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Growing up, I had a hyphenated name (some still know me only by that name) – Ali’s-Sister. This is not a slight of me, but rather an ode to my brother Ali. He is extraordinary. Now in my 50s, I met someone in a meeting in London and he said (even though me and him are Facebook friends!)”ooh Ali’s sister! Ali is a church on his own”. I had a private chuckle at the unintended pun- Ali’s a dyed-in-the-wool Marxist.
His mom (my mom) a conservative, religious, elitist Fanti, gets excited when her first son is going to university. She shops from Harrods in London for him – bathrobe, night-shirt, bougie stuff. Fast forward 4 years later, Ali returns from uni with a black bin bag as his only luggage – mostly books and papers. To his aghast mom he simply says “I’ll go for my luggage later”. I already knew he had no luggage to speak of. This is the paradox that is Ali.
Ali has remained unflinchingly stoic in his pursuit of a better world- literally. He has been arrested countless times, he has been dragged off TV and beaten and jailed, he has been a refugee and he has remained vigorously dedicated in pursuit of fairness and equity for the world.
And it continues. He lives in a commune where they recycle everything. Yes, everything that you can think of. His clothes are recycled, or made by our big sister, or have the label “made in dignity”. His prized possessions are the computer and a phone that looks like it has had gentler owners 😊
In the spirit of saving the world, with the spread of GMO, he woke up with a frenzy to form Food Sovereignty Ghana Also PanAfricanist.org. Also Café Politique. https://theecologist.org/profile/ali-masmadi-jehu-appiah
I could go on and on. https://newafricanmagazine.com/9208/
His son one time asked him for sneakers. His response, I can’t buy 4 pairs right now so you’ll have to wait because I’m sure your close friends will want some too and it’s not fair that you’ll be the only one with a pair. I yelled at him for that. He didn’t budge.
A sidebar anecdote. It was circa 1982. An all girls boarding school in the hills of eastern Ghana. A meritorious selection of girls from around the country. Let’s face it, it was a fairly elitist setup.
One girl sidles up to me.
Her: Needa, I saw someone in Accra who looks exactly like your brother but he was wearing afro-moses, so I knew it wasn’t him. (Afro-moses is a sandal made with recycled car tyres that is indestructible and therefore a go-to for the poor)
Me: if he was wearing afro-moses, then it was my brother.
She looks at me confusedly and I walk away without explanation.
God made one of him and decided that it was enough to stir up this big wide world. And he has. This Fathers’ Day, here’s to you. No words can describe your altruism, your profoundness.