|Drawings of Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter from a boxing series I did years back.|
Yesterday, as I was keeping my eldest company whilst he was on the toilet he asked me to tell him a story from my childhood. One that he hadn't heard before. He had at first asked me to re-tell the one where I said someone had stolen money from me, the one where I eventually had to admit I just lost the money, but he already knew that one. Then I thought of telling him about the time that Lassi (my cousins pet dog) caught rabies and was running around foaming at the mouth until two men entered Aunty Gita's compound with a fufu stick and put Lassi out of her misery. But I wasn't ready to tell that story since stories about dogs dying entirely break my heart and then ... it came to me. One that I was reminiscing about just recently, one that had me googling a certain name as I challenged my own memory and questioned if the events in my mind had actually taken place. The one about the day that I met Azumah Nelson
I had just begun my walk home from school. I attended Cambridge Preparatory School in South Ordorkor, near Chorkor and not far from the capital Accra. I was aged either eight or nine at the time which would make it either 1983 or 1984. As I made my way home I walked part of my journey with a boy from school, I now have no idea of his name or if he was in my class but I knew him and he began telling me about how he knew Azumah Nelson. Growing up in an area that was poor meant that local heroes were a subject of much talk, any success story was celebrated and boasted about particularly if you could claim to have been part of the successor's story, part of their journey. So, as we walked and talked, this boy from my school asked me if I wanted to meet the boxing success story that was Azumah Nelson. Without thinking twice I said 'YES'! (At this point in my story I repeatedly said to my eldest 'You would never do this, ever! You would never enter a strangers house EVER!')
Again, growing up somewhere where there were always eyes watching out for you and where I felt protected by my label of being Dr. Acquaye's daughter, and in a community where it was valuable to know a local doctor, I never feared anything bad happening to me. My only fear was that I would be spotted doing something that I shouldn't, like selling my mum's oxo cubes to the local women after a care package arrived from my Grandma Peppermint. And so, as I entered Azumah Nelson's compound I was simply extremely pleased with myself that I would be afforded the same privilege as my companion, that I would be able to go home and go to school saying that I had met Azumah. I don't remember the exact dialogue between us, only that he was polite and friendly and told me that he knew of my father. He asked a young boy to bring me a drink of 'minerals' as it's traditionally called, in this case a tall cold glass of fanta - a real treat at the time! As I left, he told me to study hard and make my father proud and that is really all I remember of the encounter.
I have no idea if this was the trigger for a life long interest in boxers and boxing but I do still love a local hero and I'm blown away each and every time I read a success story with boxing at the centre. It gives me hope, that goosebumps feeling that you can win against the odds. After all who would've thought that a young boy who had to walk for miles and miles to school each day barefoot because he had no money shoes, would end up in England completing his medical training and marrying some white woman and having four mixed kids. This was the story I loved to hear over and over again when I was around my eldest boys age. It's funny how really, nothing ever changes.