Wednesday, 4 December 2013

From Chiemeka to Grandma

She died on my birthday
I have a great song to say
You were older than 60 when I turned 8
I will say that was great
Spirits don't die
They just fly in the sky
Looking at you behave
They look everyday
My mom really misses her
She died on December 1st
When she held me she gave me smile
And when I see that, I smile
She loved me
I loved her
We were sometimes together
She loved my father
She loved my mother

How Maroons must have felt

My aunt passed away on Dec. 1. I did not sleep a wink that night. Although I did not know it, my spirit was restless. That's how connected we were. She was the greatest aunt in the entire world. There's a saying that as adults, we won't remember what was said to us as children but we will remember how particular adults made us feel. I remember how my aunt made me feel. She made me feel great; like I was a superstar. She loved me and I knew it. She loved all of us. She was just that kind of spirit. I take solace in the fact that she died on my son's birthday and will become his guardian angel.

I am peeved at myself for not being there while she was alive. We moved to Ghana in 2005 and since then, we've only visited family once. Not that we didn't want to, but the opportunities don't always present themselves. I'm also disappointed that I did not have the financial freedom to permit me travel as many times as needed to keep that bond alive. Or the financial freedom to be of assistance to her while alive. I would have wanted to provide her a private nurse and have my children at her feet. I couldn't do that. I should have done that. I would have loved to do that.

Here lays the conundrum of being a returnee or living so far away from family members that you love. While others will take our move to Ghana as heroic and groundbreaking, it comes with its baggages, such as not being with family that you love when you want and when they need you.

I'm thinking of the average Maroon, making that decision to leave her evil conditions for something better, but that something better cannot be that great without her family members. We imagine the Maroons communities as revolutionary and inspiring but we don't remember the average Maroon and what that decision mean psychologically and socially. It's not a simple live free or live as slave? For many it was live without the one I love is not living at all. It meant leaving the little family bonds that they had. They had to hear news of loved ones through the grapevine. They couldn't as easily see the ones left behind, even for a short time. That break in the community, albeit imaginary, is the essence of humanity. And why family is so important to Africans, despite what the Maafa intended.

As Returnees, we will have to deal with such heartbreak. While the move in itself is what our ancestors wanted, we will create a break with some of the most wonderful family members we ever had. It takes courage to make such a move knowing this sad fact. Maybe the Africans who did not run away to join the Maroons had similar paradoxes. It's not easy being away from those we love, even if the conditions are horrific and evil. I swore that I wouldn't raise my children in the US, but I would now if I could have my aunt back. I would want them to feel how she made me feel on a daily basis. I would want them to hear her voice and always remember her with happiness and joy. I would want them to taste her cooking and hear her call their names.

How many more family members will I deprive them of knowing? How many more will become ancestors before they had a chance to physically bond and feel that same deep love that I feel for my aunt? Is returning to the Motherland or moving away from the pariah worth it if some of the greats are left behind?

Thursday, 28 November 2013

From Mulattoes to Materials

In honor of Maurice Sixto, whose social comedic analysis and skits have taught me to pay attention to how the world unfolds.
I people watch. I observe, analyze, critique and survey who does what, why, when and where. I notice how age, gender, geographical location and the notion of class influence how we do things. Dialogue and discourse was encouraged in Haiti, more so than other countries.
In Haiti, I observed how parents of Mulattoes (children of mixed race), construct and redefine how they raise their children. I noticed this group was distinct in its attempts to be perceived different and socially mobile and better-off. Their children were afforded the best that the society provided; and society applauded their attempts. But not all Mulattoes were/are equal. Respect is given to those perceived as descent and respectful. Children of an old white man and a young girl who used to be his maid are not given the same privilege of respect as those of children whose parents were social equals. So the effort Mulattoes put on providing top education for their children was in attempt to gain social respect and acceptance.

And while there was an emphasis on providing children quality education or the best that money can buy, I am surprised to find something else amongst mulattoes in Ghana. Instead of an emphasis on education, abstract knowledge, philosophy and art, I find emphasis on gathering and securing material things. I name this group in Ghana, Materials.

From Mulattoes in Haiti to Materials in Ghana, the big difference rests on respect and decency. Many of the Materials are children to parents who are gravely social unequals. The fathers tend to be much older, more educated and with the financial backing to permit him attract a much younger, less educated and unemployed girl. In fact, many of the men suffer from some form of psychological problems as they are in need of showcasing their lost of power (youth, status, white wife) over some of Ghana's most under privileged population.

Because the Material mom is often less educated than the new social circle her relationship with the old man has briskly provided her, she is often found shadowing a white woman and her children. From house help to madam, she is the new friend to the white women, whom she would have most likely be working for if it were not for this brief fling with the white man. So what she feeds her children; the Material mom follows. Their extra curricular activities become the Material moms' only because the term was unknown to them until quite recently. As the partly social misfit, they follow while trying not to be noticed as peculiar and disturbing.

You can tell a Ghanaian woman raising a Material child by how much emphasis she puts on money. She drops numbers as efficiently as a 4 year old. Twenty thousand hundred for this, five hundred billion trillion for that. And where are these fake monies allocated? To shoes, pizza, Ipads and toys. Any books? Not if you don't want to be perceived as poor. Women raising Materials do not buy books. They buy things that people can easily agree are expensive.

And education? They believe the child's skin color will open doors. The same way the old white men's skin color worked for him.

Are all Materials children of mixed race? No. Materials are a culture that others can buy into, just like being western. If the emphasis is providing your children parties that cost more than salaries that Members of Parliament filter out of the economy, and you live to brag about it, then you are raising a Material. If your child has an Ipad but is below reading level, or you don't know which reading level s/he should be on, then be proud to classify yourself as part of this group. I say group because they are not really a class, since their economic standing is inconsistent and not dependent on real money but the idea of money in relation to what they envisioned, (not too long ago), that $100 could solve all their problems.

Because the Materials mom is often less educated than the new social circle her relationship with the old man has briskly provided her, she is often found shadowing a white woman and her children. From house help to madam, she is the new friend to the woman, who she would have most likely be working for if it were not for this brief fling with the white man. So what she feeds her children; the Material mom follows. Their extra curricular activities become the Material mom's only because the term was unknown to them until quite recently. As the partly social misfit, they follow while trying not to be noticed as peculiar and disturbing.

Why do the Material moms, yes, only moms because the fathers are really not in the picture, stress getting things and buying more things for their children? Because as new salaries (not money really), they only know what they can get with money. What they can, not what can be learned or gained from money. They, like many of us, are trying to provide for their children what they were denied as children. And most of these women remember not getting beautiful dresses, nice shoes, coca cola and other foods that the real elite shun.

 And what about the men?They don't tend to have relationships with their children, which many did not want to have in the first place. They realized their age and having younger children further emphasized their mortality. Many will not live to see their children, whom they did not want in the first place, graduate from junior high school. One woman in such a situation confided that the man did not want children, because his grandchildren are older than the child would be. It was only after she swore that he would have no further obligation to the child that he stopped demanding an abort or an end to the relationship. These men know how indispensable such women/older girls are. Other women confided that having children raised their social status in the eyes of the community. Not having children would meant they not worthy of respect and engaged in indecent behavior with the old white men.

What about white women married to African men? They are a different story. They are trying to raise a difference race; but not African/Black. They epitomize how racism works; silent, blatantly unnoticed, and schematic. How can you tell the two groups apart? Materials are raising children they wish you would accept as white. Their names tend to be, "Harry, Victoria, Elizabeth," echoing a time when the British had an Empire and people cared about your relationship within it. White women married to African men are raising children they wish you would accept as white Africans. They choose the local names for that specific be asked over and over again where that name came from and how the child relates to that culture.

What do the Material moms gain from such relationships? Only what their bags can carry. Stay tuned for more.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Dirty Hands

I've been silent. Why? My son fell terribly ill due to dirty hands. At our last visit to Ghana's premier laboratory, with state of the art technology, there was no water for hand washing. As the children walked around picking up bird feathers and padding the animals, they had their snacks accompanied by the various bacteria which made their way onto their fingers. I need not cry any more on my frustrations over lack of water and toilet facilities in Ghana. I now walk around with extra water for hand washing, because sanitizers are not as efficient as we would like to believe.

Apart from that, I've been reading...on the subject of the various dirty habits that keep our communities from developing. One such community is the African American one in the US. In Sheik Charles Brown-El's Accept your Own and Be Free from Mental Slavery, he analyzes some of those problems in detail. In similar fashion to the early Garvey writing years, Brown-El lays out some key habits that plague African American society (argument could be made for a global trend), in an easy to read-reach-the-masses fashion. The book is not bogged down in discursive distractions nor in linguistic battles. It is clear, concise and relevant.
This book reminds me of Garvey's writings because of its emphasis on community. Brown-El 's book is general analysis of Black community. His analysis is asking for a new community; one that is healthy, conscious and purposeful.
Remember the feeling of being connected to a wider community that Garvey's books would inspire? Brown-El's book does the same. By bringing us back to the basics of family, community and nation; the feeling of connectedness is the first real triumph of this book.

While Accept your Own is free from discursive jargon, Brown-El does drop one major one on us without further analysis or explanation. The historians amongst us know that the power of labeling and naming has been, for the most part, relegated to the victors. In this case, Europeans have had the power to name and label what most of us take for granted. The Continent that we call home was named Africa by the Greeks; not the people who populated that Continent. So "Africans" are a people, continent and idea constructed by Europeans. Brown-El, justifiably, rejects that label and prefers to refer to "our" people as Asiatics. The discourse on labeling and naming is very important, particularly in our situation, that I believed it deserved to be analyzed further. Where did that term come from? Who labeled it? How do we fit in within that puzzle?
Is Africa a term rejected because of its association to slavery and abuse? Europeans have had a much longer relationship with Africa, predating slavery, with "Africans" on top.

Brown-El also focuses on building the Asiatic nation within the US. His vision is not global or Continental. As a visionary of his people, Brown-El could be focusing on the group that he knows best. The group that he can easily help rebuild and develop. But our problems are so much bigger than the US geographic space. It's a global issue. What those in the US experience is an indicator of something greater taking place on a global level. We are all managed and victimized by the same media.

The most important part of this blue print is its emphasis on the family. The collapse of our families cannot be glossed over any further. Although Accept your Own and Be Free from Mental Slavery is specific to our people in the US shores, families are also breaking down on the Continent. There are more divorces and more children growing up not knowing their extended families or speaking their languages. Fathers are not as relevant as they used to be. They are not as active in the lives of their children or working towards maintaining the parental relationship. King Ayisoba's "I want to see you my father" is the antithesis of Tupac's "Dear Mother." Tupac's mother, and most of our mothers, are what King Ayisoba's father, and most of our fathers aren't. They are not supportive. They are not present. And the children are taking notice. More Ghanaian fathers in their old age, will go uncared for by the same children they ignored growing up. Our elderly are not being taken cared of. There are fewer people home to take care of them and because there is less obligation. The societal implications for this cannot be discussed in this blog.

Accept your Own and Be Free from Mental Slavery opens up a much needed discussion on the state of our families, communities and nations. To further ignore this debate spells doom for our people on a global level. Read your copy to find out what you can do to stop it.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Visiting Public and Private Spaces in Ghana

Our homeschool group was fortunate to visit the “laboratory” of Ghana’s premier engineer, scientist and inventor in the Central Region. Asafo Kwadwo Safo is famous for his ingenious creations. Suffice it to say that it was one of the greatest places to visit in Ghana. The children had a chance to witness excellence at work and personified. They found minds at work on different ways to make our world safer and better. It was one great example of how passion meets science meets creativity.
This laboratory was 125 acres. It included an animal and plant research center and a slew of different animals on the compound. The children saw zebras, ostriches, camels, porcupines, huge pigeons, horses, geese, ducks, lambs, tortoises and so much more. They had greater variety in their collection than Accra Zoo.
And while the place gets visitors on a regular basis, no provision was made for a clean and comfortable toilet. We had to squat inside a wooden fixture. No water. No toilet paper, just a tiled floor used for urination only. Why is that?
It is because not much attention is paid to the customer in Ghana. This notion that customers don’t matter is a national problem. It affects the way information is presented and liaisons are formed between the communities and the private space. The theme that “they will come if they need to” dominate the mindset, from business class to entrepreneurs. No one seems to break free of this hold.
Asafo Safo’s laboratory is not alone. The day after, we attended the Cocoa Festival. This was held at the State House in Osu, where Parliament meets. And yet, we couldn’t find a toilet to save my potty trainer from wetting herself. We finally had to squat, near a 4x4 in the parking lot. We were finally told where to find a toilet, too bad it was too far away for any toddler to actually make it without soiling him/herself.
It’s not a surprise that few people attend such festivals or visit private/public spaces in Ghana. Toilet is always a problem. Ghana Education’s latest research states that girls’ absenteeism highest because of lack of toilets, especially during times of menstruation. Children have to use the bush and girls stand being raped while doing so. To top this all off, there are no hand washing facilities to promote good self care. Most houses in Accra, built in the 1980s, do not have toilets. Tenants have to create “buckets” which are taken out at night by latrine carriers.

I wish those in the media would discuss such matters. Not sure what drives this media…oh yes, I know. Do you?

Friday, 13 September 2013

Chale Wote Festival 2013

I attended the Chale Wote Festival for the first time this past Saturday. I had an idealized image of how the Festival would transform Jamestown’s landscape, at least for that day. I envisioned a South Bronx, Soho and Brooklyn Park in the summer’scape. I wanted to see descendants of Jean-Michel Basquiat, spray panting the walls alive. I wanted to see the old slave fort communicate its history and legacy. I wanted to see a dialogue between the people, the artists and Jamestown. I’ve lead my undergrad students to Jamestown on several occasions and I’ve always been perplexed at the silence. Michel-Rolph Trouillot would have seen a clear example of the past not being silenced, but completely ignored in Jamestown. It’s more poignant to notice this “silence” in Jamestown because it’s a space so full of life and with people known for their candor.
I did not witness Basquiat’s descendants. But I did meet a few doing great work, although they were not on display or engaging us that day. I was introduced to Nii Narku, whose abstract creations are in a dialogue with Basquiat’s. His works were not at the Festival. I had to look him up online.
The streets were lined up with creative sorts, seeking attention and selling their products. The sidewalks were crammed with entrepreneurs, marketing their talents, not unlike other bazaars on Ghana’s economic landscape.
I was much more appreciative of Dr. Obadele Kambon’s capoeira team’s efforts ( They put instruments directly into the hands of the children and vibed along with them. They didn’t go to be watched, they went to have the children perform. The children learned songs, how to play an instrument and capoeira techniques. It is clear that the children learned something from that engagement.
I expected the Festival to be more about the children of Jamestown. They are the future of society and impacting them makes all the difference. I wanted to see artists engage the children to help them create, build and ignite a fuse that would take years to burn out. I did not see that.  
What I saw put a sour taste in my mouth. The section that was to cater for children’s activities was understaffed. The children were cramming around a few individuals making hats for them. The children were not even allowed to make their own paper hats.  There were 3 adults to 50 children in the open area. There were no seats. The only creative activity witnessed had to do with a few children panting the walls of the community center. They were an elite few. The others stood around in frustration.
I later found an inside space, with another 50 children, waiting to watch a video. Some children worked on the floor while screaming for attention. A neighborhood male adult was entrusted to guard the door to protect against stampeding. But instead of protecting the children, he smacked, kicked and pushed children at whim. My sons witnessed him kick a little girl in the stomach to keep her from going inside the already stuffed room. There were no other adults to control him. He was obviously stressed with the responsibility and took out his frustrations on the children. We watched children cry with aggravation to partake in activities they knew little about.

Keeping the children engaged and active was noticeably not part of the initial planning. I hope that changes next year. 

Monday, 2 September 2013

A religion is born?

I attended the Anamda Marga spiritual service yesterday by mistake. It was not planned. I had a meeting with some people over there and because they were late, I had to sit through the remaining two hour service. Here is what I learned as I watched Ghanaians circle a table with three poster size pictures of an Indian man on it for 2 hours, non-stop.
1.     Who deserves more reverence and praise than my ancestors who not only suffered the most banal acts of inhumane cruelty, but went on to build nations that focused on love and forgiveness so that I was able to return to my motherland?
2.    Those captured survived the 6 month journey without access to clean water, enough food, while being raped and tortured throughout. That means, they died and resurrected more than once.
3.    They survived evil by transcending the physical and living in their spiritual.
4.    They are the reflection of what is good, Godly, mercy and praiseworthy.
And as a result of my two hour long stay in that ceremony, I’ve created my own religion. The physical space will reflect pictures of the ancestors as we sing songs of praise to them, while trying to connect with their strength, love, compassion and spirituality.  Our ceremonies will include pictures of our warriors, saints, healers and others who died so we can live today. We will go around in circles, looking at their faces; seeing the creases and lines in their faces and reading the stories their eyes are trying to tell us.
They deserve that. They don’t deserve to be located in books or back of memories mind. They deserve to be in the front, all the time, being praised and worshipped. They are the epitome of sacrifice and love.

No, I cannot worship a foreign symbol as God. My ancestors are the truth, the light and the way. There is no heaven or paradise without them. 

The Homeschool Conference

Once again I am grateful to Nina Chachu for keeping me in the loop. She was gracious and kind enough to send the link to one of the most significant history making conferences in homeschooling.  It took place on August 23-24, 2013, where homeschoolers from all over the world united for two days. I was glad to see homeschoolers from Africa participating. This indicates that homeschooling is also growing on this continent. You can listen to recordings here.
Needless to say, I learned a great deal about teaching style and technique. One important technique is to make education and learning culturally relevant. Even when teaching math. We can employ stories, names and songs to equations and teaching different topics. For example, to help a student remember the Quadratic formula, , use a story that they can easily remember and makes culturally relevant sense to them.
For example, Boateng often made bad decisions, (-b). One day, an opportunity came for him to attend Homowo. He was afraid that he if he decided to go that he may not get there in time to see the Ga chiefs “shame hunger.” But then again, he was hopeful to get a ride into Jamestown, so that he wouldn’t miss any of the festivities. That he may miss out is represented by the negative sign (-). And that he may get there in time to see everything is represented by the positive sign, (+). And the story goes on and on until the student feels connected to the symbols because of the story that accompanies their explanation.
Another important lesson I learned was on the plethora of useful and free websites established to make homeschooling possible and make learning fun for our children. We have joined Minecraft, where they are learning engineering skills and community building.

And while common knowledge to us as homeschoolers, we are the experts in this field. We are developing curriculum, planning lessons, teaching, and maintaining happy, healthy children today for a better tomorrow. We are sacrificing today so our children can become global citizens tomorrow. Homeschoolers are making the world a better place, one child at time and that revolution is taking place in our living rooms, kitchen tables and dens. How are you making the world a better place for our children tomorrow? Kiss a homeschooler!

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Who is Ghana's Manno Charlemagne?

I miss Haiti very much. I miss everything about my country; the people, the food, the language, and most importantly the music. I miss the music even more because music in Haiti is political. It is conscious and it can move mountains.
Haitians are reminded about the power of music every day, but Kanaval time is most poignant. Kanaval de Fle was celebrated this past weekend. Although not without some controversy, but strictly focusing on the music, it is was a huge success. And thanks to Radio Kiskeya, I had the opportunity to hear the songs that made that competitive schedule. Because Haitians take music very seriously, the best musicians amongst them are really some of the best artists of the world. The songs tackle poverty, corruption, love of humanity, love of Haiti, illnesses, water shortages, electrical problems and so much more.
Listening to the songs with my children instilled a slight fear in me. I am raising children in a country where they are not exposed to conscious thinking on a daily basis. I cannot turn on the radio in Ghana and have the children listen to a artist who wrote and arranged music that tackles societal problems. They don’t know Ghana’s version of Manno Charlemagne or Koudjaye, Boukan Guinen or Boukman Eksperyans. Even if argument can be made that the younger generation has dropped the artistic baton, where are the Fela’s in Ghana’s musical history? Where are the Emline Michelles?
For these reasons and more, I make sure my children listen to Haitian music on a daily basis. They also listen to Haitian radio on a daily basis. I’m focusing on Manno Charlemagne today because one song in particular could have been written in Ghana, by Ghanaians, even today. Here is a translational synopsis.

Tet Kole (Unity)
Human’s first thought is how to feed itself
The year things don’t go well, he is ambitious to make (societal) changes
It’s nothing serious. He’s morals are falling.  If by chance he succeeds, the people don’t exist. It’s Haitianess; other people’s misery don’t count.
All the candidates are power driven. They push the people to shout
The people as innocents, how else would they change things,
Then they realize that they were asleep and now awake he sees it did not work. He does not want to spill blood, so the bad intentioned are enjoying.
Things will work the day the people unite.
The people are trembling (looking like TB patients)
Let’s put the wealthy in medical facilities.
The people are very hopeful. They know what needs to be done for their peace to return. Pull a few of us out of poverty, our tongues are too heavy for us….Misery.
I heard there’s a loan to be given to develop the South. It was talked about every day.
One or two years later, all belts are tied.
Yes, you see movement of cement, trucks and a young guy drives by in an expensive car well composed.  He’s from the city and in charge of the project.
One or two years later, the South is further underdeveloped. The project guy did not care, because his main concern was to steal. Cars for him to use. He is just eating. It’s true.
Who is speaking these truths in Ghana? Who are the voices of the people? Where are the people? The ones whose every word and song are listened to as hymns? The ones the workers spend lunch time discussing and dissecting their every word? Who are the voices of our thoughts? The ones who know and understand the situation and working hard to change it? At least we will always have Haiti. Long live Ayiti Toma!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

A Great Life

How does one define a great life? I think one measure of greatness has to be with having taught others.  Did you come to this world to teach? What was the lesson? Did you leave the world a better place? Madiba’s life was a great life. His was a spirit, a soul sent to teach us so many lessons; lessons that took 94 years of his presence to teach us.

This is not homage to a dead man. The fact is Madiba will never die. Here are the 10 lessons, and counting, that I learned from him.

1.     The first of many lessons was patience. We need patience in the face of our adversaries. The simple response is to meet their evil with violence. But what would the lesson be in that? That the one with the most imagination for evil wins? No. Madiba taught us something deeper and more meaningful awaits the world when we meet evil doers (as recalcitrant children) with patience in our eyes.

2.    Another great lesson from Madiba is that of sacrifice. You must be willing to sacrifice your personal safety and peace for the greater good. The high road is not an easy one. It’s not a comfortable one. It’s one that leads you to the mouth of the apartheid/racist/evil beasts. You become the mark of their antithesis. You are not hidden or blended in the many, your face is used for dart practice. Instead of running into a cave to silently await their epitome, you give your life to that cause. By that sacrifice, all others are saved and find a voice and strength to fight on for justice.

3.    There is a difference between being in the right and justice. While justice permitted the imprisonment of the architects and perpetrators of evil, the right option would be to end feud by choosing to teach by example. Justice would have permitted a global feud between whites and non whites. Doing the right thing permitted even some whites to see how evil their regimes have been.

4.    Being right is not always popular. Everyone expected Madiba to wage an outright war on whites in SA (and those around the world who supported the apartheid regime) for his false imprisonment, and for having kept his people in subjugation. However, Madiba taught us that more love can grow in our hearts from pain. That having been victims of evil does not mean we cannot grow even higher in our love and compassion. In fact, we become immune to it.

5.    We don’t live in a just world. The most unjust are leading us into evil. Instead of separating ourselves from them, we must teach them. The concept of Umbuntu does not permit us to live in isolation atop a hill waiting for our sole deliverance. We must join the dirty, the ugly and evil, to permit us all to live in a just and good world.

6.    Don’t let pain overwhelm our being. It’s easy to give in to the pain and suffering. The best we can do for ourselves, and the greater good, is to dig further into forgiveness and peace of mind.

7.    Find good in the pain. I cannot imagine what his life was like not having been there to see his children grow up. All the tears he did not dry. All the stories he did not get to tell. But instead, he understood his life as a gift to the world, not just his family. Instead of focusing on what his children were missing, he thought of all the children, from Egypt to Zimbabwe, who were denied basic human rights.

8.    People can change, at least, pretend to. Madiba was considered one of the world’s most infamous terrorist. The US only removed him from their list in 2008. Now, he is comparable to God like men who formed world religions.

9.    You don’t need to be a god to fight for justice. You just need a good sense of right and wrong.

10.  In the words of Bob Marley, “many people will fight you down, when you see the light. But let me tell you if you are not wrong, then everything is all right.” Madiba!

Madiba lives on!

Who can possibly write an obituary for Madiba? What would it say? He saved the world. Yes, Madiba saved the world.

Monday, 20 May 2013

On Yari Yari

I attended the Yari Yari Ntoaso conference which was held from May 16-19, 2013. It was held in Accra at the College for Physicians and Doctors, which is a lovely facility by the way, but customer service was lacking. Howver, the organizers made up for it by having a great team of student volunteers who really held the conference together.

The conference theme was on “Continuing the Dialogue” on engaging the past, the present and the future. It was the best conference I ever attended. All the big names in African/Global literature were there. This conference opened my eyes in two ways.

The first way has propelled me to write more, and give attention to my writing. I was mostly using this blog as my first draft. Now I know this blog can be much more. Not just me writing when I have time, but making time to provide information and writing well. This point was particularly important because attendees included great writers such as Ama Ata Ado, Veronique Tadjo, Evelyne Trouillot, Zetta Elliot, Amma Darko, Malme Kabu and other political activist such as Angela Davis. Needleless to say, it was in a sea of perfection. This group was why museums were created…to show and spotlight greatness in society. This conference was on ongoing curatorial dialogue on perfection.

The conference was perfect in two ways. The first way was that the writers were world’s best. They took their craft seriously and they mastered it.  But that was not the most important to me. The most important point of this dialogue on perfection was that it took place in Accra; a place where perfection tends to be a foreign word. Where few acknowledge it and where fewer aim for it. I hope this conference left its mark on Ghana’s landscape and start the process of change. How could one not be influenced by Amma Darko, whose unfinished work almost caused me to commit a felony? I need that book.

The second reason why I enjoyed this conference was on the social level. Nina Chachu was kind enough to email me the link for the conference, which I had not heard about. I went through the program and noticed three Haitian names. I had not heard of the individuals before, nor was I familiar with their art. But I took the liberality to email them simply because I was Haitian, and so were they. But I didn’t email to say just hello. I emailed to impose my Haitianess on them. I asked if they could do favors for me, a Haitian, they didn’t know or had heard of. They each answered categorically yes. Why wouldn’t day do this favor? It was understood. It was not a problem. If anything, this is what we do. We travel to foreign countries and bring things back for one another. We take things to Haiti for friends and those we are hoping to meet. It’s part of our socialization…cooking more than enough just in case a non expectant drops by.
Many cultures will claim to have this, in their traditions, but few live up to this the way Haitians do. It’s not “the way of the past” but the way that we define who we are, still today.

Mamle Kabu spoke on identity and how identity is negotiated. She discussed that identity is not only how you define what you want others to think you are but it’s also their willingness to take your word for it by allowing you in or keeping you out. One of the Haitian presenters I emailed was the talented and fabulous Gabrielle Civil. She responded to my email but also included that she was half Haitian. Automatically my expectations changed. My first instinct was “Oh oh.” Would she “real” Haitian? Would we just flow? Would I be able to freely/wholly be Haitian with someone who was half?
Why did I automatically question her half-ness as problematic to my “wholeness?”  I struggled with these questions in college when I came into contact with Haitians with different backgrounds than me. It turns out that Gabrielle was as fantastic as I had envisioned, and even more so. But what if my curatorial creation of Haitianess  was different from hers? Would I have dismissed her as “not enough”?  Would I have been “humane” enough to see that “one” identity did not override others?

I realized that the anxiety of difference is precisely because it is not known and familiar. I “think” I know how a Haitian would act, respond and behave. I don’t know that of another group. And because my self-seeking needs are easily met with the known, I automatically dismiss the unknown. And similar to Mamle Kabu’s story, identity has more to do with those watching waiting to include or exclude. Because who you really are, will come out, flawlessly as Gabrielle’s performance proved.