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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Africa (03/05/09)

TITLE: Laughing At Hunger
By Henry Clemmons


I, a black man of means with my own jet, am traveling to Africa to make fun of hunger. And, I am not just an ordinary black man. But, Iím a missionary, a Christian, one with a call of God on my life. I am blessed, educated and can sing Take My Hand, Precious Lord almost as good as Thomas Dorsey himself.

Many men and women of God and good-heart have ventured before me to battle starvation, bloating stomachs, fly infested piles of dead men and lost souls in Africa. But I, a black man with means, blessed and educated, flying on his own jet, am traveling to Ghana to hoot at hunger.

My skin is black, shinny and smooth. My teeth are white and clean. My hands are big and strong; not from picking cotton or pounding rail ties in 100 degree heat, but from working out in my churchís air conditioned gym. I also study history, know my heritage and will never forget where my roots came from. I love to laugh; itís a hearty baritone roar, and I especially love to laugh at hunger in the Greater Accra Region of Western Africa.

On approach to Kotoka International Airport , I fly over the flat sandy shores of Ghana that stretch into scrubby plains crisscrossed by crooked streams and rivers. Atlantic blue quickly gives way to shades of browns, greens and patches of mellow yellow. Scars of rainforests past are hidden now by brush and grassy wind whipped plains. I try to imagine what it looked like to the people of Ga, long, long ago as they ventured through this land in search of life.

My grandfatherís, grandfatherís, grandfatherís grandfather, and maybe a few gray headed grandfathers beyond that, had a grandfather who searched Western Africa with his people for relief from the famine and drought that were squeezing the life out of this region like two giant snakes wrapped around a duck. Heaven had been holding its rain, the seas retreated backward and rivers shriveled to shredded ribbons of moist mud.

It was tough times for black men without means, without jets, without air conditioned gyms. Hunger stalked them like ravenous lions; picking off the weak and lame one by one. The Gaís trail was littered with small mounds of dirt graves; they were about to give up. I imagine the air was still, heavy, humid. I bet, not a sound could be heard. I am sure Death opened its hands to grab the remaining survivors. And then Ö

As my jet screeches to halt on the scorching hot runway I laugh so loud I begin to cry. I cannot wait to finish my journey to the Accra Region of Ghana for the festival of Homowo. Tradition says, that a man from the Ga people, that Iím sure I am related to, stood up as the sun was setting that night they thought was their last, and looked at the darkness and death engulfing them and started to laugh. Like young Davidís stone smacked Goliath right in the forehead and dropped him dead, this manís laugh stopped hunger in its tracks. For reasons unknown, this man, my relative Iím sure, stood up and laughed at hunger. The next morning it rained and harvests of food soon followed along with a festival that ridicules hunger, called Homowo.

I, a black man of means with my own jet, am now dressed in bright red carnival clothes awaiting the beating of the drums. For thirty days before the festival begins no drums can be heard in this region, it is law, to symbolize the silence of death and hope before the day the rains came that saved the people of Ga. Finally, like a revived heart given a new chance at life, I hear a drumbeat, and then another and another until the air is filled with the rhythms of hundreds of drums intertwined with the laughter of a grateful people.

I, a black man of means with my own jet, celebrate with the people of Ga each harvest season and I tell them the about the power within the laugh that brought hunger to its knees long-long ago.


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This article has been read 593 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Helen Murray03/12/09
I find this deeply touching, and am thankful to share in its message of Truth.
Jan Ackerson 03/13/09
Excellent! Your writing is lyrical, with superb use of repetition and irony. I could see and hear this man with his deep African voice. I read this one twice through, and will come back to it again, with pleasure.
Sharon Kane03/14/09
I found this a fascinating read. I had never heard of Homowo, and enjoyed learning about this aspect of Ghanaian culture.
This is personal, but the voice of the MC grated. I felt it came across a bit as "I'm all right Jack", and that there was even an element of mocking the attempts of other godly men and women to tackle the problem of hunger in Africa. If all we had to do were laugh... well we'd all be laughing! I'm sure that is not how you meant it to read. As I say it was my reaction.
Having said that you created an extremely strong character in your MC and the piece had an intensely African flavour.
Laury Hubrich 03/18/09
This is awesome. I like the repetitive phrases. Very well done.
Karlene Jacobsen03/18/09
At first reading, I was a bit irritated that your MC was laughing. I thought he was mocking the hungry. Then I reread it and realized you didn't mean that.
As the saying goes, "He who laughs last, laughs best"? That is how I understood it the second time. That hunger is a fool to think it can overcome or win. Jesus gets the last laugh.

Anyway, this is very good. One must not be distracted when reading this piece of art.
Loren T. Lowery03/18/09
Bravo - written with boldness and conviction; and a wonderful underlying truth!
Lyn Churchyard03/18/09
Henry, I would not give up writing fiction in favor of only poetry just yet, because this story had its own poetic feel about it.

Like others who have commented, I also could see and hear this man (rather like listening to James Earl Jones).

Good job.
Catrina Bradley 03/18/09
I love the voice of this piece. At first I thought this man was going to laugh at hunger because he, a black man of means, was going to feed the nation with his wealth. I enjoyed unraveling the mystery as the account progressed. The ending is simply awesome! Please don't give up on fiction; I'd love to read more.
Diana Dart 03/19/09
Like the comments above, I found the MC's voice very bold, in my face even. That just made me want to read all the more! Your word choices are indeed poetic, they just painted the picture so well. Nice Job (and keep writing short stories... ;-)
c clemons03/19/09
A very poetic piece. Interesting.