Until the lion learns to write, the tale of the hunt will glorify the hunter.

Note: The article that spawned this rejoinder originally appeared in the Independent, a British online publication. I was content to give the content a pass and chalk it up to White People Whiting. After all, the piece was written right on schedule. Every quarter, we Africans are subjected to a written work that describes us in the least flattering of terms. This time, Victoria Stewart repeated (and printed!) claims that Ghanaians don’t know what rolling pins are.

Well, my e-friend Kuorkor said she was having none of it. She teamed up with a colleague and friend to craft this response; and per her request, I’m sharing it. Feel free to share it on your blog as well. Take back your news, dear brothers and sisters. Take back your news!

 

By Kofi Amoo-Gottfried

The stories we tell about ourselves are who we are. Storytelling shapes our past, present and future – and in this way, stories are an incredibly powerful medium. With great power comes great responsibility. A responsibility that’s not always respected when non-Africans tell stories about Africa.

This article is a case in point:

dining

There’s so much wrong with this article, it’s hard to know where to start. There are two intertwined notions at the heart of the author’s point of view – the first is that Ghanaians don’t appreciate Art, and the second is that Expats are driving an elevation in art culture, a renaissance in art appreciation, and showing Ghanaians “how its done”. Both notions are deeply flawed at best; and paternalistic, offensive and racist at worst.

Let’s take them in turn, shall we?

Ghanaians don’t appreciate art

I suppose it depends how you define “Art”, but in Ghana, where art is culture, this notion is plain wrong. Art is, and has always been, part of the fabric of Ghanaian life and culture. All you have to do is explore.

Explore the masterpieces created by the Kente weavers; bright and bursting with color – each pattern holding a deeper meaning.

Lose yourself in the beauty, depth, and complexity of Adinkra iconography and mythology – an art form that dates back to 1817 and which was designed to support “the transmission of a complex and nuanced body of practice and belief” in pre-literate times.
Art was, and is, literally language.
Art was, and is, literally culture.

Marvel at the intricacy, infinite styles, cuts, and colors in Ghanaian wax prints – and at the thriving fashion industry and globally renowned fashion designers (Tetteh Plahar, Kwadwo Bediako, Kofi Ansah, Christie Brown etc.) these prints and designs have inspired.

Listen to the original masters who created hi-life music – the art form which turned an obscure Ghanaian band named Osibisa into a global icon. Then listen to the new masters, who remixed that art form and gave us hip-life and Afrobeats – Reggie Rockstone, Obrafuor, Sarkodie, M.anifest and so many more.

Even in death, we have art. Marvelous fantasy coffins, designed to bring the deceased into the afterlife with pomp and circumstance – designed by artisans like Seth Kane Kwei, his grandson Eric Adjetey-Anang, and many others.

Our relationship with art goes beyond mere “appreciation”.
Art defines us.

Expats are driving an Art Renaissance

Oh, hello there, “white savior complex”… I was wondering where you’d gone.

Beyond the obvious problems with someone turning up in your country to tell you what “Art” is, and that you’ve been doing it wrong, let’s give credit where credit is due. Today’s vibrant indigenous art scene is simply the latest manifestation of a proud culture of creativity, and its being driven by people like:

Mantse Aryeequaye and Sionne Neely; who helped create and launch the Chale Wote Street Art Festival. Now in its fifth year, Chale Wote is an alternative platform that brings art, music, dance and performance out into the streets. Chale Wote is a smash hit, attracting over 20,000 attendees this year, and the festival has been extensively covered by local and international media. Google it.

Bibie Brew; who created New Morning Creative Arts Café as a space for artists to interact and collaborate. Over the years, the Café has become the defacto grooming space for young vocal and theatrical artists – ask any legitimate performance artist; and they’ll tell you they’ve participated in an event at the Café.

Attukwei Clottey; whose Afrogallonism art – using recycled oil jerry cans to create pieces and installations that comment on society – creates employment for people in his local community of La. His local performance collective Golokal are also making a name for themselves by working on a number of film projects in Accra.

Nana Kofi Acquah, an internationally published and sought-after photographer, who by beautifully chronicling Ghanaian life and blending it with powerful social commentary has demonstrated how photography can be a career choice, and has inspired a new generation of photographers.

Creo Art, a team of designers and animators, and The Black Narrator, a satirical cartoonist, have huge followings and use the power of social media, illustration and animation to comment on, celebrate, and critique the Ghanaian condition.

These are just a sampling of the new generation of Ghanaian artists continuing a proud tradition – I could go on and on, but why belabor the point? This generation creates in their own mold, on their own terms. Their art is not meant to be inscrutable, but rather a public engagement which involves their communities, and often the participation and support of their peers. This is art for our people – not about a foreign audience or foreign acceptance, but for local utility and local relevance.

Someone once said, “Until lions learn to write, the tale of the hunt will be always glorify the hunter”. Which is how what should have been a perfectly routine story about stylish new Western-style restaurants, spaces and events catering to tourists, expats, and upper-crust Ghanaians turned into a commentary on the state of art in Ghana and what expats are doing to save it.

And oh, by the way, that “grilled fermented corn wrapped up in corn leaves”? It’s actually boiled, and it’s called “kenkey”, not “keku”.

If you’re going to tell our story, tell it right.

Why Are So Many African Artists Such Willing Participants in Their Own Degradation?

mammyOn Feb. 29, 1940, Hattie McDaniel took a long, solitary walk from a segregated table in the back of the Coconut Grove Hotel to accept her Oscar award for the Best Supporting Actress category for her role as Mammy in ‘Gone With the Wind’. She was the first Black actor in history to receive the prestigious award. The fact that she was allowed in the hotel in a capacity other than as a Black woman in service was a triumph and a feat that required no small effort, as Coconut Grove, like every establishment that catered to white clientele around the country had a strict ‘No Blacks Allowed’ policy. Although these establishments had no qualms with Black performers coming in to entertain their white guests, they were required to enter in through back entrances of said establishments, never permitted to stay on the premises as guests, and certainly were not allowed to use any of the facilities like the bar or lounges. Nevertheless, these Black performers were at least given the courtesy of having their faces and voices seen/heard on TV or radio broadcasts as they executed their craft from time-to-time.

In time, one of the gains of the Civil Rights Movement would be the end of segregation, allowing these artists freer access to private establishments and all their comforts.

Ironically, 51 years after the end of segregation in America, African artists are being shown the backdoor to receive recognition for their creativity and craft by Black Entertainment Television (BET); and what’s worse, these same artists are glibly gliding through the proverbial kitchen and galley for the benefit of a pat on the head from the guardians of this media outlet. This is not hyperbole or exaggeration: Every year, ever since the inception of the Best International Act: Africa category, African artists receive their BET Awards off stage, off camera, many hours before the larger televised ceremony. At least white folks let Hattie on TV to give her acceptance speech. BET hides the African element from the viewing public like it’s a bad rash. Many have drawn parallels between the treatment that African artists receive from BET and the Black American community at large and that which Black people themselves once received from openly racist white American society.


If you are one of the many Americans who was not even aware that there was an African Artist category on the BET Awards, don’t fret. You are not at fault. It’s not well publicized in the least. The speculation for the secrecy is varied, but at the core, most people agree that it is because Black Americans – or at least those who consume the entertainment fare that BET offers – are ashamed of Africans.

I find this peculiar, especially since so much of what Black Americans enjoy and boast of culturally and musically has its roots in Africa. To that end, (Black) American entertainers have no misgivings about co-opting African styles and melody for their own career advancement… just reservations about showcasing it on television or radio.For example, the bassline for ODB’s ‘Ghetto Superstar’ mirror’s Brenda Fassie’s ‘Vulindlela’ note for bloody note. In addition to that, the entire genre that BET is built on – hip hop – owes a nod of gratitude to Africa as well. Simigwahene Gyedu Blay Ambolley has long asserted that he is the originator of rap and not the Sugarhill Gang who have been crowned with that honor.

“I am [the originator of rap] in the whole world not only Ghana. [But] if you go into the Guinness book of records they said that the Sugarhill Gang originated rap, and if you check the date, their date was around ‘78, ‘79.”

Ambolley first began performing and distributing rap commercially in 1973.

From fashion to music, Black Americans have long drawn inspiration from Africa. This is not to deny that there hasn’t been a trend in the reverse, especially recently, but the flow of cultural exchange has been trended heavily with Africa providing the influences. Lest we forget, the entire thrilling sequence to Beyonce’s “Who Run the World” video was choreographed by and originated with  lesser known Mozambican dance troupe, Tofo Tofo.

In light of this open secret, it can’t be denied that BET’s treatment of African artists is nothing short of appalling. Several artists have made their feelings known in the issue, including Fuse ODG and Whizkid, both of whom were nominated to receive awards, but who, to their credit, refused the second class treatment they were offered.

As usual, there will always be apologists for the poor treatment of Africans and as usual, they exist in blackface. One of such purveyors of this rubbish mentality is the disgraced, former “ace” broadcaster, KKD, who had this to say:

kkd nya

This is crap, because as anyone who follows pop cultural trends knows, the people don’t get to decide what they like: they have their appetites decided for them. From as far back as the Ed Sullivan show, entertainment moguls have long made it a point to individually bring ‘new and exciting’ acts to the viewing (and paying) public and thus direct their enthusiasms and tastes. That was how America was introduced to The Beatles, Ike & Tina and Nat King Cole. The public didn’t decide to make them stars: the industry did. If BET was really avant-garde and in the business of innovation, they would jump at the opportunity to introduce new acts to a hungry public in search of the next big thing. The BET Awards were established in 2001, and in that time, I have never heard of any other minority or ‘fringe’ group – be they from the Caribbean Dancehall cadre or cello-playing Esperanza Spalding – having to receive their recognition off camera just after breakfast or play to an empty auditorium because the ‘American public isn’t used to it’. You mean the kid in the hood can dig an American chick playing strings on a wooden box, but not an African guy rapping flawless in English? Which is supposedly more familiar to him?

What a stupid excuse. The American public wasn’t used to the Moonwalk either, but when MJ debuted it on Motown 25, it was one of the greatest moments in television history. How many possible great TV moments have been passed up while Stonebwoy, Sarkodie and Tiwa Savage have been grinnin’ n’ gigglin’ like grateful (segregated) African urchins backstage year after year?

That’s the point: these artists are not just some of Africa’s finest, but the finest musicians, lyricists and performers in the world today. They do not deserve this type of treatment, and they certainly shouldn’t be facilitating in their own dishonor. So that what? So that people who don’t see them as equals may (hopefully) come to recognize them as such? That they will in time get a “well done, thy good and faithful R&B songstress” from the likes of Diddy? This was the same mistake that African/Black Americans made with they traded the scraps of white mainstream integration for glory of economic independence and self-determination.

Do you remember Tiwa's performance at the BET Awards? No? That's because it was PRE-concert!
Do you remember Tiwa’s performance at the BET Awards? No? That’s because it was PRE-concert!

I hope that next year no African artist will voluntarily debase themselves by paying for their own airfare and lodging to go and pick up an award from a ratchet organization that is as invested in collective Black advancement as presidential candidate Donald Trump is today. BET is owned by Viacom, not your brother. Trust me when I say Viacom don’t give a rats a** about putting your Ghanaian one “on the map”.

 

We better recognize.

Do you think it’s a good idea for African artists to participate in awards shows that treat them like second class citizens? Are the possible long term benefits worth this disgrace? Why/why not? Discuss! ↓

 

NB: Hi! My name is Malaka Grant and I write contemporary fiction, kid lit and romance. If you like my blog, you’ll love my books! Click  Books by Malaka and check out these great titles.

How Is There Discrimination in The Natural Hair Community?!?

I’m not here with questions today, M.O.M. Squad. Questions that I hope you will help me find the answers to.

When it comes to trends in pop culture and social events, I am usually the last person to find out. Mommy and parenting business though? Pshaw! I’m all over that. If there is a cartoon or a sippy cup involved, I know where it’s at, where it’s gonna be and how it’s going down. Grown folks business? Not so much. That can be the only explanation for the total mortification I experienced when I discovered that there is an anti-4C bias in the natural hair community. I have been out of the loop for waaaay too long.

If this post sounds like total nonsense to anyone outside of the Black-o-sphere and Natural Hair Movement, don’t worry. Your hearing is not flawed. It IS nonsense. Nevertheless, I think we must discuss this because I just don’t understand how/where/why it was allowed to happen!

A few weeks ago, a new acquaintance invited me to a hair show in Atlanta. I assumed she was referring to Taliah Waajid’s World Natural Health & Beauty Show, which I attend faithfully annually.

“No, this is a new show by 4C Hair Chicks. It’s the weekend before Taliah’s,” my acquaintance said. “I’m one of the volunteers. Are you on Instagram? It’s called Kinky Hair Unlocked. Here’s their page.”

I clicked on this link  and was pleasantly surprised. It’s always nice to have options when it comes to hair care and events. I thanked her and went home to study the event in more detail.

The Kinky Hair Unlocked (KHU) event differs from Taliah Waajid’s (TW) in two very distinct ways. First, KHU is purely focused on hair education, set in a series of seminars for one evening. TW is completely consumer driven and is more like a market with lots of different vendors. While KHU says there will be some products for sale, selling hair potions and accessories is not their primary aim. Their primary aim is to educate women who have rejected the use of chemical relaxers in their hair. Second is the price point. The entry fee to Taliah Waajid’s even is $10. The price of general admission to Kinky Hair Unlocked will leave your pockets $45 lighter.

Each show has its merits and serves consumers with particular needs; but I have to confess I was troubled by the impetus for the KHU show, whose mission reads (in part) as follows:

Kinky Hair Unlocked is the solution for women with kinkier textures who have felt left out of the natural hair community when it comes to product development, imagery and education on how to care for their unique textures. It is a one-of-a-kind hair care symposium geared toward educating women on how to achieve maximum length and healthy hair from their scalp to their ends.

Hiehn? Warrenthis? Why would women who have kinkier textures feel “left out of the community”? I mean, isn’t the entire community made up of people with “kinky” hair anyway? The mission statement opened my eyes to certain trends I had ignored – or had been blind to, honestly – for a long time. Suddenly, I was seeing rejection of 4C hair everywhere.

Ms Jessies

Here is a visually aid of human hair types to help as we discuss this type of discrimination and the struggle.

hair chart

People of European/Asian ancestry typically have hair types 1 & 2. Middle Eastern hair is typically between a 2 & 3. Folks of African descent usually fall somewhere between a 3 & 4. Then of course there are mixed race people who can experience all 4 hair types all at once. Now that we are all on one accord, let’s continue!

Someone posted this video on my friend’s wall without comment. I snickered when I watched it and kept my cynical feelings bottled up. Of course the dude didn’t have a problem with her hair. It’s gorgeous anyway! It turns out I was not alone in cynicism.

Mam
Of course, she was right. If Gugu (the actress in this film), had woken up with a flat-on-one-side afro and an endless patch of impenetrable naps, there would be nothing to consider “sexy” about her natural hair. In truth, it’s been widely accepted – or perceived – that 4C hair is not sexy unless it has been oiled, coiled and tamed to look like 2A hair. This is just wrong! How did this happen?

I went to Twitter to investigate. Black Twirra is like a well. It’s where people come to vomit all their painful truths and where the world can draw knowledge from. Here’s a sampling of what I found.

4c34c2

4c1

Again, how did this happen? Could it be that even in our “natural hair pride”, too many of us still harbor European standards for beauty? Like, you can be Black, but not THAT Black. Like no, really. Your frizzy hair is holding the race back. Can’t you do something about that? That doesn’t look “natural” enough. You know what? Maybe you’re one of the ones who should be getting a perm… or some locks. Put that 4C away in some locks and then it will look respectable. Because apparently, this is the WORST thing that could happen to a sistah:

4c descrimination

 

Seriously, how did we allow discrimination against a certain type of natural hair become an actual “thing”? Jesus be a hot oil treatment and fix this!

 

F & W Style: Handbags for Happiness

Did you know that today was the International Day of Happiness? No really. It’s an actual, real thing. Here is a blurb on www.dayofhappiness.net on why the day was created and sanctioned:

After years of happiness research, one thing has proved fundamental – the importance of our connections with other people.

But modern societies are built as if the opposite was true. We are surrounded by people, yet we feel genuinely connected to almost none of them. The effects are devastating. 

Social isolation is as potent a cause of early death as smoking; and the epidemic of loneliness is twice as deadly as obesity.

We could change this in a day if we all reached out and made at least one positive connection. For the International Day of Happiness, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.

I took this mandate very seriously, and as my contribution to International Happiness Day, I went out into my community and spent some money. Eh heh! What greater connection can a woman have than with a designer/retailer who makes her spirit come alive? And are designers/retailers not also happy when they have parted us from our money? Everyone has a part to play in this cycle of joy!

No, but seriously MOM Squad: you all know I have been on the hunt for Black Luxury ever since I told you about that article expressing mainstream disgust for Black dollars, and I am happy to report I have found it. As of 10:43 this morning, I became an F &W Girl, thanks to the design and business prowess of Alexandria Alli manager and head of creative concepts at F & W Style. The story behind her brand has been featured in this month’s edition of Jezebel Magazine, as well as on Black Enterprise and other publications you can look up at your leisure. They will tell you all the stuff that comes as part and parcel of a polite and proper interview. Me, I went to her shop for gossip.

photo 3(1)Alexandria Alli is tall with a tiny waist and stunning with a perfect complexion. Pimples daren’t approach her skin. Her lipstick doesn’t smudge when she talks. Her body is one fluid masterpiece and all its pieces work in tandem. Today she was wearing a figure flattering green and bronze asoke blouse and skirt ensemble. If I was going to buy a luxury handbag from anyone, it was going to be this Nigerian goddess today! She greeted me warmly and invited me into her studio. I was immediately impressed by how clean it was design and décor wise. The simplicity and boldness she surrounds herself with in her environment translates to the way in which she designs her bag.

After our pleasantries were exchanged, I told her without mincing words why I had come to seek her out.

“Someone actually put that on a blog? For the whole world to see?”

“Yes! And no one on their editing team thought it might be a good idea to take it down!”

“Wow,” she said pensively, “that’s really sad.”

(In hindsight, I’m glad that they didn’t. I might never have discovered F & W if I had remained in my pop culture stupor. )

I took a quick scan around the back office we were meeting in and took note of several of the bags I’d seen online. My eye went immediately to the red Chloe bag, since red is my favorite color. At Alexandria’s subtle urging, I turned my attention over to the croc embossed bags to the left. I asked her about where she gets her leather and inspiration from.

photo 4

“This is Italian leather,” she replied. “As far as the type of leather we choose, that’s all because of our customers. They indicated that they like pebble grain and crocodile, so you will notice that all of the bags have that sort of embellishment. It just gives them something special, and gives it a more luxurious look.”

I ran my finger over the details of the burnt orange croc embossed bag I was holding and had to agree with her.

“As far as inspiration, I look to women,” she continued. “I spend a lot of time just observing women…how they move and interact with their accessories…and I then I try to imagine what they might like that is functional while still having an element of luxury.”

We then went on to discuss color and how she chooses her leather. Alexandria’s favorite color is pink.

Pink!

Aba!

A strong Nigerian woman should like gold or midnight blue…warris pink? She laughed.

“Not just any pink…strong pink. And besides, pink is a very happy color, I think!”

photo 2(3)

Alexandria opened up the purse I had been looking at and drew my attention to the lining. Every F&W bag is lined with the same hot pink in its interior. This distinguishes it from other luxury bags and serves as her stamp.

“And it was a compromise for me, since I couldn’t make every single bag I designed pink.”

“How does your mother feel about your success?” I asked. I am always impressed when Africans of a certain age pursue a career in the fine, literary and/or digital arts and are successful at it. Such careers do not come without some opposition from our parents. Of course, Alexandria’s mother – being a designer herself – is very proud. “Did you go to school for design?”

“No. Actually I was modeling in school.”

“Heh? Wait! Your mother – your Nigerian mother – allowed you to go to modeling school?”

“No! I went to school to study management,” she replied, “but my mother allowed me to model so long as it didn’t interfere with my work. She’s just really happy to see us doing well, you know? Parents love to see their kids succeeding…”

“…even when it’s not the ideal career that they would have mapped out for them. But when the success comes?”

“Oh! Then suddenly, all of this was their idea!”

We cackled for a bit about Chimamanda, Wale, African norms, husbands and children and making it all work. Alexandria mused about how her husband was the one who really pushed her to start her own luxury brand. She gave me a look that told me she thought he was crazy at the time.

“Who does that?” she asked. “But he really encouraged me and we’ve been in business for 5 years. This year, it’s really taken off!”

She did a swoop motion with her hand, like a rocket taking off. I was compelled to smile. Her enthusiasm was infectious and her humility refreshing.

photo 4(1)Now that I had everything I needed, I bade her goodbye and thanked her sincerely. I don’t know if she or her husband know what they have done for (newly) conscious consumers like me by giving us a choice. I am particularly grateful that she views her luxury brand as something that all women – no matter what their social strata or racial makeup – should have access to and enjoy.

This won’t be my last bag from F&W Style.

 

 

 

 

Visit www.fwstyle.com to find a list of stores that carry the brand in your area or to shop online. 

Lazy Intellectual African Scum Revisited

In 2012 I received an email from a good friend and mentor that completely blew me away. Those were the days when I was not averse to opening and reading chain/bulk emails, now a relic of the Internet’s past. The article was so biting, poignant and graceful in its delivery that I was compelled to copy and paste it without further addendum or comment on my blog. This was the sort of thing each reader needed to ingest and decode for his/herself.

I titled the article “You Lazy Intellectual (African) Scum” in absence of an original title. (I later learned it was originally entitled ‘Zambian Intellectuals are Lazy’, which is a much nicer moniker than the one I assigned the piece!)

Field Ruwe is the author of that piece that went viral within days. I suspect it was also shared widely within email circles as well, but once the blogging and online publication communities got a hold of it, it spread with ferocity. The article was liked, shared, reblogged and commented on thousands of times. EVERYONE was talking about Walter, the article’s protagonist, encounter with whom we assume is Field –or at least someone very much like him. Walter speaks the words that most Africans are too afraid to acknowledge in their hearts: that we are willfully submitting to being taken advantage of. Worse, he is unapologetic in his tone, as if seeking to give offense.

“I spent three years in Zambia in the 1980s,” he continued. “I wined and dined with Luke Mwananshiku, Willa Mungomba, Dr. Siteke Mwale, and many other highly intelligent Zambians.” He lowered his voice. “I was part of the IMF group that came to rip you guys off.” He smirked. “Your government put me in a million dollar mansion overlooking a shanty called Kalingalinga. From my patio I saw it all—the rich and the poor, the ailing, the dead, and the healthy.”

The sentiments in the piece were not universally received with happiness. There were several rebuttal pieces written, decrying Field’s supposed resolution that this is the way things “ought to be”, and for his not using his time to build Africans up, rather than tearing them down. Some folks were flat out offended. Others still saw the piece as spot on, and took it as a challenge to change the status quo. Others still were inspired to turn the piece into film, and for months there was talk about how/when that might happen. And then the chatter died down and as we humans do, we forget and move on.

Or so we assume.

Unbeknownst to the rest of the world, Field had collaborated with a young Kenyan filmmaker to bring this stunning think piece to life on the small screen. ‘Intellectual Scum’ will make its debut this Spring, and from the looks of the trailer, it adheres the same standard of excellent story telling as the original written piece.

filmstr

Njue Kevin, the film’s director will join me in a conversation about the creative aspects of the film, and will talk about how Field’s article impacted him. I hope you will be able to join us on Thursday February 26th at 11am EST/4 pm GMT on Google Hangouts (Link to join: https://plus.google.com/events/ckrop2mdsnbdmbmjikrrgm7h24c) Kevin and I want to hear from you too! Submit your questions and comments using the G+ Q&A feature and follow the conversation on Twitter using the HT #IntellectualScum.

You can see the film’s trailer here:

Day 5: What It's Like to Read an Uncle Remus Book for the First Time

Hidy and Happy Friday, Folks!

I don’t know if vlogging counts towards my posting goal, but that’s what’s going down today. On this Frivolous Friday, I have the distinct honor of reading from a beloved children’s book, Uncle Remus: His songs and stories.

Most people over the age of 30 have heard of Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby, and all the other Brer Rabbit tales. Uncle Remus is a fictional character who embodies the souls of three people; Uncle George Terrell, Old Harbert, and Aunt Crissy, who told stories and myths when they all lived on the plantation where the author of the book, Joel C. Harris was working at the time. He re-told their stories and sold them to publications all over the country.

It was really uncomfortable to read the stories at first, and there was definitely an overwhelming feeling of “WTH did I just read?!?” when I parted the first few pages of the book, but it gives a valuable look back at what plantation life was like in those days. African-Americans have always used stories, tall tales, songs and humor to get us through the dark times, and these stories are a nod to that reality. Furthermore, it gives one a glimpse at what Negro dialect sounded like in those days. Of course, I sound like a blithering idiot trying to make sense of the vernacular, but it definitely imparts a sense of respect to the unsuspecting reader. After all, it’s not like Negros were handed a Rosetta Stone and given diction classes on how to properly enunciate or communicate using proper verb tense agreement. Quite the opposite, in fact. Sounding too “educated” could get you killed. Our fore-bearers did the best they could, repeating words as they thought they heard them.

Enough of my prattle! Watch what it’s like to read an Uncle Remus book for the first time.

If you ever want to borrow the book to read out loud, give me a holler. It would make for a great evening with friends.

*This post is the 5th in the seven day long #YourTurnChallenge series.

Untitled and Pissed Off

Caution: Rant

I’m about to say some things. And those things will be directed at misogynists, whether they possess a penis or a vagina; because yes – there are many women who are doggedly dedicated to the subjugation of their own sex. As low as a misogynistic man may be, a woman who is devoted to the defeat of those who share her gender is lower than that. She is a grub.

I am about to say some things about Ghanaians and Ghanaian culture, and though those things may (and probably do) apply to other African cultures, I am not here to admonish them. They have their own warriors. If you know you are one of these ‘men’ who gets all in his feelings over words published online, click the ‘x’ on your browser now.

 

In 2010, I visited my father in Ghana and he said something that shocked me during one of our conversations. “I can’t speak for other African nations, but I know that we Ghanaians treat women very badly,” he said.

I’ve told this story before. I’ve recounted how I met his assertion with skepticism. I’ve told anyone who would listen how proud I am to be of Ghanaian heritage, and how –despite all their wealth and global influence – I am grateful to have never been born a woman in Saudi Arabia or any other Arab country. THOSE women have no rights at all. I’d rather be Black, poor and hungry than a woman of living under an obviously repressive Arab regime.

What nonsense I was talking. Five years on, I have discovered what my father was talking about. Middle Eastern countries tell a woman her place and compel her to conduct herself accordingly from the outset. She is not raised to have hopes because of her gender. As cruel as this is, it is nowhere near as fiendish as what Ghanaians do to our girls. Where gender is concerned, Ghanaian society is built on a foundation of deceit, broken promises and lies. We tell ourselves we are progressive and egalitarian, dedicated to the advancement of ALL, but it is not true. Because time and again, Ghanaian men have proven their strength not based on innovation, vision or advancement, but rather based on the oppression of Ghanaian women.

A Ghanaian man is only strong when he makes women around him look/feel/act weak.

Today we got news that 19 year old college student Ewuraffe Orleans Thompson, who reported that she had been raped by broadcaster KKD, has withdrawn her rape case from court, because she is “no longer interested” in pursuing it. Now, take a long hard look at that sentence and tell me immediately what’s wrong with it. Most intelligent people can already gather what has happened here, and how this girl got to this point, but I’ll help the rest of y’all out:

  • We know how old she is.
  • We know her name
  • We know she reported an alleged attack by a beloved Ghanaian personality
  • Though I did not insert it into the sentence, anyone with access to the internet knows where this girl lives and goes to school.

How, and furthermore, WHY do we know all this? This is precisely the sort of divulging of information rape advocates in America have fought against (and successful won over) for years. There is no reason to publish the name of a rape victim for a myriad of reasons. This child – and she IS a child – is 19 years old. She is still under the care and protection of her parents. She has barely begun her tertiary education. Publishing this information about her is literally akin to assaulting her all over again. Who knows what her future in Ghana will be, with a society that has devoted itself to lowering the posture of women? You think that’s hyperbole? Listen to what your “relationship counselors” say on the radio about women! Listen to your mega-pastors misquote the Bible and tell women they will rot without the proposal of marriage of a man to save them! Listen to an MP come to parliament floor and THEN go on national media to advocate for the stoning of women. Now go to your social media feed and look at the kinds of things men AND women are saying about this girl, despite the fact that four more women came forward in the wake of this revelation to divulge how KKD raped them in their teens and ‘tweens. Let’s not forget that William Nyarko, formally of the Chronicle, recently admitted that his publication routinely killed stories about KKD and his preying on ‘small girls’ in an effort to protect him.

Image widely circulated of the wrongly identified victim.
Image widely circulated of the wrongly identified victim.

Now you tell me: how is a 19 year old girl supposed to stand against a system that was designed to destroy her? When it comes to KKD, the media was – and IS – singularly bent on protecting their own, with Citi FM leading the charge in the most abysmal display of a lack of journalistic ethics. There is no way this outlet and the others like TV3 and co. would have gotten away with what they have done to Ms. Thompson in a civilized society. In a vagrant display of intimidation, they hounded her for every tidbit of information they could find and published it, some times without verifying facts. Need I remind anyone of the supposed image of Ms. Thompson in a backless dress that went viral? That was actually a picture of Grace Omane, who threatened to sue all the media houses distributing images of her and tagging her as the alleged victim.

Tell me again: how does a girl/woman gather the strength to fight for justice in a toxic climate such as Ghana’s?

The problem with Ghana is Ghanaians. Secretly, we are convinced of our own superiority. We think certain things can never happen in Ghana. @Ayawuku actually alludes to this on a blog she wrote recently entitled Trigger where she discusses a bout she had with depression. When she tried to broach the topic with an aunt whom she felt would identify with or at least acknowledge what she was feeling, she was shot down with the words “You have been brainwashed,” and informed only white people suffer from depression. This is why there are “no suicides” in Ghana. People either stumble to their deaths from a balcony or accidentally overdose on some pills. In order to be truly mentally ill, you have to be drooling on yourself and eating your own shit. Similarly, this is also why there are “few rapes” in Ghana; because if you don’t scream and your assailant happens to be powerful – a chief, a pastor, a radio DJ – you are an attention seeking harlot who wants her 15 minutes of fame at the expense of a “good man”.

I’ve said before that I don’t know if KKD raped that girl, but I know for a fact that he is a predator and a nasty ass man. I know this because just a week after I published my story, my cousin contacted and told me how KKD got grabby with her outside of his bathroom, but she managed to fight him off. When she’s ready, she’ll tell her story. I know he’s nasty because of the four other women who were brave enough to tell, but too scared to reveal their identities. And I know for certain that after today, fewer Ghanaian women will feel confident enough to come forward and name their attackers, and Ghanaians can move forward believing that theirs is a just and civilized society, albeit a false assumption.

 

Okri vrs John: Rrrrrumble in the Literary Jungle!!!!

Note: This is a very serious subject, but I honestly can’t bring myself to write about it seriously. I jigga too much. I’m too excited!

Hol muh Guld! Is Jesus dashing Kwanzaa presents so soon? You know today is Kujichagulia (Self-determination) on the Kwanzaa calendar; and how apropos, since two authors went online to duke it out over what it means to be a African writer , and more importantly, a prolific African writer. Where we as generic Africans are concerned, there are certain themes and causes that inspire us to go to war. These include religious dominance, land, tribalism and political affiliation. It’s rare that we wage war for reasons outside of those realms. But my lawd, when we do, it’s a wonder to behold. Have you seen two poets/novelists go at it over art? Not since Achebe and Soyinka. Hei!

This morning, Ben Okri published an article on The Guardian entitled “A mental tyranny is keeping black writers from greatness.”  His contention is that African writers are too preoccupied with certain subjects, like poverty, war and yet more poverty:

The black and African writer is expected to write about certain things, and if they don’t they are seen as irrelevant. This gives their literature weight, but dooms it with monotony. Who wants to constantly read a literature of suffering, of heaviness? Those living through it certainly don’t; the success of much lighter fare among the reading public in Africa proves this point. Maybe it is those in the west, whose lives are untouched by such suffering, who find occasional spice and flirtation with such a literature. But this tyranny of subject may well lead to distortion and limitation.

As an author myself, I read it and thought he had a point. I agree that we do need to diversify the themes and types of writing we as African writers do. African centered romance, mysteries and sci-fi are gaining more notice and momentum in the literary space, as the literary field where these are concerned has been left wide open for centuries. The void is being filled with the likes of Nnedi Okorafor and Marguerite Abouet, but not fast enough in my opinion. For example, I have often gone in search of humorous or witty novels written by Africans and come up empty handed. The novels that are easiest to find are those with themes centered around that Mr. Okri expresses his exasperation about: war, poverty and suffering. Therefore, I was all ready to crown him as King of the Interwebs for the Day for his thoughtful analysis and keep it moving.

And then Elnathan John brought himself with this series of tweets. (Start from the bottom):

EL4

EL3

EL2

EL1

Oh, dear. Oh my! Did he just say something about big roosters and riding high? Yes, he did…

Suddenly my view was switched and I found myself in support of Mr. John. Obviously Mr. Okri was not insinuating that African writers NOT tackle these ubiquitous (albeit dull and heavy) subjects, but it can’t be denied that he suggested that they would be lesser for it. And that pretty much pissed Elnathan off. For those unfamiliar with the two, Elnathan John is more of a man of the people, whereas Ben Okri would be considered a high brow Returnee.

Bwei! Talk about a war of words!

It remains to be seen if Ben Okri will respond to this series of (not so) sub-tweets. Chances are if he does, it will not be in the public arena – which would actually be a shame. I think we would all benefit from a public discourse on the matter. As both a reader and a writer, it is frustrating that they only sort of African writing that garners international acclaim or notoriety is invariably centered around child soldiers, overcoming the effects of FGM and abject poverty. Why are international audiences so ready to reward writers who dedicate hundreds of pages of a tome to these subjects, rather than love, sex or dreams of space travel? Chimamanda’s Purple Hibiscus was no less brilliant than Half of a Yellow Sun, but it was the latter- a story centered around a brutal war, rather than a coming of age story of an adolescent child – that catapulted Ms. Adichie into the renown she enjoys today.

So who is right? Ben Okri or Elnathan John? Does the African/black writer have an obligation to shun the themes that the West rewards us for writing in order to create “art for the ages”, or is it the job of the African writer to keep on writing these tales – and documenting our truths for as long as necessary? Which would you rather read?

Discuss! ↓

 

 

In Support of Cosby: Faizon Love’s Coontastic Display of Unbridled Ignorance

WARNING: This post contains content of the most foul order. Reader discretion is advised.

Like many people around the world – not just Americans – I haven’t know what to make of the Cosby rape allegations. Bill Cosby is not just a folksy American icon: he is (or was until 2 weeks ago) a universal Black treasure. Some of us may have not liked the way he talked down to us in regards to education and fashion preferences, but deep down inside, we knew he was right. Yes, perhaps I should invest my money in books and educational toys instead of these $100+ Jordans for my kid. But did you have to be such a douche about your suggestion, Dr. Cosby?

Those of us in The Community (like Cornel West) who took issue with Bill Cosby’s superior attitude towards Blacks made our grumblings on any new network that would provide space to allow for disagreement with his pronouncements. Those spaces were few and far between. I mean, who is going to disagree with the wholesome and loveable Bill Cosby? Plus, the majority culture LOVES anyone – a person of color in particular – who crusades for the cause of absolving them from the part that they’ve played in creating and facilitating poverty and disenfranchisement among Blacks, Latinos and the ever ignored Po’ White Folk who cluster in the Appalachians. In time, Cosby would become an even bigger hero to them than he was to us. He was their personal Uncle Ruckus.

Then the rape allegations began trickling in. And despite being the guard dog for White innocence, I have YET to see a White man stand up and throw himself on upon the fast becoming corpse that is Bill Cosby’s legacy in his defense. In fact, The Man is strategically dismantling his legacy, pulling his new show, refusing to air his syndicated programs on certain platforms, and inviting him to do interviews as though he were an oddity and not the icon he was just a month ago. I’m glad Maya Angelou is not here to see this sad day!

There are some people who believe that The Community (code for all Black folk) should stand in defense of Dr. Bill Cosby because, well…because we’re Black. One of these persons is Faizon Love. And if you’re asking yourself “Who in the name of good grits is Faizon Love?” that’s part of the point. Mr. Love is a prop used to embody all that is odious and underachieving in Black manhood. He is slovenly, barely educated and singularly gifted in the craft of abusing women. Perhaps more dangerously, he’s been paid an actor’s wage to play the part of the field hand in modern clothing giving his access and exposure to a broad audience. And last night, it seems as if someone gave him a kilo of coke and access to his Twitter account. It was like watching a star go nova. Prepare yourselves for the most coontastic display of niggery I have seen all year!

Read from the bottom up.

faizon 4faizon 3faizon 2faison 1

I couldn’t bring myself to interrupt his tirade as I shared it with you. I know the oscillation in emotion you experienced as you were reading this, for I share them too. Confusion. Anger. Fear (that Faizon’s brand of stupid is catching). Astonishment. Disappointment. These sort of things are best delivered at once rather than spaced out over time, like a beating or a blow to the face. In some of his responses to those twitterers who agree with him (who were thankfully in the minority!) he says that the reason the Black race is failing is because we’re not united. And he ought to be thankful for that, because this sort of yard jockery is not something I want MY Blackness associated with. If the race was indeed united, we would unanimously vote him out.

Furthermore, for someone who talks about unity among the race, he has used the words “nigga”and “bitch” more times than an intoxicated plantation overseer at cotton harvest and breeding season. Again, only the similarly mentally captive would want any association with this sort of underachievement. As one Twitter user pointed out: Even Bill Cosby himself would never invite Faizon Love to his dinner table. Faizon is the embodiment of all that Cosby abhors in the Black race!

To be clear, Faizon Love’s tirade has absolutely nothing to do with his support of Bill Cosby, but rather his delusional view that a woman’s body is for a man’s routine use and pleasure. Faizon Love himself was recently charged with the assault of a woman who rebuffed his sexual advances. Faizon Love is a pimple on the face of America’s pervasive rape culture.

Remember the beloved, boy raping, football coach?
Remember the beloved, boy raping, football coach?

At the end of the day, we may never really know what transpired between Bill Cosby and the 14 (and counting) women who have come forward with rape allegations. The allegations cannot be brought to trial, because the statute of limitations for prosecuting rape vary so vastly from state to state. In some states a victim has just 3-5 years to report the crime. For anyone asking “Well shouldn’t 5 years be enough for a woman to come forward?” ask yourself why it takes men even longer to gather the strength to report rape. Don’t delude yourself: men ARE raped, and with more frequency that we’re comfortable admitting. The process of dealing with the trauma of having one’s body so utterly violated has no fill by date. This is Jerry Sandusky all over again.

As we await E!’s True Hollywood report Bill Cosby: Behind the Puddin’ Pop , we must each draw our own conclusions about what we THINK happened. As much as I have loved Bill Cosby, I have to side with the victims. People like foul-mouthed Faizon Love are the reason so few rapes and assaults get reported. I am adding my voice to the chorus telling ALL victims that we support and believe you; and though it may be painful, we want you to speak up quickly so that you can get the justice you deserve. Don’t let rape apologists and our laws rob you of that.

The Curious Case of Nelson Baani: How Many Other Murderous MPs Infest Ghana’s Parliament?

One thing I’ve always been proud of as a Ghanaian is our ability to make a joke out of anything, no matter how shocking, grotesque or frightening. When the AIDS epidemic struck in the late 80’s, we made an ampe song in which the disease served as the protagonist. When war broke out in Liberia and our troops were sent to fight, we choreographed a danced called ECOMOG. When the likes of Duncan Williams and Dag Heward Mills feel compelled to flaunt their misogynist views and insult the worth and intelligence of Ghanaian women, they do so in song. And guess what? There are vapid Ghanaian women in their congregations who dance and sing right along with them.

It’s always a circus in Ghana! Nothing is ever serious. Even when people are dying from cholera, starvation and preventable disease, it’s all fun and games, all the time. That’s why even as a woman, and therefore a second class citizen, I have always felt safe in Ghana. No matter what calamity may befall me because of my gender, I knew at some point, we’d have a good laugh about it later. As Swaye Kidd once said “We’re a nation of jokers!”.

That all changed on Friday, November 14th, 2014.

When you’re a woman living in Ghana, there are certain realities that you become accustomed to. Age and gender can either give you access or serve as barriers to certain privileges, and in Ghana, there is no one more barred from basic privileges (like the right to dress her body as she chooses, and not to have that body touched or commented on by perfect strangers) than young women. But as I said before, that reality has never truly mattered because it’s all fun and games in this country run by circus clowns, trapeze artists and magicians whose sole skill is to cause the unexplainable disappearance of millions of dollars in foreign loans and tax-payer funds. Somehow, we manage to smile, cope and keep trudging.

When it comes to basic women’s rights, Africa as a whole has a horrible track record. Too many countries on the continent lead in global maternal mortality, women are still barred from owning property and scores more are discouraged from getting any education beyond the primary level. There are parts of Ghana –particularly in the north – that typify the worst of Africa, and though I am ashamed of many of the attitudes society holds towards Ghanaian women in general, I still have pride in our constitution. It gives me hope. The constitution tells me as a citizen of Ghana, I have a right to an education, protection provided by our armed forces and a rule of law that guarantees my safety and well being. That constitution is upheld by a whole cadre of parliament members who individually swore to reject practices that “dehumanize or are injurious to the mental and physical well-being of a person.”

Of course, as any Ghanaian on the ground can tell you, this is all stuff written on paper and the reality is very different. Accra is Gotham, and it is run by semi-literates, goons, thieves, cowards and philanderers of the lowest order. And because business and politics in the country operate on “trickle down” principles, the entire nation is corrupt from root to tip, starting from its capital. Still! I felt safe…that is again, until November 14th when MP Nelson Abudu Baani took his turn on the floor to debate the Intestate Succession Act (PNDC Law 111). Unsatisfied with provisions in the law which are designed to be more fair to widows (and we’re talking about a country in which right now, a man’s extended family can kick his wife and kids out of their marital home and seize their property if he does leave a will stating the contrary at the time of his death), MP Baani used the opportunity to propose murdering women who have been unfaithful in their marriage by hanging or stoning. He offered Afghanistan as a model to emulate, because “in Afghanistan, day in [and] day out if you go behind your husband they will hang or stone you.” He says that this will ensure that wives remain faithful in their marriages.

Seriously. When since the creation of Hell has anyone woken up on any day of the week and declared “I want my country to be just like Afghanistan!” ? No one but Nelson Boko Haram Baani till last week, that’s who.

No one stopped him y’all. NO ONE. The Speaker of Parliament didn’t halt him. The female parliamentarians didn’t walk out in protest. Even ECG didn’t turn the lights and air-conditioning off and shut down on his crazy behind. In fact, he was asked to speak louder, and after his conclusion the Majority Chief Whip, Alhaji Muntaka Mubarak also chimed in, saying the promulgation of the Bill will encourage “cohabitation, which adverse effect will be the creation of more problems for families.” (Never mind that more and more people can’t afford to date, let alone get married in Ghana due to the ridiculous cost of existing.)

In the days that have followed, Nelson Baani has not backed down from his position, going as far to say he would happily see his wife stoned if she were to commit adultery. Really? What about all his male colleagues in Parliament, many of whom have are currently having illicit affairs with university girls, other married women and the occasional cross-dressing prostitute? Would he happily see them stoned as well? It might do the country some good actually, and save us all time and money…but of course because patriarchy utterly blinds those who it benefits, MP Baani does not see the hypocrisy in his words.

A petition has been generated and directed at Speaker Adjaho asking him to compel Nelson Baani to retract and apologize for his statements. It pained me to even have to start this petition. I would have thought the NDC – which dealt so swiftly with Victoria Hammah after audio of her declaring she would never leave office until she had made $1 million was leaked – would have come out with a statement condemning Nelson Baani’s utterances or at least distancing themselves from them. But again, Victoria Hammah is a woman, and Nelson Baani is man who only suggesting the wholesale slaughter of adulterous women (and not ALL adulterers).

What it looks like to die by stoning.
What it looks like to die by stoning.

Reaction from the general public has been to express disgust, and for good reason. If Nelson Baani was sitting at a bar having a beer expressing these views, it would merely troubling. He has a right to his opinions, after all. However to speak these views while operating in his full capacity as a Member of Parliament is inexcusable, is a violation of the constitution and must be repudiated in the strongest terms possible! If Ghana were not Gotham, he we would be made to resign immediately for failure to comprehend and uphold the constitution. But because each of these MPs runs their regions and districts like a personal fiefdom, this is the rot we get.

Ghanaians have very serious questions for our leaders, especially women who fought so hard to get into these positions via struggles like the 31st December Women’s Movement. As one user wrote:

Where are the women in parliament? Why did you sit and watch silently as Nelson Abudu Baani was making such barbaric and inhumane proposals for the punishment of your fellow Ghanaian women? Are you in support of hanging or stoning women who are suspected to be unfaithful to their husbands? I have been struggling to maintain respect for parliament and parliamentarians in light of recent events such as the irresponsible decision to buy furniture from China and your deafening silence on issues that bother the Ghanaians you claim to represent. Do something. Take a stand for the women of Ghana. Ask your colleague Nelson Baani to retract his statement and render a full and unqualified apology. Your grandchildren and their grandchildren will read about you in the future. What sort of legacy do you want to leave?

Best wishes,

Kuukuwa

Others haven’t been so generous, writing:

Dear Abudu Baani,

Growing up, my grandfather used to say that if ex-president Rawlings did not do much for Ghana, he will always commend him for passing the PNDC law 111. And that is a man I consider to be the first ever misogynistic male in my life yet even he, recognized the importance of the law and always praises it.

But you, kind sir, greatly surprised me with your statement that a woman who commits adultery should be stoned. What, you want the Sharia law frowned upon worldwide to be enforced in Ghana to give you further reason to subdue women? If you can further elaborate your point, I will be very grateful because I cannot seem to get my mind around it. I am as baffled as the next Ghanaian woman.

No, we do not and will not agree to this. It is the most absurd suggestion of a law I have ever heard out of the confines of the Ghanaian parliament house and trust me, you lot do come up with some amusing ones but this is just unacceptable and we are not having it. Perhaps a law on the reasoning capabilities of MP’s or that men who commit adultery should be castrated and fed their balls (so both sides are favored, right?)

Kind regards

Abena

 

It’s not fun and games anymore; not when our lawmakers feel at liberty to advocate murder on the hallowed halls of our government. Ghanaians deserve better. Nelson Abudu Baani should be sacked from his position and barred from ever entering Ghanaian politics again! We must discover how many other MPs hold these and similar views, gut them out and ensure that they do not lead our nation down the path of anarchy.

I’m asking all right thinking people, Ghanaian or not, to sign this petition send a message to Nelson Baani and our Parliament at large that this foolishness will not be tolerated. This is the moment we prevent the next humanitarian disaster in Africa. This moment, right now!