Two gentlemen sat at two different heavy-metal desks in a musty old building on 43rd Street and 8th Avenue in Manhattan, just a block north of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey building. They were chatting about a bi-weekly newspaper called the African Observer that had just been established by the younger of the two suited gentlemen. The older man looked to be nearly twice the age of the younger man. Perhaps not that quite vast in age difference.
What was clear, though, was the fact that the older man could easily have been mistaken for the father of the younger man. The younger man who looked to be in his mid-twenties was Steve Mallory; and the older man, of course, was none other than Mr. Bill Quayson Kwegyir.
Nearly thirteen years earlier, Mr. Mallory, then a fresh arrival from Ghana and living in Brooklyn, had called up the older man by phone to see if he could get hired as a staff sports writer or even a freelance reporter. He had been hurriedly interviewed and rudely (at least that was how the younger man felt at the time) told that he could not be hired because Mr. Mallory knew next to nothing about America’s favorite pastime, baseball.
The younger man never forgot that soul-crushing initial disappointment at a job search. And although not very long afterwards he had found a job working at a much smaller African-American newspaper, he had never quite gotten over this initial rejection. It was like a psychological scar. Back home in Ghana, such round and flat rejection would have been jovially described as a “Welcome Address.” It was the professional equivalent of first love in a sardonic way; for it was known to often presage the nature of things to come.
And in this young man’s case, things did not look good. One thing, though, had been clear from the get-go, that is, shortly after he descended the three rickety flights of steps that led into the Amsterdam News’ editorial suite. The world of journalism, like life itself, was neither sedate nor stable. There was every reason to believe that Bill Quayson Kwegyir would not always be the managing-editor of that African-American newspaper of record.
“No, never!” the rejected man almost caught himself screaming out of a dream several times and nights. After all, nobody was born the editor or publisher of any newspaper or business except, of course, the offspring of the very rich and powerful. And it was quite clear that like his younger colleague, Mr. Bill Quayson Kwegyir had not been born with a silver spoon in his mouth. For all the younger man cared, Bill Quayson Kwegyir could even have been wearing dentures. His set of teeth looked too sparkly and healthy to be real.
In sum, Mr. Mallory appeared to have started mapping out his revenge as soon as he stepped onto the A-train that would ferry him on his return trip to the proverbial Bataan. And true to the treacherous workings fate, exactly thirteen years later, there they were, with the very man who had callously rejected him for his first job, one that he felt he very well deserved and was in dire need of, now seated adjacent to him as his bona fide employee, his only employee, in fact. Interestingly, on his company-audit documents (located recently via the Google internet search engine) Mr. Mallory had written that his General Media Corp. employed anywhere from one to eight workers, depending, it seems, on what time and which season of the year it is.
He had also written that the parent company which published his African Observer, General Media Corp., raked in an annual gross income ranging between a half-million and one-million dollars.
One thing was clear reading his audit papers, at least the brief version made available on the internet. Steve Mallory may not fast friends with straight answers. It is quite possible that the reality, or truth, lies somewhere in-between as well as well below. In other words, his General Media Corp. could well be raking in well over the maximum estimated annual income of one-million dollars, or it could even be raking in well under the minimum estimated annual income of a half-million dollars. I have a remarkable experience working with Black newspapers in the New York Metropolitan Area and have a reasonable sense of how lucrative they are. And to be certain, the African Observer is not among the very top of the pack in terms of revenue accrual.
Then also, of course, the parent company of the African Observer could have been raking in anywhere between a little over a half-million and three-quarters-of-a-million dollars. Not that it is really anybody else’s business, I must hasten to add. What is important here to observe is primarily the fact that if you ask Mr. Mallory any kind of question, the questioner ought to be prepared for polar-opposite answers. In sum, in this apparently nouveau riche bloke’s book, honesty may not necessarily be the best policy. In, fact, it may never be! Anybody who has ever dealt with the United States’ Internal Revenue Service (IRS) knows full well that anybody swearing by Mr. Mallory’s mantra can almost be guaranteed to never go wrong.
Anyway, on this particular day, as the two suited gentlemen sat chatting with each other, the subject of their conversation quickly switched to the mention of yours truly. The two men were intensely trying to figure out the most effective method of recruiting writers with remarkable literary flair and reasonably intimate knowledge and understanding of both African and African-American society, culture and politics. “What do you think about having Kwame on board as a regular columnist?” Mr. Kwegyir shot at Mr. Mallory.
“Our own Kwame. Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe?”
“Do you really want that guy to become a part of my paper?! You must already know by now how I feel about these stuck up Akyem boys.”
“You can rest assured that Kwame is not your typical Akyem boy. And to be frank with you, Steve, Kwame is easily one of our best writers. Ever since I’ve known him, and that’s awhile back, that chap has always been writing.” “Well, I have my own doubts but if you really want to have that guy write for us, then I guess I have to be down with you. Remember, though, that I am acceding to your request with great reluctance.” That, in a nutshell, was how I came to briefly write a handful of columns for Steve Mallory’s African Observer. But there is more to the preceding narrative that actually occurred earlier in time. And it is onto this aspect of our narrative that we next return.
Source: Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe
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