#BringBackOurGirls



OK. 

This is not funny.

NOT FUNNY

Since April 14th  230 Nigerian girls have been missing. TWO HUNDRED AND THIRTY.

These are girls taken from their school hostels allegedly by Boko Haram, the terrorist organization said to be operating out of Northern Nigeria.

The latest reports from the BBC state that they are being taken into Cameroon and Chad to be sold, probably to fund the groups activities. This is the same group that is said to be behind the bombing in Abuja, Nigeria which happened on the same day…

This is heartbreaking in so many ways I can’t even express how.


Think about it my dear African sisters. 

Did you attend boarding school? Do you know someone who did? Do you have sisters and cousins and friends at school right now?

This could have been any of us. ANY OF US.

Imagine being taken by armed men while preparing for the G.C.E, the Baccalaureates, WAEC, JAMB or NECO…while you thought you were safe in your dormitory.


Saker, 
Lourdes, 
St. Bedes
CKC
Regina Paces
JMBC
PCSS 
Okoyong
PHS
St.Augustine
PGSS
Bells Comprehensive Secondary School
Mea Mater Elizabeth High School
Queen’s College, Lagos
Accra Academy
Achimota School
Adisadel College
Aggrey Memorial A.M.E. 
Zion Senior High School
Osei Kyeretwie Secondary School
Tema International School
Wesley Girls’ High School

Where did you go?


It could have been you in Henderson dorm, or maybe Reddig.

It could have been you taken from Immaculata or Rosary.

Alema, Awuletey, Ellen, Halm Addo: Which was your hall?


These could be our dorms… or the refectory.


These could be our parents


Why are we not making our voices heard on this?

These are our sisters.

Most of them were 16-18 years old.

Imagine the horrors they could be living now. The abuse.

WE CANNOT BE SILENT.

WE SHOULD NOT BE SILENT.

We say we have a voice, let’s make them heard.

Can we use whatever social media we have to prioritize this issue?

 #BringBackOurGirls  #BringBackOurDaughters:  Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Bloggers…please

They have a Facebook page now and are asking that you change your profile pic. I am changing my profile picture. Will you too?

Will you stand with them?




Why African Women SHOULD Talk About Sex Pt. 1 : For The Children

Can you remember the first time an “uncle” or a “brother” did or said something inappropriate to you? I have those two descriptors in quotes because I don’t necessarily mean biological uncle or brother but any male associate in your family whether by blood, village or friendship. You all know how we do in Africa. 
 
How old were you? What did you do?
 
I remember. I was 13 and it was some guy in my neighborhood. A respected man with a wife and  daughters much older than me. It was the second term holidays (Easter Break, for my American visitors) and I was home from boarding school. I’d taken a cab to go to a cyber cafe and it happened on my way home. Back in those days, we who lived in G.R.A had to go to Bongo Square or Molyko for reliable internet service.Internet service at home is not the norm for wide swaths of Cameroonians and we were barely entering the cell phone revolution at the time. Cyber cafes were where you went to sit at rickety, old computers which creaked and buzzed as the dial up internet, under pressure from scores of other users, tried its best to open your yahoo mail accounts.
 
But I digress. It was dusk and the taxi cab had dropped me off where the paved road ends so I could make the rest of the walk home. I noticed another person on the road and when I walked closer I realized it was “Uncle.” Dutiful African  child that I was, I greeted him full of respect.
 
“Oooh! How are you?” He asked obviously pleased to see me. 

“I’m fine, thank you Uncle.”

“You’re back from school?” 

“Yes, Uncle.”

“Aaah, OK, ok I see. Did you do well this term? What is the name of that your school, again?”

“I go to Saker, Uncle. And I tried my best.” I said with a bashful laugh.

“That’s good! That’s good! You know education is very important. You can’t do anything without it. Your parents pay all that money for you to go to a good school you have to make them proud.”

“Yes Uncle.” 

“How are your parents?”

“They are fine.”

“OK, ok greet them for me eh!”

” I will, Uncle.” 

By this time we had reached his gate. It was a line of houses and mine was the last on the block. We’d been walking companionably side to side so I turned to face him to say my good byes.

“So,” he said to me ” when can we meet?”
I vividly remember the first time my mother talked to me about sex. She is very much a woman of her time so the topic did not come easily to her. I was seven years old and she was supervising my pre-dinner bath after a long afternoon spent playing outside. She emphasized the areas I needed to wash: under arms, behind ears, scrub feet with brush, lady parts. As I squatted there assiduously  doing as she instructed, she asked what I thought at the time was the strangest question.
 
“Has anybody ever tried to touch your, ti-toh?”  (Ti-toh is anglophone Cameroonian pidgin/vernacular for vagina.)
 
I scrunched up my face at her wondering why she would ask me that. Had she seen us neighborhood kids playing show and tell? You know that childhood rite of passage which occurs when kids figure out that boys have different parts than girls and curiosity abounds, usually resulting in hidden viewing sessions where us little girls laughed ourselves silly when we saw the ugly little thing little boys had and they in angry confusion mocked us for not having them. 

 

 
“No, mami.” I said. She gave me a long look then her face relaxed.
 
“Good.” she said. “If anybody ever tries, don’t let them. Run and shout. If they hold you, fight and scratch and bite, you hear? And make sure you tell me.”
 
“Yes, mami.” At this point my eyes were wide with fright. But she smiled, reassuring me. 
 
“Ok, finish quick, quick” she said.
 
That laid the foundation for the talks I would have with my mother on the topic. Well, let’s not call them talks. More like I besieged her with questions which she answered grudgingly. You see, I was an early reader. I finished my first Sidney Sheldon novel (Master of the Game) when I was about 8 years old. Fairy tales bored me, besides I’d read most of them by the time I was 6. I went through books of all kinds, like a leaf-eating caterpillar. My appetite for knowledge was voracious. I read books beyond my years and when my mom hid books in a desperate attempt to prevent me from being exposed to material ahead of my age, I simply figured out a way to steal them and read them in hiding. By the time was 10, she gave up.
 
All this reading meant I got exposed to a lot pretty early and I had A LOT of questions that my mother, bless her gentle heart, had to answer. She tried. There were times I would ask certain questions and her eyes would widen in shock.
 
“Wusai you hear that kind thing?” (Where did you hear something like that?)
 
There were questions she refused to answer and only said  “That is a very bad thing. I don’t know why I let you continue reading those books.” or “I’ll answer when you’re older.”
 
After my class seven teacher completely botched what passed for sex ed class at that time, I brought home my questions that I had written down and gave them to her. She was the one who explained to me that sex could lead to pregnancy and it was best to wait until marriage and when I wanted  to have children. She also emphasized that it could lead to diseases like AIDS. She added that after my menses started I would be really vulnerable.
 
I remember the day I asked her about rape. It was from a Danielle Steele novel in which some girl’s brother-in-law raped her violently and because he was an Italian prince, it got covered up by his and her family.
 
“That is when a man forces a woman to do things with him that she doesn’t want to do. It is very, very bad.” She said with a serious look on her face. “It can happen to anybody and that is why as a woman you have to be very, very careful. When you see Papa angry at you for staying out after it is dark or talking to boys, these are the kinds of things he worries about. Even people you know can rape you, like the girl in the book. Make sure you are never alone with any boy or man.”
 
She then repeated what she had told me years earlier. “And if any body tries to touch you or anything like that, run, shout for help, fight and bite.”
 
Of course, she didn’t talk about how fun and pleasurable sex could be or how it was a beautiful way to share yourself with someone you cared about. (Hahaha… For you wondering how I know that…let’s just say, I would not be writing this blog post if I was some virginal ingenue.) I didn’t need her to tell me that. The thousands of fiction and non fiction books I have read so far have made it clear to me that there were different dimensions to the thing.
 
So what’s the point I am trying to make here? Obviously not all kids are as curious or as interested in reading as I was. The point is that we do our children a big disservice when we stay silent, when we don’t give them even the least knowledge they need to to protect themselves, when we shroud the topic with taboo so much, they are afraid to talk about it even when they should. I follow a blog where African women talk about their sex lives. A contributor wrote a blog post about the sexual abuse she suffered as a child   and another one here about the effects  It was amazing how many people, girls mostly, came forward saying similar things had happened to them (WARNING: These are honest discussions about sex so if you’re squeamish or that kind of religious person, DO NOT CLICK THOSE LINKS)
 
What is sad was that in some cases their abusers were able to convince these children that their parents would think of them as bad if they spoke up. Even sadder is that some who did speak up, had family and spiritual leadership turn on them when they publicly accused respected family members or relatives of family friends. A young girl recounted the story of her feeling guilty because she had climaxed while being raped. She told her pastor’s wife, who then told her that she needed to examine herself, since she had enjoyed it. (For those who are wondering, female climaxes like male ejaculations can happen with the right stimulation, regardless of surrounding circumstances) This is the environment in which we live. We think we are protecting children by not talking or making the subject so taboo, it can barely be mentioned ,but the truth is we’re leaving the door wide open for abuse. We all know of the toddlers who get raped or the 13 year olds who ended up pregnant. These monsters are present in our communities too, let’s not act like they aren’t
 
I don’t think I even have to comment on the psychological scars these things leave.

 

 
We need to talk about sex to our children. We need to figure out ways to give the right amount of information they need to be aware and careful. Yes, sexual exhibitionism is not the African way (although even that claim is questionable right now) but we can find ways to have these conversations, so children know that it is not OK for “Uncles” (or Aunties for that matter) to ask to see their things. It is not OK for Uncles to touch their butts or breasts. It is not OK for Uncles to show them things or ask them to touch or do anything else. 
 
That is is not OK for Uncles to ask them, no matter how jovially, no matter how benign the Uncle seems, it is definitely NOT OK for Uncles to ask them when they can “meet.”
 

When he asked me that question, my mother’s voice sounded loud and clear in my mind.

“Make sure you are never alone with any boy or man.”

 I backed away from him slowly, moving towards our house.
“I don’t understand what you mean, Uncle” I said, carefully. He smiled one of those small smiles adults give to children, the smile that says “It’s cute that you’re so young, you don’t understand these things.” But he asked me the question again, taking a step closer.

“Where can we, you know, meet?” This time he let his eyes run down my body, his meaning unmistakable. I faked confusion.

“I really don’t know what you mean, Uncle. I’m sorry”   

He gave me a long, considering look and my muscles tensed up. I was ready to make a run for it if he tried anything. Then he chuckled.

” Ok, go home. Remember to greet your parents.”

I turned around and walked away.

I never talked to him again.

A week later, his wife gave me a lift home in her car from Soppo market. In the car, were three of his daughters. 

 
Palava people, any thoughts on this matter?

Part 2: For The Adolescents We All Were, coming up when I tie up loose ends for school. I also have recaps and Part 2’s of short stories. I know, I know!
 

Call It By It’s Name

I had the intense pleasure of sitting in on a lecture today by Dr. Yaba Blay. She is kind of an expert on the the issues surrounding skin color and hair politics. No matter how much I read about these issues and see them play out in the black community, I am still shocked and a little pissed off by how easily and thoughtlessly we participate in our own sabotage, even though we know exactly where these practices come from and how they fit into the framework of a system that puts us and who we are at the bottom of the pile, and makes us see ourselves as a less than perfect version of humanity. A version which needs fixing.


One of the great things about taking on this “find-palaver” persona, is that I throw any notion of being PC and pussyfooting around issues out of the window. I can speak my mind and anyone who wishes to speak their minds is welcome to. I’d rather have a conversation about this than none at all.

In therapy and medicine, one of the lessons taught is “don’t lie to the patient.” If they are dying, tell them they are dying. If the have cancer, tell them they have cancer. If they are never going to walk again, tell them they are never going to walk again. Call it by it’s name. Acknowledge it. Knowing the problem, being able to accept that is is a problem, is the first step to healing from it, accepting it and/or solving it.

This colorism and hair politics issue is a much needed conversation that desperately has to be had but the biggest obstacle in that conversation is not white people, many of whom are confused by the extents to which we go to “feel good about ourselves.” It is us black folks. We are the ones who get defensive. It is us who pull out the well worn and quite frankly tired and grossly misused adage “Don’t Judge.” It is us who refuse to acknowledge just how much these practices harm our communities not only physically but emotionally and psychologically. It is us who are the most critical of those who choose to do differently.


Are we so afraid to have made a mistake, to have gone down the not so great path, the path of least resistance, we refuse to acknowledge it even if those mistakes are killing us from the inside? It was survival that drove us and still drives us towards these practices. Times are changing now and we know that nothing we have ever had has been given to us. We have had to go out and fight for it. We have fought for rights and independence, for respect and recognition as viable members of society, why are these two issues the ones we are so unwilling to fight for? So quick to defend? Affirmative Action makes us look bad, how exactly do we think it makes us look when we use toxic chemicals to alter our skin tone and our hair to look like theirs? (Because whether or not you are conscious of it, hair straightening/weaves and skin bleaching have the same historic/cultural roots in the desire to acquire the privilege associated with whiteness). When we take the kinds of risks we take, spend the amounts of money we spend and do it to our children?

If a black woman told her young daughter directly “Your dark skin and curly/kinky hair makes you unacceptable to society and you must do something to fix that so you can look refined and professional, so people can feel comfortable around you and to feel better about yourself” we would have no trouble “judging” her and telling her that is not something you say to a child. But isn’t this the same message we’re putting out by engaging in these practices?

Today, I watched a video clip today of a 4 year old girl doing the Doll Test. When asked which was the good doll, she pointed at the white doll. When asked why that was the good doll, she stated that it was because it was white. When asked which was the bad doll, she pointed at the black doll and stated that it was bad because it was black. Finally, she was asked which doll looked the most like her and she hesitated, pushed forward the black doll and you could see the light go out in her eyes. That is where is starts. That little girl and the other little girls and boys like her who have gone through that test are not making independent choices to see blackness and all associated with it (including themselves) as bad. They are simply responding to the environment which in the past was created and that we are now nurturing and defending vigorously.

We will likely  keep going around in circles because we have so deeply internalized the idea that we are less than good enough as we are, divesting ourselves of the very things which are distinctly ours by nature and design (whether intelligent or not) comes as naturally as breathing.


Every time we bleach our skin and yes, do whatever we do to change the nature of our hair or cover it, we affirm the idea that what we have is not good enough. We might not even be thinking about it like that, we might not intend for it to mean that but that doesn’t change the message it carries and the effects it has.When a smoker lights up a cigarette, he/she is probably not thinking about their addiction, how much it costs them, the cancer they are likely to end up with or the fact that smoking is increasingly being considered socially unacceptable. He/she is likely thinking about how good it will make them feel. It is his/her choice to smoke but it doesn’t change the message of  “I am a person who does not really care a lot about my health” and it does not change the effects of smoking.

Am I asking  you right now to no longer wear a weave or get a perm or bleach your skin? That’s entirely your decision to make. But please, let us stop acting like we don’t know where these practices come from or why we have become so attached to them. Let us stop acting like they are not having negative effects on us and our communities. Let us stop calling it a choice, because a choice suggests that we have the option of freely doing or not doing. We  still live in a world where social and psychological pressure to conform is still so very intense, not conforming, more often than not, still means we face challenges and criticisms that would not be there is it were truly a free choice, challenges that are as much internal as they are external.

Let us call it by it’s name, let the bitter taste of it sit in our mouths and sour our stomachs. Maybe then we’ll have the balls to spit it out.

PS: Some might call me a “natural nazi”. Again, let me emphasize that I honestly don’t care what anyone does with their body. I won’t stop talking to you or being your friend if you relax your hair or bleach your skin, wear weaves or tracks or whatever. What I do care about is the knee-jerk defensiveness that some women demonstrate when the topic comes up, a knee jerk defensiveness that shows either an inability or unwillingness to look at things objectively. Also, permit me to remind you all that the derogatory term “nappy-headed” and others like the more playful but no less negative Cameroonian term “cucha banga” existed before “natural nazi” and both originated in the black community.

An African City S1 E3 Recap : An African Dump

So Nana Yaa has the apartment and is settling into  life in Ghana with her posse. Works going good, friends are solid, time to find the guy yeah? First before I proceed, them outfits tho…


Having It All


The modern girl wants to have it all…but can she? The Dream Job? Probably. If she is willing to go after it with all she has. Financial Stability? Again, if she is willing to do what is necessary and put in the work, why not. Great friends? Sure. If she can be one too. Great Boyfriends, great sex, great love ? Eeeeeeehhhhh… It gets iffy here. Well, not for sex. Great sex really doesn’t require a great boyfriend or a great love, does it? Errrm…I digress. Hehehe!

This is the dilemma that our ladies find themselves in. Young and successful in the city. Jobs? Check. Financial stability? Check (apparently, financial independence makes you undesirable to some men). Great Friends? Check times 4 for each of them. Great boyfriends? Nope. Well except for Sade. My girl stays bawsing!





Just One Thing

It’s not like the girls are lacking in suitors. From every account they are exactly the kinds of women that young, talented and successful African men would want and there are men. Just men who snore, and who sweat and who take dumps. When I first watched this episode I was a little exasperated. I mean come on. I felt like they were nitpicking unnecessarily and I shaded all of them on my Facebook.  But at the same time I know I have ended budding relationships on arbitrary and quite honestly silly rules. Like the guy who once texted me a picture… of his bicep (An unimpressive one at that. Seriously if you’re going to text me pics, make ’em good…wink wink…Not that! Bad pikin them! Hahaha! ) What I came to realize was that deep inside, I knew that things would not have worked out either way. The issue I found fault with was just something I latched onto to give myself a reason not to feel bad for breaking up. The flip side is, it makes one seems so shallow. If I really liked the guy, I’ll probably laugh my ass off if he farted in front of me or announced that he needed to take a dump. Also, I’d  make recordings of his snoring so I can play back and laugh my ass of even more, maybe upload to his phone and change his ring tone without him knowing? Hehehe!

That being said, I talked this over with a couple of friends and the consensus seemed to be that in the first couple of months of the relationship, some things need not to be known. My question is, at what point is it ok for a guy to really feel free enough not to worry that one time he takes a dump wouldn’t ruin all the sexiness he’s been bringing your way? I mean look at this yumminess!



I’ll try some of that, please. You can add the sweat and snores on the side with a sprinkling of Salt n Pepa.


Introducing Segun


So we finally get to meet the One Who Brought Her Back. (Notice how she didn’t feel even the least bit self conscious that he literally walked in on her making the most obnoxious sounds possible?)





I can’t wait to hear the history here. He looks like he has some things he wants to say himself. Can I just say that I wasn’t quite feeling the chemistry?  The activation energy wasn’t quite as high as I had hoped. Not enough increase in entropy. I saw lingering looks and longing gazes but not enough feeling behind those looks. I want to see fayah!

Anyway, moral of the story?

If, on day one, the thought of him pooping doesn’t make you chuckle, it’s not love.

The Lunch Date Pt 1

Iya tried to be surreptitious as she watched Mabel walking into the restaurant. Getting caught staring  was not something she wished for. It was bad enough that she had called her and asked to meet, even worse that Mabel had agreed as though they were old friends meeting for lunch. To any one watching as the women smiled gently at each other, shook hands and as Mabel took a seat opposite Iya, they were the very picture of calm civility: two  women at lunch. Two definitely well bred and successful women, going by their quietly expensive clothes and perfectly applied make up and quiet voices as they exchanged civilities.


It was hard not to stare at Mabel. Every single eye in the restaurant had shifted to her when she walked in. She was a beautiful woman. One of those women so beautiful it was just this side of uncomfortable to be around them. Her hair, twisted into locs and wrapped into an elaborate bun on the top of her head was what caught your attention but you quickly found yourself mesmerized by her smooth nut brown skin, almond shaped eyes with bright brown pupils and long thick lashes, her full lips which today she had painted a bold red. Your gaze would then flow down the column of her neck which looked like something out of  a Keith Mallet painting; long and graceful surrounded by a necklace of what looked like chunks of jet. She wore a preplummed blouse of bright yellow orange and red ankara fabric, paired with exquisitely cut black pants which molded to her toned and curvy frame. On her feet, what looked like black Jimmy Choo flats. She held no purse. The one accessory that always seemed so necessary to complete any woman’s outfit was lacking but the unhindered grace with which Mabel moved, the swing of her hips, the utter confidence in her stride made one quickly realize that this was not a woman who needed accessories to feel comfortable.



“Thank you for coming.” Iya said after Mabel had settled into her chair, hoping her voice sounded steady. “I got tea. Would you like anything?”

“No.” Mabel said quickly, her eyes briefly meeting Iya’s and then shifting away.  “Thank you, though.” she added after a brief silence. It struck Iya then that Mabel was uncomfortable and suddenly she felt better about the meeting. Her friends had thought she was crazy when she had told them that she had called Mabel and asked to talk to her in person. They had been outraged that Mabel had agreed to meet. Brazen, wicked and callous was what they had called her. Eposi had warned that Mabel might be planning to humiliate her in public. Joan had asked what the point of meeting was. Nothing good could possibly come out of this, she had said. Keep the woman out of it, deal with him directly.

But Iya had known better. Or Iya knew Max better. For all his faults, the man was consistent and extremely picky  in his  preferences, especially when it came to women. She had known without a doubt that he would not have chosen a woman without class, a woman who lacked substance, a woman incapable of being civilized. She had known that whoever she was, Mabel would be formidable and an adversary to reckon with – a woman worthy of Max’s attention.  Meeting Dr. Mabel Mbemba  in the flesh made her feel an odd sense of pride that he had not disappointed. 

Iya needed to talk to Mabel. Desperately. She needed to understand the situation. Her business analyst mind needed all the pieces to the puzzle before she could make a move. She had already spoken with Likume, Max’s best friend and with Ndolo, his little sister who was the family member he confided in. Talking to Mabel was the last piece.  If she had any hope of making things right, then Mabel’s cooperation would be essential. A part of her had known that Mabel would agree to meet, that Mabel would not balk. Max would never have chosen a woman who could not face her adversaries. Also, if she had come to know Max as well as Iya knew him, then she would be curious too about the wife he had walked into her arms from.


Read Part 2 here








An African City S1 E2 Recap :Sexual Real Estate

 So I finally got around to watching episode two. Important things like school and work have a funny way of interrupting one’s fun. You guys watching? I hope so! (I know I am behind most of you by now haha!)

So Nana Yaa goes apartment hunting. First of all, let me say I love the fact that she is not choosing to stay at home…too easy. Intrusive parents and interrupted sex life not withstanding, I think living on your own and fending for yourself produces a kind of maturity that nothing else can. I know it would be a steep learning curve for me if/when I move back home. Besides, she lived by herself before moving to Ghana.

Not So Sexy Real Estate

That being said, what the frack? Na which prices them that for house? Na so that returning palaver be don be?  Is this how it is over there men dem? Wuna tell we hapless aspiring returnees oh, because those apartment prices are not sexy. NOT SEXY AT ALL!!. 500K for an apartment with no electricity or water guaranteed? Am I the only one who was thinking that guy was trying to pull a fast one on Nana Yaa? See him too to look at his watch and prance off, that kind “You’re wasting my time, woman.”


Ndutu! See e ngopo for up!




I reject those prices in the name of Jesus.

Let’s break this down. USD 500K converts to 236,807,580FCFA, as in over 200 million. In Naija, it goes to 80,664,680.00 NGN, surely this can buy you a cushy piece of land and build you a comfortable house? I’m gonna need peeps on the continent  to chime in on this, maybe I just don’t know how it really is these days. The situation is different in Ghana, apparently it goes to 1,377,565.00 GHS. (By the way I’m not sure if this is a commentary on just how weak the Cameroonian economy is or how the strong the Ghanaian one is) So, is a mil, which has to be worth quite a bit if it converts to USD500K, not enough to get stuff done? Any Ghanaians out there? Helloo?


Daddy/SugarDaddy


Next scene is the girls at another lunch date. Zainab and her lemon (Boss too na wa oh! LMAO) , Ngozi and her meat. It’s gotta be tortuous being a vegetarian in Africa though… which is surprising. There are so many fruits and veggies and dishes that can be prepared without any animal products. Nana Yaa dishes about her apartment hunting escapades and how pricey it is and inevitably the issue of sugar daddies comes up. Going by the prices mentioned, I have nothing but sympathy for any person who goes searching for sugar, whether of the daddy or the mommy variety. Good Lord.  A truth I have had to come to terms with since I left the comfortable coop of my parents sponsorship is that I am lucky – incredibly lucky to have had parents who saw to my welfare from birth till when I was in a position to fend for myself.  I am in no position to criticize how a woman chooses to make ends meet if her options are limited. If she is aware of the risks she faces and is willing to bear the consequences of her actions, more power to her.


Here’s a question though… if a guy buys a gift of his own accord, in an effort to woo a woman, and she accepts it does it then place an obligation on her to give him her body or her time or whatever else he might be after? Talk less of if she makes it clear that there is no chance of anything happening. Or  it is just that? A gift he offered and she accepted? If it does place an obligation on her, then men can’t fault some women for being demanding and expensive. My body and my time is extremely valuable and if it is going to be reduced to a commodity, then by the ancestors, the guy is  going to have to sell his soul to the devil to be able to afford it. Right now, I still find it hard to accept gifts (even from guys I am dating) because there seems to be this expectation and I ain’t got time for that mess. So, to accept or not to accept? Discuss.

 The Sade/Ngozi dynamic cracks me up, though. I would love to see an episode on how this group got together. In my experience, the Sades and Ngozis in Cameroon rarely ever have such tight friendships. They may be on the fringes of each other social circles but bosom buddies hanging out? Hmmm… Nope. Speaking of which that scene in the restaurant had me thinking about a Ngozi/Sade moment I had in my more Ngozi-like days. I was hanging out in a friends room at the school hostel where I lived my first year of university and two of her other friends came by. The conversation some how strayed to the topic of what parents are expected to do as compared to what boyfriends (man-friends really) are expected to do for a girl in university. Naive as I was then, I saw no reason why a boyfriend should give you money to buy things like body lotion when you had perfectly good parents. I distinctly remember one of the girls giving me this amused and condescending look. Can’t even blame her right now.

Half Assing Feminism

Dear Makena,


I remember you ranting about a man who expected you to cook three meals a day. Apparently this was a problem to your emancipated high powered attorney self. So, help me understand why another man expecting you to pick up part of the check is such a big deal. And why was it easy for you to go dutch in Europe but not in Africa? Is it possible that the reason why men in Africa expect you to cook three meals a day, is because you expect them to pick up the check without question when the occasion arises?

Sincerely,

FPW.

Here’s the thing ladies. This feminism thing cannot be half-assed. You don’t exactly get to demand equality only when it suits you and then want to be treated like a “woman” when it’s convenient. It’s confusing and does no good to anyone. If you want to be the kind of woman who expects men to fulfill certain gender roles, then do not try to shirk the reciprocal gender roles that are placed on you,when they are. It’s that simple. If you want to be the kind of woman who considers it a nice gesture on the guys part but still his prerogative to pick up the tab, then go in expecting to pick up your half, offer to pay and for the love of Baba, MEAN it. These games are silly.

By the way, the look of abject panic and dismay on that guy’s face… Hehehehehe! Poor darling…




Street Peeing


That moment when you see some guy in the distance peeing in the bushes and you start to pray it is not someone who knows you, ’cause you know he’s gonna try to shake your hand. Tufiakwa!
MAKE IT STOP! Whether man go start sell hand sanitizer oh!?




“One of Many” vs. “Somebody’s One and Only”

I love Sade and I have nothing but love for the Sade’s of the world. I respect their willingness to take on the world on their own terms and define the rules they live by. I especially respect the fact that they do that in African communities which we all know are not particularly used to women like that. That is why I can’t help but feel more than a little bit of confusion at the fact that Sade is all in her feelings because one of her sugar daddies is  seeing someone else. I have no problem with a woman wanting to be someone’s one and only. None at all. However, from every indication so far, love is not her cup of tea… at least not yet. I think it is intended to show vulnerability but I’m still not buying it. Sade comes across as the Samantha of the show (Samantha of Sex and the City, that is). Of all those women, Samantha was the one who really didn’t care for commitment or relationships. She was out to get hers and she made no bones about it. I may be wrong but I do not remember Samantha pining over a man or feeling bad if some guy she was having an affair with had another woman. She simply moved on…or found a way to get even. Her character was consistent. I need Sade to stay in the bad ass zone. This cannot become one of those shows where the women are all  searching for husbands like they are playing a high stakes poker game.


That being said, I’d totes take her out so we can dance and get drunk and make eyes at sexy guys.


Funerals

Let me just take this opportunity to say this here and now. Anybody who uses my future funeral as a business networking opportunity shall eternally be haunted by my very pissed off ghost. Seriously, though this palaver is a serious one. A little respect, for the love of Baba.

In conclusion,

 About the Saps

Yes, Lawd. BTW, dear show creators, y’all should put up a page showcasing the ladies outfits for us outfit challenged afrofashionistas to copy. kthanxbye.




An African City Recap S1 E1

So in the Spirit of Afrocentritude and severe Scandal withdrawal, I have turned to the Ghanaian TV show An African City for my new fix of Thursday night drama. I know, I know, it doesn’t exclusively air on Thursday nights but people… my decision to stop watching Scandal left a void in my life. A deep void full of despair and darkness. When Thursday night rolled around, I found myself curled up in bed with tea and tissues, mourning my loss, Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” playing over and over in my head. I never thought I would find a show that made me dream, that made me cry and shout and laugh, that showed me relatable black women, kicking ass and taking names. I was afraid Olivia Pope had ruined me for any other.

Then I saw the buzz on Facebook and thought, “why not?”

Well… I may just have struck gold. Here’s the break down. Five African women, highly accomplished, smart, beautiful and stylish return to Ghana on a mission of domination in (almost all)  natural hair and African print fashion. Sex, love, career, family, life back home after the cushy comforts of life abroad #TheStruggle.

My take on the cast:

Nana Yaa

The central character. The JJC. She just arrived to Ghana after spending most of her life in the States and the first episode details her initial impressions. She seems like the good girl type. The one to do the expected, even when the expected is moving back to Ghana because of a guy. An innocent. But also the one who will surprise you with her inner bad ass. I hope the show developers can capitalize on this.

Sade

Marketing manager, Harvard grad, palaver finder, all round don chick for town. I have a feeling I’ll like this one.  Straight talker, no pretense. She ain’t got time to act like she’s some perfect African princess.She steals the show right off the bat with her deep and confident voice. I am so looking forward to  her exploits and wisecracks. She gives the impression of being a hard ass, but I think she will surprise us all by being a really kind and sympathetic character. She actually reminds me of a dear friend who was a returnee before returning was fashionable. (You know who you are. I love you chica.)

Ngozi   

Where there is a Sade, you know there has to be a Ngozi. Super religious, super cute, super optimistic, naive and judgy to boot. You wonder how she fell in with this crowd. The others may roll their eyes at her but every group of friends needs a Ngozi, if anything to remind them what a truly wonderful thing innocence is. I believe, however, that this girl has inner ratchedness that is just waiting to come out.

Makena

She seemed a little world weary and cynical. Which is to be expected given the divorce (you know how us Africans are about divorce) and returning to Ghana jobless. Her little rant about the guy expecting her to cook 3 times a day made me chuckle.

Zainab

Did not stand out. She was there but more like a space filler. I know it is only the first episode so I can’t wait to see where this one goes. Every one else’s underbelly is already showing. Zainab’s not quite yet.

Episode 1 opens with Nana Yaa returning home philosophizing copiously in her voice over. First of all, what’s with the accents? For a while I wasn’t sure if I was watching Sex and the City or Gossip Girl. I know we pick up accents after having lived here for long but if you have parents at home, you know you gonna have some contri-talk/pidgin laced inflection going on. I got 99 questions about those accents. And why in the name of Baba can they not pronounce African names? N-goo-zii? WTF?

The scene with her family felt rushed, like they didn’t just want to jump directly to the dinner date the ladies had, but they didn’t want to spend too much time dissecting family issues. Which is all fine and good, except we all know how families are in Africa, they could easily be a character in the story. I hope the shows producers don’t trim it too much.

Cut to dinner where the girls give Nana Yaa the low down on being a returnee. The power failures and water shortages,the good food and mannerisms. Use your right hand! Fat = compliment. I’m confused…Did these girls parents immerse them so much in European and American culture they completely have no clue about the way of things back home? Were there no visits in the summer? I find it hard to believe that amount of cluelessness is possible.

Anyhoo, my girl Sade going iiiiiiiin about the men. No shame no complex.  Biiiig Biceps… Biiig Hands   Hahaha! That look on Ngozi’s face! I die!

Although the African men to my memory don’t seem just as delicious…Or maybe I was too young to appreciate the goodies before I left Cameroon? I must revisit this matter.

The topic of Nana Yaa’s ex comes up and she quickly exits left stage. Like, it’s not noticeable at all that she denies coming back for him but needs  to go away for a bit when his name is mentioned. Not suspicious at all.

As fate will have it, she runs into him with another woman in the same restaurant. Exit left stage again only to be found out by Sade. Sade who turns out to be just as solid a friend as I anticipated she will be.

As far as beginnings go, not horrible. I love that the show is showing the side of African women that doesn’t often get seen. The new breed. The product of all those Educate the Girl Child campaigns. The girl who owns her own destiny and makes things happen. I love that it is showing the side of Africa that is not war and famine.

I need to hear some real accents at this junx-ture tho.

The stage is set and I have a good feeling.

You folks on to this? If you are not Click Here to start watching

If you are, tell me your thoughts!

Why the Thought of Having a Child in America Makes Me Very Anxious

Look at this child. What do you see?


Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York posted this picture on his Facebook page on Saturday.

 He’s an urban photographer who goes around taking snapshots of people, asking them questions and using the answers as captions.

His vignettes are some of the most inspiring things I have seen. The daily dose of wisdom provided by the people he photographs, reminds me that the world is indeed a beautiful place.

But quite often, I am reminded of just how ugly the world is.

Of course, there were an abundance of comments on just how cute this baby is. I mean look at him. But still, everything that is wrong with race relations in this country was demonstrated in the comments under this child’s picture.

Because as a black person in America, you have to be perfect by normal (re:white establishment standards) to be acceptable. No such thing as innocent before proven guilty. Not even for a baby.  

                                          
 While we’re at it, let’s arrest him for public nudity if he ventures outside in his diapers and if ever he throws a toddler tantrum, he’s most definitely proven himself to be a a violent criminal in the making.

Mr. Brownlie was shamed into deleting his comment,I believe. I participated gleefully in that shaming.

Because every mother who doesn’t buy her kids clothes as Osh Kosh, is a bad mother.

                                       

This ^^^ left me scratching my head. How does his hand have gangster written allover it? Wuna helep me!

Am I the only one who was a little disgusted by how easy it was for so many people to look at a child with his hand on his chest and only be capable of thinking “He looks like he’s about to slap someone?”

Who appointed you Minister of Finance? Abeg shiddon for down.

Because ALL black people are on food stamps and welfare yeah?

This one obviously did not read the comments.

You would know.

I would pour hot oil on this ones ^^^ genitals. God forgive me but I would.

This one too ^^^ Hot bleached palm oil.

So now he looks like what, exactly?


This is just a sample of the comments. The person below sums up my feelings on this.


Ebb and Flow

“Would you like more coffee?” Lum repeated the question she had just asked her husband, her voice a little louder, her tone more insistent. He had not heard her the first time, lost in his paper as he was. He still did not hear her, apparently. His eyes scanned the page in front of him, his brows furrowed in concentration.

Lum sighed in defeat and leaned back in her chair. Her own breakfast of scrambled eggs and dodo – strips of ripe plantains lightly salted and deep fried to savoury perfection – forgotten. The tightness in her chest that had come to be her constant companion over the last year threatened to spill over into tears. What is the matter with him? How had it become so easy for him to ignore her? To act like she wasn’t there? This is not how it was supposed to be. Her marriage was not supposed to have been reduced to heavy silence over breakfast after only  5 years.

*****

She and James had been the couple everyone had declared was destined to be. She was the good girl from the good family. Lovely with her slim and tall build, caramel skin, warm brown eyes and infectious laugh. She was smart…maybe too smart. School had always been easy for her. Easy to the point of being boring. She had sailed through primary and secondary school excelling as one of the brightest students to have graced the halls of both PNEU Bamenda and Our Lady of Lourdes College. The news that she had passed all 11 of her O’Level subjects with grade A, had hardly shocked her even though her parents had been ecstatic. She’d been a shoo in for St. Bede’s College, recognized in Cameroon as one of the top institutions for high school She  had gone in expecting to continue her reign of undisputed queen of the books. Then she met James.

James Atiba, undisputed king of the books at St. Bede’s College. James who was so ridiculously handsome with his smooth dark skin, she had dropped her books in nervousness the first time he spoke to her. James who, despite coming from a background of privilege ( 2 medical doctors for parents, one director of the WHO Office for Cameroon no less) had been so humble and so approachable she had fallen in love with him within seconds. James who had challenged her intellectually – the first of anyone ever. He had made her try harder to excel at school, no longer assuming she would be the best. She had become more than willing to work on being the best, especially if it meant beating James. They had both picked five subjects for their A’Levels. Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Maths and Further Maths. It was only to be expected. She was excellent at Biology and Physics. He was wobbly in comparison, but could solve Math problems in his sleep. They both were solid in Chemistry. Their rivalry, good natured as it was, had been the talk of St. Bede’s. One particular day, they had exasperated their teacher with each trying to out do the other in Maths class. The teacher had chuckled and said

“Atiba and Abongwe, leave some questions for other people to answer!”  to which the whole class has roared in laughter.

After that, Atiba and Abongwe had become a running joke.

When he got senior prefect and she got assistant, the slogan had been “Atiba and Abongwe, leave some posts for other people.”

When they had both gotten malaria and spent days in the infirmary:  “Atiba and Abongwe, leave some sickness for other people”

The times they spent studying together: “Atiba and Abongwe, leave some book for other people”

When it had become clear that they were into each other, despite their squabbles: “Atiba and Abongwe, leave some love for other people.”

After high school, he had gone abroad to the US to study chemical engineering and she had stayed in Cameroon to attend medical school. It had not been an easy separation. She’d been sure he would go abroad, move on and forget about her but he had kept contact. Calling, emailing, Hi5 and then Facebook. When he came home to visit in the summer, they had roamed Yaounde, their home town together. High on young love.

He had taken her virginity. It had happened during one of his visits home for the summer. The year he graduated college, her fourth year in medical school. They had spent the day watching movies at his parents palatial house in Bastos. His mother was out of the country for some conference and his father had not yet come home from work. They had been the only two people there, the maid and yardman out goodness knows where. James joked often  that they were secretly carrying on and she would soon show up pregnant.

It had started innocently enough. They were cuddled together on the couch, watching The Matrix: Reloaded, a favorite for both of them. It was the  umpteenth time they were watching the movie and they spent most of it arguing over the laws of physics the movie broke and if it were at all possible for those feats of acrobatics and and martial arts to happen in real life. It was an old argument. One they had had a thousand times before. She had been explaining why the scene where Neo flies for the first time is quite possibly the best scene in the movie. He’d been watching her  with a small smile on his face.  That smile. It was his special smile. The smile he knew irritated her to no end because it was condescending…more a smirk really than a smile. Losing her patience, she had hit him with a pillow.

“You’re not even listening to me!”

“Of course, I am…” his voice had made her shiver. Deep and warm, now tinged with an American accent. “I just can’t concentrate on what you’re saying because I want to kiss you so much.”

She hadn’t been able to reply, stunned to silence by his intimate words.

“Oh Lumsie… you’re such an innocent.” He teased reaching out to tap her nose, another patronizing gesture which she hated, and he knew she hated. “I talk about kissing and you freeze like a scared rabbit.”

“I am not an innocent.” she’d said evenly. “You think because you’ve lived in America, you invented sex.”

He raised an eyebrow at her. “Oh-ho!…Look who can now say the word sex without stuttering, it’s good to know med school is draining that shyness out of you.”

She’d rolled her eyes at him.

“So, have you had sex?” He pressed on. She gave him an arch look.

“Like I’m even going to dignify that question with an answer” She said tartly.  To which he chuckled.

“Good, because I want to be your first.” He said, confident of her affections. That had cracked her up, but not for long because while she was chortling, he pulled her to him and started kissing her. The rest was history.

It had been a weird experience. Nothing quite as magical as she had hoped, fueled by years of reading romance novels. What had disturbed her the most was that he’d never looked in her eyes the way the guys in her books did. And his erection had ebbed and flowed, the ebbing corresponding with when his eyes had been open and the flowing with when they were closed. He had seemed tense, overly focused on his performance. She had thought it would be more relaxed, more fun. She chalked it down to nervousness.

*****
She continued to watch him, read his paper. His breakfast cold and forgotten. Even his coffee, the one vice he had brought back with him from America, an addiction  so powerful he got head aches if he hadn’t had a cup by 9 am, sat forgotten in front of him. The only sounds present were the hum of the air conditioning, so necessary in Douala where they now lived, and the muted voices from the TV in their living room which was tuned to CNN as it was every morning so he could catch up with the news before leaving for work. They had a good life. She was a surgeon at LaQuintinie Hospital and he an engineer with Schlumberger. She’d been relieved when he’d turned down several offers for positions in the US to come work back home. So had her parents. James had been her only boyfriend ever and in their eyes he was perfection. The thought of her marrying someone else had been abhorrent to them. Their approval of him knew no bounds and as her father had stated at their lavish wedding, he couldn’t have chosen a better son-in-law himself had it been left up to him. And perfect he was. So perfect, the perfection bothered her sometimes. From his surreal good looks to his easy attitude. It seemed almost scripted sometimes, like he was making an effort to be exactly what he was expected to be. Sure, from time to time after a couple of drinks, he let loose and she did not doubt that he cared deeply for her, but he kept a tight reign on himself.His manners were perfect, his work ethic perfect, he went to church, he was attentive to her and his parents and their extended family. He remembered birthdays and anniversaries. Bought gifts, had people over for lunch, offered help when it was necessary, gave the best advise. He little brother worshiped the ground he walked on and her sisters all had crushes on him. The only person who had seemed to not like him had been her grandmother. After meeting him for the first time, when she and James had just both passed the A Levels and he’d come to take her out for a celebratory party, , Mami-Lum for whom Lum was named, had narrowed her eyes and said something in the dialect. Something Lum had not understood. Later when, she asked Anasta, their house maid who her mother had brought from the village to interpret, Anasta had chuckled and said;

“You know Mami-Lum with her strange talk… she said…Don’t be too happy when you see a shiny mango. They sometimes have worms on the inside.

Lum had puzzled over it and then pushed it to the back of her mind. Mami-Lum was known to have been a cryptic old lady.

The first two years had been bliss. They had vacationed together, taking a trip around Europe for their honeymoon and then came home to pick out their apartment in Bonapriso. They had  furnished it with the best of hand crafted furniture and art they could find, to give it a modern afrochic look. Her kitchen was state of the art, everything in it’s place, appliances bought from the best stores in the country or imported from abroad. James used it more often than she did actually. Apparently cooking was something he had discovered while studying in America. They had settled into married life easily, going to work and coming home to each other. They watched movies and ate out, enjoyed the night life. The sex had been good…or as good as she had ever had, seeing as he was the only person she had ever slept with.  They were not going to try for kids for another year. They had been content with enjoying each other for the moment. Until this distance. Where had this distance come from?

*****

At first, she had thought he was having affair. That was the only reason she could come up with to explain his sudden withdrawal. It had been right about when his best friend from college, Joel had been visiting. Joel was French Cameroonian, his father an expat who had made Douala his home. They had moved in different circles while in secondary school. Joel had gone to Sacred Heart College, while James to St Bede’s but in America, surrounded by a sea of unfamiliarity that was  the Dartmouth College campus, they had become fast friends, even  studying Chemical Engineering together. After graduating, Joel had taken a job with an American company while James had moved back home. During Joel’s first visit, both men had gone out partying together, one night. Lum had stayed home, exhausted after a day of surgery. That had been when the distance had begun. Approximately, 3 years ago. Joel had since then returned to the US briefly and then moved back to Cameroon completely

She had put it off as him being preoccupied with his friends visit, but over time it had become clear that things were not the same. First, the sex had disappeared. She wasn’t particularly into sex. It was something she did more because it was expected than because she felt any real desire. She did like the feeling of closeness, of being cuddled in James’ arms, his tall, lean body honed by devoted tennis playing, covering hers. He’d always been the one to initiate sex and he had often in the first two years. Even though the ebb and flow pattern of his erections had not changed, and he was still more tense than relaxed, he always reached climax and per conventional wisdom, his pleasure was paramount. Now, he seemed almost uninterested in it. They still cuddled before bed but instead of waking up tangled up in each other as before, she now found herself on her side of the bed and he on his.

She had hired someone to follow him around for a week. It had been easy enough to arrange. There was an abundance of street urchins in Douala looking for a way to make a quick franc.

“Le monsieur ne fait rien d’hors du commun. Il va au travaille et aussi a la domicile son ami le métisse. Ils jouent au tennis ensemble, ou si non au jeux vidéo. Des fois ils fument le banga. Il  n’y a jamais des femmes. Ils sont juste deux ami qui se marrent.” (The man does nothing out of the ordinary. He goes to work and to his friends house. They play tennis or video games. Sometimes they smoke pot. There are never any women. Just two guys having fun)

He young man had made his report  with a shrug, his voice almost accusatory. As in: Your husband is not cheating on you, you silly woman. Can two guy friends not have some fun together without you nagging women suspecting them of chasing other women?

Something did not seemed right all the same. And as Lum sat watching James read the newspaper, that morning, she knew it in her bones, that somewhere along the line she had lost him. Whether to work, or to  goodness knows what, he was no longer the James she had married.

“James!” She said again, forcefully, raising her voice.

“Hmmmm?!!” He looked up at her. Something in his eyes made her pause. He looked panicked. James was always calm, cool and collected. James always knew the answer. James was the one people who panicked looked to for comfort and reassurance. Never in her life had she seem him panicked. He did not look panicked in a way that suggested that her sharp tone had startled him and he thought something was wrong with her. His panic was directed inwards. It had nothing to do with her. She might not even exist to him right now.

“I asked if if you wanted more coffee.” She said gently.

He looked at her like he did not understand her for a moment then something like guilt flashed in his eyes.

“No…” his voice came out weird…strangled as though he was struggling with some great emotion. “I’m fine.” He looked at his watch and stood up from the table. “I have to go.” He picked up his cup of coffee. His cup of stone cold coffee, and took a swig from it. James hated cold coffee. “I’ll see you later. Me and Joel leave for the business trip to Abuja tonight. Don’t wait up.”

And just like that he was gone. Breakfast barely touched. Travel mug seating on the kitchen counter, coffee maker still gurgling with the hot coffee he normally would take with him to the office.

Lum leaned back in her chair, her brow furrowed in worry. What is going on?! Why is he acting like this? I wonder if Joel knows. Maybe I should talk to him.

Standing up, she began stacking the dishes, fuming a little at the wasted food. When she got to his side, her eyes fell on the newspaper James had been reading. Le Messager. It was still open to the page he had been on. Among the articles detailing government corruption, some scandal at PECTEN (probably what James had been reading, she thought to herself, he doesn’t usually read Le Messager)   and neighborhood mischief one headline stood out.

“TOP 100 HOMOS IN CAMEROON”

Lum scanned the names. Celebrities and politicians mostly. A few well known business men. She scoffed, a wave of revulsion coursing through her as she thought about homosexual activity. What perverts! Fine as they are exposing them. Preying on people’s children and spreading disease indiscriminately. Let them catch all of them and lock them up in Kondengui for ever.

Abominations.