Friday, October 16, 2009

Twenty Q's for the Weekend

Actually, Nelly won't be answering any questions this week so maybe you can!
  1. Why do I get sleepy every time I sit down to study?
  2. Would we have cared so much about the death of Darrion Albert in Chicago if it wasn't captured by the cell phone video?
  3. What happened to the coverage of South African runner Caster Semenya?
  4. Why do White people keep losing their children? #balloonboy
  5. Why is there no national coverage of Black children when they go missing?
  6. Why do people talk about winter in Michigan winters in terms of ‘survival’?
  7. Can you really avoid violence?
  8. Does question #4 sound racist?
  9. In light of the ongoing economic downturn, is the Middle Class really disappearing or is this group just upper-level proletariat? #ClassicalMarx
  10. Can President Obama be re-elected in 2012?
  11. When will OutKast drop another classic album?
  12. Will my children have a hip hop group that means as much to them as De La Soul, OutKast, and Little Brother mean to me?
  13. Why is SingleBlackMale.net one of the greatest blogs of all time? OF ALL TIME!!!! #Kanyeshrug
  14. Why was Kid Cudi’s debut album “Man on the Moon” such a disappointment?
  15. Why is Tyler Perry making so much money from 1-dimensional representations of Black people?
  16. Why haven’t you seen Capitalism: A Love Story?
  17. Why is Modern Family one of the funniest shows on TV right now?
  18. Do you know where your clothes were made? (Check the tags)
  19. How will Rio deal with the violence and poverty within its favelas in preparation for the 2016 Olympic Games?
  20. Have you high-fived someone today? If not, what are you waiting for?
Got responses? Post below. Have a good weekend folks!!!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

il I look up. Things stop being familiar to me about a week ago but it's just now setting in that this is indeed the next page.
So Lansing is this weird kind of place to me right now because i'm not used to it yet. I'm sitting on the steps of my porch thinking i'm in the ville unt

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Testing the sms function....

Monday, July 6, 2009

It Doesn't Matter if you're Black or White! (c) Michael Jackson because you'll still be White in Tamale

This blog was written on July 6th, 2009

Last Wednesday I was riding on the back of Kadiri's motorbike in the streets of Tamale headed to the Youth Forum for drumming lessons. We pulled into the petro station finding a short line of folks waiting to fill up. Customary greetings filled the air. I join in to practice the little bit of the language I’d picked up so far. "Antiree (Ahn-tee-ray) = good afternoon." The woman on the motorbike ahead of us smiles and replies "Naaa" as the child tied to her back examines my face.

Our motorbike rolls forward to the pump, the attendant tops off the fuel tank, and cedis are exchanged. As we rolled off, another young man pulled up to the pump to get fuel. A flurry of Dagbani from the woman's mouth drew my attention. I didn't know what was said but I could tell that she wasn't happy about something.

Me: "What's going on, Kadiri?"

Kadiri's: "She told the young man that pulled up that he should wait his turn. She only let them go because of the 'white man'."

Me: [confused look]

Kadiri: "She was talking about you Khalfani"

Now, let me take this moment to make something very clear. I look in the mirror every morning as part of my daily routine. I brush my teeth, wash my face, brush the sleep from my eyes, notice newly developing pimples and account for the single red hair on the right side of my beard reminding me that I'm my mother's child. But I have never ever ever in my twenty-five years and seven months woke up and said, "hey man you're looking pretty white today!"

In the racial system of the Western world, I am Black, African-American, New Afrikan, etc. In Tamale, I can't blend in and I was prepared for that. I was even prepared to be identified as an American. I was even ready for the little kids to look at me funny (they do but then they scream “heelllooooo!!!!”). But this whole white man thing is something else. Cats are riding bike on motorbikes screaming "What's up Silminga?!!!" risking life and limb to get a glimpse at the stranger.

So I’ve been investigating to get a better understanding of the local perspective of Black Americans. The Dagombas use the word "Sil-min-ga" but the connotation varies depending on who you ask. Hassan, a younger friend we've met here, says that it simply means 'foreigner' and all non-Ghanaian folks are tossed in that category. Fair enough. So I asked another friend for her perspective. "It's your skin, your accent, we know you are not from here." Damn! “Ok, so is there a word for Black folks, people of African descent in the United States?” Nope. I asked some more people and the majority of responses came back in support of the woman at the petro station: Silminga = white man.

I'm trying to understand why no distinction is made to describe different groups of people outside of the Dagomba communities. And why is the most common connotation 'white man'? What qualities/roles/characteristics are attributed to this label among the people of Tamale? I wish I had some deep insightful message to explain it but I’m still a bit confused myself. I'll keep digging.

On another note, will President Obama be considered a Silminga when he arrives in Accra on Friday?

Adendum 7/8/09: I was reading a story from Time magazine in May 2009 about efforts to find Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord's Rebellion Army in Uganda. The swahili term for "white man," muzungu was used to describe the Guatemalans defeated by LRA.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Guy Love

Before I left for Tamale, Ghana, I was told that it might happen. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it though. The flash of a Cheshire grin exhuming coolness (the kind equipped to mask fear or hesitancy in the face of a challenge or imminent danger) was my only response to my Ghanaian brother's forewarning. I spoke with some (female) friends (in America) about it and they applauded the openness that accompanied my ambivalence towards it. “Well at least you haven’t taken a stance against it…that says a lot about you…” Umm, yeah but it doesn’t make me feel any easier about it.

It = holding hands (heretofore abbreviated as HH)
a common act of friendship between men in Tamale, Ghana.

In American culture, extreme acts of manliness do not include handholding with other men. Physical expressions of male-to-male non-aggressive behavior are allowed in limited contexts – father/son relationships, athletic championships (its okay, even expected, to weep like a child when you win the Super Bowl), and in extreme cases, the death of a relative. In fact, holding hands with members of the opposite sex in public spaces is often regarded as a chore. But I’m not in America anymore. According to my Ghanaian hosts, homosexuality is not openly practiced in Tamale. However, behaviors Americans stereotypically ascribed to homosexuals do occur in my new environment.

HH Encounter #1: We were greeted by a small contingent of Dagbani folks representing Sister Cities in Tamale. Upon our arrival in northern Ghana Saturday morning, the notion of guy love took was initiated. An elder member of the delegation reached for my hand to shake it and welcome me to Tamale. In a sudden act of discreet precision, the handshake morphed into him guiding me by the hand towards the rest of the group. The manly man inside of me released his hand and grabbed hold of my cool. I was on hand guard patrol for the rest of the day but I wasn’t prepared for my next encounter.

HH Encounter #2: During my time here, I have made friends with a Dagbani man of my age. We have grown to be fast friends and share a lot of interests. One day walking through the Zo-Simli Naa Palace, we were joking about some things as men often do. We slapped hands (a ritual that appears to be a universal sign of male peers) after a good laugh and it happened again. The Dagbani men are swift in their execution! I found myself walking with my friend hand in hand for paces through the palace. It doesn’t last long like a nice walk in the park or anything, but it’s lengthy enough to recognize that this XY chromosome carrier has my hand.

I’ve given a lot of thought to the cultural significance of the act. Male friends of all ages can be found walking hand in hand with little regard for any misinterpretation of their relationship. It is an act of friendship. I’m still debating on where to draw the line or whether a line needs to be drawn at all in this regard. If I am to call this man my friend, do I reject his hand when he reaches for mine? While the story unfolds, I’ll leave you with this memorable moment from Scrubs the musical. Time for some jolof rice!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Day 1 in Accra

We've finally arrived in Ghana after spending almost an entire day in the Bluegrass Airport behind rain delays and thirteen hours of travel between NJ, London and Accra. It was raining last night when our flight landed signaling the presence of the rainy season. I had this sense that I'm somewhere familiar when I stepped off the plane. For my Trinidad & Tobago crew, think about our arrival at UWI's campus the first night - yeah that's the feeling.

We took advantage of the fact that our bodies are still ahead of Ghanaian time by waking up early this morning for breakfast and a walk around the Wangara Hotel area in Accra. Banana trees, pedestrians, mating frogs (seriously), taxis, and school kids carrying adult-sized bookbags filled the streets. The taxis are aggressive but the people are friendly. A young man working in the hotel spoke very highly of America during a brief chat following our hour long trek. He expressed his hope to "be there one day!" In my mind, I recalled thinking the same thing about my trip to the continent. hmmm...

Today, we will be traveling through Accra to see a few of the sights. Our flight to Tamale leaves Saturday so we have some time to see the sights. Eric, our guide in Accra, will be taking us to Cape Coast and to the Kwame Nkrumah home. Hopefully, we can extend the plan to include the Du Bois home and burial site and a visit to the Slave dungeons to walk back through the door of no return. For those that may need more info on the significance of this locale, see the movie Sankofa and this web site. Millions of Africans entering into the Atlantic Slave system ventured through these mis-named 'castles' on their way to the Americas. To walk back through the door of no return has been touted by friends who have visited the coasts dungeons as a spiritual rebirth.

I'll be getting my SIM card today with my local number. If you want to call, send me a message and I'll send you the number. You can keep up with my activity via Twitter by following CKHerm_Ghana. Wherever I go, I'm trying to bring my people with me!