Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Rwanda, Rwanda (poem)

I am pulling out the poems one by one. There goes the anthology idea. Am I ever going to be able to write enough great poems to publish one? Time will tell. This poem is written for war torn countries when they are 'actually war torn'. I wrote this in March 2006 to commemorate the 12th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. We thank God that human spirit triumphed over selfishness and Rwanda is moving on. Rwanda is slowly becoming 'krabɛhwɛ' (a place to watch) these days with the great work Paul Kagame is doing.

It was specifically for the UCONN Africa Night, and it was recited by two lovely Ghanaian ladies who were at UCONN at the time. The poem was also inspired by the song, Rwanda, by Wyclef Jean, which was on the Hotel Rwanda soundtrack.

Here goes the poem

Rwanda, Rwanda
We wonder, we wonder
And leave others to ponder
Why they wander, they wander
Seeking red from black
Staining their own back
Blood is thicker than water
Family is thicker than enemy
We wonder who is family
But we know who is the enemy
And the battles go on
To end the battles

We wonder, we wonder
In the absence of a border
Would we even bother
In the presence of order
Would we stab one another
In the scarcity of guns
Would we care less
The lessons of war
Would they scare us
We know what to ponder
But after Rwanda, we still wonder
And the battles go on
To end the battles

Rwanda, Rwanda
We wonder, we wonder
Why the fountain of love runs dry
Why the innocent have to die
Why we match fear with a matchete
Why we shoot dispute with a gunshot
Why we confuse hope with bad news
And shade the muscle of our hustle
To keep the battles from going on
To end the battles

We wonder, we wonder
Why we silence ourselves side by side
Waiting for the event to subside
Generate into a genocide
Before we have time to decide
What to do about the massacre
That slaughters Tutsi brothers and Hutu sisters
When we counter the nothing with action
When we counter the wondering with answering
Then we will know
That why we wonder is
Itself a wonder

Rwanda, Rwanda
We wonder, we wonder

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Leading into leadership – the Syracuse year

One fateful day in 2000, I heard Arthur Musah (one of my idols at Presec) had gotten into MIT. The excitement that greeted this announcement was big in Presec because MIT was supposed to be the best engineering institution in the world. I had sworn not to do anything related to biology because I hated my biology teacher and I was quite strong in Math. It was the first time I heard about the Massachusetts (not Minnesota, Michigan or Montana) Institute of Technology. I declared that I was going to follow in Arthur's footsteps and enrol in MIT one day. Praise be to God, one day in March 2002, I found out I was admitted into my dream school. For a moment, I wondered if it was the Michigan Institute of Technology; I had some doubts. I must have done something right with my time at Presec. Some decisions and goals I set led to this moment, but what happened in that lean year between Presec and MIT. A lot happened, but it ultimately made me a little different from the person I was at Presec.

The popular thing was for most public Ghanaian secondary school students like me is to excel in the SSCE and gain entry to one of the top programmes at KNUST or Legon. My parents lectured at Tech, most of my friends were headed there, but I had my sights set on MIT. Not America, but MIT. Some people in my family didn't encourage me, saying I could go abroad for my second (Masters) degree. My plan was not to escape from Ghana (far from that). I wasn't having the 'Ghanaian dream' - to get out of Ghana - either. I didn't even know what the 'American dream' was. I just wanted to follow in the footsteps of people like Arthur Musah, Paa Kwesi Imbeah, etc. I wanted to do something special, I wanted to show I could excel at the highest level.

10 days before the infamous September 11, I arrived in the United States. I've forgotten what expectations I had, but I did know I came to 'Yankee' because of MIT. I was an ambitious teenager who loved to do a whole lot of activities. When 9/11 was happening, I remember what I was doing, I was flipping through morning talk shows like Jenny Jones, Jerry Springer and Judge Judy and thinking Americans must be a crazy bunch of people. I didn't notice what was going on in New York though I flipped to the news channels once or twice. When 9/11 happened, I remember feeling 'very American'. I learnt how to sing to American anthem because it was played on TV constantly. Tell me to sing it now, I will not know how to start. How did I get here?

My time in Syracuse living with my father taught me a lot. I learnt how to cook, to be more independent and started learning how to drive. I got introduced to the internet and Ghanaweb. There were a lot of Ghanaians in Syracuse, I worked at a local supermarket with a lot of them. When people asked me, "Do you go to school, Are you going to go to college?" I was surprised. I was not in school but it's because I needed to make some money for MIT. How couldn't I go to college? Because a lot of 'black' teenagers were not going to school, even though it was free. They were not kidding me. I remember I'll tell customers I was going to go to MIT (or going to MIT when I knew it), and some people would not know what MIT was. I was shockprised. Those who knew what MIT was would congratulate me and ask how I'd have money to attend such an expensive school. I had a benevolent uncle called Uncle Sam. This uncle is not as benevolent to me now but he sure was nice to me once.

When news started breaking out about the US attacking Afghanistan etc, my goodwill for America started reducing. I also felt they were being unfair/partial in their Mid-East policies. I once had a list of things I wrote about America that I thought were terrible. This was about the time my 'Ghanaianness' was increasing steadily and I appreciated Ghana and Ghanaians even more. I don't know when the homesickness kicked in exactly. My father got me a "student's child" card for Syracuse University so I was able to use their libraries. Maybe the sight of the Daily Graphic editions at the SU library spurred me on. The differences in development between Ghana and America began to kick in. Ghana could be better than it was. Ghanaweb news became my daily bread. I wanted to talk to Ghanaians as often as I could, seeing them at work and at home was not enough. I started entering Ghanaian chat rooms, and made some friends who I know till this day.

In short, my 'patriotism', interest in Ghana and its affairs, my hopeless love for all things Ghanaian and African started to paddle harder. I had sworn not to do a 'thing' for Presec when I was leaving the school, because it had been 'bad' to me and the old students never bothered to contribute so why should I? I found myself beginning to forge discussions on forums and encouraging the Ghanaians I met in chat rooms to be more interested in Ghana.

I experienced some racial profiling in Syracuse. This also made me feel more Ghanaian, less welcome, and more independent. Why are we being subjected to this? Because it's not our country? Wouldn't it be lovely if we didn't have to pursue this 'Ghanaian dream' that lands us in places where we don't feel like we belong? I promised myself that I would 'show' these people who were discriminating against me, one day. One day, I'll be so powerful, they'll need me for something. Getting into MIT was step one. What is Step 2? This step was/is probably not necessary. If we as Ghanaians collectively excelled in our environments and this spilled into our own home, we'll not need to make any more statements. This is where my ideologies shaped themselves and it's become a part of me.

You do realise, I haven't exactly mentioned leadership here right? Right. I was and maybe still am an angry black man who's bent on seeing African excellence. I had seen better in my time in America and wished so much better for Ghana and Africa as a whole. I wasn't that Pan-African before I went to MIT either. But wait, was Obama ever an angry black man? I will like to ask him that question. I do know anger, and some of the things I've mentioned here don't equate to leadership. Or do they in a way? I probably didn't have many opportunities to lead in Syracuse and the environment I was in, maybe I saw more of those in MIT. We'll find out in the next installment.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Scorned may be an even better Ghanaian movie

Afenhyia pa to everyone. Sorry for the long silence. I was busy chillaxing and eating some great food in Ghana. My time there has given me a lot of fodder for blog topics. We'll start 2009 off with a movie review though. I already blogged about "Life and Living it and this entry is about the second movie from the production that brought you Life and Living It. I heard about 'Scorned' in early November from a friend and I got excited. When I got to Ghana, I talked to a friend about the movie and she claimed it was even better than 'Life and Living It'. I had to own this movie before I left Ghana. Surely enough, I bought the two VCDs for the movie and I am really glad I did. Scorned is another excellent film from Sparrow Productions and a movie I have already seen thrice.

Shirley Frimpong-Manso is really doing well and I hope she gets enough support to go into film production full-time. Scorned is about a woman who suffers abuse from her husband, who's the son of a renowned reverend minister. An opportunity for a more financially secure future arrives and she is bent to take it and right all wrongs done her. Scorned introduces Lydia Forson to movie lovers and she did well in her debut role. She was also the classmate of my sister in Secondary School (Slopsa). The movie also features Kwame Sefa Kayi, Ekow Smith-Asante, Efo Mawugbe, Dzifa Glikpoe, Naa Ashorkor Mensah-Doku, Soraya Mensah Kukubor, and Sharon Azeev. Chris Attoh, Deconte Thompson and Nana Kwame Osei Sarpong are the returning cast members of 'Life and Living It'.

Just like 'Life and Living It', the acting is great and on point. You can only imagine that time was spent on getting the scenes and actions right. The sound and video quality was excellent too, as well as the chosen locations. Lister Hospital is about to get popular. Lydia had the hardest role as the movie centered around her and she had to build relationships with more major characters. Kwame Sefa-Kayi's character was quite interesting with many comedic antics like someone pointed out to me. Chris did okay playing a bad guy but I absolutely loved Efo Mawugbe's character! The 'Suncity' man shined and will love to seem him act in more movies. Ekow played the bad cop role which he did okay at too. He's been acting quite a lot lately but this is a different role from he's been doing in the AA and Venus Production films.

If 'Life and Living It' was bold, 'Scorned' was bolder. There was 'blood' in the movie, the snippet shown at the beginnings featured it too. There were a couple of sex scenes (don't get too excited) as well. The movie tried its best not to predictable and it did a good job at that with a very nice twist at the end. I like how Efo had the Fante lines, I'll personally like to see more of those in subsequent Sparrow films. I also loved how the film transitioned between scenes. And who can forget that cool car that Sharon Azeev aka Jimmy was riding? My mother was quite impressed.

One highlight of the movie was when the 'Daa ke daa' song was played. I immediately recognised Becca's voice and how the song was actually about what was transpiring in the movie. I wonder how much Becca was paid to compose the song for the movie? We want to see more collaborations between Ghanaian film and musicians. There was the 'Calling Becca' part which was quite sketchy, anyone who follows Becca would have known she was singing, the reference was unnecessary. Or was it a mishap? Apparently, there is a music video for 'Daa ke daa', I'll furnish the link once I find it. It was probably the only song by a local artiste in the soundtrack. I felt Lydia's solo about Aretha Franklin's R E S P E C T was a little long though.

The movie shows clearly two marriages, one happy and one sad one. Interestingly, two of the spouses hook up in the end which tests the happy marriage. How about the fake bad cop role? You know there are a number of them in Ghana. One of my friends claimed Nana Kwame played a more suitable role in this movie and though he appeared in just one scene, I'll agree. Surprised by Efo Mawugbe's character? There may be more. "The church needs it". "I need more than your thoughts." "It's either you think or you know". "I need that money". Efo Mawugbe was spectacular in my opinion. Is that his real name by the way?

How much money did they get for that PureJoy fruit juice commercial/advert? Scorned is using the marketing and distribution channels that other Ghanaian movies use. While this is good, it may compromise the quality of the production. I had to buy two VCDs for Scorned. They should make some DVD copies and look at 35mm formats too. The movie was premiered at the National Theatre and I hope it was shown at the Silverbird Cinema at the Accra Mall as well. I hope Ghanaians support this production and send a clear message to the rest of Ghanaian cinema that we want better movies. Hey, maybe Shirley should cast Agya Koo in a movie and show them how it's done?

Hell indeed has no fury like a woman scorned. Bad things happened to the bad guys but can you claim Dea (Lydia) was a bad person? She was on a mission, and you should watch to find out if she accomplished her mission. Scorned is highly recommended and personally I can't wait for the next movie from Sparrow Productions. Check out the website for the movie here. The preview is below

You can watch the Scorned movie online at

Found the music video for Becca's Daa ke daa song at last. You can watch the video and sing along with the lyrics by clicking here

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