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!