How Chanting "No Sex" Can Bring About Change

How Chanting "No Sex" Can Bring About Change

According to statistics released by the Ghana Health Service, over 35,000 cases of teenage pregnancy had been recorded in the country during the year 2015.
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ACCRA, Ghana— Under Samuel Lamptey’s guidance, his team doesn’t ask for much. If it were too much, it wouldn’t have been openly publicized. If he weren’t looking for the benefit of the entire community, Collins Seymah Smith would have kept his permanent job. The least the onlookers can do to make this endeavor successful is to abstain from sex.

A bald girl, maybe seven-years-old, clutches the ends of her denim frock while still keeping her eyes fixated on the character that stormed through the middle of the crowd. Another woman, maybe in her thirties, stops her mid-day sales of smoked fish - the basket still toppling over her head- to watch the narrative unfold. The hero is obviously the female character that doesn’t end up getting pregnant.

The flash mob culminates with Susuka by Kofi Kinaata still playing in the backdrop, while all the actors converge in the middle to end in the one final dance step that involves dramatic hand gestures simply translating to, “No sex.”

Adorned in occasional giggles and bright colors that perfectly accentuate their skin tone, the crowd of about fifty, mainly comprised of teenagers and young adults, who may or may not be attending school, but are Lamptey’s potential targets. Teenage pregnancy is not just a major concern in the Shama region, where Lamptey was performing, but it spans across poor neighborhoods throughout Ghana, one of the fastest developing countries in West Africa.

According to statistics released by the Ghana Health Service, over 35,000 cases of teenage pregnancy had been recorded in the country during the year 2015. Mr. Eric Cobbina, the district chief executive of the Shama District, addressing the issue one year later, said, “Meaning one out of every five reported pregnancy case is a teenager.”

According to an article in Ghana News Agency, “He described the situation as unacceptable and called for concerted efforts and commitment to tackling the concern.” Lamptey and Smith seemed to be the only ones obligated.

About 130 miles from the Shama Region, Smith and Lamptey have occupied an old colonial building in Jamestown- donated by the Accra Metropolitan assembly- that they now call “Jamestown Community Theatre Center.” “Theatre is our flagship,” says Collins Seymah Smith, 37, the director of the theatre group that is “initiated and sustained by the young people of the deprived community of Jamestown.” The group that registered itself as an NGO in 2011 now has about 50 volunteers across the country and a few from abroad. Using interactive theatre as a medium to focus on everyday issues, the volunteers work to tackle problems that seem to haunt their community.

Remnants of Accra’s colonial history and a distressed fishermen community make up the crux of Jamestown, the oldest and poorest neighborhood in the fast developing capital city, Accra. Compared to the modern infrastructure of the city center and the ever-expanding posh residential areas of the suburbs, Jamestown remains a filthy pig that the officials refuse to domesticate.

Teenage pregnancy, alcohol and drug abuse, unemployment, and sanitary issues, are as much a part of this vicinity as are the dramatic graffiti on broken roadside houses. Bursting loudspeakers are as randomly positioned on the sidewalks, as are the strolling goats, enjoying just as much space inside houses, as do the citizens of this neighborhood. Residences are either dated a hundred years or newly built after a night of heavy rainfall.

A group of teenagers aged nine to fifteen occupy one of the colonial buildings that might easily pass off as a huge pile of unused stones and rocks to any ignorant tourist eye. Inside the enclosed space, clothes dry on a synthetic rope that stretches from one crack on the wall to another. From behind the clothes, loud giggles and foot taps are clearly audible. Anyone living in Jamestown, can easily match-up to the steps and sing along the tune.

“It’s the hand-wash dance!” said Emmanuel Markhansen, a 30-year-old artist from Jamestown community, who boasts of himself as the “co-coordinator and guide of the whole community,” to tourists who wander in search of ruins from the colonial era.

Markhansen, along with other community members has now learned the hard rule, “They said when you are washing your hands, the water shouldn’t be in bowl; the water should be flowing. They came into my house and taught me. They even made a song for it and we all dance to it.”

One of the many tactics that Smith and Lamptey’s team adopts is barging into open household doors and demonstrating newly acquired sanitary regimes. What mainly drives them, according to Smith is their “passion for theatre.”

“I was first introduced to drama in elementary school. It was almost Christmas and the play we performed was about Mary and Joseph. I was Joseph,” said Smith, who decades later, would ultimately be approached by the UK based NGO, Theatre for Change in 2009.

An organization maintained by a strong partnership between the United Kingdom and Malawi, Theatre for Change has been working with vulnerable and marginalized groups in Ghana since 2003. In Jamestown, they initiated behavior change workshops about sexual and reproductive health, human rights, and women-centric issues.

“After training with them, we were introduced to a new form of theatre called interactive theatre. We were all happy about it and we got hooked to it,” Smith said while scanning the theatre.

“We believe interactive theatre is rehearsal from real life. Sometimes when people are sitting behind and watching, they say ‘Oh! I would have done this or I would have done that if it were I,’ that’s simple to say but now we are encouraging people to come and do it on the stage,” said Lamptey, 27, who is also the programs director for Act For Change (AFC).

Initially, Smith worked as a community development officer and later on as a monetary officer for Theatre for Change. But by the end of 2010, Theatre for Change had to relocate to another region and focus on different issues. “That’s where Samuel and others, who were trained, came in. The interest and funds Theatre for Change provided died up. But we had a lot of issues in Jamestown and somebody needed to tell the stories of people here,” he said.

“Whatever money we got, we used it to register Act For Change in 2011.” In 2013, Smith and Lamptey finally quit the government jobs they had taken up “which is when the organization was having a retreat,” said Smith who believes that he was able to “do a lot more by dedicating all his time to the cause.” To increase community participation, AFC makes it a point to often approach playwrights from the community itself but the plays are mostly written and directed by the volunteers themselves.

“Because it is in our local dialect (Ga), we write our own dialogues. For child marriage or unwanted pregnancies, for instance, we all sit together and brainstorm ideas. We try to think about stories and real instances from within the community and then turn it into a narrative,” Lamptey added.

Ask Smith or Lamptey about the results or the aftereffects of the work they do and they would find it difficult to come up with quantitative data. Smith, however, remaining optimistic, smiles and folds his hands, “The kind of work we are doing, you can’t see it right there in short-term or quantify it right away. But whenever people see us for example, they sometimes ask for condoms. It means, they got it!”

One woman, who certainly agrees with Smith, is Susana Dartey, 31, who is not just an active member of AFC, but started her own NGO called “Women of Dignity Alliance.” Working for the welfare of female sex workers in poor communities such as Jamestown, Dartey remembered cutting her hair, putting on long earrings and changing her wardrobe to dress like she is “one of them (the sex workers).”

Citing her own example she said, “I got pregnant at the age of 23, which is something that never happens in Jamestown. By the time you are 15, you are already pregnant.”

Dartey who in 2014 was one of the participants in the Ghanaian Women Leadership Program, understands Jamestown as though it were her bible. She credited most of her success to engagement in theatre activities, “I dedicated my entire time to Act For Change: attending behavior change workshops, writing plays, and working for community members. This kept me away from the dangers.” Addressing key issues faced by AFC, Dartey explains, “They need more support.”

Most of the volunteers still pay for their own transport and hardly receive any money for their work. The theatre lacks a reliable supply of electricity, and the volunteers purchase laptops used for research.

Even though the government recognizes and appreciates their work, AFC has never received any kind of monetary support from them. “Last year, the tourism minister came and visited us at the Jamestown Art Festival we put up every year. She thanked us for all our work. But that’s about it,” said a disheartened Smith.

Daniel Tagoe, 27, an unemployed youth living in Jamestown believes that AFC can easily bring about more changes in the society, “Unemployment is a big issue. They do employ people and I hope they can employ more but I understand funding is an issue.”

Sitting in the theatre without any electricity, Smith whose vest is mostly drenched in sweat, smiles and explains, “In five years, Act For Change will be a house with a name not just in Jamestown but all over the world. Act for change should have offices in some big-big regions where we can employ a lot of youth while making change all over the world, and saving lives- teenage lives.”

Cover Image Credit: Facebook

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37 Drake Lyrics From 'Scorpion' That Will Make Your Next Instagram Caption Go Double Platinum

Side A makes you want to be single, Side B make you want to be boo'd up.

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We all knew Scorpion was going to be the summer banger we wanted. However, Drake surprised us with two sides of an album and two sides of himself. Mixing rap and R&B; was genius on his part, so why not dedicate 37 of his lyrics to our Instagram captions?

1. "Don't tell me how knew it would be like this all along" — Emotionless

Definitely a "I'm too good" for you vibe.

2. "My mentions are jokes, but they never give me the facts" — Talk Up

This one's for my haters.

3. "I wanna thank God for workin' way harder than Satan" — Elevate

For when you're feeling blessed.

4. "I promise if I'm not dead then I'm dedicated" — March 14

In Drake's story about his son the world knows about now, we get a lyric of true love and dedication

5. "My Mount Rushmore is me with four different expressions" — Survival

6. "Pinky ring 'til I get a wedding ring" — Nonstop

7. "I gotta breathe in real deep when I catch an attitude" — 8 Out of 10

This first line of the song is about to be spread on the gram like a wildfire

8. "Heard all of the talkin', now it's quiet, now it's shush" — Mob Ties

9. "California girls sweeter than pieces of candy" — Sandra's Rose

This is gonna have every girl who has ever stayed in Cali all hot and heavy, watch it.

10. "I think you're changing your mind, starting to see it in your eyes" — Summer Games

Y'all know how these summer games go

11. "Look the new me is really still the real me" — In My Feelings

When you've got to profess that you've changed 200%

12. "Only beggin' that I do is me beggin' your pardon" — Is There More

13. "Shifted your focus, lens lookin' jaded" — Jaded

14. "Back and forth to Italy, my comment section killin' me" — Can't Take a Joke

Necessary for when you've got people hyping you up already

15. "People are only as tough as they phone allows them to be" — Peak

Y'all can't have this one, I'm stealing it

16. "Work all winter, shine all summer" — That's How You Feel

Put in the work so you can flex on 'em, summer 18

17. "Blue faces, I got blue diamonds, blue tint, yeah" — Blue Tint


18. "I stay busy workin' on me" — Elevate

19. "Ten of us, we movin' as one" — Talk Up

The perfect reason to get the largest group picture you've had on your gram

20. "October baby for irony sake, of course" — March 14

This statistically applies to 1/12 of y'all reading this, so take that as you will (we October babies are the best)

21. "She had an attitude in the summer but now she nice again" — Blue Tint

22. "I know you special girl 'cause I know too many" — In My Feelings


23. "Gotta hit the club like you hit them, hit them, hit them angles" — Nice for What

24. "She said 'Do you love me?' I tell her, 'Only partly,' I only love my ____ and my ____ I'm sorry" — God's Plan

If you haven't used this one yet, get to it

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26. "It's only good in my city because I said so" — 8 Out of 10

Follow this up with a location and shoutout your hometown

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28. "I always need a glass of wine by sundown" — Final Fantasy

Has Drake ever been more relatable?

29. "It's your f***in' birthday. Happy birthday" — Ratchet Happy Birthday

Let's go get kicked out of an Applebee's

30. "I move through London with the Eurostep" — Nonstop


31. "I stopped askin' myself and I started feelin' myself" — Survival

Mood all summer 18

32. "They keep tryna' get me for my soul" — I'm Upset

33. "I'm tryna see who's there on the other end of the shade" — Emotionless

34. "Only obligation is to tell it straight" — Elevate

35. "It don't matter to me what you say" — Don't Matter to Me


This line from the King of Pop (MJ) will give you chills. R.I.P.

36. "I'm the chosen one, flowers never pick themselves" — Sandra's Rose

37. "Say you'll never ever leave from beside me" — In My Feelings

Couple goals, amirite?

Cover Image Credit:

@champagnepapi / Instagram

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It Is Pointless To Pity The Homeless

Guilt is the silent killer of political action.

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Two summers ago, when I was an intern at The Father McKenna Center in Washington DC, I met Jason, who was homeless. I had just finished closing the shelter's computer lab for the evening, and the attendees of the AA meeting in the shelter's cafeteria had started to say their goodbyes and disperse until next week. As I was leaving to take the subway home, and as he was leaving to walk back to his encampment, wherever it may have been, Jason and I converged with each other at the front door of the shelter, and we introduced ourselves to each other.

Jason had two children, aged four and six, both of whom were protected from him under custody by his former wife. She had made the decision to divorce him because of his drug use, which posed a danger to the couple's children. (Jason did not hesitate to admit to this.) Shortly after the separation from his family, he became homeless. He had a high school degree and some former experience doing construction work. Aged into his mid 30's with minimal employment, Jason had been struggling to find a job for years.

As we walked, he told me about his kids, and how sometimes he hears about them during occasional phone calls with his wife. For a moment, he turned his head to look at me in my eyes, and he quietly told me about how proud he was of his daughters for completing the first and third grades of elementary school.

If you are homeless, it takes an immense amount of courage to make the commitment to go to a homeless shelter. I believe that the one thing that most people struggle with, homeless or not, is the challenge of confronting one's own demons. Jason had demons, luggage, regrets, and so on - I had those too. Jason had first stepped at The Father McKenna Center shortly before I began my internship. As I performed the duties of my internship, Jason and I, together, experienced a great turbulence in our individual missions to confront our demons; and with that turbulence came sobriety. Not relief or improvement, but sobriety. True self-improvement is a year-long commitment, but self-awareness is a skill which can be utilized at any time.

Jason and I spoke several times throughout my internship. One of the last interactions I had with his before I completed my term happened again at the front entrance of the shelter. He told me that after years of searching, he had found the initiative to apply for a job. "Even though she and I needed to go our own ways," he said, "I still want to show my wife that I care about her. We're not married, but I still want to provide for her and the kids. I don't know how they feel about me, but I want to show my daughters that I am still their father, and that I love them."

When I started my internship at the shelter, I genuinely believed that I would come out of it depressed and disillusioned. But I learned to look beyond the misfortune and suffering, and with that perspective, I started to find more and more inspiration in the facets of life by which I had previously felt discouraged and depressed. I have not seen Jason in two summers, but I think about him every day, for strength.

Say, for instance, that you start to feel as though the daily grind of your summer job is starting to become too monotonous. Us undergrads are tirelessly told by our advisors that the best possible use of our time during the summer, outside of college and other than working for pay, is time spent volunteering and building up our resumes. After some online research and phone calls, you break down your volunteering options to three different nonprofit organizations in your area: Your first option is to spend 3-5 hours once a week helping a local community center care for its flower garden, fresh herb greenhouse, and wildlife sanctuary. Your second option is to spend Tuesday and Thursday evenings bathing, petting, and reading storybooks to all the dogs and cats at a nonprofit rescue shelter. Your third option is to spend 5 hours on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at an inner-city homeless shelter and rehabilitation center for men who have been recently released from prison.

This where the conflict begins. Deep inside, you know that volunteering at the men's shelter is, in your opinion, the most valuable kind of work you can do. Human beings require more attention than plants and pets. Humans beings need to be kind to each other, and so, you may want to volunteer at the shelter.

The problem is certainly not that nobody wants to volunteer at homeless shelters. I consider myself an optimist, and I still think that the majority of people living in the United States wish to care for and support each other. The true problem is that even when a good-minded, empathetic, caring person wants to offer their kindness to the homeless, there are layers upon layers of illusions, false impressions, misconceptions, misunderstandings, and (most importantly), miscommunications which prevent them from doing so. What must truly be addressed is not how much attention is being paid to homelessness, but how attention is paid. There are many kinds of layers of illusion; the majority of them are certainly racial illusion. A vast number are economic. Others, however, are emotional. A lot are just flat-out moral as well.

The growing epidemic of homelessness, as an affliction, is the product of political injustice, racist systems, and greed. But the homeless lifestyle itself, however, is not political in nature. Homeless people are not statistics in a study, neither are they variables in a social equation. Homelessness is a daily struggle for a human life, and those who are homeless suffer. They are as emotional and as sentient as the well-off office workers who pelt them with quarters as though they're fountains.

Understanding homelessness is especially hard for people on the polar opposite side of the social/economic spectrum from the homeless. It is somehow harder for a wealthy and educated person to understand homelessness than it is for someone from lower-class origins to do so. As I said before, I genuinely believe that the vast majority of people on this Earth have the moral initiative to help those less fortunate - but this initiative is excessively overridden by the reflexive tendency most people have to compare and juxtapose themselves. This act of reflexive juxtaposition is what scares most people away from homeless shelters.

Call it what you want - "juxtaposition" is not the only word one can use to describe this feeling. Some people might call themselves "overqualified." From a political perspective, some have referred to it as "white guilt." Regardless of what you call it, it is reflexive. Homeless people, just upon sight, are registered with labels and false truths. The visceral, instinctive reaction to a homeless person is "Look forward, walk firm, and don't make eye contact." This is what needs to change.

In western society, people who grow up privileged - with parents, shelter, an education, and relationships - are subconsciously taught, unintentionally encouraged, and silently conditioned by the people around them to treat the homeless with, above all else, pity. The etiquette of reacting to a homeless person suggests something of a "passive melancholy." Like I mentioned before, under this mannerism of avoidant sorrow, homelessness is not a condition of life. It is a political symbol. The stumbling beggar in the subway and the raggedy busker on the street corner are effectively dehumanized by default; as long as they are evidently homeless, their role in the social dynamic of these public places is automatically different from yours and mine. The status of homelessness completely nullifies - no, prevents - a person's worthiness and rightful entitlement to human attribution, and without mercy, they are turned into something which is not human: a figure which is nothing but a representation of itself.

After years of riding the bus and subway, I have become aware of several different categories in which the people around me fit; I see the day laborers, who are categorized by being older men, clad in paint-stained construction pants, functioning in close-knit groups of six or seven. I see the government employees, who are categorized by the loudness of their gazes of exhaustion, directionless and unfixed, garbed in outdated albeit notably well-fitted suits, bland floral blouses, sky-blue button downs, the incredible pant suits, and khakis, and khakis, and khakis. I see the college-aged summertime interns running coffee for politicians who never remember their names, and they, too, are categorized; specifically by their calculated movements, blatantly artificial exteriors, and the endearing aura of simultaneous youthful naivety and capitalistic millennial-themed ambition (they also act like they know where they're going, when really, they don't, but they never stop to ask for directions). I see the mothers, the trust-fund white kids from Gonzaga, the beatniks from Howard, the Reagan-bound luggage-bearing vagabonds, the punks, the academics, the racists, the anarchists, the activists, the drunks, the wandering, the sleeping, and of course, the emblematic tourists in their MAGA hats, graphic tees, and jorts.

What kind of a response is demanded of those who choose to protect the weak? How are the wounded addressed by the healers? How should I talk to someone who suffers? The photographers, the journalists, and the volunteers cannot hope to rile a revolution alone. Neither can the teachers hope to raise a generation freed from toxicity alone, nor can the young politicians on the Hill hope to deliver their country to safety and stability alone. The problem of homelessness can be addressed, as can it be confronted, observed, studied, and journalized. Don't get me wrong, though - this type of action is deeply important: The awareness of a problem creates an opportunity for its solution. But the raising of awareness is not enough. The confrontation of our reality is not enough. To take the first step beyond awareness is to give attention to those who are in need of it; to attend to the weak and the wounded, and to act for their protection and their healing. In the words of the French revolutionary Simone Weil: "Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity."


Song suggestion: LCD Soundsystem - American Dream

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