Well, I suppose you might be interested in how my career as a commentator got started. To put it simply, I got ambushed, blindsided. I was like a deer caught in the headlights.
Just to catch you up to date-so I write this letter to the national newspaper about President Obama’s upcoming visit to Ghana suggesting in the short period of time he scheduled to be in Ghana that he visit a development project supported by the U.S. instead of a slave castle and I get the following invite:
“In response to your letter regarding President Obama’s visit, KYAA FM in Takoradi would want to interview to interview you on the show tomorrow. We would be grateful if you furnish us with your contact numbers. PLEASE CONTACT US.”
I phoned the station and agreed to the interview. I told the presenter, Kwame Malcolm, I was the nervous type and jokingly asked him if he was one of these talk show hosts that went for the jugular. He said that the interview would be “relaxed”. He lied. It was neither an interview, nor relaxed.
So the following morning, the phone rings and it’s the station manager telling me that they would phone me back in 15 minutes. Twenty-five minutes later, the phone goes and the interview begins…
Then much to my surprise almost immediately I’m cut off and a RABBI KOHAIN NATHANYAH HALEVI is introduced. He proceeds to play the race card! I’m stunned into silence as he goes on on like he’s reading from a prepared script or a list of talking points.
Let’s see: Rabbi Kohain Nathanyah Halevi launched into a two minute sermon on the importance of President Obama being the first black president of the United States seeing first hand the site where so many blacks had suffered. Then he mentioned the recent apology for slavery issued by the U.S. senate, Obama’s visit to Dachau concentration camp in Germany, then Obama’s wife Michelle’s being a descendant of slaves, then Obama passing up Kenya to visit Ghana, then how it would be an affront to his African roots if he didn’t visit the castle and how it would be “disruptive” to the African American segment of the population and so on and so on….
Then I remembered who Rabbi Kohain Nathanyah Halevi is. I’d met him a few years ago. He’s an African American who’s lived in Ghana a long time. He lives in Cape Coast and owns and manages a hotel between the Cape Coast and Elmina castles. Furthermore Rabbi Kohain Nathanyah Halevi is a long time executive member of the Panafest Foundation (Pan African Historical Theatre Festival) which holds a festival every two years to promote a return to roots by the African diaspora.
And this comes out after I say that Obama is coming to Ghana in recognition of the fact that Ghana is a success story. I mention an idea might be for President Obama to visit an agricultural project, the sector where US development assistance is being targeted. I mention that on page 5 of the June 22 Daily Graphic, the very edition where my letter appeared, there is a head line “One Billion People Suffer from Hunger”, one hundred million more since the economic downturn late last year and the large percentage of these are in sub Saharan Africa.
Rabbi Kohain Nathanyah Halevi just continues talking about all the “hard work” that has gone into promoting Ghana and the castles as a destination. So…not being such a quick thinker I think I just reiterate that President Obama is here representing all Americans, all American taxpayers and President Obama is here for Ghana and all Ghanaians and the future. I then talk about the value of a visit to a project with real people by our President Mills and President Obama would have for their relationship. I tried to paint a little picture of the two presidents on a dais in Washington when President Obama hosts Ghana’s President Mills in America. Somebody is making a speech and the two presidents are tete a tete talking about their shared positive experience where they had witnessed lives being changed.
The so-called interview was over!
Later that morning, Kwame Malcolm from the FM station phoned to thank me. Funnily enough I was just getting my thoughts together to e-mail him. Well, I told him bluntly I just felt like I had been ambushed! And I asked him why I hadn’t been informed that the format wasn’t an interview but would be in the form of a debate with a guy with a very circumspect, questionable and partisan agenda that does not represent the larger interests of all Ghanaians. I told him that had I known, I would have been prepared to counter his arguments in a tactful manner. I said that on the spur of the moment, I was fearful of being labeled a racist. I concluded it was terribly unfair and I requested he discuss the situation with his station manager.
KWAME MALCOLM DID APOLOGIZE.
I asked him if Rabbi Kohain Nathanyah Halevi had orchestrated the radio spot. He said no…..
Now when I post this, I am going to e-mail Rabbi Kohain Nathanyah Halevi:
“Rabbi Kohain Nathanyah Halevi,I do hope that I will read your letter in the Daily Graphic stating your point of view.”
Then I hope Ghanaians will step up and say ” President Obama is here for all of us and we want to thank his people for their assistance and show them what we have done. We haven’t forgotten our past; we just want to move forward into the future.”
To conclude, President Obama’s visit is not about race. It’s about development and continuing our success story. That’s why President Obama and his team selected Ghana as his first visit in sub Saharian Africa. He is not coming as a tourist: but as the President of the United States of America.