Who is a Ghanaian?

My BFFFL, Nana Darkoa, though young is very wise. While we were collaborating on a would-be project a little over a year ago that was meant to be very “Ghana-centric”, I voiced a concern that was itching my conscience.

“How well would this be received from us?” I asked. “You know we’re not ‘real’ Ghanaians. You were born in the UK, and I’m a hybrid.”

Her rebuke was swift, but gentle.

“It’s not for others to judge if we’re Ghanaian or not,” she replied. “It is up to us to make that determination. We must decide what makes us Ghanaian… have you seen?”

She was right; and I’ve carried that with me for over a year now. But silly me! Apparently, there is a committee in Ghana the gets to decide who is a Ghanaian and who is not – so when I got to home two months ago, my feathers were rightly ruffled when 3 people (arrogantly, mockingly and ignorantly) informed me that I was not a ‘true Ghanaian’. One was a friend, one was a taxi driver and one was a total stranger – whom I hope remains such. Their reasons were varied:

Because I have natural hair.

Because I have an accent.

Because I’m not dark enough.

Because I didn’t go to the market to shop for groceries.

Because I went to HGIC for secondary school.

Because I didn’t hire a taxi to ferry me around the city for (the assumed 3 weeks) duration that I was in the country.

Because, because, be-frikkin’-cause!

There is a saying in Black America that ‘all our skin folk ain’t all our kin folk’. The insinuation is that there are certain elements and affects one must adopt to be considered ‘Black’. Those typically being that you are a Democrat who loves hip hop and blindly supports Obama while you languish in the ‘hood unable to hold a semi-intelligent conversation, let alone read a book. Oh, and if you do read, you MUST consume Vibe magazine, never Shakespeare’s greatest works.

So clearly, I’m not considered ‘Black enough’ in America. I can live with that.

But I am NOT prepared to let random strangers and certain friends define for me what makes ME a Ghanaian. The chick who arrogantly informed me that I was unable to live “more like a Ghanaian” while I was home proudly informed me that she spoke Twi fluently. Bravo for her. But speaking Twi does not make you any more of a Ghanaian than eating a baguette makes me a Frenchman. And what on earth does that mean: ‘To live like a Ghanaian?’ Whether a person lives in a Vodafone painted container, or lives in a mansion like the Jonahs, there are certain things that will always identify them as a Ghanaian.

Let me tell you what makes me a Ghanaba.

I have the blood of my grandmother, Emma Abena Owusua Acheampong, next in line to the throne at Larteh Kubase flowing through my veins.

I can point to a family house behind the palace and tell you which room my father and his brothers were born in.

I have walked to school more days than I can count.

I have been sacked for school fees.

I am always mother of okonto.

I have stroffed for a bio exam, and believed with all my heart that if I put the text book under my pillow, the info would enter my head by osmosis.

I have jumped a wall to “tear ghost” on a taxi driver when I didn’t have the money to pay him.

I have been chased by a mad man.

I can prepare kontomere better than your modda.

I have watched Osheen with great interest and come back to school the following day to discuss it with my friends.

I have been chased by a watch man for eating all of the blofo nkati3 from our neighbor’s tree.

I have  yobbed about going to Yankee for the long vac.

I can finish my fufu faster than you.

I have been mocked for pronouncing “metabolism” as META-bo-lism.

I can slang you with obroni slangs and then insult you well-well in pidgin.

We don’t go to sea on Tuesday’s.

I will always believe carrying your baby on your back is the best way to ferry your kids around.

I too wept when Suarez ousted us from the World Cup.

I have prayed for Ghana, wept for Ghana and laughed at Ghana.

My hair is of my people. My skin is of my people. My shape is of my people. I am as much an American as I am an African because I was born of Sharon Davis and Kwasi Gyekye. I get to decide.

So what am I? A Ghanaian. A Ghanaian by birth, and sometimes by choice. And if I hear one more person attempt to define what I am or am not, they must be prepared for a wicked slap, because I go tow am.


So you can run and tell that.