Spark Notes (Cheat Sheet version)
I published 326 articles this year
I found my voice - I became more comfortable with sticking my neck out in my writing
I am challenging myself to share a blog post each day of the year, starting with this one today
I want to publish some work on platforms like Quartz Africa, Black Enterprise, Essence, Atlanta Black Star, XONecole, BBC Africa, CNN Africa, Blavity New York Times, to expand my reach and impact
Read on if you want the juice.
2018 In Review
Each year brings many challenges and opportunities. Usually though, in reflection, one event, accomplishment, or behavior becomes more defining than the rest.
For me, 2018 was the year I found my voice... through writing.
I have shared my challenges with writing publicly before. In light of how SCARED I was to write just a year and a half ago, and the amount of work I have published since, I must publicly acknowledge that I am proud of where I am today.
My journey to writing professionally, again started in late 2017 through a Fellowship called Amplify Africa by Akomanet, which led to the opportunity to write for Face2Face Africa and Nubuke Foundation’s Arts/Culture Blog.
At Face2Face Africa, I wrote 318 articles in about 6 months. My editor there, Ismail, was forthcoming and hardworking; he pushed the team to write 4-5 articles a day and to take a definitive stand/position in each piece. This environment motivated me to find and refine my voice and writing style. I now know that I love writing about African development through the lens of pop culture, history, and economic/business analysis. I also know that my position/style is usually informed by many disciplines because I find issues to be inherently intertwined and interdependent. I also like to contextualize...that is, spell out why what I’m writing about is important in the present moment.
Some of my the pieces I wrote in 2018 that illustrate these learnings are:
This article where I made the connection between the all women’s army, Dora Milaje, of the futurist African city of Wakanda, and the Dahomey Amazons of early 19th century Benin. The article struck a chord with readers who shared it 143K times. The association/storyline then spread like wildfire and was rewritten by countless publications.
This story where I talked about the Igbo Landing, the mass “suicide” of Igbo slaves in 1803 also deeply resonated with readers who shared it 163K times. Although the story has been told online before, adding pop culture references and context probably garnered it more reads.
I also wrote quite a bit about travel. My articles on Zanzibar and the luxurious train in South Africa that takes you across the continent are my favorite.
My business/development articles were interestingly the least read and speaks to an important observation I will share in a blog post soon. Nonetheless, I still believe those articles were worth writing. My piece about Ethiopia claiming the spot as Africa’s fastest growing economy in 2018 and a business feature on twenty-seven-year-old Mohamed Bashir Osman who went from refugee to CEO in Somalia are a few of my favorites. Ethiopia’s rise ,from being the second-most populous country in Africa and third-poorest country in the world in 2000, is one to note and study.
Finally, I held no bars when I shared my experience in China. Some parts of my observation were painful to share because it further revealed our “otherness” as Africans outside of the continent, but I wrote and shared it anyway.
At Nubuke, I covered art, which I never studied but have always found compelling in its ability to succinctly tell stories about our culture and history.
Some of the most interesting pieces I wrote were:
This piece reviewing Godfried Donkor’s exhibition at Gallery 1957 because it revealed to me an aspect of our history I did not know before: we (Ghana) traded as equals with the British in 1817 and prior before allegiances crumbled and we became ‘lesser counterpart’ in the “colonial dynamic”.
My review of 52-year-old Nigerian painter Chidi Kwubiri’s exhibition at Gallery 1957 is also my favorite because Kwubiri’s depiction of the African spirit is deeply magical and aspirational.
My professional writing goal for 2019 is to expand my reach and impact by writing for more publications, especially those I find have an interest in compelling African narratives. They include: Quartz Africa, Black Enterprise, Essence, Atlanta Black Star, XONecole, BBC Africa, CNN Africa, New York Times, among others.
My personal writing goal is to write a short form blog post of 200-500 words on some thought or insight each day. It will center around African development, business, and my life/experiences doing business in Ghana.
I am excited to see the impact these professional and personal writing goals have on me. Sharing my thoughts/work consistently in 2018 allowed me to meet, albeit virtually, many like-minded people, primarily brilliant young people who want to build the future of Africa. Writing consistently also gave me clarity about what I do, what I want to do, what I believe, and my vision for my country and continent. As I usually tell myself, writing has consistently given me purpose.
What are you working on for 2019? I would be more than happy to hear from you.