Wouldn’t it be Great if We all Treated Each Other Like Kindergartners?

“Mommy. NOBODY likes me.”

My sister stiffened at the declaration. Her son is five, and is the only minority in his Fairfax county kindergarten classroom. Standing at no more than 38” and weighing about the same in pounds, Aiden is one of the smaller children in his age group. He is a jumble of emotions and personalities, at once sensitive and nonchalant. He is the type of kid you want to protect for fear that a strong wind will blow him away for the Piglet he reminds you of.

My sister was incensed, concerned that he was being made to feel excluded at school. “What do you mean, “nobody likes” you?”

Aiden insisted that no one did: not at school, not at his karate class, not no one, nowhere ever on God’s green earth. Adj (his mother) made it a point to be more vigilant the next time she dropped him off at his next activity, which happened to be karate. What happened when Aiden walked into the dojo stunned her. It stunned me. It rocked us both to our core.

“Look everyone! Aiden’s here!”

“Hi, Aiden!” the kids sang in unison.

Aiden gave a half smirk, half self-satisfied smile and returned their greeting with the panache of a young man who had just broken into the Coca-Cola vault and was hiding the secret formula in his shoe. One of the students invited him to come sit next to them, and he merrily complied. My sister walked out of the dojo, sucking her teeth. By the time she finished telling the tale, I was perspiring having laughed so hard.

“This boy isn’t for real life eh?”

“I mean, what more did he want? Confetti?”

“Even if they gave him confetti sef, he will insist they don’t like him because it wasn’t falling fast enough.”

“These are the best days of his life. He just doesn’t know.”


And it’s true. I honestly believe we are our best selves in that kindergarten stage. We are kinder, more compassionate and eager. We’re fearless risk takers, for the most part…and even when we aren’t, we don’t discourage anyone else from taking a risk. There are many reasons that the world would be better place if we all conducted ourselves like kindergartners, but for the sake of time, I’m going to outline three.


Everyone is a “friend”

kg joyI was impacted by this when I started putting in volunteer hours at school when Aya was in KG. Her teacher always referred to the children as “friend”.

“Dear friends! May I have your attention?” or “Nicholas, would you go over to the reading center and help your friends put away the books?”

In essence, before you really knew anything about your classmates, you identified them as friend and associated with them all the warm n’ fuzzy feelings that go along with that moniker. Everyone wants to sit together, everyone gets invited to Sophia’s party. Everyone is made to feel included. In Nadjah’s KG class, there was a boy with a severe learning disability that each of them took personal responsibility for. They protected and looked out for him as a unit, because that’s what five year olds do.

This all stops around 4th grade.

And by the time you enter the working world, there are no “friends” to be had. There are only bosses, snitches, opposition and foes. You are suspicious of everyone and everyone questions your motives. There is no room for “friends” in the adult world, which is why everyone looks so beat up and sullen on the bus/subway.


Everyone is soooo enthusiastic about everything!

When you’re a kindergartener, everything is just wonderful. Wonderful, wonderful! Well, except for bedtime. Bedtime sucks, but at least then you get a story, a kiss on the cheek from mom and then fall right out. There is no tossing and turning in the kindergartener’s sleep cycle. Why? Because your mind is filled with nothing but the wonder the world has to offer. Like knock-knock jokes.


“Who’s there?”

“Feet who?”

“Feet the rabbit!”

Does this make any sense? No! But to your fellow KG’ers you are a comedic GOD. You have mastered the nuances and execution of a knock-knock joke, and that makes you pretty cool. It makes all of us pretty cool, because we’re all going to tell the same joke to each other for the rest of the day. That’s right. All 30 of us.

Can you imagine what would happen if you were the originator of a joke and 30 other people in your office told it without giving you credit? There would be disorder… chaos… sulking… salt in the punch bowl and Christmas!

That’ll show ‘em. Tell MY knock-knock joke without proper attribution…

"My knock knock joke. Mine!!!" image from steampowered.com

“My knock knock joke. Mine!!!”
image from steampowered.com

You can do/be/have ANYTHING in kindergarten

kidsciThe needs of a kindergartner are pretty basic. Some milk, a Hotwheel or two, a door to slam shut multiple times a day. Given enough freedom and hydration, a kindergartner can achieve anything in an afternoon. He can journey to space in a cardboard box. She can rule a kingdom from the sofa. The kindergartner is the master of all things, and (s)he doesn’t require money to accomplish any of the goals that have been set at play time. Goals which shift frequently.

“Hey guys! My mom said we can use this chalk to draw on the sidewalk!”

“We’re not chalk drawing anymore, Charles! We’re playing chemistry.”

“Oh. Well, I guess we can crush the chalk up and turn it into science powder then. Right?”


And then all of a sudden, your kids are playing Breaking Bad without even knowing it.

You know what happens to adults who “play” Breaking Bad?


In all, if I had to pick one thing from that kindergarten life it would be the exuberance with which one is greeted by one’s peers. That same excitement that my nephew takes for granted every week. It would make going into public so much more pleasurable. We don’t even make eye contact with people anymore. And why are you so happy…for no apparent reason? Happiness without cause is grounds for committal in an institution; unless you’re a kindergartner, of course!

Can you think of other ways kindergartners are better at life than adults are? Tweet me or put them in the comments!

Lessons We Can All Learn From Nana Aba’s Phoenix Firestorm

The entertainment industry is a lot like a gladiator melee: movement at light speed, shouting, blood, gore and backstabbing….and that’s just behind the scenes. The gloss we see on screen is the result of many sleepless nights, coercion and egos bruised and bent to until they fall in line with management’s personal vision. And then there are the happier organizations where everyone sings kumbaya and gets along like the inhabitants of a Smurf village. Either way, the work gets done and if the stakeholders are lucky, ratings will go through the roof, ad revenue will come pouring in and a star or three will be born amidst the carnage.


I don’t know which of these scenarios best describes what it’s like to work at TV3, but I do know its brightest star walked away from the station this week…and did so with such class and grace that it has left many people disoriented. I’m talking about Nana Aba Anamoah’s voluntary exit, announced this morning.

For the MOM Squad who are unfamiliar with Ms. Anamoah and the recent firestorm she was embroiled in, she is a celebrated (and reviled) news anchor, presenter and football fanatic when she’s off duty. She has worked for TV3 for 12 years and was so captivating as an anchor and host that many say she was the only reason they tuned into the station. About a month ago, she posted pictures online she’d received from a friend, suggesting she was at a match in England. The intent was to prank to her followers. The original owner of the image contacted her employer, crying foul. There was a conference to explain intent. There were mutually apologies from Nana Aba and the “offended” party. Her employer decided to suspend her days later, citing a breach of integrity.

“We expect guardians of our brand, particularly employees who we entrust to deliver content on air to our viewers, to ascribe to the company’s values wherever they are.” – TV3

Some who defended that station’s move attempted to draw parallel’s Nana Aba’s faux pas and American journalist Brian Williams’ suspension over his exaggerated retelling of his coverage of an incident in the Iraq war. He was later forced to recant his claim to have been aboard a helicopter that was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade in 2003. It’s false equivalence, as Nana Aba was not tweeting in her capacity as a journalist during the prank and as far as anyone can tell, never uses her personal handle to tweet about anything other than football. Still, people drowning in their own ignorance will always grasp at straws to save their argument. In any event, she has walked away from the station, and I couldn’t be more proud of her for this move!

There are a number of valuable takeaways from the cyclone that surrounded Nana Aba, particularly for women work in a field as unsparing the entertainment industry. These are the five I’ve identified:


Never assume your employer has your back

In the early days of Nana Aba’s photo faux pas, a number of pundits (and a strange mix of miffed politicians whom she seems to have bested in the past) suggested that her suspension was divine retribution for her previous sins. What exactly were those sins?

“Her arrogance!” they screamed, eyes blood shot and brows bathed in sweat.

Now as I understand it, Nana Aba has said some pretty funky things about the competition – including calling one a “kontomre station”, yet curiously, I don’t recall TV3 ever getting their integrity knickers in a bunch about in those incidences. Their star anchor’s verbosity about how saccharinely wonderful they were was a feather in their cap, and they enjoyed the show.

Part of Nana Aba’s charm (and repel) is her abrasiveness and propensity to dish, which TV3 used to their advantage…until it did not appear to serve them any longer. The result was the proverbial smashing of a horsefly with a sledgehammer. Which leads to the next point:


Always have something else in the pipeline

Because we live in a capitalist world that forces you to subconsciously hold your employer in suspicion, it is to your detriment to make them the sole provider of your sustenance. When I got my first real job making an actual salary, I worked very and made a show of it. I was the first to open the office and the last to lock up. One day, a co-worker who was ten years my senior (and who later became a good friend) stopped into my office as I was furiously replying customer emails.



“You need to quit working so hard. You’re killing yourself.”

“Naw, girl! I can manage it!”

She leaned in and spoke under her breath. “Look. You know what’s gonna happen if you croak over in that chair one day? This company is going to kick your corpse out find another body to put in it.” Then she stepped away and walked back up the hall without another word.

Sure enough, 8 months later, heads began to roll and I was given a choice: move to Colorado or lose my job. The company dealt in virtual communication, so I didn’t understand WHY I couldn’t work virtually…but that was the point. They needed the vacuum my eliminated salary would create to help put their ledger back in black. They didn’t need me. Oh, but I needed them!

I was out of work for 3 months and depressed. I should have had something in the pipeline to fall back on and so should you, no matter what industry you’re in. Which leads to the next point:


Diversify your skill set and income streams

A pipeline is only as strong as the alloy that forms it. It is imperative to possess and develop a mix of skill sets that will serve the needs of those targeted opportunities you’ve stored in your pipeline. They don’t all have to be related, even though they can touch.

The person I think who has most exemplified this characteristic (as far as Ghana’s entertainment industry is concerned) is Delay. She is a money-making mastermind.

Remember when Walov was a guest on her show and lifted his skirt in order to graciously share a view of his brown twig and berries? (Yes, that’s exactly what it sounds like.) The moment earned her a suspension from television as well. As young as Delay was, she had enough sense to have developed a number of revenue streams based on her brand. She has her own mackerel. She has a radio show. I think I heard she owns a retail shop. (Someone correct me if I’m wrong.) And so although the TV station was her largest platform, it wasn’t – and still isn’t – the only one that feeds her.

If you’re a web developer that can simultaneously manage projects, or the baker who can drive his own delivery truck if needed, you create more value and increase your potential for revenue in the long term, as long as you understand what you’re good at. Which leads to the next point:


Understand your stock

Delay and women who look like her are never going to be on Ghana’s “Most Beautiful” list. Our anti-Blackness won’t let them. We live in a world that sums people up – and women in particular – by their looks. An elderly man can be forgiven, even admired, for appearing on camera with grey hair and a few wrinkles. Women cannot. Women on camera can never be anything but slim, clear skinned, perfectly coifed, young and sexable. Oh, and although sexable, you can’t be pregnant.

The examples of this abound. Nana Ama Agyemang Asante was recently trolled by someone’s lost boy-child for the way her hair looked. A Kenyan TV host was savaged on Twirra for being pregnant as she did her job.

One user tweeted “No one wants to see her ugly, pregnant body on TV!” It got dozens of re-tweets.

Ghana’s golden girl, Anita Erskine, was also very open during an interview on the KSM show about how she got to the lowest point in her career and nearly lost it all because she had started a family and was no longer fit and tight. She spoke candidly about how the calls to host and present were nearly non-existent in those days.

As a woman in the entertainment industry, you have to be twice as conscious about your stock. In some cases, that stock is solely based on appearance. In others, it’s a particular skill. If you have not been hired for your looks, then you HAVE to keep your craft sharp. Delay was hired because she’s a bull dog who can get answers. The moment she becomes meek, we’ll lose interest. Nana Ama Asante’s is her levelheaded doggedness, her understanding of socio-political issues and the eloquence with which she presents arguments. The day she stops analyzing trends and fails to present them in a relatable will be the end of her career. She can’t bounce around on YouTube like Deborah Vanessa – who is a delight to watch – and get paid. Know your stock!


Never be afraid to walk away

This morning, several news outlets announced that Nana Aba was walking away from TV3 in the wake of her suspension and she is handling it masterfully. In the interim another Ghanaian star is awkwardly parting was with his management team and it’s quickly becoming a FUBAR. I’m looking at you, Shatta.

Nana Aba has been effusive in her appreciation for the opportunity the company gave her. She’s gone full Whitney in her decree that she will always love TV3. BUT, she is walking away from a company that did her dirty…head held high and heels on, fresh from a jaunt in England with pictures of her attendance at a Man U match in attired in full slayage. It was a triumphant exit.

source: newsghana.com

source: newsghana.com

She knows TV3 was wrong. TV3 knows they were out of order. All of us know that this 12 year relationship did not have to end this way. There was NO way she could stay. But like any divorce, its best to handle it amicably if you can. You know, for the kids! Besides, you never know when you’ll have to cross that bridge again. Even Ahmed the Clock Kid walked away from the Land of Opportunity, because keeping his dignity intact is far more important than any enticements America could offer. Like Ahmed, this is not the last we will see of Nana Aba, who has already risen like a phoenix!


Therein lies the final lesson.


Have you ever been unfairly dismissed or suspended from your job or school? How did you handle it? Have you ever had to apply any of these lessons in other areas of your life? Discuss!

Exploiting Black Rage for Clicks and Online Ad Revenue

We live in the digital age, and we consume much more news and information than our fore bearers just a generation ago did. Studies have revealed that we are assaulted with 174 newspapers worth of data, and that we receive five times more information than we did in 1986. If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information you have been receiving recently, you are certainly not alone.

If within that onslaught of information, you’ve found yourself furrowing your brow about some questionable (or just plain misleading) headlines, you are not alone. As traditional newspaper and magazine sales and subscriptions have continued to fall in favor of online consumption, publications have had to make up the shortfall by employing a number of creative methods to get eyeballs on their content. In the digital age, clicks convert to dollars and there is no better way to get clicks than through riling up the emotions of an influential group of people. That being said, have you noticed how many headlines recently seem to have a disparaging bent where people of color are concerned? Yeah, I know! I too thought I was alone, but my Twirra Sistah Sensei published this vlog on her YouTube channel discussing this very thing.

No dear friend, you are NOT paranoid. There is indeed a trend of trolling Black rage for clicks, and those clicks – and our accompanying chatter – mean big dollars for American corporations.

There is no question the power and impact of Black opinion and culture. From whips to worship, Black culture drives how business is done and dictates consumer tastes…globally.  Black buying power is expected to reach $1.1 trillion this year, according to Black Enterprise. Most of that money will not go to Black owned businesses. And in addition to the physical dollars that will be diverted away from corporations that neither have our communities’ best interest – or any interest at all – at heart, there will be an additional economic siphoning with our dignity as the conduit for exploitation.

These are just a few of the headlines I can recall from various online and print publications that have targeted Black rage for clicks. The folks sitting in the meeting rooms of these media organizations know exactly what they are doing. They know that nothing spreads faster than outrage, or an outrageous attack. This is known as “click bait”, and we fall for it every time. The most irritating thing (for me) about click bait-y headlines is that you rush in expecting to read one thing, and come out on the other end experiencing a mix of emotions you weren’t prepared for – and in some cases, utterly sullied. It’s psychological abuse.

ghetto bulliesThis is probably one of the most obvious examples of trolling Black rage for clicks that I’ve ever seen. I was pleased when Black Twitter saw it for what it was and swam away. At the time of this posting, Tyga was shagging a very under age Kyle Jenner, Amber Rose had some thought about it, Kourtney jumped in and got verbally smacked down, and Blac Chyna was being awesomely petty on Instagram during the whole affair. We were all there for the drama.

Then comes THIS guy.

By calling Blac Chyna and Amber Rose “ghetto”, he was betting on setting Black tongues ablaze with anger…and hopefully clicking on his newly launched blog to tell him about himself, thereby rewarding him with traffic and revenue. We saw right through this, fam. I’m proud of us. I made it a point to forget his name and the name of his fonky little blog. I hope it dies with his ambitions.

venusAfter Serena’s grand slam hopes (and the hopes of millions of people along with them) were dashed this year, this article surfaced a few weeks later. In the headline, the author boldly declares that Williams’ sister “nearly cursed out” her opponent during the game.

Gosh. This sounded very much unlike the poised and professional Venus I knew from TV. I clicked to read the article. What did I discover?

I discovered that it was Roberta Vinci who actually screamed the words “What the f***?!?!” at Venus for “taking too long” to serve, to which Venus frostily replied “Excuse me?”

That was it. There was no cursing. There was no head rolling. There was nothing in the encounter to give this false headline any credence. Even a good number of white folk were upset by this one and called BS. Thank you, concerned white folk.

hillaryI haven’t decided who I’m voting for, and up until her Benghazi grilling, I was certain I wasn’t voting for Hillary. However, she came out of that storm looking like she was made of Teflon and ice. Nothing could stick to her, nothing could burn her. One of the (many) reasons I disliked Hillary was because of this headline in particular, which was accompanied by a redacted soundbite. Why would a seasoned politician make a blunder of these proportions?

As is turns out, these words were not only taken out of context, but paragraph and tome as well. But ooohhh weeee! Were Black people mad. And oooooh weeee! Did online publications have a field day and rake in a lot of money with the shares.

hutsThis is just repulsive.

The story of the emergence of Africa’s middle class has been told congruently with that God-awful “Africa Rising” narrative plastered on the cover of Time magazine for  past 15 years. Africa has been rising for almost two decades, usually with an amber dawn and a solitary acacia tree illustrating its ascent. Images are powerful. That’s why I don’t understand why The Economist had to evoke mud huts in its title. They could have mentioned the middle class without either mud huts… or high rises for that matter. Do we talk about London’s class disparity by juxtaposing pissy pubs with Windsor Palace, or are the pissy pub dwellers generally accorded more repect?

There are some people who see this as an illustration of the truth. After all, there are indeed mud huts in Africa. No one is disputing that. However, because the image of the dirty, plodding, ignorant, diseased ridden mud hut dwelling African is the one that has endured the longest in Western imagination, it is the one we of a certain class and privilege have long had to battle on behalf of our less affluent brethren. There is knowledge and information that could save the world in those mud huts…but those values are not depicted here in this headline. The Economist is not innocent on this one. And as one twitter user pointed out, the article itself was spot on – and I have no doubt it is, these ones usually are – but I refuse to reward them by contributing to their traffic when the intent to mock is so clear.


Really? Do I even have to explain this one? Trolling on steroids!


I invite you all to be vigilant and watch the headlines. Really take note. From the Cosmo cover declaring the Kartrashians as the “America’s First Family”, a launched rock guaranteed to infuriate the beehive BECAUSE the Obamas, to headlines that court sympathy for child rapists, click bait is all the rage. Decide for yourself who you are going to reward with the power of your fingertips. I, for one, will no longer support outlets/celebrities/wannabe celebs that troll my emotions to buoy their bottom lines.

Remember: you have 174 options from which to choose on a daily basis.


Is Rae Dawn Chong the Only Black Woman to Pilot a Plane in the History of Film?

“I think Rae Dawn Chong is the only black woman to fly a plane in a crunch time situation.”


“Rae Dawn Chong. You know…with the curly hair?”

“Is she Chinese? Her last name is ‘Chong’…”

“Babe. Tommy Chong is her dad. Cheech and Chong?”

Marshall grabs his iPhone and sets about Googling. He has no idea who or what I’m talking about. Had this conversation transpired between Sami/Adwoa Gyekye and I, or any person who spent their childhood watching the same 15 films repetitively because migration to Africa in the 80s necessitated it, we would have gotten much further along in the exploration of this question and perhaps even arrived at some alternate conclusion.

But this conversation was NOT carried out with someone of  with an underprivileged movie viewing background. This conversation was between me and someone who had unlimited access to Nickelodeon and NBC after school specials and a plethora of disposable content. Someone who will never know what it’s like to pine for those weekends that stretched into months in anticipation of a new VHS sent from a sympathetic cousin in the US filled with never-before-seen cartoons and blow man films like Commando. I can quote Commando, and Rae Dawn Chong is the reason. She was simply amazing.


I used to be in love with Rae Dawn Chong. I loved the sound of her name, the color of her skin, the curl of her hair. I think I mostly loved her because I frequently confused her with Irene Cara, who for me was the epitome of youthful Black woman cool. Rae Dawn Cara could do anything. She could sing, she could dance, she could fly a plane, she was quick with the witty comebacks. At some point in time – probably the late 90s – I separated the two women’s identities in my mind, much to the relief of all concerned. Rae and Irene were free to be their individual selves again.


Marshall and I were watching Modern Marvels: Glass, when Rae popped into present memory. One of the scientists over at Corning was explaining how they made glass for the shuttles that launch into space that had to be strong enough to withstand a temperature of absolute zero. Everyone in each of the frames – from the men fitting the panes into the shuttle holes to the experts interviewed to speak about the company’s and industry’s history – was white and with the exception of one woman, male. It left me mired in a feeling of dread. What would happen if there was a situation that needed an individual with a unique set of skills (not necessarily of the Liam Neeson sort) and there was no white man present? Would we survive? Could someone drive a boat or pilot a plane if necessary? Has a Black woman ever been capable of this? I  only think of one: Rae Dawn Chong.

We have long bemoaned the representation of Black women in film. Until the Magic of Shonda touched our television screens, we were always cast in a box: The sassy best friend. The mouthy security guard. The crack whore strung out on the street. The ‘strong black woman’ who raised her kids on roach infested Raisin Bran and tough love until a benevolent white hero(ine) rescued her son(s) and made him a football/basketball star. If it weren’t for Foxy Brown and the Blaxploitation era, we may never have had the opportunity to see a Black Blow Woman portrayed in film… even in the 80’s when the genre guaranteed a box office hit. It was always Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Gibson, Chuck Norris or Van Damme. The closest we ever got was Rae Dawn Chong.

Marshall disputes this. He says that Halle Berry as Storm is Rae’s counterpart in this unique category. I disagree.

“No. Storm is a Yoruba goddess. And she was trained at a facility specifically kitted out for combat. Storm is not at Starbucks slangin’ coffee right now. She doesn’t count.”

And that’s my point. If you had a room full of 20 people of various races and there was a crunch time situation – say the room began flooding – who would you assign certain tasks to?

  • The white guy to lead, for sure.
  • The Asian (it doesn’t matter if they are male or female. ALL Asians are brainy) to calculate how much oxygen we had left before any imminent escape.
  • If there were zombies outside, (just to up the ante) the huge Black dude would fight them off with his brawn as heroically encouraged everyone to “Go! Just get the f*** outta here, y’all!”

Once safely on the coastline, perhaps the troop happens upon a World War II era plane, long abandoned; its hull covered in seaweed and  lapped by the waves. Who might be qualified to fly this plane, or at least get its propellers rolling? You’re not looking for the Black girl, are you? No…she’s either dead by now, or sent on some fool’s errand like gathering firewood or rustling up some fried chicken. Unless that Black girl is Rae Dawn Chong, the only non-superhero Black female civilian to ever pilot a plane on demand in the history of film.

This is why I will be not only be looking into the cost of flying lessons for my girls, but scuba and equestrian training as well. Because should an oily man rippling with muscles suddenly appear and need them to dive into the water to retrieve the key of a speed boat to ferret them to safety, I don’t want my babies losing their lives because they were afraid to get their hair wet… or unfamiliar with horses or intimidated by knobs and switches. I don’t want my daughters dying an ignoble death while rustling up some fried chicken at the end of the movie.

So! Have you come up with any alternate names yet, or am I right about Rae? Honestly, I can’t think of anyone else who has rivaled her ability to date. Man, Commando got lucky the day he picked her out of the crowd and used her for bait. Look at that poise.

Ladies and gentlemen…Rae Dawn Chong.


A Faded Cotton Dress

It was 11:34 am and time to leave the hospital. The nurses had been wonderful, the delivery without complication. It was time to take Baby home. But Tope couldn’t decide between the three coming home outfits she’d narrowed down from ten others she’d shopped for over the course of the past 9 months. Her husband, a longsuffering man who made allowances for his wife’s eccentricities because of his great love for her, was beginning to get impatient. They’d been agonizing over this decision for an hour now.

“You know it doesn’t really matter what you bring her home in,” David noted. “She will certainly be able to wear them all in the near future. See?” He held up the delicate white dress with yellow daisies printed on the border and pointed to the tag. “It says 0-6 months…”

Tope was incensed. David didn’t know what he was talking about. This was their first child. Their only child. The child they had spent years trying to conceive! Let the other moms take their babies home in that awful hospital issue blanket and stripped cap. Tope wanted people to look at Baby and see a mother who settled for only the best! But David couldn’t understand this. She swallowed the venomous insults burning in the back of her throat and pointed to the periwinkle blue set with pink embroidery. Carefully, so carefully, she tucked Baby into the fabric and beamed with delight. She was beautiful.

But Tope was a new mother and not very adept with diapering. A stream of Baby’s newborn poop seeped onto the seat of the dress and now she had to be changed!

David was laughing.

“Don’t worry. One day, she’ll have to wipe her own bottom and you’ll never have to change her clothes again.”



Today was Baby’s first day of kindergarten. She wanted to wear polka dot stockings, the purple/orange/pink sweater Granny had mailed all the way from Portland, a khaki skirt and Twinkle Toe sneakers. Tope was horrified.

“Baby…you just can’t wear that in public. Nothing matches! What will people think?”

“But I want to wear it, Mawwwmmmie! I look good!”

Tope held up a dark blue pleated skirt, a cream Peter Pan collar blouse and patent leather Mary Janes. The ensemble was conservative, respectable, and in Baby’s 5 year old eyes, ugly.

“No! I won’t wear it Mommy!”

Tope frowned. Baby sulked. The two glared at each other until David broke the stalemate with a suggestion of his own. Perhaps Baby could wear Mommy’s blouse and the Twinkle Toes? Then everybody could be kind of happy.

Mother and daughter agreed to the compromise and Baby bounded onto the bus for her first day of school, waving her good-byes. Tope watched as the other kids oooh’ed and ahhh’ed over those ghastly sparkly shoes.

“Ugh! I can’t wait for the day when I don’t have to dress her anymore!”




Macy’s was packed to rafters. Teen-aged girls were squealing, giggling and groaning over their gown choices. Prom was in three days and everyone was doing last minute shopping. But this wasn’t last minute shopping for Tope and Baby. This was the fifteenth time they’d been to the mall.

“Baby…this is prom. Don’t you want to make a grand entrance? Don’t you want to take everyone’s breath away?”

Baby fought hard not to roll her eyes. It only made their fights escalate faster. She tried a different tactic instead: partial pleading.

“Mom. I just want to be comfortable. I just want to dance with my friends!”

“But, Baby. It’s PROM. You should look like a princess!”

Tope held up a high-collared sequence covered affair with skirts that swung and swished with every move. She begged her daughter just to try it on.

“Maaaawmmmie! I’m the editor of the school newspaper…not a Hapsburg countess!”

The girls on the other side of the dressing room were watching, mocking, laughing. Baby glared at her mother as she ducked behind the curtain and hoisted the 15 lbs midnight blue monstrosity over her head. Then she looked into the mirror and smiled. The dress was so huge that it could conceal the outfit she really wanted to wear under it. She emerged from behind the curtain with a mischievous grin on her face.

“I think you’re right, Mom,” she whispered. “This is the dress I should get.”

Tope was busy fussing with the skirts and zippers, muttering her irritation.

“I don’t know why you fight me on these things, Baby. I know what you look good in. You know, one day I won’t have dress you anymore. And I can’t wait for that day….”



A robin was pecking at the window, its feathers dusted with the gentle winter snow that had just begun to fall. Baby tiptoed over and stared at her reflection in the glass, the robin seated serenely on the other side. It made a beautiful picture. Perhaps William would paint it one day, if she could describe it to him.

The door burst open and the robin flew away.

Tope charged towards Baby and guided her towards a plush ottoman. She was fussing. “Why are you staring idly out of the window, eh? The wedding will start very soon and the guests are being seated. And look, your hair isn’t even done….”

The roar of Baby’s laugh halted her mother’s jarring chatter. She informed her that her hair was indeed done. She intended to wear it down. Tope was aghast. She turned to the stylist whom she had hired, demanding an explanation.

“I thought I told you how I wanted the hair to look for today! I showed you a picture!”

The timid beautician shrank into a corner. This was only her third gig, and she wasn’t yet accustomed to dealing with half-crazed mothers of the bride.

“I’m sorry…but that’s not what Ms. Baby told me to do. And well… since she is the bride…”

Tope held up her hand, demanding silence. She turned her attention to Baby and her lace-up bodice. She asked once more if they could make it tighter, so that she didn’t appear so pregnant.

“But I AM pregnant, Mom,” Baby reminded her.

“But that doesn’t mean you have to look it,” Tope wailed.

“Mom…everyone out there knows it. I just want to be comfortable!”

Tope shook her head in disgust. She turned her attention to her own reflection and straightened her wig.

“Even on your wedding day, I still have to show you how to dress. Eh? What is this! Why should you walk down the aisle looking like a donut? I can’t wait for the day when…”

“…when you won’t have to dress me anymore, Ma. Yes – I know. You’ve been saying it my whole life.”

Baby grabbed her mother by the waist and gave her a quick hug before taking her bouquet from the maid of honor and waiting to meet her prince William at the altar.



They said it was a drunk driver who lost control on a patch of ice.

Baby clung to life until she got to the hospital. She begged the doctor to save her child before she drifted into a coma. The nurse said Baby’s heart stopped when her baby took its first breath and  cried.

Tope’s Baby was gone.

“Darling, you have to eat something,” David begged softly. “You’ve been staring at her closet for three days. What are you looking for in there?”

Tope rested her head against the white frame of her daughter’s closet door and stared. In it was a wardrobe of which she didn’t approve. Faded jeans. Oversized sweat shirts. High top sneakers. In the corner she spied a massive midnight blue dress with sequencing that had long lost its shine. Tope smiled wryly as she picked up a simple cotton frock, covered in polka dots. It was faded and well worn. It was Baby’s favorite. She would want to be comfortable for her final journey. Tope planted her head in David’s chest and sobbed.

“I’m looking for something to dress my daughter in for the last time.”



Is Akumaa Mama Zimbi a Dangerous Woman?

Akumaa Mama Zimbi describes herself as a women’s rights leader, an actress and radio and TV show host. She is a prolific tweeter with over 11K followers who hang on to her every word…words that generally admonish (and shame) women for having sex outside of marriage. And I look forward to her tweets.

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Don’t get me wrong: I don’t follow Akumaa because I agree with half of what she says. I follow her because I find her fascinating… i.e. fascinating in the way one finds wonder in the mechanics of a woodland flea. How can something so small manage to suck that much blood and not explode? How could a creature this tiny bring an entire continent to its knees? Such is the power of Akumaa Mama Zimbi’s 140 character proclamations. Just as the debates about the pros and cons about the bubonic plague that thinned out Europe’s human population rages on, so do Mama Zimbi’s views on pre-marital sex cause us to ask some very important questions about the dangers these pose to Ghanaian society.

Opinions about the importance and impact of Mama Zimbi’s voice largely depends on who you ask. Whether you take her seriously or not, there is no ignoring her. Everything about her is outlandish – from the prophetic intonation she uses to command women to get up from their post-coital positions, to the massive head wrap she crowns herself with for every public appearance. A self-aggrandizing woman, she approaches her quarry with a slew of humblebrag hashtags that include #IAmTheSexDoctor #IAmTheBestEver #Medaase (Twi for ‘thank you’). You look at her smiling face and brightly colored clothing and you see your mother or auntie. Your instinct is to trust her. You do so at your own peril.


People like Akumaa Mama Zimbi are the reason that Nana Darkoa and I started Adventures from the Bedrooms of African Women. Her brand of sexual advice is by no means new. The “no sex before marriage” mantra is a throwback to the 17th century missionary era and imposed biblical standards that Ghanaians are expected to adhere to today…even if they are not Christians. For the record, I agree that people (meaning men and women) ought to wait until marriage to have sex and definitely before they have kids. In hindsight, it might have made things in my life less complicated. However, I respect other people’s choices not to do so. Not everyone can/does live their lives by biblical standards…not even Christians themselves. Every pastor has some view about what constitutes “holy sexual behavior” in the marriage bed, and most of it is pretty dull. I do my best to avoid sexual advice from my bishop when he distributes it. I enjoy my orgasms, and his oatmeal brand of sexual advice can only lead to slumber.

There are different ways and situations in which people – and women in particular since that’s Zimbi’s target audience – enjoy sex and that should be respected. Fact is, there are some people who want to enjoy the pleasure of sex without the politics and vexations of marriage. In Ghana (and in many other parts of Africa), we behave as if marriage is the last piece of the puzzle to complete a woman’s existence. But what can a woman really expect to look forward to in the typical Ghanaian marriage?

  • A man who will eventually and inevitably cheat on her because ‘it’s just the nature of men’.
  • To be prevented from striving to be her very personal best because she must never out-earn or outshine her husband.
  • Financial dependence and total deference to the whims of her spouse.
  • The (un)expected appearance of the 4-9 children he’s fathered out of wedlock at his funeral.

No one is happy in their marriage in Ghana. But THIS brand of paradise is what Ghanaian women are to sexually preserve themselves for.

I personally believe that Akumaa Zimbi’s approach to sexual purity is particularly dangerous to Ghanaian women, despite her mission to make them safe. For one, it reinforces the notion that a woman’s sexual purity is something that is for purchase (i.e. with the bride price or at the altar with a ring), and not a gift that she is free to give at the time of her choosing. It reinforces the idea that women are objects during the act of sex, and not willing participants in the encounter – again – at the time of a mutual encounter. And by targeting women as the singular gatekeepers for mattress morality, it leaves men to be as promiscuous as their gonads would allow them to be. This does nothing to keep women safe.

According to sociologists Betty Akumatey and Akosua Adarkwah who conducted a study commissioned by the Gender Studies and Human Rights Documentation Centre (GSHRDC), marriage is actually a breeding ground for HIV/AIDS transmission, with married women being at greatest risk. Because women are expected to stay faithful in their marriages and men are not, men feel less inhibited to explore sex outside of the home with numerous sexual partners, who of course have numerous sexual partners themselves. Instead of women’s advocates like Zimbi to preach about safe sex in general, they chose to circle around women’s rights and dispositions and peck away at them like vultures. Let’s never forget Dag Heward-Mills sermon wherein he compared women who have had several sexual partners as half-eaten, rotten apples. These philosophies paint women’s bodies as something to be used by men, and strip women of their agency. It’s repugnant and disrespectful.

I think Akumaa Mama Zimbi’s heart is in the right place, but her logic (and I’m being generous here) leaves much to be desired. It’s not well thought out in the least. And of course many men love it, because it absolves them of all responsibility as long as she targets women as being the ultimate and singular responsible party. There are several men who have already come out en force to support her proclamations because they believe that because the burden of pregnancy falls on women, she and she alone must carry the burden of morality, conveniently forgetting that a girl/woman cannot get pregnant on her own.


And of course, nothing in Zimbi’s doctrine makes room for lesbian women who cannot legally marry in Ghana anyway. Are they not also women? Is their pursuit of sexual pleasure invalid because it does not fall under hetero-normative Judeo-Christian practices?

Look, the fact is “no sex before marriage” isn’t even ‘African’ in the Ghanaian context. In many of our cultures, as long as a maiden had gone through dipo/initiation rights, she could have a lover. If she had not undergone rights and it was discovered she had engaged in sex with a man both of them would be excommunicated from the village/town. I’m not making this up. Ask your great-grandmother, and tell her to be honest.

Ghanaians are largely ignorant where sex is concerned, even in the city. We have dudes that think they are supposed to masturbate with liquid soap. There have been condom drives in certain areas of the country that have resulted in an increase in the spread of STDs because the natives believe the seed of a man belongs in a woman, not in a bag, so they remove the condom mid-coitus. There are people who think they can divine the HIV/AIDS status of another person merely by looking at them. When you add the opinions of Mama Zimbi and your friendly neighborhood trotro preacher to this powder keg, an explosion is bound to happen and it is women who will inevitably bear the brunt of its force. People need educating, not fertilizer for their warped views on the way women – exclusively -ought to conduct themselves.

I think Akumaa Zimbi truly cares about the welfare of women, and I’m certain her personal experiences have colored her view. The problem is that these views are imbalanced and she is perpetuating an already pervasive attitude that is fiercely anti-woman and anti-choice… and she’s doing it in kaba and slit! There is neither enough information, nor willingness to receive any concept that flies in direct opposition to the privileges that patriarchy brings in our society in general to check this manner of thinking…and that makes it dangerous.

How my Search for Native American History Turned up Black

On October 12th, most of America marked Columbus Day by shutting down all federal holidays and grieving parents with the closure of school. As a child, I loved Columbus Day. I was completely committed to the narrative that I had been sold by my elementary school teacher: That Christopher Columbus had sailed to America, discovered a new land (that was already populated, but only sparsely so) and settled it for the Europeans. Then, they had a great feast and invited the Native Americans to join them. The natives were poor and hungry and had never partaken of Honey Baked ham, you understand. It was their lucky day, the day Christopher Columbus arrived. Yes, sir!

This land was your land. This land was MY land. This land was made for you and me.

Of course, I could fully buy into this narrative because we hadn’t covered chattel slavery and as a child, I identified with the noble frontier men and women and not the ‘savages’ who – seemingly unprovoked – took delight in shooting up my American ancestors’ caravans when ALL they were trying to do was settle and make a new life for themselves.

This is the attitude that many in my generation held. I feel sullied, looking back on the absurdity I was made to swallow as truth. Fortunately, my children will never have to struggle with the need to sanitize their psyche where Columbus Day and Native American – European colonialist relations are concerned. Not to worry! I have furnished them with enough facts about the true nature and horrors on which this nation was built that they’ll have to do an entirely different mental sweep of their own in 20 or more years. My children now harbor the same contempt for Columbus and his “achievements” that I do. When I asked them how they would like to celebrate the day, Nadjah replied – without hesitation – that she would like to burn an effigy of the Great Navigator in the back yard. After all, this was a man who said of the natives who welcomed, sheltered and fed he and his scurvy crew:

These people are very unskilled in arms… with 50 men they could all be subjected and made to do all that one wished.

I love that girl.

Things are escalating quickly! Someone put an axe through this bust in Detroit.  *image source: DFP

Things are escalating quickly! Someone put an axe through this bust in Detroit.
*image source: DFP

Many more people are taking a stand in opposition to Columbus Day and have taken the opportunity to celebrate it as ‘Indigenous People’s Day’ or ‘Native American Survival Day’. I think this is a step in the right direction; however, MX5 and I have concluded that Columbus Day ought to be abolished entirely. We’re just waiting for Congress to get on board. And if I’m honest, I don’t like the idea of retro-fitting Columbus Day with Native American accessories. It’s about as creative as a Baptist church choir’s futile attempt at “redeeming” a Beyonce ballad. Just replace Jesus with surfboard and voila! The image of a man skeeting in your face is supplanted by the magnificent shimmer of the Holy Ghost.

So as I was saying, we decided to mark the day by exploring some Native American history right here in Roswell, Georgia. It was absolutely the most depressing undertaking we’ve done all year. We visited the old Roswell Mill and hiked along Vickery Creek (now called Big Creek), which was named after Charlotte Vickery, a Native American woman who lived near the head waters of the creek. I discovered that the area we now know as Roswell was once called the Enchanted Land by the Cherokee Indians and that whites were prohibited from living here. A number of treaties were drawn up to protect the area and the white settlers – unable or unwilling to honor their word – broke them all. For a time, the Cherokee, Creek and Oconee tribes tried to get along with white people by adopting their customs. They opened shops for trade, their women dressed in gowns and some Native Americans even held African slaves. Nevertheless, the land and its natural resources would prove to be too valuable for white settlers to ignore and Native Americans would find themselves driven off their land and their property distributed to white settlers in a lottery.

The most influential settler in this area was Roswell King, for whom the city would be named. The fertile land and rushing waters from the creek would power the cotton mill he envisioned. In 1838, he began work on the first cotton mill and in 1839 it was incorporated as The Roswell Manufacturing Company. This is where history got Black: because where there is cotton to be picked, there are Black people.

Roswell King emigrated from Georgia’s east coast where he was affiliated with the workings of the Butler Plantation. The farm was a rice and cotton plantation and a veritable hellscape. It was a concentration camp. There wasn’t an atrocity on Butler Plantation committed that isn’t a part of slave life lore…and probably far more than we could imagine.

I once had the occasion to speak with one of Roswell’s few Black natives, a woman whose ancestors were brought here as slaves. Judging from her appearance, neither history nor the economy had been kind to her people. With her wild greenish-brown eyes and pockmarked skin, she looked every bit the caricature from a Dicken’s novel.

“Bey-bay, lemme tell you somethin’. My people is 100%, full Geechee,” she growled, glaring at me from the two feet that marked our distance. “If you wasn’t Geechee, Roswell Kang (King) wasn’t f*ckin’ witchu!”

The unnamed woman (who I made it a point to avoid in carpool from that day forward) was apparently very proud of Mr. King’s tribal preferences and proclivities. At first I was skeptical and dismissive of her claims. But now that I have learned more about the history of this area, I see their merit. If Roswell King did indeed re-settle from Butler Plantation, it would make sense that he would harbor a certain affinity for a certain “type” of African…one that was presumably pliable and easy to control. There were hundreds of categories under which Blackness was cataloged in that era, with white slavers holding preferences for one breed of slave over another. Igbos – it’s been said – were not desired “stock” because they were uncharacteristically defiant. That notion may have something to do with the mass Igbo suicide that took place on St. Simon’s Island.

Painting depicting Ebo Landing, where slaves chose death in dignity over a life in bondage.

Painting depicting Ebo Landing, where slaves chose death in dignity over a life in bondage.

I took time to reflect after our afternoon hike and was struck by how intertwined our paths and pasts are in general. My little corner of the world has so much global history woven into it, and it’s incredible. Roswell is a great city, but it’s sobering to have to accept that its roots are mired in blood, murder and tears and not the enchantment the natives held so dear.


How did you celebrate Columbus Day? Have you ever given any thought to the holiday and its significance?