There is a Long History of the ‘Nakia Ideology’. I Have Come So That We Might Honor It.

It’s another thought piece centering on Black Panther, y’all! Just ride with me for a sec. I think it will be worth your while.

 

Since the release of Black Panther last week, there have been many conversations (and on certain Sci-Fi fan pages, outright diatribes) about who deserves the title ‘hero’ and ‘liberator’ in the comic epic. The choices are between the violent and despotic Killmonger, and the egalitarian and democratic approach that T’Challa adopts. Lazy and false comparisons between Malcolm X and MLK generally abound. Foes of the film (wryly) point to CIA Ross as the film’s true hero.

“How is a movie named ‘Black Panther’ going to have a CIA agent portrayed as the hero?” they bellyache. “In Oakland, Black Panthers were hunted and dismantled by the See Ahhh Eiiii!”

I have grown weary of pointing on that Agent Ross Baggins was less a hero and more Shuri’s tool than anything else. He only got in on the action after 1) The Wakandans healed them with their tech; 2) Nakia released him from the office where she’d locked him to keep him out of the way and 3) once Shuri guided him through how to maneuver the remote controlled aircraft she ‘dumbed down’ for his use. Being rescued and reluctantly performing a task do not a hero make.

People see what they want to see.

It’s unfortunate that more people have yet to recognize (or acknowledge) whom the film’s true champion of liberation is: Nakia. It is unfortunate, but it is not surprising. Misogynoir and chauvinism are the two most enduring and recognizable pigments that color Black folks’ fight for freedom. All over Africa, we have no “Founding Mothers” because we have yet to honestly honor the labor and blood expended by our Mothers. There has been no Black liberation movement in Africa OR in the Americas that has been successful without the myriad contributions of the Black woman. Yet while the names of MLK, Malcolm X or Kwame Nkrumah are rattled reflexively as people synonymous with the civil rights and de-colonization, the names Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker or Septima Poinsette Clark are not so easily recalled. Key members of the SCLC have admitted that the role of women in the chronicling of the Civil Rights Movement was purposely downplayed or erased. Presenting a nearly exclusive body of men as leaders of the movement would give it more “legitimacy” in the eyes of the white mainstream. Fortunately, Black women have kept all their receipts; centuries of receipts.

One of the consequences of Black Panther has been a rejuvenation of the possibility of bilateral dialogue – and more cooperation – between Africans on the continent and the Diaspora. In our hubris, we consider these conversations as something new. In reality, this was a dream shared by Malcolm, Maya, Nkrumah, Toure & Co…one that fizzled after the crack and coup epidemics took over communities on either side of the Atlantic. It’s a dream that dates back to wistful imaginations of the captives on the first ship carrying away human cargo from West Africa’s shores. There has always been a fantasy (and by Western powers, a fear) of what we could all achieve if we worked together. We’ve flirted with the idea, but never had the opportunity to put hope in unity to action. This is what I’ve seen on Twitter described as the ‘Nakia Ideology’.

Whereas T’Challa felt duty bound to carry out Wakanda’s tradition of isolationism and Killmonger was hell bent on global domination and subjugation, Nakia proposed the more pragmatic path of cooperation through mentorship and cultural immersion and exchange. In fact, we are introduced to Nakia disguised as a kidnapped girl in a Boko Haram hostage situation. In doing so, she has an intimate peek into the lives of every person in the caravan and ultimately steps in to save a young boy forced into war from an encounter with T’Challa’s claws and an early demise. She later tries to make the case to T’Challa that this is course in one that Wakanda ought to commit to: To receive refugees and mentor marginalized and exploited nations on the Wakandan system of government that has kept them stable and prosperous for so many years.

 

Kobby Graham was the one who got me thinking more deeply about Nakia…and more specifically about how little the significance of her contribution to this conversation is.

I have seen people dismiss Nakia because she “asked” T’Challa about considering her approach, rather than choking out and skewering elders like a Real King ™ would.

I was inspired to look up which historical figure I might make Nakia analogous to (since everybody else was doing it) and was pleased – and shocked – to discover that as part of their feminist work, African American women sought to broaden their understanding of international affairs as well as the living conditions of black people in Africa and the Carribean. Beyond understanding, they also sought to influence international affairs. By 1920 the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) formed the International Council of Women of the Darker Races as an adjunct. The stated purpose of this council was to assist in the disseminating information about people of color and to instill racial pride. The group invited speakers from Africa and the Caribbean to tour and give lectures all over America with the aim of educating and dispelling anthropological myths.

Adelaide Casely-Hayford, a Sierra Leonean woman of British, Fanti, and Jamaican Maroon decent was one of the group’s foremost partners. The NACW funded scouting and fact-finding missions in Africa and the West Indies, using that information to galvanize financial support for causes and/or individuals overseas. These women also pressured school superintendents in the US to order books about people in the diaspora. They formed sub-committees to study the shared problems – educational, social, religious and industrial – that Africans Americans and Africans faced.

On both sides of the Atlantic, women were fighting for the concerns and welfare of colonized and marginalized people. After coming to understand the true horrors of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, Madam Efunroye Tinubu, who was herself once a slave trader became a ferocious opponent of all forms of slavery and used her influence to try to eliminate the practice in her region.

Fannie Lou Hamer, who is said to have spoken with as much authority and spellbinding capabilities as MLK taught rural African Americans in her purview to read that they might stand a better chance at registering to vote when confronted with arbitrary literacy tests aimed at blocking their right to do so. For a Negro to exercise his/her right to vote meant that s/he was equal to the white male…an idea that the champions of Jim Crowism merely could not abide.

Like Nakia, the list of women who have shaped history in silence and stealth, often from the shadows is long. They rarely seek out glory. There are some names we will never know, though we will benefit from their influence. Maybe one of them lives in your neighborhood. Maybe you are one such yourself. I beg you to keep a record of those deeds, not for the sake of pride, but so that our descendants will give equal honor to the work of our Mothers. (Looking at you, Nana Darkoa!)

Is there a little known woman who has fought for equality and higher standards? Please share her name in the comments. Tell us all what you love so much about her and why!

 

Find a mate to match your mountain

My husband does the lion’s share of the cooking in our house. I can cook, but he’s the better culinary artist. He grows and uses his own herbs in his dishes. Our family has developed a palette that demands more than salt and pepper to satiate our food lusts as a result. I consider this a good thing, us being so blessed to have a true chef in the house. All of my female friends and relations can attest to that.

My husband can also cut grass. And so can I. Growing up, my father didn’t play that nonsensical gender role game. If you wanted to be a home owner (with a yard) some day, you needed to know how to cut your own grass. I was responsible for mowing the lawn every Saturday. Lawn mowing isn’t “man’s work”. It’s maintenance around your own home.

We are both capable of doing laundry, though I hate folding.

My husband can do hair. Or at least, he can grease the girls’ scalps, brush it and put it in a neat bun. Doing hair isn’t “woman’s work”. It’s a necessary part of keeping one’s own children looking well groomed.

I can wash my own car with a bucket and sponge.
My husband can polish a dining room table until it glitters.
I can fix a broken chain on the kids’ bikes.
My husband can sew the hook end eye back onto gowns that have been used far too frequently for princess play.

We have no “gender roles” in our home…just tasks that require a capable adult for completion. We each have our own competencies, which frequently overlap. For us, this is a good thing. It means our home will not fall to pieces in the absence of one parent. It means each of us – my husband and I – have greater opportunities to achieve self-actualization. Because we a liberated from so-called gendered labor, we have more freedom to pursue interests and improve ourselves as human beings. Period.

It’s difficult to believe, but the conversation in the country of my birth has de-evolved further with regards to gender roles and whether a married woman should or should not cook for her husband or whether that act constitutes “slavery”. One of the reasons Ghana is lagging so far behind in its development is because there is little urgency in getting all hands on deck to catapult the nation forward. We have brilliant female athletes who have been discouraged from striving harder because they’re bodies will “look too muscular and make them unattractive for marriage.” We have budding female politicians who run for student government at our universities only to have posters plastered all over campus from boys who swear on their last breath that they will never let some “girl who bleeds with her nasty menstrual blood rule over” them. We have girls who have had to drop courses because of sexual harassment, and told in lectures that all their work is for nothing. “After all, you’re just going to end up becoming a housewife anyway.”

This list goes on.

We have millions of people who believe these lies. We have corporate sponsors who fund events to propagate these damaging stereotypes, promoting messaging that says women have a specific, narrow space. A space where a woman can never be fully human or explore anything about what it means to be a mate beyond COOKING.

#PepperDemMinistries, who I support, has never once said that a woman cannot/should not work in the home to raise or support families. All that they have said is that women OUGHT TO HAVE A CHOICE. A woman’s life and ambitions ought not end after “I do”. We have all seen far too many women leave the work force or sacrifice their genius after marriage for the sake of their husband’s ego or extended family expectations. Trust me, there is no more bitter a woman who carries the regrets of unfulfilled hopes and dreams.

To all the bold, intelligent, ambitious ladies – young and old – reading this: Marriage is a good thing… if you find a mate to match your mountain. Avoid men whose morals shift depending on geography. Seek a mate who values your determination and will support it. Reciprocate in kind. Marriage is for capable adults…not boys and girls who still require raising. Your husband is not your father, nor are you his mother. Marriage is a union of equals, wherein two parties submit themselves one to another. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

‘Black Panther’ Touched Me Deeply and Unexpectedly

Black Panther has been in theaters for three days. I have held my tongue and waited for you all to get apprised for long enough. It’s time to discuss the film as a family.

 

Black Panther boasts a lineup of some of the most celebrated and talented stars in Hollywood, including Angela Bassett (aka the woman who SHOULD have been cast as Storm in the first X-Men), Chad Boseman, Michael B. Jordan and Lupita Nyong’o. The film also introduced us to equally brilliant but lesser known talents like Danai Gurira, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright and, *sigh*, Winston Duke.

In my circles, Black Panther was the most anticipated film of 2018. We declared February ‘Black Panther Month’. We anointed the 16th ‘Black Panther Day’. The expectancy was palpable. The movie promised something for everyone, from Blerds to Slay Queens and all who dwell in between, aspects of the film and storyline celebrate the spectrum of what it means to be Young, Gifted & Black.

Though Wakanda is a fictional African country of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s creation, my community has always shared its ideals and mores, including inventiveness, concern for one’s neighbor, respect for authority and the preservation of peace. If you’re reading this and thinking to yourself: “Well, I’m neither Black nor African, and I share these values”, good. That Stan and Jack were able to take these basic, human traits and apply them to an African nation (however fictional) is the point. Storytelling about what it means to live in and be African has been so skewed that for centuries that the rest of the world has looked on the continent with pity and in constant need of pity. We don’t require pity. We deserve autonomy without outside interference.

Naturally, I look at the digital world of Wakanda and imagine what Africa – and its inhabitants – might have looked like without the imposition of 18th century European standards. The architecture of the skyscrapers featured elements of old Mali. The aircraft were designed to resemble scarabs and dragonflies.

Ancient mosque from old Mali. Numerous sky scrapers in the film featured the unique design aspects of this structure.

At the Council of Elders, the leader of the River Tribe proudly wore his lip plate, paired with a three piece suit. To my irritation, the overwhelmingly white crowd in George where I had my first viewing sniggered every time he came on screen, eager to demonstrate their ridicule. Isn’t that the point, though? What is it about lip plates, or piercings or even dread locks that is so threatening to those to adhere to European beauty standards? It’s a question that we are still grappling with today: In what ways do the visual presentation and celebration of my culture interfere with my competency?

Whypipo in my corner of South Africa found this representation of African culture particularly amusing. Damn colonizers.

Of course, there is no logical answer to that; and in the absence of logic, the overlords demand unquestionable fealty in its place.

The think pieces on Black Panther have already come in a deluge, covering the vital role of women in Wakandan society, their counterparts in modern and ancient history, the politics fueling the storyline, and the torrent of white tears that have provided refreshment as we engage in these conversations.

Armed with what little knowledge I had about the character (we mostly read DC comics and followed Thor’s legend when I was growing up) I thought I was prepared for T’Challa’s mythos upon entering the theater. Nothing could have prepared me for Erik Killmonger (born N’Jadaka), son of Prince N’Jobu and King T’Challa’s cousin.

In the film, Killmonger is the product of a relationship between Prince N’Jobu and an African-American woman he fell in love with. After N’Jobu is killed by T’Chaka, Erik is left as a young boy to fend for himself. His every waking moment is dedicated to preparing to exacting his revenge on the royal family, whom he feels has betrayed him. Eventually, we see Killmonger return to Wakanda’s border with the body of Klaw in tow. He presents it as an offering to W’Kabi, who in turn supports Killmonger’s plot to for global domination using Wakandan technology. He justifies this by pointing out that the world is getting smaller, and that there will be two types of people only: The conquerors and the conquered.

“I’d rather be the former,” he says pointedly.

We see in W’Kabi the sort of irrational fear that has gripped much of American civil society today under the banner of Fuhrer 45’s MAGA Campaign. Finctional Wakanda – like real life America – is the “greatest nation on Earth” and yet there are many in power who remain unconvinced of its might. Nakia attempts to make the case that Wakanda can both share its wealth of knowledge and resources AND defend itself from invaders. W’kabi takes the opposite view, fearing that foreigners will change Wakandan way of life. Killmonger, who violently seizes the throne, presents them with the opportunity to see which assessment is right.

In the Marvel Universe, it is often easy to identify the villain and place him/her comfortably in that category. We cheer when the villain is vanquished. It’s what we are supposed to do. I found no comfort in Killmonger’s demise.

 

Identity

There are many African-Americans (in the literal sense of the term), who were born under circumstances identical to Killmonger’s. My siblings and I were born to a Black American mother and a Ghanaian father. And although we had the opportunity to grow up in Ghana for a time, unlike N’Jadaka, we also had it pounded into us that we were neither American nor Ghanaian enough. This lived experience heightened the impact of N’Jobu’s statement, “I fear you will not be welcome at home. They will say you are lost.”

 

Abandonment

After T’Chaka kills N’Jobu, he and Zuri leave Erik in America and return to Wakanda. It was a cowardly act. In the film, T’Chaka calls it “the truth we chose to omit”. It would be impossible to explain N’Jadaka’s presence in Wakanda without giving account for his father’s absence. I see the parallels of this act in our relations as Africans on the continent and in the diaspora. As a child with feet in either world, I know how much it would mean to me to be fully embraced by the people who serve as the anchor to my roots. Instead, what we experience is rejection and othering, the result of which is resentment. That resentment still does not erase a desire to connect with one’s roots. Often, it heightens it. There is a need for the abandoned child to prove that s/he is still worthy of acceptance. Sometimes, that manifests in unfortunate ways.

 

Intrusion

 Erik Killmonger is a man who has seen more of the world than most Wakandans have, due to their dogged isolationist stance. He knows that Wakanda has the resources to change the fortunes of oppressed people of color everywhere. He feels that they’ve wrongfully misapplied them. He feels its his duty to right this wrong and orchestrates a takeover. That take over includes waging war on the world, subjugating other cultures and the utter destruction of one’s enemies. In effect, Killmonger is not offering Black liberation as much as he is advocating for the replacement of White Supremacy with Black Dominance. He has become the thing that he hates. As they would, many Wakandans take issue with this. This is not the way things are done at home. Dominance is not a part of their value system.

In Ghana, for instance, we’ve seen this same phenomenon take place. African-Americans and ‘Been To’s ‘ often push their ways into spheres of business and culture, imposing their way of doing things on natives. Each side is convinced that they know better. Far too often, there is little dialogue and more energy expended on fighting for dominance. Instead of strengthened alliances, there is further fracturing. In Wakanda, this played out as a brief civil war. In real life, there is name calling on Twitter. Neither is helpful.

 

“Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors; the ones who jumped from the ships…because they knew death was better than bondage.”

Sketch depicting a African insurrection on a ship. Image source: howafrica.com

 

When T’Challa defeats Killmonger in combat, he takes him to a cliff to witness the magnificent sunset that N’Jobu often spoke of. This scene was both powerful and difficult for me to reconcile. It seemed so hopeless…as though N’Jadaka, the lost son now returned home, stood no chance of rehabilitation or embrace. By his own hand, he chose death over bondage, but one would hope that the most advanced nation n the world would have trained counselors on hand to offer him a different path! The weaving of the historical context and the visuals of Africans leaping from the sides of the floating coffins known as slave ships is powerful, but should either of them truly desired it, T’Challa and Killmonger could have found a different resolution to his insurrection.

Or perhaps he was too far gone. We will never know.

 

There are so many levels to discuss in this film. One could spend weeks analyzing them. But for me, Erik Killmonger’s storyline was central. It was the most relevant to my lived experiences. I know other people connected to it too, for similar reasons. And after all the jubilation and levity and celebration over box office records dies down, the real question becomes: What are WE going to do now?

I believe that’s the query and message that was sent to us all, subliminally.

 

Leave your reflections of the movie in the comments. As I said, it’s time to discuss the multiple layers of this film as a family!

**Have you been looking for something inspired by the might of the Jabari? Consider this elegant beaded Zulu necklace! Looks great while grunting at colonizers.

Beaded Zulu Necklace – silver & black

Tommy Annan-Forson, Retired Journalist, Prescribes Censorship For Topics He Can’t Comprehend

Tommy Annan-Forson prepares for a live broadcast. Image credit: Joy FM

There isn’t much to me said for the caliber of Ghana’s media landscape or its professionals. With a handful of bright exceptions, journalism in Ghana is a profession overridden by undisciplined individuals who plague the landscape with their amateurish attempts at broadcasting and storytelling. For this persistent and enduring failing, the country has been the butt of jokes all over the continent.

It is rare that a media personality engages his/her subject with thought provoking questions. It is often clear in far too many journalists’ writing how little research has been put into a topic before it goes to print. Curiosity is shelved in pursuit of conventional approaches to any given topic. One can literally pick up a Ghanaian newspaper from 1984 and discover that the subject matter is treated the same way in 2018, the only difference now being a flagrant disregard for the rules of spelling and grammar in the press. However – through it all – there were certain media darlings one could depend upon to bring a refreshing perspective, intelligence and excellence to any fora. Tommy Annan-Forson was one of those people.

Annan-Forson has to his credit over three decades in broadcast journalism. He has trained some of the countries ‘top’ broadcasters. His voice and opinion carry weight, as he is often considered a man who is impartial in his opinions. He frequently takes the media to task for its weakening ethics, including journalists’ habit of forming and disseminating opinions without first engaging in source material. He has been on a crusade to improve journalistic standards in the country for many years.

This is why it came as a shock to many who are familiar with his work and reputation – myself included – to discover that Tommy Annan-Forson made himself guilty of the same sins he’s been decrying in the media for years.

For nearly a week now, there has been a brawl on social media (Facebook, specifically) over the topic of whether all wives should be expected to cook in the home, whether that act constitutes slavery, a woman’s “place” in the home, certificates for washing panties by hand and all the trappings you might expect from such a non-starter discussion. How did it begin? With this post:

Louise Carol, a founding member of Pepper Dem Ministries commented on the subject on her own wall addressing the broader mindset that leads to a man extoling his wife’s strengths by taking pride in her sacrifice for his personal comfort. His reward for her labor is to give her his ATM card, presumably to go get herself something nice, the implications being that he knows so little about his wife’s likes that he can’t even go out and pick up something for her to show his appreciation. That’s a topic for a different day.

In her position on the matter, she wrote [in part]:

If your wife after work still manages to cook for you whiles you fart on the sofa watching football or playing games, that’s your house matter. If some other man is not too bothered about stomach infrastructure and after the hard day’s work tells the wife not to bother or the wife herself chooses not to bother, that is also “somborri’s” house matter not your own. If you want to praise your slaving or hardworking or loving wife, whatever adjective you find suitable, pls go ahead without suggesting that she defines what womanhood totally entails.

All hell broke loose from there. Suddenly, the misinterpretation to “slave over a task” had been championed in popular culture. Learned people, ministers, media personalities and lawyers pounced on the word “slaving”, twisted it to fit their biases and weaponized their intentional mischaracterization of a turn of phrase with the aim of silencing a group of women that Ghana’s heavily patriarchal, repressive and regressive society simply abhor because of their tone.

This would’ve been the media’s opportunity to bring some clarity and sanity to a situation that really ought not be a situation at all. Instead, personalities like Afia Pokuaa, herself a ‘journalist’, seized on the opportunity to create mischief by forming a group called Sugar Dem Ministries (an intentional, unimaginative and lazy play on Pepper Dem Ministries), and organization whose sole aim is to defend men against any woman who would dare to “pepper them”; i.e. call them out on their misogyny and chauvinism. Naturally, part of that defense calls for licking men as well.

Because nothing empowers a man like being licked by a woman!

With all that ails Ghana, from its debt, to crumbling infrastructure, to pollution, to the enduring education crisis…what has captured the minds of the countries self-proclaimed best and brightest is the battle to be cooked for and catered to and how a group of gender activists want to take away that right!

Tommy Annan-Forson ought to have been the voice of reason in this madness, but instead, this was his contribution:

Hitherto, I had found the conversation about cooking absolutely ludicrous. But with Annan-Forson’s submission, I recognized that it had now taken a dangerous turn.

There are many things that put the stability of Ghanaian marriages and homes at risk, beginning with infidelity, lying and financial fragility. There are men who bring diseases into their marital bed and still manage to keep their wives committed to preserving their marriage. But according to Annan-Forson, it is the pointing out that cooking is not central to keeping a home intact that is the threat to the country’s marriages. Anyone who attacks this sacred institution must be stopped and silenced. PDM must be censured.

An ad depicting a broken home, predicated on the idea that a woman’s activism is in direct conflict with maintaining a functioning, happy household. Many Ghanaians proclaim much the same today.

It is obvious that he formed his opinion based on hearsay, and not because he had directly engaged with the source material. We expect this behavior from the gossiping little boys who litter the comments with their text speak and poorly reasoned thoughts, NOT from a media stalwart like Annan-Forson. As someone who’s duty is to the truth, to expose ills and inform the public, who functions at the highest levels of the fourth estate, he demonstrated a gross dereliction of commitment to his mandate.

Ghana is no longer a country where propaganda is the order of the day. We do not remove people from the public discourse simply because we do not like what they have to say or how they say. Ghana – and its media outlets- is no longer under the control of ‘benevolent dictatorships’. The 1992 Constitution freed us from that kind of tyranny. For Tommy Annan-Forson to suggest – and as vehemently as he did – that these women ought to be banned from all broadcasting platforms and for no other reason than his own ignorance is all appalling and repugnant.

We can’t overlook his glaring, distasteful sexism either. It has an age-old tinge to it.

Tagging women who have fought and continue to fight for women’s lib as mentally ill, emotionally disturbed or just plain old “mad” is a tactic that has long been employed to dismiss and discredit the work these women do as well.

Pictured here: Medical practitioners preparing to force feed a detained suffragette diagnosed with ‘hysteria’.

In the early 19th century, these women were imprisoned and treated for ‘hysteria’. That Tommy Annan-Forson would outright imply that the ladies of PDM are insane is not by coincidence.

Women who have fought for equality have been called “ugly”, “bitter” and “mentally unstable” for as long as the fight has gone mainstream. In fact, if you’re an African feminist/gender activist and have not been called ugly or lesbian, I would seriously question the effectiveness of your social impact!

Tommy Annan-Forson and his bootlickers should all be ashamed of themselves for their failure to engage in this conversation with any sense of decorum, propriety or common sense whatsoever. You can’t go around calling people insane based on your pervasive, unyielding, interminable ignorance. We certainly can’t change the rules of media engagement based on the same, either.

Wherever your loyalties lie in this absurd “debate”, we must all agree that censoring conversation based on ignorance and hearsay cannot be tolerated. Not if we are to achieve any development goals and sustain a dynamic culture that our descendants can be proud of. We are better than what Tommy Annan-Forson is proposing…or at least, we ought to try to be.

 

 

David Oyelowo’s Wife Is Wicked: Part 2

January 2nd, 2018

10:01 am

 

A woman’s squealing voice shatters the silence.

“David, darling!”

A man yawns. It is the yawn of a man content with his life and all that he surveys.

“Yes, darling?”

Footsteps pound down the stairs, announcing the arrival of the woman into his man lair.

“The invitations to the Black Panther premiere. They’ve just arrived!”

The man bolts upright in his chair. He stretches forth his arms greedily.

“Let me see! Splendid!” He sighs, breathing in wistfully. “We shall have a splendiferous evening. It shall be glorious! A night of Black excellence indeed!”

The woman waltzes up the stairs.

“This gives us just enough time to contact a tailor to make something special for the occasion. There’s SO MUCH African talent on the fashion scene right now. Suakoko BettyGavin Rajah, Ohema Ohene… I’m sure we can find someone to create something spe….”

The man holds up his hand, signaling for quiet. He crosses the room and clasps his wife’s hands in his, staring intently and earnestly into her eyes.

“Darling,” he says benevolently, “don’t you concern yourself about my wardrobe. I already have the perfect outfit.”

She raises her eyebrows, quizzical and surprised.

“You do?”

“Yes,” he chuckles. “A little something special I’ve been saving since my secondary school days for just such an occasion.”

Her breath catches in her throat. Any time a man has saved an outfit from high school cannot be appropriate for today.

“Sweetheart,” she says cautiously, “I really do think it would be best if we both got something new. It is – after all – the Black Panther premiere. Don’t you…”

He silences her with a kiss, his mouth covering hers completely – devouring all of her objections. She melts, yielding.

“You run along and arrange to have your dress made. Like I said: I’ve got this. I’m David Oyelowo. I’m a Nigerian man. I understand African excellence. I embody it.”

Skeptical, she walks away. He’s right. He IS David Oyelowo, celebrated star of film and stage. His decisions have led him thus far. Surely she could trust his judgment on this one task.

 

******

 

Eh? Madam! Is this not how it happened? Is this not how you allowed your husband to leave house and kom to pehpul carpet looking like Johnny Just Kom? Why? Let me ask you again: WHY???

I thought this matter was settled when we last spoke in 2015. You remember, don’t you? How could you forget? That was the time that you allowed a whole David Oyelowo to leave the house glittering like a star. Like a galaxy. Head to toe. Like he was the personification of a nursery rhyme.

Twinkle, twinkle little David…

Listen: I understand. We are living in an era where we want to give our spouses the freedom to express themselves freely and with range. But it is our duty as women married to Black men – especially to African men – to establish acceptable boundaries to that liberty. We are their helpmeets and ribs and all those other adjectives they assign us to remind us that these brothers require our help.

Your husband is one who is far too literal when it comes to his attire on certain occasions. Just like he did at the 2015 Golden Globes, he rejected subtlety and pursued a dogged course of ass showing and piss taking.

2015: “Oh? What’s the dress code for this thing? Dress like a star? No problem!”

2018: “Oh? What’s the dress code for this thing? Dress ‘African’? No problem! I will even be all of Africa!”

Yes. Everyone in attendance at the Black Panther premiere was dressed in African attire or incorporated African accessories into their outfit. Only you your husband came dressed as the OAU. Only you your husband wanted to wear AAAAAALLLL the Continent’s Angelina on the purple carpet. I mean, how.

I know that there are people who looked at David’s outfit and saw absolutely nothing wrong with it. I have inserted this helpful image to put this faux pas into cultural context for you.

Do you understand now? Good. Because as my dear friend Ronke said, David just went to this event to misrepresent Nigeria. Shei!

Mrs. Oyelowo. I call you wicked because this is a wicked thing you have done. You have given up on steering your husband. I know you can’t control him. He is a sentient being and capable of making his own decisions. Nor can he control you. But you have been too lax in your influence. You must be forceful! You must me direct! You are the wife of a Nigerian man! You cannot – ever – allow him to leave the house in mismatched double Angelina and Hugh Hefner house slippers again. This is what our men wear when they are going to buy boflot and Star beer because the wife has gone out and there is no one to cook in the house. And you can’t lie and say you weren’t home. You arrived looking AMAZING and on your husband’s arm.

Chisos is Lord!

Next time, FaceTime Jidenna if you are unsure about what you husband is saying. He may be trying to trick you into allowing him into wearing his sleeping pant to premiere. Jide will set him straight.

I am begging you. Let’s not make this a trilogy. I don’t want to write anodda article about your wickedness as a part 3. I’m rooting for you. We are all rooting for you!

Sincerely,

The African Wives Consortium, VP

 

See your face. You are laughing, eh? Would you like to laugh some more? Then you need to check out my book ‘Madness & Tea’! You’re three clicks from cackling yourself sick. START HERE

What Happens When ‘Shithole’ Countries Try To Rid Themselves Of That Stain?

 Conservative men were virtually jizzing themselves in the Comments Section all over the innanets yesterday ahead of the State of the Union Address, each heaping their fawning adoration on a subject who could neither hear their euphoric vociferation nor care if he did. America’s Orange Fuhrer lives only for his self-gratification, and these tiki-lighting, khaki-wearing minstrels are little more than the oil that keeps his engine of his inflated ego rolling, rather than the device itself.

“Thank you, Mr. President! My stock portfolio is up and the apology tour is over!”

“Trump doesn’t need to say anything at this SOTU address besides “#WINNING #WINNING #WINNING!” and watch the whole Republican side of Congress erupt into a roar. Because we’re WINNING!!!”

“America finally has a president that is willing to put America and its people first. Maybe it’s time for presidents from other countries to do the same so that their people don’t have to keep coming to our great nation in droves. #MAGA.”

Bored Over It GIF by State of the Union address 2018 - Find & Share on GIPHY

It was the last comment (and I swear to you that these are actual words written and published by actual white men) that gave me pause. I had to wonder, what was in this voter’s mind or in the scope of his experience that would lead him to doubt that presidents and leaders of what 45 recently referred to as “shithole” countries had attempted to shift the tide and perception of their fortunes. Did he really think that in all the years spent in the struggle for independence from Europe’s former colonial stranglehold, none of these nations had striven to empower themselves, give their citizens a sense of pride and destiny or match the might of their former oppressors? Do men like him really believe that the ideals of liberty and all its trappings are reserved for the West alone?

Of course, the answer to any of those questions is a simple ‘yes’. The average American – white men, chiefly – are woefully ignorant about world history and the machinations that have driven policy that make some countries shitholes and others a refuge from them. This ignorance is willful and insidious, because the toll to overcome it is much too steep. In order for the presidents of “other nations to put their countries first”, The Average White Man sitting in America espousing such lofty hopes would be required to interrogate his personal role in preventing this reality from coming to bear yet.

Historically, when nations populated by Black and brown people have thrown off the oppressive yoke of white domination, it has not come without severe consequences. When Haitian slaves revolted and overthrew their French overlords, directly making the Louisiana Purchase possible, America did not reward these men and women in Liberty’s service with their support. Instead, they set up a trade embargo that decimated Haiti’s economy. This while France demanded that the now independent Haiti pay the European nation 150 million francs in ‘reparations’ and in order to have its independence recognized. If Haiti today is a shithole, America and France are the shovel that dug it.

Is that too far in the distant past? Then perhaps we can consider a period I call Africa’s Scramble for Independence, those years between 1957–1990 (Namibia was the last Sub-Saharan country to gain independence) where Western interference was not only rampant, it was celebrated. Now declassified documents reveal how the CIA orchestrated progressive Nkrumah’s overthrow, the repeated installment of puppet leaders all over the Continent and methodical crippling of African infrastructure by Western powers, post independence.

Sekou Toure

Sekou Toure, Guinea’s first president and a man considered to one of Africa’s greatest leaders said:

“We prefer poverty in liberty to opulence in slavery… that Africans are not French and that Africa cannot be reduced to French territories”

As a country well-versed in its own fight for liberty, equality and brotherhood, France understood these sentiments well. Recognizing that the nascent fight for full equality would soon be in full bloom, his position triggered French flight from the country. At their departure, Frenchmen took all of their possessions and destroyed all that could not be moved. Buildings, books, cars, medicines…even telephone poles were not spared France’s tantrum. Over the years, France would continue to undermine the will of its former subjects by tampering with elections and destabilizing currencies. This was no secret, and not a single Western power stepped in to deter these malicious orchestrations, let alone call for sanctions. If the white men in America are looking for ways to repair shithole countries with the aim of stemming immigration, this is a great springboard to consider.

Oh? Is that still too far in the distant past? Not recent enough for you? Too lofty a goal? Well, here’s something white men desirous of leaders of ‘shithole’ countries putting those respective countries first as their Orange Fuhrer has done: Start with supporting Eastern African countries’ ban on secondhand imports from the US and UK.

In 2016, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi announced their intention to phase out imports of secondhand clothing and shoes from western countries by 2019. President Kagame also called it a matter of “dignity”. The objective is to see many more companies produce clothes in those countries and build a lagging industry. More jobs in a diversified economy means fewer people have to travel to ‘greener pastures’ to look for work, and that’s a good thing. Right?

Jackie King, director of SMART

It might surprise you then, to learn what America’s response has been to those efforts. The United States has threatened to withdraw the aforementioned countries from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). AGOA’s aim is to promote economic and political development in sub-Saharan Africa.  Why the bullying, you may ask. Why punish countries for wanting to expand and develop their own textile industry? The reason is because every time your Aunt Mary tosses out your Uncle John’s old socks and work boots, an American worker is responsible for sorting and shipping that tonnage to Africa for dumping and re-consumption. If African nations impose bans on your dirty white underwear, it could cost 40,000 US workers their jobs.

It’s really simple: African leaders putting their citizens first means that American leaders’ hands are tied in the attempt to put THEIR citizens first. And for that, shithole countries must be punished.

The reality is this: America and other Western nations greatness does – and always has – hinged on the oppression of what you lot call shithole countries. From Italy dumping its toxic waste in Somalia’s fishing waters to America polluting what was one arable farming land in Agbogbloshie, these nations have had to navigate the precarious position of trade partner and whipping boy based on the mandates and dictates of the West. Africa, South America and Caribbean nations have served as your landfills and playgrounds, depending on your whims. For these countries to advance, Western nations will have to temper their exploitative reflexes.

 Mr. MAGA Foot soldier, if you truly want to see shithole countries throw off the stench of that reputation, the power is in your hands. Lobby congress to allow us to set our own prices for the sale of raw materials. Demand that emerging industries be allowed to flourish without intervention or threat. Insist the American students learn a foreign language and dispense with lingual hegemonies with English at the top. Practice responsible waste management so that you do not export your pollution to environs that you are likely never to tread. When the currencies of these nations are on par with the dollar and pound, and their kids have good schools and voters can demand excellence from leaders who are not in the pockets of the West, you can sit back and take pride in your work. The drop in the number of immigrants will cheer you. You could do all these things and more…but then these are the battles and concerns of ‘liberal snowflakes’. But even worse, it would force you to consider people from shithole countries your equal…and that is not something you could ever abide. Is it?

I Feel For Mo’Nique, But She’s Fighting An Unwinnable Battle

“Are you boycotting Netflix?”

“What?”

“Netflix. Mo’Nique said we should all boycott Netflix.”

It was now 5am CAT and I could only stare at my phone and wonder what had happened 8 hours prior EST to illicit this text from my sister. I know her well enough to know that her query was dripping with sarcasm, so I readied myself for some foolishness. Instead, I was stricken with sympathy.

Mo’nique, it would appear, had gone public with news of Netflix’s paltry offer of $500,000 for a stand-up comedy special, an amount that pales in comparison to the deals that the likes of Chris Rock and the (unfunny) Amy Schumer have received from the streaming service. She was calling for a boycott on the basis of gender and race bias. I finished catching up on the goings-on of this now unidirectional tete-a-tete between Mo and the ubiquitous Juggernaut that is Netflix and sent my sister a one-word reply.

“No.”

I feel for Mo’Nique. I honestly do. But calling for a boycott of a service that millions of people have now come to rely upon for affordable, quality (depending on region) entertainment is akin to imploring us all to shoot ourselves in the foot and then join you in a pilgrimage around Moses’ mountain. This is just not a sword we are ready to fall upon for this particular issue, for myriad reasons.

As any number of people has pointed out, Mo’nique calling for a boycott of a service in hopes of strong-arming them into increasing her pay is untenable. To a large extent, Netflix relies on reoccurring subscription/payments in order to shell out those multi-million deals to comedians like Rock. If we cut our subscriptions en masse, how are you gonna get paid, Mo? Secondly, how does this tactic best serve the next comedienne of color who gets lowballed for her work? The potential hit in revenue would narrow the space for other artists of color looking to take advantage of this platform. I mention artists of color specifically, because platforms like Netflix will always find space for marginally funny white men. Always.

The other problem – it pains me to admit – is likeability. Many people just do not like Mo’Nique. As Lydia Forson, herself a firmly established and award winning actress has pointed out in her writing on several occasions, support of a person who has been the victim of injustice often hinges on two things: relateability and likeability. If people can empathize with your plight, i.e. see how they themselves could fall victim to the same set of circumstances, they are more likely to support your extrication from those unfavorable circumstances. And if they like you (or at least like what they think they know about you), they are even more liable to rally to your cause.

Most of us will never dream of making half a million dollars in one hit, so we can’t empathize. And unfortunately, whether by her own doing or by rumors being industriously spread about her, Mo’Nique has earned a reputation that has rendered her unlikable.

I am neither a Mo’Nique fan nor foe. I liked her on The Parkers, where she co-starred with Countess Vaughn and I’ve seen her on Precious. I wouldn’t run to the theater and plunk down my hard earned money to see That New Mo’Nique film, but if came out on Netflix, I might consider leaving it a star review. In other words, I have no strong feelings about Mo’Nique as an artist, but I do harbor strong enough feelings about what she’s going through to gather some empathy.

If there is one thing that is not lacking in the creative cum entertainment space, it’s ego. Those of us who consider ourselves poets, painters, photographers, writers, musicians and actors… We’re all performing in some way. And to put your art in front of an audience for judgment requires no small amount of ego in order to balance out the feelings of inadequacy we ALL harbor. It’s a tortuous existence. Like would be so much easier if we could function like electrical engineers.

Anyway, since this industry is so chockfull of inflated, often exposed egos, we all stand a greater chance of bruising someone’s ego, intentionally or not. And when you bruise a particularly powerful, influential ego, it can dampen or destroy your chances of getting work or expanding your career. Just ask Mira Sorvino. I’ll share a story with you that I’ve never shared before, because it doesn’t pain me as much any more.

A few years ago, I wrote an article about Africans’ collective response to Joseph Kony and the LRA. Ironically, it was one of the few times that I had not written an article on a subject such as this with the intention to offend. But offend it did, something I didn’t discover until much later. Amidst all the feedback I had received from my regular readers– all of it positive – I had never imagined that someone I had never interacted with before nor whose existence I was aware of, had taken note of and exception to the article. This person holds quite a bit of sway in the African literary space.

I heard later through the grapevine that because my article had so offended the sensibilities of this person, I would never ever be invited to participate in their particular literary festival. African literature is a very small space, and so it’s not a stretch to imagine that the players in those spaces speak to one another and it’s not a stretch to imagine that this particular person’s prejudices have colored other peoples’ as well. My likeability, in that arena anyway, has been tainted. Like I said, there ARE times when I do set out to offend, but this was not one of those times. That’s the only reason being shut out from this space wounded me. I earned those wages…but I didn’t work for them.

Mo’Nique – intentionally or not – has ruffled the feathers of very influential, highly visible and publically affable people. From Oprah to Tyler Perry to Roland Martin and more, she has not paused to reflect on how her pointed missiles have come to backfire on her. These are people who command and enjoy intense public support and even if they’ve wronged you personally, it’s just not good business practice to feud with them openly. As talented as Mo’Nique may be, and as right as Mo’nique is about Netflix’s treatment of her, she just doesn’t have the clout to win this battle. At best, she can settle for a cease fire and hope that she hasn’t Katherine Heigl’d herself out of her next opportunity.

In situations like these, we all need to have the sort of self-awareness that Wanda Sykes exhibited when Netflix offered her an insulting $250,000 for a comedy special. (I mean, really. It’s Wanda Sykes.) She looked at the offer, rejected it, and took her talents where they would be better appreciated and better compensated. She went to a platform that celebrated her, not merely tolerated her. That was Netflix’s loss and there’s a lesson in that for all of us.

 

Some people (and platforms) are just not worth the fight.

How Much Time Do You Invest Into Your Personal Development?

I’m a (not so) secret super fan of the FOKN Bois, the oddly paired rap duo from Ghana. It’s often tempting to invoke parallels between the members of this group and the now-defunct Outkast, but it’s even wiser to refrain from that temptation. Just like Andre and Big Boi, M3nsa and Wanlov are – and always have been – rappers and creative artists in their own right. The similarities between the two groups begin and end at the junction where two unlikely collaborators whisked together potions of music that have delighted (and shocked) music lovers over the years.

Of the two members of FOKN Bois, it’s Wanlov I have the most frequent online interactions with. All the same, I still try to keep a limit on those interactions. Part of being a successful fan-girl is maintaining just enough visibility under the radar so as to create awareness, but not become a nuisance, thereby earning yourself a block. (I’ve nearly sabotaged myself on more than one occasion. I won’t repeat 2017’s mistakes this year!) I tend to treat my “relationship” with M3nsa the way a cephalopod navigates its relationship with other ocean creatures: Ever watching; always learning; content with watching the fireworks show on his wall without giving my input. My secret is out now. Now you all know my shameful truth. I am a lurker.

So while I was octopussing my way across M3nsa’s feed the other day, I took particular interest in a video he’d posted about not pissing Asian people off.

The two women featured had glorious dark hair – the type of hair sold by grumpy men of the same ancestry at exorbitant prices expensive in modest shops dotted all over inner cities. Shops I used to visit when I still wore a relaxer. A bit of nostalgia for the ATL set in and I clicked play. I laughed at appropriate moments and grunted in solidarity at others. Then I glanced back up at M3nsa’s caption.

Before I start my 15hr day.

Did you read that right? Do you feel that? That…right there! The waves of shame and guilt… They’re pouring out over you now, aren’t they? If you have a lifelong dream or goal you’ve been harboring and doing little to nothing about, you ought to be drowning in those waves. I’m not saying this to pass judgment over you, but to say I am in the water with you, keeping my head above water with only the strength of my conviction.

Here’s the thing I’m getting at: I can bet the salvation of my soul that everyone reading this blog has a latent desire that they want to see come true before they die. Maybe you want to be an actress, or a marine biologist or an Oga who struts around his compound with one of those cow tail fly swatters. I don’t know. I do know that each of us harbors a secret fantasy, some mission that we’ve convinced ourselves is greater than ourselves or more worthy than who we are currently. Do you know the difference between ‘successful’ people and the rest of us? They don’t believe that to be true of themselves at all. For them, the pursuit of greatness is not a vain conceit, but rather a condition worthy of their existence. That pursuit is not pride: That’s an expression of gratitude to the one who created you. It’s recognizing that each of us is only given a specific number of days to live on the blue ball known as Earth, and it is only logical that we make the most of them.

I can now confess to you that while I do harbor a number of lofty dreams, I have not always made the most of my days. It takes as much time to plan as it does to dream. When we are born into this world, we are not afforded the same benefits. Some of us are born into wealth, while most into poverty. Some of us are born with exceptional beauty. There is only ONE resource we are all guaranteed: and that’s time. And while I was never a child of privilege I know now that I have always had time at my disposal to invest. I have not always made the most of my time. Over the weekend, I mentally revisited M3nsa’s brief caption and wondered to myself when was the last time I invested 15 (consecutive) hours into anything? Have I ever? I can’t rightly say…and that’s a shame for a woman who given sanctuary for any number of large goals.

The thing about sanctuary is this: It’s only meant to be temporary. At some point, one must find discomfort in sheltering an idea, a hope or a plan and commit to setting it free. If not, it becomes a burden.

Tom Corley in an accountant and financial planner. He surveyed 233 wealthy individuals, mostly self-made millionaires, on their daily habits. He compiled a list of 7 habits of highly successful people. Avoiding wastes of time was number seven on that list. He writes:

“Money isn’t the only important resource for wealthy people. Time is another one. When we invest our time in anything it’s lost forever.

Be choosy about the apps you spend your time with too, instead of spending hours on end watching Netflix or scrolling through Instagram.”

(Why he gotta talk about me like that though?)

This is my Monday motivation to you M.O.M. Squad. 15 hours out of 24 is a lot of time; there’s no disputing that. While you have not have 15 hours in your day to invest in your personal passion, or while you may not be accustomed to channeling 15 hours into one pursuit, make a commitment to carve out more time to feed your dream. Shift the energy from dreaming to planning and in time, those plans will become the life you’ve always dreamed of.

Give it time. Nothing is impossible for you.

 

 

 

There’s Only One Reason Well Intentioned White Women Don’t ‘Get’ Racism

“If it isn’t intentional, then it isn’t racism.”

Those are the words of a woman who would most likely describe herself as ‘color blind’, if not an ally to people marginalized, stigmatized and often downright oppressed in majority white societies. Those words incited shock, disbelief and resignation in circles of people of color all over the world.

Shock; because how could one be so callous as to suggest that pain/harm inflicted is somehow delegitimized due to the inflictor’s intent.

Disbelief; because you really had to take willful leave of your senses to subscribe to such and idea, let alone voice it.

Resignation; because, well…these are liberal, well-intentioned white women we’re talking about. The same ones who go home and eat Thanksgiving turkey with their relatives who effusively champion bigotry without so much as a peep in opposition. The same ones who will un-friend/un-follow you on social media because your constant posts concerning systematic oppression are just to “negative”. It’s more comfortable to un-look the despicable treatment Black and brown people face than to interrogate how their silence makes them complicit. The same ones who join sororities in universities in Alabama and gleefully scream how much they hate niggers, only to demonstrate a modicum of remorse because they’ve been thrown out of their precious Greek organization. “I wasn’t raised that way,” they profess mournfully.

Of course you were. This is how your cousin-brothers talk at Thanksgiving dinner, again, unchecked.

Finally, resignation because here we are again with the same generic Well Intentioned White Woman ™ rolling her eyes and furrowing her brow as woman of color attempts to explain the myriad ways she and people like her have been othered by mainstream society.

“Yah, but it’s moved on hasn’t it,” another WIWW says impatiently.

As a Black woman, you gasp and then you sigh. Because really, what else is there to do? These women don’t get it, and there’s a very simple and distinct reason for that.

The day before the January 18th edition ofThe Pledge made the rounds on social media, I was in Hermanus preparing to attend the burial of my godson. The funeral was in Hermanus, a five-hour drive from our home in Plettenberg Bay. My husband and I set out just before noon on that Wednesday, and by the time we’d arrived at the B&B where we’d be staying, we were dusty and hungry. The air in that portion of the Western Cape is dry and laden with loosened particles of earth. It covered our vehicle like a fine, brown mist. The owner of the B&B welcomed us and showed us to our room, pointing to a laminated sheet on the room’s teak wood dresser.

“There are some lovely restaurants in the area,” she said merrily. “You should check them out if you’re hungry!”

After a quick online search for their menus – we settled on one known for its stunning views of the ocean and diners sampled fresh-caught ocean fare. The reason we were in this beach front town was never far from our minds, so an evening of serenity and good food was certainly in order to take our thoughts away from events, if only for an hour or so. I washed my face and neck, reapplied my chosen fragrance, straightened my shirt now wrinkled from the long drive and we set off.

Visually, the restaurant offered more than the laminated sheet or website could have prepared us for. Large glass windows offered amazing views of the roiling sea just a few meters away. Chandeliers fashioned from seashells and tea lights swayed gently above us. You couldn’t help but smile. And so I did.

And then I turned to smile at the wait staff, three women (two white, one Black) who had ceased their conversation when Marshall and I had walked in and still hadn’t said a word to us. Instead, they stared at us coolly. I widened my smile.

“Hello!”

“Hello,” said the oldest and blondest of them.

I filled the silence with a request.

“Could we have a table for two, please?”

“Do you have a reservation?”

As if cued, Marshall and I scanned the expanse of the room in unison. Of the forty-odd tables, three were occupied. The restaurant was essentially vacant. This, of course, made my husband laugh.

View from our seat after we’d been coldly asked if we had a(n unnecessary) reservation to dine there.

“No. Why? Do we need one?”

“No,” said one of the waitresses tersely.

They shared a look amongst one another before the Black one asked us to follow her. She led us to a table that gave to worst view of the ocean and the closest to the kitchen/bar. It was unmistakable that our presence was resented. Marshall, never the one to let a slight go unaddressed made it a point to bring up how absurd it was to ask for a reservation in an almost empty venue, especially one that doesn’t require one to dine. The older blond waitress was at our table bringing menus at this point. She seemed taken aback that he would be so direct with her.

As the next 90 minutes unfolded, we watched as casually dressed white couples filed into the restaurant were greeted enthusiastically by the hostesses and shown to tables that offered what each hostess gushingly declared “a great view!”.

This is just one of the many incidents – in South Africa and in America alike – where I’ve been the recipient of similar micro-aggressions.

When I shared the incident on social media the day after, and before I’d seen Afua on The Pledge, a number of my friends immediately picked up on happened. Half of them were white women.

“Oh MY GOD, Malaka! I’m so sorry.”

“Where did this happen?”

“Can you write a review on Yelp?”

—-

“Thank you.”

“In Hermanus.”

“There’s no Yelp here….and to be honest, if I wrote a review every time my family or I received treatment that made us feel othered by some establishment, it’d be all I’d spend my time online doing.”

Now we come to the crux of the matter. The only reason white women don’t understand the mechanics of racial prejudice, othering and marginalization is for this reason alone: THEY SIMPLY DON’T WANT TO.

If Afua had been telling a story about how she was paid 30% less than a male counterpart in the same industry rather than the subtle and overt racist overtures POC face on a daily, the chances she’d be shouted over and talked down by her white female colleagues would be far slimmer. To them, the former is a more likely, believable scenario, only because it’s something they are more likely to confront. These people lack empathy, an essential trait if you deign to declare yourself any sort of ‘ally’.

Rather than sit and listen to people of color as we explain the difficulties and discomfort of navigating a world that functions in a way not of our choosing, WIWW would rather deny us the right to our experience by denying the occurrence altogether. It must be all in our heads.

Again, they don’t see it because they simply do not WANT to observe. And because it is simply more comfortable to erase a matter than address, WIWW want us to do the labor of forgetting our pain for them too. Not gonna happen.

A missionary friend of mine who moved here from Tennessee pointed this out to me back in December. She’s white.

“How come is it every time we go out to eat or to enquire about a service, folk always look at me? They always address me. Never you.” She snorted sardonically. “I’m thinking to myself, I don’t know why y’all are looking at me. She’s the one with all the money!”

The town that we live in is overwhelming white and very wealthy. I was driving during this conversation, so I kept my eyes fixed on the road partly for safety and partly because I didn’t want to look at her face after asking such a naïve question.

Instead I said, “I know why.”

I allow a hollow laugh escape my lips.

From the corner of my eye, I felt her eyes drill a hole into the side of my head. The force of her stare compelled me to pull my eyes from the road and glance at her, just for a moment.

“Girl. I know why too,” she said darkly. “And it’s stupid. “

 

The Frustration Of Being A Male ‘Authority’ Figure In Ghana

It must be overwhelming to live as a heterosexual male in Ghana. Imagine being told – explicitly or not – that no matter how difficult your life may be, no matter how many disappointments you may suffer, at least you are not a woman.

Women are not “co-equals” to men.

Women have been cursed since Eve.

Whereas it is your place and birthright to dominate, it is a woman’s place to be submissive, humble, silent and if at all possible, invisible.

A woman MUST respect you, because you are a man. Whether you have earned that respect through words, deeds or intentions is irrelevant. So long as a human being is born in possession of a penis, respect from those lacking that particular appendage ought to be automatically imputed.

 

You grow up believing these things about you. You’ve been indoctrinated. All the social cues you’ve received your entire life support these beliefs. Your religion demands it. Your community supports it. Your homeboys quote it like propaganda. Eventually, you accept the notion that your masculinity – exclusively – makes you a superior being. That awareness… that delusion…colors the way you see the world and yourself in it. Ghanaian men are no exception. This is how the Ghanaian male is programmed.

This is why Bukom Banku feels at liberty to rape and bludgeon his way through his community with impunity.

This is why three male radio hosts can threaten to rape a Supreme Court Judge, on air, and come back to their jobs because they said “sorry”.

This is why a bishop can kick a pregnant woman on camera and never be made to face the law.

This is why men can barge into a courtroom and beat up a judge and go scot-free.

This is why a security guard dressed in plain clothes can threaten to assault a Ghanaian citizen to the thunderous applause, cheers and tacit approval of an overwhelmingly majority of men online.

In today’s Ghana, violence – not intellect – is synonymous with strength. If a woman wants to be treated as an “equal” to men, she must be prepared to settle things the way men do. Not by addressing the issue, but by punching one another into submission.

You’ve been told your entire life that men are more ‘logical’ than women. That women, as a function of their biological make up, let their emotions get the better of them. This is something you’ve often repeated to anyone who will listen. Yet when faced with a situation where you feel your masculinity and all the authority invested in you is threatened, you back pedal by saying that men and women do not communicate the same way. Women use their words and men resolve conflict with brute physical violence. How disorienting this must be for you.

Your male cohorts buttress this opinion by suggesting that anyone woman who speaks out of turn should be recalibrated with the forced administration of dick. Because there is no more logical an act than raping someone with whom you have come to an intellectual impasse.

The world simply doesn’t work that way anymore. Women can work. Women can earn property. Women can drive AND have children outside of the confines of marriage if they so choose. When your masculinity is so inextricably linked to the subjugation of a member of a different sex, it must be frustrating to be confronted with the idea that you – as a man – may in fact not be the infallible center of the universe. That a woman’s existence and prosperity are possible without the benefit of your male existence.

And when may conducts himself like “a woman”, you see homosexuality as the ultimate betrayal and threat to your manhood. Could those visceral feelings be linked back to some jealously that you feel? Are you angry that your toxic definitions of masculinity do not permit you to explore and live your fullest life? That you have to balance your unquechiable desire to embrace your femininity by juxtaposing it with an assault rifle? How frustrated you must feel!

Image source: Facebook

Yesterday, a man dressed in plain-clothes brandishing a walkie-talkie and claiming to be a security guard assaulted Lydia Forson. The assault happened while filming on location for an upcoming feature. The film industry in Ghana is not one that enjoys injections of cash or support from the government. Most Ghanaian films that make it to the screen are passion projects. Actors often style themselves from their own wardrobes. They are paid a pittance for their work. There is no streamlined method for obtaining permits to film in public. In short, the whole industry is a clusterfuck and these producers and actresses are literally spinning gold from hay. For their efforts, they are scornfully referred to as ‘so-called celebrities’, when the reality is they are simply citizens and creative trying to make great art. Their on screen/on air visibility is what has earned them this peculiar form of contempt. And in Ghana, there is no one more contemptuous than women who make their living being loud, visible and strong. These are male traits. Women are supposed to be submissive, humble and visible only when it’s absolutely necessary.

Christopher Kpeli is a proud member of Ghana’s police force. He is a man whose livelihood is financed by the public purse. He is a tribalist and a misogynist. He’s a disgrace to the uniform. And his views are not uncommon. 

That Lydia Forson – a woman who cuts a “controversial” figure precisely because she speaks passionately and regularly for human rights and against violence against woman – has become a target of contempt for publishing a video in the aftermath of her attempt to defend a female member of her film crew has not happened in a vacuum. Ghana is a place where violence against women and girls is not treated with the seriousness it deserves. Teenaged students are punished for their sexual assault when it results in pregnancy while their male assailants are merely reassigned to hunt in new pastures. Married women in Ghana are at the greatest risk for new HIV infections because their husbands are not held to the same ethical standards in marriage as they. In fact, a woman is expected to give up her right to her body in marriage. It’s a cardinal sin to deny one’s husband sex, no matter where he’s been sticking his penis.

These are “rules” accepted by greater society. So when a woman speaks up for herself, demands that her humanity be recognized and refuses to allow her rights as a citizen of a sovereign nation to be trampled on by men who proclaim that they “can beat you and there’s nothing you can do about it”, I imagine that it must be frustrating for your run of the mill Ghana Man. Something unseen inside him wants to gear up for battle against this unholy foe: A woman who chooses valiance over compliance in the face of injustice. Indeed, there is nothing more dangerous, more threatening to a cowardly man than an informed, uncompromising woman. And everywhere you look, Ghana Man, they abound.

How awful it must be to be you in this new century. How painful it must be to live with the prospect of true equality. How terrified you must feel, knowing that women will one day gain the exclusive power you’ve been accustomed to and may return your coin in kind.

 

*Screenshots are pulled from comments on Lydia Forson’s page following her detailed account of the events that transpired. These abhorrent comments should surprise no one who has been listening.  You can read the full account here.