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Santa isn't brown! Or is he?

“What! Santa isn’t Brown!” That was my son’s reaction the morn of Christmas 2019 when his big brown eyes popped open upon hearing the familiar words “HO HO HO”! He was truly amazed seeing the pot-bellied man in a red, velvety outfit with a white, long beard. Santa! he shouted in excitement… but after a closer look, he said, “What! Santa isn’t brown! You’re not Santa! Santa is peach. You are daddy!"

The outward appearance of Santa Claus is one of many stories we have been told over and over again; thus, when we see anything contrary, we begin to experience cognitive dissonance. If there was a man who lived at the North pole and spent all of his time in a workshop with a bunch of elves making toys in anticipation of delivery, just one day of the year, then clearly, this man would have no use for an overdose of melanin.

This year, as part of fundraising strategies for CHOCOLATE HAS A NAME, I had the opportunity to join a Fairtrade campaigner to partake in the Christmas tree Festival at St. James’s Church in Bradford. This was my very first time at such an event and by far one of my highlights of this year’s Christmas, next to the nursery nativity play, which always delivers.

The sight of volunteerism beautifully displayed on pine trees was just reflective of the Christmas spirit. A display of ordinary people doing extraordinary things; saving historical places like the Brontë birthplace, rescuing greyhound dogs, upkeeping a local library, supporting a mother and child centre in Tanzania and of course, CHOCOLATE HAS A NAME.

Much planning and preparations went into how we wanted to decorate our tree, what we thought would be an authentic representation of CHOCOLATE HAS A NAME.

So, while Cheryl got busy putting the tree up, getting the fairy lights and divine Chocolate coins, I envisaged a tree I’d never seen before. Deeply-rich melanated angels beautifully adorned in kente robes. Gold, green, and brown cocoa pods, symbolic of the life cycle of the pod.

Significant around this time of year, farmers would have been paid for their harvest about a month ago - the golden pod.

The green pod; symbolic of the anticipation for a bounty harvest the next season.

The brown pod, a representation of the uncertainties of harvest in an ever-changing climate.

Baubles made from Kente and cocoa sacks which had potentially gone through the entire value chain from cultivator through to chocolate maker, bringing to mind the spaces and places of origin but ours is always a shared story and so, the golden symbol of “Ese ne Tekyerema” (the teeth and the tongue) the sacred Adinkra symbol for friendship and interdependence.

To top it all off, we had a Black star topper. The Black star found in the middle of Ghana’s flag  as well as in the flag of most African countries is a symbol of hope for Africa. This emblem ties in very strongly with the mission of CHOCOLATE HAS A NAME, which is to make cocoa processing accessible to children in cocoa-growing communities across the African continent. It is in this story of hope that, after 129 years of growing, nurturing, and harvesting cocoa, children in a cocoa-growing community for the first time on the African continent will have cocoa processing as part of their everyday learning at school.

I just knew our tree would be magnificent, and the day came when everything was hung up on the tree with the lights lit and there I was, in utter dissonance. I loved everything about our tree; it was something I’d never experienced before, and the more I gazed upon it, the more I felt it radiate comfort and joy. There it was, standing tall, a stark reminder of presence, identity, and representation.

In a world where Santa may never be brown-skinned, the angels may never appear wearing kente, the tree topper seldomly, a Black star, or cocoa growers ever remaining growers and completely eliminated from the chocolate story, I felt, we were owning the script and changing the narrative. Perhaps, this feeling was a preparation for what is yet to come in 2023, when children at Tarkwa Breman Girls school make history for being the first-ever school in a cocoa-growing community across the African continent to learn chocolate-making.

This shall mean many different things to many people but picking up on my sentiments as I stood before this Christmas tree, I know I will be filled with so much comfort and joy.

As we look forward to this historic moment in the new year, from Africaniwa, my heart ebbs with humility, thanks, and gratitude to our very own CHOCOLATE HAS A NAME family and to all who have come alongside us in diverse ways to make this possible by helping us raise by far, a total of £7,373.62. This would have certainly not been possible without your unwavering support.

So on behalf of the CHOCOLATE HAS A NAME family, I wish to say:

Yie mmra!

Calling forth for your safety and security, for your health, your wealth, and your well-being in the New year and if you do gift or are gifted a cocoa product this Christmas, please do well to enjoy it mindfully because CHOCOLATE HAS A NAME.

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