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Letter to Osagyefo - the make-up of an African

Posted by Nwia on Thu, 06/07/2007 - 10:39

Yo Osagyefo,
I hope your summer has began a new season in your life and you are revising all the resolutions you made after the Bronya. Makes me wonder though. When you were a student in Yonkee, what did you do during your summers? Did you work at McDonalds or at Chase Manhattan? I am thinking that you were part and parcel of minority America and due to your brilliance you always found something profitable to do with your vacations. But could you really work at McDonalds? I don't know what you make of this - but the 'cool' food to buy these days in Ogyakrom, are burgers and pizza. How the mighty have fallen! Heck, I can't tell who is 'African' anymore! Why blame me? Can you?

Kwame, take for instance your name Kwame. Right off the bat, when I see the name Kwame, booyaka, I say he's Ghanaian. Until, I sacrificed academic work and hanging out with Akua Ataa to follow Kwame Jackson through countless episodes of the first season of Apprentice to find out he was not Ghanaian after all. Mind you, I know countless Ghanaians who have never left Ogyakrom that are called Jackson too, not because they like the guy who sang a song about black and white and cannot be put in either racial category but because that's their surname. Apparently, Mr. Jackson and Mr. Kwame "I can't catch a ball to save my life" Brown have no relation to Ghana except that their parents liked the name Kwame. So next time you see an email from Ike Smith or Afia Bartels, don't think African, just don't think. Obviously, if I saw the name, Ikechukwu Okonkwo, I would know he is Nigerian. However, I have attended countless African student meetings and several African student gatherings, and never met Ikechukwu. Did his father read about some Okonkwo hero in one of Chinua Achebe's books? If Ikechukwu does not want to associate with his people, why hasn't he changed his name? Is Ms. Dike a Dee-kay or a dyke? Oops. I think she should have stayed in Nigeria.

If you think you can tell who an African is by what they wear, you lie bad. We wear the same attires that our Carribean and Black Americans wear. Maybe we don't always pop our collars, but we are getting there. Kwame, let me tell you about this story. Once upon a time, I accompanied a friend to go and visit his friends somewhere in Kumasi. When I introduced myself, one of the ladies couldn't believe I was Ghanaian. Why? Because I was wearing an African print and apparently, only the tourist Black Americans wear the African wax prints in Ghana. I was shockprised. If Black Americans are known for doing so, how will I be able to identify fellow Africans when I go to an event in Yonkee? I may see a lady wearing a kanga and think she saw it on CNN so is following suit while she is actually a beauty queen from East Africa. Hmmm.

Kwame, you seem like a very 'serious' guy. I know there were no iPods in your time but what kind of music did you listen to? Did you marry Fathia (of blessed memory) because you liked Arabic music? Were you enchanted by those bellydancers in their videos? I can't tell who an African is by the music they listen to anymore. I may spy a couple of 'white' parties and see some Koo-darkie acting a fool in there but my first thought would be - He's that Joe who grew up in the all-white neighbourhood. Osagyefo, ma Engye ndi. Koo-darkie got brainwashed by his white roommate and now thinks Marilyn Manson is the next E. T. Mensah. If we could tell who an African was by the way he or she danced, I would be as rich as Kofi Wayo. Forget about rhythm. A lot of white youth can do the Borborbor better than some Ewes. Their area of expertise is now the crip-walk and the Harlem Shake. So please don't expect them re-enact Awilo Longomba choreography when you attend your next African party. Those who do it are undeniably African. The guys who do the Willie Bounce and the girls who do the hot Wuk are also African too. They will also tell you Salsa came from Tuabodom. Watch the Tuabodom video for proof.

I haven't figured out any formula to differentiate an African from a Carribean or Black American other than having them write their name (which is the best solution). Because of Kwame Jackson, we know that is not even true. Osagyefo, how do I find my people? We are lost in a global village where we wear sunglasses when it is dark, wear baggy jeans when it is humid, eat ice-cream after dinner, skip Akan drama to watch Esmeralda, and side with Jay-Z when he is called out by our own legend. I can't tell who is an African anymore, I think we are all just black. The problem is I am not sure I can define what black is. So Osagyefo, all knowing intellectual who wrote best-selling books, help me out. Because if you don't, I will lose my identity and the next time I find myself in Kazahkstan, they would be welcoming me more than Borat. No, best belief, you don't want to know who Borat is. I bet you are thinking I am Ghanaian because of what I've written about and how I wrote it. Monsieur Nkrumah, please google around for "Tings dey happen"
and quell that thought pronto.

Till next time,


Being African

Firstly, pizza and burgers are disgusting..and quite detrimental to the African figure. Please desist. If need be, I will cook for you every weekend :-)

Great read! I agree with u, and infact the other day I saw a woman who had the best braids ever. Now, us African queens will tell you when an African hand has been on a certain head. I asked her where she got her hair done and she said "Oh, I gats it done when I went to Africa to visit". I didn't stop to ask whether it was in Senegal, South Africa,Tanzania etc. It was wrong of me to assume she was African to begin with. So how do we tell who is African (if I may repeat yr question..)

Or, is the question really, should we be able to tell? We are a very diverse continent, Hmm, sometimes we have different mannerisms within one nation. Different languages, cultures, clothing, accents, food, etc. Yet somehow we all seem to tie together in a way. I go to African clubs these days and cannot differentiate between the African jumping to a T.I song, or the non-African jumping at the opportunity to do some serious butt-shaking to Awilo.

Nwia, I feel u to the fullest...I suppose sometimes it's ok to 'wear shades in the dark', 'dutty wine' and 'wear baggy jeans', after all, I love seeing foreigners joining in on the 'Muntuza' in a Swazi club. When in Rome. We must not, however, lose sight of our values and customs as Africans, however we define that as individuals. Because, I guess at the end of the day, being African means different things to different people.

I can still recognize the braids though!

I don't understand it either

I don't understand it either the baggy pants the designer sunglasses at night the bling bling jewelry, the few i've seen who are real and true africans are some friends who work in the city and speak the language who came from there.