All Articles Tagged "ghana"

Buy A Scarf, Educate A Girl: Why You Need To Know About Bené Scarves

November 25th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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bené scarves

Source: Instagram

You know what they say, travel changes your perspective and opens your eyes. That was the case for Michelle Blue (pictured above, to the right) when she had the opportunity to travel to Ghana the summer before her junior year of college. Blue was studying business with a minor in fashion merchandising when she and her classmates traveled to the West African nation to learn about textiles, the culture and set up a community trade program between Athens, Georgia and Ghana.

But the trip ended up being so much more than that.

“I went on the trip and it was all amazing. Everything from the people, the culture, the food. I’ve traveled the world and I fell in love with Ghana. So it was a great experience. But we were also able to do a lot of outreach. And so one of the programs we went to, I met some really amazing girls. It was an overwhelming experience because from my eyes, from my experience, they had so little. They were lacking in physical possessions but they still had such a joy, they still had such a spirit. They welcomed us. They were singing, they were dancing. And I was like ‘How can this be? How do you have such a joy in the midst of it all?’

You know, as Americans, we get down on the smallest things, ‘Oh, I’m having a bad hair day’ or ‘I left my cell phone,’ ‘My day is over.’ Just completely distraught. And you know there are people in this life, here in America and abroad who are dealing with so much more. But the fact that they had such a tenacity and a hope to want to do better for themselves and their families was really inspiring. 

So, I left the program with that on my heart, really just trying to figure out what could I do to give back and really help them to continue their education.”

Michelle was so changed by the experience, she shared it with her best friend from middle school, Sasha Matthews. The two immediately started thinking about ways they could help. Since Michelle had taken the trip to learn about textiles, they thought of starting a clothing company, using West African textiles to help support the girls through school. The idea was a good one even though neither one of them had any idea of how to go about it.

“It’s funny because neither one of us have any design experience. It’s like so foolish. I’m like what were we thinking. We wanted it all, jackets, dresses, baby bow ties, we wanted it all.”

It took Blue’s internship in New York before she learned that their dreams were too ambitious. “[We were] way beyond our knowledge, way beyond our bank account.”  

A bit discouraged, they made some adjustments and revisited some ideas.

“We kind of got in a rut but we kept in mind that the girls are still there, the need is still there. So we have to do something.”  

They looked at their original plan and saw they had scarves as one of the items they wanted to sell. It was a perfect fit.

“You don’t have to worry about size, you don’t have to worry about fit. It’s the perfect accessory for any woman. We were like we can manage that right? In our minds we were like, ‘Oh, scarves are going to be easy.”

It wasn’t all that easy. But they were determined.

“Sasha and I graduated 2013 and two weeks later, we launched the business [Bené Scarves]. And it’s just been a journey ever since. We’ve been very blessed. We’ve learned alot, we’ve grown a lot, we’ve failed a lot. And we’re really just taking it all in.” 

The two women work with a textile designer to create all of their own fabrics and they manufacture the scarves in the states. They used the sales of the scarves to support the girls through tuition, book supplies, and uniforms for the girls who are pursuing their secondary education.

The girls are chosen through a Bené’s partner Sista Works who does the administrative work and recruit the girls. They also make sure the money is being handle the right way.

Each print is named after one of the girls the sale from the scarves support.

bené scarves

Michelle and Sasha/Source: Instagram

Many of us love our best friends dearly but that doesn’t mean we could work with them. The stakes were even higher for Michelle and Sasha’s passion project.

“The thing about a partnership is– and it’s nothing against my other friends because I love them just as much–But the business, is literally like a marriage and Bene is our child. So the decisions that Sasha makes in her personal life are going to inversely affect me and the business and so I have to be aligned with someone that I connect with on every different level. For us, it’s a spiritual level, its a business level, it’s a moral level. Everything in our lives impact one another. 

I had to have someone I trust and I respect as well to go in business with and Sasha was that. It works really well for us and I couldn’t do this without her, by any means. We definitely need each other and the business is so much stronger because both brains are here, working on it. 

Sasha has a background in mathematics. I studied business marketing with a minor in fashion merchandising. But the way we think is completely different. She’s more so analytical, like ‘what is the logic behind all of this?’ And I’m more so like…Laughs…I don’t even know what I am. I’m just out there. But I’m a lot more optimistic, creating the larger vision of it and Sasha’s like ‘Ok, well how do we make this possible?’ From a roles perspective, I’m like CEO, I’m creating the vision and Sasha is COO, the operations. It works well. 

We’re both invested in this and you have to have someone like that in business. We put a lot of money into the business, we put a lot of time into the business. And a lot of people don’t realize that it’s not going to be an immediate return. But it takes a special person to stick with it. 

There’s been times where Sasha and I have been at a market, all day, from 9 o’clock to 7 o’clock and we didn’t make any sales. But you have to have an entrepreneurial mindset to know this is a part of business. Everything is not going to be a win.  But we also knew next morning, we had to be right there at 9 o’clock, ready with smiles on our faces, regardless of how we really felt. A new day, a new opportunity. So, it’s a lot.”

Part of that “lot” included financial sacrifices as well as time and talent. While Michelle works Bené full time, Sasha works as an analyst for Nielsen. The two young women have financed everything for the business, thus far, by themselves.

“I look back at it and I’m like ‘where did all of this come from?’ Sasha and I both made sacrifices through school. She worked through college, did a lot of tutoring and did different things with her math lab, through her major. I worked through college as well, as a resident assistant so that was great for helping us get money. Neither one of us took out loans for college so that helped us move a little bit more freely. But we realized that every cute pair of shoes that we see, we can’t purchase because we’re working toward something that’s so much greater. 

There’s been sacrifices. I work the business full time but I’ve had to take on part time jobs, something to make ends meet. You do what you have to do, you make it happen. So far we’ve been able to manage.”

The Blue and Matthews have been managing so well, they were featured in Pantene’s “Stronger Together” campaign. It was a huge opportunity for an up and coming philanthropic business.

We’re still really blown away by it. We were working with a publicist in New York, who was amazing, and Pantene reached out to her looking for a brand that would be a perfect fit for them and she pitched us and we got it. 

People are like Pantene? Bene Scarves? What is the connection there? They were running a campaign called Stronger Together and they were launching a new shampoo and they wanted you to use the conditioner together. So they wanted to feature women duos that were working well together and doing great. So we went into it, not really knowing the extent of it. It was great to be able to work with such a huge brand so early on. It definitely built a ton of credibility and of course helped get some exposure as well.”

As for the future of Bené, it’s all about expansion.

“We’re really excited because we’re in the process of setting some things up where we can support the girls directly. So meaning that we can increase our support as well as support more girls around the world. So, it started in Ghana but this is an issue, this is something that is occurring all over. Sasha is from Jamaica so that definitely hits home for us. And so that will be really exciting to see how we can grow our impact, support more girls. At the end of the day, that ‘s what started us off. That’s the core of us. To be able to change lives is all we’re really here to do.”

You can check out some of the patterns on the next page. And you can purchase a scarf and educate a girl, here.

Crowdfunding Campaign Launched To Bring Home Slain Detroit Activist And Sister From Ghana

May 13th, 2015 - By Ann Brown
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Mamelena Diop and Nzinga Janna, pictured 2nd and 3rd from left via GoFundMe

Mamelena Diop and Nzinga Janna, pictured 2nd and 3rd from left via GoFundMe

A former Detroit activist and her sister have been murdered in Ghana and now the family has started a crowdfunding campaign to bring their remains home.

In the early 1970s Jeannette Salters was an African-American activist before deciding to discover her roots and move to Ghana. She also changed her name to Mamelena Diop. Her sister, Nzinga Janna, relocated as well.

According to Ghanaian online news site,  two men have been arrested in connection to the murders of Diop, 75, and Janna, 60, who were found near their home.

“I feel terrible about what happened,” Diop’s son, Greg Salters of Detroit told Clutch. “It’s a tragedy. Words can’t even explain how I feel about my mom being taken away from her home, murdered and put in a shallow grave 300 feet from her home.”

According to the Salters family, Diop was killed because people wanted the land she acquired from the government.

“My mom went to court over that” and won,” said Salters. “I guess the locals decided they were going to take matters into their own hands. And they decided to abduct and murder them.”

After the sisters went missing a week ago, a worried friend broke into their house and found blood and the object used to kill them. Police later found where the burial ground.

According to the GoFundMe page the sisters had been living in fear after threats on their lives and since a Ghanaian tribal chief forcibly moved to take over one of their houses. Things grew scarier when their dogs were poisoned.

“She loved that place,” said Diop’s daughter Cheryl Salters. “She loved Africa. The people were nice.”

So far the family has raised just over $3,000 of the $30,000 goal.


6 Places Every Black Woman Must See In Ghana’s Capitol, Accra

October 30th, 2014 - By Madame Noire
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AccraFrom AFK Travel

A visit to Accra is a must for every visitor to Ghana. The energy is vibrant: the sultry air is filled with the smells of palm oil and exhaust fumes; the streets are alive with brightly colored wall murals, street art, and beads; and frenetic sights and sounds come from every direction. People are on a mission to get from point A to B swiftly and vendors are everywhere, even in the streets dodging traffic, selling any and everyone some of any and everything.

This sprawling metropolis doesn’t have much of a skyline or center, yet still feels like a distinct city, stretching from the beach to west, the delta to the east, and the suburbs to the north — which means there are a variety of neighborhoods ready for exploration.

If you’re a newbie interesting in art and culture it can be overwhelming trying to figure out what to do and where to go, but there’s something for everyone, from history buffs to art enthusiasts to music lovers to dancers. Here we break down six places you can get a dose of local — and international — culture in Ghana’s capital city.

Check the locations on


I’m Blacker Than I Thought …But I Still Have White Cousins: My Ancestry Story

April 24th, 2014 - By Veronica Wells
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i'm blacker than I thought

Me in Ghana, in various locations in 2008-2009.

I always thought my parents were a little too militant. While most kids my age were watching Disney movies and ABC family specials, my parents had us watching “Eyes On The Prize” documentaries and Roots. People could tell from the soul music blaring from our house to the Indiana Black Expo license plates, to the big, black furry dog that scared the neighbors when he got loose, we were the Black and Proud family. No question.

So imagine my surprise when one day, as a middle schooler, I asked my dad if he would be interested in tracing our family history and he said, flat out “No.” I was floored to say the least. Mr. Blackety Black himself didn’t want to know about his own, personal black history? I really couldn’t understand it and I tried prodding my dad for reasons why. But his only response was, “I just don’t want to know.”

Well, I did. And so I continued my search. I say continued because from the time I was able to ask questions and comprehend I was unofficially collecting my family history. I’d spend hours with my grandmother asking about her life. I was the kid who went through family photo albums knowing I didn’t know 75 percent of the people in them. When I’d go over to my grandfather’s house, I’d search through his drawers looking for clues to…something. I found a marble once. My search even became supernatural at some point. My paternal grandfather died shortly after I was born and I remember always wanting to be able to have known him and I’d stand in the mirror, looking for traces of his face in mine or hoping that he’d send some type of message. I was thirsty for answers.

By the time I got to college, everyone kept telling me that I needed to be sure to study abroad before I left. Like most college students, I didn’t have a lot of disposable income. Honestly, it was a struggle to just figure out my tuition let alone a trip across seas. But I decided to make it happen some way or another. And there was no doubt in my mind that if I were going to go anywhere, it would have to be some place, some country in Africa. During my junior year I learned of an opportunity to spend two weeks in Ghana. The two week time span was a bit more budget friendly and I literally jumped at the opportunity. The time I spent there the end of 2008-2009 was marvelous, to say the least but we’ll get to that later. When we left the country, my professor, who went with us, told us that the lessons we learned there would reveal themselves in time. I didn’t know realize how right he was.

So flash forward to this year, a few months ago, when approached the MN editorial team about participating in their DNA project that would be able to tell us which regions our families had come from. As you might guess I was ecstatic. I was so geeked to send in my salvia sample and I wanted to make sure that everything was perfect. A half an hour before I provided my sample, I brushed my teeth so my spit could be fresh. Mistake. Weeks, later after all of my coworkers had received their results, I checked to find that my results came back inconclusive.

I had to resubmit.

This time I didn’t get cute. And in less than the six weeks, they predicted my results were here. Before I saw the list of the countries, I saw a list of my cousins…the first one a white man from Massachusetts with a young girl, presumably his daughter, sitting in his lap. Ancestry told me that this man was my 3rd or 4th cousin with, get this, 98 percent accuracy. Oh lawd.

Suddenly, it clicked. This is why my dad didn’t want to dig into his ancestry. He didn’t want to be outright confronted with the lighter, more European side of our family, you know, the ones who had more likely than not, forced themselves onto the tree. And my dad knew the white folks were there. There are just too many light complected folk to deny it. Personally, I know the deal. I’m not necessarily happy about it, but I’m not surprised either. It sucks that it happened but it is what it is at this point, white blood flows through our veins. Then I clicked to see how much.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I was 90 whole percent African! And the first country, with 30 percent was Ghana. I’ve never been so happy to see a map in my life. I saw generations of me on that map and I could not stop smiling as I read the names of counties I knew very little about like Senegal, Nigeria, Cameroon, Benin and Togo. Then the 9 percent European, Great Britain was the highest with 6 percent and the rest Italy/Greece, European Jewish and Ireland all had one percent, all of which, with the exception of Great Britain, were surprises. Italian? Jewish? The Irish I have expected…but that’s another long story.

Despite the family lore, I didn’t see not a single drop of Native American, but the same week I got my results, Henry Louis Gates, would write an exceptionally thorough explanation as to why that might have been the case. In short, my ancestors were just like my father, not wanting to acknowledge the whiteness. Native American made for a better, less oppressive story.

I always thought that when I got my ancestry results, the answers that I had been searching for most of my life, that I would be so overcome with emotion that I would weep. But it didn’t happen…right away. I texted my coworker and friend Victoria Uwumarogie and told her what I’d found. The conversation went like this:

Victoria: “So how do you feel about your results?

Me: It’s cray. I’m kinda overwhelmed. I have so much diggin to do now. But I had a feeling I was Ghanaian…A lot of Jamaicans come from there (my maternal side is all Jamaican) and it was so funny Danielle (our Ghanaian coworker) looked at my grandfather’s pic rue and was like ‘Your people are from Ghana he looks just like my dad.’

Victoria: And to think you’ve already visited your homeland :)

And that’s when it hit me. I reflected back on my trip to Ghana, visiting Elmina slave castle, sobbing with my friend at the door of no return while our fellow [white] travelers looked on sympathetically but not feeling it like we were. This was full circle. I thought about how much I loved the music, the beaches, the fashion honey. (Some of thee flyest dresses I own, I bought in Ghana.) I distinctly remember being pleasantly surprised to find the smell of khus khus perfume, the same kind my Jamaican grandmother used to wear. I remember the elders who blessed us. And I never could forget the one man whose shop I brought from telling me, after noticing my Jamaica shirt, that there was a connection between us. And now, with my results, I knew his words were true. I felt it and I came back home telling my family, especially my mom that we were Ghanaian. But DNA makes it, for lack of a better phrase, hella real. Though I know I have so much more to learn about myself, (They don’t know it yet but my parents, will be taking this test.) but this information is the first really big, really significant piece of the puzzle I’ve been trying to put together my whole life.


“An African City” New Webseries Explores Love & Life For Modern African Women

March 18th, 2014 - By Veronica Wells
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With a new web series hitting the internet every other day, it can be hard to decipher what’s actually worth your time. But that’s why we’re here. I don’t spend nearly enough time watching web series but when I find one that’s good, particularly one that caters to black women, I have to share.

Enter: “An African City.”

The series, created by Ghanaian Nicole Amarteifio, follows five beautiful and successful African women who’ve all decided to return to their home continent and confide in each other about love and life.

Much like her characters Amarteifio studied in the United States and had a successful career when she returned to her native Ghana. She found that the dynamics between men and women to be intriguing and started writing about it. Eventually her musings turned into screenplays and now the web series. Amarteifio hopes the series provides a few laughs for women across the continent and uplifts them.

On the show’s website,  Amartefio explains that she was tired of seeing African women depicted as poor and dire. Instead, she wanted her show to portray these women as intelligent, modern and classy. And because of that we now have “An African City”

The series, which debuted on March 2, boasts a cast of five women with rich personalities. There’s the religious one, the one who is all about her business, the central character who is trying to navigate her love life and the divorcee who returns to the continent without a job.

These women are played by actresses MaameYaa Boafo, Esosa E, Maame Adjei, Nana Mensah, and Marie Humbert.

In the first episode, Nana Yaa, the main character, played by MaameYaa Boafo, returns to her native Ghana for “big government contracts” and because it’s her home. At least that’s what she tells her friends. At the episode’s end we discover it might actually be something entirely different.

But I don’t want to give too much away.

Get into the first episode, “The Return”  in the video below.

If you like it, you can watch the rest of the episodes from the first season here or the first three on YouTube. 

What do you think about this web series? Will you watch?

Photographer Malte Wandel Snaps Captivating Photos Of Ghanaian Street Fashion

September 20th, 2013 - By Lauren R.D. Fox
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Source: Malte Wandel

Source: Malte Wandel



From StyleBlazer 

While street style in the States typically captures trim, fashionable girls who happen to be away from a desk during the middle of the day, in other countries style is appreciate in everyday aspects of life. OkayAfrica recently profiled photographer, Malte Wandel a German artist who captured street style in Ghana after a nine-month stint. Entitled, “Please Don’t Smile” the 24-piece collection has photos of men and women in their natural element.

From beach-side surfers to mothers outside their homes, life in the country is revealed in a raw intimacy. For many, it’s a peek into a world far different from their own. In addition the Oldd Skuul boys (a movement of boys dressing as their forefathers did in colonial times), we also noticed the prevalence of Western fashion in the garments of the subjects. View all the captivating images on the next pages.

See more at 

God Forgives, Twitter Doesn’t: Rick Ross Confuses Africa For A Country And Twitter Has A Field Day Over It

June 26th, 2013 - By Clarke Gail Baines
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Rick Ross

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It doesn’t take much for people to get riled up about Rick Ross. When you call yourself a “Bawse,” pretend to be living the life of an actual drug dealing gangster, rap about slipping folks a Molly, and constantly walk around with your breast out, people are always going to have something to say. But Ross had to take a loss this week when he traveled somewhere in Africa (he didn’t clarify where, but he’s traveled to Ghana, South Africa and Nigeria in the past, even filming a version of “Hold Me Back” in the latter country to some side-eyes), and tried to show his appreciation for the trip and Wale’s new album on Twitter. Things went downhill from there:


Maybe if he would have acknowledged that he made a slight mistake and then clarified that Africa is indeed a continent, that would have been the end of that. But he didn’t, and the end-result was all those retweets. Folks on Twitter went on and on as they do, joking about his mistake until at some point, after letting the Tweet stay for a while, Ross or someone on his team decided to delete it. As someone who is constantly on Facebook and Twitter for this publication, it’s easy to make a mistake when you’re trying to quickly move from one thing to the next, so while I might have slowly side-eyed the Tweet, I wasn’t nearly as harsh as some of the folks on Twitter. Here are a few of the responses his mistake received:

“Rick Ross landed in the whole of Africa at once, I swear he writes the fat jokes for himself.”

“You failed Geography?”

“Africa isn’t a country and U.O.E.N.O it.”

Guys, the saddest part is that this is NOT Rick Ross’s first time in the country of Africa. He should have known better! #RoastOn

“That Rick Ross “country of Africa” tweet is the best thing since Ying Yang Twinz named their album “United States of Atlanta”

“@rickyrozay doesn’t know that having sex w/ an unconscious person is rape. Why did y’all expect him to know that Africa was a continent?”

While some might think it’s sad that Ross possibly really thought Africa was a country, it’s even sadder that all this creativity gets wasted on Twitter. Some of these people need to be out here writing for comedians!

Get It! Adorable, Little Ghanaian Girl Dances Azonto Like It’s Her Job

April 1st, 2013 - By Veronica Wells
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Source: YouTube

Source: YouTube

While we Americans have been infatuated with the Gangnam Style and most recently the “Harlem Shake,” Ghana was on some other stuff. As early as 2011, there was a much more complicated and intricate dance craze called the Azonto.

Now, you may be wondering why I’m bringing your attention to an international dance craze that’s years old. Well just stay tuned. I’m explaining the dance craze so I can introduce you to this absolutely adorable Ghanaian girl dancing like it’s her full time job on a beach.

If you get a chance watch the concentration on this girl’s face. She is not smiling. She is not distracted by the people placing stickers on her forehead or “spraying” her with money. Instead, she is focused on gettin’ it. And we love it.

Watch her work. It’s sure to put a smile on your face.

If you’re interested in learning the dance for yourself, watch how the big kids do it in the video below.


Do Single, Successful Black Men Have Biological Clocks Too? Ghana Thinks So

March 21st, 2013 - By Charing Ball
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Speaking of diversity in the realm of black romantic comedies, Shadow & Act is reporting on Contract, a highly anticipated Ghanaian film starring Ghanaian actress Yvonne Okoro, South African actor Hlomla Dandala, and Nigerien actor Joseph Benjamins, which is scheduled to open in Nigerian cinema this Friday.

According to Shadow & Act, expect this to happen in the plot:

Successful Businessman Peter Popolampo is the ultimate alpha male. He is 40 years old, rich, and a staunch bachelor. Despite his mother’s persistent attempt to find him a woman, Peter sticks to his rule of non-committal casual dates, freedom and controlling his life until a yearning to have a child arises. In his quest to find the woman who will take his money, have his child and disappear, Peter begins a roller coaster, contracted relationship with Abena Boateng, a crude but clever local girl who is anything but impressed with Peter’s affluence.”

Check out the trailer below:

Based on the trailer alone, the film looks very promising; definitely a visual and stylistic upgrade from films, which we normally associate with this region. Also, how cool is it that in addition to Nollywood, we now have Ghollywood to look forward to? Well almost. According to Shadow & Act while the film has already debuted in both native Accra, Ghana and London to “impressive audiences,”the prospects of seeing this film stateside are largely doubtful. So why are we talking about a film, you will most likely never get a chance to see? Glad you asked…

The plot. More specifically, when was the last time – if ever – you heard of a film centered around a black man, grappling with the urges from his biological clock (who knew men even had biological clocks?), on the intentional search to become a single parent? This is some ground-breaking black filmmaking right here; it’s a shame we have to go all the way back to the motherland just to see it. Nevertheless, a film, which takes an interesting angle on the successful single woman meme is worth noting and exploring.

In most films of similar plots, it is women, who are mostly choosing to go into parenthood alone. Of course, that plot has been reconfigured as of late to include the gay, white man or men; but traditionally speaking, single parenthood is mostly viewed through the lens of the fairer sex. Of course, there are some variations in this single mother movie troupe, most visible when race is injected into the character. For the single white mother, the setup usually goes like this: She usually hails from an upper middle class; is currently established professional; with oodles of disposable income but can’t seem to find that perfect partner to conceive with. Therefore she decides to head on down to the nearest fertility clinic for a little turkey baster potion or pays someone to be knocked up for her. The joke isn’t that the decision to get pregnant is always a choice and always her choice. The jokes, instead, revolve around the pregnancy itself – because as we all already know, morning sickness, dating (because they still are allowed to be seen as beautiful and datable) and finally labor is chocked full of slapstick and drollery. While the premise of these films still rely on sexist sentiments, our white single mom is still able to overcome her situation and in most of the times, our single woman heroine meets and marries a man, who ultimately provides her – and most importantly her child – legitimacy.

On the flip side of that, let’s take a similar plot setup but instead of a single white woman, let’s add a single successful black woman. Like her white counterpart, she is and established professional who mostly maintains an middle to upper middle class lifestyle. Also like her white counterpart, despite having education and oodles of income at her disposable, she too has a trouble finding a suitable suitor. But despite their matching profiles, unlike her white counterpart, our black single woman is not anticipating pregnancy. In most of the films revolving around single black woman parenthood, more than likely, her pregnancy is unplanned. The result of some late night bumping and grinding with some lame dude, who will either abandon her for the streets, prison or another woman (another man if you are Tyler Perry). We spend the next half of the film, pondering whether she should keep it [also known as the baby] or not; all the social implications this illegitimate spawn will have on society; and how she is destined to a life of poverty, bitterness and singlehood. Basically, the struggle. Nothing about this character is inspiring or aspirational. Instead the single black mother troupe is usually treated as a cautionary tale, meant to be fixed and empowered.

Like his black woman counterpart, single parenthood is usually hoisted upon our typical black male character, however what appears to be different here, at least in terms of movie setup, is that Contract looks as if it might give our black male character the redemption of legitimacy, which is rarely offered to black women in film or even in television. Although I am also curious of this spin on the “no available” suitor idea. That too would make an interesting topic for discussion. Of course, there is no way of knowing for sure until I see the film. And that’s why I’m hoping that one of our West African readers might actually have the hookup. Wink.

Akua Soadwa And Her Sister To Sister Summit Seek to Combat Negative Images Of Women By Asking, “Am I My Sister’s Keeper?”

March 13th, 2013 - By Charing Ball
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In order to foster change, we have to first change the conversations we have within ourselves and with each other. That’s the mantra of Akua Soadwa, founder and director of Gye Nyame (pronounced: “jean-yuh-me”) Empowerment Project, a Brooklyn-based non-profit organization dedicated to affirming positive life outcomes for Pan-African people and communities. Soadwa believes that this is particularly true for young people, navigating the rough media terrains of violent reality television and viral beat-down videos, as seen on websites such as WorldStarHipHop. Looking to combat these images, the Gye Nyame Empowerment Project is sponsoring its sixth annual Sister to Sister Summit, to be held on Saturday, March 16 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, New York, which will challenge young women to embrace being My Sister’s Keeper.

Read below as Soadwa speaks about this upcoming day of bonding, healing and most importantly conversation shifting among young women as well as how Gye Nyame works every day to empower all people within the Pan-African community.

So the Sister to Sister summit takes place this Saturday and the Theme is “My Sister’s Keeper.” I understand that you are looking at this year’s event to start a campaign to get young women to address violence and just all around ugliness, which seems to be the thing now thanks to reality television and the popularity of Can you tell me a little bit more about that?

Soadwa: Yeah absolutely. The intention of this year’s Summit is to foster sisterhood. As we know, there are a lot of people being beat-up and bullied and it’s almost like this idea of sisterhood, supporting each other, and loving each other has gone completely out the door. My commitment is to creating a space for the young women to see how powerful we can be when we are actually connected and supporting each other with whatever it is that we are up to. [The sisterhood campaign] we are kicking off at the Summit happens inside of a conversation – and actually we kicked it off before the Summit. Yesterday we had what we call our digital panel and we had about nine of us on a call and we did a Google Hangout and broadcasted it live – it’s on our website now – it was inter-generational. We had a young person; an older woman, and women in-between, having a conversation about sisterhood and what it means to us. And continuing on, we will have the Summit with over 125 girls present, having a conversation about sisterhood. They will be partaking in a workshop together; all of the women and all of the girls will be challenged with taking on specific actions and making sure that nobody is left behind. And after the Summit, the intention is to keep the conversation going; continuing to have these digital panels via Google Hangout; inviting some of the girls to join us on the calls and really keeping the conversation going through email, through Facebook, through Twitter; asking them how they are maintaining their level of sisterhood based on the information they got from the Summit.

Famed black ballerina Misty Copeland will be the guest speaker at this event, why was her presence important?

Soadwa: One, it is really important for Misty to be there because she represents what others might see as impossible. She is third African American female soloist ever at the American Ballet Theater in 20 years, which is crazy. It was important for us to have the young women see that anything is possible. And here is a living breathing form of it. And the fact that Misty is, you know, her art form is something you don’t see a lot of people that look like us in and you definitely don’t see us rising to the top the way that Misty has. So for us it is just really important that the young girls see the power inside of fulfilling and pursuing something that your heart is calling you to do.

What is the agenda for the Summit?

Soadwa: The day’s event kicks off with a sisterhood bonding session. The girls are broken up into six different groups, they go to their classroom and are actually in charge with designing their room using a box of art supplies. After that, the first workshop is on forgiveness and it is called “Waiting to Exhale.” This is a workshop we do every year. We start to forgive ourselves and forgive others for hurting us; forgive ourselves for choices we made. So the forgiveness workshop is an opportunity for the young women to think of what things they have not let go of; what things they are still holding on to, that isn’t really serving them. And all of them get a piece of fabric in this workshop where they write either a person, or an experience, or a thing that they are working on forgiving over the next year. A company called BORN, takes all these pieces of fabric and creates a forgiveness dress because what we want to show is that when we all collectively work together at forgiving people or things or ourselves, it can manifest into something beautiful. And we gift that to an organization that we believe supports young women with forgiving themselves with past experiences as they surge on.

And we also have a Shine Bright like A Diamond workshop, which is specifically to create a space for the young women to find what is their inner light. We all have it and sometimes it is blocked because of outside circumstances; sometimes because of in-the-house circumstances. So for them to really define what their inner light is and identify the obstacles or barriers that prevent them from really shining. And the last workshop they are going to engage in is power of sisterhood. It is a really interactive, engaging workshop where all of the women that are there are given a checklist of items that each and everyone of them have to accomplish and they leave the room until each and everyone of them accomplish that list. And the intention is: do not leave any sister behind. What kind of conversation do you have to have with a sister to empower them to get what’s on the list checked off? And it’s really encouraging everybody to support each other. We end it [the Summit] with an entertainment showcase where there will be Black Girls Rock, Rhyme like a Girl and a whole bunch of fun stuff.

So tell me about Gye Nyame Empowerment Project? What’s behind the name?

Soadwa: The Gye Nyame symbol is always represented, always connected to Ghana, which is where my parents are from; where I am from by way of them. I wasn’t born and raised there and even though they didn’t raise us in Ghana, they sure enough brought Ghana to the household. So I always had a strong affinity for the Adrinka symbols, specifically Gye Nyame as it was something about that symbol that spoke to me. There are lots of definitions of Gye Nyame but really “The Power of God.” Although this organization is not religious or faith-based, I do believe that there is something higher than me and that there was something higher within me that choose to create an organization and so I wanted to honor that.