Evidence of a Dark Heart

Friends, Diaspora, Innanets Fam:

Lend me your ears.

But first, lend me your pupils. Look at this! No… Don’t turn away. See this abomination for what it is!

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This is a demonic manifestation. A Satanic offering. The wages of Lucifer’s war against the Almighty.

What in God’s holy name is this and why would someone do this to plantain? What has plantain ever done to anybody to deserve this? Chesu!

Maya Angelou once said that “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” I believe this person to be a worker of the dark arts. This is a joyless soul. This is someone who has never known, given, nor received love. If someone can char plantain like this, plate it on such a brightly colored platter, serve it and then take a picture of it? My friend, you had better run. This person is capable of anything. This person is capable of unspeakable acts. Look at what they’ve done to plantain. What do you think they can do to YOU?

The individual responsible for this loathsome act should not be trusted with children. They should never be given control of finances. This person must be barred from participating in public events…like carnivals and spring festivals. Why? Because this minion is clearly a loose canon. They are careless and thoughtless. To leave plantain – precious, delicate, wholesome plantain – in scorching oil for this length of time, a duration long enough to produce this caliber of blackening? It means that there is an equally sooty space in their spirit.

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There isn’t a person on the planet who doesn’t love and care for plantain. Early depictions of the encounter Eve had with the serpent in the Garden of Eden show her eating fruit from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. That fruit is depicted as an apple. In my heart of hearts, I know this to be a false illustration. There isn’t an apple in the world – not a Granny Smith, not a Golden Delicious, not a Honeycrisp – that is strong enough to tempt you to defy the word of the Lord. Now, ripe plantain on the other hand? Ahaaaaa. Now we’re talking. I believe Eve plucked a sweet, yellow plantain from the tree of knowledge, bit into it and said “Chineke God! No wonder Yaweh didn’t want us to consume this fruit. Hei! It’s sweet ooo!”

And the serpent said, “But what if you fried it?”

So Eve did. She fried it and called Adamu. “Shei! Adamu! Come and taste dis sweet ting oooo! You won’t believe it!”

And her husband did. He had never tasted anything so magical in all his life. His mind was riddled by the euphoria he was experiencing. Adamu was tripping! And that’s why when God asked him, “Chale, Adam? Where you dey?”

Adam replied, “I am naked.”

Plantain had stripped him on his senses. Plantain was – and still is – the original temptation. Even you today sitting here reading this, if they offer you plantain will you say you won’t take? You are lying! You will take!

…Unless it looks like this.What sort of witchcraft is this?

Not all black is beautiful.

Not all black is beautiful.

My friend Dara Mathis (you’ll know her from her blog www.trulytafakari.com) was introduced to plantain over the summer of 2016. So impacting was that one encounter that she was inspired to create a t-shirt to commemorate the instant affection and connection she had made with plantain.

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And then you go and do this to her beloved? To the beloved of billions of people across the globe? I’m telling you, this person can kill your child without remorse. It’s like this person used plantain as a tool to exact their revenge for some grievous, personal offense but took the retaliation too far. Say someone slaps you, and in response you burn this plantain and feed it to them. Are you not godless? Such a person is wicked, and a danger to society.

People of all walks of life and cultures know what I’m saying is true. Right now there are Australians looking at this image, recoiling in horror. There is an Englishman who has just thrown his baked beans across the kitchen table in anger. Your abuelita has just dropped to her knees, reciting the rosary to pray for the forgiveness of this sin. Ghanaians, Nigerians and Jamaicans are cursing the name of this faceless coward. In this one cause, we are united: to protect the sanctity of plantain.

Please. We beg you. If you were thinking of desecrating plantain in this gruesome manner, don’t do it. Have some humanity! Why should you be numbered among the transgressors? Why should you be responsible for this level of sorrow?

Don’t.

That is all.

 

*Describe how this plantain made you feel.

Should You Keep Secrets From Your Spouse?

Should there be secrets in marriage? This dilemma has provided the plot for daytime soap dramas since Guiding Light was on the radio. Sunset Beach took the theme to another level. Remember with Olivia was cuckolding Greg and then got pregnant with what she thought was Cole’s baby, who Annie stole and gave to Caitlin who was married to Cole but pretending to be pregnant with his baby? (If it sounds confusing and FUBAR’d, it’s because it is.) So many secrets! I think Meg was the only honest character on that show, but she was dull and susceptible to emotional injury because of her sincerity. It annoyed me to no end that she got her happily-ever-after when the show ended.

See her honest, vulnerable face.

See her honest, vulnerable face.

I’m getting off track. This ain’t about Meg. This post is about Marshall and Malaka.

Yesterday, I called a good friend to catch up and caterwaul about life. In female relationships, there is a dance that we do to establish trust. I tell you a tidbit of information and wait a few weeks (in some cases, days) to see if it comes back to me. You in turn may do the same. If nothing comes back, I tell you a bit more. This cycle repeats itself over the course of many months until eventually we’re discussing bedroom theatrics and/or revealing the secret ingredient in Big Mama’s sweet potato pie. That’s the real mark of a trust relationship; that sweet potato pie.

So anyway, this friend told me something and said she would only reveal it on one condition: “You BET not tell anyone…not even your husband!”

And I, hungry for filla (the 411), agreed.

Ohhh…and it was good. Spine tingling good. I’ve been mulling over it for days and am amused and horrified in equal measure whenever I think about it. I am also plagued with guilt, because I have willingly accepted the charge of withholding information from my husband. But you know what the worst part is…what the most annoying thing is? My husband probably already knows about this “secret”, and has simply forgotten to tell me!

I don’t know how or where Marshall gathers his intel, but the man has already heard it all. It’s difficult to quantify the number of times I’ve excitedly burst into the house with news, only to be countered with a placid “Yeah. I heard that last week.”

Me: Hey babe! Did you know Felicia’s daughter just discovered the secret formula for Coke?

Him: Yeah. I helped her crack it at a student-led conference. Amazing, eh?

Me: Babe! Have you heard this new underground trap song? It’s called Booty, Booty, Booty Cake. Isn’t that CRAZY?

Him: Yes. God revealed it to me in the spirit. We were at prayer last night praying against its affect on this generation.

Marshall’s ‘I know’ response to everything led me to the false belief that he has also been keeping secrets from me; so I asked him about it.

Me: Dude! You aren’t going to believe this. They ACTUALLY have Pumpkin Spice Oreos. Isn’t that gross?

Him: Ugh! I know. In 2012, I was invited to taste test them before they put them on the market. What? I didn’t tell you about that? Must’ve slipped my mind….

And that’s how it’s been for most of our marriage – most of our relationship, really. He’ll become privy to juicy or interesting information and then

JUST

FORGET

TO

TELL

ME

 

I’m looking at him as I type this. Look at him over there on his iPhone…scratchin’ his head and gathering information. Just swallowing all of the mysteries and secrets of the universe with his eyes. Humph.

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It’s hard to be in this position because of the generation I was born into. The previous century was an era defined by secrecy. Secrecy was currency. There was a direct relationship between clandestineness and trust. The 20th century was the James Bond and Cold War age, where no one was who they appeared to be and everyone was just fine living next door to the Russian spy masquerading as a soccer coach next door as long as he brought beer to the Memorial Day picnic. Why? Because secrets! Today, you can’t even take a dump without attempting to turn it into front-page news. The 21st century is all about performance, exhibitionism and vanity. Nothing is a secret anymore, and the person who gabs the most is seen as the more trustworthy individual.

TMZ has proven this.

Can you imagine if TMZ had been around in the age of Martin Luther King? They would have destroyed his image, publishing audio of him groaning in bed with a woman who was not his wife and so forth. We would still be riding at the back of the bus, all because TMZ had to go run tell that. But who do we go to to verify if a political/celeb scandal has any merit?

TMZ.

Dear friend:

If you’re reading this today, have no fear. The 70’s baby in me is strong. I can keep this not-secret secret from my husband. I’m gonna cloak and dagger this thing so hard, you’d think this was a scene from a medieval martial arts play. And in December, when the topic somehow finds its way into our discourse, I will be fully prepared for its natural conclusion.

“Oh. Yeah…I already knew that. In fact, I was seated at the right hand of Nostradamus when he predicted it.”

On a serious note, I don’t think that there should be certain types of secrets between spouses. There are topics that are absolutely each others’ business. These topics include – but are not limited to – issues with fiscal and physical health, anything pertaining to the children and the wifi password. Withholding details surrounding particular events breeds mistrust, and you can’t have a successful relationship where doubt forms cracks in the foundation.

 

Do you tell your spouse everything? Should you tell your spouse everything? Discuss! You’ve got 24 hours before the comments close.🙂

Franklin Cudjoe Doesn’t Need to Know a Woman to Know That She’s a Hoe!

Franklin Cudjoe is founding President and CEO of IMANI Center for Policy and Education. IMANI’s mission is to “subject any government policy that is likely to have systematic implications for development” to scrutiny and analysis and then actively engage in public advocacy to publicize the results. It’s a noble cause that is spearheaded by a man who also happens to be a closeted pervert.

That’s a mischaracterization. Franklin Cudjoe is an overt pervert.

Franklin Cudjoe. Image source: Atlas Network

Franklin Cudjoe. Image source: Atlas Network

Social media is a magnificent tool. It has the power to resurrect dreams and careers from dust, or reduce either to cinders. Social media is a double-edged sword. It gives people a false sense of security – the virtual anonymity that so many people assume that they can hide behind, while emboldening others who think that they can use their titles, degrees, government positions, verified accounts or the number of followers they have on their pages as clout; as a shield. Clearly Franklin Cudjoe – and his buddy, Evron Hughes– falls in the latter group. It was on Evron’s Facebook page that a sordid drama unfolded and confirmed this suspicion that many have long held.

Franklin Cudjoe (and the sort of men that function in similar frat ‘boys-boys’ cliques he belongs to) frequently makes repulsive comments about women publicly. Some are mild, and others downright revolting. Here is his latest offering.

This post caught so much flack that it was deleted from FB by the owner. But the innanets is forever, as are screen shots.

This post caught so much flack that it was deleted from FB by the owner. But the innanets is forever, as are screen shots.

 

Overused. And. Smelly.

I’m not going to keep you long, because the crass behavior exhibited here is rife among men of society’s upper strata and is certainly nothing new. It’s something we’re all familiar with and next week another man will say something equally stupid. He may even eclipse the foolishness of this statement. Once upon a time, however, this obtuse and gross behavior (and the conversations that accompanied it) was sequestered to smoking rooms, pool halls or toilet stalls in the back of greasy bars. Men in positions of power have long found comfort in targeting women’s bodies for ridicule, either for sport, spite or as sheer reflex. Every week we are presented with yet another example of men confidently vocalizing their warped perceptions about female genitalia and how where and how frequently it is engaged in sex. These delusions are shouted as fact, and when the targets of those utterances rightly express their outrage and point to these utterances as evidence of their unconscious bias, a Franklin Cudjoe will invariably attempt to placate them by asserting that these crude comments were made in jest.

“Lighten up! It was just a joke!”

This bull stopped being funny a long time ago.

What I find irritating is that Franklin Cudjoe and his ilk refuse to grasp that gravity of their sins and how their attitudes and words have far reaching effects and consequences. One day you’re joking about how a ladies’ faction of a political organization is populated by “overused and smelly” women (a clear reference to the condition of their vaginas), and then the next you’re making a case for putting attractive women with stellar academic track records through additional screening during the hiring process because the credentials of a beautiful lady are “suspect”. This is the advice that Kofi Amoabeng, the founder of UT Holdings unashamedly admitted giving his underlings during a recent interview. He intimates is that good-looking women use sex appeal and/or sex to get better grades (grades presumably given by men) and therefore can’t be as good in their job as their certificate/marks would indicate. Now, “without warning”, that joke…that perception…is now policy.

My ire is further enflamed when you consider that these men see other men – poor men, uneducated men, NDC footsoldiers – as the problem. The other guy is the threat and obstacle to female success in Ghana, not them! But you know what? When the truth always comes out in the wash, and the same fellows who were bellowing about the release of the Montie 3 – a group of men who notoriously threatened to rape a Supreme Court judge – have the unmitigated gall to pass disgusting comments about women every day. Just because those comments are not on the radio and rather made on the presumed safety of your personal Facebook page doesn’t make them any less insidious or appalling.

A handful of people have had their say about what Evron Hughes and Franklin Cudjoe, two men who have jockeyed for political relevance using the reality that is the abysmal state of Ghana’s socio-political landscape to further that end, in lengthy published pieces online. Their offence is all the more repulsive because they have voluntarily and intentionally placed themselves in positions to judge the misdeeds of their political adversaries… and to profit from it. These are supposed to be men of some sort of elevated moral standard, men you expect to demonstrate a level of couth and consideration because of the sort of advocacy they profess to be all about. But what does it say when one guy posts an image of two women at an about-face posture asks another to “quantify” what he’s looking at? Are these women’s bodies tomatoes or other commodities to be sold on the stock exchange? How is this behavior any different from the pimp selling women on an e-auction block, a horrible reality that countless women and girls who are trafficked for sex endure every day?

And furthermore to have that query met with the response: Overused and smelly.

This is where I get raw with you guys, and feel free to check out here if you need to.

Overused:

A woman whose body is being traded for the sexual gratification of men can expect to have 1-3 penetrative encounters a day in order to make her quota. That’s on the “reasonable” end of the spectrum. A 12-year-old girl who was recently rescued from the trade in Atlanta said that her pimp (her mother’s boyfriend) would force her to have 5-6 encounters (oral sodomy, vaginal and/or anal penetrative sex) A DAY. Those were acts that were against her will. She was a “whore” by every social scientific definition of the word. Currency passed hands for the use of her body. Hundreds of thousands of girls and women face this trauma globally.

So to make a “joke” about the presumed overuse of a woman’s private parts is in fact to call her a whore. The query about quantifying it is to ask how much you (Evron) think she’s worth.

Smelly:

When you’re a whore, you don’t usually get to take long leisurely showers between clients. Clients like Franklin Cudjoe, who are intimate with the odor that accompanies frequent sexual encounters and less frequent encounters with soap and water.

The after shocks from having sex do not always end with a “glow” for women. Sometimes sex results in bruising, pain and yes, discharge.

“Sex trafficking victims are particularly susceptible to sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhea, syphilis, urinary tract infections, and pubic lice. Human immunodeficiency virus/ AIDS infection is known to be prevalent. They may experience pelvic pain, vaginal/anal tearing, rectal trauma, and/or urinary difficulties as a result of commercial sex work. Sex trafficking victims are often physically abused and tortured.” – Source, NCBI

You think that sort of trauma isn’t going to produce a smell?

In Ghana, today, in 2016, there are villages populated by women with fistula, shunned because they emit an odor so foul that they are driven from their homes in shame because they don’t have access to decent obstetrical care. Yeast infections aside, if a woman’s vagina is “smelly”, it’s usually because it has come into contact with some ridiculous bloke’s penis.

That Franklin Cudjoe could look at a picture of two faceless women and immediately determine what sexual and hygienic habits they employ speaks volumes about him. It speaks volumes about what sort of men Ghanaian society is propping up. Those who come to his aid and claim that we should all “move on” are the fuel that keeps this forest fire burning. Look at this (non)apology:

 

*Eye roll* Of all the retarded mea culpas that ever were...

*Eye roll* Of all the retarded mea culpas that ever were…

Feminists and anthropologists have been telling us about how racism and sexism are cut from the same cloth…how they are opposite sides of the same coin. Franklin Cudjoe’s quip about having NPP women as friends is as stomach turning as George Zimmerman pointing to his work with one Black kid he big brothered in 4H as evidence of his ally ship with the Black community.

That this would happen on the waning days of Women’s Month shows how far we have to go with a nation. In the mind of our most elite men, every woman is a hoe. Is that what it all boils down to? Lydia Forson is a hoe because she has an opinion. Yvonne Nelson is a hoe because she led Dumsor Must Stop. Sandra Ankobiah is sho nuff a hoe, because she’s always on vacation. How are women supposed to feel safe, included and have their cerebral contributions taken seriously in spheres run by chauvinists like Cudjoe and Amoabeng and Agyapong, and Dela Coffie, and Ampaw and, and, and…

 

To quote your uncle, are we safe?

 

 

My Girls Live in Africa And We’re Afraid to Get Our Hair Braided

South Africa…

Land of the Big Six and the Proteas. Land of Mandela’s birth. Land where edges go to DIE.

One of the things I was most excited about in moving to South Africa was the prospect of having my hair slayed every week. Compared to prices in the States, cornrows and braids are delightfully inexpensive here. You can get your hair cornrowed in a fairly intricate style for R90-120 ($6.50 – 8.50) and get box braids for around R200 ($13.50). Of course, being an America, the prices I am quoted are subject to an ‘American tax’, so hairdressers are wont to tack on an additional R50 to the prices local women are generally quoted. This doesn’t offend me. It’s just the African way of doing business. It’s the accent. Ghanaians do this to me at home as well. And in the grand scheme of things, I AM making out better paying these prices than I would in the States… except when I’m not.

There is always a price to pay when you’re getting goods and services at a discount; and in South Africa, that price is your edges.

9 out of 10 Black women (in this part of the country) are not in possession of their edges. The numbers on TV are not much better. It is truly a heartrending vision to behold. Every whisper of hair has been snatched, tucked or ripped from Black scalps across the nation, as if they were wayward truants being punished for escaping their internment. Black hair is to be seen… but not seen… if at all possible, ya dig? In other words, tame your nappy knots, they’re offensive.

The idea that Black hair – especially and even on the African continent – is offensive is one that is ingrained in large swaths of society. Black women are not permitted to love their hair. Overwhelmingly, they can’t (and therefore don’t) take pride in it. I have yet to see a Black woman just let her hair be. Curly weaves and wigs are the order of the day where I live on the Garden Route. That sewed in or glued on artificial hair floats and catches the wind as women sashay by. And yet curiously, I have not seen a twist out, an Afro puff or braid out in these parts to date. Even my locked sisters have their tendrils tightly wound, tucked and folded on itself. Black hair is not free in South Africa!

This was something we discovered fairly quickly once the girls began school.

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Last month I wrote about the veritable angst and frenzy our school’s administration had worked itself into over the styling of the girls’ hair. To Amana Academy’s credit, they do not police Black hair in the tyrannical ways I’ve heard other schools in and around Atlanta do. Girls are also allowed to wear hijabs at Amana without fear of reprisal. To attend school, hair simply has to be clean and neat. You know…a standard most parents have for their kids. As a result, the girls learned to be creative with their hair, were willing to explore new ideas about their hair and have conversations with their peers about all types of hair. In third grade, Aya and her friends formed The Hair Club, where they would sit at recess and positively “talk about hair.” Now, this may seem prosaic, or even silly to the ordinary observer, but these girls were participating in truly a revolutionary act; an act that was only made possible because their school fostered a permissive and safe environment.

Switch to the other side of the world: New school, new culture.

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 4.44.53 AMI’ve been thinking about (and doing) a lot hair lately because a line item in their elementary school’s code of conduct says, “false hair pieces or braids are prohibited”. The first day I read this rule, I prayed for God to save me from the massive stroke I felt coming on. How can you prohibit braids…in AFRICA? What kind of colonialist/apartheid/Jim Crow hellbroth is this and who brewed it? And more importantly, why? You want to kee me and all the Mamas?

Whatever the reasons for the policy, I now find myself washing, blow drying and pressing three heads every weekend (with midweek touch ups required thanks to the humidity) in order to be in compliance with this “no braids” standard. However, I have come to the realization that I am the only dummy adhering to this rule, as I’ve seen dozens of Xhosa girls skate around the school’s premises with extensions and cornrows.

But ain’t a single one of them in possession of their edges; a reality that petrifies my kids and me. We were all witness to the aftershocks of the one time I let a Cameroonian woman get a grip on my follicles. The incident left me with a headache, scalp irritation and hair loss for days. It’s not a scenario I am eager to repeat or subject my girls to.

See the sides of my scalp? Edge banditry!

See the sides of my scalp? Edge banditry!

Why is it so hard for African women to learn to properly care for their hair?

I have long maintained that the deficiency harkens back to the trans-Atlantic responses to racism, education and all its systems. I think what’s happening in Pretoria is partial evidence of that.

In the years following Emancipation when African Americans could legally get an education, schools were segregated by race. Economically disadvantaged white children who lived in close proximity with former slaves would sometimes attend these schools. But for the most part, the environment was Black. The teacher was Black, the administrative board (if the school had one) was Black, and Black mothers saw to the care of their children’s hair which would be neatly plaited and perhaps have a ribbon tied into if it was a special day. Finally, their kids could take pride in their hair and not have to subdue it with a rag to facilitate fieldwork. Black women were experimenting with new ways to nurture and style their hair. (Enter Madam CJ Walker.)

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On the other side of the Atlantic, education was facilitated largely by white missionaries and European stakeholders. Girls were made to chop off their hair in boarding and day schools alike, because African hair was (and still is) considered a distraction. They intimated that girls would spend too much time doing their hair, and not enough studying. It’s a nonsensical argument that holds no water and cannot be backed by any study or empirical data, but it stuck. And as a result, we have a whole continent of women who are just now learning how to properly nurture their hair and not see it as a threat or the enemy.

In either instance, Black pride and ability has been made to bow to whiteness. Where there is integration, there is always – often coerced – assimilation. When African American girls integrated into white schools, society and entertainment, lye made a triumphant strut onto the scene. A conk was considered a Black male right of passage. Straight hair signaled that you were grown, and more importantly, successful. This is why it frustrates me to no end when otherwise well-educated folk like Whoopi Goldberg confuse cultural appropriation with assimilation. One is oppressive and exploitative and the other is for survival!

No rule in school is JUST for school. It follows you and becomes an extension of your character and shapes your view of yourself, the world at large, and your place in the world. So when we’re telling girls like those who attend Pretoria High that they must chemically straighten their hair and “fix themselves” in order to be in compliance with school ethics, and then further bar them from speaking their native language(s) because it is also a violation of the code of conduct, the idea that their Xhosa/Zulu hair and heritage is inferior follows them long after matriculation. It has taken African women years of rehabilitation to get over this hurdle, only to have their daughters experience the same needless, harmful trials.

Pretoria High Students protest racist hair policies

Pretoria High Students protest racist hair policies

My alma mater, SOS HGIC, had (and still has) a very open and supportive hair care policy. Girls could wear their hair in cornrows, braids, weave or perms. We learned about hair care from each other. And guess what? Our studies were not affected in any way. In fact, HGIC female graduates are arguably the most successful, well-rounded and effective influencers in Ghanaian society today.

…And ALL of us are in possession of our edges.

 

What? You thought this post was about equality and education? Nah mehn, this is about keeping these African edges safe!

Does your school have a discriminatory language or hair policy? Has a lot changed since you were in school, or remained about the same? Are you of the opinion that policing hair is a valid approach to positive outcomes in education? 

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…

source: favim.com

source: favim.com

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?

index

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.🙂

FW6ooh7X

What I Smelled When I Saw Pictures of Usain Bolt in Bed with that Brazilian Student

As I’ve mentioned on many a previous post, I grew up in a suburb of Accra called Labone. It’s hard to believe looking at the area now, but there was once a time when rents were reasonable and a lower middle class family such as mine could afford to live there. The house I lived in was demolished and is now home to a branch of Zenith Bank.

Any-freaking-way, there was a dude that used to live in the boy’s quarters of the house across the street from us called Dada. Dada’s exact function in service to the white man (the manager of an Accra based Swiss company) was unknown to me, but he was my dad’s jesting partner and errand boy. If one needed the other, they would simply whistle a specific tune and wait for a response, which was usually almost immediate. It was an audible Bat signal, if you will.

IeL7tSc

Being on such congenial terms with my father naturally made Dada feel chummy with my siblings and me, and he chose to express his familiarity by playing ‘area boy’ games with my brother and making lewd comments about the development of my and my sister’s bodies. The first time I heard the words “natural bobbi stannap” (where bobbi = breast and stannap = stand up, a nod to the perkiness of unspoiled, teen mammary glands) were from Dada’s lips. On more than one occasion, he assured me that it was alright for me to come and visit him in his room one day, instead of him coming over to our house all the time.

It was an offer I politely, firmly and frequently declined. I didn’t know what shenanigans Dada had plans in his room, but even at that tender age, I knew enough to know that NOTHING good would await me in that boy’s quarters room. I couldn’t put my finger on it then, but thanks to the Internet, I now understand what type of creature we were dealing with in Dada. In Twitter terms, he’s that niqqa who employs Hotep science to advance the idea that there exists a “natural attraction” between 25 year old men and 15 year old girls.

Selah.

So anyway, I’d avoided going to Dada’s room for months…maybe even years before it finally happened. My streak of luck had run out. One afternoon, my dad stood whistling on the veranda whistling for Dada in vain, getting no response.

My father grunted an irritated “Ah!” and placed his hands on his hips. He grimaced and furrowed his brow, the urgency for whatever required Dada’s unique attention becoming more apparent with every passing minute. I had only ever seen Dada return with waakye or several balls of kenkey – of which he happily partook at my father’s insistence, so I suppose Daddy was hungry that day.

Finally, he could bear it no longer.

“Malaka! Go across the street and tell Dada I’m looking for him!”

I looked up with my father with imploring eyes, but said nothing in response besides a dutiful “OK.”

The white man had ferocious dogs at his house. Dada had made several comments about my breasts, which were by this stage a solid B-cup. Somewhere in the city, a chicken was being slaughtered and in being put out of its misery, was in a better position emotionally than I was at that moment. Nevertheless, I soldiered on an ambled across the street under my father’s watchful, expectant eye from the veranda.

The dogs were sleeping, so I got by them easily enough. Boy’s quarters are always at the back of estate houses, so I found it quickly as well.

“Dada?” I called tentatively. “Dada?”

I whistled their unique tune and waited. Dada’s voice responded behind one of the two doors.

“Yes?”

I breathed a sigh of relief and pushed it open.

“Hey, Dada! My dad said…”

And then that’s when it hit me: A powerful, musty, musky scent that weakens the senses and causes the knees to buckle. I had no idea what it was, but seeing as Dada and the toffee seller were smiling sheepishly back at me from their shared position under the sheet of his bed, I could only assume they were responsible for its creation.

It smelled like fermented corn.

It smelled like anger.

It also smelled like triumph.

It smelled like wet booty and broken promises.

It smelled like something I wanted to forget.

Dada, the toffee seller and I stared at one another for what felt like the totality of human creation. I can’t recall who broke the silence first, but I informed Dada that my dad needed him and fled, the scent of the room still clinging to my nostrils, my clothing, my hair…

And THAT, dear Reader, is what I smelled when I saw the picture of Usain Bolt and the Brazilian Student when their pictures began circling around social media. Now that I have 4 kids and a long forgotten number of sexual encounters under my own belt, I know that what I smelled in that room so many years ago was the unique aroma of coitus. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that the quarters that Bolt and the Brazilian shared for the night was pungent with it.

Source: Facebook. And why do you have your romping pictures on Facebook? Foolish girl!

Source: Facebook. And why do you have your romping pictures on Facebook? Foolish girl!

Coitus and fried plantain.

Coitus and lies.

Coitus and the pharmaceutically smell of prophylactics.

Given that this is Usain Bolt we’re talking about here, the scent of coitus was likely accompanied with the thunderous sound of flesh clapping, slapping and striking flesh.

I don’t know, of course. I’ve never slept with the man. But I imagine that the experience is…electrifying. (Get it? Get it? Because bolts of lightening? I kill me!)

The mind is a powerful thing, dear Reader. It can form associations with things that seem so basic, so elemental to one person and elicit a violent response in another. Like cotton fields to white folk versus Black people. White people can ride past a cotton field and marvel at how pretty it is…how much it resembles snow. They just want to frolic in it! Black people drive past a cotton field and hear the crack of many whips. They feel the scorching sun. They marvel for a moment and are compelled to whisper thanks for freedom. The more passionate amongst us may drive past a cotton field and throw up a middle finger at it.

Associations, you understand.

Likewise, I see Usain Bolt and this duckfaced chile in bed and I smell bodily excretions and thrice-used Frytol.

Source: WestAfrica Cooks

Source: WestAfrica Cooks

 

PS: I’m sorry if you’ll never look at plantain the same way again. Like I said, the mind is a powerful thing…