Ghanaians Have A Long History of Exploiting Black American Pain. Sammy Gyamfi is Just The Latest Offender.

Sammy Gyamfi is the National Communication Officer of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), a position he’s held since 2018. He is a lawyer by trade, most noted for his outlandish populist tirades. He is the generator of a despicable political cartoon depicting George Floyd’s body being suffocated by Ghana’s EC.

In the mid 1970s, my African American mother decided to uproot and relocate her life to West Africa. She toured Gambia, Nigeria and Ghana, deciding ultimately to make the birthplace of Kwame Nkrumah her home. As it was 40+ years ago, relations between Blacks in the diaspora (particularly from America) and Africans on the Continent have been complicated. My mother would describe her life as a young Black woman navigating Accra and interactions with random people in the capital city that left me irritated and dumbstruck. The spat she once had with a taxi driver left a permanent imprint on me.

“Your accent. You are from America, eh?” said the driver.

“Yes,” my mother replied.

“So you are a slave!”

“Well if I’m a slave YOU sold me!” she retorted.

That was the first – and as it turned out, would not be the last – time I’d become familiar with xenophobic utterances from my fellow Ghanaians. (My father, as most of you know, is Ghanaian.) I have written extensively about the Diaspora Wars and internalized anti-Blackness on various platforms over the years. My firm belief is that these cross-cultural skirmishes are not borne of hatred, but fastidious ignorance about one another that too few of us on either side of the Atlantic are attempting to abolish.

So while it was painful to see, it came as no surprise that a “learned” man like Sammy Gyamfi would glibly employ the imagery of state sponsored terrorism against a Black body to score cheap political points in Africa. That Mr. Gyamfi went through the process of conjuring this image, commissioning (and one would hope, paying) an artist, and then doubling down to defend this breathtakingly offensive piece of trash is exactly the sort of thing a fastidiously ignorant man who has read a few books would do. But there is context to his decision, and it’s important to understand that.

Image Source: Sammy Gyamfi’s Twitter feed

During Ghana’s cholera outbreak between 2014 – 2015, the world got a front row view of the type of questionable behaviors and rationale that keep the cogs of decay and regression at work in that country. Anecdotes abound as to why Ghana has remained a struggling developing nation despite years of aid and debt wiped clean, but for me, the long and short of it is exemplified in the tale of humble baker who was interviewed by a local news outlet. Like the majority of Ghana’s economic migrants, she had moved to the capital city from her village in search of work, finding accommodation where she could, dwelling in squalor. She decided to support herself and her family by baking bread. This she did not a stone’s throw away from the community’s pit latrine. When asked by the journalist covering the cholera epidemic if she was not afraid that being that close to a fecal waste dump would not contaminate her baked wares, she replied with a condescending laugh, “Oh no. The heat from the fire will kill any bad thing!” shooing fat bluebottle flies as she carried on with her alchemy.

You cringe, but there are more than a few people who would agree with her (which is why your African Uncle eagerly forwarded unfounded WhatsApp evidence that garlic and hot pepper was a cure for COVID at the pandemic’s outset). 

All this is to say, that no matter how stupid one’s utterances, one will always find people to agree with them. This explains why despite massive outcry, Sammy Gyamfi’s nonsense has just as many supporters. 

We also have to understand that Ghana is a virulently anti-Black space, despite its proud history of being the first sub-Saharan nation to gain independence and billing itself as the “Gateway to Africa”. The public hospitals where women give birth on the floor exist because of anti-Blackness; the dilapidated roads that kill people every year exist because of anti-Blackness; the contaminated foods that flood the country are allowed in because of anti-Blackness. There is no way that Ghana would be governed in the way that it is today if the majority of its constituents were white. And it is because of that normalized disregard for Black life that Sammy Gyamfi was so comfortable with using an effigy of George Floyd’s lynched body to advance his party’s agenda.

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) has branded itself as the social democrat political party of Ghana. That its national communications officer could produce and sanction a piece of art that so flies in the face of the values that the party proposes to uphold cannot be overlooked. This is the man in charge of disseminating and managing the party’s core message, a man meant to embody and exemplify its principles. Can anyone with any shred of decency truly equate a man’s murder to an abstraction such as Gyamfi’s displeasure with the proceedings of Ghana’s Electoral Commission? To use George Floyd’s unjust killing as an artistic device makes this man no different and no less despicable than these budding white supremacists.

Challenged white teens have starting photographing themselves doing this despicable “challenge”.

In their attempts to defend Gyamfi, some people have drawn attention to this work in juxtaposition.

And it is here that the willful obtuseness and an inexhaustible supply of ignorance comes to the fore again. There is a distinct difference between strangling an emblem of democracy and strangling someone’s beloved father. Someone’s adored brother. Someone’s bible study teacher. The Statue of Liberty was never alive, and has never drawn breath. George Floyd begged for his. A crowd of people watched him beg for air. Watched him call out to his deceased mother. Begged for mercy…and was denied this and much more. He was a man, not an abstract object.

I hope Sammy Gyamfi and his ilk remember this the next time they decide to play filthy politics with a murdered Black man’s life.

A rendering of George Floyd. Image source: The Irish Post