JUSTICE DELAYED

I wake up with vigour at 04:00AM

To race for space in the crowded bathroom.

After sitting in twos for the Fall-In count

I enthusiastically rush for search at the gate.

I strip to be searched in the bra and knicker.

I hand back my prison uniform,

And sit in the bus heading to court.

After hours of waiting in the holding cell

I stand with hope in the suspect’s dock.

“Your trial magistrate is indisposed.

Court adjourned to a month away.

You are further remanded to prison.”

What a disappointment!

What an anti-climax!

After a month of rotting in prison

I step again into the suspects’ dock.

“The State Prosecutors are on strike.

Adjourned to a month away.

Further remanded to prison.”

The following month was a repeat.

“Your trial magistrate is abroad.

Case adjourned to a date next month.”

The next month the court is closed for renovation.

Thereafter, the complainant is absent.

And thereafter, the case file is lost.

Adjournment after adjournment perpetual

With no case business in between.

This is how justice is delayed.

 

by Stella Nyanzi


 

Dr Stella Nyanzi has been incarcerated in Luzira Women’s Prison in Uganda since 2nd November, 2018. She is a writer, researcher and activist working and organising around Sexuality, Family Planning and Public Health.

As friends and comrades of Dr Nyanzi, we demand an end to this persecution of Dr. Nyanzi and all Ugandans who seek freedom. Join us by following and posting with the following hashtags on social media: #PushforStellaNyanzi, #StellaSpeaks, #45Poems4Freedom

 

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Bibliography – “Ghana child slavery: When seeking context overlooks harm”

I wrote an oped for Aljazeera about the current conversation around CNN’s documentary about child slavery around Lake Volta in Ghana, and the larger issue of challenging negative depictions of Africa and Africans.

Read the oped here:

https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/ghana-child-slavery-seeking-context-overlooks-harm-190329101911983.html

 

 

For those looking to do further reading on this issue, Find some more sources here:

 

Emma Seyram Hamenoo, Emmanuel Aprakru Dwomoh, and Mavis Dako-Gyeke, “Child labour in Ghana: Implications for Children’s Education and Health.”, July 2018
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/326545928_Child_labour_in_Ghana_Implications_for_children’s_education_and_health

Sharon LaFraniere, Africa’s World of Forced Labor, in a 6-Year-Old’s Eyes, 2006
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/29/world/africa/29ghana.html

Agbenya, Lilian, “Child Labour Trafficking in the Lake Volta Fishery of Ghana: A Case Study of Ogetse in the Krachi west district of the Volta region”, 2009
https://munin.uit.no/handle/10037/1866

Report of the FAO Workshop on Child Labour in Fisheries and Aquaculture in Cooperation with ILO” Rome, 14–16 April 2010. http://www.fao.org/3/i1813e/i1813e00.pdf

Victoria Nyarkoah Sam, “Child Labor in Ghana: A Multidimensional Analysis” 2016
https://macau.uni-kiel.de/servlets/MCRFileNodeServlet/dissertation_derivate_00006875/CHILD_LABOUR_IN_GHANA.pdf

Samuel Okyere, ‘Shock and Awe’: A critique of the Ghana-centric child trafficking discourse” 2017
http://www.antitraffickingreview.org/index.php/atrjournal/article/view/266/250

Dela Afenyadu, “Child Labour in Fisheries and Aquaculture, a Ghanaian Perspective. The FAO workshop on child labour in fisheries and aquaculture in cooperation with ILO‐ FAO” 2010

 

On Call-Out Culture

Call-out culture at it’s core, is a great way to denounce bigotry. What I love(d) about it – in it’s social media manifestation – is how it gives people who are ordinarily not powerful a way to speak up about powerful people and systems and be heard.

I used to learn so much from call-outs – both mine, and others.

Then things started changing, slowly so most of us didn’t realise at first what exactly was happening and why we were uncomfortable with that new wave of call-outs. Some people began to advocate for “calling-in” – a kinder way to call out, because sometimes humans screw up not because they are evil, but there are still unlearning and you recognise that.

Nii Kotei made a couple of posts about canceling people, calling out and calls for civility which fitted right in with my musing about these things.

I sometimes reflect on why I am so uncomfortable with calling out as it is done these days, and here’s where I’m at:

Power Analysis is Key

I appreciated and supported calling out on twitter in the past because it had to do with power. At the time, people who ordinarily did not have any power in certain context could speak up about powerful people, systems and the harm they caused them. And they were heard because twitter was fresh and new and exciting and great (yay). Those call-outs were punching up – at unrepentant bigots, bigoted systems, powerful bigots and I was down with that, charley.

… but now, what I often see with my jaded jaded eyes is a lateral punching. A punching sideways. Punching laterally. Cite me. just kidding. No cite me, for real.

And most of the time, it looks and feels like a mean-spirited pile on. And occasionally it doesn’t even look like that lateral punching thing – it’s plain old punching down. It’s bullying.

I also understand that often, people without power are told to pipe down, or to change their protesting tactics by the powerful. So I also get the opposition to the opposition to call-out culture. I get why some people who suddenly have a way to be heard, an avenue to confront the bigotry which makes their lives difficult do not appreciate being told there might be something toxic about the methods.

The way I see it, there’s social media currency now and that’s power too. The kids call it clout… as in, me and my fellow kids call it clout.  The number of followers a person has – of course, but also who follows a person, and or how quickly they can get people online to “take a person down” sometimes based only on they say a person said or did. It’s scary sometimes. Like that time people destroyed a Korean models career by making up a fake story based on a photo of her and circulating it, or that time a Ghanaian man was put in mortal peril because someone put up photos of him on whatsapp and said he was an armed robber. The man had to shave his beard off and go into hiding for a while.

This social media currency is a form of power too. I think we who are marginalised in offline spaces, but have this online power should think about how we use it, because god forbid we become like the oppressors we claim to fight when we taste a tiny fraction of the sort of power they have, right?

 

Can we call-out, call-in, or call-alfresco without the bullying?

On What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky and some other things 

No spoilers.

You know I have home training.

What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky is a collection of short stories by Lesley Nneka Arimah. I got it on iBooks because I was finally trying that packing light for a trip thing and didn’t have space for an analogue (haha) book.

At first I didn’t realize that this was a collection of short stories so the first one took me completely by surprise.

After finishing the first bit, which I assumed was chapter 1, I thought that the author was ending that section on a note of suspense (and oh it was!)… and that the story would continue on the next page. Hai I was wrong. That was the end of the story. So I went quickly through the 5 stages of grief – in 30 seconds or less – and I started the next story. I’m still disappointed. I feel cheated and I want a full novel out of that one.

But what a collection of stories it is! It brings to mind Roxanne Gay’s Difficult Women – in that I had similar feelings of being pleasantly surprised at the effortless blending of fantasy in the writing.

I don’t know if I’ve described this how I mean it… Y’all know I live for fantasy genre, but there are fantasy novels or stories that make you fully aware from the beginning that you’ve entered a fantasy story. Some are really great, but most times they feel heavy and manufactured… and I often feel like I’m starting a chore where I have to remember a bunch of very manufactured names – of places, characters, magical creatures, eras, power sources… you know?
This doesn’t happen with Lesley Arimah’s stories. The fantasy just. is. Easy. Smooth. She has such imaginings! As I read each story, I would often briefly pause and smile about how clever and how imaginative the author was. That was an added dimension of enjoyment and wonder. Being imaginative is not a prerequisite for writing a great book – for indeed a lot of great books don’t have a lot of imaginings in them, and some books with a lot of imaginings are quite wack.

I like the way Igbo writers keep memories of Biafra alive in their writing. Though now after reading this book, I begin to wonder if they feel… like an obligation to do so… is that a bad word to describe what I mean? It’s not like I think they hate doing it, but perhaps there are subtle pressures that mean this has to feature in their art.

I feel these subtle pressures a lot when I’m making art or designing… a subtle pressure to show my Ghanaianess… whatever that means. Not that I want to splash kente or adinkra on everything, but that I want some people to see this and know where I’m from. A pressure to represent because representation is important. I think sometimes that I would like to make something stripped bare of everything. You get me? No, I didn’t think so.

On Difficult Women.

When I finished the first story in Roxanne Gay’s ‘Difficult Women’, I had to take a break and figure out whether I wanted to cry or not. I think I tweeted at some point, that I had just realised that the book would make me feel feelings.

At that point, I thought it would just be the usual mix of sadness, triumph, hopefulness, anger, pain, and that familiar feeling of oh-my-God-Roxanne-Gay-is-an-amazing-writer. I was pleasantly surprised, and then thrilled by her historical futurism, allegory and fantasy stories. No spoilers 🙂


Whether with a tweet, an article, or a short story, she is excellent at making me feel feelings, and this book was no exception. What I was not expecting were the historical futurism, allegory and fantasy stories. No spoilers. I’ve quipped a couple of times about counting Gay as a fantasy writer because she wrote a Black Panther prequel. I was not entirely serious, but I am now and I’m paying attention. There is a story about a stone thrower who marries a glass woman which sent my mind reeling with all sorts of imaginings… Most of the best stories ever, I believe, leave you imagining more… because they never seem like they really ended, and this story – Requiem for a Glass Heart – is one such story.

It’s an eclectic mix of fantasy, gritty realism and a whole world of heartbreak, wonder and stubborn home in between. I loved everything about Difficult Women, and I am now quite happily a Roxanne Gay stan for life.

To say I enjoyed reading it doesn’t seem like the right way to characterise my experience. It is not light reading, and if you have trauma in your past, this book is likely to bring up memories… Even without past trauma, a reader will find many of these stories dark. The thing about that darkness is that there are usually glimmers of light, but not in the usual neat ways where light overcomes happiness and every thing is cast in maximum saturation. The darkness is complex and contradictory and there is not a lot happily ever afters, but this doesn’t mean there is no happiness at all… it is what it is

I received my copy – an uncorrected bound proof – from Susan de Soissons of Little Brown Book Group, via Ghana’s favourite literary event organiser @BrunchoverBooks. Follow @BrunchoverBooks on twitter for book chats, book swap events and giveaways!

2017: My Year of Acknowledging the Log in My Own Eye

The title makes it seem like I’m just now going to start doing this, but it’s catchy because New Year and all… so let’s go with it and pretend this hasn’t been sitting in my drafts for more than a year 🙂


At some point perhaps 3 years ago, in the midst of an argument with a male friend about “a woman’s place” I got so severely frustrated and depressed that I thought there was no hope in the world. Dramatic, I know, but he was a black man who had moved to the USA from Ghana when he was 12 and one of the first people to really connect me to racism – in that I actually knew him and he recounted experiences to me. We would share readings on the subject and discuss the unfairness of that system and that’s how we remained friends really… 

But here he was, using some of the same kinds of arguments racists use to justify their oppression to justify my oppression as a woman. I don’t think I cut him off, but I stopped talking to him about that stuff, and since that was really the only stuff we talked about, we just stopped talking. 

Then last year, that memory popped into my head, probably triggered by a tweet I saw. That and other incidents of oppressed people who should know better oppressing other people weighed me down – I believe at some point, a prayer was said by me – “I want to stop caring!”, I cried out. (Lol, I annoy myself sometimes with how moist I get smh) 
And perhaps this is an answer to that prayer by some entity I didn’t ask, but it’s working for me and I accept it.
“When you point a finger at someone, three fingers are pointing back at you”

I don’t remember if I read it or heard it but it stuck in my head, and for some reason connected with my thoughts about all the hypocrisy I saw in activist spaces I’m part of. Anything I thought I saw in someone else, I examined myself 3 times (roughly) for similar. In this there’s no conclusion yet, because I haven’t figured out what to do with it, fully. I mean, it certainly hasn’t made me shut up when I spot an injustice, the main difference is I think of the related injustices I myself commit and then I’m able to frame things better and approach people from a place of understanding and way less judgement. This isn’t completely satisfactory to me though, I feel like I can do more… or differently. 

What do you think? Thoughts & ideas welcome – leave them in the comments (and stop whatsapping me Anji & co)

More rewarding in terms of General happiness has been my application of Kuukuwa’s Finger Pointation Theorem to my personal life and relationships. I’m more thoughtful in my work interactions,  as well as in my interactions with my friends and fam (well, most of the time but I’m trying!) 
Basically, when I get irritated or mad at someone, I examine my own role in the situation and how I might be at fault too. And while at first I felt I was silencing myself and should just let out everything I feel, with time and practice I noticed I mostly only confronted people when I had really really thought through the situation. More of that in 2017, I hope. 

That Time I fell Out of Love With The Black Stars

Oh how I used to love this era of the Black Stars! To me, they were a bright spot in the generally dark and dreary world that Ghanaians are expert in manoeuvring through… a beacon of hope and love which caused us to (pretend to) cast aside our political, religious, and other differences and unite in support of our nation. They were my darlings, my honey booboos, my “island of reality in an ocean of diarrhoea”… my Blackity Black Stars.

As for most politicians, everyone knows they don’t care about us, and the only symbolism that Ghana evokes in them is a cash cow… so they milk-milk-milk-milk with all their strength, leaving her nipples perpetually raw and sore.
but not my Black Stars, I truly thought they saw the light that out forebears saw…

That light that shone bright in Ɔsagyefo’s eyes. That light that moved through Theodosia as she crafted the first breathtakingly beautiful red-gold-green-black star Ghana flag. That nova in all of us (except those politicians and the people that feed from them ugh), flickering constantly… occasionally burning bright only to be dimmed again by the latest governement nonsense that Citi fm reveals to us.

For me they remained a bastion of patriotism, a group of gallant gentlemen who set off to win or lose, raise the flag of Ghana high. Everything else could be going horribly but the Black Stars would put on the mantles of our national heroes and live(!) for Ghana. That was what the Black Stars was to me.

 

And then Brazil dollars-on-a-plane happened.

It was the second time I used the phrase “animguase akwaaba” with meaning. I was so ashamed. When international friends brought it up as a joke, I laughed too and joked but herh the way it was paining me inside my heart?! I began to look at all of them with new eyes,  like “Ooooh, so this is just a job to you eh?”

It’s not like I expected them to work for free – I mean we all have to eat oh – but their actions reminded me too much of the bloodsuckers we already have plundering our national coffers. Their apɛsɛmenkomenya was smelling so bad. Not just the players, the GFA and everything associated with the Black Stars started smelling so bad. 

The fact that after chopping our dollars, they went on to whimper out of the competition – they even lost to common USA! Ahba! 

And now as I write, bile fills my throat and the fires of rage burn in my eyes as my inner voices sing an angry chorus which swells to a crescendo… just kidding, lol, lol
Anyhow charley, if all this was just a job they were doing for money, then why the heck did I get so emotionally invested in this? It’s like that time I realised I was sadder about the state of Manchester United than I had ever been about the state of all my romantic relationships…

<moment of clarity. Kuukuwa out>
When I’m doing my job, do I expect people to go through terrible traffic jams, stay in long long queues to buy tickets and access my place of work and then watch me work and cheer for me?

No.

Do I expect my mundane daily activities to be broadcast live so people rush all over the place to find the nearest TV and watch me work for the paycheck?

No.
So why oh why should I also stress myself just to watch these just work for their cash.

When they’re busily drawing, losing or playing some lackadaisical ball bi like that too oh?!
No, daabi, aawo. I would rather try to join the Virgin Male Pastors Club, Bawjiase chapter. And besides, I still have Shatta Wale #SM4Lyf