expired. I never saw him again, and never told him how much I appreciated his service. I’ve always regretted that.

That was about 11 years ago, and Neil must be 18 or 19 by now. I don’t know why he suddenly appeared in my consciousness this morning. Perhaps it’s because I’m staring at this laptop I slaved for hours to procure funds for; a laptop which was once received with so much glee that has been precariously sitting on the edge of the dining room table for hours. Do I move it, or do I let it fall to its doom in order to teach its new owner a lesson? After very little thought, I decided to move it.

Image from Mattel

Image from Mattel

I sometimes wonder if my children would more careful with their belongings if they had to shoulder some of the financial responsibility. Something tells me “yes”. I took the girls to the Girl Scout STEM Expo this weekend where they were selling all kinds of GS paraphernalia, including a limited edition (polarizing) Girl Scout Barbie. No lie, Aya melted into a heap of blubbering, messy tears, so conflicted over whether she should break her $20 bill for a $12.99 doll that I finally told her to forget the entire thing and stop the crying. She had NO concept that the money she had in her wallet that day wouldn’t be the only money she would ever make now or in the future. She had $26 in her purse, the spoils and returns of lost teeth and birthday gifts. Would she have a different attitude towards purchasing that doll if I had given her more opportunities to make more money?

The prevailing school of thought is that it is imperative to give children chores in order to assist in their complete development, but the jury is still out on whether children should be paid for chores done around the house or if they should be expected to do so. I suppose every family needs to make that determination within the confines of their means.

So back to Neil. I don’t know if his parents sent him off that afternoon to go make his own money, or if he decided to do it on his own. No matter what the impetus was, the result was an 8/9 year old boy knocking on doors, trying and succeeding to drum up his own business. And even if it wasn’t a multi-million dollar organization, he was consistent and efficient in his delivery of his service. (Never mind it was never with a smile. We’re talking other people’s trash here!) If he kept/is keeping up the same attitude toward his other endeavors, I hope to see him on a Forbes list one day.

I think it’s important that we give children an opportunity to earn a living using their wits and talents. I recently hired a 13 year old to edit one of my short stories, instructing her to use “the full scope of her editing knowledge learned thus far”. Now, I don’t know what the “full scope” of that knowledge is, but the girl is sharp as a tack and has been on the honor roll since she was in kindergarten. I know I can trust my work in her hands…not because she’s experienced, but because she’s smart.

Yup. I definitely see a wagon in two little Grants’ very near futures.

Do you put your kids to work? What are your thoughts on paying children for chores? Have you recently encouraged a child in some enterprise? I’m sure we’d all like to know!

How Did my Face Become the Poster Image For Lovesick, African-American Cluelessness?

Woi, woi, woi.

Chei, chei, chei!

Ajeish!

Asemmm o assssem!

I’m grieved! I’m injured! I’m damaged! God;I don’t know what to do! You people…you people wait for me, eh? I’m coming. I’ll explain just now.

This afternoon I was happily plugging along, carrying out my recruiting duties when I got an alert on my phone from a friend. The conversation has been paraphrased for your benefit.

She: Ei. I was doing my ratchet Friday reading when I came across this blog. The model looks JUST like you!

I get this a lot.

Oh, you look like Coco from SWV. Oh! You look like Queen Latifah in her younger years!

I was going to ignore the comment since I was in the throes of online sourcing, but decided to humor my friend since she said it was for the cause of “ratchet reading”.

What the…

Me: That’s because it IS me! What the %$@# is this?!?!

I scanned the contents of the blog. It was an open letter on the blogger’s advice column on relationships. I read the first line and felt fury, rage, disgust, horror, confusion…so many emotions bubble up within me!

Deception

Hello Myne,

I have been following your blog for a short time and I found you because I am dating a Nigerian Igbo man and was curious about his culture.  I would like to post a question on your blog for some responses. Here is my story:

Chei! Cheicheicheichei!

What was this? What lie was this? I have never heard of this blogger, let alone her site, but there was my face…a full color representation of a woman in love with a possibly swindling Igbo man who had no idea if he wanted to marry her for papers or was actually genuine in his feelings.

How? How was this possible? What is it about MY face, me my fine Abena Owusua Malaka Gyekye face, that screamed romantic agony and confusion, so much so that the author felt the need to attribute an obviously fabricated “agony aunt” tome to it? I just wanted to die. Strong me. Survivor me. And you use ME for this nonsense?

Jesus be a sword and a shield; a force field and a cattle prod.

I remember when I took this picture. It was about 4 years ago. Bessie Akuba was my photographer. I needed so beauty shots and she needed a test subject for a course she was taking. I don’t recall EVER posting that picture online. I don’t associate that picture with anything besides a sunny day spent with two good friends and some pretty decent photos. But NOW? Now my face was being used to represent a woman who couldn’t tell her head from her ass? Your Igbo beau won’t introduce you to his mother and so what? Now you want to cry? Leave him la!

I say, I’m grieved MOM Squad…so grieved. But guess what? I’m not alone. You could be a victim too.

A few years back there was an American/Canadian family who had traveled abroad and taken a picture at a tourist location. Almost a year later, an acquaintance contacted the parents to inform them that their picture was being used to sell soap or toothpaste, I can’t remember. I have no idea how the issue was resolved, because I didn’t read past the first paragraph. Your face is being used to sell soap and so what? Go and ‘tack the advertiser for your cut!

Now, I find myself the victim of the same folly. Who am I to attack and seek redress from? The blogger? After I contacted her to request she remove my image asap and find out where she found my face, she says she got the picture from Google images, and honestly couldn’t remember where she found it because it was “so long ago”.

Ei.

How long ago? Years? Months? Has she been holding my picture in her photography stockpile just waiting for the right moment to disgrace me? Where did she find it? Pintrest? Instagram? Tumbl’r? Why gawd??? What have I done to deserve this? So many questions!

Do I look weak to you?

Do I look weak to you?

Look, I get it. On some level, I do understand. It’s hard out here for writers. We’re each trying to make a name for ourselves in whatever niche we’ve chosen. Social commentary laced with humor; this is my realm. Myne’s (the blogger in question) is romance…Nigerian romance, specifically. Powerful images, coupled with our writing craft, help us break into an already crowded playing field. Still, as bloggers seeking a bourgeoning social media presence, we each have a responsibility to use images responsibly and professionally, and that includes attributing sources. I will be the first to admit that I don’t ALWAYS do this. I have lapses, which is why as much as possible, I only use original images or seek permission from the photograph’s owner before posting. On Adventures, this is one of the reasons you see the same 30 or so images recycled again and again. We don’t want wahala.

Myne has taken down my face from her blog, but there is nothing to say that someone else isn’t out there clandestinely using it for a more sinister purpose. What if they are using my pink lips to draw some man into a 419 banking scheme or -*gasp!*- for a magazine cover selling alcohol-based hair moisturizer? Do you know the damage alcohol does to Black hair?

They -the interwebs – have hijacked my face. Please. #BrrringBackMyFace

Fadda lawd. Strength. I need strength!