Green Ghanaian Akua Akyaa Nkrumah is Gone

Environmental Technologist Akua Akyaa Nkrumah passed away on Thursday. She was, write her colleagues in the death announcement, a “mighty tree”. I think it is not often such words are used about a thirty-something, but those were the same words that came to mind as I heard of her passing on Friday morning. I am devastated. 

In lieu of the one-week meeting for family and friends that is customary in Ghana, I want to sit an imaginary living room and share here on my blog some of my thoughts. I imagine an overcrowded room, some of us are standing. I see Akyaa’s family and colleagues in the room, friends from BloggingGhana, Chale Wote, Ahaspora, Golda, Maame Aba, Jemila, Edward, Ato, Naa Oyoo, Efo. Now that we are all here, let’s remember.

Akyaa was a blogger and member of the organization I co-founded in 2008, BloggingGhana. Do read her last blog post on the 15 things NPP can do for the environment. She was a very present member, featured in our “By the Fireside”-events last year, and a feisty and fun discussant on issues we would deliberate on when the official meeting was over. She was a passionate professional working with Jekora Ventures, doing the hard work that is cleaning up Accra, one of the places in the world most in need of sanitation. She was proud of her work and often talked about her projects. Additionally, she was an inspiration and a fellow creative in a space where creativity is rare. She was also an ray of light in the field of environmentalism, desperately needed for a Ghana that is quickly becoming a dump site. Last year, she was featured on Jill of All Trades with this beautiful interview.

In the beginning of the year, Akyaa and I had quite a lot of interactions. We met up and talked about life, she helped my student with information, I got to learn about her initiative to take Eco thinking and social media to university students in the Green Ghanaian Eco Tour. The program was masterfully crafted, intended to reach all regions of Ghana, prefunded by an international donor who Akua had approached and written a proposal to. I took notes and confided in her that under so many years of discussing such an outreach for causes I feel strongly about, I never managed to. She generously shared the details that made her project a success.

In February, Akyaa brought her initiative to Ashesi University. I played only a small role and finally could not attend the program on the Saturday she came up with her team, but was following the tweets online from engaged students.


 

In her last year of living, Akyaa spread her worldview to hundreds (thousands?) of young people, opened a waste management plant, and taught me personally about activism and outreach. Now that she is no more with us, my only consolation is in these endeavors Akua Akyaa Nkrumah will live on. Green Ghanaian…dubbed Great Ghanaian by a mutual friend. Green Great Ghanaian. Our mighty tree. Thank you. Da yiy3.

BloggingGhana will remember her in an event soon. 

Ahaspora will be dedicating their June Happy Hour to celebrate her life.

Family GoFundMe collection for her burial.

Mobex16 and some thoughts on how event organisers in Ghana can better engage with social media influencers

On Tuesday, I went to the tech fair Mobex16 in the Accra International Conference Center. I had only planned to swiftly stop by, but ended up staying all morning. Networking was great!

However, this blogpost is on some other observations I made in relation to Mobex16. I came with my phone, ready to tweet, and laughingly told a friend that I have been here for 8 min and already posted 3 tweets. I was on fire!

I tweeted about the registration and started taking photos for Instagram. I am a promoter of all things Ghana, especially tech stuff, and I was happy to share the experience with my now 9000+ followers on Twitter and 600+ followers on Instagram.

At this stage, I needed to charge my computer (as I really had plans of working out of an office) and with heavy tweeting during the opening and the president’s speech, my phone as well. Now there were no electrical sockets in the seminar room. I looked around and asked an usher. I tweeted about that.

After realising that no woman was to appear on the stage for the first two programs on the agenda or the entirety of my morning visit – the info I took from a information that was passed out to visitors, I tweeted about that.

Revisiting my Twitter timeline, I was likely inspired by Omojuwa (recently named Africa’s best Twitter profile) and his tweet on female leadership:

After I had left the seminar hall in search for power, I browsed the exhibit. Noticing that many Mobex16 stands did not really have a plan to engage with social media influencers, I talked to some exhibitors and tweeted about that.

You get my drift, I was engaging with the program, capturing both highlights and lowlights.  Tweeting and Instagramming. Now some did not like that:

…and my personal favorite:

I get it, I have been an event organiser and its not necessarily fun to hear about someone’s negative experience when you have been working 24/7 to even make the thing happen, but I do listen and think to myself “how can I improve?” I also try to be mindful of that whoever takes the time to write to complain, cares a whole lot more than the people that just “come to eat”. (Caveat: I am not sure what the relationship between the people behind the sour tweets above is to the event discussed).

A few months back, Poetra Asantewa  in an AccraWeDey-podcast said some very useful things about critique and how there is little room for it in the Ghanaian creative space. We just need to change that, so in the name of constructive critique, I’ll list some ideas for even better social media engagement for Ghanaian events below.

Tips for event organisers how to better engage with social media influencers:

  • Communicate a (usable, not too long, not too generic) hashtag and remind people in every room, space and on everything printed.
  • Create a physical space for social media influencers with sockets (most importantly, but perhaps also), coffee, desks with chairs and additional info on your program.
  • Think through what is in it for the (professional) social media influencer, can you pay for live-tweeting & blogging, or provide lunch, pay T&T, organise gifts from sponsors? Every post about your event is potentially valuable to you, how can you make the relationship with influencers sustainable?
  • Retweet/ share their praise. People on their way to the venue will want to see photos and reviews from the venue.
  • Corteusly respond to any critique as fast as possible. (Yes, that includes saying thank you to someone who is finding fault with your event!)

Something like this:

What would you add to the list?

What do you have in common with your spouse?

Holding Hands

You know these couples who you can see about town together – busily chatting while driving to work, shopping for the weekend, elegantly dressed and smiling at an evening event? Clearing the farm silently side by side, donning matching funeral blacks, walking the beach hand in hand? Mr and Mrs, enjoying each other’s company? Well, I don’t have that and I am not sure its what makes unions last.

I do envy the “Mr and Mrs”-couples (or the “Mrs-and-Mrs” or “Mr-and-Mr” as the case may be), especially when I am at an event on my own and drive home alone. Or do I? Because at the event, I will stay as long as I find it fun, socialize with new people,  and in the car home, I will play the music I love, on high volume and sing along. Is that really bad?

I am in a relationship since 13 years and married for about half that time. When we first met, I bragged to anyone who wanted to listen (and probably a few more) that I had found someone who was just like me, a twin-soul. I believed that the “Mr and Mrs”-coupledom was equal to happiness and planned my week around time with my man.

However, soon I could not hold back a yawn when watching football with my spouse and he could not keep his eyes open for yet another art-exhibit. We discovered one of us was more of an extrovert and the other more introvert in personality. Where I have made a name out of my blog and social media presence, my husband belongs to the few who never even got on Facebook! (He does like LinkedIn, the one social media site that does not interest me much). My husband is big on Ghanaian traditions; funerals, family sit-downs, and chieftaincy politics – I enjoy keeping my weekends open to cooking/baking, house parties and time with close friends and family.

After 13 years together, my spouse and I have accepted we are different people. We do converge around late night talks on politics or “Sunday”-special type meals in our garden. We have our children, bank accounts (sort of, but that’s another post), and some future plans in common. But when it comes to interests, we are like night and day. My spouse simply says “opposites attract”, but I think we actually have some key values in common, like freedom, joie-de-vivre, and not-wanting-to-pretend, that we honour by following our own path. That means more often than not, you will see one of us in town alone or with friends, later going home with much to tell.

Photo: Soulascriptura.com

This post is the first in my new series of more personal posts to be posted on Fridays, Personal Friday.

The Power of a Thank You Note

Today I had a busy day that was marred with the everyday difficulties of professional life in Ghana – first AC not working, then light off and AC and Internet not working and the battery slowly dying on my laptop…and finally  – light is back! –  but now Internet is not working! I wanted to cry. But instead I opened this envelope my colleague Kobina had given to me earlier in the day.

It contained a beautiful card with a little bird on it and inside a thank you note.

Immediately, my mood changed from deeply sour to quite happy – after all something I had done had influenced another person to the point of writing me a note to say thank you!

It reminded me of the wonderful story told by my new boss Dr. Marcia Grant  as part of giving a commencement speech at her Alma Mater, Swarthmore College, in 2007:

“It began in the spring of 1999. I was asked to visit Princess Lolwah al Faisal in Jeddah, as part of a team of senior academic administrators, to see how we could help start a liberal arts college for women, the first institution of its kind in Saudi Arabia. After our visit, we submitted a 20-page proposal, with important-sounding recommendations, and a five-year implementation time-line – and it was rejected!

I felt disconsolate, as I knew intuitively that I had the skill-set that the Faisal Family needed to establish Effat College. So I did what my mother had always taught me: I wrote a thank you note. In a single page I drew up my vision of the college. What I learned later was that there was no one in Jeddah qualified to interpret the jargon in our first official proposal, but that my simple thank you note showed my willingness to help the Princess.”

Fittingly, Grant ended her speech with encouraging the graduates to remember to write their thank you notes. That is excellent advice. However, in addition to that, I’d hereby like to encourage my readers to respond to the thank you notes you get and tell the writers of those notes how your day was turned around because of their thoughtfulness. Or as my mother-in-law often says:

“Thank you for thanking me!”

Back in Ghana

Our daughter is now 13,5 months and everyday with her is like a month. She learns a lot, she is so funny and also runs around with a speed that makes me feel tired after just a few minutes. I have been asked how she dealt with the travel this summer.

The answer is that she took it very well even though we visited many new places and people. We were on the road for a month, and upon our return to Ghana she needed just a couple of days before she was fully reintegrated into Ghanaian everyday life, see below!

Click on pic to see it in full!

Edited with Pixlr.

My Experience of 9/11 2001 in the US (and a Book)

Book cover for "Life After Sept 11th, 10 stories from New York" by Marianne Lentz

Some time ago, my Rotary Scholarship mate from my year in the US, got in touch. We met in 2001 at Reinhardt College in Georgia, US. She is now a journalist and was doing research for a book about the aftermath of September 11th 2001. She wanted me to tell her what I remembered from that day. This is the text I sent her:

“I woke up in my dorm room in the morning of 9/11. It was an ordinary day and after taking a shower I reviewed my Spanish homework. As I was sitting on my bed doing that, I suddenly hear my roommate Michele screaming and run over to her. She has the TV on and screams as she points to the set. As we are watching we see the smoke coming out from the first of the two World Trade Center towers and a distraught speaker voice talks about a second plane and we watch in amazement as that plane hits the second tower.

She has already her phone in hand and calls her mother in Uruguay and hostfamily – the hostfather works in the WTC…I run back into my room as I hear my phone ring, its my hostdad. I dont remember if he is trying to calm me or himself down, but  he is letting me know he believes “it is Bin Laden who is behind all this”. It is the first time I hear the name.

Before I am off to class, the news reaches us that also Pentagon in Washington DC has been hit. As I have a friend living in DC, I want to hear she’s alright. I phone her, but cannot get through. A few moments later the news presenters on TV urges the public to stop calling friends and relatives to allow for the phone lines to be used by emergency workers. I feel pretty stupid.

In Spanish class, we talk about what happened and in a later class we stand in a circle holding hands in silence. I channel my confusion and sadness over the events by walking around campus taking pictures of the nature. (I can look for the pics if you think they would be interesting for you, but I dont think thery were very special) During the day, we realize that also Atlanta, a mere 45 minutes away, and its headquarters for CNN and Center of Disease Control are possible targets. The threat creeps closer.

Already the same afternoon, American flags are hanging out from many windows. Over the next weeks, we will fear that our drinking water has been poisoned, that antrax can be sent to our mailboxes and that the terror can strike at any time again. At this time, I had spent only one month in the US, but could still clearly feel that this day had changed everything.”

Today Marianne Lentz’s book is out. It ended up being an interview book with 10 New Yorkers, their memories of that dreadful day and how it impacted on their lives. It’s currently only available in her native Danish, but hopefully soon in English too. I’m proud of you, Marianne!

Impressions from Marseille

I had such a lovely time in Marseille, in the south of France!

Top left at a visit in a vineyard in Cassis, a small town outside Marseille, a sign at the vineyard which translates to “a meal without wines is like a day without sunshine“…then the lovely local fish soup Bouillabaisse (not too different from a good light soup with fresh fish, I must say…read all about it in the Bouillabaisse charter here) and last but not least with friend since 10 years, Cris, who lives in Marseille and hosted me.

 

The next collage is showing the time working – which was the lion share of my stay, I promise! Here you see Mary Gentile and symposium/workshop organizer Antony Bueno of Bentley University conversing, the Euromed Management campus, a workshop group session and a presentation by the hilarious Aaron Nurick.

 

I felt like this trip connected me to the wide world of teaching (Australia, Taiwan, Uganda, US), opened my eyes to new academic opportunities and at the same time reminded me of how small the world is…

…like this was not enough, French food was of course great, living in a nice hotel was amazing and getting to also see an old friend was a big plus…

…that is a pretty fabulous week, in my opinion!

Update: Nana Konadu, Sweden and Ethics

So I was planning this great exposé about that Ghana now has a female running for the flagbearer of the ruling political party – aka this is as close as Ghana has been to a female president. On this issue, I have interviewed people, I have thought about it from several angles, but I somehow cannot get a good post out of it!

At the same time, I have now temporarily relocated to Sweden, which meant some serious packing, saying farewell to friends and family and stressing in Ghana! In Sweden, it has meant some serious adjusting, saying many hellos to friends and family and trying to wind down…

Next week, I will go to the city of Marseille in France for this symposium  on ethics. Lets see if I can do some blogging from there…If I can’t, it means another week of no posts here while I am sipping a café crème in the warm winds from the Mediterranean sea attending a symposium!

Pic of Nana Konadu Rawlings from GNA.

“Happy Mother’s Day in Advance!”

Yesterday was mother’s day in Ghana and in many other countries (however not in Sweden!). Celebrations here in Ghana are maybe a little more pronounced than in Sweden, but apart for some Mother’s day parties and marches, pretty much the same. This year as every year.

Except for one, important thing. This year, I was included!

“Happy Mother’s Day in Advance!”

I got to hear several times during the day that was spent with mother-in-law, relatives and friends. So, yes, now it is official here on my blog too: I am expecting a baby! I am going to be a mother!

How did you celebrate mother’s day?

By the way, I had to check Wikipedia for the spelling and liked the information on the apostrophe:

In 1912, Anna Jarvis trademarked the phrases “second Sunday in May” and “Mother’s Day”, and created the Mother’s Day International Association.

“She was specific about the location of the apostrophe; it was to be a singular possessive, for each family to honour their mother, not a plural possessive commemorating all mothers in the world.”
By the way 2. I added the categories “Pregnancy” and “Parenting” under “Personal”. More posts on these topics are likely to follow…

Emilie Reports from A Ghanaian Village

Emilie, Kuapa Kokoo worker Frank and cocoa beans.

My good friend and former class mate  Emilie Persson, fairtrade activist and Ghana-lover, is currently living in a cocoa producing village in Ghana and writing reports for Divine Chololate’s blog. (I hope you have tasted Divine’s fairtrade chocolate made from Ghanaian cocoa?)

In Emilie’s first post she writes:

I will try to capture some of the everyday activities from one of the many villages where the Kuapa Kokoo farmers live and where farmer grow the cocoa for the company they co-own – Divine.

As a masters-graduate in global studies, from the University of Gothenburg in western Sweden, I’ve been given an exciting opportunity to spend two months in the Ghanaian countryside, more exactly Assin Akonfudi in the central region. Having a passionate interest for development and agriculture and with several years of experience advocating Fairtrade in Sweden, it’s great to be able to get a more in-depth insight into the lives of the farmers behind Divine.  I hope it will be as interesting for you too!

Weekly, she will be writing  updates and posting her wonderful pictures. So check back in!

Today is also Emilie’s birthday. Happy birthday, dear friend, hope you’ll have an excellent day in the cocoa village!