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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday at Chateau Afonja in Harlem

Promoting Powder Necklace has been so much about people generously opening up their networks to me, and this afternoon was no different. Osahon Akpata, a beautiful writer that has become an invaluable friend, introduced me to Funmi Afonja who in turn introduced me to her network via a delicious brunch and book signing at her apartment aka Chateau Afonja this afternoon. She made every delicious thing on the menu -- spicy shrimp omelet, diced fried plantains, salmon stew, chicken, chef salad, fresh fruit, warm fluffy croissants, scones, and more -- and invited me to share my book with her guests. I sold out of the books I brought,met an incredible group of people, and reconnected with some friends I haven't seen in a minute. It was an awesome end to a whirlwind weekend.

Friday & Saturday with the Young African Professionals of DC

On Friday, I had the honor of joining Caine Prize Winners Helon Habila and Olufemi Terry (Stickfighting Days) as part of a Young African Professionals panel discussion. In a word, the event was a dream.

The panel venue, Asafu's Restaurant, was packed to the gills thanks to Ehui Adovor and the team of Young African Professionals that put the evening together. (Thank you, Tinesha Davis and Harvetta Asamoah for coming!!) The event was tightly organized, again thanks to the organizers that led us to share a bit about ourselves and read from our works, before moderating a Q&A session that continued well into the signing phase. It was a thrill to chat about everything from the writing process to the impact of expat spending on the African economy. Then it was food and hang time!

We walked up the block to an Ethiopian spot called Etete where we shared a communal platter of tibs, yebeg, and other yums before walking it off to a bar called Marvin's (too loud, too packed) and finally settling at a wine bar called Vinoteca. I should add that my little roller suitcase was in tow the entire time.

The plan was for me to drop my suitcase off before the event and head with Ehui to Asafu's, but my bus hit an hour's worth of traffic and after trying to catch a cab on DC's 10th & H at the height of rush hour, my roll dog had to come with. I wheeled that jammy down several streets and drag-bumped it up (then down) stairs into the AM.

We ended the night trying to catch another cab (not an easy feat in DC; and apparently they charge extra for suitcases), but Ehui and I nabbed one and headed back to her apartment as she graciously hosted me for the night. On Saturday AM we went for brunch at Tabard Inn where my friend Robin met up with us. I got to meet her gorgeous baby boy and catch up briefly before I had to head back to the bus for the four hour ride back to the city. When I got off the bus, I was halfway down the subway steps when I realized I'd left my suitcase in the bus. Thankfully it was still there.

Pics are HERE!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

I'm History (in the Making)!

On Thursday night, JWT's Differenter Committee honored 17 modern day black history makers, and I was one of them! It was a fabulous event which started with a crazy inspiring short documentary featuring my friend and fellow honoree Jacques-Philippe Piverger who started an organization called The Global Syndicate that raises funds to address urgent needs in education, health, and economic inequality; environmental activist Majora Carter, Living in the Village author Ryan Mack a financial planning expert committed to educating the community about sound financial planning; Una Clarke the first Caribbean-born woman elected to the New York legislature; and Hip Hop 4 Life femtrepreneurs Tamekia Flowers-Holland and Tanisha Tate who are committed to building self-esteem, confidence and sound judgment in young people. It was incredible to see and hear what people are doing to literally make the world better, and specifically how the point of different(er)ness ultimately inspired the honorees.

Majora Carter spoke about how she had been trying to escape her South Bronx roots for most of her life until she realized her call to return and make it better. The Majora Carter Group now works to bring green spaces to the South Bronx and similar neighborhoods across the country. Ryan Mack said he decided to turn down a job in finance when he was told the only way he could be a success is if he targeted high net worth individuals. Now he's providing critical financial planning services to the people who need it most.

After the screening, fellow honoree Eric J. Henderson spoke about how finding a 1950 Kodak Brownie Hawkeye on the corner of 125th Street & Park Avenue sparked a vocation in photography. Then I was up. I shared a bit about my experience being "differenter" as a kid and how it inspired Powder Necklace. I tried to keep it brief and thankfully I got through it without crying lol. Special shout out to JWT's Differenter group for putting together such an amazing event, and spurring me on to do more with what I have.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Encouragement via the Imani Literary Group

On January 29th, I had the opportunity to call in to a meeting of the Imani Literary Group. They'd read Powder Necklace (along with fellow Ghanaian author Kwei Quartey's book Wife of the Gods), and they were a huge source of encouragement to me.

I'm in the middle of working on my second book and it's been a particularly difficult process. I thought it would get easier after Powder Necklace, but it feels almost harder mainly because it's a completely different experience.

When I was writing PN, I had gotten into a very rigid routine: wake up at 5 in the morning and write till 7:30, write on the hour long train ride to work, write on the hour long train ride home, write till 2 in the morning. But now, 8 years later, I just don't have the energy I used to. Now, by 10p, I am nodding off. (Old age has also weakened my defenses against reality TV. Curse you Basketball Wives marathon!) And I've since moved which has cut my commute time considerably.

My second book also spans Ghana from 1962 to the present day so I have so much more research to do. I have spent literally days obsessing over the minutest details, and I have spent other days wondering if I'm slowly going insane because of it. The day I called into the Imani Literary Group's Q&A session, I was taking a break from that madness, and God knows I needed it.

I spent probably an hour on the phone answering the very thoughtful and incisive questions Angela Reid and the group of retired educators that belong to Imani had for me. They brought up details and themes in Powder Necklace that I had even forgotten about, and as I spoke with them I felt encouraged that every detail I'm currently obsessing over is worth it. So thank you, Imani Literary Group, for the encouragement and sending me pics of your meeting to remember the day!! The food looks amazing.

Now back to writing...