“Am I developing a more realistic perspective? Or is this what quitting sounds like?” Of all the perspectives I have developed as well as adopted over the years of my many endeavors, the above quote is the most poignant I have ever come across. Trying to find your way around 2018 Accra is as challenging as can be. With economic indicators looking on the upside but lived realities of the average person not looking flowery enough, you get hit by the challenges of the times all too frequently. There is usually a chorus of kurom ay3 shi (the town is hot, i.e. metaphorically but it also fits perfectly if you want to use it literally given the ferocity of this sun these days) most of the places you go to for good reason. But even though that unison of voice might present itself as true for every single person in Accra, it obviously is not the case. Accra is not a monolith.
One of the most troubling thing about western reportage on life in African countries is the way it bundles up the stories of this diverse continent into one stereotypical package. Invariably, there is also a problem with persons who try to “reclaim” the image of Africa by insisting on a reportage which focuses almost exclusively on the presence of skyscrapers and franchises of western companies in African countries. In between the two are mundane as well as profound stories of everyday persons from this continent of ours. For the profound, we hear a lot about it from the social media pages of motivational speakers. But for the mundane, it gets lost in the cacophony of content we scroll through on Facebook and Twitter.
Presenting a balanced dose of the mundane, not so mundane and profound in an unadulterated voice is where Brandon Stanton comes in. The New Yorker whose Facebook page has grown into a beehive of stories of everyday people from all around the world has mastered the not so intricate art of telling stories in this manner. Earlier this month, the Humans of New York page featured about 16 stories from Accra and neighboring towns and it gave a voice to some interesting stories, with other harrowing and troubling ones.
The first of the stories was that of a young boy on an errand who gushed about his love for his mother. Innocent and cheerful, it would have been great if all the stories from the HONY Ghana edition had taken that route. Sadly it did not as the realties for some people in this country is. The accounts of rape from four different women evidenced how deep sexual violence permeates the fabric of Ghanaian society. But it also presented a silver lining in the story of one of the victims who is now a sex educator who teaches the essence of consent to young people. With the snail pace at which people are getting awakened to the realities of sexual violence in Ghana, these HONY stories are a necessary jolt to persons still in denial.
Interspersed with the harrowing stories were stories about the hustle of being a Ghanaian in 2018. The young entrepreneur who returned to Ghana after an academic sojourn who blessed us with the profound quote I shared above, the other entrepreneur with a tourism business catered primarily towards locals and yet another entrepreneur who photographs for a living.
Brandon’s story telling in its crude, unadulterated form told us stories we could relate with and others we never knew existed. But more importantly, he utilized resources at his disposal to help some of the persons whose stories evidenced a need for some help. Like one of the victims of sexual abuse who was left traumatized by the incident she went through. Monies raised for a HONY dedicated fund was used to cover therapy sessions for her. But at the end of the day, it was never about presenting stories from Africa as fund-raising props. It was about putting a voice to some of the millions of persons who make up the population of Ghana. It was about showing that not every one dreamed of living in America. That such persons do prefer a life in Accra where their sons do not have to live in fear for their lives because of the hue of their skins.