HER: (Sigh) I am tired. I don’t think I’ll make it out to the club with the crew tonight.

ME: I hear you. I have to be at work at 8:00am tomorrow, and it is an hour commute to my job in traffic, so I probably won’t make it either. Plus, I don’t really like clubs.

HER: Yeah, me neither. I am getting old. I’m 45, but you’re young. You should go out.

ME: I went out a lot when I was in college. Now, I don’t really like hip-hop clubs. When I go out, I prefer to listen to reggae and African music.Read More »

Where My Fondest Memories Were Created

today_blogpostI grew up in the Greater Atlanta area, in a city 20 miles northwest of downtown Atlanta called Marietta. My house is located right off Sandy Plains Rd. My family and I moved to that home in 1992. Back then, Sandy Plains was two lane street. It was a stark contrast from what it is today. Nowadays, everything one needs is located right along Sandy Plains. Grocery stores, pharmacies, my high school, dentist offices, doctor offices, fast food restaurants, cemeteries, post offices, pet stores, movie theaters, bookstores, and even hair salons. My high school hangout spot was the Chick-fil-A off Sandy Plains Road.  And even when we got older and wanted to frequent nightclubs; the neighborhood nightclub was a short 5 minute commute from Sandy Plains.Read More »

The Most Difficult Question To Answer

GHanaian American FlagThe most difficult question for me answer is “Where are you from?” It may sound like a straightforward question, but if you moved around a lot as a child or you are of a mixed race or cultural heritage,  this question can become complicated to answer.  Mix in the possibility that the race or culture that you identify with rejects or mocks you, you may be left to feel like an orphan.Read More »

Black Women Are Ghetto

I think Black American women are [ghetto], but not you, you’re different. 
– My African Co-worker

Unfortunately, there are still people who endorse the belief that African American women are ghetto. It always amazes me that after all these years of the media exposing viewers to successful, educated, and refined African American women, people still believe the hype. Some of these stereotypes are laughable and unsurprising, but some of it rather shocking and a little disturbing.Read More »

The 10 Most Embarrassing American Stereotypes That Are True

American FlagI was raised in public schools of suburban neighborhood outside of Atlanta. It was subliminal but I was taught that the USA does things the “right” way and other countries do things the “wrong” way. So, naturally, I believed the United States of America was the best place on earth.

Today, I am 15 years older and have more travel experience. I still take pride in my country, but I wouldn’t say that it is the best in the world. In order to say that, you have to know the rest of the countries in the world. Traveling has opened my eyes to alternative ways of living. For, who am I to say what is best?

I will say, however, the United States of America is not perfect. In fact we could do a lot better in a multitude of areas.Read More »

Coming To America: Fresh Perspectives from a Recent Immigrant

??????????????????????????????????????????????????As a first generation child born on the U.S. mainland, I pride myself on having a unique perspective of America and our global reputation. I’ll spare you on my soapbox (for now), but we’ll just say that my beliefs are quite different from other U.S. citizens. For that reason, I love talking to people who are new to America. I always attain some new insights whenever I hear a recent immigrant’s views on America.

I recently had the opportunity to interview a recent immigrant. He relocated here from Lagos, Nigeria, to attend graduate school. His first six months on U.S. soil was spent in San Francisco and the latter part of his first year were spent in Georgia. Here’s what he had to say about his time in America.

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Vex Money: When My Date Left Me with the Check

4977519058_a4c20f8942_zVIP admission at the premier dance club in Abuja, Nigeria, mixing and mingling with Naija (Nigerian) celebrities, and posh 5-star hotels: I was living the good life.

The guy and I met through a mutual friend during my stay in Abuja. A socialite, he was pretty popular around town; held prestigious job title at a well-known company, and had that “it” factor that would attract any woman.

Time spent with him was always something to look forward to. He had a good sense of humor and a charming personality. I had only been in Abuja for 4 weeks but he was becoming a good friend.

Besides his personality, I enjoyed the fact that when we were together, I always had a good time.  He granted me VIP admission in Abuja’s nightclubs, introduced me to local celebrities, and treated me to meals at the nicest restaurants in town.

Read More »

On My International Playlist

“Yaa, can you make me a playlist of your African music, please?”

“The music on your alarm clock; I love it. Please send it to me.”

“I heard that track on your iPod yesterday. Kinda unique. Play that for me again”

I receive comments like this on a daily basis now. My love for international music is no longer a secret. I listen to music from Africa, Haiti, and Jamaica more than I listen to music from American artists. I prefer an international clubbing scene more than a hip hop one. I have an eclectic taste in music. Some of these tracks are old, while some of these tracks are a recent. See my playlist below:

Watch My Ting Go by Lola Rae

Try to sit still when this beat drops. I bet you it cannot be done. My Ghanaian sister has a lot of potential to take over the international pop music scene. I cannot see what’s next in her future.

Yes/No by Banky W

Released in 2012, I am sorry that I am only discovering this track and this Nigerian artist one year later! The lyrics are relevant, the dance routine is on-point, Banky is sexy, and the beat is catchy. I’m hooked. This song has been on repeat for three weeks now. I have no plans of removing it from my playlist.

Kilon Poppin by Ms. Jaie

They call her the African BeyoncéWith catchy dance beats and killer dance moves, they may be onto something here…

Carry Me by Carimi

My Haitian friend posted this song on her wedding website and that was my official introduction to the Haitian band, Carimi. She gave me their 2009 album Buzz, and I have been a fan ever since. This track is almost 5 years old, but it still gets my hips swaying.

Vibes Cyah Done by Machel Montano

Released in 2011, I discovered this song during Atlanta CaribFest in May this year. My cousin is heavily resolved in the party-planning and entertainment detail for the three-day, so I frequented many a parties. Whenever the DJ dropped this track, everyone in the arena started dancing. I love songs that have that effect on the crowd.

Speak To The Heart

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you speak to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.– Nelson Mandela

I attended a Ghanaian Fundraising Cookout yesterday evening. The cookout’s purpose was to raise money for a presidential candidate. My dad, who’s very active in Ghanaian politics, loves attending to events like this; and I, wanting to explore my Ghanaian roots, like to tag along. My hope was that I found a young, single, educated attractive man, with no children. :). (My father is Ghanaian, by the way, and so is my name “Yaa Yaa.”)

I didn’t get my wish, but I did learn a valuable lesson: the importance of speaking a person’s native language.

As I was mingling at the Cookout, I noticed that the Ghanaian women were rather standoffish, while the Ghanaian men were rather friendly. Okay, so maybe they were friendly for obvious reasons. (Has anyone seen my picture lately?) But that’s neither here nor there. If I ask you how you’re doing, where you’re from, and am attempting to engage you in conversation, the least you can do is entertain me and answer my questions, as opposed to looking away or acting like you don’t want to speak.

I was explaining this phenomena to my father as we were driving home and he proposed a an explanations for the women’s behavior that shifted my perspective on this issue.

 They are not comfortable speaking English. 

Now that I think about it, the women at the Cookout were speaking my father’s language, Twi. I understand and speak a little, but am far from carrying on an entire conversation in the language. “Maybe they wanted to speak to you,” my father continues, “But they’re not comfortable speaking English.”

Excellent point.

I speak Basic Spanish. Drop me in a Spanish speaking country alone for two weeks, and I’m sure, with a Spanish to English dictionary and my 500 Verb conjugator books, I’ll survive. But please, don’t attempt to engage me in conversation in Spanish. I’m prone to look at you like you’re speaking Greek, and even though I’m a friendly person who can be rather talkative, I am extremely uncomfortable speaking Spanish. It’s not natural to me. I have to put forth effort, a lot of effort, to speak Spanish. But speak to me in English, and you’ll see how fun and outgoing I truly am.

The same attitude may apply to the Ghanaian women at the cookout, or any person who speaks English as a second language may feel. This epiphany is what propelled me to learn French.

Speaking a second language will open up a world of possibilities for me. I can travel to other countries and be able to make my way through a foreign city.  I’ll be able to speak to people’s heart. I’ll be able to put them at ease and they’ll be more prone to open up to me. They’ll be more likely to learn from and be influenced by me. They’ll respect me for taking the time and effort to learn their language, to communicate with them, and to understand their perspectives.

Learning a language is not easy, let me tell you. And French is no exception. There are rules, but thousands of exceptions to the rules. Sometimes the “s” is pronounced, oftentimes it is not. And practicing is painful sometimes. Having to remember the rules and pronunciation patterns – Ugh!!! But it’s worth it, if at the end, I’ll be able to speak to one’s heart.

Ghana (Part 2): November 1, 2009

Journey to the Cape Coast and Kakum

On Saturday, October 31st, 2009 my cousins and I woke up early to go to Cape Coast Castle and Kakum National Park. At Kakum National Park, we walked across seven canopies that were merely ropes hanging from trees. These canopies were 130 feet high.  The bridge would shake as you walked along it, giving even the daredevils a fright. Some bridges shook more than others. And I was singing, “Hallelujah, thine the glory. Revive us again…” as I made my from one tree to the other. We took lots of pictures. The R’s [Rod, Regal, Rispah, Reuben] are pretty nice and I love how close knit they are. Rod is like the leader of the pact.


Tri-Lingual Ghanaians V. Mono-lingual Americans

I am truly amazed, as a monolingual individual, how many languages my cousins speak…FLUENTLY. The R’s mostly speak Ga amongst each other, but can lapse into Twi, Pidgin English or English in a matter of seconds. Intelligence. Americans (sigh) we really need to get our game up.

My father speaks Twi and Ga and growing up, my paternal grandmother used to speak to me in Twi. I would respond in English.  Although I have a slight understanding of Twi, I am not even close to being able carry out a full conversation in Twi. Something I am not happy about. However, I am taking every opportunity to learn my language in my country. Cousins teach me new words and I repeat them deliberately, trying to annunciate every syllable and pick up the accent while doing so. I sound crazy, of course, but hey, I try. People snicker as they walk by me. Shaking their head and probably thinking, “This American ayyyyy!” lol.

I Learn How to Pronounce My Last Name

One afternoon after church service, Rod introduced me to one of his friends. He asked me to say my full name, which is Ghanaian. When I offered my name, he chuckled. You’re not pronouncing it correctly. We stood in the middle of the sanctuary for about 10 minutes, just practicing the pronunciation of my name. I had it when I left the church. But the next day, I reverted back to pronouncing my last name the “American way.” (Sigh) Oh well.

Uncle Kofi showed me his church. It’s pretty simple and cozy at the same time. We were brainstorming ways for him to raise church funds.  I suggested that he partner with a non-profit organization that he supports.


Ghana V. Nigeria

My cousin Prince and came over to visit me this evening. He works for Nigerian company that’s based in Ghana. I told him that I had a great time in Nigeria, despite all the horrible things I hear about the country. He agreed. “Yep, something has to be done about their negative image. It surely affects the business of my company. People are hesitant to do business with a Nigerian company.” I agree wholeheartedly. It’s not cool if an entire world thinks negatively about Nigeria. Hence the reason for my blog: “Yaa Yaa In Naija.”

Nigerians told me I’d say it. Ghanaians told me I’d say it. Americans who have visited both countries told me I’d say it. So I’m going to say it. Ghana is very different from Nigeria! This difference was apparent from the moment I stepped off the plane.

When I stepped of the plane in Nigeria, people were loud. They shoved. They pushed. They shouted. In Ghana, people were calm. They were quiet. Laid back. And when I went outside, there was not much honking cars and loud taxi drivers. People were calm.

Later, when I crossed the street in busy Accra, a car did not try to run me over, speeding up and then slowing down when he is inches from my foot. Nope. People slowed down to let me cross. One time, Rispah and I were in a taxi cab. A reckless driver cut the taxi driver off. And do you know what the taxi driver did? Nothing. He simply slowed down. Honked one time. He didn’t roll down his window and hurl obscenities to the reckless driver, or get out of his car and threaten to fight the other driver. Nope, he simply drove defensively. Amazing.

So yep, I fully concur. Ghana is very different from Nigeria.

Ghana (Part 1): November 1, 2009

One of the most exciting experiences of my life was my first trip to my motherland, Ghana! My father is originally from Ghana and has family there. Since I was 8, my cousin, Rispah and I have been pen pals, writing letters, then e-mails, now Facebook messages. We’ve always been in contact, and in some ways I feel like we’ve “grown up together.” We are the same age, so we graduated school at the same time and shared similar interests. She has 4 brothers and boy was I ecstatic to FINALLY meet them. Would they be like they seemed in the letters and on Facebook?

Unfortunately, I only had one week to get to know my cousins and family members. I flew over to Ghana, after spending six weeks in a nearby Nigeria. That one week was one to remember. 

This post is the beginning of a three part series on my Ghanaian experiences. Each post was at one time an entry in my private journal. 

Meeting Relatives For The First Time

Words cannot express how happy I am to be in my home country.  My excitement has overshadowed the inconveniences of not having tap water, air conditioner, and consistently wiping sweat off my forehead due to Ghana’s heat, and riding along the country’s bumpy roads.  It’s a meeting the family members that has truly made this experience remarkable. I met Auntie Akusia and when I first saw her, she was the spitting image of my father. Amazing. And because I have my father’s eyes, I have her eyes as well. I love it. I said to her, “Auntie Akusia, I think we look alike.” And she said “Yes we do!” And that has been one of my favorite moments here so far.

Seeing my grandmother (Ma’ami) was really cool too. She didn’t say much but I could tell that she was very excited to see me. Perhaps she was so excited she couldn’t find the words? I haven’t seen my grandmother (father’s mother) in 12 years. So it was truly nice to see her. She looks the same. She is a bit older but I am happy that after 80 years she looks pretty good! I gave her gifts: earrings and undergarments. I really hope she enjoys it.

My other Aunt told me the family history. She couldn’t speak much English so my cousin, Rod, served as the translator. I learned that Ma’ami had other brothers and sisters. They were all from Obo, a village in Ghana. She got married at the age of 18 and moved to Accra. My father was born in Accra and because he troubled his mother so much, she sent him to boarding school. Haha, I didn’t know Daddy was as troublesome as my little brother once was.

Preparing, Cooking & Eating Foofoo

While I was visiting with Ma’ami, Uncle Kofi and Auntie Akusia’s daughter, Auntie Akusia asked what I would like to eat and without hesitation, I exclaimed “Foofoo!” Foofoo is a dish made from cassava, or root crop and plaintains. It is boiled, then pounded together until it is a nice even texture. She asked if I wanted to pounded? I said “Yes” because throughout my entire time in Africa I’ve been on the adventurous tip—trying new things—acquiring new experiences and being somewhat of a daredevil so this didn’t seem like much different from having any other experience.  I really didn’t know what I was saying “yes” to until I actually saw my cousin pounding it and Auntie Akusia shifting the contents in the bowl.

Wow. The pounding instrument that she used was slightly taller than her and she was about 5 feet 5 inches! And me, at only 5 feet 2 inches, you can only imagine how large that instrument was compared to my small stature. She pounded it, using her entire body, and I tried it as well. I grabbed it but the thing was nearly as heavy as me. It took more strength for me to pick it up than to actually pound the contents. It was a funny sight. My other cousin, Auntie Akusia and my other Aunt were laughing so hard they had to hold their sides to contain themselves. Well at least I tried. Haha.

I thought pounding foofoo was difficult, haha, boy was I in for a surprise when I tried eating it! I tell Rod and the others all the time that I really think eating foofoo requires skills. They think I’m trying to be funny. But I seriously think so.

First you have to have strong hands cause the foofoo is in a large bowl with soup and they are both extremely hot. It won’t taste good cool, so you have to eat it warm. You have to cut the with you index finger and thumb, make a pouch with the foofoo and place the soup inside.  Sounds complicated eh? Haha, you have no idea!! It was extremely complicated. I struggled with my hands the foofoo for a few minutes and then gave up. And resorted to using a spoon. Whew, made is so much easier!

Discussions On Africa’s Ill Media Portrayal

Over foofoo, we had a discussion of how Africa is ill portrayed to the rest of the world. I hate that. Africa is so much more than what’s portrayed in the medida. One of things that has amazed me since I’ve been in Africa is how diverse people are in language, culture, clothes, expectations etc. Referring to Africa as a country is sad because it underestimates the continent’s diversity. I learned that Africa is 200 years behind the US in terms of development. That cannot be true? Wow. I have some work to do!

Three Reasons I Like Nigerians

The running joke among my friends is that I’ll probably marry a Nigerian man one day. I understand why they make this statement. In addition to finding Nigerian men attractive, I have worked in Nigeria and embraced its culture. I listen to Nigerian music artists, Naeto C, Bracket, and P-Square. I watch their movies. And I have made substantial efforts to learn languages of the country. I can’t predict the future, but I do like Nigerians. Here are three reasons why.

1.    They have a good sense of humor.

Nigerians have the worst reputation of any other group of people that I’ve ever heard: they are scammers; they are womanizers, and they are drug traffickers.  They are the scapegoats and sometimes perpetrators of Internet and credit card scams. Some are accused for having extramarital affairs with multiple women in multiple countries. Oftentimes, they are the ones that send you e-mails promising to make you rich if you send them a few thousand dollars. They take your money and you end up penniless. Tell a Nigerian about his reputation and he’ll laugh it off and make light of it. They don’t appear to be bothered by their reputation, but some will assure you that among 155 million people living in the country, only a small percentage actually live up to this reputation.

Many will even poke fun of their awful reputation. I once left my purse with a Nigerian friend of mine to hold while I ran an errand. He says, “I’m not going to take your cash, but I might take your credit card!” I chuckled, and grabbed my purse from him.

2. They are very direct.

If you want the un-sugarcoated truth, ask a Nigerian. They don’t beat around the bush. It’s not in their nature. I recently applied to a position at a company in Nigeria. After six weeks of hearing no response, I called the human resource department to inquire about my application’s status. He replies abruptly, “We’ve already selected the people we wanted for the position and you weren’t one of them.” Well,” I said, “Thanks.” I was shut down and did not have any follow-up questions for him (which is a rare occurrence for me). I thanked him for his time and hung up the Skype call.

I have been on the job hunt for a few months now and have applied to a copious amount of internships, jobs, schools, fellowship programs in my lifetime, so I am familiar with the script human resource departments (in the U.S.) follow when an applicant has been rejected from a position. They’ll say “Thank you for applying. This position had over 300 applications and we regret to inform you that you have not been selected for this position. You are highly talented. Please consider other positions with our company in the future.” In whatever they say, American companies will consider your ego; they won’t completely shut you down without at least an apology. That’s not the case for Nigerians.

3.    They are very intelligent.

I’m not a politics or history guru and I don’t claim to be. I know what I know about American history and politics, from CNN, MSNBC, BBC, and news networks and from whatever I’ve retained from lectures in grade school and that’s about it. But whenever I find myself in a conversation with a Nigerian about American politics or history, I am put to shame. They know more about it than I do. They will tell me what they believe Obama’s doing right and what Bush did wrong. I just smile and nod, too ashamed to admit that I don’t know what they’re talking about.