Posts Tagged ‘How Do We Spell Freedom’

Phillippa and I at Citi FM

Phillippa and I at Citi FM

On Sunday, I was on air with Phillippa Yaa de Villiers and some other artistes on Citi fm 97.3fm in Ghana, reading two poems. I wrote this response to the first and only Caribbean poem I have posted on this blog and I want to share it with you. Roger Bonair-Agard’s original poem How Do We Spell Freedom posted here and my Nigerian blogger acquaintance Ibiene’s How Do We Spell Nigeria, posted here, are exciting predates to this one that you should read if you want more after this.

How Do We Spell Ghana?
(for Roger Bonair-Agard)

We began to spell Ghana in 1957. In Two thousand and fifteen, this is where we’re at!

A is for Answers
B is for Black Star in the middle of a half mast
C is for cut, cut, cut! Cut the drama and the lights.

Who dared us dream of utopias?
Unrepeatable dreams dreamt only yesteryears
By a generation before us?
They were ready to manage their own affairs
We, are not!

So D is not for dreams.
D is for Deception.
D is for ‘Do you believe it’s the same Ghana?’
D is for Dumsor
And this is where we’re at!

A could have been for Akosombo
But A is for Answers cos we need answers now
Or even for Aboadze, Asogli or Akuse
But just give us Answers now.

Just yesterday,
Elite and De-light were two innocent pieces of grammar
But today you’re e-lite if you have not been Dee-lighted
And if you still don’t get it,
A is for Answers!

E is for ECG
E because, that’s just enough said
F is for FPSO
This one makes me laugh!

There was another Ghana nobody told you about
So G is not for Ghana, or which one do we mean?
G is for governments
And the chameleon-skin-type-two-sides-of-the-same-coin-none-better-than-the-other-whichever-one-you-have governments!

H is for Hospitality
Because you don’t want to know the state of the hospital.
I is for Independence
At the same time J is for Just a little dependence
Are we getting anywhere with this?
Because I just don’t know!

K is for Kwame Nkrumah, Osagyefo Emeritus
But let a man’s name rest
K is for Kofi Annan, Busummuru and a few other things
But please let a man’s name rest
L is for Lamentations
M is for morning off, till tomorrow morning, on!
And if you still don’t get it, remember
A is for Answers!

O used to be for Opportunity
But after we wasted it,
O is for Opinion
O is for the Circle we’re caught in, like a circus of name-calling and pointing fingers
P is for pointing fingers.

We could have the other Ghana back if we work for it
Q is for Questions, remember? Those questions for which A is for Answers!
R is for Rise and rise and rise
S is for the sorrow of all that could have been.
But there is a T for which
T is for tomorrow
And maybe because of tomorrow
D is back on for Dream!

In 1957 we learnt to say our alphabets
In Two Thousand and fifteen, this is where we’re at!

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Roger Bonair-Agard

Roger Bonair-Agard

I share with you today the first poem to be hosted from a poet outside Africa. One of my resolutions last year was to find and review more poetry from the Caribbean and African Diaspora, considering our shared history. And it is worth it: look at the flag counter on the left of the page and you will realize that there is a good number of Caribbean visitors here, with Jamaica (JM) and Trinidad and Tobago (TT) especially ranking in the top. This poem by Trinidadian poet Roger Bonair-Agard (visit his site at http://www.rogerbonair.com and his blog at http://rogerbonair.blogspot.com), which he has given permission to share, is the first of hopefully many more to come. After reading it, you will see why I chose it. I post it here without review. (Copy Credit: here)

In recent days, I have shared it broadly on social media for its beauty and it prompted a rather brilliant response, “How Do We Spell Nigeria” from my Nigerian blogger acquaintance, Ibiene. The initial credit of exposure for this poem should go to South African poet and performance artist Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, who introduced me to it, being so in love with it herself. I will share a separate post on Phillippa soon, because she is coming to Ghana this month to consolidate and make new artistic ties, which events I want you not to miss.

Let me leave you to enjoy a beautiful dish of alphabet soup.

How Do We Spell Freedom?

In 1970 I learned my alphabet for the very first time, I knew it by heart in 1971.
A is for Africa
B is for black
C is for culture
and that’s where its at.

My mother taught me that from the way you see alphabetty at a time when
A was for apples in a country that grew mangoes
and X was for xylophone when I was learning how to play the steel band

Black wasn’t popular or even accepted then but I wore dashikis sent to me from Nigeria.
Super fly suits sky blue with the elbow patches sent to me from America
and sandals made by original Rastafari before weed and revolution needed fertilizer to grow.
My mother rocked bright saffron saris
We was phat 20 years too early and a thousand mile removed
My mother preached knowledge, hard work and how not to take shit.

D is for defence
E is for Economics

I wrote my first protest letter at the age of 3 to my grandfather for calling me out of the yard.
Spelling fuck you with an F-O-R-K U
Put it under his pillow hoping it would blow up and burn his hair off at night
wanted to get started on the revolution thang

F is for freedom
G is for guns
we gotta get some
we usually said

Evolved into 1979 and a revolution with a changing face
Bang Bang a boogie to the oogie ya up jump the boogie lets rock ya don’t stop
Black folks and brand names became entwined we reinvented dance and made wheels role… with a limp
Cuba had just told america he was Africa in Angola

K is for kings
L is for Land
we got to get it back
so we lost;
Jamaica to the IMF
Grenada to the marines
and Panama to Nancy Regan

Jerry-Curls became high top fades became Gumby’s became Cesars as Michael Jackson moonwalked his way into a lighter shade of pale.

My mother sent to America and she said go fix that.

K is for kidnap
S is for slavery
we usually explained

Cool became butter became phat
we lost our focus and our way just at about the time that black folk outside the nation discovered the dangers of pork.
So fat backs became fat blacks
pigtails became dreadlocks fades faded to bowlers
and Michael Jordan discovered the magic of a fade-away jumper…and endorsments

X is for the nigga who’s blind, deaf, and dumb
X him out we usually said.
My mother told me I should rewrite that
that X is for the nigga who needs to be re-educated, that a corporate job does not spell freedom Barry White is not racist flight
A democratic vote is not a revolutionary act
And as long as there is a sweat shop in Jakarta there is no difference between Patrick Yewing and O.J. Simpson.

H is for Huey
N is for nocturnal
T is for Tubman
M is for Marcus, Mandella, Marley, and Martin got shot 2 weeks after he told black folk to boycott Coka-A-Cola
and Jessie Jackson still scared of niggas with a purpose.

My mother taught me to respect men who stood by their responsibilities and their convictions
Men willing enough to join the fight but smart enough to survive it and see the signals.
God gave no other rainbow signs
said no more water
but the fire next time

J is for James Baldwin
the next time is now
and someone must learn to read the signs with me

A is for Africa
B is for black
C is for culture

and that’s where I’m at.