Posts tagged accra
Post-Ghana Post: Eyes Open Wider

How do I explain the shift I feel? Or is it just the moon?

Here is a list of my changed perspectives:

  • I am a woman who is resisting patriarchy and colonialism. This means I will have to redefine my own values to reflect this resistance. I want to be a spirit in woman form, free to feel any way and not judge myself or others on their life choices. (Never mind my harsh judgement of the Pastors on the ads in Ghana in their poses looking like a Boys 2 Men concert poster... *steups*). Its going to be hard because we live in a society that imposes a norm upon everyone - no one is immune, and its hard to escape the ways we are told to feel about relationships, sex, our selves, physical and emotional attributes. A lot of picking and choosing feelings, a lot of not taking things personal, a lot of suppression of negative self-image and quieting negative self-talk. Its going to be swimming upstream but now I see how necessary it is now.
  • Women’s work worldwide is so undervalued. I’ve decided this is my call to action - this is the problem I want to work on solving in my life. In my life I hope to improve the economic inequality that exists for women in developing economies in Africa and the Caribbean. African Women’s Economic Empowerment. I want to expose women to the possibilities of e-commerce and improve digital literacy to increase economic opportunities.
  • I must do me. I must live out my dream for me first. I may end up disappointing my family and friends at times because I choose my strange solitude of travelling alone, I choose independence. I’m still negotiating my needs and wants; the things that give my life meaning vs. the things that I want to acquire. I didn't know I could really compromise one for the other until this trip to Ghana. I feel pulled at both sides; but I think I will just breathe.
  • It has been revealed to me that my Africanness is up for discussion. Yes I am black, I am of African decent but to many Africans I am not African. Yes I am African, I would explain, my family is from the Caribbean, but some people had never heard of Trinidad or Barbados or Dominica. It hurt kind of, to have to explain myself to anyone who asked, or anyone who called me “Obroni” (Twi word for white person or foreigner), that I came to Ghana to connect deeper to my Africanness, to affirm my Blackness and to belong. I had to take it all the way back sometimes, “Yes Barbados, you know Rihanna right? My ancestors, like hers, were Africans sold as slaves and settled in the Caribbean, and then eventually my parents immigrated to Canada.” It gave me another layer to my identity, like a filter through which to understand my privilege of having risen from out of ancestors who endured slavery to becoming an educated young black woman facilitating entrepreneurship workshops in Africa.
  • My eyes opened wider in Ghana. Its a sensation that is hard to explain. I am present, at the front of each moment, so deep inside myself and entirely outside of myself at the same time. 
  • So many butterflies are there. They move me, the sight of them shifts me from small minded worry into joy, laughing gratitude. An ease in my chest and step.
  • I thought that when I had kids I’d start going back to church, because my experience there really was not that bad and there are good values to be had there. Now? Nope. Never me, not again. I see how it has completely changed / adapted African sensibility. As people became enslaved, the bible was used to help them to transition into content servants. In Ghana, every second ad by the roadside is for a church. And the names are all variations of each other: “The Gospel Sanctuary of Christ” or “The Fellowship of Jesus Church” or “The Lamb of God Holy Monastery”. Even food stalls will be called “God’s Way Tilapia & Banku”, or hairdresser’s salon “The Hand of Jesus Braids & Weaves”. How, on a continent with such a rich history of spirituality spanning millennia prior to this day and age, has white Jesus come to be on the side of many Tro Tro buses? At least in Toronto sometimes I had seen a black Jesus, but in Accra, every Jesus depiction was very white, blue eye blond hair white. This matters! The image of the one who gives salvation is a white man? Does anyone else see something inherently wrong with this or am I over reacting?

I think now, who do I think I am supposed to be vs. who am I really? I am observing - my self, my surroundings, my dreams, my desires - Even my goals of a nuclear family home, heteronormative relationship, home and car ownership can be a product of capitalism… I think I have uncovered some things about myself, I like it, and I find it hard to articulate. But I see so much potential.

Special thanks to Crossroads International and Pro-Link Ghana for facilitating this journey to Accra, Ghana and for introducing me to the Obrapaa Women's Group. It has been another fate-felt inspiring connection which has resulted in beautiful art which I look forward to sharing with the world. 

 

The Diaspora Homegoing // Pre-Ghana Blog Post

Since returning from Trinidad in June I have been working on developing this passion project - the Women's Entrepreneurship Program. A program that teaches entrepreneurial skills, shares useful tools for business automation and e-commerce, while also touching on personal leadership exploration tailored to women / womyn identifying individuals. The idea was inspired by my work as Entrepreneurship Development Advisor with CUSO International in Dominica in 2013, where I learned how to use anti-oppressive frameworks to build capacity in disadvantaged communities within emerging economies. I've always wanted to visit Ghana (anywhere in Africa, for that matter) and I am excited to do so in the context of furthering my career goals.

This time, instead of staying for 6 months, I'll be staying for 6 weeks. The Women's Entrepreneurship Program is supported by Crossroads International, will run for 5 weeks and will take place in an area called Agbogbloshie, in Accra's city centre. Agbogbloshie is infamous for being one of the world's largest e-waste sites. It is a digital dumping ground on top of a former wetland, where more developed countries like ours send our computers and cell phones to die. Add that to the fact that socio-economic and environmental disadvantages disproportionately affect women in developing communities. The group of women I will be working with live there, an area which so blatantly shows the unseen (by westerners) implications of a technologically advancing society. The new iPhone replaces the last, which only came out last year, and through such effective marketing we are implored to purchase. The externalized cost of our phones, computers, and other devices are paid by other communities, exposed to the toxicity on a daily basis.

The women there have started a collective called the Obrapaa Women's Group. As with many people who become entrepreneurs, the Obrapaa women's group have amazing artistic talents. Their talent and passion, by fate or by chance, aligns closely with mine. They create jewelry which they sell in local markets. Crossroads International's mandate, as aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals aims to promote gender equality, reduce inequalities, promote decent work and economic growth as well as promote responsible consumption and production in the countries they work in. My program aims to build capacity and improve economic empowerment, by sharing how I go about planning, organizing and releasing jewelry collections in a business format. We are going to collectively design, test, manufacture and brand a jewelry line that I hope can reach more local and international markets. 

I don't intend to give false hope - the jewelry industry is a hard one. It is very saturated and your original hard work can be easily ripped off. But I do intend to impart a sense of personal leadership as well as introduce opportunities for e-commerce that can provide an alternative form of income for any business idea, not just jewelry. I hope that we can re-use non-toxic e-waste and create great art in the form of jewelry. I hope we can learn together through an engaging experiences, inspiring each other to use the entrepreneurial tools to our advantage.

I hope to learn so much from them. I was given samples of their jewelry - beautiful beaded jewelry and bags that show they are artists at heart. Our challenges are many; one, the bead market is flooded by beads from China that are expensive, and some of the women have childcare to balance with any extra curricular commitments. Depending upon the interest and availability of the members of the Obrapaa women's group, I hope that we can start a social enterprise that can support their economic livelihood and personal development.

Fitting well with fate again is the upcoming NEW AFRICA Fashion Presentation on Friday Sept 23rd, 8pm-11pm at Rally Ossington, It is a collaboration with Ghana based clothing line Barkers-Woode, focusing on presenting new images of African-ness, one that includes diaspora, and one that celebrates our blackness. With all the anti-black sentiment in society and in news coverage, I am excited to be part of an event that celebrates, uplifts and exemplifies Africa and African heritage. This will also double as my going away send off, so to RSVP please click "Going" on the event page!

I will be blogging regularly to share my stories and insights - returning to Africa after generations.