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Accra in Life and Death



In the afternoon we walked

Some roads paved, most roads dirt

Deep trenches for drainage and sewage

No sidewalks

Few street signs

Bicycles, street peddlers, cars, motorcycles, walkers

All in a kind of dance across the roadway

In perfect harmony, or a dance of death


A ten year old girl walked in front of us - white shirt, denim skirt

Fruit and nuts piled on her head

Thin, but not frail

In her hand a plastic bag with toilet paper

Her sister or friend two steps behind

Single file or risk the motorcycles


I don’t haggle with people

I don’t know their lives

But assume this Fante man

Would rather be doing something other

Than driving American tourists around

So when he overcharges us by five dollars

I give it willingly

I have five dollars to spare

And am not very interested

In keeping the money

I brought here


I buy a bar of FairAfric chocolate

That says on the back

70% of the world’s cocoa is from West Africa

And only 1% of the world’s chocolate is made here

I see visions

Of child laborers

Like in the cobalt mines of the Congo

I see Swiss chocolatiers

At elegant European shops

So proud of their craft

The delicious labor

Of African children

In fields


An NGO anti-slavery regulator

Found Lindt chocolates broke labor laws

in Cote D’Ivoire and Ghana

Learning about the exploitation of black people

Is like watching re-runs of a 1990’s sitcom

The heroes are white

The jokes are not funny

But the laughtrack

Seems to enjoy it


For a moment I see again

The girl who walked before us

Carrying her goods to market

Or to a street corner

I never saw her face

And never will

Should I have bought something I didn’t need

Just to give her the money?


When W.E.B. Dubois

Lived his last years in Ghana

He finally saw

What I am finally seeing

An entire black nation

Beautiful, flawed, rich, poor, broken, whole

But determining their own fate

So Dubois decided to die here

His tomb

Not far from Kwame Nkrumah’s tomb.




I wonder

Where I will decide to die

If I am ever courageous enough to die

Or if I die screaming and weeping

Too afraid to face it with dignity

Too much a child

To find the resolve my stepfather had

A warrior,

Who set his full gaze on death,

Ready for the final mystery.


I must see everything I can

With eyes unclouded by hate

Like Prince Ashitaka

And report back

To my beloveds at home

Many of whom

Will never step foot on the African continent

They must know what it is like

To drink this humid air

And stand beneath these lush trees

Dark and green as kambaba jasper

And look into the eyes

Of our long-lost cousins


God give me the tongue to speak

God give me the lips

To form the words

To build the bridge

Across this wide

Wide

Wide

Atlantic

Ocean



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