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Meet Amma Twum-Baah, Founder of Afrikan Goddess Media
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It is not everyday that you meet a young, energetic and committed woman like Amma Twum-Baah who is dedicated to promoting Africa’s women in the United States, especially Africa’s charitable women.
Born in Durham, North Carolina and raised in Ghana, West Africa, Amma constitutes a symbol among young emerging female African leaders in the United States.Recently, Amma organized a successful documentary screening titled “Tapestries of Hope” that dealt with the young women and children as young as one year-old being raped in Zimbabwe.
Amma introduced the audience to the phenomenal work of Betty Makoni, an angel and life-saver to these many children and young females victims of rape in Zimbabwe. It was heartbreaking to watch the plight of these young women and Amma brought to light the fight that Makoni has been doing for years to rescue these young women. I was struck by this young woman’s passion about the welfare of women in general. Without any further due, it is with pleasure and pride that I am unveiling to you, Amma Twum-Baah, the founder and publisher of Afrikan Goddess Media, the marvel of Ghana, through this exclusive interview about her life, her company and and future projects.
Amma Twum-Baah: Wow. I must say that I’m so used to being the one on the other end asking the tough questions, I neverexpected to be the one answering this question.
Well, my name is N. Amma Twum-Baah and I am the founder and publisher of Afrikan Goddess Media. I was born in Durham, North Carolina in the late 70s into a family of six. I moved to Ghana (where my parents originate from) in the early to mid-80s where I was raised, and lived there until I was 19. I returned to the United States in April 1998 to a very confusing life that made me question exactly where I fit in. On one hand I saw myself as an American but didn’t quite feel like I naturally fit because there was so much to learn. On the other hand, I refused to associate with the negativity that came with being a Ghanaian even though that’s exactly where I knew I belonged and felt the most comfortable. I have two sisters and a brother and growing up in Ghana was really fun.
Considering my childhood and upbringing as part of Ghana’s elite, it is sometimes hard for me to understand why I have chosen to fight causes that never affected me one way or the other. My family was by no means rich or even upper class, but I grew up comfortable enough to never know what hardship was. My father, a graduate of one of America’s Ivy League schools holds a Ph.D in Sociology and served as the Deputy Government Statistician of Ghana until his retirement a few years ago. My mother was a homemaker who knew she was born to be more than just a wife and a mother. I learned a lot about a woman’s strength and her fight to live beyond the confines of traditional roles from my mother. She didn’t go to college and yet I’ve always sensed that she yearned for more. Today, at over 60 years-old, she’s a trained certified nursing assistant in the United States and owner of Head Start Academy, a budding elementary school based in Accra, Ghana. She puts her heart and soul into everything she does – just like the women I feature. Maybe that’s the appeal.
I attended Old Dominion University in Virginia and Georgetown University in Washington, DC.
Jamati: What is Afrikan Goddess all about?
Amma Twum-Baah: Afrikan Goddess as an entity has experienced many transformations and additions over the years even though it has only been in existence for 4 years. Nevertheless, I’m glad to see how far it’s come. Today, Afrikan Goddess is focused on tooting the work and efforts of Africa’s charitable women. That’s not how it started out. It started out as an online magazine featuring African women who were living their dreams and making something of their lives.
With time, I started to realize that the definition of a goddess had to mean something more than ordinary, more than just living a dream. Everybody seems to be doing that these days, but it takes something special and divine to cause a person to live in a way that affects the lives of others in a positive way. I have always believed in community service. I believe this is what we are all called to do. Service to mankind! We are not just here to live for ourselves and to trample on others as we make our way to the top. It is the reason why the world is in such chaos today. No one seems to care anymore. Everybody is thinking about themselves. Afrikan Goddess seeks to separate the goddesses from those who are part of the chaos. One particular goddess I featured triggered the change in the way I defined an Afrikan Goddess. Her story of sacrifice and giving back touched me so much that I wanted to give to her cause only to realize that what I had to give was not enough.
Jamati: What inspired you to create such an esteemed organization?
Amma Twum-Baah: It is a combination of factors and personal experiences. There was never that “Aha” moment for me when I knew this was what I wanted to do. All I know is that once I started, I found it very hard to stop. There were times when I was up until three in the morning trying to get an issue out, or trying so hard to put together the pieces of a profile because I wanted to do a certain lady I had interviewed justice. I have never put so much money, soul, passion and time into any other project, so I just knew. The stories of the women I feature – getting to hear the strain in their voices, seeing the passion and tears in their eyes – inspire me to keep going. I just love to share their stories!
Amma Twum-Baah: I chose to celebrate Africa because that is my heritage, whether I like it or not; women because that is my gender, whether I like it or not. I grew up in Ghana, and there was a lot I saw and heard on TV and radio, read in daily newspapers and experienced in classrooms that marginalized women. It all seemed so unfair and it made me so angry because what I saw and sensed in my home was that women held it all together, and yet in the social, legal, economic, and political realms, it seemed as if our contributions (and existence) didn’t matter much .
When I came to the United States, the story was no better, except that now, not only was my gender being attacked, but my heritage as well. There were twisted views of my identity as an African woman. People expected me to be timid and submissive. Men would ask me if I had been promised to anyone, if my father’s hut was the biggest one in town and why I had such pretty toes considering the fact that Africans don’t wear shoes and live in trees. The ignorance was disheartening and irritating to say the least. I suppose you can say that this anger was one of my inspirations for starting Afrikan Goddess.
Jamati: What should be done to raise more awareness about African women issues locally and internationally?
Amma Twum-Baah: I am glad to see how far media representation has come since the invention of the internet. Now all it takes is a click to learn about anything you wish to know about. I think, however, that in our desire to portray the positive and to debunk the negative stereotypes about our beloved continent, many African media outlets have turned a blind eye to the real issues in our backyards. Yes, Africa is a beautiful place – or at least some parts of Africa – but we also have modern day slavery and female circumcision. We have breast pounding and rape and domestic violence. Yes, Africa is progressing – no matter how slow that progression might be – but we also have traditional beliefs that say it is a waste of resources to educate a girl and that her place in society is in the home.
And yes, these issues are not unique to Africa; some are present in developed countries too. However, the difference is often times seen in the responses of the people when these issues come to light. Are they appalled that a 50 year-old man has taken a 16 year-old girl as a wife (and calling for the long arm of the law to swift justice) or are they calling it “tradition” and justifying it? I believe more African media outlets need to shine the light on the negative as well as the positive. We need to stop making excuses for the ignorance of some. Africa is not all that we have “cracked it up to be”. Often times, there’s a lot of reason to be ashamed.
Afrikan Goddess seeks to focus on the positive (women’s achievements, courage and strength), yes, and yet, I also do not shy away from ranting and exposing shameful issues such as rape and female genital circumcision.
Jamati: What do non-African communities stand to gain from Afrikangoddessmag.com?
Amma Twum-Baah: Non-African communities stand to gain a deeper understanding and greater knowledge of African women beyond what they have been fed by the western media (mostly all negative). As stated before, we all have issues. Some are worse than others, but we still have them. So it is very hypocritical to focus on someone’s flaws simply to make one look good. Afrikan Goddess seeks a balance. We don’t sweep our shameful issues under the carpet, we expose them. But, we also celebrate our hurdles, our beauty and our class. Not everything cultural is bad. We take the ones we should be proud of and introduce those things to our non-African communities. Those we ought to be ashamed of, we discuss ways to get rid of them.
Amma Twum-Baah: Winnie Mandela (South Africa) has been given quite a shifty reputation. However, I’ve always idolized her as a courageous woman who overcame great struggle and fought with her voice during South Africa’s apartheid. For that, I would like to hear her story from the horse’s own mouth. I’m sure there’s more than meets the eye. Africa tends to demonize strong-willed women. Another woman with a Winnie Mandela kind of reputation I would like to meet is Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings (Ghana). She has also been portrayed as something I seriously doubt she really is simply because she has a strong voice and fighting spirit. I would have also liked to meet Wangari Maathai (Kenya – deceased), another demonized, strong-willed, fighting woman who fought to her very death for change.
Jamati: Africa is the future because…
Amma Twum-Baah: We’re part of the present. Hahaha. No, seriously, Africa is the future because Africa’s women are the future and we are taking charge. This is the one thing that excites me as an African woman. We’re coming into our own and making our voices heard. Africa will be so much better when all its citizens take part. We’re getting there!
Jamati: Tell us about your upcoming projects
Amma Twum-Baah: On June 9, 2012, we will host our first biennial Afrikan Goddess Awards at Trinity University in Washington, DC. It is our second event this year (after the ‘Tapestries of Hope’ Documentary Screening last weekend) and will honor Betty Makoni, Founder and CEO of the Girl Child Network, with the 2012 Goddess of the Year award for her selfless work with the Girl Child Network. We have great entertainment and speeches lined up for the evening. It promises to be an event you just want to attend. Admission is FREE to the General Public. Tickets are now on sale at eventbrite for VIP admission, or can be requested by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Dress is evening formal.
Jamati: A last word to your fans…
Amma Twum-Baah: Thank you for sticking with me over the years. It’s been great and there’s more to come. Come out and support Afrikan Goddess and Betty Makoni on June 9 if you can!!!
Jamati: Thank you Amma. We wish you the very best and good luck in your endeavors!!!!