Random Thoughts

#12.  ‘Rasheeda’ + ‘Anita Erskine’ + ‘Boko haram feminists’

Just some of the terms that have been floating around ever since Rasheeda aka Rasheeda Black Beauty accidentally released her nude video. I haven’t watched that video but I have not been immune from the vitriol she has faced over it.

My two cents on her video are as follows:

RASHEEDA BLACK BEAUTY

Chile, what in the hell were you thinking? (say it in a Southern Black Woman’s voice) Did you think you were Kim-bloody-Kardashian with a mama called Kris Jenner who can spin any old crap into a money making venture? Did you think you were a white American and your whiteness would shield you from public ridicule and disgrace?? Okay – let me just ask, were you thinking about this at all?

Now that that rant is out of the way I will proceed.

People make mistakes, bad ones, terrible ones; and with my history of fuck-ups I am the wrong person to be throwing stones. But the difference between us is that I have been lucky enough not to have my stupid shit recorded and then shared thousands of times across social media platforms.

I’ve been very lucky.

And you dear Rasheeda have not.

But I like your attitude though; the way you bounced back and apologised via social media to your fans and supporters (#teamRasheeda/#malafakasquad) and (for the most part) we have forgiven you.

And to show how much we’ve forgiven you we’ve delegated one of our finest sisters to extend an olive branch to you to see how she can help you channel all your latent passion into something more useful.

THE ANITA ERSKINE

Enter the second trending name of the week – The Anita Erskine. Internationally renowned radio and TV  personality, MC extraordinaire, brand ambassador and all-round nice person; Anita reached out and did what hordes of teeming Ghanaians failed to do – she extended a hand of friendship, love and support to a young girl who made a bad decision and was in need of some guidance. And she did it using what John C Maxwell calls the ‘velvet covered brick approach’. She wrapped up her criticism and disappointment with Rasheeda with a warm sheen of affirmative words.

And why did she choose that approach ladies and gentlemen? Because  honey still catches more flies than vinegar.

Which leads to the third and perhaps most controversial term I have encountered due to this incident – boko haram feminist.

Nigeria-Boko-Haram2

This is a term used by award winning journalist Manasseh Azure Awuni to describe feminists who he describes as extreme in their thinking, liking them to extreme Christians or fundamentalist Islamists. In his blog piece, he added Anita Erskine to his lump sum definition of boko haram feminists because she chose to stand in the gap and offer support to a 16-year-old instead of standing on the sidelines and condemning her for her actions.

After reading Anita’s letter, Manasseh’s blog piece and a similar piece written by Austin Brako Powers, I realised that the two gentlemen had taken Anita out of context and misunderstood her stance. Which I suppose is a fair conclusion because it’s quite a nuanced letter and one would have to read it with a very empathetic pair of glasses to fully grasp the import of what Anita was offering.

And then there was the term ‘boko haram feminist’. Seriously? What the actual hell?

Sigh…….

Of course I lost my temper when I read it but I was at work and couldn’t flare up the way I wanted to; so I stewed on it for a while. And whilst pondering over it I asked myself – and really, what is so wrong about being extreme in your beliefs? The Bible says explicitly that God can’t tolerate lukewarm Christians – you are either hot or cold; if you’re in the middle He’ll spit you out.

And really, come to think of it, how many causes or battled were won (or lost) by being moderately aggressive?

Was it the fight against segregation in the USA? Nope

How about the fight against apartheid in South Africa? Nee man.

Or the right for women to vote? Yep, there was some fighting there.

Or the fight for Ghana’s independence? Self rule now over self rule in the shortest possible time?

In every single instance mentioned off the top of my head, the battle was fought and eventually won by extremists; people who took a stand and sacrificed everything in order for it to come to pass. Some gave up their lives for ideals they could only dream their children will experience in their lifetimes.

Yes, there are crazy, sadistic extremists who have brought nothing but pain to the world; but for the most part, our world as we know it, the freedoms we (especially Black people) enjoy, is only because our forebears fought with ‘boko haramic’ intensity for them to come to pass.

So – that being said, who is a boko haram feminist?

Well, in my estimation, a boko haram feminist is one who has decided that equality between the sexes is a do-or-die affair for him or her and will not stop until it comes to pass. S(h)e has decided that the life s(h)e is living and the challenges s(h)e is facing are not challenges s(h)e wants their child to face. A decision was made, a line was drawn in the sand, and the resolve was set and the armour was strapped on.

No more…. there has to be a change….. we have to find a way to make the change.

And its through the work of the extreme feminists behind us that so many reforms have taken place and more and more women are breaking through the glass ceiling.

It’s time for all of us to leave no body behind – whether she’s a science and maths genius or a 16-year-old thrust into fame via social media.

There’s room enough for all of us to grow, blossom and shine.

Leave no one behind.

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Finding God In Strange Places

#4. Where is God when my heart is breaking?

Today has been a mixed up day for me; a real basket full of irony. During mass today, we had a very boisterous priest whose sermon was centered around why God allows evil to flourish. And his position was – God allows evil to exist because He wants us to know that this world is not a bed of roses; that we need to be shrewd and on guard, and that ultimately on the judgement day He will redeem His children.

Great sermon albeit a bit confusing.

why_does_god_allow_evil

And then the bag of someone very close to me got stolen right outside the church building. It wouldn’t have hurt so much if it was just her purse; but the bag contained money, two phones and three lacoste shirts she was going to deliver to customers.

Oh, the irony; the painful, bittersweet irony.

Both of us were in shock so my mother raged on our behalf. And boy, was Mama impressive.  But it didn’t change the fact that the bag was nicked and it wasn’t ever coming back.

So, God, tell me again why You let evil exist?

—————

It’s almost 5pm now and I’m still confused; but I refuse to let it get me down. I have to confess, the hours before mass started I was anxious , upset and antsy. I’ve spent the past eight weeks swinging between anger at a friend who betrayed me and repeating to myself “I forgive you, I forgive you… I forgive you although you abandoned me when I needed you the most.” It’s not been an easy ride, this forgiveness thing, and the stress of it almost gave me an ulcer. I was not in a cheery or forgiving mood but I was trying to focus on God and not on my pain (see? I did learn something from ‘The Shack’ ) but it was tough. My soul needed uplifting.

And the sermon did my soul some good. But then my heart was broken by the theft of my friend’s bag.

WHY DOES GOD ALLOW EVIL2

But I’ve noticed something about myself and about my close friend– neither of us have let this situation crush our spirits. We’re sad, downhearted, but not destroyed. We’re still smiling, still walking tall, still praising God through the tears.

PRAISE HIM IN ADVANCE

It’s not easy; I won’t lie and say that I completely understand it. But that’s faith isn’t it? Trusting in the unseen and knowing that, in spite of it all, God is ultimately in control.

xoxox

Finding God In Strange Places

#3.  “The Shack”

the shack

 

First of all let me just say kudos to whoever cast Octavia Spencer as God. Brilliant move……brilliant move. As a young Ghanaian woman who is a third generation baker, to see God portrayed as a black woman who loves to bake and dance in the kitchen with the Holy Spirit is something I treasure.

Hang on, let me correct myself – God is a Black woman who loves to bake and loves to be called Papa.

Yesssss.

the shack 3

Wow, what a movie. A movie I watched back to back on the first day I got it from my friend Elorm. A movie that made me laugh, then made me cry, then made me think deeply about my faith.

In case you haven’t watched it, I won’t give too much away. But the lessons I learnt from it are:

  • God can do beautiful things with the most heartbreaking of circumstances.
  • God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are perfectly in tune with each other and want nothing more than fellowship with us. They rule over everything but they want us have a relationship with them. None of them is interested in slaves.
  • Plus, none of them is interested in all the fuss we make over our religions and religious doctrines. As Jesus put it : “All I want is for people to know Papa.”
  • In this movie, Jesus Christ is portrayed as a young man with Middle Eastern features. This is perhaps the first time I’ve watched a movie were Jesus Christ wasn’t a tanned Caucasian man. It was refreshing to see him portrayed with better historical accuracy.
  • Jesus has a sense of humour
  • The Holy Spirit, the Breath of Life is portrayed by a young woman who is as graceful of speech and movement as the wind.
  • Forgiveness is never about forgetting what the other person did to you; it’s about taking your foot off his neck so you can place it somewhere that gives you peace. And, you will never ever forgive someone completely the first time around; it is a gradual, consistent process.
  • And lastly, when life throws lemons at you and you are angry with God, tell Him. He can handle it and He won’t love you any less when you share your hurt and fury with Him. After all, just like with our human parents, when the mess of the argument is out of the way, we can sit and talk it through. And we don’t stop loving each other through the pain.

 

One of my favourite quotes from the movie is what Papa says to Mack when he asks Her where She was when his father was abusing him and his mother: “When all you see is your pain, you lose sight of Me.”

I’ve tried applying that to my life and it’s true. When rocks are hurled at you, all I can see are the rock hurlers, and not Jesus who sits beside me and whispers “Don’t worry, this too shall pass. I am with you, this too shall pass.”

the shack2

Because it does pass, it does. As a Christian in the 21st century, the temptation to believe that this world owes me nothing but goodness is one I fall prey to constantly. Not to mention the fact that I want my miracle riiiiiight now.

But that’s not how life works and that’s not how God works. He does it in His own good time; and His time could be a day, a year or a lifetime. But He gets it done. He is not a man that He should lie. Mine is to trust and not be afraid and His is to fulfill His promise.

I found God in a movie where He is portrayed as a Black woman who loves baking and likes to be called Papa. Where did you find God today?

 

xoxox

 

Throwing Political Tantrums

#13. Of Whiners and Whinees

Ghana’s Deputy Trade Minister Robert Ahomka Lindsay cannot understand why expat Ghanaians bitch and moan so much when they return to Ghana. He can’t stand the “Oh my gosh, it’s so hot” “Oh my gosh, the roads are terrible” “Oh my word, why don’t we have electricity?” “There’s no water running from the taps” and most annoyingly….don’t hit him with the ” Oh my GOD, nothing works in this bloody country. It took me 7 days to get something small done that could have taken me 20 minutes in London/New York/Cape Town/Abidjan.”

It’s not that he doesn’t understand where the expats are coming from since he’s one himself, but he’s been in the system long enough so he knows that whining about the crap doesn’t solve any problems.

And, being the diplomatic genius he is, he decided to tell a gathering of several hundred participants at a gathering of Ghanaian expats during the recently held Diaspora homecoming summit.

Pity he used the word ‘whining’; he could have made a real hit if he hadn’t come across as such an insufferable ass.

Yes, what I said is offensive but it’s no where near as offensive as being told that the issues and challenges I face as an expat in my country is me ‘whining’ like a little bitch who has nothing bettet to do with her time.

Seriously, if you live in Europe or America or (closer to home) South Africa for any stretch of time, it takes an enormous amount of love to pack up and move back home because…..nothing works the way you expect it to. Ever.

One of my cousins who is a trained nurse living in the UK wants to move back so badly she’s chewing her finger nails off. But she can’t because when she submits her CV to the Ministry of Health they give her the run around. And they’ve been giving her the go-come, go-come treatment for months now.

And it’s not like we’re bursting from the seams with trained nurses….but it seems no one wants to help her out without a little something lining their pockets first.

Moving to Accra after years abroad is not a huge a culture shock because of the influx of cafes and coffee shops and shopping malls. But there are still some things that take a whole to get used to.

Like unreliable Internet. Imagine running a business that depends almost entirely on the Internet and you can’t access your site because your ISP doesn’t have service where you live. And not that you live in Kasoa or something; you live in Dansoman.

Or how about moving back in June and realising that when it rains everything moves 20 times slower than it did before (which means for some places, nothing is happening. Rainy day = holiday)

Don’t get me started on Ghana Man Time which is legendary; now we tell people the event happens an hour before it actually does so we can guarantee that they’ll be there at least 20 minuts or 30 minutes into the event.

Traffic in Accra can be horrendous; in no small part due to the narrow roads and the pothole -riddled roads. Shoddy road construction is an art form in this part of the world.

And don’t get me started on the peeing; in Accra men think every other gutter is their toilet and happily relieve themselves when the urge strikes. In fairness, many women do too; but they tend to be more discreet. The guys on the other hand? Find the nearest tree or gutter, zip down, look around briefly then handle their business. When they’re done, they shake Big Willy and lock him away til further notice. If you lived in a city with available public toilets, all this free-range peeing will get on your last nerve.

Don’t get me wrong; to be an expat is a grand adventure for the most part but most of us agree that Ghana(our beloved country) could do so much better.

And that’s why we fly back, leave behind the trappings of another person’s development and come to figure out which role we can play in making sure Ghana gets to where we all need her to be – strong institutions, vibrant economy, African powerhouse.

And if we tell our leaders our complaints about a system that is basically a clusterfuck of poor planning and ad hoc decision-making, and they tell us “stop whining. ….nobody likes a whiner” we’ll decide whether to stay or travel back to where systems work, my ‘whining’ is addressed and the skill set that took us many years to acquire and  earns 10 or 15 times more money than we  would make  in Ghana

And if you think the diasporans are simply complaining……imagine if it was a summit for Western European investors and they enumerated the samended concerns the diasporans did. Would they be informed that “nobody likes whiners. Stop whining” ?

No.

He would have known how to frame his words like someone who was raised by parents and not by wolves.

Naniama kadankada.

Random Thoughts

#10. Feminism does not mean defending the bad decisions women make

…….and other bubbles about feminism that need to be burst

 

Every time a powerful woman missteps this comment creeps out, “Well, it seems the feminists are doing a bad job.” Or “better not comment else the feminists will get you” or “Just wait, the Facebook feminists will jump on it and attack you right now.”

feminism

This is Ghana in the 21st century and folks still don’t know that feminism is defined as a range of political movements, ideologies, and social movements that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve political, economic, personal, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish educational and professional opportunities for women that are equal to such opportunities for men?? (Definition courtesy Mary E. Hawkesworth)

But how is that even possible? For such a contentious issue in Ghana’s media space, it’s confusing/annoying/amusing to me that many still don’t know this.

And my confusion/annoyance/amusement hits the roof when incidents like the following happen:

  • When the 2017 edition of the National Maths and Science Quiz ended with Prempeh College taking the trophy again, people asked “Why hasn’t a girls school won yet? I guess the feminists are not doing their job well.”
  • Or when MP for Dome Kwabenya stood before a cross section of her constituents and lied that she was responsible for the financing a senior high school in her constituency,  some people  “Some are saying the way she is being trolled on social media is above and beyond what male politicians go through. And some gender activists are saying this will discourage women from participating in politics. Hmm, it seems that I don’t know what feminism is about.”

 

And when it happens like that, I don’t know whether to scream or cuss or bang my head against a wall and keep banging until my brain is numb. Or maybe I should stop checking my Facebook; that way I won’t read these comments and get so heated up.

But all this theatrics goes on in my imagination. In reality, I take a deep breath and take every one of these instances as a learning opportunity and proceed to educate my friends.

I start with defining feminism and then explaining why their argument is so asinine ignorant.

Let’s start with the NMSQand the fact that a girls school is yet to win it : for years that trophy basically lived on Presec, Legon campus; the boys have a formula for winning that starts from form 1 and they have honed it over the years. The girls schools simply need to master the combination of book smarts, application under pressure and confidence to handle any question thrown at you before a crowd of several thousand (plus those who follow on social media)Performing at NMSQ is akin to public speaking – it takes skill and a warrior mindset and the ability to focus under pressure.

As for Adwoa Safo’s case…di33333….she did what all politicians do – she lied to her people to make herself look good because Congress is up soon and she needs to garner her support base. But then she got caught on someone’s smartphone; and he/she shared the information and now…..#Safolie is trending on social media with some of the most ridiculous and amusing quotes ever. My favourite is still this one:

ADWOA SAFO

 

Notice in both those situations my belief in women’s rights and gender equality didn’t factor in at all?

But somehow, with some learned people on Facebook, this was not the case. Somehow feminists and the feminism movement are somehow implicated in there…..somewhere.

Sigh.

So just to be clear – feminism is not about defending or supporting women who make irresponsible decisions; it’s about fighting disparities between the genders.

We good?

 

Natural Hair Minute

#1. Yaay! Wash day!

Define freedom.

Freedom for me is when I release my cornrows after keeping them for three weeks. That feeling when fresh air passes through each strand of hair; the thick curls that form from doing LOC consistently; the joy that comes from holding my hair out and examining my ends and deciding dispassionately that yes, my split ends situation is getting better and yes, I will trim them anyway.

 

20170705_222201

And then there’s washing my afro hair that I call Ohemaa. There’s something magical about washing those thick coily tresses; soaking them in water; lathering up with my bottled alata semina shampoo of choice before deep conditioning it with my honey-infused conditioner. Then wrapping it up in a shower cap and towel for 30 minutes, rinsing out, trimming the split ends then threading my hair or braiding it whilst I figure out what next to do with it.

I love wash days……especially when I do it on Saturday when I can wash and get other things done like cook and do laundry and clean my house. (Yes, I’m a feminist who’s a domestic goddess. If this offends you, take matches and start burning the sea)

And in Accra I’m spoilt for choice when it comes to products because, as one of my friends pointed out to me, the natural hair movement is strong here.

A lesson I picked up from washing my hair on Wednesday was this : I am waay more patient with my hair than I am with any other aspect with my life. I tried perm rod curls which ruined my ends and left them weak and so damaged that I didn’t just trim them – I had to chop off at least an inch. In fact, it was a very sad distin. 😦

But its been almost a month since that event and I’m gradually seeing my hair get back to its previous large halo style. I don’t stress myself out when my hair doesn’t grow quickly because I know that it doesn’t grow long, but it does grow thick.

I don’t compare my hair to other textures because Ohemaa and I have come to the understanding that we’re not in competition with anyone for any reason. Natural hair is a marathon not a sprint.

I don’t suffer bouts of hair envy although I am surrounded by women with beautiful afro tresses – my sister Tricia number 1. Her hair reaches middle of her back after a two inch trim. Somehow Ohemaa and I have reached that point were we don’t project our hair insecurities on the people around us.

After a minute of reflection, I realised it won’t kill me to apply some of these principles to my life – don’t envy, be patient, love regardless, focus on what’s important and don’t be that woman who projects her issues onto others and then plays the victim card. (That’s not a cute look)

It’s been 24 hours since I made this decision and to be honest, it’s been tough, but so far, so very very good.

xoxox