Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Champion Chaas for Charity

I came up with this title in 2000 when I was submitting a bunch of 'chaas' for the Odadee Magazine. For those not familar with the word, chaa, 'to chaa' means to use puns in a sentence or use a bunch of words that rhyme together but don't make much sense. I remember how we used to belittle chaas in Presec. People who 'chaaed' were seen as unserious, jokers, etc. The funny thing was most of the people who 'chaaed' ended up becoming some of the most respected people in Presec, as prefects, SRC council members, club executives, editorial board members, etc. Of course, you had to control the amount of 'chaaing' you did.

After I arrived in the US after Presec and spent some time here, I quickly realised how much 'chaaing' was going on in America. It was viewed in a good light too, it was heavily used in marketing campaigns. I felt good about all the 'chaarister' nicknames I got when I was in Presec. Before I realised, I was converting my 'chaas' into lyrics, my lyrics had become vibes, and aggregated together were becoming stanzas or poems. Some of us Presecans have not lost our ability to chaa, and believe you me, we should not, because they do come in handy.

Anyway, since 2001, I've happened to chaa here and there and seen some of my friends 'retaliate' with their own. I want to share a few of them. You can judge how good the 'chaas' are.

Kwadade E, we should march forth for this March 4th and gather da OdadeE kwa in Cornell, ithaca like Gadamosi gathering Mossi possies to a gathering eating corn and koose, u say?

"We go rock mexico like rockstone rocking some Maths mock and mocking Mike and Maa's rock buns"

"Ei, I forgot that before I got the fort to be a chaa charmant, then charles dey man the mantle till I eyed the title."

I got inspired during the run up to Ghana's showing at the World Cup just before we played mexico in a friendly and had these to say.
"March 1, we will have won another one in da march to germany and achieve a chief win over mexico."

"We will outclass mexico in da bout on the dallas grass without a doubt.

Stephen, Mexico would be stiff and yield to da black stars on the dallas grassfield. Word! next day on wednesday.

Michael, mark ill will for mexico dis march 1 cuz da march's won.

Gogo, we go go defeat mexico for da bout on da dallas grass without a doubt and the feat would be the word the next day the wednesday o!

Shakespeare, we will use mexico for shakes cuz they are not our peer.

Eyered, make u no shiver like jared borgetti go deliver, make u bog to Las Vegas plus bike.

We go take Mexico make burritto then bury and nyam them in some yam eto.

I even felt like chaaing in Twi.
Yaw mante, mante sE moreyaw sE wOn goro wO bEgoro no ama Ama rehwehwE AhwehwE wOn.

obubah, ObubE a, Ghana bEgoro Mexico wO Dallas agoro n'ase.

I see u cher like some chairman edey man the mantle till charity charms charles.

Knoweth you not that no nino knows what I know?

Some of y'all have been getting in the act
Hoxlay - "ah ba! Aba is aba to buy eba from Oba(femi's)one!!!
Hoxlay also said - mama tess went to texas to test the new gaso for goase consumption

Osekre showed his Twi prowess - waka ama meeya ata, santana beka ama atta ate. wote asante enso wantena auntie taataa nky3i.
Waka ama makai apenkwa. 3nye ns3em a wukaa y3 anka. m3kai wu s33 y3kaay3a kaay3a wentie ... efri akcnc bcne anaas3 efri fie!!!

He can still hold it down in English as well - Chaa hene ... please let me ask you, can champion charister Atta willingly chill with cheese in China?

Odonkor - yeah men, twas when together with the geeks i turned my cheek and took a peek at the golden creek so i could seek in a week the wisdom of the greeks

I know y'all can do better than this. Reminisce the good old days and let out your 'chaas'! :-)

Friday, October 24, 2008

My thoughts on Obama, Obamamania and the 'hottest' son of an African

Champs, thanks for the encouragement. Y'all make me want to write more. I hadn't planned on writing tonight but I got inspired again. Shebi shebi, I am on fire. I am hot right now. Nah, there's no 'eye candy' or mishap in this story. I just attended an event at Stanford: An evening with (Skip) Henry Louis Gates, Jr, who was interviewed by Claude Steele. I remember Skip from an event I attended at Harvard when I was still at MIT, where he led a panel discussion celebrating Wole Soyinka's 70th birthday. I met both Skip and Uncle Wole that night, and that experience requires another blog. This conversation was very interesting; but this is what I remember - education, racial 'stuff', paradigm shifts in how black people are perceived and Barack Obama. They couldn't resist talking about Barack Hussein Obama, would you? I already spoke about him here but this is a follow-up. I am engulfed in Obamamania and I can't wait to see him win this election. How did we get here though?

Yesterday was quite an interesting day. First, I attended an awesome talk by Akwe Amosu about 'Democracy in Africa'. Afterwards, I went to the dining hall with a friend, ate to my fill and took some food home. The food made it home, there was no distracting eye candy. Besides, I was extra careful. I did meet a friend who asked me about (Skip) Henry Louis Gates' talk later that evening. I had planned to attend a Malaria Initiative (post about malaria) at Stanford event, but I ended up at this Skip Gates event. The conversation he was having with Claude Steele was so interesting that I ended up staying. I got to take a picture with Skip Gates. I couldn't miss this photo-op! Besides, I didn't take a picture with him when I 'ahushed' (took a pic with) Wole Soyinka. Like I said before, Skip's chat with Claude generated some Barack Obama chatter. Did you know Skip actually supported Hillary? He is now fully behind Obama and he also said Colin Powell could have run for president. He talked about how Obama is going to be a great president etc and offered some insight into the politic of today.

He said Barack Obama went 'around' the Congressional Black Caucus and the civil rights activists like Rev. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. To Skip, it was a genius move and we know how it's paid off. Rev. Jackson said he wanted to cut Barack's thing off. Reverend Father, why? I remember when Barack first started running, a lot of Black people questioned his 'Blackness'. His family didn't go through slavery, his mother is white, his father is African, he lived in Hawaii, yada yada yada. Such comments surprised me. Obviously, we've learnt a lot about Barack Hussein Obama and we don't question his credentials but he had to work for his support. Like my friend said, Obama is excellent so it is easy to get Blacks onto his bandwagon. Compare him with Palin, I don't think women would get in her igloo to give her support with her antics. Obama has had plenty of chances to mess up, but he's handled them admirably. He's cut across the melting pot and has become the epitome of the melting pot.

Claude asked Skip how Obama has been able to win the support of many whites. Skip said Obama is like the Michael Jordan of politics. If people could love Michael Jordan, the black Michael Jackson, Tiger Woods, etc, why wouldn't they celebrate Barack Obama? We've had sports icons to aspire to, now we have a leader. Obama is more than a politician, he's a leader. I don't support Obama because he is the son of a African, African-American or black, I support him because he is simply inspirational and he is a leader. This race shouldn't be about race. Skip mentioned Colin Powell could have become the first Black president but he's no Obama. It's nice that he can do the Yahooze dance but he's not the rock star or charismatic dude Hussein is. Did anyone not tell him Yahooze is about '419' and 'yahoo yahoo boys'? It's great he has endorsed Barack; Skip presented this as a full circle moment.

Barack is the son of an African. A friend asked me the other day what I thought of the Obama candidacy. I think Obama is a leader. Kwame Nkrumah (you knew I was going to mention him at some point), Julius Nyerere, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama. These are some people who've inspired a following for good. Barack's one in a lifetime. Clinton, Bush, and Blair were alright, but they were presidents, and nothing special. Nkrumah, Nyerere, MLK, Malcolm X, Mandela, Obama. In this game, sometimes there's one name for fame. What's in a name? It has to be memorable. Hussein is cool but for one reason or the other, it won't work. It can though, just change your middle name to Hussein and wipe away the stereotype. I found myself thinking, if I was to run for something, what name would I use? It's exciting to witness Obama's rise.

I told my friend that I felt Obama was a 'good' man. Many times, we end up settling for the most popular candidate or the lesser of two evils. For once, I will like to see the best candidate win. An Obama victory would tell us that we are ready to do the right thing when it comes to making choices, looking past inclinations, affiliations, and organizations. America has a statement to make, and with this outlook, it seems they will be making the right one. If America cannot choose Obama, then maybe we are not very 'serious' in this world. Screw Democrat or Republican. Vote Obama. Yes, I am endorsing Hussein.

I don't think an Obama presidency would be spectacular news for Africa (I just edited Ghana out). You do know he's putting the American front and center of his campaign, right? He went to Kenya to a superstar welcome and caught the ire of some Kenyans regarding American protectionism. Barack Obama said he was going to look out for the interests (of American farmers with subsidies that hurt African farmers) as it's part of his job. Obviously, Obama is concerned about Darfur but I doubt Africa should expect major 'development' because he is the leader of the USA. Besides, we should not be dependent on Obama or the West anyway. Maybe, he'll correct the unfriendly policies towards Africa, but that's the best he could or may do. A poll conducted in Ghana revealed that 31% of Ghanaians favored Ghanaians and 56% didn't know or didn't answer. I should note that Obama's ratings were much higher in East Africa. Apparently, Kenyans want an airport near Obama's hometown (uh huh) in the west of Kenya to be upgraded for the Air Force One in case Barack Obama wins the US elections.

I feel Africans in the US would gain more from his presidency. He technically was, is and maybe, still is one. We (Africans) are not inferior in any way to anybody, maybe Obama will confirm that for us. We all know about Obama, but there are many more Africans exuding excellence in their own little ways. Don't say CNN is not broadcasting it, do you know it yourself? Don't know how to find out? Join me, let's fish the good news out and broadcast it. An Obama presidency would do wonders for the African and African-American and Black American voices that are not heard. They may not be on MTV, BET, CNN or ESPN, oh wait, is that all we are watching? God help us find these gems. At least we have the internet. Go on, google something.

Obama is definitely making black kids everywhere (well maybe not all) work harder at their homework and is giving hope to many people of color. Goodness can win, we don't need to be cynical all the time. When did 'spreading the wealth' and 'making life easier for the masses' become known as socialism? What is wrong with socialism anyway? Screw these isms and let's do what's best for our people. I can't see why the Democrats and the Republicans are so polarized. How is this even necessary? According to me, Obama is above these isms. And if he inspires us, why can't we be above it too? Obama is able to unite us, and his message about us. 'Change you can believe in'. That's the kind of leader I want, the kind of leader we need and the kind of leader who has a vision that everyone can latch on to if they truly want the best for everyone.

M'ano asi (I am done),
Mighty Hussien African.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Eye candy, free candy, and candy I don't have

So for the last 10 minutes, I've been debating about whether I really want to write this particular blog. I even had a juicy title but for some reason, I am wondering if I should really put out this information. Well, you know what they say. Someone may use this information against you. Admissions committees and company recruiters are looking at our Facebook profiles, you have to be extra careful. But as a friend said the other day about me, "(Me) has no shame". Do whatever you like, live your life. So I am going to post this blog, I can do it. It is inspired by a real-life experience from yesterday concerning 'candy'.

I left the library for my entrepreneurship seminar, just in time to catch the speaker's closing moments, mark my attendance and grab some of the free food. This class is supposed to serve free food for a class mixer at the end every time. For whatever reason, they didn't do it this time. I was really disappointed. I was going to help cook for some friends later, but I still couldn't resist free food. In fact, just an hour before I was supposed to start cooking, I 'bocked' (a.k.a went to) the dining hall to get some 'chow'. After satisfying my hunger and becoming as satisfied as a satirical Santa Claus on Satiday (Yeah Chief), I packed the extra food for the journey home so I could live to save another bunch of cash for another day. I was biking, so I was riding it with one hand and holding a covered plate with the other. I have done it a number of times, my people, no shaking.

And then suddenly (just like D'Banj sings it), I found myself almost home. I saw this blonde shordy (she's not dumb, she goes to Stanford) and stole a glance. Nyame abɔdeɛ yɛ fɛ deɛ. God is such a wonderful architect. Right after I had popped this shordy and focused both eyes on my journey, I decided to 'brake'. I still don't remember why I decided to do that. Anyway, it was not a good brake. The bike stopped, I stopped, but the food didn't stop. It flew away and kai, it was so fast, I could not catch it. I couldn't believe my eyes. It's funny now but it wasn't funny at all then. My dinner for tomorrow was gone and there was no 5-second rule here as I stared at the burger and other 'accoutrements' on the floor in disbelief. I haven't failed to take this food home before, my people, never in this undertaking.

So I started to debate what may have accounted for this. Of course, if I hadn't looked at this fine shordy/kele/chic/girlie, I would probably have the 'grub' in the fridge now. I picked up the 'food that could be eaten no more' and headed to the trash bin/recycle bin/dumpster. I had wished the lady was still there. When the accident happened, I looked around to see if she had witnessed it. As I went to the dumpster, I was planning to tell the lady that because of her, I had spilled/lost/spoiled the food. Conversation starter, hehehe. She wasn't there; I had really wanted to tell her that.

Because of eye candy, I missed out on free candy. I felt guilty. I was wondering if this happened because I had looked at the lady or because I had been greedy enough to take food out of the dining hall. Presec people know it is an offence. I wasn't having any 'Adwen B' or sinister thoughts about the shordy, she just happened to be there. LOL. Can you blame me? It's eye candy. You know, you want to notice things around you even if you can't have them or approach them or communicate with them.

Like I said, I didn't have any scandylous thoughts, so it must be the free candy? I don't think I had been greedy to take the food home. Man must survive. Unlike Presec, it is not a punishable offence in this land of milk and honey. It is the land of the free, remember? I am on such a free food spree that one would believe the 'free food' gods are on my side. We are all in an economic crisis. I have done this stunt a number of times, but why should karma fault me for doing it? Kamikaze on a kentro level. It was on a Wednesday and boy was hustling. It's not greed, it's called hustle.

You see, this food was candy that I could have. I had it, but because of some eye candy I probably couldn't have, I don't have it (the food) anymore. I wasn't interested in it (I mean, the eye candy) anyway. Earlier, I made reference to the 'I have no shame' comment. 'I no dey shame' for trying to get some eye candy that I probably wouldn't get, but some times, I am not interested. It's great to love taking risks, many great men have become great because they did it. So this (maybe) embarrassing story is a risk I could be taking, but here's the point - take risks anyway. Make yourself heard. We are mere mortals. If you want to be in the public limelight, put yourself in the public spotlight. If you will be in the public spotlight anyway, bring yourself to light for the public. Be true. Not all eye candy is free and not all candy can be had. If you seek and it is meant to be yours, you shall find. If you don't, you can just fall back on the fact that maybe sometimes 'you can have whatever you like' doesn't hold true. Still, live your life to the fullest.

PS: Listening to http://www.museke.com/node/2049

Monday, October 20, 2008

Is Pan-Africanism affecting my Ghanaianness?

It's been two weeks since my last post. I didn't see this silence coming when I started blogging. But what you should know is, I got stories, lots of stories. Last Thursday, I attended a meeting regarding a new NGO set-up to raise funds for students in one district in Kenya. One of the founders has been my Swahili tutor for two quarters. To show that I belonged, I started speaking the little Swahili I knew to whoever would listen. "Why are you studying Kiswahili?" This is the question other people at the meeting asked me. I responded "Marafiki zangu 'plenty' wanatoka Afrika Mashariki" which means 'a lot of my friends are from East Africa'. My Swahili tutor went on to say 'This guy is a Pan-Africanist'. That is a cool thing to hear given my love for Kwame Nkrumah, but is it really a cool description? How are Pan-Africanists seen today? People blamed Nkrumah for concentrating too much on other African countries and he eventually began to alienate his own people. Will being a Pan-Africanist thread me on the same path?

The other attendants at the meeting had learnt Swahili for a longer time than I had. Some were 'white' Kenyans (kids of white missionaries who now call Kenya home). It was no different from my actual Swahili classes. I was like the only African in both of the Kiswahili classes I took, the first one I took had an Eritrean. I am probably not going to spend more than a month in East Africa in the near future (or would I?), I attended the meeting because I felt I had to, because the guy conveying the meeting was my Swahili tutor (who is from Kenya) and besides, it is an effort to help Africa. After that meeting, I 'bocked' the dining hall to grab some 'chow' (food) and hurried home. I hurried home so that I could catch another meeting at the Stanford Law school. This meeting was a fundraiser for a world-class hospital in Nigeria. Why did I attend? I didn't know the fundraisers and I am not particularly interested in health. If I remember the correctly, I was the only non-Nigerian African there. Maybe, I went for the free food; because I did walk away with 5 free T-shirts. The T-shirt reads, "They will suffer no more on my watch". Is it possible to watch over the Nigerians too?

The night before, I had helped a Kenyan move into his new apartment, and actually worked overtime that I ended up sleeping over at his place. Talk of dedication to the Pan-African cause. His roommate who is Nigerian, went to the same college like the double two both of us. You know what's cool about Pan-Africanism? You hang around a lot of Africans enough to figure out our differences. I swear I could tell quite well if some guy was from Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Senegal, etc if I saw him. I think identifying Habeshas (Ethiopia) is the easiest. I can even identify Rwandans and Burundians. Don't test. Have you noticed the differences in how some people pronounce English words? Take the word 'work' for instance. Ghanaians say 'wek', Nigerians say 'wok' and Kenyans say 'wak'. Get some of them who lived in the respective countries for a long time and put them to the test and I'll be vindicated.

I am trying to remember the last time I attended a Ghanaian event sef. I do know I went to the Nigerian independence celebration party last month and acted like I was a Nigerian; welcoming Nigerians to their own party. Why did I attend this event? I wanted to meet some more Nigerians (someone would say women) in the Bay Area. Up till today, I did see a lot of Nigerians there but I only met a handful of them. I am proud of the negotiating skills I displayed to make sure I paid the advertised gate fee/damage/price though. No one can 419 me. Hey, I also went to see a Somalian rapper perform and a South African choir sing, all because I wanted to support my fellow Africans.

In the midst of closely following the run-up to the Ghanaian election and my favorite Black Stars, I think I may have lost track of being pro-Ghanaian. My services to GhanaThink has suffered, and am wondering what is up with Stanford's own Akwaaba Ghanaian Students Association because I haven't really bothered to find out. I am too interested in Obamamania, which has probably sparked my interest because of its Kenyan angle. Is it possible to strike a good balance between being nationalistic and being Pan-African? Can one be nationalistic and be open to other cultures at the same time? How is that done? Surely, something will suffer abi? You may hear me saying 'wetin dey happen' more instead of 'what dey happen'.

But wait, the great Osagyefo said "Our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of Africa". We must celebrate our diversity but we must have a dream tied to it. We must synergize our energies for our common good and a vision that must be defined by our leaders. Pan-Africanism and African unity should not confuse us in our bids to better our lots as Ghanaians or citizens of other African nations. Pan-Africanism should not suffer my love for Ghana or vice versa. We have a lot to learn from each other and share what works and what does not. If we can take interests in foreign things, why not what is foreign and close? We sometimes face a lot of different circumstances, and these differences can educate us.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Are you dreaming? (poem)

I am on a poetry posting spree. I wrote this poem when I was in Presec in 2000. As a matter of fact, I performed it during the Mr. Presec competition in which I was 3rd. The poetry recital was excellent but I terribly flunked the traditional highlife dancing segment, which I believe cost me the grand prize. I believe, I am adept at dancing to highlife music now, if you don't believe me, catch me at your next Ghanaian party. Up till now, I haven't received my Woodin shirt(s) prizes for grabbing bronze. They must have lied to me. But I still have the poem that confirmed to me that I had a career in spoken word and poetry performance. I still remember some of my Presec mates teasing me with "Ato, are you dreaming, are you dreaming" after the contest. Well, the poem, here it goes.

Building castles in the air
Cement your imaginations
Build your rocky emotions
Yet, don't throw your hands in the air
Out of tranquility, an outburst
To build a city in days the worst
Make known your ambitions and hear
"Friend, are you dreaming?"

Daydream on what never was
Weave on the fibre yet to come
In the realms of the mind
When you have closed your eyes
Remembering last night
When he committed adultery
With eyes shut, "I love you"
Wife demanding, "Are you dreaming?"

Into battle with a cut-throat
In the heat of the Sahara, deserted
Browse the area for an oasis
Screen: Access denied
Today's dream seeks a scream
With eyes shut, he's about to cut
Don't heed, open your eyes
"Are you dreaming?"

Missed your balance, afraid of heights
Destruction gives you a wicked scare
Will you just stand there and stare?
Or sit cross-legged and not care
This is what I said to him
It was too late to survive it
His fears were erased, when I said
"Are you dreaming?"

Waiting and waiting and waiting
You wish you could be visited somehow
But you have waited too long
Need to give off that slumber
A saviour from nowhere is coming
A redeemer from somewhere follows "You are not serious",
He concluded "Are you dreaming?"

An old witch is encountered
Tells him, he will die tomorrow
Over a barrier of imagination
From a nobody to a somebody
Even if contrary, hear him say
"Are you dreaming?"

The word 'dream' can be defined in chao (plenty) ways. I think I just covered some in the poem. We should dream, dream on for better things. We are capable of achieving them so wake up from the dream of pessimism and negativity. Martin Luther King is partly famous because he said "I have a dream". The subject of the American Dream comes up every now and then.
A couple of quotes about dreams -
"Dreams are like stars...you may never touch them, but if you follow them they will lead you to your destiny." - Anon
"The future belongs to those who believe in their dreams." - Eleanor Roosevelt
"We grow great by dreams. All big men are dreamers." - Woodrow T. Wilson

This blog entry is inspired by Soweto Gospel Choir's African Dream song (originally written by Vicky Sampson). You can listen to the song and sing along at this Museke.com link

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Dilemma (poem)

In the summer of 2004, I found myself in Ghana. I was participating in an MIT student initiative called MIT-Africa Internet Technology Initiative (MIT-AITI). During my time in Ghana, the GhanaConscious me was disappointed with the attitude of Ghanaians to their own country and the general lack of patriotism. As you can imagine, that quickly changed when Ghana went to the World Cup in 2006. 'It' is in us, just in case you were wondering. Well, like I said, this was 2004. I was in a dilemma so I wrote a poem called Dilemma.

They bother to watch but do not see
They bother to listen but do not hear
They bother to think but do not act
I am encouraged and frustrated
I am hopeful and doubtful
They do not win today
If the better pays more than the good
I will turn right to the right

Comfort is not a secure fort
I have driven this route before
But I just saw this junction
I am enthused and confused
I am curious but furious
They will not sway me today
If my mind agrees with my hand and heart
I will keep my eyes on the road

There is love for the outsider
There is hate for the insider
There is no push up the ladder
I am eager but faith is meager
I am ready to P O P but I see an S T O P
They cannot send me from my family
If home is where the heart is
I will have it as the palace in my thoughts

Everyone has opinions and noses
But they all smell differently from roses
A single tree shades in a whole forest
I am willing but there’s no feeling
I am promising but there’s no compromising
They will not bring down my banner
If I still get my manna as a bafana
I will untie my bandana

I will not have a fling with bling
Cleaning the environs cleans the cleaner
I will unload the crat and create
I cannot but I should and I will
I see a river and I have a canoe
They cannot destroy every paddle
If someone would please go tell mama
I have solved my dilemma

The dilemma was 'solved' a long time ago, but right now, motivation and enthusiasm has me at another crossroads. I am firing myself UP to go.

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