I have to confess, where African and diaspora relations are concerned, I thought that it would be simpler to frame my thoughts and present them than the task has proven to be. I have been – in a word – naïve. There is nothing simple about the factors that separate or, conversely, bind people of African descent in the least. The numerous conversations I’ve either participated in or witnessed have borne this out.
First of all, one has to account for the fact that people of African descent in the diaspora are not even unified around what to call themselves. Names and verbal identifiers have power, something that virtually every African society recognizes, understands, and takes pains to execute with meaning and honor. In the same way, Black people in the diaspora are very conscious of what to call themselves as a group. Some within this microcosm of the African family are comfortable with being identified as “African American,” while others rebuff the label, stating that they are simply “Black.”
You are shocked by this question, isn’t it? After all, who would so something as foolhardy as to trap Death in a basket? No one you or I know… but once upon a time, a fearless girl named Yaa did just that.
Yaa Traps Death in a Basket is my latest children’s book – although you adults seem to love them too – and it’s available to pre-order internationally now when you click this link!
Want to save a little bit of money? Enter D4S35P6H at check out to save 20% on the list price of the book. I know, I know! It’s all so thrilling. Check out this video for a peek at the fabulous illustrations done by Poka Arts.
Yaa Traps Death in a Basket will be available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iBooks in May. It will also be available from the trunk of my car if you’re in Atlanta, and Writers Project in Ghana will have some copies on hand in June if you’re in Accra and want to scoop up a few. Contact them on twitter @writersPG or on their website at writersprojectghana.com
I ain’t gon’ lie. The book is pretty dope. This is one of those rare times when you guys will call/inbox/email/drum beat me to tell me how great it is, and I won’t reply with a humble “Oh, eheh eheh. Thank you. Na God ooo…”
One of the most enlightening trips I have taken was to the Western Region of Ghana, where I visited Princess (or Prince’s, depending on who you ask) Town, Fort St. Anthony and Cape Thee Points. While my group and I were there, we learned about Nana Jonkone and his interactions with the Germans. Like most Afro-European encounters, it began as a relationship built on trade and eventually evolved into one of European dominance and African subjugation. I wrote about our experience in 2013.
Every once in a while, I think about that mini excursion we took. I have looked for more material online since then, and have found none. I am afraid that just like much of Ghana’s proud history and traditions, the story of Nana Jonkone and his gallant resistance to the European (Dutch) invasion will be lost to some patty cake oatmeal version of sanitized events depicting Africans as welcoming, willing participants in their own destruction.
Nana Jonkone was king over a small area at Pokesu. Though his kingdom was not large, it did have an alliance with the mighty Ashanti Kingdom to the north. I haven’t had the opportunity to study up on what the terms of an alliance with the Ashanti would entail in those days (annual tributes, taxes or provision of a percentage of livestock, for example), but I imagine that there was some sort of Mafioso terms and conditions that the Ashantis levied on their lesser partners. Our guide that afternoon gave us a hint at what those may have been.
When the Dutch barbarians attacked Pokesu, Nana Jonkone travelled north to entreat the Asantehene for his help and protection. The Asantehene was happy to oblige and sent mercenaries to protect the coastal town. It would only cost Jonkone a calabash of gold PER mercenary for his help, and for 20 years, these strong men (and possibly some women) frustrated and prevented any Dutch attack or take over. When all seemed settled, the mercenaries left and the Dutch seized their chance, taking over Pokesu, dismantling Nana Jonkone’s seat of power and ultimately sending him into obscurity. Nana Jonkone was never seen or heard from again.
Last night I was watching the 36th Chamber of Shaolin for the first time, where the movie depicts the Manchu takeover of the Hans in China. San Te – the film’s protagonist – felt that if the Hans had kung fu from Shaolin, they would at least be able to protect themselves from the pervasive street harassment and indignity that the Manchus meted out on them on a daily basis. So then that got me thinking:
WHAT KIND OF KUNG FU DID THE ASHANTIS POSSES?!?!
No seriously: Think about it. To stave off the aggression of a Dutch force replete with canons, muskets and bayonets protected by an impregnable wall of stones, they must’ve had some pretty impressive fighting skills. They possibly scaled walls. They may have even floated in the air, just like real kung fu masters!
But why don’t we know this? Surely there were Ghanaian fighting styles that our ancestors had to learn and become proficient at. What made the Ashanti military so unique that they were able to suppress and absorb the clans in their environs? It had to be Ashanti kung fu! The real shame is that we don’t know this. Right now, the old armory in Kumasi sits beneath a market or something. It should have been preserved as a museum.
If you are a historian and have more information on what made the Ashantis such a formidable fighting force, please leave the details in the comments or email me. I’d love to hear more! It’d be something we could all add to our information banks for Black history month. Thank you, and
Blame Tosinger oooo. Blame her! Last week she quietly knocked on my Twitter door, entered my mentions, and gently threw set down the gauntlet, asking me if I’d like to participate in the #YourTurnChallenge. I could have ignored her if not for the word “challenge” hanging on the end of the hashtag. Me to back away from a challenge? How!
Naturally, I said yes…without even bothering to find out what I was getting into. It’s a reflex I have; like William Wallace chopping off the heads of English nobles. I just can’t help myself!
The #YourTurnChallenge isn’t nearly as grotesque as that, thankfully. It merely encourages bloggers to post something every day for seven days, starting January 19th. A year or more ago, this would be no difficult task at all. I used to write two posts a day without any real effort (one here and one on Adventures). And then the trolls found me…After that, let’s just say my zest for writing was far less zesty.
Anyhow, I’ve devised my strategy to get through this challenge and to come out victorious! For the next seven days, I will be writing under the theme “What it feels like to…” wherein I will describe in very raw terms what it feels like to endure a particular event. One of the posts I’m most looking forward to penning is “What it feels like to have a boil on your arse.”
“Well, Malaka,” says you, “how would you know what it’s like to have a cyst upon thy buttocks?”
Oh don’t be so coy. How is a writer to write effectively about anything if she has not experienced it, or spent a great deal of time studying it? Clearly, someone very close to be has suffered a boil on their butt. Yes sir! This will be a week of hard hitting journalism and provocative topics! (Not really.)
Feel free to skip reading this week, MOM Squad. I just wanted to give you a heads up to prepare yourself for what’s to come. Hopefully, nothing of serious consequence will happen in popular culture or society at large that will cause me to deviate from my task.
See you tomorrow on Day 1, and if you’re on twitter, follow @Tosinger to see what she’ll be up to as well!
I wonder if this is unique to America, or does it manifest in other spheres of Western culture? As for African parents, they have no problem pointing out the flaws of their children. No problems at all!
I just got this post in from Nana Darkoa who asked me to ‘put this man on blast’. Let her experience be a warning. Read, gasp and hide your kids. The rest of you: behave yourselves in public!
The plan was to enjoy an Ethiopian buffet at Hush Lounge in Labone. My friends and I were seated comfortably in a far corner of the dimly lit venue, chit chatting. We were 4 adult women, with a 13-year-old girl in our company. Her brother sat adjacent to us. Close enough to be within earshot, yet far away enough to retain his teenage cool.
I was drinking Smirnoff Ice and chatting with one of my friends when this man came and sat right in the corner where we had ensconced ourselves. I groaned inwardly, why did he have to come and sit right next to us when the venue was practically empty. You could tell he was drunk from the way that he lurched into the seat.
My friends and I continued chatting.
“Excuse me, excuse” we soon heard him say loudly. Sure enough, Mr. Drunk Man was trying to interrupt our conversation. I looked up briefly, then away, and continued to talk to my friend. One of the women in our party must have said something briefly to him, which I didn’t quite catch before returning to our conversation. I couldn’t help but say to my friend,
“Ah, male privilege can be annoying. Can you imagine ever going to a bar, sitting right next to a group of men and then raising your voice at them to get their attention?” We laughed and went back to our conversation.
Mr. Drunk Man tried to interrupt us one more time with no luck and somehow started a conversation with Mr. Cool Teenage Boy whom he had sat right next door to. While I chatted with his mother, she glanced his way intermittently, concerned about whether or not he was okay. He seemed fine, and walked away after a while.
It was then that Mr. Drunk Man started trying to interrupt our party with something to the effect of, “Oi, I’m talking to you”. We ignored him and tried to carry on our convo. But would Mr. Drunk Man take a hint? Oh no. He just got louder. Eventually I said,
“Excuse me, we are trying to have a conversation. Please leave us alone”.
He started to swear at us. “Shut the fuck up.” “Ugly fat black bitches.” “Fuck off!” and even something to the effect of “You’re just looking for black dicks.” My friend said, “Don’t talk to us like that,” but that made no difference to him and he continued to rant and rave.
Just at that moment a male friend who had told us about the regular Ethiopian buffet at that lounge walked to the corner of the restaurant where we were seated. He tried to calm down the situation. “Good evening, Sir,” he said whilst making direct eye contact with Mr. Drunk Man. But oh no, Mr. Drunk Man couldn’t be talked down into civility. Eventually, security led him away.
That night, I did some digging, and found out Mr. Drunk Man was called Lionel, and earlier on had taken to bragging about being a former Chairman of Ecobank (and the fancy school his children attend, and that he used to live in the States and had just come back from Brazil). So off to Google I went, where I searched for ‘Lionel + Chairman + Ecobank.’ Indeed, there is a (former?) chairman of the esteemed bank called Lionel. I did a Google images search with the full name I now had. Yup, it looked like the same man. I sent it to my friend. She was with one of the other women who had been with us at Hush lounge that night. They both confirmed it was the same man. Lionel Van Lare Dosoo, next time you’re drunk go home, don’t harass women in bars.
Since our doctor’s visit on Friday, I have been oscillating between titles in my head.
My Kids’ Pediatrician is a Blooming Idiot would be unfair, because no one gets a medical degree by being an idiot. In the same way, My Kids’ Pediatrician is on CRACK has a nice ring to it, but I can’t substantiate those claims. That’s not to say that I don’t think that this woman is an idiot who might be smoking crack based on her claims about my children’s health, but neither of these titles addresses the issue as I have come to understand it.
I don’t know if medical doctors understand how much faith and trust their patients put in their utterances and opinions. I didn’t see a gynecologist until I was 25 because I didn’t want someone I didn’t trust peering into either one of the holes I hide between the folds of my buttocks. (That, and I didn’t have insurance until I began working a job that offered benefits.) In the same vein, I did not select a pediatrician for my children until I had completely vetted that person.
My search for a pediatrician began when I was five months pregnant with Nadjah. I had a list of nearby practices, calling on the phone first and assessing wait and hold times and listening for friendliness in the office admin’s voice. After weeks of searching, I found Dr. Leonard who greeted me with a no-nonsense attitude and rarely smiled. I was hooked. I did not want a goofy doctor looking after my offspring.
Dr. Leonard cared for the physical and developmental needs of all my children for six good years. We developed an understanding with one another. She once told me that I was one of the best moms she’s ever worked with.
“You’re just so easy,” she said. “There’s no drama.”
I smiled sheepishly in appreciation. I might have muttered my thanks. What does one say to that? She made it easy as well. I remember how she would coo over Stone when he was born, and pointed out all his best attributes.
“He’s in the 90th percentile for height and weight,” Dr. Leonard told me at his one year check-up. “He’s big for his age, but he’s been plotting like that since he’s was born.”
She described his physical development on the chart as ‘perfectly square’.
Then a month later, Liya was born and Dr. Leonard came to see her in the nursery in order to evaluate her and do her doctor-y things. She popped in to visit me as well. I brightened when I saw her and she smiled back, which of course was rare. Liya was doing well, she said. She was a perfectly healthy baby. We chatted for a bit and then she left. I didn’t see her again until I went for Liya’s first official in office check-up. That’s when Dr. Leonard dropped the bomb on me. She told me she was leaving the practice. To go where, I asked.
“Out of state,” she replied.
I felt my knees weaken. What was I to do? I didn’t like any of the other doctors in the practice. One looked like a pedophile and the other had shamelessly flirted with Douche Bag on the ONE visit he had come to when Nadjah was born. (She also no longer sports that enormous rock that was crushing her ring finger that day, which tells me her wanton flirtation had led to other less innocent events.) The other I had not taken time to get to know at all. How could she do this to me?!
“How could you do this to me, Dr. Leonard?”
“Well, I told your husband. There was no way I was going to tell you while you were in the hospital having a baby…”
And then she was gone. She left no contact information. It was a clean break. Sometimes I look her up on the internet to see what she’s up to. I hope she’s happy. Because I’m not… I got stuck with the one thing I never wanted: a goofy doctor.
In order to preserve our new pediatrician’s ‘integrity’, I will not mention her by name. Suffice to say she is young, bubbly, blonde and just began practicing a few years ago. She is literally “practicing” medicine with my kids! If I was a new mom, she’d have me in a corner curled up in a fetal position convinced I was doing horrible wrong by my kids. Our sticking point is my children’s weight…or their individual BMIs, more precisely.
MOM Squad, we’ve discussed BMI in the past. Marshall and I are overweight. We know that. Our children (crosses body) are NOT. They’re just Black. Now, what do I mean by that?
Remember when Jimmy Snyder said these words – words that left mouths agape – in 1988?
“The black is a better athlete to begin with because he’s been bred to be that way, because of his high thighs and big thighs that goes up into his back, and they can jump higher and run faster because of their bigger thighs and he’s bred to be the better athlete because this goes back all the way to the Civil War when during the slave trade … the slave owner would breed his big black [man] to his big woman so that he could have a big black kid.”
As crude as his words were, they were true. African Americans were bred for specific attributes on plantations. The topic came up at my in-laws’ house just last week as my mother-in-law spread her huge hands…hands that would be most useful to field work. Because like it or not, that’s what Africans were brought here to do: hard labor and field work.
Well now, de Lord and Lincoln dun gave us freedoms, but dat don’t erase fo’hunned years of genetic engineering. My children are tall, thick and muscular because some white guy decided that body type would work best to support his plantation’s goals. So excuse me if my youngest baby isn’t a willowy nymph flitting through the lines of your government issued bio chart. I wanted so desperately to snatch this woman and her files as she went over Liya’s stat sheet.
“She’s in the 98th percentile for height,” Dr. Dumbass said with a silly giggle, “but her BMI is way off. She was normal last visit, but look how much she’s sprung up here.”
I looked at her plot line, and then I looked at my child, and then I looked in her face. WTH?
With a half giggle, half frown she went on to ask “Is she eating a bunch of sugar and carbs?”
“She doesn’t really like bread,” I said pensively. “But she does love french fries. She…”
“Oh, no!” Dr. Dimwit said, cutting me off, gasping as she interrupted. “She can’t have any more fries. Ever. That just means not going to places that don’t serve those things. Mkay?”
I looked at her and nodded silently so I wouldn’t have to cuss her out. She was already snapping up her Brighton pocket book shut and readjusting her stethoscope on her neck before exiting the door with a guttural Hahum! See you later!
Ohh I was offended. I was offended on an ancestral level! How much thinner did she want my baby to be? She didn’t say. She just made a playful quip about not eating anymore potatoes. The Irish mother in me would have hit her with a camogie stick if I could have. Instead, we left her office and went straight to Chick-fil-a.
I’m vexed; but not for the reasons you may suppose. I’m annoyed because I have to begin the search for a new pediatrician all over again! It’s a time consuming, mentally exhausting task. I need a pediatrician that can make independent assessments about my children outside of the box of what a form says. Who can look at my daughter and say:
“On paper, you’re not the ideal body type, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be a prima ballerina like Misty Copeland. They told her she didn’t have the right body for ballet either.”
“Did you know until the Williams sisters came around, muscular girls on tennis courts were almost unheard of?”
“You are built just like Surya Bonaly, an Olympic medal winning figure skater who was so daring and lithe that she would do backflips on the ice! (She was later banned for it too, after defying an order not to.)”
In short, I need a pediatrician for my son and daughters who understands Black bodies, not this doe-eyed recent graduate who has lived out her entire existence in some suburban bubble somewhere reading Teen Vogue and lulling herself into the belief that every body should look that way.
Do you like your pediatrician? Do you live in North Fulton? Care to make a recommendation? ↓