Celebrating The Future -Ghana @ 55-Daughters of Yaa Asantewaa Rising! Ones To Watch in 2012

In honor of Ghana’s 55th year of Independence and women’s history month we honor and celebrate the daughters of Yaa Asentwaa- the image makers and global African powerhouses representing the future of the Black Star Nation of Ghana thru their powerfully creative endeavorers. March 6, 1967 Ghana was declared an independent African nation with the first globally recognized Black president who forever changed the global lexicon on what “Black Star Power” and “African Personality” was, is and will be.  Before Dr. Kwame Nkrumah stood at Black Star Square AKA Independence Square – there was Yaa Asantewaa who would forever epitomize why we call the continent with the most natural resources Mama Africa. Yaa Asantewaa showed why many African nations  are built on matriarchy and how the power of the women from village to city has always been there and will forever be there for the birth, nurturing , growth and progression of its future.  America may have Rosie the Riveter as their icon of unstoppable women who refuse to sit back  and be denied or have their freedom be deferred to their men to do right by them in a time of war; the women who gleefully say to their men anything you can do I can do better; however Rosie ain’t got nothing on Yaa.  Women of global Africa and in particular the women of the the Black Star Nation of Ghana will forever have the legacy and battle cry of Yaa Asantewaa empowering them in their sense of spirit and responsibility to building the future of Ghana as they consume & embody these words.

Now I see that some of you fear to go forward to fight for our king. If it [was] in the brave days of Osei Tutu, Okomfo Anokje, and Opoku Ware, chiefs would not sit down to see their king to be taken away without firing a shot. No European could have dared speak to chiefs of Asante in the way the governor spoke to you this morning. Is it true that the bravery of Asante is no more? I cannot believe it. It cannot be! I must say this: if you, the men of Asante, will not go forward, then we will. We, the women, will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight! We will fight till the last of us falls in the battlefields.” Yaa Asantewaa-Queen King Of Kings…

Today we have great young women of global Africa continuing to build on this legacy, while remembering that Dr. Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah said “Our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of Africa.”

Get to know some of the many women who I call  “Daughters of Yaa Asantewaa” hailing from the Black Star Nation…The work of Independence Continues……

Politics & Governance

By now most know that Samia Nkrumah has become one of Africa’s new darlings for the future of women in politics. With the polarizing Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, the former first lady & founder of the 31st December Women’s Movement out of the running for the 2012 Ghana elections, many have their eyes on Samia Nkrumah to possibly be the first woman elected to Ghana’s presidency, following in the footsteps of her father & Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf & other women presidents around the world in also solidifying her place in the world record books as 1st. With the rise of Samia Nkrumah being elected as MP (member of parliament ) in her father’s hometown & then being named the chairperson for the CPP ( her father’s party ) along with the subsequent departure of Dr. Papa Kwesi Nduom, who was the CPP’s 2008 presidential candidate as well as the foreseen flag-bearer for 2012, there is now an opening for Samia Nkrumah to surge forward toward her presidential dreams & to follow in her father’s footsteps….READ MORE HERE

By now most people have become familiar with the ICC (International Criminal Court ) in its bias to bring only African heads of states and criminals to justice as representative of the criminality of governance in the world. While the ICC maybe criticized particularly amongst Africans for its apparent bias, today I celebrate one of our own Daughters of Yaa Asantewaa showing that in order to have a say at the table of power , one must first have a seat at the table. Get to Know Judge Akua Kuenyehia….

Akua Kuenyehia’s office, on the top floor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, is filled with Africa. There are maps of the continent, African art on the walls and a shelf of beautiful African carvings…Judge Kuenyehia, one of three female African judges at the ICC, is first vice-president of the court. And because all the cases currently at the ICC are African, the Ghanaian judge feels that her knowledge of her home continent serves her well…For example, she and her colleagues had to approve the forms that victims of war crimes fill in if they want to take advantage of the court’s unprecedented move to allow them to have a greater involvement in proceedings….”When people run away from conflict they often take nothing with them, so we cannot ask them to produce passports, email addresses or paperwork,” explained Judge Kuenyehia…As well as being first vice president, Judge Kuenyehia is also one of the judges in the pre-trial division, which deals with preliminary issues, including admissibility of cases and the confirmation of charges against an accused. This means she assesses all the evidence that Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo brings against a war crimes suspect, and decides with the other pre-trial judges whether a case should come to trial…A former lecturer in criminal law, gender law and international human rights law at the University of Ghana, Judge Kuenyehia has co-authored several books and influential papers on how law is interpreted and implemented throughout her continent. She told IWPR she has spent many hours arguing over cases with her husband, who is still a practising lawyer in Ghana…She has sought to encourage African women to gain a better understanding of the law, setting up networks of female professionals who go out into communities to promote awareness of legal rights and issues…She represented Ghana on the United Nations’ Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, CEDAW, committee in 2003 and worked hard to contribute to its reputation and influence….READ MORE

Filmmakers

Filmmaking has grasped young Ghanaian women like wildfire in excellence amongst this new generation. There are a plethora of Ghanaian women filmmakers that are making their mark on the global film industry, while being in the forefront of building the African and in particular Ghanaian film industry, so many that I just can’t name them all, but be prepared to know their names because the takeover is coming to a theater/TV screen near you. We can not celebrate the future until we celebrate the past and in filmmaking there is no other woman representative of the Black Star Nation better than Auntie Efua AKA Efua Theodora Sutherland, whose own legacy continues through her charitable organization  Mmofra Foundation where children and culture connect.

Efua Theodora Sutherland (1924-1996) renowned playwright from Ghana, affectionately called Auntie Efua, entered in the annals of African cinema history in 1967, in association with the production of Araba: The Village Story. The film was produced for the U.S. television network ABC to document the successful Atwia Experimental Community Theatre Project. The initiative is recognized worldwide as a pioneering model for the now popular Theatre for Development. She is well known and admired as dramatist and writer, continuing in her chosen field of drama having never produced another film. Her role as foremother in African cinema, documenting African culture and experiences, is indicative of the practices of many African women. Some women have entered filmmaking as a primary career, while others have used the moving image as a medium of expression in their work. And thus, Efua Sutherland was a devoted and passionate cultural producer whose vision and influence continue to reach far and wide. At the funeral of “Auntie Efua”, Kofi Anyidoho reflected on her life in this way:

Dr. Efua Theodora Sutherland. ‘Auntie Efua’ is best known for her pioneering work as a cultural visionary and activist, her impact on society at once comprehensive and enduring. Teacher, research scholar, poet, dramatist, and social worker, she devoted her life to the building of models of excellence in culture and education, and to the training of young people who would carry her vision into the far future…” It was also in the final phase of her work that she gave to Ghana and the African world probably her grandest artistic vision for uplifting and reuniting African peoples through the arts—an original proposal for the Pan African Historical Theatre Festival, the Panafest Movement. This final gift underscores the significance she attached to connections between Africa and the Diaspora. She played a very critical role in the establishment of the W.E.B. DuBois Memorial Centre for Pan African Culture. She belonged to an extensive global network of friends, many of them eminent creative minds….READ MORE

HERE…NOW… THE FUTURE ……

Amma Asante (born 1969) is a British Ghanaian writer/director/producer who has recently garnered the coveted big budget film project that many filmmakers dream of.  Amma’s first feature film A Way of Life was partly written to honor the Welsh identity of her niece and nephew. It won her a BAFTA (British Academy Film Award) for special achievement by a writer/director in a debut film. According to Amma “I found myself wanting to challenge the stereotypes, and show that people who seem different can be incredibly similar. I wanted to find the humanity that links us all, really. That’s what a good film is all about….” Amma’s second feature film of her career will be “Belle based on a true story of Dido Belle ( a mixed raced woman raised as an aristocrat in 18th-century England) projected at a budget of  over 10 million dollars.  Amma Asante is showing herself as a force to be reckoned with not only in the responsibility in educating the world on people like Dido Belle, but also being the manifestation of global filmmakers telling our global African stories all over the world.

As a child, Asante attended the Barbara Speake stage school in Acton, London, where she trained as a student in dance and drama. She began her film and television career as a child actress, appearing as a regular in the British school drama Grange Hill. She fronted the “Just Say No” campaign of the 1980s and was one of nine Grange Hill children to take it to the Reagan White House. She went on to gain credits in other British television series including Desmond’s (Channel 4) and Birds Of A Feather (BBC1), and was a Children’s Channel presenter for a year. In her late teens, Asante left the world of acting behind and eventually made the move to screenwriting with a development deal from Chrysalis. Two series of the urban drama Brothers and Sisters followed, which Amma wrote and produced for her production company and BBC2. Asante’s 2004 feature film, A Way of Life, was her directorial debut. In November 2004 The London Film Festival awarded Asante the inaugural Alfred Dunhill UK Film Talent Award, created to recognise the achievements of a new or emerging British writer/director who has shown great skill and imagination in bringing originality and verve to film-making. February 2005 saw Amma collect the award for The Times Breakthrough Artist of the Year at The South Bank Show Awards and nominations for Best Newcomer at both the Evening Standard and London Film Critics Awards. At the BAFTA Film Awards in February 2005 Asante received the BAFTA Carl Foreman Award for Special Achievement by a Writer/Director in a debut filmRead More


I recently got to know filmmaker Akosua Adoma Owusu and found out she was part of  the petite spifires of the Black Star nation much like myself. I was happy to be introduced to her by our ever growing daughters of Yaa Asantewaa sisterhood slowly and steadily erecting globally, after first being introduced to her work “Me Broni Ba” AKA My White Baby-the bane of our colonial lexicon of affection in mental slavery . Akosua tackles a deeply seeded root from Africa to the Diaspora that have told generation after generation of global Africans that somehow being compared to White or Whiteness equates to being beautifully right. Akosua was 1 of 23 filmmakers selected to receive a Creative Capital 2012 grant for her upcoming project Black Sunshine which tackles yet another deeply seeded subject that is often untouchable not only in conversation let alone on full theatrical blast for the world to get in on the conversation of Albinism and the African perspective. As our global creatives continue our legacy, I look forward to having more and more of our stories told in our own voices.

Akosua Adoma  Owusu is an award-winning filmmaker and artist of Ghanaian descent. A protege of prolific filmmaker, Kevin Jerome Everson, she received her MFA in the Schools of Film & Video and Fine Art at the California Institute of the Arts, and her BA at the University of Virginia. Owusu`s short film “ME BRONI BA” (“My White Baby”) garnered critical acclaim with screenings at over 60 international film festivals including Rotterdam, London Film Festival, Visions du Reel, Silverdocs, and the Cannes Film Festival at Short Film Corner. It was ranked Top 10 in the October Issue of ArtForum Magazine in 2010 and earned several Best Documentary awards, including a Golden Gate Award nomination in New Visions at the 52nd San Francisco International Film Festival….Following the success of “ME BRONI BA,” Owusu`s next short work, “DREXCIYA”, was inspired by a myth of the Detroit-based techno band. It was praised at the 2011 Tarifa African Film Festival ‘for its radical nature’ and ‘poetic insight’ and went on to win Best Experimental Film at the Expresion en Corto Film Festival in Guanajuato, Mexico. Shortly after graduating from CalArts, she was the youngest of 42 black conceptual artists included in the group exhibition, 30 Seconds Off an Inch, at the famed Studio Museum in Harlem, where she also exhibited solo video projects. Her videos have shown at art venues including the Museum of Modern Art, Rencontres Internationales Paris/Berlin/Madrid, the National Gallery of Art, Transformer Gallery, BOZAR, LA Freewaves, Vox Populi, Spaces Gallery, and The Luggage Store Gallery. She was also a featured artist at the 56th Robert Flaherty Film Seminar and a Directing Talent at the Berlinale Talent Campus and the Durban Talent Campus in South Africa….Owusu`s professional experiences include Development and Production internships at Echo Lake Productions and HBO Films. For the latter, she received an Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences grant to provide post-production assistance on Chris Rock’s documentary Good Hair. She participated on the screening committee and jury of AFI Silverdocs and Festival Des Trois Continents. One of five recipients and the first Ghanaian to receive the award, Owusu will be funded by Focus Features` Africa First Program to direct a short film entitled “KWAKU ANANSE”, an adaptation of a traditional Ghanaian folktale mixed with live action and animation. She is currently developing her first feature, “BLACK SUNSHINE”, about a young albino girl. The film participated in the “Produire au Sud” workshop in 2010 and the Amiens Script and Screenplay Development Fund in 2011. The feature is an international co-production with Owusu’s company, Obibini Pictures, musician Salif Keita, his Salif Keita Foundation, and Arizona Films based in France…. READ MORE

California based Leila Djansi is a rising star amongst Ghanaian filmmakers. With her  often controversial love/ hate relationship with Ghanaian media, it seems Ghanaian audiences just can’t seem to get enough of how beautifully she captures their nation and tells their stories, while bringing an international audience to Ghanaian films by making great choices in casting and telling stories that are relatable to the world. Leila’s films continue to win awards in Ghana and abroad. Sinking Sands was no different winning 3 out of the 9 nominations and her newest release “Ties That Bind” seems to be accumulating the same praises of fine filmmaking starring great global African actors like Kimberly Elise, Ama K. Abebrese and Omotola Ekeinde.

You are among a growing number of African women who have studied filmmaking in the United States. You began your career in Ghana before traversing the Atlantic. What was your experience with cinema growing up in Ghana?

It wasn’t an elaborate experience really because not much was going on then. But, what was ongoing was fun. From where I am now it seems very amateurish but its how I got here. I learned the basics and got myself fortified for where I am now.

What are some of the differences and similarities in working in Ghana and the United States? Do you bring both an US aesthetic and Ghanaian perspective to your work?

Apart from the US working environment being more conducive, really not that much difference. I do try to bring both aesthetics to bear. If you are going to make an appealing film, you must make it within an acceptable standard.

Among your film credits are, I Sing of a Well, Sinking Sands and the soon to be released Ties That Bind. What have been some highlights during the production of the films? How have they been received?

Highlights, they were all fun to make. Tears and Laughter. Money and No money. I Sing of a Well was not well received. Ghana is a very tricky and delicate place. The people’s minds get conditioned and it takes time to add more to what they already know. So from the get with I Sing of a Well, we made mistakes. Casting, budgets and logistics wise, we made grave mistakes. But all that was a learning process which made Sinking Sands a success and more acceptable….READ MORE

Shirley Frimpong-Manso seems to be the go to writer/director/producer amongst established and up and coming Ghanaian actors who want quality work locally that sets the bar higher than your average Nollywood or Ghallywood films. Shirley seems to bring the challenege that many Ghanaian actors need in pulling out academy award nominated and winning roles for some of Ghana’s top actors like Lydia Forson and Jackie Appiah. She is one of the few women filmmakers from Ghana who is making great strides and gaining international recognition while being based solely in Ghana.
Frimpong-Manso is a founder and CEO of the film, television, and advertising production company Sparrow Productions. Frimpong-Manso “seeks to raise the standard of film production in Ghana and Africa by telling progressive African stories as seen through the eyes of Africans.”She won ‘Best Director’ at the African Movie Academy Awards 2010…. Read More

Sam Kessie, a London born,Ghana raised & now Atlanta residing writer/director/producer/set designer and all around film creator, who has done it all from the bottom up into an award winning filmmaker taking on the daunting & epic task of telling the story of one of Africa’s sports heroes,Azumah Nelson AKA The Professor, can now add 2012 Ghana Music Awards nomination to her accolades for her beautifully crafted video  “No One Knows” by M3NSA featuring Asa. Sam has made it her goal to follow in the footsteps of great women of Ghana like Auntie Efua by also setting up her own charitable foundation The TKAFoundation or (Tomorrow’s Kaleidoscope of Artists) which raises funding in support of the arts along with teaching the freedom in filmmaking to Ghana’s disadvantaged youth.   ….Read More

FASHION

All you have to do is step off the plane at Kotoko airport to know that Ghana is where it’s at for fashion on the continent. I maybe biased but if you don’t believe me ask Franca Sozzani of Italian Vogue. It seems the world is delightfully enthralled with everything African these days and nowhere is the demand and elation of endless satiation more felt than what is being called the new renaissance of African fashion. For decades the grand dame of New York fashion week’s front rows, Zelda Kaplan had been wearing and telling everyone about her insatiable love and passion for African fashion, or as she tells it  “Primitive Cultures”. This year in the most dramatic fashion forward of ways Zelda died sitting in her front row seat adorned in her beautiful primitive fashion without the show even stopping. Well Ms. Zelda,may the notion of “Africa as primitive culture” get laid to rest with you in fashion’s past because today’s African fashion innovators are far from primitive and have been steadily challenging the many preconceived and adopted notions about what African fashion is all about. There are countless male and female fashion designers doing the damn thing globally while raising the Black Star flag, but here a just a few of Yaa Asantewaa’s daughters of fashion that you should get to know.

Mimi Plange to me is the budding female version of Oswald Boateng, representing Ghana on a global high end level without utilizing the expected fabrications and stylings of what is traditionally seen as Ghanaian or African, yet making everyone proud from Ghana to the Diaspora in knowing that their brands represent the best in quality globally . Mimi is slowly and steadily becoming the new young talent that is the toast of the town amongst fashion elites like Andre Leon Talley, whom she counts as a mentor along with collaborating with the Sex and the City‘s fashion god of sexy to die for footwear (until the red bottom takeover), Manolo Blahnik.

With a mother who modeled for Ghanaian magazine Drum, Accra-born Mimi Plange has loved fashion from an early age, sketching under the guidance of an architect uncle. She learned the trade as a freelance contractor, first as a women’s designer at Rachel Roy. For her fall/winter collection under the label Boudoir d’Huitres, the designer presented 28 looks inspired by her homeland in a loft-like space with a sense of professionalism and a keen eye for editing…Her fourth collection shows just how adept she is at finessing her ideas into shapes geared to an upscale consumer who wants to dress in a variety of ways—she’s no Jane One-Note. She took the idea of African scarification to come up with the zigzag concepts on simple white sheaths, as well as for her cool biker trousers in luxe leather teamed up with a camel-hair T-shirt. She has a refined sense of fabric and mixes the rich copper tones of the African plains in wonderful little dry wool slip-like dinner dresses, some falling from jeweled halters, and others draped origami-style in bustiers that are flattering, not just a design conceitREAD MORE

Christie Brown is the go to designer at home in Ghana where she too brings Haute Couture to the home grown fashion in crowd by utilizing traditional fabrications with untraditional structuring of beautiful fashion creations. With a newly opened boutique in the hot shopping district of Osu,where foreign currency is king- Christie Brown will be sure to draw in her fair share of locals and visitors looking for top quality high fashion with dollars, pounds, euros and cedis to spare.

Aisha Obuobi – creative director and founding partner of Christie Brown Ltd – began her love affair with fashion at an early age. Her grandmother, who the brand is named after, was a seamstress so she grew up watching Ms. Christie Brown, stooped over a sewing machine, creating beautiful clothes…like pieces of art – out of rich, vibrant materials. As a little girl, she reveled in playing with shreds of African print material and designed mini collections for her favourite dolls…Aisha started this label whilst in her final year at the University of Ghana, Legon, where she majored in Psychology and she is driven by the desire to create beautiful pieces that will enhance the natural beauty in Christie Brown’s clients. In 2009, Aisha won the highly coveted “Emerging Designer of the Year” award at the inaugural Arise Fashion Week, in South Africa. She was invited to sit on a panel at the African Economic Forum, which took place at Columbia University, New York, and Marie Claire (international) featured Aisha as one of twenty-one “Daring Women of 2010″, noting the “the energy, the courage, the creativity,” and “the drive” behind her work.…” Read More

As far as fashion journalism goes there is no other than Ghana’s own Zandile Blay. I first met Zandile during the time when she used to curate networking events for fashionistas while complaining about having to travel to London again for a lengthy period for work and study- poor thing-LOL! Those days have come and gone with stints at Paper Magazine and Huffington Post, but Zandile has continued to establish herself in the cutthroat world of global fashion journalists while still steadily letting the world know about all things beautiful that Africa has to offer thru her labor of love Africa Style Daily. Zandile while writing about the world of global fashion has also been the subject of many writers who also celebrate her “it girl” fashion sensibilities. Zandile recently penned a New York fashion week story letting Huffington Post readers know about the African fashion invasion that is slowly creeping up in the fashion world, ready for its close up!

From the exuberant sexiness of HVS to the sumptuous elegance of David Tlale to the architectural austerity of Telfar, their labels show an African aesthetic that goes beyond ‘Tribal Prints.’ Yet, that we are even exposed to their aesthetic at all speaks of their greatest triumph: an ability to break into the West despite scarce resources, scant mentorship and few mainstream fashion contacts. In fact with the exception of Plange, who counts Duro Olowu and Andre Leon Talley as mentors, almost none of the designers above can boast of similar connections. In addition, they seem far from being on the radar of career-changing program’s like the CFDA Fund, Ecco Domani Fashion Fund or W Hotels’ recently launched Fashion Next…To solve this, these enterprising African designers are leveraging alternate methods like Twitter and Facebook to gain support and exposure…” READ MORE

Belinda Baidoo is a model, new mom and entrepreneur leading the way with others who are looking to change the face of Ghana’s fashion with upscale styled boutiques sprouting up along the busy international area of Osu in the capital city of Accra. As they say home is where the heart is and Belinda’s love for fashion is being developed at home in Ghana where she began her career as a model. Belinda opened the b2 models agency to give aspiring Ghanaian models the mentorship and opportunity  to blaze their own trails right along her own. Belinda first came on the scene after winning Top Model of Afrique in 1998 & then went on to sign with a Q model management , one of the top agencies in New York-known to many as the global fashion capital of the world. Belinda has been seen on billboards, advertisements in New York’s infamous Times Square along with international fashion magazine spreads and major Ad. Campaigns for international companies such as: Guinness, L’Oreal, Nike, Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren and Motorola. Belinda has also been featured in international publications such as Vogue, Essence and Cosmopolitan, just to name a few. Belinda thru her modeling agency  b2Models continues to mentor & develop Ghana’s international models of the future.

Cultural Curators

The great writing daughters of Yaa Asantewaa like Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond and Ayesha Harruna Attah are telling the beautiful stories of the Ghanaian experience in literary form with their books Powder Necklace and Harmattan Rain, while what I call cultural curators of our generation are utilizing multimedia platforms to continue the oral, written and visual history of our global African experience.  There are so many cultural curators amongst the daugthers of Yaa Asantewaa who are finally coming into their own and getting their just due proudly preserving the culture of Ghana/Africa while maintaining the balance of sharing the culture through a global creative lens.

I recently had the pleasure of finally meeting Nana Oforiatta-Ayim on her travel to New York to showcase her work as part of The New Museum’s Triennial entitled “The Ungovernables” – showing until April 22, 2012. Nana was first introduced to me by iconic living legend of photography, James Barnor because of our collective dedication to see the wonderful artistic cultural history of Ghana preserved and well showcased for generations to come. We are now on course to build our global Black Star Collective in honor of Yaa Asantewaa and Dr. Nkrumah by putting Africa first because we know that Africa was the beginning and is the future.

Nana Oforiatta Ayim is a cultural historian, writer and filmmaker based in Accra and London. She is currently working on a research publication and exhibition for the EU/AU on cultural heritage and contemporary arts institutions in Africa with architect David Adjaye (2011, Bozar, Brussels) and a book on Ghanaian photographer James Barnor (2010, Trolley Books, London). Her writing has appeared in publications such as The National Geographic, The Statesman, The Dubliner and Time Out. She has lectured and presented her scholarship at Universities, including Cambridge, Kumasi, London and Oxford. She has curated exhibitions and events for institutions such as The British Council, The British Museum, The Liverpool Biennial, The Royal Festival Hall and The Victoria and Albert Museum. In her fiction and short films she deals with the themes of translation and the gaps within language. Her first fiction book ‘The Tightrope Walker’ will be published in May 2010. Her films have been nominated for awards at various festivals, such as The Milan African Film Festival, The RAI Ethnographic Film Festival and The Real Life Documentary Film Festival. They have also been shown at venues such as The Museum of African Diaspora and used in university curricula. She is a founding director of ANO, a non-profit organization dedicated to the interface of culture and development in Africa and its Diaspora. She has an MA in African Art History and is completing a PhD in African Languages and Cultures at the University of London...” [Credit:This is My Africa]

I was introduced to Yaba Blay’s documentary (1)ne Drop dealing with the never ending issue of identity politics and colorism amongst Blacks in America before I ever knew it was done by a Ghanaian, then I learned that this Ghanaian professor was young, in touch and will organize the daughters in a quick New York City minute if  and when ever she sees our young girls and boys being disrespected  and led astray by the likes of those in and outside of our community.  Yaba Blay and other non-Ghanaian daughters of Yaa Asantewaa created  “We Are the 44% ” coalition to bring much needed awareness to violence against young Black and Latina girls.  Blay does not only act from the heart of a mother at these times but also from the power of the legacy of Yaa Asantewaa fully locked & loaded to defend and protect the culture.

Yaba Amgborale Blay is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Africana Studies at Lafayette College where she also teaches courses in Women’s & Gender Studies. She received a BA in Psychology (Cum Laude) from Salisbury State University, an M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology from the University of New Orleans, an M.A. and Ph.D. in African American Studies and Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies from Temple University. Prior to her tenure at Lafayette College, she taught African American Studies at Temple University, African and African Diasporan Studies at Florida International University, and Africana Studies at Lehigh University. Professor Blay has developed and taught such courses as Engendering Black Popular Culture, the Politics of Hip Hop Culture, Black Images in the Media, Dimensions of Racism, and Black Feminisms….”Yaba’s research interests are related to Africana cultural aesthetics and aesthetic practices, the politics of embodiment and African/Black identities, issues of gender in Africa and the Diaspora, Black popular culture, and critical media literacy. Her dissertation, Yellow Fever: Skin Bleaching and the Politics of Skin Color in Ghana, relies upon African-centered and African feminist methodologies to investigate the social practice of skin bleaching in Ghana….” READ MORE

As a a long time fan of WBAI, it’s always great to hear a Ghanaian voice even if it comes in a British accent-LOL! Esther Armah is not only a sweet in the morning radio voice but also a writer whose first book “Can I Be Me” -a collection of essays about her travels as a journalist navigating her Black British identity across Africa & America- hit the top 10 list for best selling books for January and February on the website African American Literature Book Club dedicated to books by and about global Africans/Black people.

Esther Armah is a radio & tv host, playwright and award-winning international journalist. In New York, she hosts Wake Up Call, WBAI 99.5FM’s morning show and is a regular commentator and guest host on GRITtv with Laura Flanders  and MNN’s Ancestor House with Camille Yarbrough. Esther has written extensively on African Diaspora issues for The Guardian in London, Essencemagazine in the US and West Africa magazine in Africa and Europe. The themes of her written work are reflected in the issues portrayed  in Armah’s four New York stage plays,  Can I Be Me? Forgive Me? Entitled! and SAVIOUR? Esther is the creator and moderator of ‘Afrolicious: an Emotional Justice Arts and Conversation’ series in New York. A global citizen, she now lives in Brooklyn, New York…(Source Here)

PHILANTHROPISTS

To say June Sarpong is a trailblazer is to say the least about her many accomplishments. This young icon of British television has become one of the best known Ghanaian philanthropist with honours from Buckingham Palace as an ambassador of  the Prince’s Trust along with being a Co-Founder with her fellow Bristish Ghanaian and former Hollywood executive Dee Poku of W.I.E (Women: Inspiration and Enterprise) – an organization that empowers and inspires women through its websites, symposiums and community.

This month’s profile is a TV/radio personality who was at the forefront of urban youth TV programmes during my teenage years.  In era where “dark skin” women were not shown much love on TV she was a pioneer of the “young black female presenter”, here’s her story; Sarpong was born in London to Ghanaian parents. She was educated at Connaught Girls School in Leytonstone and Sir George Monoux College in Walthamstow. She began her media career with Kiss 100 and later became an MTV UK & Ireland presenter (MTV Dance Floor Chart and MTV Select show). As the one of the female faces of Channel 4’s Sunday morning strand T4 for the last nine years, she interviewed Tony Blair for a T4 special, When Tony Met June which aired in January 2005. She also runs her own production company, Lipgloss Productions. Projects in development include a sitcom and a programme on climate change…In recent years, Sarpong has presented other series including Your Face Or Mine?, a game show co-hosted with Jimmy Carr for E4; Dirty Laundry, an urban talk-show which was an original idea of Sarpong’s; Playing It Straight, a dating game-show filmed in Mexico for Channel 4, and Sarpong has presented the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party and the Party In The Park. Sarpong is a regular at the MOBO Awards and has presented them for three years in a row. She has also appeared on BBC Television’s Question Time, 8 out of 10 Cats, and Have I got news for you. She also has appeared on the programme, Never mind the buzzcocks and introduced reports on youth culture for This Week. In 2006 she hosted ITV2′s WAGs Boutique. Sarpong has also appeared on the third series of Bo Selecta…)…Sarpong is an ambassador for The Prince’s Trust and also campaigns for the Make Poverty History movement. In April 2005 she visited Ghana to make a film for Make Poverty History. She also hosted the major Make Poverty History event in London’s Trafalgar Square in summer 2005 on behalf of Nelson Mandela and Bob Geldof. Also On 7 July 2007 Sarpong presented at the UK leg of Live Earth at Wembley Stadium, London…Probably her most significant honour to date came at the age of twenty nine and after six years as a broadcaster, she was awarded an MBE in the 2007 New Year Honours List for “services to broadcasting and charity”…. READ MORE

Nana Eyeson-Akiwowo while building her career in editorial positions at globally known publications like Seventeen and Essence, established her charitable organization African Health Now to make sure that global Africans without money and insurance would be able to have basic healthcare after the personal experience of her father suffering a heart attack in Ghana catapulted her to seek to make a difference for others who are less fortunate financially but just as deserving of proper healthcare. Nana’s annual healthcare drives in Ghana where she comes as mother Christmas, fundraising and organizing Ghanaians to come together to take care of the basic healthcare needs of our communities has now been expanded to include the diaspora with an ever growing number of global Africans unable to receive basic healthcare because of lack of insurance and money.

In 2006 my father suffered a heart attack in a taxi cab after leaving the hospital and being treated for numbness in the leg. Considering that at my father’s age at the time he was 68, any US hospital would have automatically checked his heart and other vitals especially if he came in for numbness in the leg or any lack of mobility of the leg or arms. However that is not the case in Ghana, at most hospitals you could barely get to see a doctor let alone have someone run your vitals. And though we were fortunate enough to have the means to get him better care, it made me wonder what happens to people who don’t have the means. And who speaks for them? ” READ MORE

Rebekah Frimpong -Filmmaker/Poet/Mentor/Activist and Philanthropist has manifested her words “Revolution over loot! Africa must be free in our hearts, Africa is our home only we can change the landscape of tomorrow”, as she works tirelessly to keep her dreams of being a great filmmaker alive while helping others manifest their dreams through her philanthropic work  with her Mama Africa charitable program. Rebekah is constantly on the move in creativity with all her heart and soul poured into project after project regardless of the obstacles and challenges put in her way as a filmmaker and philanthropist.

Rebekah A. Ofori-Frimpong was a Miss Ghana Africa USA 2010/11 finalist in the Miss Africa USA 2010/11 Pageant , she is also a mentor, teacher, filmmaker, and activist.  As a Miss Ghana USA 2010/11 finalist, she pushed for a platform of Global Health for Africa and for Africans living in the United States.  She believes that a new face of African health is possible by encouraging African people to empower themselves through healthy lifestyles.  Her approach to Global Health and presenting a new face of African health is to connect communities in the United States and Africa through a three tier approach that will encompass social, environmental, and preventative measures in relation to improving health conditions worldwide.  She attributes her success to her mother and the many strong women in her life.  She has studied Public Health at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and has a pre-med degree in psychology and life science from Virginia Commonwealth University. She has had many years of experience in clinical research, education, women’s health, and environmental studies.  She developed MaMa Africa concept four years ago after working with teenage mothers in Virginia.  The MaMa Africa program, Rebekah hopes will be something that can be implemented around the world and she aims to reach at least 1, 000 mothers by 2012…” READ  MORE

Menaye Donkor Muntari former Miss Universe Ghana 2003, Model, Actress, Philanthropist prides herself in being an image role model for young girls, particularly young global African girls, by promoting a healthy body image that comes with self love and confidence. Menaye’s modeling career and editorial credits span from Africa to Europe and America including being the only African woman featured in Fox Sports sexiest World Cup WAGs (Football wives & girlfriends) in 2010 along with a feature in Maxim Magazine’s Italian edition ,just to name a few. Menaye has an ongoing health & fitness blog with OK! Magazine’s Famously Fit and will be a guest judge on the African based Project Runway styled show entitled “Fashion Power” shooting in Ghana & Nigeria. Menaye is not only a beautiful model, but also a great philanthropist who recently commissioned an ICT center at her namesake charity school for boys and girls in Ghana. Menaye has been a great role model for young girls in Ghana with her push for education, AIDS awareness and her upcoming new fashion based shows making the dreams of young fashion designers and fashionistas from Ghana come true with an opportunity for mentorship and to promote their designs internationally. The Menaye International School in the central region of Ghana offers free education to over 150 underprivileged children and she continues to build a brighter future for Ghana one child at a time.

MUSIC IS A WEAPON

The daughters of Yaa Asantewaa have taken over the music world in the craziest of ways from opera, to rap, to R& B, to dance, to hip-hop, to pop and all sorts of mixtures and inflections brought together thru their global African experiences. These women know the power of music and they use it as a weapon to tell our global African stories while debunking the myth of a singular African sound. There are so many greats musically coming out of this generation but here are  a few of the ones to watch.

Born in Battersea to Ghanaian parents, Tawiah’s soulful rock melodies with gospel inflections compliment her quirky rainbow child punk rock fashion stylethat is very much her own. One can clearly hear & see the culmination in adaption of her personal influences which she touts as Kim Burrell, Björk, Radiohead, Erykah Badu & Ella Fitzgerald as her musical favorites & Vivenne Westwood as her fashion favorite. Tawiah comes to us from the Brit School peforming academy in London,which boasts recent success stories like Amy Winehouse, Adele & Leona Lewis. Tawiah’s short resume in music is impressive as she has rocked the stage singing backup for Corinne Bailey Rae & touring with uber producer Mark Ronson’s band. Taiwah recently inked a deal with Warner Music Group & is ready to take the world by storm as yet another child of the Black Star nation who will meet a meteoric rise to fame!

Vienna-born and raised, with parents from Ghana, Anbuley is a vocalist with presence and a style that sticks in the mind. She’s also got an unerring sensibility when it comes to drawing on those roots of hers to make inspired dance music…’The singer started out adding her resonant voice to some deep, Africa-inspired bass tracks with producers like Bert on Beats and Ku Bo. If you heard those, you remember them. Last year, she put out her equally memorable Tsakemo EP, followed by the Kemo’ Yoo Keke EP on Austria’s Seayou Records.The cuts mix the stunning efficiency of Euro dance with the organic power of the traditional music Anbuley grew up with. A lot of that power is channeled through her voice. And it sounds even more heavy when you know “Kemo’ Yoo Keke” is about not letting people push you around….” READ MORE

While American Hip-Hop connoisseurs debate over whether the Australian import and newly signed artist on T.I.’s Grand Hustle label, Iggy Azalea, or the toast of European fashion couture houses and Harlem stunner Azealia Banks are the two to watch in the new renaissance of female MC’s to give the reigning queen Nicki Minaj a run for her money and talent; the other side of the atlantic is toasting Ghana’s own dominating female MC and Queen of Azonto, Tiffany, who will be making her US debut at Ghana’s 55th Independence Concert on March 17th, 2012 at the Armenia Hall Ballroom produced by Boogie Down Nima Productions.

Rhian Benson Born in Accra, and raised in Wales, Ghana and India, Rhian grew up in a very musical environment. Her Welsh mother was an accomplished singer, and her father, an Ashanti naval officer, is a gifted guitarist. Rhian started playing piano at the age of nine and picked up guitar soon after and before long, a budding singer songwriter. Behind the warm honeyed voice is a sharp mind, Rhian gained an economics degree at the London School of Economics and worked in banking in the City for a time, a somewhat stark contrast to her own desires for a life in music. Her studies continued at Harvard in America, until her mother fell ill and Rhian returned home to care for her ailing mother. With time to think she found healing and release in music and decided to chase her singing dreams, feeling as though it was a risk worth taking in order to dance her heart’s dreams into life. With the help of Danish rising star production duo, Daniel Fridell and Jonas Rendbo, Rhian has diligently and lovingly cooked up the ingredients for her new album title ‘Hands Clean’ to be released in early 2011. HANDS CLEAN is a refreshing departure from Rhian’s previous work. Rhian’s well known sultry vibes are teamed with a collection of pulsating electronic grooves to introduce her fans to a hidden ground where Sade meets DJ Shadow. This is a bold album that dares to redefine modern soul music. Rhian has been nurturing her expressive style and is looking forward to showing the world more of her exquisite soulful sound. Everything about this album has been organic and refreshing, and Rhian is quoted as saying: “I met Jonas and Daniel for a brief writing session in Copenhagen a while ago and we just hit it off immediately, the guys were so passionate about creating truthful music that speaks from the soul to the soul. They instantly understood the sound and feel I was looking for… so I asked them to produce the entire album with me and I thank God they said yes!’ Rhian’s sophomore album -‘Hands Clean’- represents a strong evolution of her unique style and ventures into fresh and bold sonic terrain for the critically acclaimed singer/songwriter. These confessional tales of love and life represent a new direction for this singular artist as she journeys beyond the ‘Gold Coast’. “I experienced great change in my life since writing my first album so when I began writing ‘Hands Clean’ all I wanted to do was create a sound that in some way captured that state of flux”. READ MORE

As far as an authetic soul sound of Ghana goes there is no other than the reigning queen Rebecca Acheampong, AKA Becca, who has taken Ghana and Africa at large by storm with powerful music celebrating positivity, womanhood and sisterhood.  The glowing beauty of Becca shines as bright as a black star on a clear moonlit night when she calls us to Push and bring the Fire of  an African woman.

Becca, the latest sensation in Ghana Music. The beautiful, simple and young looking 22 year old lady, an old student of Wesley Girls High School in Cape Coast and Croydon College in London where she attained her certificate in Child Care and Education is back to her motherland Ghana to prove what she is made of…”. READ MORE

And Then there’s the incomparable Ghanaian Hungarian who goes by the name Sena. Sena is amongst the many European daughters of Yaa who are taking over the world of truly global music with versatility and their pulse firmly placed in their African foundation, such as  German Ghanaian songstress Y’akoto . To say the world needs a bit of Sena Dagadu in their life is truly an understatement because Sena’s effortlessly powerful voice resonates within the soul with that sort of soothing satiation that makes one remember why music is as essential to life as water and should be cherished in pure love. Yes I am a big fan of Sena, whether she is lending her voice to the reggae rhythms of her band Irie Maffia, taking us through the journey of global Jazz’s soul with Forward Ever or Barabas Lorinc Eklektric, FOKN’ around with the Bois in Ghana and Budapest or blowing our minds with another unexpected solo project that introduces us to a new sound in how we hear Shakespeare’s sonnets. Sena is the truth, fully representing for Hungary and the Black Star Nation of Ghana as a musical daughter who would make Yaa Asantewaa proud as she takes over the world with her electrifying sound. Now sit back and enjoy a truly independent global Black Star experience!

The Future of Ghana is Bright …provided our leaders will make good use of financial resources…I believe that Ghana can do much better by investing in its people. I think that if you don’t provide education and training at all levels, we will miss that boat because Paradise is right here in Ghana. I believe it…I think we have a great Ghana but we have more to go but we have all the pieces in place to polish up into a wonderful place…God put us at the center of the universe for a reason. We are the shining bright start of Africa and I think Ghana is coming into its own…I also believe that Ghanians this year have taken a whole new appreciation for Ghana, but at the bottom of it is we need to work out our economics because at the end of the day it boils down to our economic strength apart from our spiritual strength. We’re thru with poverty, we’re thru with being highly indebted anything, we’re thru… I think we are going to a new place, completely new and it will have nothing to do with the spirit of poverty because there’s a spiritual awakening also happening right now in Ghana and that awakening is also identifying what that spirit of poverty looks like and we will have nothing to do with it. I think 10 years from now if we should have this interview again , we’ll be telling a different story…”

I want to see a time when the children of Africa will not have a need to go overseas to make it..” Princess Asie Ocansey CEO Neko Tech Centre -Daughters of Yaa Asantewaa

Photo Credit HERE

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