Black Stars @AfricaCupofNations + Giants @SuperBowl in an Election Year…Back Down Memory Lane

2008 was the year, the full circle year of transition played out in the fantastic realities of my life & the sports teams of the two nations of my birth &  foundation. After being “off the cuffly” told by one too many fashion clients that I had been working with -some for over a decade plus- that putting Black models in their advertising campaigns would somehow put them in the “Urban” AKA “Black/hip-hop fashion” category & devalue their contemporary, designer & luxury brand categories; I decided to walk away from being complicit in the devaluing of who & what I represented to the fashion industry, to the world &  to those clients who came to me for my global fusion approach in building their brands because it became very clear that they saw worth in the images who looked like me only when it was attached to celebrity.

This was the period when layoffs started & global recessions started being talked about around the world. This was a time when both Ghana & the U.S.A were about to go through major political transitions. In Ghana there was the NPP & the NDC; while in America there were the Republicans & Democrats pulling all stops to victory. In both Ghana & the USA -there was no incumbent president running for re-election in either of two parties- in our so called multi-party Democratic systems. The incumbent outgoing President Kufour, who had turned the Ghanaian economy around with a focus on foreign investments in Ghana, convinced by his western education that building wealth from the top would eventually trickle down to the majority at the bottom-AKA “the embodiment of Capitalistic Democracy “, hoped to pass the torch to Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, his former Minister of Foreign Affairs & Attorney General. Nana Akufo-Addo, who President Kufour was hoping would continue what he had started, lost the 2008 elections by a close margin because more Ghanaians than not saw him as the child of  a G.W. Bush like presidential legacy– fully wrapped in elitism, a sense of entitlement & serving the needs of the rich with very little vision or concern for the poor. In America, a little known senator from Illinois named Barack Hussein Obama joined the race for the Democratic nomination to take back the White House after the test run with the people proclaimed 1st Black president made the way for the first historically proclaimed first Black President of the United States of America who fought to the end to win the costliest election America had ever seen.

The 2008 campaign was the costliest in history, with a record-shattering $5.3 billion in spending by candidates, political parties and interest groups on the congressional and presidential races…” Read More

Football & accomplishing dreams was all I could think about as I stepped foot back on Ghanaian soil in January 2008 after close to 8 years of absence. This was just a few months before those historical elections: one that showed an African nation could put on a democratic election & hand over power with little to no blood shed  in defying the stereotypes of African despots, fraudulent elections needing foreign overseers & nations constantly at the verge of civil war with every election, & another election across the Atlantic that ushered in a milestone historical moment where the world thought that America had somehow stepped into a post-racial era that had made amends with the shame & pain of the ties that bind us from the shores of Africa thru the middle passage & arrival into America, by electing Barack Hussein Obama -the seed, heir & embodiment of America’s most racially polarizing taboo -a White American woman having a child by an African man.  These two elections ushered in the promise of what was to be a great year of hope, change & many more milestones to be had for many including myself in physical form & metaphorically.

I embarked on a new business venture combining my skills from America- my birth nation, & my love for Ghana- the nation that raised me & set my foundation in life. I went to document what had become of the Black Star Nation of Ghana 50 years after independence during the first Africa Cup of Nations held in Ghana after 8 years. The nation was a buzz with excitement brightly colored in red, gold & green with black stars shining. This was to be the year when Ghana would reign supreme again in taking back the Africa Cup after a stellar showing as the last Africans standing at the world cup  of 2006.  The Black Star team was fully loaded with heavy weight international players like captain Stephen Appiah, Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari, Laryea Kingston, Richard Kingson, John Mensah, John Pantsil, André Ayew, Asmaoh Gyan & a return of a native son Junior Agogo -who became a fan favorite with superb goals & a beautiful adonis physique to match that of the warrior kings of the Black Star Nation.

The most anticipated game of the cup came on February 3rd as forever rivals Ghana & Nigeria went into battle with Ghana coming out victorious. That same night of jubilant raucous celebration got even crazier as my New York crew & I stepped into “The Office”- now known as “Rockstone’s Office”  after being bought by the grandpapa of hip-life Reggie Rockstone. In the midst of the Ghana victory celebration, we convinced them to put on the super bowl being played that same night as our New York Giants went up against forever rivals New England Patriots ringing in yet another victory for my New York Ghanaian ass to believe that this was truly going to be a year wrapped in victory for me on so many levels in everything I loved. Well those dreams began to fall apart as Ghana went on to take third place with the ultimate victory at the Africa Cup of Nations going to Egypt. I had never witnessed how powerful a football match could be to an African nation until I literally saw the raucous hustle & bustling nation of Ghana go into complete silence & darkness after the dreams of a Black Star victory on native land was shattered. Dreams of what was to come continued to fall apart after Plaxico Burress, the celebrated honrary MVP who clinched the Giants win in catching quarterback & game MVP, Payton Manning’s 13-yard touchdown pass with 35 seconds remaining became the pariah of New York & Mayor Bloomberg’s personal vendetta in his no tolerance policy for illegal guns in New York after accidently shooting himself in a night club that  November which ended his career with the Giants & earned him a two year bid in jail.

Slowly but surely that year saw more highs with greater lows in victories & dreams of what could be fall apart after the much celebrated elections in Ghana & America proved to be lackluster & borderline abominable in truly moving the two nations forward  in hope & change economically & progressive peaceful relations between citizens of both nations; mirroring my own shattered dreams economically & many personal relationships which slowly also fell apart when I finally began to realize that many may want to ride with you during the highs of the victory, but are quick to find their way out during the lows of things falling apart.

Well 2012 has brought a new light in the awakening of dreams & reality, along with a new spring in my step in hope & recognizing the growth & bloom of those dreams that were planted in 2008 in my personal life, a new election year with most of the same players in Ghana & the USA & of course FOOTBALL- with my Black Stars being favored to take the Africa Cup of Nations after once again making history in being the last African team standing in the 2010 World Cup along with my New York Giants who are once again in a super bowl match up with our forever rivals the New England Patriots. To say that I am nervous in my superstition from the effects & affects of the occurrences in 2008 to the present is to put it mildly, but I am surely as excited today about the possibilities of new beginnings, victories  & dreams realized for myself & my two nations as I was back in 2008 when I took the ultimate leap of faith in determining my own destiny.

As the great Langston Hughes said ,” Hold fast to dreams,for if dreams die,life is a broke winged bird that cannot fly“!

February 1st will be the final group match for the Black Stars against Guinea in domination of their group play to get them closer to the ultimate victory in taking home the cup & Sunday marks Super Bowl 46 as New York, New York shows just why we are Giants & so fly that they had to name us twice! I will be in full beast mode supporting my Black Stars & Giants to victory because in someway their victories for the ultimate prize have become metaphors in mirroring the victories over my own dreams.

There is a new buzz of life at the centre of the earth. The performance of the Black Stars in the 28th Orange African Cup of nations has given the average Ghanaian something to be proud of. On Saturday night, the referee’s final whistle, bringing the Black Stars’ match with Mali to an end in Franceville, in oil-rich Gabon, was greeted by a spontaneous bout of joy in Accra and other cities, towns, and villages in Ghana, where the colonial flag was first lowered in Black Africa in the wee hours of March 6, 1957…The Black Stars, the famed national team of Ghana, named specifically to reflect the aspirations of the black race, had accounted for the tough customers in the Eagles of Mali, in one of the most uncompromising second round matches of the on-going African Cup of Nations in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea…For Ghanaians, who have had nothing to cheer about the economy worsened by price hikes in petroleum products, the 2-0 victory recorded with two of the most clinical finishing in association football, was celebrated wildly into the night...Football, it has long been established, is the passion of the nation. The Black Stars 2-0 victory over the audacious national team of Mali was milked in a manner that suggested that the team and their handlers would attain folklore status, should they succeed in their endeavour to bring the continental trophy home to register Ghana’s fifth win in the African championship.” READ MORE

The story of being caught between two nations with the heart always moving toward the foundation is also a story that is being told not only in my life, but also in the life of  New York Giant, Mathias Kiwanuka. Many may never understand the passion in a dream when the victory is not yours alone, but also for the people of two nations who have poured everything into your birth & foundation to make those dreams come to fruition. As we celebrate the first day of Black History Month, which is usually focused on African-American history, those of us like Mathias Kiwanuka & I can never forget that our Black history represents & pays homage to the ties that bind us from both sides of the Atlantic.

Mathias Kiwanuka says he does not remember how old he was when he first found out his grandfather had been assassinated. He struggles to remember the point at which he realized the true meaning of his own last name. He is not certain when he became aware of his family’s importance in African history. But that is not important, Kiwanuka said recently, because he knows now. He read about his grandfather Benedicto Kiwanuka’s becoming the first prime minister of Uganda and heard about the plight forced upon a man trying to mold freedom out of a society stiffened by chaos. He learned about the pain and suffering Benedicto saw and felt. And so he knows, too, about Benedicto’s being killed by the despot Idi Amin, a death foretold by some, dreaded by many and seen by experts as a development that set back progress in East Africa for years. This week, as the Giants prepare to face the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, Mathias Kiwanuka will be the subject of countless articles and interviews. The reason is obvious: This is his return home. Kiwanuka, now a linebacker for the Giants, was born in Indianapolis. He went to Cathedral High School, a little more than 10 miles from Lucas Oil Stadium, where the Super Bowl will be played Sunday. He won two state championships. Everyone will want to tell his story, whether it is about his old high school days or how he ended up at Boston College. But Kiwanuka also knows that there is something greater than a birthplace, something more meaningful than the city where a boy learns to read and write and block and tackle. Indianapolis may be his hometown, Kiwanuka said, but Uganda will always be his homeland. That is why, one day last week after Kiwanuka had answered a barrage of questions about the old days in Indianapolis, he stopped for a moment by a doorway to the Giants’ training center and considered how much being Ugandan could possibly resonate with a kid who grew up in Indiana. “How much does Uganda mean to me?” he said, his eyes wide. “It means everything.” Read More

For the remaining players of the Black Star team of 2008, this victory also means everything for their nation & their teammates who missed the chance of victory with them in 2008 & have subsequently retired  from the national team voluntarily or due to injury. For many of the veteran players from the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations team, this victory may also be their last chance in realizing the dream that they promised their nation & themselves in leaving a new legacy for the future Black Stars to speak of years down the line as they speak of the greats like Tony Yeboah &  Abedi Pele -whose sons continue the family legacy as rising stars in Ghana’s current Black Star team.  Ghana had a brief dominance of the game in the 1960’s when in 1963 Ghana made its first appearance at the Cup along with being honored as the host nation of the cup with back to back championships.

Here’s to Willing My Giants to Repeat The Glory of 2008’s Victory!

As we prepare for the elections that will once again be a defining moment for my two nations -here’s a look at what was.

No Matter Where We Maybe In The World …Home Is Never Too Far Away

Black Star Rising from globalfusion on Vimeo.