Note: I want to have as cerebral a conversation on this topic as possible, and although every fiber of my being craves to employ the words “punk”, “n!gga b!tch”, scum and douche bag, I will refrain from the use of such monikers and attempt more genteel discourse.
But you know where I stand…
You discover the oddest things on Facebook. Let’s be honest: Facebook’s appeal has everything to do with the content your friends create, and not so much the utility itself. My Facebook wall is pretty mundane the majority of the time. My activist friends use it to promote their latest cause. My artsy friends use it to promote their next gig. My Stay-At-Home-Mom crew uses it to promote their children…
I can go for three months without logging onto Facebook and tell you everything anyone has said with 99% accuracy, I’m sure. Or at least I was until this week.
Edith Faalong was my virtual before we actually met and clicked in real life. She’s an actress who lives and works in Ghana and Nigeria, and has a pretty impressive body of work for being in the industry for so short a time. She has exceptional comedic timing, great range and is pretty darn hot. To say that I adore her would be an understatement. But like ALL my friends, her Facebook wall is pretty predictable. She uses it to share inspirational quotes and links to director and film writer Leila Djansi’s blog. So imagine my surprise when I kept seeing a string of comments that said:
I’m fine. To everyone who has expressed concern, I’m fine!
When I messaged her to find out what was wrong, I didn’t expect her reply. She said she had been assaulted on her job.
“WHAT?!?!” I exploded. “By who?!”
“By the director,” was her reply.
How in God’s name had I missed this? After the necessary and customary expression of my outrage (which is all you can do when you’re thousands of miles away from the target you’d like to slap the black off of) I asked her what had happened. What she told me read like it was scripted from a bad 80’s Afro-sploitation flick.
Edith plays ‘Naana’ on the show ‘Living with Trisha’, a popular TV series in Ghana directed by Prince Amuni Gbenga. She joined the cast in 2013. I’ve only heard her express excitement and positive things about working with the cast and crew ever since she told me she was joining the project last year. One thing I’ve admired about Edith is how in control of her career she has been since she took her foray into acting. She is a brand ambassador for Tigo, and has used her sphere of influence to direct a positive conversation on the topic of Global HIV/AIDS with her work as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNAIDS through the #ProtectTheGoalCampaign. As I said, she is a woman in control of her image and her contractual agreements. In regards to her contract for ‘Living with Trisha’ which often shoots on locations in various parts of the country, she mandated a clause stipulating that she be able to go home at night and return for shooting the next day at her discretion.
On the day of the attack, the rest of the cast had opted to sleep at the hotel where their scenes were being shot, while she left the night before. This did not sit well with Prince Amuni Gbenga, apparently.
“What do you mean this didn’t sit well with him?” I grunted. “Is he your father?”
“Ask again!” she retorted before laying out the crazy string of events that took place.
Edith returned to the hotel early to prepare for her scenes which were to be shot later in the morning. As she was getting dressed, Gbenga barged into her room, demanding that she get dressed now and come down stairs to do make up. He was yelling in her face, making ridiculous demands. Stunned, Edith grabbed a bed sheet to cover herself as she was standing in HER room in a state of near total undress. She demanded that he get out so that he could dress, and he refused. After making it very clear that she wasn’t doing anything until he left her room, he finally turned towards the door where she walked after him to close it. Upon seeing her advance, he turned around, pushed the door backwards as if to let himself back in, and did so with such force that it cut her lip and bruised her face.
Think he bent down to help her up? Think again.
He stood over her, screaming insults which eventually roused her sleeping roommate, as well as a crowd of people in the hall who collectively pulled him away from her and urged him to calm down. Edith quickly walked off set and went straight to the police department to report the incident.
And THAT part, folks, is key: she reported it.
How many other women has Prince Amuni Gbenga taken the liberty of physically abusing without fear of reprisal? His wanton disregard for consequences tells me quite a few! And what was the director of the show doing summoning an actress anyway? Is that not the job of the production assistant? Furthermore, any sort of gentleman who finds a woman in a state of undress in the confines of her room and does not leave immediately? It’s fair to say that Prince Amuni Gbenga is no gentleman, but a barbarian and a coward who gets his rocks off on intimidating women. He joins a growing, pernicious list of men like Oscar Pistorius, Brian McKnight, Chris Brown, Elliot Roger and ol’ Ike Turner who have no control over their infantile urges to inflict their will.
I believe that is the genesis of all these assaults against women we see in the news day, after day, after day. It’s easy to dismiss physical assault as a crime that only the very poor or marginalized commit. We can point at the impoverished men in India and their propensity for raping defenseless girls and say that’s just something they do “over there”. But the fact remains that entitlement and narcissism is a plague that cuts across all social barriers and there are men of all classes who think that they are entitled to do with a woman’s body as they wish. Sadder still is that there are women who have been conditioned to believe the same!
I am so proud of Edith for reporting this to the police, and prouder still of the Ghana Police at Dansoman for their handling of the case. Even they expressed their disgust in the way the ‘Living with Trisha’ PR team handled the situation, which was to:
- Lie about the event and,
- Encourage Edith’s hotel-mate to lie by asking her to corroborate their version of events!
What a horrible and uncomfortable situation to put this young woman who still needs to earn a living in! These people have no couth and no decency. Instead of apologizing, do you know what they’ve done? In a play from Patience Jonathan’s Guide to Being an Absolute Idiot in Public, the producer’s wife has sent threatening messages to my friend, the details I will not reveal here since there is the potential for a court case. You see African women? We can be our own worst enemies. What a silly insolent woman to think she has the right to threaten anyone after the victim has been attacked!
This is but one of the incidents of physical assault that happens in society every day. If you’re reading and you’ve found yourself in a similar situation, don’t be afraid to speak up and get out. Be like my friend. Edith walked away from a hit TV series, because there is no job, no relationship, no nothing on this earth that is worth your dignity and your life.