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Speak English Always

afterwords

In March 2001 I visited Ghana – the country of my birth – for the first time in 20 years. One day, while I was walking round trying to reacquaint myself with the space, I came across a school. On the wall under every window facing out into the playing yard were the words ‘Speak English Always’.

In anger I took a photo, returned to my room and wrote the piece you see above. It stands exactly as I wrote it on that afternoon.
 
 
I think back on that day and remember the adage:
“Sticks and stones
may break my bones
but words can never hurt me”

But the right words?… the right words will leave you standing in a school playground with an acute and indefinable pain constricting your heart and an unspeakable wrath on your tongue.

Had I had the strength, I would have scratched the words from the very walls: would have removed their smug tones from the soil until my fingers bled. Had I not been maimed by the right words.

It was as if independence had never happened. As if our efforts to be a self-ruling people were a game we were being permitted to play by over-bearing parents who had decided to see what the children would get up to if left to their own devices.

Those words taught me that slavery exists in a multitude of barely perceptible forms. I may not have chains around my neck, nor my master’s name tattooed across my forehead, but the words on that wall taught me something that ‘til then, I had failed to grasp: they had colonised the minds of my people.

We had fought and survived with souls intact, but we had lost our minds!

And no matter what language those words were translated into, they would always mean one thing:
                We own you

 
 
SO TELL ME: What do you think of this piece?

  • Did it engage you?
  • Does the meaning come across? Are there any images or lines you don’t understand or find unclear?
  • Are there obvious errors in spelling, punctuation or grammar?
  • Do you have any suggestions for revision?

Please be brutally honest in your assessments – good, bad or indifferent.
I don’t scare easily; and I really do want to hear what YOU have to say about my work.

Many thanks in advance for your time and your criticism.
 
 

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AUTHOR: I am might war. I have a love of music, the written word, travel, Anime, polar bears, people and “sticking and colouring”.

 

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