Author Archives: Malaka

Farewell, President Mahama

John.

Dude.

Chale!

How are you feeling right now? My spidey senses tell me you are relieved, but certain elements on Twirra swear you are despondent, based on the tone of the concession speech you gave last night. They forget that I know you better than they do, so we won’t mind them okay? I know you were playing it up for the cameras. I know you are happy not to have to deal with these Team D players you’ve picked up like cat fur on Scotch tape.

I mean, how would it look to all those who worked so tirelessly for your re-election (and 4 more years milking the cash cow that is the country’s coffers) for you to be smiling in the face of such a sound shellacking? You were convincingly contrite and it was one of your finest performances. I didn’t think you had these sort of acting chops within you. When they want to film your biography, don’t let Idris Elba steal your shine. Play yourself.

It seems the pair of us underestimated Ghanaians, my dear Brother John. You for your confidence in the brevity of their memories, and I for believing that there is/was no tipping point for Ghanaian discontentment. You were the Ike Turner to their Tina, the Mister. to their Celie; and like the female protagonists in both diegeses, Ghana walked away from you, your party and everything the NDC has come to represent, head high and heels on. No abuser ever really thinks his victim has the power to walk away until it happens, but here we are today on December 10th, 2016, with reality’s foot shoved way up several people’s jacksies.

You and I both know you never really wanted to be president. You are a fantastic Number 2 guy, and from many accounts, I hear are a genuinely nice person. But you were uniquely unqualified for the job to lead the nation, and that’s what’s gotten us to the myriad of quagmires Ghana is experiencing today. Your response to every quandary was to set up a task force. You appointed people who did not respect you, your office or their personal call of duty. You rewarded impunity and ineptitude on one too many occasions. All these proclivities constitute the old school ways of running a West African nation. If they weren’t, we’d be much further advanced socially than we are now. The fatal error for your party was that the old heads in charge failed to recognize that this is a new century, with new expectations and new technology. Ghanaians can never again have ‘short memories’ because the internet never forgets….and we all have access to data. Someone always has a clip of something you said saved in a file entitled “Mahama Receipts”.

Wow, man. You lost. I still can’t believe it.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled that certain people (*cough* Stan Dogbe *cough*!) will be out of a job and nowhere near a policy making position, but I can’t actually believe YOU lost. You were supposed to have it all: youth, good looks, and intelligence. But you got too comfortable, bruh. You treated your campaign – and the country, by extension – like it was a part of a line up for a low budget circus or reruns for Saturday morning cartoons. It was too unserious. You pandered to the lowest denominator of guy-guyness with such gems as “I can’t t’ink madness” and posing as an overfed, Ankara clad Usain Bolt on Facebook. Now look at us. I’m sitting here writing about the first single term president in recent Ghanaian history and you’ve got to live with people forever trolling you for that fact. This is patently unfair to both of us.

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There are two things you said in your concession speech – which I thought was pretty good despite what your tireless detractors say – that I found extremely poignant. You said that you have done your bit as president and that you would leave it to history to judge your contributions.

You were probably thinking of the interchanges you borrowed against and factories you commissioned and oversized sandals that you placed on the feet of impoverished school children when you uttered these words, but your contribution goes beyond that. You, sir, serve as a living example of a right way and an absolutely terrible way of doing things, and that’s not a bad position to be in. We can all glean lessons from your tenure, and those lessons are applicable in business, love, faith, etc.

  • Don’t wait to do things at the last minute. Don’t promise more than you can deliver.
  • Don’t take people for granted.
  • Don’t invoke God’s name in vain, unless you are absolutely sure the Almighty would hang himself on the cross all over again to bring it to pass.
  • Watch your words, because you never know who is listening.

The list of “don’ts” you enacted is endless. Nevertheless, these are valuable lessons, wherein you and your team instructed us with the domino of failures in policy and performance that we witnessed month after month. If your bootlickers and hangers-on had merely spaced out the scandals, you might have been forgiven and survived this lashing…but you didn’t listen to me. I told you after (and long before) Montie 3 that you would be left holding the bag, but you didn’t listen, John!

Arghh! Why do my eyes burn?!?!

Arghh! Why do my eyes burn?!?!

I am hurt. Your behavior in that regard is akin to my children jumping into our freshly chlorinated pool and screaming because their eyes are now burning. Didn’t I tell you the pool was not safe to be diving into? Didn’t I TELL you not to pardon those three dolts? But it was as if you didn’t want to receive wisdom!

All in all, you are a decent guy. Truly. You did the right thing by stepping aside. The nation needs to feel like there’s going to be shift in its course, even though for every clown in your cabinet, Nana Addo has his own variety. Dela Coffie is a douche bag, but Ken Agyapong is a b3ntwa nozzle. And there are just as many people preparing to get paid for their loyalty to Nana Addo’s campaign as there were when you came to chop. It’s Ghana politics. People have staked their last meals on this outcome. I grew up attending elite schools in Ghana, and we all know who the usual players are on either side of the aisle who are first in line for the biggest slices of pie.

As for the voting irregularities you mentioned, we know…we know. People are acting like the nation didn’t just use imported Indian indigo and recycled paper for balloting in this election. People were baying for results as if they forgot the process of voting and counting was not the colossal manual affair that it was. People are also acting like voting in Ghana is a completely linear process…as in we put our thumbs down, the votes get counted, a winner is declared, presto! Those who are honest know that there are many more moving parts and external influences behind the scenes, and that is why you did the right thing by just letting Nana Addo live out his dreams of following in his daddy footsteps before he dies. You made an old man happy, and God will bless you for that. But also, let’s not forget that NDC played dirty game by declaring yourselves the winner ahead of the official results in 2012 and the opposition played it back. Perhaps you could work secretly to be a vector for change for this sort of tit for tat politics? Perhaps not. It’s your prerogative how you live out the rest of your days.

Who couldn't love a face like this?

Who couldn’t love a face like this?

I’m going to miss you, John. I really am. I’m going to miss your infectious giggle, your denim tuxedos and the subversive art that you inspired. Making fun of Nana Addo when he screws up (and he absolutely will, because his last name ain’t Christ) will be seen as ageist and unfair. You know how we venerate our elderly, even (or especially) when they don’t deserve it. I can’t say with confidence that Ghana’s media elite will hold him to the same unwavering standard with which they held you.

But don’t you worry! Nana Addo and his team will never get a pass from me. I will be here to troll them on every broken promise; every time one of their MPs says something disgusting about women; every time a child goes hungry or homeless because of a policy they’ve failed to enact. Because they promised us better and now they must deliver.

Go gently into the night, my Deceased Ruminant. May the grass on the other side of the presidency be sweet, now that you’ve been sent out to pasture. Adieu.

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Get Through Your Hump Day With FRA’s Brain-Itcher, ‘Happy Yourself’

It’s finally Wednesday!

Many Ghanaians will be heading to the polls; your Woman Crush Wednesday has reneged on doing argon oil review she’s been promising to do; you still haven’t lost any of the weight from stuffing your face during Thanksgiving and now your ONE good pair of holiday trousers is hugging your testicles like a long-lost cousin and you’re sitting on the toilet regretting your decision to scoop up that spicy veggie casserole roll-up that Erica from accounting brought to the office potluck. You should’ve just let Erica sulk – but no! You had to play faithful sidekick to her damsel in workplace in distress.

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Image source: Pintrest and my worst nightmare

Now look atcha. You have flames shooting out your backside and there’s a team meeting at 8:30 am.

On top of that, there are now officially only 16 more shopping days left until Christmas! *gasp!*

How are you going to cope with all the madness? Well, since Pharrell didn’t see fit to drop another Happy bomb on us and Taylor couldn’t shake off more time away infusing snake venom into her pot of Bad Blood, it is to Africa – Ghana, more specifically – we must turn to for the feel good song of the year. And it couldn’t come at a better time. You know as well I as do that 2016 clearly marked the beginning of the End Times. Fortunately, FRA released this fabulous ditty to help us dance our way out of this acid-fueled carnival that is the Chinese year of the Monkey. How apropos.

Hey. Hey! Look at me. I'm your president now.

Hey. Hey! Look at me. I’m your president elect now.

Before you click the link and listen to the song, I want to go ahead and say, you’re welcome.

 

Who is FRA? They are five Ghanaian guys that formed a band in 2015. They started out doing covers in 2015, performing live in venues all around the capital. There is a sad truth about live Ghanaian bands that few people are brave enough to speak – and that is it’s unlistenable. As in, it’s so loud and disjointed that you can barely hear the music for the sake of the noise. Nevertheless, we Ghanaians jam dutifully with the racket makers, because we’re a loving and encouraging group of people. Our reward for that long-suffering has been the development of groups like the Compozers and FRA, who feature the inimitable Kyekyeku on guitar in Happy Yourself.

The phrase ‘happy yourself’ is the common (wo)man’s parlance for the esoteric call to find joy within yourself. Essentially, it is the entire volume of The Secret summed up in two words in pidgin English. It makes the instructions accessible to the rest of us. Not everyone wants to listen to a lecture about methods to find sources of happiness, but I can’t think of one person who doesn’t like music. Everyone likes some form of music! And with this offering, FRA guides us through the process in three simple steps:

  1. Do the woogi mami
  2. Shuffle leg o padi
  3. Joromi

Make you happy yourself , ‘cause you owe nobody your life!

You see how good you’re feeling right now? That’s because this is that song from your childhood. This is Osibisa, Cool and the Gang, Earth, Wind & Fire and raucous summer holiday picnics with your cousins packaged in plantain leaf. There’s no way you can’t like this song. That would make you abnormal. This song will have you jammin’ like…

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For me, Happy Yourself is the Febreeze we needed to mask the stench of the most stank year of recent memory. Nina Simone said it is the artist’s duty to reflect the times, but I say it is also their duty to help us get through them. For this, FRA has my thanks.

‘Happy Yourself’ is available on iTunes.

A Lesson About Success

My son’s class conducted a life skills practical in their fourth term. Each student was given a bean, a shallow metal dish and some moist cotton in which to plant the seed. The goal was to connect the bean’s growth to the story of Jan en die boontjierank (Jack and the Beanstalk). Stone is a born botanist, and has loved plants since he was a toddler. He brought his bean home and made sure the cotton was kept moist and frequently moved it all around the house in an effort to always keep it in the sun.

In time, a shoot broke through the bean’s outer shell and a fragile root system began to develop. Stone kept watering and moving the plant.

One weekend after his bean turned into a seedling, we had to go out of town. The seedling had no water, too much exposure to the elements and appeared brown and dead by the time we got home three days later. Stone quickly took it over to the sink and moistened the cotton, and his father advised that now might be a good time to put the seedling in some soil. I advised that he stop moving it from place to place all around the house and allow it to get adjusted to one spot and the conditions in that particular area. That’s how the bean ended up on the ledge of our front porch, where it rebounded. The old, dry leaves dropped off and new green shoots began to emerge from its tiny stalk.

“Isn’t it cool how new life can emerge from something you assumed was once dead?” I mused to my husband.

A man of many words, he replied, “Mmm hmmm.”

My conversations with Marshall are so deep…

It’s now been two months since Stone’s bean was planted, and it’s about 3.5cm high. Ecstatic that his seedling had achieved some semblance of an actual, viable plant, he asked if he could take it out of the tin and plant it in the garden bed next to the garage. He dug a hole, tipped the plant out and dropped it in. The next morning when he came to check on his plant, it was dead…Really dead this time.

The summer sun and gale force winds that gust around our house at this elevation killed it in 24 hours. Distraught and disappointed, Stone dug up his seedling and put it back in its makeshift pot to see if he could revive it. It’s been over a week now, and it doesn’t show signs of recovering. We are still holding out hope, however.

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Come back to us, bean plant!

Why do I mention this story to you? All of us has a dream; some sort of ambition that we harbor deep within ourselves. The bravest (or more foolhardy) of us will sometimes take the step to put flesh to that dream. It may be a business idea, or a talent, or a philosophy you’d like to see incorporated into the culture. If it’s a particularly unique or good idea, or if you have people who support you because YOU are unique and think you are particularly a good person, you may find yourself pressured to put your idea, talent or skill in the sun before it’s had a chance to develop deep roots.

The function of the sun is to sustain life, but the sun’s rays can also be fatal, as we learned from the demise of Stone’s tender plant. You may be looking at other people in your field of interest and ponder over their achievements. Their success must surely come from full exposure to the sun, whereas your growth has only been gradual because you’ve gotten those rays in smaller measure. This may inspire you to think you’re ready to launch yourself into the same atmosphere, but if your gift is not developed, it will kill not only the gift, but its potential as well. When the winds of criticism, negativity and hostility come, your potential will be shaken loose from its roots. There is nothing wrong with a little caution.

This is written to encourage those who are looking around at your circumstances after putting in whatever effort and asking yourself “Why am I not further along?” The answer may simply be as simple as it’s not your time. Your growth – or lack thereof – is not for lack of trying: It’s because everything and everyone develops at his or her own pace.

We live in such an exhibitionist culture nowadays that people expose their talent in its infancy and the culture consumes and disposes of it quickly. The music industry provides the most visible manifestation of this. We cycle through more rappers and crooners annually than Rob Ford did needles and pipes. (RIP, Mayor.)

Take the time and care to hone your craft and build your core. Sure, there are times when you can drop a seed in a harsh environment and it will not only anchor, but dominate that environment as well, crushing all in its wake. Those are called anomalies…like Beyoncé. Most of us are not anomalies. Most of us are Solanges; or at least we should be trying to be. There’s only room for one Beyoncé in the world at a time, maybe two. However there are plenty of seats at the table for a dozen Solanges or more. (See how I just did that? You like that? Of course you do.)

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Be encouraged. Be glad for other people who have established their roots and have found their place in the sun. When your turn comes, you’ll want others to be glad for you too. Don’t give up, but more importantly, don’t force your success. Build upon yourself, and it will come.

 

 

Unpacking Voter Apathy Among Ghana’s Emerging Middle Class

It’s been difficult to feign enthusiasm for the 2016 edition of Ghana’s election process, and with an incumbent government performing so poorly, that should serve as a red alert that something is fundamentally wrong. With all the corruption scandals and improprieties exhibited by the ruling NDC, many more people should be rabidly howling for a conversion in government, but even at this 11th hour “I don’t know who I will vote for, and I may not even vote” is a common refrain.

Why should that be? There should be a clear victor here, if we as a nation have a collective vision concerning our heading.

Speaking in general terms, NDC is corrupt and incompetent. NPP is unpalatable in its arrogance and has spent the first part of its campaign cannibalizing itself. CPP is clueless and Ndoum – who embodies the PPP is proving to be a vindictive shrew. Neither of these parties nor its leadership can be trusted to move the mind of the nation forward. In fact, none of them has the slightest interest in elevating the political discourse, for in doing so it would mean that the citizenry would have the tools to hold the political elite to constitutional account. They are busy pandering to the lowest denominator, 1) because it’s easy and 2) because there is little pressure to perform beyond the minimum from those who occupy that space.  When was the last time you heard a Ghana politician speak passionately in the public sphere about the constitutionally guaranteed rights and role of the citizen, or the part the government plays in ensuring those rights and guiding/enforcing those roles? I can’t think of a single instance this campaign season, and I’d wager that people who are tired of the old way of politics being done in the country have given up hope.

On Nana Ama Agyemang Asante’s podcast ‘Unfiltered’, she has been asking eligible female voters if they will be voting in this election cycle. To her dismay – and mine as well, frankly – many women responded that they would not be voting. Why not?

“I just don’t want to,” they said.

You could hear it in their voices. The pitch and register of their answer is familiar. It’s exasperation. We as women employ this response in our lives every day. “I just don’t want to” is the polite and succinct way of (not) saying ‘Your stroke game SUCKS, you pre-mature ejaculating chimp’ or ‘I could work out, but that’s what society expects of me so I’m just gonna sit on the sofa and eat Pringles and kelewele and watch this The Princess Bride marathon.’ It would take the responder too long to explain why voting is such a chore that it elicits a sullen sigh, rather than a thrilling gasp and a flush of the cheeks. It has everything to do with the way political campaigning is done in Ghana and the Ghanaians’ response to these stimuli.

NDC was run a cruel and negative campaign, at times crossing into the ridiculous. Rather than focusing on the issues, they have spent the majority of the time attacking the main opposition leader, Nana Addo, personally. They have intimated that he is old, frail and therefore physically unfit to lead the nation. Nana Addo is a relic of the past. The latest one compares the relationship between the Ghanaian voter, NDC and NPP to a love triangle. Just watch:

Funny, right? At first blush, it does make you chuckle, but it’s a really troubling ad. Ghana – and its citizenry by extension – is portrayed as a fickle, idle girl who is compelled to depend on men to care for her needs. Despite the fact that Ghanaian women make up more than half of the labor force and are incredibly entrepreneurial, the ‘lazy, gold digging’ trope still exists. And if that weren’t odious enough, the ad makers threw in a dash of colorism, which continues to be a plague on our collective mental health. While “Ghana’s” pursuer (NPP) is a darker skinned male in a polyester shirt, the guy she temporarily dumped (NDC) is light skinned, current and smooth. She realizes she’s made a poor choice and coyly tries to sidle up to her previous partner. All of these play on the Ghanaian’s insecurities at the intersection of ethnicity, gender and color.

NPP’s problems have not been with advertising. Their woes have everything to do with their mouth. John Mahama, his brothers and Anita ‘the dwarfs ate your cedis’ De Sosoo have run the country into the ground, sprinkled lights over the rubber glue monuments they’ve constructed and dubbed them Dubai. It should be easy to defeat this boorish breed, but people aren’t convinced NPP is any better. Mahamudu Bawumia and his wife notwithstanding, both the party leadership and its supporters provoke an ick response in a lot of people.

Clearly, Nana Addo is not interesting in courting new supporters. This is hubris on both his and his supporters’ part. I suppose he can’t see past the crowds of people who show up at rallies and is satisfied that the clamor is enough. He routinely refuses to participate in debates, has not put out a concise, actionable message that the university graduate or young entrepreneur can relate to, and he certainly has not called for his leadership to behave circumspectly. Kennedy Agyapong and George ‘Show me your wife’ Andah threaten and disrespect women with abandon, and those who cry foul are silenced and made to feel shame. This tyranny goes right down to the Ghanaweb comments section, for what is name-calling and cyber bullying compared to a bus branding scandal? Vote for change! Is this alternative truly any better? Is it more tolerable to live in a country where people fear to express their thoughts and ideas than it is to live in a dumsor republic? Are we not simply trading one form of darkness for another?

If you call out these transgressions, then you MUST be an NDC supporter. NPP sympathizers have been nasty, illogical and downright insufferable over the previous 12 months, so much so that people want them to lose this election just to shut them up. Lydia Forson wrote an objective, thought-provoking piece detailing why NPP could fail to grasp power this season, and like the hit dogs they are, the violent canines did holler. She has been subjected to the worst sort of personal attacks – online and off – that have been seen in recent history.

Ghanaians have the gall to ask why more women don’t participate in the political process, musing over why we don’t have our versions of a Michelle Obama, or Hillary Clinton, or Sheryl Sandberg to boast of, conveniently forgetting how men threaten to release nudes in response to political analysis or reflexively default to reducing a woman to her looks if she is considered ungovernable. Even the EC Chair, Charlotte Osei , has not been immune to ad hominem attacks. While not having executed her first election cycle with the perfection that she required of the presidential candidates, she does not deserve to have that failure reduced to it being a consequence of giving a woman so much power. Naturally, there are death threats predicated on her presumed partiality to the party who appointed her.

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As if this series of fiascos weren’t were not bad enough, Joyce Amankwaa ,the Assin North municipal assistant civic education officer of the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), has urged the wives of the Ghana police service to “satisfy their husbands very well in bed to enable them work effectively during the upcoming elections”. Once gain ladies, the fate and the stability of the nation rests your vagina. But don’t get too cocky! That you have a vagina also makes you inferior and weak. Always remember that the man is the head of he household and your natural leader.

Let’s not even get into the IGP who cannot decide if he wants to block social media or Election Day or conduct himself as though he’s living in a modern democracy where the citizens have rights and can be trusted to employ reason.

The whole thing is a charade and a circus, and little wonder so many people just can’t muster the passion to stand in the sun and be a part of the sideshow. For many people, Ghana’s politics do no reflect their values, nor is it representative of something to aspire to. It is considered retrogressive for reasons that are far too lengthy to list in one blog post. No wonder so many people find themselves apathetic!

Now, there are people for whom none of this matters. They are the party faithful at both ends of the economic spectrum. The wealthy are those whose fortunes are inextricably linked to the umbrella or elephant in office, and the poor simply want the satisfaction of knowing their team won. Ghanaian politics is FIFA’s sickly step-brother; but if we’re all lucky, we’ll avoid the melee at the end. But for those in the middle, the now despised neutrals who cannot bring themselves to hold their noses and pick a side, there is no clear choice here. A win for either party is merely a win for the party, not the country as a whole.

It’s time for Ghana politics to grow up. It’s time to transform the election process into a cerebral exercise, rather than an emotionally reactive one. We’ve been choosing the lesser of two evils for so long that it’s gotten us back to HIPC and disenfranchised our brightest minds. I always say that if you have a choice, choose greatness. Why settle for mediocrity and mendacity? We must all demand more of ourselves, and especially those who presume to lead us.

I’ll end with Kinna Likimani’s apt thoughts on the politician’s failure to woe undecided voters. She says:

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Birthday Con(ned), 2016

“Sigh…”

I looked up from my phone, irritated. It seems like Nadjah is always sighing about one thing or another these days.

“What? What is it?” I demanded. I was in no mood for her mercurial tween angst. Her episodes had been a burden on my nerves for weeks.

“Well… It’s just that my birthday is coming up, and I think it’s going to be pretty lame because we’re not in Atlanta any more.”

I softened a bit. It just so happened that in that very moment, I was missing Atlanta as well. I missed the blending of cultures; the hundreds of venues and events from which to choose for entertainment; and Chick-Fil-A. We always miss Chick-Fil-A. And DragonCon. The painful memory of its omission from our social calendar was still fresh in my and the children’s minds. We’ve been attending the Con as a family since Aya was in a stroller. I put my hand on Nadjah’s cheek and sighed with her.

Now I understand completely what happened, of course. Hindsight is always 20/20. It is because she caught me snacking on roasted peanuts and raisins instead of waffle fries and thick ketchup that I found myself beholden to the ridiculous idea that I proffered. The torment I have experienced over the previous two weeks is of no one’s making but my own – for it was with my own lips and through my own face that I said:

“You know what? Since we didn’t get to go to DragonCon this year, why don’t we have ‘NadjahCon’ for your birthday?”

“What?”

“Yeah! You and all your friends dress up in cosplay, we’ll have some games…”

“…and a photo booth, and prizes!”

“Ok… Sure.”

“I’m going to be Hatsune Miku blah, blah, blah, blah, blahhhh….”

I had no idea who or what this Hatsune Miku person was, but knowing my child as I do, I knew that creating this entity was going to cost me a pretty penny. *Spoiler alert: It has.*

For the next 4 days, every conversation we had was about the invitations I was promised to design and make.

Put me on an invitation!

Put me on an invitation!

“Mommy, I drew Hatsune like I said I would. Are the invitations done yet?”

“Mommy, did you do them yet?”

“Mommy…the invitations!”

 

Mind you, we have no functioning printer in our house, so I have to run to a local joint called The Print Shop and give them 60 cents per page anytime I need to fulfill an order. 60 cents doesn’t sound like a lot, until you multiply it by a billion. Because guess who didn’t line up her images correctly? Yes. This chick… this chick right here. And guess who had to pay The Print Shop a nice little grip to re-print the cards? You know don’t how much I wish the answer to that question was Your momma!

Sigh.

At this point, it’s all gotten completely out of hand. I’m making pterodactyl eggs, commissioning a local seamstress to make superhero capes for the kids who are SURE to show up without a costume and scattering money all over town for props. I am behaving like a Nigerian mother but operating without an Oga’s budget. You think my husband is in support of this foolishness?

“Why can’t she just have a couple of friends over, have some pizza, and have a sleepover?”

I would have (possibly) been in favor of that plan if Pastor Grant hadn’t done that thing when he bends his body at the knees, widens his eyes and speaks in slow, deliberate terms. Like he’s talking to someone in the process of making a series of poor, regrettable decisions and he’s trying desperately to get through to them with reason.

Naturally, I rebuffed his suggestion with a counterpoint of my own.

“That’s LAME, Marshall!”

And that’s how your craftily challenged blogger friend here ended up making a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle shell out of papier-mâché and several “indestructible” shields out of cardboard and hot glue.

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As I was mulling over my self-inflicted wounds, the eldest of my loin fruit joined me in the living room and settled herself on the sofa across from me.

“Yes?”

“You know what, Mommy? I was thinking. Instead of calling it ‘NadjahCon’, can we just call it ‘BDayCon’?”

NadjahCon sounded too self-absorbed, apparently. I just looked at her, grunted my approval and redesigned the invitations…again.

Yesterday, after I’d gotten back from Home Express (the US equivalent of Dollar Tree), where I had dropped the same obscene amount of money that every woman leaves in any discount store where she walks in with the intention of getting ‘one thing’, a thought occurred to me.

Maybe…maybe Nadjah could’ve gotten her best buddies together and just gone OUT for dinner. Maybe…maybe milkshakes with her friends could have been good enough. Perhaps – and I was just standing there in the sun thinking out loud, mind you – but perhaps we all could’ve just watched the highlights of DragonCon 2016 on YouTube instead of trying to live out a counterfeit version in the middle of South Africa with a bunch of kids who have no idea what cosplay is or how it works or might not find it interesting in the least.

Oh well. We’ll never know, will we? Tomorrow I go in search of PVC pipe so that I can construct a frame for the steampunk inspired photo booth. Like I said, I’ve gone too far to turn back now.

I’m glad we changed the name of the party to BDayCon 2016. It’s totally apt. Not only did I get conned into producing a major party, but I played myself.

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*This isn’t one of the worst mistakes I’ve made in my parenting journey, but it certainly isn’t one of my finest hours. Have you ever parented out of guilt? At what point did you decide this point was far enough and decide to pull back? Or are you like me – just riding all the way into the Danger Zone with no decorum nor common sense? Discuss! 

 

 

 

Query: Is Pumpkin Spice Supposed to be the New Watermelon?

The election is over, thankfully. We’d all hoped for some normalcy to return to our lives (Trump’s repeated threats to rip apart families and unleash his Gestapo on communities of color, notwithstanding) but things have only gone on to get more and more bizarre. Now, in post-racial America, we have white people who are convinced that they number among the racially oppressed. They have termed this phenomenon ‘anti-white bigotry’.

I have yet to find anyone who has been able to explain what anti-white bigotry actually is, how it has adversely affected white communities, or robbed them of their humanity or one way or another. If anyone from the Reddit community could do this without referring to me as “nigger” or “cunt”, as so many who wandered here after my Tomi Lahren piece did, it would be much appreciated. Because as it stands, many people are uncertain about how pointing out white delight for Sperrys, roller derby, fresh fruit and now – pumpkin spice – equates to having to navigate voter disenfranchisement, redlining, police brutality, stigmatization, and so on. Inquiring minds want to know!

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I have come to the conclusion that white Americans are only oppressed in their minds. All of the angst and fear they’re experiencing is the same as the anomalous effect described in Michael Crichton’s book, Sphere. Native Americans are not rallying to chase you off their land, Black people are not gathering up arms to murder you in your beds, Mexicans are not building a wall around Buford Highway to keep you away from authentic food or fresh, affordable produce at the farmer’s market…even though these would all be natural and justified reactions to the way these and other marginalized groups have been cheated, brutalized and dispossessed by mainstream white America. In the absence of that retaliation, certain factions of liberal and alt-right America have identified how marginalized groups are now exacting revenge through reverse racism (which is not a real thing, by the way). Behold! We the Committee for White Tears puts to you that Pumpkin Spice is the new watermelon!

I like watermelons. Everyone does. There is a reason every fruit salad bowl made available at Public is 70% watermelon. In fact, I consider anyone who does not enjoy a sweet watermelon suspicious. However, watermelons and the Black community have a turbulent relationship. Says William Black of the Atlantic:

“…that African Americans are excessively fond of watermelon emerged for a specific historical reason and served a specific political purpose. The trope came into full force when slaves won their emancipation during the Civil War. Free black people grew, ate, and sold watermelons, and in doing so made the fruit a symbol of their freedom. Southern whites, threatened by blacks’ newfound freedom, responded by making the fruit a symbol of black people’s perceived uncleanliness, laziness, childishness, and unwanted public presence. This racist trope then exploded in American popular culture, becoming so pervasive that its historical origin became obscure. Few Americans in 1900 would’ve guessed the stereotype was less than half a century old.”

On the other hand, the elements that make up pumpkin spice have a far less noble beginning. It is comprised of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. Much like sugar, pumpkin spice was initially available to only aristocratic families. Because elitist tastes always dictate middle class fashion, the proletariat in both New World and the Old soon also developed a taste for the aromatic goodness of cinnamon. To feed this new demand, the Spice Trade went into full gear. It devastated natural habitats, cost human life in the thousands, robbed nations of their sovereignty and changed the balance of power.

In that regard alone, watermelon and pumpkin spice sharply differ. The proliferation of one is rooted in economic freedom and the other in colonial, imperialist oppression.

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I can understand how a group of people who have never known extensive oppression – or whose ancestors were given preference and opportunities to lift themselves from subjugation, like the Irish – can suffer confusion about what makes a stereotype and what constitutes racism. As I told the bearded twitter user who made the stretch in asserting that pumpkin spice is a racist trope: Denying people jobs or housing because of their ethnicity is racism; Not allowing a Black doctor to help an ill passenger on a plane because she’s Black is racism. Saying white girls love pumpkin spice…is just a fact. And it’s certainly not rooted in bigotry.

Look. I can pick up 15 glossy magazines today, from Marie Claire to Teen Vogue – and I can guarantee you that there will be dozens of mentions about pumpkin spice, boots and wooly mittens. There will be hundreds of thousands of dollars of ad dollars spent to attract white, female consumers to try out pumpkin spice Oreos and/or cream cheese, or participate in a Pumpkin Spice 5K run to support a charitable cause. The simple fact is, white women respond more urgently to pumpkin spice than they do to the sight of a black child gunned down in the street. And this perception – and twisted reality – is not the fault of any person of color. This is an idea fueled and created by white people working at white owned and controlled ad agencies.

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Before you proffer the idea that pumpkin spice is a symbol of white oppression or a tool of Black antagonism, as yourself how many white people died violently in the procurement of pumpkin spice. Has pumpkin spice been used as an emblem of shame? How does the image of a happy white woman in an autumnal glen inhaling its sweet aroma lend to the oppression of an entire group?

107725159_girl-eating-watermelon-black-americana-retro-tin-signI would love to see watermelon themed fun runs, 5Ks, camping events or birthday parties, but we as a race still haven’t been able to overcome the stigma that is attached to the wonderful, sweet summer fruit. That’s the difference. When a white woman clasps her venti Starbucks pumpkin spice latte, she’s considered artistic, determined even. She’s getting fueled for her day or taking a break from it. *If I sit on my porch, swinging my legs, twisting my pigtails and spittin’ seeds in a cup, I stand a real chance of some douchebag making hooting monkey noises in reaction to my presence. Both substances are used as agents of humor, but only one affords the persons closely associated with it humanity.

Conclusion: It is absurd and obscene to compare the warfare and violence that has dovetailed with the cultivation and consumption of pumpkin spice with the entrepreneurial spirit behind the cultivation and consumption of watermelon.

 

*Imagery borrowed from Rasheeda S. who, like me, loves a good piece of watermelon.

 

The Religious Right Has Ignored Its Role in Propagating Abortion. That Ends Now.

Q: “Serious question: Evangelicals, how could you do it? How could you support Trump?”

A: “We did it to protect the most vulnerable amongst us. We did it to protect the unborn.”

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“So excited! I took my daughter in the booth with me to vote today. I asked her if we should vote for the candidate who wants to save unborn babies, or the one who doesn’t. We voted to save babies.”

 

This is just a small sample of the conversations I’ve seen online from those who have been brave (or nonchalant) enough to voice for their support for Donald Trump.

Pastors routinely encourage their congregations to vote for the candidate that’s going to protect life, support Israel and defend heterosexual marriage. There is rarely any critical examination of a candidate beyond these three mandates, the logic being that believers are in this world, but not of it. (Ref John 17:16) Over time as the Evangelical Movement has become mainstream and the most recognized form of Christianity after Catholicism, and abortion and gay marriage have become THE voter issue(s) that Christians care about. I know my pastor couldn’t stop talking about it. It’s a narrow way to view the world, and it is unhelpful, as it takes into no consideration why women often feel compelled to seek an abortion in the first place. In order to do that, the church (and all who follow the tenants of any Abrahamic religion, really) would have to look itself in the mirror and accept blame.

Being a single-issue voter is not a trait that inspires admiration; however, it has been a luxury that the American voter has enjoyed ever since Civil Rights had been achieved and Roe v Wade was enacted. In terms of core values, there is nothing that truly separates Democrats from Republicans. The difference is only in the approach to achieving their goals. This is why no matter who wins a presidential election, Americans have been able to work together to achieve those core values. That is not the case with the election of Donald Trump, a man who has vowed a complete shut down on Muslims entering the country, vowed to impose “law and order” (read police harassment) in inner cities, encouraged his supporters to physically assault protestors at his rallies, promised to hire a special prosecutor to jail his political opponent, advanced ideas about jailing/punishing women who carry out abortions and preyed on women sexually, just to name a few. Oh, and he has some casinos that feature nice restaurants. I wouldn’t want to be accused of being biased in my assessment of Donald Trump.

I’m not here to discuss with my Bible believing friends and readers how for support for a Trump presidency is inconsistent with calling yourself a holder of Christian values. How do you justify electing a man who completely embodies the opposite of all the values you say you hold dear? I won’t discuss today how hurt I am to discover that your latent white supremacist biases would allow you to vote for a man who has the endorsement of the KKK precisely because his rhetoric has been racist and because his proposals would adversely affect marginalized groups. You’ve convinced yourselves that God is white and/or holds Republican values, and any conversation on the topic would be futile. I see where we stand.

Today, I want to talk to you about your ‘one’ issue…the issue you said would preclude you from supporting Hillary Clinton due to her stand: Abortion.

Do you recognize the part you have historically played in making abortions not only necessary, but desirable? You probably don’t, but that obliviousness is also a luxury privileged groups enjoy. And yes, Christians have been the privileged majority in America since its inception.

Abortion has its roots in shame and guilt, two emotions that paternal societies and religions have used to manipulate the multitudes for centuries. Let’s consider Mary, who was chosen as a vessel to carry God’s Son and fulfill His word. What did Joseph have to do when she informed him of her divine pregnancy? He took her away, not wanting to make an example of her. Being with child outside of the bonds of marriage was a grievous (and punishable) sin. Societal attitudes towards unwed mothers haven’t change in over a thousand years. In the 1940s and 50s, we saw how unwed mothers in Europe and America were forced to either give up their babies for adoption (or sale), or uprooted from their family life completely in order to cover the shame of getting pregnant out of wedlock. How many couples have been forced into shotgun weddings to cover the humiliation of getting pregnant out of wedlock? How many lives have been completely destroyed as a result of those forced unions? The conservative/Abrahamic religious mind and attitude toward women and pregnancy has wreaked havoc across the world for generations.

In West Africa amongst the Akans, there was a saying that ‘a baby was for us all’. A baby, no matter the circumstances of its birth was something to be celebrated. Everyone played a part in that child’s success. It takes a village to raise a child is a concept Hillary Clinton – and others – coopted from Africa. But what have we seen with the spread of Judeo Christian values in Africa? The tyranny of shame surrounding pregnancy and childbirth. Just as it is in America, there is only one right time to have a baby, and if a child is conceived outside of those confines, it’s cause for humiliation, not celebration. Most of the time, women and girls are made to shoulder the burden of that humiliation, while men are spared any torment. In the face of this, an abortion looks like a more attractive option.

The Church is not really pro-life. The modern Church is merely anti-abortion. If the Church was pro-life, it would have put structures in place to support young women and girls as they prepare to bring life into this world. Pastors would not spit hateful words to make these women feel like criminal delinquents. Unwed or not, women would feel more confident in announcing their condition. This is not the case.

After a yearlong tryst with Douche Bag, I found myself pregnant. We had already ended things prior to this discovery, so I had no intention of marrying him. He took the news poorly, as was to be expected. However when I told by a select number of Christian counterparts, I was told I needed to “go see Pastor XXX and pray and ask God’s forgiveness!”

When a friend of mine got pregnant and decided to keep the baby, her paramour – who was a deacon in the church and later became her husband – was stripped of his duties while she was whispered about behind her back and made to feel like a pariah.

My South African housekeeper’s daughter got pregnant at 17. I’ve known her since she was 13. When I hugged her and told her I couldn’t wait to meet her baby, her mother said, “Get down on your knees! Tell Malaka that this was the biggest mistake you’ve ever made in your life!” This is a church going woman.

These stories are not unique. These are the norm. So when I hear Christians claim that they voted and supported a violent fascist for their presidential candidate because he’s going to protect the “innocence of life”, I call bull. What about the innocent men that populate America’s overflowing prisons? What about the law abiding same sex couple that gets hateful words hurled at them? What about the immigrant who really wants a path to legal citizenship, but finds his/her path blocked at every turn by unnavigable legislation and is forced deeper underground just to survive? Not everyone can emigrate from Slovakia and find their path to citizenship by marrying a septuagenarian billionaire. These lives are innocent and worthy of protection as well. You do yourself and the God you serve a grave disservice when you refuse to be nuanced in your advocacy. God doesn’t just care about one group of people, and neither should you.

To the degree that your cause and preaching has participated in making a woman feel uncomfortable/ashamed/desperate in her state of pregnancy is the degree to which you’ve driven her to have an abortion, the very procedure that you find so repugnant. We shame women for getting pregnant, we shame them for seeking public assistance to bring a healthy baby into the world, we shame them for terminating a pregnancy that nobody – maybe not even herself – seems to want. Again, this is not being pro-life.

Evangelicals who overwhelmingly supported Trump will have to take a hard look at themselves over the course of the next 4 years, when they watch their neighbors battle severe illnesses with Ibuprofen because they no longer have access to healthcare, or when their children come home to report how their friends have taken to shouting “Go back to Mexico/Africa! Build that wall!” in the lunchroom. When the chaos that has ensued over the last 48 hours has not fizzled out but only heightened and expanded in other unanticipated areas. You will have to tell us all then if criminalizing and blocking a woman’s access to abortion was all worth it.

*I’ve focused on Christianity in this piece because it’s what I’m most familiar with. What does your religion or worldview say about pregnancy and life? Does it support women, or does it force, punish and dictate how their bring life into the Earth?