Note: I am writing this post today with the understanding that several things are going to happen, because we’re dealing with the Ghanaian public, and it is a citizenry that excels in hypocrisy and assumptions. Ghanaian attitudes about rape are right out of an 18th century Russian melodrama: hardly factual, deferring to the strength and rights of men, and not progressive in the least. A woman literally has to be kidnapped, beaten and gang raped for the act to be considered sexual assault. Outside of that, she was asking for it.
Before any of you descends into my comments section with your theories about why I’m writing this today, know that I am debt free. I am not seeking pecuniary tributes for telling this tale. I am an author, and I write for a core audience, not for the masses. I’m not “trying to sell books”. I’m not writing this because I need new followers on Twitter. What for? In fact, the sort of attention this article is going to bring me is hardly inviable. I’m not a celebrity. I’m a mom, a wife, and on the night KKD asked me out on a date, I was someone’s 12 year old daughter.
In the 1990’s Kwasi Kyei Darkwah (alias KKD) was arguably the best DJ on Ghana radio. His tagline, to wit, was “KKD – the finest”. He spoke the best English, played the newest and hottest tunes and had a voice made for radio. From the most impressionable third grader to the cool kids in Uni, listening to KKD’s program was the height of everyone’s day.
The 90’s were a boom time for Blacks on the Continent and in the Diaspora. As a race and within our specific cultures, we were making inroads with music and fashion. Hip hop was now well established with acts like Wreckx-n-Effect, Naughty by Nature, Queen Latifah, Biggie and Pac dominating the charts. There was a connection between African American music and African clothing. As a pre-teen, nothing filled me with more pride than seeing Queen Latifah in Nefertiti earrings and a towering crown trimmed in kente cloth. Likewise, Ghanaian kids were learning to rap and doing so with their best (and very fake) American accents. Fashion featuring more “traditional” elements was growing in influence, and St. Osei – one of Ghana’s premier designers – was a trailblazer in that arena. Imagine how excited I was when I recruited to come and model his children’s wear at a show he had organized. My childhood friend Alice* had been modeling for him regularly, and he needed 3 more kids to show his clothes. Alice asked Adj, a kid named Prince and I if we’d like to be in the show, and of course we said yes. Alice was leggy, slim and dark with sweet eyes and round cheeks. She could sell sand to the Tuareg. It made sense that St. Osei would hire her. I, on the other hand, was chubby by Ghanaian standards and had poor posture…but I had an interesting face, so St. Osei yelled at me to stand up straight and let me walk in his show. I was beyond thrilled!
But that wasn’t even the best part. I had heard that KKD was going to be MC’ing the event as well. On the final rehearsal night, the rumors were confirmed. The Finest himself showed up in all his radio splendor. He was the consummate gentleman; full of hilarious stories which he delivered with impeccable timing. By the end of the evening, he had taken a particular interest in me and because of his particular attentions, our little group of child models didn’t have to either walk or take a trotro/1-1 taxi back home that night. KKD let me sit in the front and made all the other kids sit in the back. He asked me if he could take me to dinner. I remember looking out of the window and thinking it was getting late. The sun sets at 6pm in Accra. By 6:30 the sky is dark as midnight. I was never out of the house after 6:15. I was 12! I told him I thought it would be okay…we’d just have to ask my mom.
“Where do you want to go?” he asked.
I replied that I wanted to go to Bus Stop for ice cream. It was settled.
I burst into the door with the biggest grin on my face. My mother was pacing, because we were supposed to have been back an hour before. I explained that KKD had dropped Alice and Prince off at home before bringing us and apologized for being late.
“Who?” she asked. I can still hear the edge in her voice.
“KKD! From the radio!” I gushed. My sister was showing him and the friend who had accompanied him into our house. He greeted my mother cordially. She looked at him with eyes of glass and an expressionless face. I was mortified.
He explained (again) that he had met us all at the show rehearsal and had dropped the kids of individually.
“And now, I’m going to take your daughter out!” He gently grabbed my hand and said the words with a winning smile. I looked at my mother hopefully. KKD was going to take me out for ice-cream!
Now, my mother, being a devout Muslim woman would never cuss a man out, but she didn’t need to. In her eyes I saw all kinds of “niggas”, “the f*ck you say”, and “I’ll cut your cock off if you take one more step.” Her skin was unyielding when she spoke, and looked like marble.
“And just where do you think you’re taking my daughter?” she asked in measured tones.
KKD mumbled something about going to dinner. Mom replied that we had dinner here, and that he was welcome to stay.
“We’re having rice and stew,” she said, pointing to what I recognized as yesterday’s rice and some chunky tomato sauce.
He declined and said he would take his leave now.
Ooooohhh! I was so pissed! Why couldn’t my mom have just him take me for ice-cream? I sulked for days, until it was time to perform at the show. I waved at KKD when we arrived and prepared to go on stage, but he looked at me coldly and didn’t return my affectionate greeting. I was shocked. It wasn’t until I got much older that I realized that my mom most likely saved me from ruin that night. What 20-something year old man takes a 12 year old he just met out for ice cream in the middle of the night? I’ll wait while you answer that, and if you can justify that act, well…you’re probably a pedophile too.
In the coming days, within your own circles, you will hear several women tell their stories about their encounters with KKD. Like most powerful men in Ghana, he is a predator and he feels he has the right to any woman – no matter her age – when and where he wants her. The reason KKD is in the news today is because he wanted a 19 year old girl and took her in a hotel toilet. That could have been me, but I had a mother who was not having it. At all.
People in his circle know he’s nasty, just like people in R. Kelly’s circle knew he was nasty, just like people know the Rev. Jesse Jackson is nasty. (One day I’ll tell you about his shenanigans down here in the A.) However, y’all still buy R Kelly’s music and many of you reading will accuse me of ‘judging’ KKD. I’m not judging him. I’m just calling a spade a spade and telling you he’s a nasty man. The problem with Black people – and yes, this IS one of our unique problems – is that we do not hold our men to account for their misdeeds. Black women are expected to protect Black men at all costs, even if it costs us our own lives. That’s how we show we “love them”. That’s not love. That’s cowardice. That’s being complicit in covering up a multitude of sins and crimes. Let me tell you something: Christ died for that, so I wouldn’t have to. You want your sins covered in someone else’s blood? Go see Jesus, not your local Black woman.
To all the women who don’t have a blog, or a book, or a radio program who wished desperately that they could tell someone in details about an attack you suffered: don’t be afraid to tell. Women in Ghana are raped routinely. Rape isn’t just about physical force and violence. It’s about control and coercion. A man doesn’t have to use his fist to threaten you. Words are often enough. If you don’t feel in control of the act you are engaging in, it’s rape. Period.