Category Archives: Thoughts raging in my head

Reflections on Language

Damon Young, editor in chief over at VSB, has curated a list of things Bougie Black People (BBPs) love. Among the litany are unnecessary hashtags, Solange and full beards and Jesse Williams. (I think it’s fair to say that ALL Black people love Jesse, bougie and otherwise.)

If there were a published list of things loved by progressive (read: dadabee) Ghanaian women, Nana Ama Agyemang’s podcast ‘Unfiltered’ would certainly be chief among them. It will be a while before the industry catches up and begins to reward this canon of work with awards and recognition, so let me be one of the first to say that ‘Unfiltered’ is award-winning, way before it has won any awards. The show is consistently well produced, is delivered on time and features some of the brightest female minds in Ghana today. Oh, and my cousin Poetra Asantewa is the voice behind No Panties, the podcast’s musical score.

Nana Ama closes each episode of Unfiltered with a question for her co-hosts for the day.

“What have you been reflecting on?” she asks.

The responses have been humorous and sobering, with women confessing to reflecting on anything from grief to Ghana’s wrecked economy/individual buying power measured in procured balls of kenkey. I often ask myself what my response would be if I ever had the opportunity to appear on the show. I generally come up blank, since I spend most of my days mulling over the backlog of writing I have yet to attack or ways to keep my kids away from the TV and focused on their books. None of this is particularly interesting to anyone but me and the people who take school fees from us. However this week, I found myself in a discussion that has refused to release me from its grip. It was about language, and I’ve found myself reflecting on it deeply.

A friend of mine was looking for a name for a new venture she’s undertaking. She wanted a Twi word for something avant garde, svelte, funky…You know? I told her that I was not the person from whom to seek advice, since my Twi is dismal and getting worse by the year. I can barely ask for water, let alone conjure up an adjective that would excite the imagination. She assured me that I could not be that far gone, and I assured her that I most certainly could.

“In fact, I think that you will find that many Twi speakers are unable to convey their thoughts in pure, poetic Twi. We speak so much Twi-glish in Ghana these days that we’ve almost ‘un-interpreted’ our language for ourselves. Our language is so diluted now. I wouldn’t be surprised if the same could be said for Ga, Fante and the dozens of other languages spoken throughout the country.”

For instance, I told her about a Twitter friend of mine whose Akuapem name translates as “a glow”. When she wrote about her name – her early disdain for it and eventual struggle to embrace it – I connected with that. As Ghanaians, we’re all indoctrinated to understand that our Ghanaian names have meaning…however Western/Anglo names give you access, a certain privilege that meaning can’t. I believe the same can be said for language.

Anyone who’s spent anytime in an academic environment will tell you how speaking English, and the more fluently the better, provides a certain distinction among your peers. Perhaps you may be called upon to read in front of the class more often, perhaps you’ll be given a seat in government and eventually become president because you communicate well; in English. The same deference is not afforded to the pupil or professional who has mastered a local language – any local language – to the same degree. Indeed, there are some who have written entire theses about the impossibility of expressing oneself completely in a Ghanaian language, because they do not provide the “breadth and depth of thought” in order to do so. And yet a word for ‘glow’ exists. Someone had to be looking up at and studying the properties of the moon in order to create a word for the halo around it. Naturally, other words would be created to describe the modern societies we lived in, prior to the invasion of the European.

What are the Twi words for luminescent, philosopher, glabrous or entrepreneur? Is ‘kpakpakpa’ now the official vernacular for entrepreneurship, or will the original word (which I’m certain existed) be lost forever? Do we even care?

Former palace of the Asantehene before it was ransacked and burnt by the British in 1874

Former palace of the Asantehene before it was ransacked and burnt by the British in 1874

Long before English infiltrated our linguistics, we had architects, blacksmiths, mathematicians and apothecaries. Much of the knowledge about to build, maintain and advance our society has been lost, along with the language to define it. Perhaps this is why Ghana finds itself constantly in a position to beg for development loans and favors from other nations who’ve done a better job at preserving their traditions, like the Indians and the Chinese. We’ve lost the ability to define ourselves, which is why a statue of Ghandi is sitting up at on a university campus and not one of the many heroes who resisted colonial oppression and subjugation, Yaa Asantewaa aside.

Image credit:

Image credit:

I understand that language changes with time and events. The English spoken in the 15th century is not the same language spoken today. It is only natural that African languages would follow the same trend. But since we’ve failed to preserve the old, I do worry that we are not creating new words to express ourselves fully and uniquely in this modern age. We are increasingly becoming reliant on English to define our thoughts, to our own detriment. We give more honor foreign languages with our mouths and minds, and there is no denying. Who will honor ours?

That’s what I’ve been reflecting on. What has captivated your thoughts and imagination recently?


*You can listen to Unfiltered on Soundcloud every week when you click HERE.



Announcing a Week of ‘MOMvertising’ Here on M.O.M!

On early Monday morning, a member of the Plett health and wellness community published a request for bloggers to bid on a writing position he had available for his organization. The opportunity to write for a genre I’d never focused on before – drug rehabilitation – intrigued me. Unfortunately, I was thinking (and quoting) in terms of dollars and summarily out priced myself from the running. But that’s okay. I think my loss was to someone else’s gain…specifically to the gain of the five companies I’ll be featuring on Mind of Malaka in the coming days.

In submitting my bid, I did a quick Google search for my name and up popped several links to articles I’ve written for various media outlets and blogs. I have fixtures on plots of e-real estate all over the place! I believe this somewhat pervasive (and positive, for the most part) online presence is what piqued the seeker’s interest in my skill set. I was able to point to numerous examples of my work and demonstrate value. There can be no denying that in this digital age, online penetration is its own form currency. I didn’t get the job, but what if I could use my blog – my OWN e-real estate – to give other people the kind of boost I’ve worked to procure over the years? So that’s what I did.

I woke in the early hours of the morning the next day and tweeted to my followers, asking them to send me a synopsis of their projects, passions and/or products. I would promote them here on the site. Mind of Malaka has a strong and loyal reading, and I know that this community doesn’t exist to boost my ego alone. I truly believe God and Google have allowed this space to grow for the purposes of giving back in some way. I try to use my blog to do social good whenever the opportunity presents itself, and now WE – as a community – have the chance to use it to provide an economic edge for entrepreneurs coming off the starting block.

Advertising is expensive. Exposure doesn’t come cheap. And in this age of aggressive capitalism and quid pro quo, it appears that everyone is looking for what they can get out of the most mundane interaction…some sort of return on investment. While M.O.M. isn’t Marie Claire or Humans of New York (Brandon has singlehandedly driven record sales for dozens of small business owners via his blog), I would humbly like to offer this space in a broader effort to provide publicity for these passionate men and women you will see starting next week.

Image Credit:

Image Credit:

I wanted to give the venture a catchy name… like Pimp Your Product™ …but then that brought to mind all sorts of unsavory images. MOMverstising was the next, safest thing. It’s okay. You can laugh.🙂

Are you excited? I am too! As these entrepreneurs and creative are featured, I’d beg you to share their profiles on your personal social media platforms. You never know if someone is looking for just the thing they have to offer. Plus, with the holidays and Libra season upon us, you may be the conduit for a fabulous the gift idea or your new favorite brand. We’ll all find out together come Monday!



T.I. Joins Exclusive Group of Visual Artists With Release of ‘Warzone’

Nina Simone once said that it is “the artist’s duty to reflect the times in which we live.” Ms. Simone was many things all at once: an enigma – an undisputed musical genius whose unpredictable mood swings made her a polarizing figure. These elements were often a volatile recipe for calamity in her personal life; but they were also responsible for the creation and unleashing a melodic hurricane that spoke of the anger and frustration of a generation. With provocative and haunting performances like ‘Strange Fruit’ and ‘Mississippi God Damn’ in the days of fire bombings, lynchings, and acquittals by all white juries, Ms. Simone indeed “reflected the times and the situations” in which she – and thousands of people of color all over the nation – found themselves in. There was a general sense of prevailing injustice where Black lives were concerned in America. I wonder if it would grieve Nina Simone to know that 50+ years on how relevant her music still is today for the very same reasons.

Music has always played a crucial role in story telling and the preservation of our history. We have long looked to musicians to play both comforter and chronicler of our pains and joys. Acts like Marvin Gaye, Nina Simone, Bob Dylan and Creedence Clearwater Revival wrote the soundtrack of the protest era of the 1960s. When my generation saw a resurgence of social apathy, corporate greed and police brutality we had no musicians cum socio-political stalwarts to look to. Ours is a generation that values profit over protest, and so it was with gratitude that we eagerly embraced D’Angelo’s ‘Black Messiah’ at the end of a tumultuous 2014, while the Black Eye Peas have been compelled to re-release ‘Where is the love’ (2009) because the world is so jacked up.

It is seldom that we turn to visual art as a political provocateur, as the most visible depictions of Black bodies in art are often seen oscillating between positions of contentment or suffering. As a tool for the purpose of protest, Black bodies in visual art have been employed to appeal to the soul and consciousness of the white mind, pleading for mercy and ascribing camaraderie where none generally exists.

Josiah Wedgewood, an English potter and abolitionist, commissioned one of the most recognized images in contemporary art history. The seal of the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade was the most famous image of a black person in all of 18th-century art. The art is framed around the narrative that one must do unto others what you would have them do unto you. After all, are we not all human? It would set the tone for future depictions of our bodies in art, a desperate attempt to humanize us to a group who has long seen people of African descent as pitiable, exploitable or little more than a curiosity. The art always in the service of the white gaze.


In recent years, there has been a dynamic shift from that approach, and this is where T.I. “Tip” Harris makes his mark and joins a peculiar set of artists who have disrupted this old narrative. Using ‘sacred’ American symbols and white bodies, these artists are no longer asking mainstream America to look inward for compassion. Rather, they have forced that gaze onto a mirror to see themselves in an alternate reality where white privilege no longer exists.

mv5bmti2ody1odcwml5bml5banbnxkftztcwnzyznzuxmq-_v1_uy268_cr30182268_al_The first time I saw this done was in a movie called White Man’s Burden starring John Travolta and Harry Belafonte. Released in 1995 and 89 minutes long, it makes for very uncomfortable watching and would therefore not be surprised if you haven’t heard of it. Naturally, reviewers rated it very low. It unflinchingly shows a complete role reversal, where white people are ignoble savages, predisposed to committing crime and utterly unsalvageable as far as the Black elite are concerned. Think “If he had only followed the officer’s orders, he might have lived” from callous, unsympathetic Black lips munching on green bean casserole in response to watching an 11 year old white kid lies dying in the street.


Laurie Cooper, Black Man in America.

Black Man in America

Black Man in America

Cooper is a Philly based artist whose work showcases the special qualities of Black features. The image of an unmistakably Black man being strangled by the American flag makes a salient point: To be a Black man in America is to slowly have the life drained from you by a system and entity that has identified itself as a paragon of freedom, liberty and life. The juxtaposition is arresting, and if it looks familiar, it’s because Nate Parker borrowed the concept for his marquee art for Birth of a Nation.


Tyler Shields’ photo series ‘Historical Fiction’ (2015)



When Tyler Shields began to share the controversial photo of a naked black man hanging a white Klansman from a tree branch, his friends expressed dismay. It was “too much”. Indeed, it is a lot to process. Harkening back to a time when men in white robes could and did execute Black men, women and children without fear of repercussion, to see a Black man refuse to conceal his identity behind sheets like a coward in order to execute the same murderous treatment undoes everything we have been indoctrinated with about race and power. ‘Historical Fiction’ walks viewers through the daily injustices that African Americans face with white bodies on the receiving end.





Think pieces have been written in abundance about the song and the video that police unions have denounced as “anti-cop”. At the conclusion of this video Queen Bey drowns a cop car with her body, calling to mind the ultimate sacrifices that Black women have made throughout history in the fight against oppression. But perhaps the most pivotal moment in the video is when a carefree Black boy in a hoodie – a garment that Geraldo and his gaggle of co-horts on Fox & Friends believe renders the wearer worthy of street execution – dances in front of a row of police officers in riot gear lifts his arms and compels them to do the same in surrender. Folk did not like that at all. And by folk, I mean Bill O’Reilly n’ dem.




“The new racism is to deny racism exist”. In a brilliant response to the insipidness that is the ‘All Lives Matter’ mantra, T.I. uncorked his bottle of dambs and poured out every last one of them. The man responsible for bestrewing the tragedy that is Iggy Azalea on the world of hip-hop and the world at large has re-earned my respect with this offering. I have to admit, I was concerned for Tip for a moment.

There’s a lot to say about ‘Warzone’, but I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t already seen/heard it. Viewer discretion is advised.


*Are you comfortable with witnessing white bodies experience Black pain? Discuss.

From Tyler Shields' Historical Fiction

From Tyler Shields’ Historical Fiction

Education: The Missing Piece of the Reparations Conversation

The topic of reparations is never far from the minds of most people in America. Even if it’s not a subject dominating the conversation, it is always niggling at the subconscious of the population, and just about every one has a strong opinion on the matter: Either reparations is owed to the descendants of slaves or it isn’t. It’s tempting to assume that race primarily plays a factor in attitudes for or against (the most vocal opponents of any reparations initiative are frequently white), but there are quite a fair number of people of color who oppose the idea that the descendants of African slaves in America are due any sort of pecuniary redress because “slavery was a long time ago” and we’ve had ample opportunity to pick ourselves up by our bootstraps. In his book Enough, Juan Williams paints those who pursue the cause as those looking to exploit the blood sweat and tears of slaves and the current suffering of Blacks in inner cities and impoverished pockets of the nation as wanting to line their own pockets. He calls the reparations conversation ‘dead’.

As long as there is racism in America – as long as violent racial tensions exist in the country – the reparations conversation will never truly die. I say this because the topic is far more complicated (at least in my mind) than ‘for or against’; because the idea of reparations, like the successful institution of slavery, requires deep thought, much effort and a clear vision about desired outcomes for the future.

Every once in a while, an event from America’s ugly past makes headlines and necessitates a conversation about reparations. Earlier this year, a story revisiting the 272 slaves that were sold by Georgetown Jesuits in 1838 in order to pay off a debt (briefly) took over the national conversation about what the descendants of slaves are owed, if anything at all. Esther Armah discussed the Georgetown incident with her co-hosts for the day on her podcasts The Spin in a refreshing look at the topic from the both the African and African American perspectives. It is here that Christina Greer explores her complex feelings on the topic, particularly where Georgetown is concerned. For her, the idea that naming a building after the ill-fated slaves in the 1838 purchase, or giving university applications of their descendants a “closer look” does not even begin to mark redress for the tragedy their ancestors endured. Yet it seems this is where Georgetown has begun and ended their monologue. It was a ‘monologue’ because the descendants were never brought to the table to discuss reconciliation or acceptable steps moving forward.

The great-grandfather of Rochell Sanders Prater was a slave sold by Jesuit priests to help keep Georgetown University afloat. Source: OEA

The great-grandfather of Rochell Sanders Prater was a slave sold by Jesuit priests to help keep Georgetown University afloat.
Source: OEA

I’ve recently had similar conversations with Chriss Tay, one of the most brilliant academic minds I’ve had the pleasure of encountering. Mr. Tay is of the opinion that the key – and missing – element of the reparations conversation is not money, it is education.

He says, “Should there be monetary compensation to the descendants of slaves? Absolutely. But that alone is not remedy enough for the ills that the Trans Atlantic Slaver Trade unleashed globally. Monetary reparations won’t stop a cop from shooting a child playing with a toy in the park or from choking a man selling cigarettes…but education WILL. There is something that this man has been taught about Black people to see them as a threat and a menace first, rather than human.”


As a professor of history himself, he asserts that the history and horrors of slavery, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights movement, the Flint water crisis and so on must be taught accurately and beyond platitudes. This history – poorly taught – affects current attitudes, and not just in America, but globally. How does he know this?

“Look. If you put a big ship at the harbor today in Ghana and wrote ‘Slave Ship – Destination: America!’ indigents would be fighting among themselves to get their spot on that ship. They have no concept or understanding of the types of things African slaves went through on board and after they got off of those ships in the New World. This is because of a lack of education.”

He and I had this talk in June of this year. If I had any doubts about his assertion, they were all put to rest when I saw this video of African migrants jubilating at their first sight of the Europe after they were rescued from the coast of Libya on BBC:


If only they knew what they were in store for, eh?

The reasons why these migrants and all minorities are little better than second class citizens go back to the systems that were erected to keep them there; and I believe it is those systems that need to be eradicated, rather than having money thrown at them.

We know that money has never really solved a problem. Not at its root cause. It is integrity and intention that brings about true change. Giving Black and brown people in America 40 acres and a Hyundai today are not going to resolve the issues of chattel slavery. Why? Because most people aren’t going to know what to do with those types of resources…because harboring this level of ignorance has been by design. Furthermore, Black people and communities who have historically shown themselves to be entrepreneurial and self-sufficient have had their work and efforts destroyed, forcing them back into positions of need.

I am against any sort of lump sum pay out per head for slavery. I believe it would be a disaster from both ends of the equation. First, I believe that for white people it would signal the end of the conversation. America declared itself “post racial” with the election of Barack Obama, something the news and interactions in your WalMart parking lot tell you is nowhere near the truth. Can you imagine what a payout of $xxx would signal to them? “Well we’ve already given you money you didn’t earn. What more do you want”  The second problem is what to do with the money itself. I can’t say with confidence that an individual payout will help communities of color if there is no plan for community re-investment.

When Hurricane Katrina happened, we were all privy to the number of victims who ended up in Lennox Mall with their emergency money in hand buying Luis Vuitton bags or scheduling cosmetic surgeries. These people had never been taught the value of investment and long-term thinking. They have lived hand to mouth with moments of mirth sprinkled in, just as their predecessors had. This was not an accident. From Reconstruction to Second but Equal, the creation of a second-class citizen and a blunted mind was intentional. And if white people in general and the elite in particular want to throw off the shackles of the White Man’s Burden – his self-appointed directive to ‘civilize’ the world – then this corps is going to have to do just that. They will have to put in the same effort that made slavery and the many forms of effective subjugation that followed successful into the effort of demolishing these old systems and the erection of new ones with the partnership of people of color. Probably more effort. Everyone knows it’s more difficult to undo a knot than it is to tie one.

Let me give one example. The DeWolfs – a prominent family in Rhode Island – made their fortune in the shipping and selling of slaves. James DeWolf (1764-1837), was a U.S. senator and a wealthy merchant who was reportedly the second-richest person in the country when he died. In the 1790s and early 1800s, DeWolf and his brothers virtually built the economy of Bristol.* In reading about the DeWolfs, I discovered that their wealth generation was not a straight line: it was a web. People from all walks of life in their New England community invested in DeWolf slave ships for a handsome return on that investment. Blacksmiths, bankers, even preachers earned capital from those investments. So when folks use the excuse that their ancestors never owned slaves to absolve either themselves or their family from the great stain of slavery and its aftershocks, it simply doesn’t wash. We see here that you didn’t have to own a slave to be a beneficiary of slavery.

This is just ONE community that invested its time and resources into making the institution of chattel slavery a success; efforts that went on for hundreds of years. The Civil Rights Act was just passed into law in 1965. That was only 51 years ago. Do you think slavery was the efficient monster it grew to become after its first 51 years? No. African folk were still running away, talking back and thinking their ideas counted for something. The enslaved mind had to be made and that inheritance passed on to their descendants. The undoing of that effort is the new White Man’s Burden. Teachers, the TSA and Theresa May will need to invest their resources into revolutionizing not just the minority mind, but “mainstream” thinking as well. If Black people could have done it alone, we would have done it by now. But we’ve been appealing to white consciousness with very little effect for centuries. See the ease with which people blame the Trayvon Martins of this world for their own deaths.


Unlike Juan Williams, I do not believe the reparations conversation is dead, but I do believe it’s time for it to evolve. I suggest that the conversation move away from reparations to restoration. What financial compensation can be offered for the fracturing of families? How many dollars is displacement worth? Can you put a figure on what it means to have your identity ripped away from you? And yet, that’s what’s required to bring this quarrel to a close: a restoration of what was lost in those centuries of colonization and slavery. Put back what you stole. Give people back their dignity. Give them freedom over their affairs. Stop cheating, experimenting and poisoning whole communities. Commission effective programs that will give people a real world skill. Allow people to feel safe in their own communities. Restore the humanity that was and is still being siphoned away today. And just like the triangular slave trade, this must be a global effort. The aftershocks of slavery have not affected North and South America alone. Everyone from Cape Town to Copenhagen has a part to play in this process. Whether for pain or pleasure, we are all the heirs of our ancestors’ actions and have a responsibility to work towards righting any wrongs for the sake of our progeny.


Let’s here from the scholars. What are your thoughts?



A Response to the Reponses to Nana Agyemang-Asante’s Public Decision to Leave the Church

Amnon and Tamar

In the course of time, Amnon son of David fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom son of David.

Amnon became so obsessed with his sister Tamar that he made himself ill. She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her.

Now Amnon had an adviser named Jonadab son of Shimeah, David’s brother. Jonadab was a very shrewd man. He asked Amnon, “Why do you, the king’s son, look so haggard morning after morning? Won’t you tell me?”

Amnon said to him, “I’m in love with Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.”

“Go to bed and pretend to be ill,” Jonadab said. “When your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘I would like my sister Tamar to come and give me something to eat. Let her prepare the food in my sight so I may watch her and then eat it from her hand.’”

So Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill. When the king came to see him, Amnon said to him, “I would like my sister Tamar to come and make some special bread in my sight, so I may eat from her hand.”

David sent word to Tamar at the palace: “Go to the house of your brother Amnon and prepare some food for him.” So Tamar went to the house of her brother Amnon, who was lying down. She took some dough, kneaded it, made the bread in his sight and baked it. Then she took the pan and served him the bread, but he refused to eat.

“Send everyone out of here,” Amnon said. So everyone left him. 10 Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food here into my bedroom so I may eat from your hand.” And Tamar took the bread she had prepared and brought it to her brother Amnon in his bedroom. 11 But when she took it to him to eat, he grabbed her and said, “Come to bed with me, my sister.”

12 “No, my brother!” she said to him. “Don’t force me! Such a thing should not be done in Israel! Don’t do this wicked thing. 13 What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel. Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you.” 14 But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.

15 Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, “Get up and get out!”

16 “No!” she said to him. “Sending me away would be a greater wrong than what you have already done to me.”

But he refused to listen to her. 17 He called his personal servant and said, “Get this woman out of my sight and bolt the door after her.” 18 So his servant put her out and bolted the door after her. She was wearing an ornate[a] robe, for this was the kind of garment the virgin daughters of the king wore. 19 Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the ornate robe she was wearing. She put her hands on her head and went away, weeping aloud as she went.

20 Her brother Absalom said to her, “Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you? Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother. Don’t take this thing to heart.” And Tamar lived in her brother Absalom’s house, a desolate woman.

2 Samuel 13: 1-20


That’s probably more of the Bible than y’all have read on a Monday morning. Intense; I know! Why is this scripture important? Because it speaks to the experience and relationship that so many women have with the Christian Church…a relationship that is toxic, destructive and worst of all, ignored.

Two weeks ago, Nana Ama Agyemang- Asante penned a post titled: Sex, Sermons and Submission: Why I left the Church. She can correct me if I’m wrong, but this particular post has garnered the most comments of all the blogs she’s written this year. Ms. Agyemang-Asante is a radio personality and cultural/political critic on Citi FM. On her personal blog, she writes about issues she’s passionate about: governance, food, sex, religion and at times the intersection of all four. This post was one of her strongest, in my opinion, because she took a stand that so many women – not just in Ghana, but globally – are afraid to make for themselves. She left an organization that she examined and concluded as harmful to her as female AND human, and more importantly, was vocal about it. It is for the latter part of that process – speaking up about her decision – that folk have attempted to shame and goad her into silence using pseudo-Socratic thinking and a flurry of rhetorical questions that do nothing to address (or resolve) the issues she raised. And THIS is the frustration that many women face in the church. Those who don’t face it are just refusing to acknowledge it.

The Church at large is notorious for treating women like Tamar. Women bring their gifts, their offerings, their talents and their time into the house of God in good faith. When you look around your church, who’s doing most of the work? The women. They’re organizing events, they’re cooking food, they’re up all night praying, they’re fasting. Meanwhile, men “sit at the gates and boast” of their Proverbs 31 wife. When young/single women enter the church whether through salvation or obligation by proxy of family ties to that church, they are eager to give themselves to the Body. And what does the Church do? Gobble them up; use them; spit them out…just like Ammon did to Tamar. This cycle goes on rinse and repeat, year after year, century after century.

Have you ever found yourself wondering why women who are SO invested in church life are the surliest of creatures? Why Obinim’s wife can sit at the high seat of the church altar and smile while two teenagers are whipped in her presence? It’s because they have become a desolation, just like Tamar. All the love, light and hope that they brought into the church body has been raped out of them by patriarchy, tradition and men’s presumed right to treat women as they will.

This is not Nana Ama’s first time speaking up about the harmful shenanigans that take place in churches all over the country. Likewise, I have also written about the abysmal things said about women by Ghana’s favorite preachers who earn their wealth by shaming and hurting women. Other women in online spaces have spoken up in reaction to these harmful messages as well. It’s not as if, like Tamar, we don’t offer alternative suggestions on how to get along in the house of the King. Could men be kinder? Could they show more charity? Could they consider how their words affect us as their sisters in Christ? Are these suggestions so outrageous that the only natural response is Amnonic in nature – you have to force your will?

And on the other side of these events, the reaction from Bible thumping men, church attending is usually the same:

To shout us down.

To tell us to expect the wrath of God to be visited upon us for touching “His anointed.”

To tell us we’re overreacting because it’s “really not that big of a deal.”

To tell us to shut up.

In short, these Brothers in Christ are doing the very same thing Absalom did to Tamar by telling her to be quiet and not take it to heart. And you know what? It’s easy to advise someone who has been violated physically/emotionally/spiritually to ignore their anguish because you’re not the one who has to live with the trauma day in and out. It’s the path of least resistance, and it never ends in triumph. Tamar lived out her days as a desolate woman in Absalom’s house. Does a single chauvinist understand what that does to a person? I know it’s hard for people to understand what desolation looks like in a woman, so here’s a picture of a city. I hear analogies about rape using jollof, tea and hair cuts are all the rage. Maybe this architectural juxtaposition will connect with someone who just. Can’t. Get. It.

Tamar before, and Tamar after. See? See the difference?

Tamar before, and Tamar after. See? See the difference?

I’ve heard folk counter Nana Ama’s choice to exit the Church with analogies of their own. Do you leave a job because everyone is a hypocrite? Do you stop going to a hospital because sick people are there? The answer is simple: If an organization refuses to clean up its act, then no one has an obligation to utilize its services. Would you continue to work for a boss who slapped you every time you showed up for work? Would YOU continue to seek treatment at a medical facility that washed its tools in feces before administering treatment, despite your protestations and pleading suggestions that they disinfect? Hell nawl.

Nana Ama chose not to live her life as a desolate woman in the house of the King. She broke free. This limb was poisoned and she cut it off. Was it drastic? Perhaps…but it was necessary. Necessary because we live in a time when the Church is still operating in the Dark Ages where relationships between the Holy Ghost and men are concerned. If we’re honest, there are many more women who look at their relationship with their house of worship and know in their heart of hearts that it’s BS. However, fear of a predictable renders them immobile. There’s something about a woman exercising her right to chose that sets chauvinists teeth on edge, sends them careening off the edge of sanity, howling at the wind. Who can reason with someone like that?

I'll cut you with my words before I even THINK of respecting you!

I’ll cut you with my words before I even THINK of respecting you!

There are definitely more subtle ways to fix male-female relationships in the Church that don’t require a total break, but that would require men to do some real work in their own hearts first. But right now, too many are not willing to acknowledge that there is a problem. Like Amnon, they are guided by their desires and presumed right to hurt women in any way they deem fit. In the midst of all this pain, women are expected to keep this family secret. After all, Muslim women are supposed to be the ones who are oppressed, not US Christians. We’re supposed to be ‘free’. What Nana Ama did was expose an ugly truth about what goes on in ‘houses of God’ and like racists who are more invested in controlling reactions of oppressed people of color, Christian chauvinists would have women be silent if they can’t stick to the script. You are more invested in managing the response to being injured than the injury itself!

I hope the Church will reach out in love to Ms. Agyemang- Asante and other women who have left in pain and/or for self- preservation. I hope, but I wouldn’t put money on it. If the comments on her blog and the other sites it was published on is any indication of what’s being taught in Church, it’s not the love of God.




I Haven’t Been Writing Much Because I’ve Been Depressed

I suffer from infrequent bouts of depression. This should come as a surprise to no one. I’m an almost 40-year-old African American woman who is living in a time of state sponsored violence against Black people, a possible Trump presidency and Super Gonorrhea for which there is no cure. So yeah, I have dark days.

This most recent bout has lasted for two weeks or better. I don’t really count the days anymore. I just wait for the depression to lift. As a woman who suffers from a mood imbalance, I consider myself lucky, oddly. I know a handful of people who have to live with clinical depression. For them, there is no “waiting it out”. Medication is the only way forward for them. They have to follow a dedicated regimen of therapy and pill taking…just to function. It’s difficult to admit, but for some, depression HAS no cure, because it often exists in tandem with other mental infirmities that require their own special attention. As evidenced by the presence of my 4 children, 2 of whom were conceived while I was on The Pill, I am not very good with following a prescription regimen. So yes, even though I go through these phases several times in a year, I do consider myself fortunate that I suffer the sort of “mild” depression I have endured since I was 12. Are thoughts of suicide considered mild? I dunno…



I’ve never seen a therapist for my depression, because Black people and Christians don’t need to seek the assistance of therapist. All we need to do is draw on our reserves of Ancient Black Strength and Jesus and the problem should disappear on it’s own. If your depression persists, it’s probably because you’re not praying hard enough or spent enough time considering all that the ancestors have gone through to bring you to this comfy point in your life – a life where you get to while away your days in front of a PC, listening to people opine about how and why reverse racism is actually a thing, or if women didn’t want to get raped they wouldn’t be outside after 8pm. We have a (half) Black president and a tax-free back to school shopping weekend coming up. What in the world is there to be depressed about, Malaka?

What indeed?

As I am always compelled to do, I searched for reasons for the depression I was (and still kind of am) experiencing. I tried to call to memory the causes. The screwed up thing about my sort of depression is that there often is no cause, at least none that should be big enough to warrant my staying in bed all day and sullenly stabbing at my dinner, but this time I was able to pinpoint a few. The most immediate one was loneliness.

In moving to South Africa, I completely underestimated what a negative impact being severed from physical relationships with my friends would be. I knew coffee with MX5 of Tuesdays was important, but in these 3 months without her have revealed that those dates were vital. I miss cackling with Frances for brief moments after church. I miss kickin’ it with Tia. I miss the exciting world of art that Tosinger ensnared me in. I miss my friends. I especially miss my sister. Acquaintances are great, because this awkward politeness has gotten old really fast. I wasn’t made to exist without strong, meaningful, female relationships. The husband and kids can never be a substitute for that. The time difference between our two continents has only helped with the isolation I’ve been experiencing.

Because I was feeling so isolated physically, I turned increasingly to social media for a panacea. This backfired, horribly. There is a direct relationship with increased twitter use and the chances of encountering codswallop in the form of the Internet troll. The trolls then found my blog, and my comments section, naturally. YOU don’t see the mean, senseless and hateful things people write in the comments because I don’t approve them anymore, but I have the unenviable job of scanning and trashing their disposable rumblings. A colleague suggested I just disable comments altogether, but not wanting to cut off a link between myself and the readers with whom I have an actual relationship, I cut the comments off automatically after 24 hours. It usually takes that long for a troll to gather his reinforcements. I then cut back on my social media use.

Funny thing about that. There is also a direct relationship with my social media use and book sales. Because my voice was largely silent on Twitter (RTs do not count as a “voice”), my book sales plummeted. And by plummet, I mean do not exist. I haven’t sold a SINGLE book in August on any of my retail platforms. This did not help to alleviate my depression.

So by now, I’m convinced that anything I write is either going to inspire a hateful comment or be a waste of time because it’s not earning me anything…so I just stopped writing altogether. Instead, I baked.

I baked cookies.

I baked cakes.

I also read books; some amazing, some not so much.

I bought fabric and a glue gun and watched YouTube DIY accessory videos.

And then I had to eat all the deserts I’d baked which led to rapid weight gain, which made me what? Come and claim your prize if you said: ‘More Depressed!’

Then I started comparing myself to other people. People are always trying to knock down Lydia Forson. Why didn’t I have her grit and tenacity? Why doesn’t my middle finger function as quickly as hers? Or Serena Williams. Look at all the hate she gets from all angles. What is the writer’s equivalent of an EAT THIS clap back twerking video? And WHY don’t MY thighs look like that?


Another cookie.

The more I fretted, the less I wrote and the more convinced I was that I was a crap writer anyway. Me? A crap writer? Had I actually thought this thought? This had to be the devil! Did Jesus hear Satan say this? Why hadn’t He come to deliver me by now?!?

The good thing about God is that even though S(H)e never shows up when you expect S(H)irm to, the timing is always right. For me, God showed up in the person of Sharlene Appiah, who called me on Tuesday out of the blue. We didn’t talk about anything that should have particularly made my depression lift…but it did. Something in her voice just broke it for me. And then I wrote about Usain Bolt and fried plantain.

I don’t know how long this good feeling will last, but I’m grateful for it. I don’t know if I’m back on a writing streak or not. All I know is that for today, #AmWriting. For today, that’s going to have to be enough.

Do you ever suffer from depression? Is it difficult for you to open up about? If it is, you should check out Bassey Ikpi’s Siwe Project on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. You’ll find an embracing, supportive community and resources there.🙂


Europeans Never Came to Africa for Slaves

In our Junior Secondary School (JSS) history books, we learned about names, dates and places on the African continent that were so distant that they might as well have been on the moon. We learned about the importance of Fernando Po, the Bight of Benin and our own Cape Coast castle in Ghana – all essential to European trading activities in West Africa. We learned that the first Europeans to come to West Africa were the Portuguese who were quickly followed by the Dutch. They came to trade guns and beads for gold and ivory. A few centuries later the rest of Western Europe joined the fray, only now they needed a new commodity to trade in order to satisfy their labor needs in the New World. So we learned that the Europeans traded (and raided) for slaves.


They began to trade in slaves.


The more I meditate on that statement, the less I find that it is true. The Spanish, Portuguese and the Dutch (and the British, and the French, and the Belgians, and and and…) didn’t come to Africa for ‘slaves’; they came for People.


They came for men, women and children.

They came for men with deep belly laughs and high-pitched caterwauls when they mocked the women they loved.

They came for crafty little girls who liked to do cartwheels when they thought no one was looking.

They came for 10-year-old boys who raced around the village in contests to determine who was swiftest.

They came for women who loved to eat cocoyam and hated the sight of snakes.

They came for youth who were in the middle of courtships, who had stolen kisses and risked forbidden touches at sunset.

They came for grandchildren who were the pride of the elders, the blessed fruit and the evidence of their years of dedication to the values that their clan upheld.

They came for artisans, metal workers, weavers, hairdressers, midwives, farmers, fishermen, noblemen and noblewomen.

They came for both the princess and the pauper.

They might have come for the drunkard too, but he wouldn’t have survived the middle passage so they spared him by putting a bullet in his head and/or chest.

They came for friends who were on the cusp of settling an old quarrel.

They came for architects who designed and oversaw the building of magnificent cities in the Songhai Empire.

They came for scholars and they came for griots.

They came for the holders of ancient history.

They came for the warriors and they came for cowards.

They came for shy little boys and brazen little girls who grooved to the rhythm of drums that could imitate the sound of water.

They came for the drummer.

They came for the spiritual and those who mocked the afterlife alike.

They came for women who loved nice things and men who loved to compliment women wearing nice things.

Europeans never came for slaves. They came for people like YOU and ME.

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 3.47.10 AM

But because our worldview of Africans is so completely Eurocentric – that we can sit in classrooms and learn about these events as if they were just events and not the horrific lived experiences of people we all have a kinship to – we can confidently and comfortably rattle off dates and the names of forts for a passing grade. Has it ever occurred to any history student in our Ghanaian schools (if they even still teach history any more) that the people who were captured during the genocide and kidnappings were never slaves to begin with? How do you ‘trade in slaves’ from the African coast when these men, women and children all lived free? Africans that were abducted from the continent did not become slaves until they set foot in Europe or the New World, where they (and their descendants) would be become chattel. It is when that slave owner in Charleston or Kingston stripped an African of his/her identity, swapping the name Mansa for a meaningless appellation like Platt. The process of becoming a slave is not complete until a person’s humanity is completely ripped from them. The terrors unleashed in so-called seasoning camps in the Caribbean where men and women were broken to insure compliance and the horrors of torture cells on Butler Island and plantations all across the Deep South are what produced generations of slaves. To quote a line from LeVar Burton’s reproduction of Roots ‘You don’t buy a slave. You have to make a slave.’

Malachi Kirby portrays Kunta Kinte in 'Roots'

Malachi Kirby portrays Kunta Kinte in ‘Roots’

What we learned about – what the Europeans did when they forced millions of Africans onto floating death traps and what we continue to refer to in common parlance – was a brutal, mass forced migration, not a ‘trade in slaves’.

Our ancestors and abducted kin were people whose lives mattered. Lets honor them as such when we discuss their plight.