Monday, September 9, 2013

September 9th, 2013

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

Many different cultures have given attributes to their children linked to the day that they are born. Some are amazingly complex, such as the Chinese and other astrology based systems which use the planets and the seasons to 'predict' a persons character. Others are much more simple, and rather more fun. The poem 'Monday's Child' is one of those:

Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace,
Wednesday's child is full of woe,
Thursday's child has far to go,
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child must work for a living,
But the child that's born on the Sabbath day,
Is fair and wise and good and gay.

It is rather sad to think that a child will be woeful (unhappy or sad) simply because they are born on a Wednesday! It is also important to note that such a poem was written before the word 'gay' was hijacked for sexual tendency description, but at the time was rather a word to describe cheerfulness.

It is blatantly clear that people born on a particular day are able to be demonstrate any of the attributes of others, and the exact day, hour, minute that we are born does not make us one thing or another. However, that moment in time when we are born does change the experiences we will go through. If we are born in the dry season, or winter, in peace or at war, we may obtain different nutrition that will affect our growth. The age at which we can start school will be affected by our birth, and it is clear that the life experiences, and our consciousness of the same, will be totally affected by the moment of our birth. 

One of the more practical and fun aspects of when we are born is the naming system that is common in parts of Africa. In Ghana, we have some simple naming processes that are dependent on the day of birth, there are variances by tribal origins, but the Akan system is widespread.

Male name
Female name

If we compare the origin of each name in the Akan system with the Monday's child poem, we find that there are some areas of compatibility, which confirms that we must all come from the same 'mother' at some point in our humanity.

If we listen to the geneticists, who tell us that our mitochondrial DNA is passed intact from mother to child, we all come from just a few great-great-great-....... -great-grandmothers! Furthermore, we all come from Africa! Although the exact location of our cradle of origins is unknown, it is believed to be in East Africa. One 'out of Africa' model shows that Homo Sapiens left East Africa about 100,000 years ago, and populated the world.

Perhaps, just perhaps, we should re-evaluate many of the discoveries of the world and explain them as 'of African Origin'. That would offend some, but we could ask them to provide mitochondrial DNA, and demonstrate that they actually did originate from Africa, albeit a long time ago! Our history is our history, and we cannot deny it. It is ours, whether we accept it or reject it. The good, the bad, the ugly and the magnificently gorgeous. It is all ours. 

Kwame Nkrumah, the first President of Ghana, made a wonderful statement 'I am an African, not because I was born in Africa but because Africa was born in me.', little did he know that 'Africa is born in all of us'. However, that feeling of 'belonging' to Africa must be awakened. That deep, soul-embedded conviction that 'Africa is home' is not alive in everybody. For many who are born in the continent, that feeling is incredibly strong. But for others, the feeling is simply not engaged, and they seek to leave their maternal cradle at the earliest opportunity. 

More interesting is the 'awakening effect'. Every now and then a 'non-African born' person, regardless of their skin colour, walks upon the surface of the continent, breathes the air, feels the sticky heat and inhales the dust of the birth continent of mankind, and something inside of them awakens. Africa is, suddenly, instantly, miraculously their home. It is not something that can be described, it can only be felt. Such people are then 'Afro-centrics' and find that their soul-home is on the continent. 

Kwame Nkrumah was very right in his statement : 'I am an African, not because I was born in Africa but because Africa was born in me.' Being African is more than where you are born, I see so many African born people who are not 'Afrocentric'. It is sad, for such people give Africans a less than good name. Those who have Africa as their soul, those with Africa born inside them, alive inside them - dancing, beating drums and singing in multicoloured expressions of family, love, unity and peace - those are the ones that give Africa its positive reputation and, to be honest with you, the 'life and soul of Africa'.

I am proud to have my African-mitochondrial DNA, and for it to be alive and well. I am proud therefore to share my African name with that of Aviation. 

On the 17th December 1903, the Wright Brothers (although American, with African mitochondrial DNA) are recorded as 'giving birth to powered flight'. It was a Thursday, which would give it the name 'Yaw'. That name, albeit pronounced differently, is welded to flight, for it is the name given to the movement from side to side of an aircraft. The name originates from the earth - and the breaking of the bonds with earth are linked to that very day. Add to that the description that 'Thursday's child has far to go', and we can see that there really is something to a name.

When I am asked why my name is 'Captain Yaw', I simply reply 'It means that I am a pilot who was born on a Thursday, with Africa in my soul'.

Capt. Yaw is Chief Flying Instructor and Chief Engineer at WAASPS, and lead Pilot with Medicine on the Move, Humanitarian Aviation Logistics ( e-mail

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