As part of theGrio’s month long series, Africa Amplified, Dear Culture host Panama Jackson invites his Ghanaian wife to chat about her journey to America as a child. Simona Noce Wright also shares some of her experiences both good and bad after living in the United States for more than 20 years.
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Panama Jackson [00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio is Black Podcast Network Black Culture Amplified. What’s going on, everybody? And welcome to Dear Culture, the podcast for by and about Black culture. I’m your host, Panama Jackson today. Today we have a very, very special guest, the most special guest I can arguably say I’ve had on this show, as we are joined by my wife, Simona Noce Wright. How are you doing, Simona?
Simona Noce Wright [00:00:29] I’m good. I’m good.
Panama Jackson [00:00:32] All professional, whatnot. Now, the question is, why is my wife joining us today? Let me answer that. This month, this January 2023, at theGrio, we’re doing a month of Africa Amplified. And what that means is we’re taking an opportunity at theGrio to amplify stories by, for and about the diaspora. Specifically centering the continent of Africa. So we’ve had a lot of content on the site, discussions happening where people have been talking about the way they grew up, where they’re from, things that are happening in the continent, all that good stuff. Well, it just so happens that my wife happens to be from Ghana. We’ve got a real live Ghanaian here in the house, y’all. So what that also means is that in our house, we’ve had all kind of interesting cultural conversations about how we raise our kids, about the entertainment we’re interested in, just about things going on in the world. Like the perspectives are so interesting and so different that it makes for a very interesting household at times. But this isn’t about our household necessarily, it’s Africa Amplified. It ain’t the Panama Jackson Household Amplified discussion. So I decided to bring my wife on here to have a conversation with her about, well, two things. One, what it’s like seeing what seems like the United States kind of come around, I don’t know if this is the Wakanda impact or Wakanda effect, but kind of come around on being excited about African ancestry, about going to the continent now and how that may have differ from prior and what it’s like to see her country in particular kind of have its moment. So we’re going to have a good time here talking about the continent today, talking about Ghana. And Simona I’m very excited to have you here. It’s not very often that you can have your family on here, specifically your wife. We always talk about getting how we gonna get you on his podcast. How are you feeling? How are you doing?
Simona Noce Wright [00:02:32] I’m very excited. I’m like, all proud looking at you, doing your thing and everything, but I’m excited to be here. And, you know, you forgot the Cote d’Ivoire part. So I’m.
Panama Jackson [00:02:45] Well, I was going to get there. I was going to throw that in there.
Simona Noce Wright [00:02:47] I’m like, hold on now. But yes, I’m excited to be here and to add my $0.02 that hopefully, you know, we get some more eyes on Ghana.
Panama Jackson [00:02:57] All right. Well, since you decided to go ahead and jump the gun and make sure that I didn’t forget Cote d’Ivoire, why don’t you tell people a little bit about your own personal backstory, where you were born, where you were raised when you moved to America. Because like many, many, many children of Africa, you did move here at a young age. So break it down. Give us your story.
Simona Noce Wright [00:03:19] Yes. So my mom is Ghanaian and Ivorian. And my father, he passed away, was Italian. So my parents met in Ghana and I obviously was made and my mom went back to Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, because that’s where her mom’s people were. So, you know, when you have a baby, you go to your mom’s place and everyone can love up on you. So I was born in Abidjan, and when I was there for like a year to move back to Ghana with my mom and I grew up in Ghana till I was 11. I moved to the States three days before 9/11, so that was quite the welcome. And I moved here because my mom got remarried. So her husband, who is also born and raised in Ghana, had actually been in the States for 20 years. So they met in Ghana, long distance relationship, decided to get married. And I was I have two choices, either to go to boarding school in England or to move here with my mom. And obviously I chose my mom. And you’re probably wondering, well, where was your dad? My dad was still in Ghana. But I think the idea was like, look, you can either go to boarding school there and come back to Ghana or go to the states to visit your parents, or you just stay with your mom and then go back to Ghana every December. So I decided to move with my mom and I moved here to New Jersey, and then I moved to D.C. because I went to Howard. And then I’ve been here ever since. Then I married you and had kids. So now we’re here in D.C.
Panama Jackson [00:05:02] So let me ask you a question. The two options go to boarding school or move to America. Is that a common? The go to boarding school part, is that a common experience for lot of people in your situation.
Simona Noce Wright [00:05:17] Yeah. So even without thinking of moving to the states or without that option, it’s very common when you get to high school to move to London for boarding school or the obviously boarding schools in Ghana. So those were the options for us. You can just go to boarding school In London. So most of my friends ended up moving to London at that age and it was, now, when you think about it, you would think that after high school, which here you would be 17, but you’re moving to boarding school at 11 or 12 and coming home to Ghana only, and again, this is a situation for that was applicable to my friends and I. So obviously there’s so many people in Ghana, they have different experiences. But for us in my world, that was very common. So yeah, my best friend, Adaline, we moved at the same time from Ghana. She chose the boarding school in London, and I came to the States.
Panama Jackson [00:06:17] So what was that experience like when you moved here to New Jersey? What do you remember about. I don’t know, making that move in what it felt like being a stranger in a new place?
Simona Noce Wright [00:06:30] So it was fun because before I moved to the U.S. had only been here twice, and that’s when I believe I was like five and six. So I’d been to New York once and I think for a few days were for holiday. And then I’d been to Florida for. No, sorry, California. We went to Disneyland. Or was it Disneyland or Disneyworld that’s in Florida? That’s in L.A? Right. So that was my entire experience. I’d come here with my mom, with Adaline and her mom, and that was our experience. So like during the summer for a holiday at Disneyland, right? So to move here and I actually moved here without my mom because my mom was pregnant and when we were scheduled to move. So she stayed in Ghana to have my brother Kojo. But school was starting, so I had to move to the States by myself. And that was and I, I moved here with my stepdad. So thankfully there was his family around and they were very welcoming. And, you know, I had all these new cousins from my stepfather. But moving here at 11 was definitely it was a very like.
Panama Jackson [00:07:48] Culture shock?
Simona Noce Wright [00:07:49] Culture shock For the first thing I remember thinking my first day of school was how folks were like were so mean. And by mean, I remember asking this girl for a piece of paper and I would never forget like the “Why don’t you have your visa paper?” And I remember that day thinking to myself, “Oh, you have to have tough skin like being here.” So that’s a memory I would never forget. And these, you know, these kids my age and I just felt like everybody was super like snappy, a little tougher. And it wasn’t like the nice, nice Ghanaians that I’d grown up with.
Panama Jackson [00:08:35] So here’s a funny question. Did you sound like you do right now when you moved here?
Simona Noce Wright [00:08:41] No, no, I didn’t sound like I did like, like I do now. Growing up in Ghana, obviously we would go to England often, so if we had to like switch accents, we would be switching to a British accent. But here the American accent wasn’t one that I was familiar with. So I remember immediately trying to catch the American accent, but I would blended with the British accent. But, you know, after a few weeks, once you’re in there, you start picking up things. I’m sure I sounded like I was making fun of the American accent. I was probably pulling from what I thought the American accent was. But after, you know, after a year, I was good here.
Panama Jackson [00:09:24] So real funny anecdote from a time when we went to we went to Ghana in 2019 for the Year of Return and one of your best friends.
Simona Noce Wright [00:09:34] No, God Sister.
Panama Jackson [00:09:35] We got stopped by the police. Yeah, we got stopped by the police. And which is a whole experience in and of itself getting pulled over by cops in another country. But I remember she tried to pretend like she was an American and she put on, like, that country, Texas accent. Like, “Sorry, officer, we’re just Americans trying to get.” And I was like, why does everybody.
Simona Noce Wright [00:09:55] Right.
Panama Jackson [00:09:56] Our view of a country Texas accent in order to, like, imply Americanness. I thought that was very funny.
Simona Noce Wright [00:10:02] That was funny.
Panama Jackson [00:10:04] Yeah. It’s still one of the memories that I cherish.
Simona Noce Wright [00:10:07] Yeah, I know. You’ve also been on. I knew you have to say that, and that’s what I was thinking myself. So when I said I was probably make it clear that from that experience, hearing it like, say, that was like, Is that what I sounded like when I first came here? I was the I don’t remember, but it definitely required me to quickly get into it. Like because I again, my mom was back home in Ghana. But, you know, I’m I was tough then and I was a resilient kid then. So at that time, I’m like, okay, this is what we’re doing. I got to get into it. Like, this is where I live. I have to make friends. I have to understand the culture, get to know the culture, get to know the people. And but I missed home terribly. I remember I was trying to use, but at that time I was calling cards, so I was asking my stepdad to go get the calling cards, where you had to scratch off the number and call back and you have like 20 minutes or whatever minutes. And I would just be calling my two friends, Adaline and Seanet, like, all the time and crying and crying and just ready to get back. And at some point it just stopped. At some point, I enjoyed my friends here. My first friend, Noeni, we’re still friends now. She’s here in the DMV area, and she really took me under her wing and my other girlfriend, Noelle. And then I was I was the girl from Jersey. I became quickly a Jersey girl.
Panama Jackson [00:11:38] So we’re going to we’re going to pivot eventually into the moment that I think is happening now or has been happening in the past few years that I jokingly referred to as the Wakanda effect here. But what do you remember about, like you said, that people were mean, but that could have just been your space there. But what do you, as you got older and you probably started thinking more about like America verses, you know, Africa, but Ghana specifically from where you’re from. But I imagine there were a lot of Nigerians where you were, you know, you go to Howard or you go to HBCU’s. As you know, the African students tend to be there’s a lot of Nigerians and all this stuff like, what do you remember about the America the African America relations coming up? Like, do you have fond memories or was it ones of like tension?
Simona Noce Wright [00:12:30] You know, it’s crazy in them and I think someone, an influencer said this before and people didn’t believe her. I forgot which influencer when I for me, like growing up in Ghana, when we thought of like African Americans, it was mostly, you know, rappers or like singers or, you know, Destiny’s Child, that sort of girl I didn’t really know or have like any tension. When I came here. It’s crazy. I actually never considered it like growing up at well, maybe at least from when I left Ghana, we weren’t even though we’re like an hour away from this, the Cape Coast Castle or Amina castle. That’s not something that we grew up learning about or being taught about. And let me not say that that’s not that everywhere. I know in my school I went to Ghana International School. That’s not something that we were super aware of, that, hey, Black people in America came from Ghana. You know, where I come from, that’s not something that my parents were constantly talking about. So here it was very like, oh, you know, like Black Americans are super tough. Or obviously now the word Akata is a word that you can’t or you shouldn’t be using because people are more aware, people are more connected to the diaspora. You know, like especially when you go to HBCU and you say, can Afro American studies, they’re going to teach you what Akata means, you know.
[00:14:00] And at that point, I think there wasn’t before the Year of return, you know, there was still kind of a divide where parents would even make a joke like you think you’re one of you think you’re Akata, you think you’re one of these friends. No, you’re still African girl, you’re going to act like this. I think there was still a divide and there probably still is. There actually is. And we can get into that later. But that concept or that frame of thinking wasn’t checked, especially even with my mom. Right? Like, there are a lot of things now that we’ve been here for a few years now that I’m married to you, a Black American, that I went to Howard and have a bit more context and more understanding of what African Americans have gone through. Those sorts of conversations or those sorts of like flippant comments that were made are now checked, whereas before it was just kind of like, Oh, we’re Africans, Black Americans are here, they’re super rough, they’re super rude. And it’s unfortunate that that was, you know, the thought, especially coming from Ghana. That’s something that I was, I would say was a thing when I was growing up here when I first moved. And now and now it’s not. Now it’s more connected and there are more conversations. And obviously it happened before the Year of Return. But I think the Year of Return really put Ghana on the map and put the idea of coming home, especially with celebrities coming home and making it a thing, you know, like people were wearing associating their December holiday celebrations with Detty December, which means like you’re going to have a good time in Ghana and Nigeria and now, like, that’s a thing. So I think there’s absolutely a difference.
Panama Jackson [00:15:55] So I have two questions. Two questions before we go to break. Number one, you used the word Akata a couple of times that I don’t know that people know exactly what that means. Context clues probably make that clear. But the second question I want you to address, too, is that you were speaking of the perspective of how you are, where you are thinking, how you as a Ghanaian were thinking about like Americans here. Yeah. Did you feel welcomed as an African in America? Like, have you always felt welcome and comfortable here in like because this was in my perspective that, you know, we Black America, there’s always been a little bit of tension in the sense that I feel like the jokes, the the othering, like we’re not the same kind of thing, like that’s always existed. And, you know, I’m I grew up down south. You know, I’m in America. So it’s not like there’s a you know, it’s pretty much you’re Black, white or, you know, that’s pretty much all we have there where I feel like in the northeast, where you were, the the communities, there’s a lot more specific like ethnic communities where the identity is more central to who you are. So what was that? What was that like?
Simona Noce Wright [00:17:05] Okay, so.
Panama Jackson [00:17:06] Versus like African Americans.
Simona Noce Wright [00:17:08] Right? So two things. One, because I am biracial, you know, and I’m racially ambiguous, I probably did not experience as much of that as other Africans coming into the country may have. You know, so moving here, like some folks thought I was Latina. So I think, like I do want to point that out and not discredit like other folks experiences. But also the jokes were made, but it wasn’t necessarily targeted to me. It’s like, Oh, yeah, you she just came from Africa. Oh, yeah, she just came from Ghana. “Dang are their lions over there?” Like, “Where did you live?” So those things did happen, especially because I was straight from Africa. Like I moved here on a Friday. I started on a monday. So there were just a lot of things that beyond me even saying I just came from Ghana, beyond my accent, and that, you know, at that age in the States, folks, girls were getting their eyebrows done. Girls were like shaving their legs. And that may seem like, you know, duh. But in Ghana, that’s like we weren’t shaving our legs in sixth grade, we weren’t getting our eyebrows done in sixth grade. So I was definitely teased a lot. You know, I think that even my stepdad, when my mom moved here, they’re just going to like the stories that they know to just get clothes that fit. They’re not really in tune with the fashion style here. So I had high waters for a long time, and those were things that was definitely made fun of.
Simona Noce Wright [00:18:41] So it was everyday was like, okay, this girl is from somewhere. And she sound like she’s from Africa. So I was teased in that vein. But obviously if I was 100% African versus 50%, I’m sure there were other jokes that would have been made. To answer your Akata question, so the Akata word by definition is a chicken running around with their head cut off. And and that was that’s essentially referring to African Americans as, you know, someone with no head. And if you don’t have a head, you don’t know where to go, Right. Your head is with, you know, directs you. So a chicken run around with no hope, no head. But I will say and it’s like what I’m about to say, folks would be like, well, who cares if that’s not what it means when we would refer to Black Americans as a Akata, it wasn’t it, we knew what the meaning of the word, but at some point, it just was a phrase to just describe African Americans. So when someone would ask me, my friends from Ghana, even when I started dating you, or if I was dating anybody that “Oh, is he Akata?” You know, it’s just they’re just asking like, is he African American? Not necessarily. Is he somebody who would in his head who has nowhere to go? He’s just they’re just asking and says something I was just describing like, you know, or they’ll say like, “Oh, is he Oyibo?” Which is, you know, again, like a white person or someone from abroad. So that’s really what it became. But I guess, again, like I said before, I even describe them, like it doesn’t really matter because the intent is still the same. And, and folks have even I knew that they met because one time we were at a family gathering and I don’t think you heard it, but my cousin was like, oh, you know, she was saying something, she was like “Yeah, Akata for…” And my mom was like, “Oh, no, we don’t, you can’t say that.” Like, they know what it means. Don’t, you know, don’t say that. It’s all so trifling. But, you know.
Panama Jackson [00:20:49] That’s funny. All right. We’re going to take a real quick break here. Africa is being amplified in all kinds of ways now. So we’re going to talk more about that. We’ll return here in Dear Culture. Stay tuned.
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Panama Jackson [00:21:30] All right, we’re back here. Dear culture, I’m joined today by my wife, Simone Noce Wright, who is talking to us about her experience being a Ghanaian who moved here to America when she was 11 and what that was like, what it was like leaving Ghana to move here, what it was like while she was here as a young person growing up. And I kind of want to talk about or move a little bit into both the present and I guess the most recent, most recent past, so to speak. I’ve always felt like there was this kind of split or difference between like Africans and like Black Americans. Like there was a split right then the Year of Return. Well, actually, what really happened was Black Panther hits and all of a sudden, everybody, every Black person is over here going to the movie theater dressed in their finest, their finest dashiki gear, the finest kente they’ve ever seen. Like everybody is making an effort, which has got to be somewhat confusing to a lot of people who have felt belittled or ridiculed of African descent for a long time. Like, “Wait a minute, ya’ll was clowning us, now all of a sudden everybody’s trying to be us.” There’s been a huge influx of people doing like ancestry DNA testing to try to find out where they come from. There’s all this very renewed interest in like the motherland, so to speak, in that culminates in both, you know, Black Panther comes out in 2018, but 2019. Ghana, smartly, one of the most brilliant marketing ploys in all time, comes out with this Year of Return initiative, which kind of beckons Black Americans and people from the Black diaspora to come back to Ghana, to come to Accra and basically come, revisit, retake your homeland.
Panama Jackson [00:23:16] And it was like a hugely popular initiative. It seems like, you know, all of a sudden everybody’s talking about Ghana and going to Accra. Like now, you know, then the pandemic hits and of course, it slows down. But it seems to have picked right back up. What has that been like, kind of seeing the not just renewed, but like significant interest in Ghana and in this return to like the homeland that, you know, it’s kind of permeating like everybody, I guess I can’t say everybody, but it seems to be a significant number of people seem really interested in both visiting Africa as a first choice destination now, as opposed to going to, you know, the the Santorini and all these other places that people like you. Let’s let’s go to South Africa. Let’s go to Ghana specifically. Let’s go to Senegal. Let’s go to these places. What’s that been like for you?
Simona Noce Wright [00:24:10] I mean, first, I just want to say like, I think it’s amazing. I think it’s wonderful. I am proud, you know, that Ghana is on the map. And, you know, so many countries in Africa have just as amazing and beautiful places and resorts to visit, just as you would go to, you know, Italy or Greece or anywhere of the islands. I think it’s dope that the more people are going there, the more people are exposing the beauty of these African countries. So I love that it’s a win win for everyone, both coming in and enjoying themselves. And obviously these countries are making a lot of money through tourism. You know, I think with the Year of Return, I am very it it came out of nowhere, right? Like you’ve always had people that were especially African Americans, that at some point of their life would come to Ghana or go to South Africa and just have this heart to move. Right. But it wasn’t as it hasn’t been like this. So I’m not you’re right. Maybe you did come from Black Panther and absolutely, like a lot of my my African, my Ghanaian friends, Nigerian friends who grew up here were born here definitely alway say look they were making fun of us. They were calling us African booty scratcher, calling us, we’re too dark skinned and now all sudden Black Panther comes and you’re running to is history DNA and try to figure out where you from trying to wear your dashiki or go and get your Kente made or whatever it is to come.
Simona Noce Wright [00:25:48] But either way, the point is like, we need to be together and way here. I do think and specifically from a Ghanaian point of view, like I love that like people are coming to Ghana, I love that folks are coming and seeing just how enjoyable Ghana is. The beauty of our people, I love that people, Blacks are coming to Ghana and having that moment of like, “Oh wow, everybody is brown,” you know? And that’s something that, you know, you said you experience and a few friends have said, you know like there’s really no I mean, obviously there’s white people, but even the white people there at some point become Ghanaian, you know, like my dad. So, you know, I love that people are feeling I do think from I would say like when we went for our honeymoon, but also for you to visit my family and also for the Year of Return. It was a beautiful experience, but it was definitely a stressful experience because I was looking at it from your perspective, you know, learning from an African American perspective of what this trip meant to them. And then I was looking at it also from the lenses of Ghanaians who, you know, my family, my cousins, my friends, who were all very supportive, all excited for, you know, you to come or African Americans to be there. But there were definitely some comments, some flippant comments that were made, like, you know, all these people are here and look at the traffic. They need to just go back home or oh, God, look at them trying to figure out where they’re from or just making fun of a lot of not even just making fun. Well, yes, making fun and making some very rude comments about, you know, slavery, some very flippant comments. And if, you know, for me, I was like that, even if not a lot of obviously everyone is hearing these comments are made. The fact that this is even a thought in people’s minds and those people being some of my friends, it was very interesting to witness.
Simona Noce Wright [00:27:59] But I think it’s it’s been amazing. You know, this year, folks flooded Ghana again, like and I love it. I love that people are now, you know, spending their year hustling in America and then they’re like, look, it’s December time, it’s the holidays, we are going straight to Ghana. We’re partying all day. Ghana is now a real place. I love it like I love it for everybody. Bring some country money, but and it gives people a good time. But I do think that underneath all that, it is not it’s not 100% big hug from both sides. You know, we saw the Meek Mill thing that happened recently where he made a video, a music video at Jubilee House, which is the president’s home, like the White House here. And immediately like you, it was almost as if Detty December didn’t happen. There was this divide that was honestly so shocking. I had no words and and I had no words because it was shocking. But then it also wasn’t that, you know, it was like this is really how everyone feels inside. You had all these African Americans who are like, these Africans don’t like us any way, you know, way. Who cares, ya’ll always changing the rules, like just just disrespectful things. And then you have Africans, you know, saying the most horrible things like was not my fault ya’ll was stacked on a ship or a boat. Like it was crazy to read. I’m like, these are real people. We went from posting all these videos and reels and on our personal pages and on these popular pages on the Shade Room. And then this happens and it’s like, Oh no, this is how we truly feel. And outside of the shock, beyond the shock. And it was truly sad. It was like, oh, this is this is it was sad. So I don’t know, I think it’s a good time and we will continue to have that good time. And eventually it brings us closer and we start to have conversations within our networks and amongst our networks and our friends to really get to the bottom of what this beef is or maybe something that would never be fixed. But whether or not it’s fix or not fix, they should still you guys should still come to Ghana, have a good time, and then everybody go home.
Panama Jackson [00:30:26] Yeah, I mean, I think I think what this happens naturally, right? Like. A bunch of people from another country who are going somewhere and like when I when I went over there, it was very moving, was very emotional experience for me because we got to go like as somebody who does not know where my family was from, I’m sitting here thinking, my family could be from here. This literally could be it. I’m looking into ocean. We’re at parties at like 2:00 in the morning and I’m staring off into the ocean thinking I’m thinking about, you know, the transatlantic slave trade. Like, man, like this is could have been the beach my family was on before they, you know, this this is the other side, You know what I mean? And it it was it was very moving. But what I also think everybody coming over, lots of people coming over now exposes is just that those divides do still exist, right? So everybody’s happy when everybody’s making money and it’s money coming in, but it’s a ton of people, so it’s more traffic. And then you get those those slight incidents that, you know, kind of prove that, oh, we ain’t the same people, you know, we’re people, but we ain’t people. And we’re all here for the unity and the love. But everybody doesn’t feel that way. And I think it’s going to take time as more and more people, you know, as this continues to be an annual thing that I think more and more people move over there, those things, they’ll get worked out in some way. I don’t know that it’ll ever be fixed, like you said, or be ever Kumbaya necessarily.
Panama Jackson [00:31:59] We are still culturally two different people, even if we have shared ancestry and all these other things. Like I do remember seeing your faces in the faces of some of your friends when those comments were made around me. It’s almost like people forgot that I was there. So it was interesting because I was like, Oh wow, that hurt. I guess I wanted to be that American in the room, by the way, guys, so I can hear you. But also it was also interesting just to see like, Oh, okay, so this is how people do feel like it’s all it’s all cool that everybody’s here. But I don’t think anybody I don’t there was nothing malicious necessarily, just so much as flippant, maybe on occasion, whatever. But it was interesting to see. And, you know, again, at the same time, I really was out here staring like staring into the ocean like a like a lost puppy at times. Like, hold me, pass me that bottle of champagne so I can drink my pain away while I stare at the ocean. So, you know, there’s some of that going on.
Panama Jackson [00:32:55] I guess you kind of alluded to it a little bit like where do you think like where do you think all of this can go? Because I think it’s. So for is this I’m going to make an interesting roundabout. Afrobeats music is one of them, it’s kind of had this huge, huge like it’s not a resurgence. I don’t know what you call it, but here in America, right? Like, I feel like you can listen to the radio when you hear Tems and Burna Boy like on regular radio stations in rotation. Now like that’s just a common thing and I don’t know that that was the case even just some years ago. But you know, we recently went to go see Burna Boy here at Capital One Arena, which is where the Wizards play, you know, sold out crowd like the the entire diaspora descended upon Capital One arena to see Burna Boy and you know that happens in New York it happens everywhere right like these these artists are selling out arenas and stuff like that now. Or maybe I’m just now noticing that that’s what’s been happening. I don’t know. But it’s like. You know, what does that feel like? To realize, like the cultural part of it, you know, is genuinely like these. I think social media helps to like the jollof wars, like Instagram. Like everybody sees that stuff, right? Everybody knows like everybody is, whether you can participate, the interest seems to be there in people paying attention to all of these cultural, like cultural, like the divide isn’t as stark. It doesn’t seem like the cultural stuff is more interesting to people now. Like, have you noticed that? Like, what does that feel for you, especially as somebody who is part of an organization, my wife is the founder, one of the co-founders of District Motherhued, which is a the premiere organization for millennial moms of color in the in the DMV, the Washington, D.C. area. But like you all had a Jollof wars thing that was largely the African contingent who attended. But there were some American folks in there.
Simona Noce Wright [00:34:56] There were lots of Americans. Most of our ticket holders are a lots of Americans. I mean, it’s definitely like you go from Year of Return and everyone is like, yes, this connection. And then Burna Boy, I was like, I enjoyed the concert, but I think I enjoyed it more because I just kept on thinking to myself, Oh my God, this is a sold out concert from the African giant, like. And yeah, they may have been mostly Africans there, but it was still so many Americans. But the fact that this was happening, like Afrobeats is on the map, you know, like Afrobeats is like folks know the lyrics and they know who Burna Boy, they know who Wizkid is. You know, this is on the radio. I remember the name of the song is, it’s slipping my mind, but I remember driving this was like 2018 or 2017 and I was driving, I listened to a radio and an afrobeats song came on and I had to double check and check if it was on my Spotify and it was on the radio. And I was so shocked that I’m like, Wait, 93.9, I got this Afrobeats song like just playing. And then it became more consistent. And then there like Wizkid, Burna Boy, it went from, you know, a point where, you know, in the clubs or on the radio they will play American music and then if anything, they can hit you with their reggaeton or they hit you with dancehall, you know, it was never afrobeats.
Simona Noce Wright [00:36:31] Now afrobeats is a thing, it is part of the rotation on the playlist. Now, you know, one of the local radio stations now on Sunday, they only play Afrobeats and they talk about the history of Afrobeats and, and the stories behind the afrobeats musician So it’s definitely change is definitely noticeable. Even the Jollof Wars thing that that beef between Nigeria and Ghana, you know, now has become everybody’s like beef. You know, even if they can’t participate, folks will even talk about Jollof and be like, “Oh no, I heard that Nigeria Jollof is this a war?” Is this a beef? You know, like people, they sell it jollof war seasoning at Trader Joe’s, like, you know, which is crazy, you know. But I think that like you said, you know, with all the as more time goes on and as more of these different cultural experiences and, you know, merging itself together, I think. Our our like, we will start to become more connected. We will. I don’t know. Like, I just think it but it’s absolutely noticeable. Like you can’t say that for, you know, five, six years ago like this, it was just normal way Afrobeats was and maybe I’m maybe like maybe eight years, maybe five or six years ago. But yeah, no, because there was a song that was such a popular hit, I think it was 2018. So it was definitely recent. But now you have Jollof wars happening all over the country. You have afrobeats parties happening. So and it’s not just for the African community, everyone is invited.
Simona Noce Wright [00:38:18] So I really am enjoying that and I’m enjoying that. That’s the thing. Even the, the sponge that we use like in Ghana, which, you know, Sapo now, it’s like a thing, you know, you know what I’m talking about, obviously. But now Sapo is sold at Nordstrom, you know, and this past year it’s been on the TikTok reels and all these beauty influencers are talking about it, which is funny to me because I’m like, Wow, this is news to you. This is what we’ve been been doing. But, you know, you have to give grace and you have to. Is it annoying sometimes to know that this is this is like a dollar back home? And are you selling this for $20 at Nordstrom and you’re repackaging it? Absolutely is very annoying. And but I think, you know, what we’ve been doing in Ghana, in Nigeria and all these African countries, because of these African influencers or musicians, we’re bringing our culture, culture here. But in on that same note, I really do hope that at some point all these visits from African Americans, like that idea is returned. There is so much that we in Ghana have to learn from African Americans here. You know, like and I’m not talking about personality or behavior, but there’s so many people doing dope, amazing things that can only improve the way we do things in Ghana, the way we produce events in Ghana, the way hospitality, you know, like. So I really hope that at some point we are we are open to learning from African Americans and giving space to African Americans to shine in Ghana through collaboration. You know, I really hope that one day I can take District Motherhued, The Momference, you know, back to Ghana and start bridging that gap so that we can have the same conversations we’re having here. Postpartum care and gentle parenting. I’m hoping that we can make this a cross-cultural conversation. So and that can apply to all the different fields and interests. So I think it’s a good thing. We have a lot to learn and we have a long way to go.
Panama Jackson [00:40:37] So the initiative that we’re doing here at theGrio, which is Africa Amplified, you know, the that’s why we that’s why I wanted to have this conversation with you. So I think it’s been a really good one. But the idea of Africa Amplified. You know, what I’m going to ask is kind of a ridiculous question because I feel like it’s just kind of obvious. But, you know, kind of is a putting a putting a cap on the convo like. Why do you think it’s important to amplify Africa for the betterment of the world, so to speak?
Simona Noce Wright [00:41:10] It’s important to amplify Africa because we we have a lot to give. If you are going to amplify other countries based on luxury or what their vacation offerings are, if you’re going to pour that money and time to amplify these other countries, when Africa is this beautiful gold mine with all these people, there’s lots of resources in Africa, but there’s so many entrepreneurs and places and businesses and ideas who are not thriving yet due to lack of resources. So it’s important to amplify, to show what that country has to give. So that we can start to bring more money and bring more people and bring more brilliant minds to the different African countries so that we can continue to thrive. You know, so that we can also take away of all these like jokes and myths of people living in huts and living with animals and, you know, lions or whatever. Like we want to be able to show the truth about Africa and how fun it is. But also, it’s not always fun. It’s not always luxurious. There are a lot of people that do have a lot of need and a lot of improvement that’s needed. So if we can get those resources from our brothers and sisters in the States, that’s helpful. You know, so I’m glad that people are putting Ghana on the map. I hope that this remains a thing you know, everybody likes. The world was at some point, everybody was wanted to Tulum, we got to make sure everybody is going to Ghana every December should be part of our travel plans.
Panama Jackson [00:43:07] Yeah. I think I told you that if not for the pandemic, I thought Accra was basically going to become the new Miami where everybody was and I know Miami is just kind of, you know, basic whatever, but just like, yo, it’s just that immediate. If you can’t think where to go, “Man let’s just go to Miami.” Well, “Let’s just go to Accra.” Like it really had that feel for me while we were there. It was so much I couldn’t even hang. I was like, Yo, I could do this. Like I’m tired.
Simona Noce Wright [00:43:32] There was so much that I am even learning now from people’s travels to Ghana, like places that I’ve never heard of or been, you know. There’s just a lot to see and a lot to do. There space for businesses to blow up. You know, folks here are trying to be entrepreneurs and, you know, it’s crowded. The idea is here. You can take that idea back to Ghana and or wherever you want to go, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, whatever, and start building up these African, continue to build up. Because there are entrepreneurs in Ghana, these countries already doing the work. So if you can bring your ideas there, that would be great.
Panama Jackson [00:44:16] And, you know, ultimately, I think if there’s any reason why I think Africa needs to be amplified, it’s just so that everybody can finally fully appreciate the joy and nonsense that are Nollywood films. It’s like.
Simona Noce Wright [00:44:29] Of course.
Panama Jackson [00:44:29] We we like to clown Tyler Perry, but I mean, there’s an entire industry built on that model of pure nonsense. And I’m not talking about just the the scenes and stuff people share of truly bad, nonsensical acting where somebody actually uses their hands as a gun and then people fall out and fall over things. I mean, just, just regular bad acting. There’s always a wedding. There’s always a random white woman.
Simona Noce Wright [00:44:57] There’s always a witch.
Panama Jackson [00:44:58] So entertaining. We’re going to take one more break. When we come back, we’re going to do what some of our favorite segments here on Dear Culture, which is our Blackfessions and our Blackmendations. So we can find out, would you want to personally amplify. So stay tuned here on Dear Culture.
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Panama Jackson [00:45:45] All right. Welcome back here to Dear Culture. My guest today is my wife, Simona Noce Wright. Who is here as part of our discussion about amplifying Africa here at theGrio. We’ve been talking about her move from Ghana to America, what it’s been like seeing the, you know, the Year of Return, people returning back to Ghana in droves. And, you know, if you’ve been paying if you pay any attention to what’s going on, especially in Black culture, you know that Accra is like the home of festivals and all that stuff now. So we’ve been talking about that, just the joy in the amplification of what it’s like to to witness the way that people are embracing Africa now, which I think is wonderful and this is my own personal embrace of people in their different cultures and ideologies here at Dear Culture, we ask everybody to bring a Blackfession to the table. A Blackfession being a confession about your Blackness that people might find surprising. And you have all manners stuff. So I got to tell everybody my way. I got I got to preempt this. I don’t know what she’s going to say. I have no clue. My wife loves to pretend she just got here yesterday. We’ll be in the middle of a huge argument discussion with a bunch of people. And she don’t know about something, she’ll be like, “You know, I’m not from here?” Like, straight off the boat. Like, she literally got here yesterday. That’s how she likes to pretend. Meanwhile, she being on B-sides in rare cuts off of albums and songs by people that I’m like, “Why do you know this song?” Though, oddly, she didn’t bring up Lionel Richie one time, which I thought was odd because it seems like Lionel Richie, if Lionel Richie just toured Ghana, he’d be a billionaire because everybody loves Lionel Richie in Ghana, from my experience. So anyway, a Blackfession, my wife, my love, my dear, do you have a Blackfession?
Simona Noce Wright [00:47:41] Yes, I think my Blackfession is I have never seen the Color Purple from start to finish. The first time I really saw the Color Purple was on when I just saw the play like last month. But I’ve never actually seen the movie.
Panama Jackson [00:48:01] Now you said from start to finish.
Simona Noce Wright [00:48:05] It’s been on and I’m like, oh, let me sit down and check it and then I’ll watch like 10 minutes and then go somewhere like I haven’t actually seen it. So there’s like, you know, references and jokes or, you know, lines that people will finish. And I’m like, I don’t know.
Panama Jackson [00:48:22] Not only that, she had people thinking she’s seen it, because when she went to go see The Color Purple to play, I got a text from one of your homies, like your wife just sold me out. She had me look like one of our friends is like she got me looking like the only one who hasn’t seen that movie. Like you got real silent. Terrible. Okay. Yeah, I’ve seen The Color Purple. I feel like that’s on me. Like, I feel like whatever Blackfession you bring to the table.
Simona Noce Wright [00:48:44] Like I’ve seen it. The reason why I left her hanging is because has it been on? Have I seen parts? Have I’ve seen that part, you know? But have I sat down and watched? No. My first time was like watching the play and I was like, Oh, this is good. Now I see why people, ok I should watch it again to understand more. Get more context.
Panama Jackson [00:49:07] Yeah. All right, well, we got to make sure at some point that you see The Color Purple. I mean, I haven’t seen the play. So I imagine the play’s got to be pretty close to nature to it. But ain’t nothing like watching the movie with Whoopi and Danny Glover, you just got to see Mister and seeing good old Shug Avery do that march when she “I’s married now.” You got to, I think you get to see the movie version of that. Well, in order to counteract the typical shame that people bring to the table with their Blackfessions, we also ask people to bring a Blackmendation to the table. Blackmendation being a recommendation about something for buying about Black people, Black culture or whatever what have you. Do you have a Blackmendation?
Simona Noce Wright [00:49:52] Well, yeah, well, my Blackmendation would be my organization District Motherhued. District Motherhued exists to serve Black moms. We are also the creators of the first full day conference for Black moms in the country, The Momference. So that would be my recommendation. If you are a mom, a bonus mom, an adopted Mom, The Momference is it for you. It is a weekend where you get to escape and join with other Black moms for some fun, with some sessions, with some self-care and it’s really a good time. And when we talk about conference, we’re not talking about sitting in a room with gray walls. It is an entire experience. So this year The Momferenceis May 19th to the 21st and 600 moms from across the country are coming down. So yeah, that would be my Blackmendation. That was the Blackmendation.
Panama Jackson [00:50:51] Yeah, Blackmendation. Well, thank you for that Blackmendation. I agree. District Motherhoodhued is an amazing organization. I jokingly, my joking tagline was keeping husbands from their wives since 2016.
Simona Noce Wright [00:51:04] Keeping wives from their husbands.
Panama Jackson [00:51:07] Keeping wives from their husbands. Yeah, one way or the other. They these women do tremendous and amazing things in the community and they also enjoy themselves to no end in that same community. They be out there, they outside.
Simona Noce Wright [00:51:24] As we should.
Panama Jackson [00:51:26] As you should, as you should. A mother’s job is never done as she likes to tell my children all the time. So we’d like to thank you for joining us here on dear culture. Please tell everybody where they can find you. They can find out what you got going on, Anything they need to know by District Motherhued, The Momference, all that stuff. Please promote yourself as necessary.
Simona Noce Wright [00:51:48] Well, thank you for having me. I had a really good time. You can find me on Instagram. Search Simona Noce and it will come up as TheSimonaNoceWright. But you can also just find us on District Motherhued. So that’s district mother hued, like H.U.E.D. Districtmotherhued.org You can find us on Instagram, subscribe to our newsletter and you can just also find me in DC as somebody rooftop having brunch with my friends.
Panama Jackson [00:52:17] Well, thank you for joining me here. Dear culture, I appreciate you. I love you. This is wonderful, interesting conversation. We found a good reason to have you here talking to us about your life and your perspective on where you’ve come from, where you are, and just that culture and community as a whole. So I appreciate that. Thank you so much. And thank you to everybody who’s checking us out here in Dear Culture, part of theGrio Black Podcast Network. Africa Amplified is the initiative all January here. So make sure you check out the website where you can read articles, you can see video, you can just be a part of discussions about amplifying Africa to the continent, but also specific countries. I mean, listen, you might find this surprising, but Africa is not a country. And though some of us are still learning that lesson on a daily basis, but as it turns out, it’s not a country. So make sure when you amplify Africa, you know exactly what you’re amplifying. So shout out to everybody paying attention to listening. Thank you for joining. My name is Panama Jackson. Have a Black one.
Panama Jackson [00:53:22] If you like what you heard, be sure to download theGrios app to hear more episodes of dear culture and more original content from theGrio Black Podcast Network, please email all questions, suggestions and compliments the podcast at theGrio.com. Dear Culture is an original production brought to you by the Real Black Podcast Network. Our show is produced by Sasha Armstrong and Geoffrey Trudeau, and Regina Griffin is our managing editor of podcasts. I’m your host, Panama Jackson Have a Black one.
Maiysha Kai [00:53:49] Don’t forget, you can listen to theGrio’s Writing Black podcast hosted by me, Maiysha Kai. This isn’t your typical writing podcast. We interview any and everybody that has anything to do with writing. From comics to poets to authors, to journalists to politicians and more. Remember, Writing Black, every Sunday, right here on theGrio’s Black Podcast network, Download theGrio’s app to listen to Writing Black wherever you are.