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People pretend to love...

visiting Salaga village in Salaga, Ghana, i attended an atonement ceremony during which i received a new name.

follow me...

below is a meme that basically encapsulates in fresh Black Americanese what my Ghanaian name means.

i know, right?!


The actual meaning of my new name is something of a "choose your own adventure" parable - many things can and probably are meant by it. In effect, it doesn't mean anything... until you interpret it based on your own lived experience in the here/now.

My new name is more like sage advice - like those non-fortuney fortune cookies - rather than just aligning to a familiar concept like "joy" or "happiness."

It's like this: People pretend to love themselves, pretend to love each other, when they forget who they are. They pretend; they pretend to love, but they don't. Also, for those villagers, this name is a bestowed as a living reminder that the slavers always pretended to love Us - entrapping Us this way - but they never did. Not ever.

I'm getting my name tattooed soon. I want this to be a part of my physical tapestry, my visible touch in this world. I want to remember the ever-timely caveat to watch for those who pretend even, and especially, when that person is me.

It took me a little head-rattling and heart-searching to grasp what this name was telling me, how and in what ways it was true for me, and what meaning I would choose to look for in it and in my world... given that I always have that choice.

My muse arrived and spoke a verse to me about all my new-name-ponderings on one Ghanaian night...

and here it is:


People pretend to love each other, but they don’t

hiding behind symbols and words

just words

People pretend to love each other

then the pain comes

they betray

and ally with enemies seen and unseen

People pretend

and the hurt comes

they’ve forgotten who they are and how to speak it


they have so many devices for misunderstanding

so many words where none are needed

so many gestures to hide hearts that are breaking

souls that are sick

People pretend to love

they’ve forgotten that it is like the sun

this Love

abundant, effortlessly

travelling from here to there and back again

with no hindrance, no stopping

and when the westward winds blow

you bid me go with you

I follow

compelled, not by will

but by bloodstains and heartbeats and so many tears

prayers unanswered, forsaken

daughters & sons

of suns and moons ago

People pretend

so watch for them

and their honeyed words

watch for them and their

death masks

whispering their death wish

pronounced like salvation

suffocating Espiritu

that Great Spirit

reduced infinitesimally to proportions almost unseen

People pretend to love each other, but they don’t

See them clearly when they come

see to it that they go

~O. Woods, 2017

My first audience for this poem was comprised of 5 people in a restaurant in Tamale. 3 of them are dear sisters of mine, 1 of them was a server at the restaurant, and the other (unbeknownst to me at the time of my oration) was the owner. There's a whole other story that goes with the evening there that night under a nearly full African moon, but the ending is what is most interesting for this accounting.

The owner of the restaurant gave my sisters and me a ride back to our hotel (which was right down the street and totally walkable). He said that we may not be completely safe and he wanted to make sure, personally, that we were. He told me, after I tried to offer him payment for the ride that he had heard my "prayer" earlier and knew we were good people and always wants to help good people.

Overjoyed and a bit overwhelmed by his generosity, it nonetheless did not escape me that he called my poem a prayer.

And, after I sat with this and considered it, I think he may be right.

I know in real lived life, actually & for myself, that prayers are blasphemous if disconnected from action.

And, in this light...

I must do, be, live in ways that say I take deliberate effort and time to know what's what and who's who... I mean love your enemies and all, 'cuz they are a part - even if distant - of the human bodycollective. Yet love your enemy AS an enemy, not as you love your friends. This confusion has keep us on this open-air plantation for far too long.

To know your enemy is to know yourself, where knowing yourself must come 1st. To the degree that you can accept your own darknesses for what they are, you get that much closer to knowing what your enemies can and may look like in your life.

Simply: e'rbody ain't yo' friend, and knowing this is the good news.

#family #definitions #clarity #love #names

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