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The Village of Sahani during COVID-19

(The above image is a gathering at the Sahani Village of Nanton before the pandemic. Now twenty people or fewer are allowed to gather.)

Separated by a Pandemic – United in our Response

It’s been nearly five months since I last saw my partner and in that time, the world has transformed before our eyes.

In March, we spoke on the phone whether he (my husband, Chief Suale) should fly back to the States. I worried about his health and well-being given most people in Ghana live in communal ways.

 

 

While I would’ve liked to have my husband with me, in my heart I knew he needed to stay in Ghana so he may assist the people during this challenging time.

The Government’s Response

Ghana’s government responded swiftly to the coronavirus; closing all borders by land, sea, and air on March 23rd. All travelers arriving into Ghana (before the lockdown and closure of airports) were tested and quarantined for fourteen days. Certain roads throughout Ghana were closed to help prevent the spreading of the virus.

  • In a country with over 30 million people, there’s been 5,735 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 29 deaths.*

Map of Ghana, West Africa

COVID-19 in Tamale, Ghana

In the Northern region, there are thirty-one cases and ten confirmed COVID-19 cases in Tamale.

The infected individuals in Tamale are from Guinea and Burkina Faso and were in the city for business after traveling through Burkina Faso and Togo. Officials quarantined the individuals at their hotel while also testing the hotel staff.

At one point, a Guinean woman (who was part of the group quarantined) escape from the hotel in the early morning hours, but she was found and detained a few days later in Accra.

Restrictions of Large Gatherings

President Nana Akufo-Addo has received praise for his swift response to the health crisis as well as his poignant messages to the people.

The president put in place strict, social distancing measures including no gatherings at mosques, churches, or city markets and large weddings and funerals cannot be performed at this time. Schools are closed until further notice.

Communal living and celebration is an integral part of the Dagomba tribe. It’s not uncommon to see enormous gatherings at weddings, funerals, and naming ceremonies.

Often anyone is invited to these celebrations who live nearby whether you know the individual or not. It’s about sharing in the joyful festivities that’s significant.

Chief Suale and the minister meet at the Sahani Village.

While these government orders have been tenacious, it’s necessary to help flatten the curve of the virus.

Minister Offers Help

Recently, a government minister met with Chief Suale to discuss the needs of the village. Ministers meet with chiefs to assess necessities; especially during a state of emergency.

The minister provided hand-washing stations to our village, and these stations were placed throughout the community. Chief also placed a hand-washing station near the roadside for travelers who pass by.

Not everyone has access to clean, running water so these hand-washing stations are vital in protecting the people against the virus.

Nurse Visits our Village

Two weeks ago, Chief brought a nurse to the village to speak about COVID-19. The nurse discussed factual information about the virus and offered the best practices to initiate during this time. He also handed out hand sanitizers to the people.

The demonstration was especially important since it provided preventative practices for the community. This is crucial since the nearest doctor and hospital is over an hour away from the village.

 

A nurse travels to our village to share preventative efforts against COVID-19.

Lifting of Restrictions

On April 20th, Ghana eased partial restrictions of lockdown. Some have been critical of the president’s decision fearing the lift in restrictions may cause a surge in infections.

While there was a spike in new cases, this was in part due to a clearing of a backlog of samples that were recently tested in laboratories for the virus. **

Enhanced testing and contact tracing have also become more prevalent which may also be part of the growing number of cases.

What has worked in Ghana’s favor is the government’s swift action, using their own emergency funding, (versus waiting for international aid) and fast, extensive testing.

Drones Helping Combat COVID-19

Ghana is the first country to use drones to test for COVID-19. The drones provide quick delivery of samples from remote, rural areas in the bush that would normally take several hours to deliver.

Using drones can saves hours, even days in providing test results. This, in turn, offers a quick response to individuals who test positive for the virus.***

Gratitude

We are grateful for the government’s assistance to our village. While we remain vigilant, we know continued education is important.

Chief and I are creating a Foundation to continue our efforts in providing for the village on many levels. We shall keep you posted on our efforts.

During these ever-changing times, we’re grateful for the healthcare and essential workers who are serving so many around the world. We want to express and share our deep appreciation for your assistance and service. Thank you!

Come Together

It’s evident now, more than ever, that we realize how connected we are to each other. Let us move forward and create a world where we lead with a courageous heart, one filled with kindness, wisdom, understanding, empathy, and compassion.

This is my aspiration and motivation as Chief and I traverse this new landscape together knowing within our hearts, we are all One.

Take care everyone and be well.

 

Peace, love and blessings,

Napag Stacy

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Statistics as of May 16, 2020
** From BBC News article  
***  Time’s article 

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Field of Honor

“What?”  I ask in horror.

“I’m telling you this is what happened.” My husband says emphatically.

Chief Suale teaching a traditional African drumming workshop.

A while ago, Chief taught an African drumming class to some colleagues of mine; he loves sharing his culture with anyone who is willing to learn. He’s a natural, gifted teacher and on that day we communed together over stories, food, drumming and laughter.

Afterwards, Chief and I pack the drums in our car and strolled over to the Promenade in downtown Santa Monica. The 3rd Street Promenade is a popular, open-air street mall with shops, restaurants and live entertainment. I suggested Chief explore the area while I finished up work in the next couple of hours.

I met up with my husband around 4:30pm where he shares this news with me. 

3rd Street Promenade

Chief dancing and wearing the traditional Dagomba smock.

“I was sitting outside one of the stores on the Promenade, when a security guard came out, and stared at me. He just kept looking at me suspiciously like I had done something wrong.”

I’m still grabbling with what he’s saying.

 “What store was this security guard at? Why was he doing this?” I demand.

“I don’t know.” He replies. “He just kept staring at me, so I took off my hat, so he could see me and that I wasn’t trying to hide anything.”

I can’t wrap my head around this so I ask Chief some more questions to gain clarity.

“Wait, let me get this straight. You were sitting in a public space, minding your own business when this security guard came out of the store, saw you, and stares at you in a disapproving way?”

“Yes.” He replies.

“I was never in the store he was working at. Chief replies. He just stares at me as if I had taken something or planning to steal something.”

“That’s horrible!”

The 3rd Street Promenade.

I’m shouting now and a few people at a nearby bus stop glance over at us.

Chief goes on:

“Then, he went back into the store and came back out with another security guard. Now both are staring at me; sizing me up.” 

My mouth’s agape and my face goes flush while my body shakes. I’m seething, and my first thought is to march over to this store wearing a pair of steel toed Doc Martin boots, find that security guard and kick him hard in the nuts. 

Not the most enlightened reaction I admit, but it did cross my mind.  

AND YET…

This is my hudband; someone I love deeply who is being harassed and judged by the color of his skin and quite possibly by what he is wearing – a traditional Ghanaian Dagomba smock and hat.

Travel Ban

My husband and I waited nearly 4 years to be together on one continent — to physically be together for longer than three to four weeks time and even then, we were unsure if his visa would be approved because:

  1. He is from Africa.
  2. He is a practicing Muslim. 

The White House has put forth a travel ban that specifically targets certain African nations that are predominantly Muslim. Ghana was not included in this ban; however, with this current, erratic administration; who knows when that could change and turn our lives (and many others) completely upside down? This travel ban and the fact that hate crimes have grown over the past year here in the United States is deeply unsettling.

Back in Santa Monica, I turned my anger into a pep talk.

“Don’t let this person’s fear ruin your day and what just took place here at the drumming workshop. Because that is what this security guard and his sidekick were exhibiting: fear.”

“I’m not.” He says to me reassuringly.

There is still some anguish in his eyes and it sears my heart.

Chief continues.

“I didn’t want any trouble, but I also wanted them to know that if they had anything to say to me they should say it to my face, so I got up, looked both of them in the eye, and walked between them. I didn’t say anything, but I looked both of them in face to let them know if they have something to say, they should say it to me right now.”

“I’m really glad you did that.” I said. 

My husband is the sweetest, kindness, most good-natured person I know. He’s taught me so much about love and compassion and I’m certainly a better person for knowing him. That’s why this is so incredibly hurtful and hard to comprehend.  

A Realization

I realize what happened to my husband is a very small drop in the bucket in our country when it comes to racism, but it’s still racism nonetheless and since my husband is from Ghana and has rarely experienced this type of discrimination, it’s an ugly reception to his first time being in America and his new home. 

Even when we first got married, there were some friends who voiced their “concerns” about Chief and our marriage. I couldn’t believe my friends were emboldened to have conversations with me not even realizing or taking into consideration how hurtful they were being.

They masked their veil of concern as an act of “love” when let’s be real – it was racism seeping through in the most subtle ways. I truly wonder if they would’ve been as concerned for me if I had met a white male who lived in Denmark and worked in pharmaceuticals or even something less conventional, like working in the circus. No, my guess is they most likely wouldn’t be.   

A Retreat in Santa Cruz

Recently, I went on a writing retreat where a well-known author shared a story that went something along the lines of this.

A happily married couple who had been together for many years were suddenly faced with a terrible diagnosis: the wife had cancer and the chances of her surviving were slim.  

She asks her husband: “What will you do if I die?” 

After a moment, he replies:

I want to become a monk. My heart is in transcendental meditation and I feel called that this is my true purpose.”

She nods and says: “Whether I survive this cancer or not, I want you to promise me you will follow this calling.”

With the help of her husband, the wife survived the cancer. Soon after, they divorced, and he went to pursue his calling and she followed hers.

An Epic Love Story or a Horrible Outcome?

One could view this as a horrible ending or one could view it as an epic love story — where the wife knows in her heart that her husband’s passion needs to be fulfilled and instead of being tethered to their marriage, she sets him free to follow his calling.

I thought deeply about this story while I was at this retreat as the event on the Promenade involving my husband was still festering in my mind.

That evening I rang my husband.

“Hi babe, how’s it going?” I said.

“I’m fine sweetheart. How are you? It’s good it hear your voice.”  He replies.

Tears are now streaming down my cheek and even though I don’t want to say what I’m about to say – I have to.

My voice cracks:

“Sweetheart, I cannot get out of my mind what that man did to you on the Promenade in Santa Monica. Again, I’m sorry that happened and you should never feel uncomfortable sitting in a public place and being who you are.” 

I pause and gather my bearings.

“My dear, I want you to know that if you aren’t happy here or if you don’t feel comfortable and you want to go back to Ghana, I will understand.”

I take a deep breath and continue.

“You have given up so much to be here; your family, your friends and I know at times it’s been difficult. So if you feel that this isn’t working and you don’t feel comfortable or safe being here, I’ll understand if you want to leave and go back to Ghana. We will find another way.”

Silence fills the airwaves and it seems like years. I try to hold back the tears but they steadily flow while I wait for a response. Chief and I have talked about spending time in both countries; however, was I naive in thinking it would work?

Or is it simply not an option as I once thought. I can move seamlessly from my world to his and back again, but it may not be as easy for him due to America’s history with his country. I don’t want him to go, but this is purely for my own selfish reasons. I love him and I want him to be happy; his happiness is what matters now.

Finally my husband speaks.

“Sweetheart, I really appreciate you saying this to me. But I don’t want you to worry any more about that security guard so please put him out of your mind, because I’ve already have.”

He goes on.

“What’s important is our love for each other and I’m so happy we now get to be together and we can spend the rest of our lives together. So please my dear, let’s focus on our love because this is what’s important. I love you pam pam with all my heart.”

Pam pam means “very” in Chief’s native language. I love you pam pam means: I love you very much.

I’m sobbing on the other end of the phone. This man, who happens to be a Chief in his country; who takes care of many people and is the most loving, kind, generous and compassionate man is willing to put up with the hideousness of racism in our country because he LOVES me.

I want to wave a magic wand or nod my pony tail, genie head and erase racism from this earth. And while I’m at it, let’s throw in sexism, ageism, homophobia and bigotry in this vanishing act as well.

But alas, that isn’t going to happen in an instant… HOWEVER, I can do my part.

I can be that one drop in the bucket and continually add my drop until it becomes a powerful and enduring ocean.

Field of Honor

Field of Honor is a term I learned from the well known author at that retreat and I loved it so much I decided to incorporate it into my work. Field of Honor is standing up for something that you believe with your heart and soul; a declaration and the willingness to take positive action to honor it. 

  • I am standing up for Kindness. Often times we are quick to judge or criticize. When someone lashes out in anger, more often than not that person is hurting and in pain. Kindness is the tool of Compassion. Be kind. And if it’s not possible to be kind (i.e. if the relationship is abusive) than wish that person well and be on your way. Kindness also applies to yourself.
  • I am standing up for Unity. Unity at its core is connection and common purpose. From the depths of my Soul I believe we are all connected. If we realized that we’re all in this together, I believe we’d work harder to find common ground versus letting fear take over and divisiveness becoming a prevalent factor in our country at this time.

  • I stand for Equality. We as human beings all deserve kindness, happiness, dignity and respect. No one is less than or better than. We all have the same emotions, we all have dreams, we all long to be happy. Most of all, we deserve equal rights and equal opportunities.

I recently became a member of the ACLU; a civil rights organization who is one of the leading voices of fairness, justice and equality. The organization continuously works to defend and preserve the people’s rights and liberties as well as empowers communities throughout the United States.

Through conscious dialogue and positive action it is my hope I can achieve these Fields of Honor; both in my every day interactions as well as incorporating my Fields of Honor into my long term goals.

What is your Field of Honor?

Let’s begin creating a more thoughtful dialogue and look deeper into ourselves; to not only see but also make a concerted effort to do better now. Now is the time. 

Because as the great Maya Angelou said:

Now that I know better, I do better.

 This is not to shame anyone— far from it. It’s a rally cry for us; the collective whole to continually develop more thoughtful dialogue, actions and awareness towards each other.

Let love, compassion and understanding be the force that drives us versus fear, anger and hate. Because for me, this is the only path and I’m committed to it; the path of leading with an open and courageous heart filled with love, understanding and compassion.

I have decided to stick with Love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.  — Martin Luther King Jr.  

Love. Let’s find our way back to love. Or as my husband says: 

Tiyumtaba – which means: Let Us Love One Another.

Because in the end, this is what we are all made of — Love. Magical, wondrous, expansive LOVE.

Peace, love and blessings,

Napag Stacy

Nanton Village

The Village of Nanton

For the next few posts on this website, I’ll be sharing my time in Ghana with my partner, Chief Suale.

 

Traveling to Nanton.

Billows of red, dust trail behind our car as it barrels down the dirt road. We’ve been traveling for over an hour into the bush to visit with family and the elders of the Nanton village.

Family is all-encompassing in Ghana and good friends are often called uncles, aunties or grandfathers, and grandmothers.

 

The Family

There is an inclusivity in Tamale that is incredibly comforting and welcoming.

When you’ve been away in America for some time, (some family members consider a couple of months a very long time) it’s necessary to see all your family and when I say all, that means many people; consisting of immediate, extended family, friends and friends of friends. Even people that may not know you, greet you as family.

Welcome sister!

or

My wife, welcome!

 

Visiting one of our grandfathers.

Yes, that’s right. There are men other than my husband that call me their wife. Of course I’m not their spouse, it’s an expression; a term of affection. Women also say to me:

How is my husband doing?

or

Give my greetings to my husband.

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