MS. REBECCA SHEIR
The story we'll hear next is about a most unusual outsider. She's a businesswoman in D.C. who's about to travel to Ghana, but she isn't visiting the West African country to play tourist or to learn more about African culture, no. As Sabri Ben-Achour tells us, Juanita Britton is flying more than 5,000 miles for another reason entirely. Want a little less mundane and a little more majestic.
MR. SABRI BEN-ACHOUR
Juanita Britton's nickname is Busybee.
MS. JUANITA BRITTON
Take this on down, baby, this goes on the back table.
And it's easy to see why...
You didn't read your e-mails or anything?
She's at her art gallery in Anacostia wearing a brown dress and gold bangles of all sizes. She's in the midst of party planning and her mind is on food, gifts, music, clothing and life as she weaves between statues of giraffes and tribal instruments from all over Sub-Saharan Africa.
I was given that name by my grandmother. I love simultaneous action.
Britton is from Anacostia. She's a business woman now. She co-owns several Brooks Brothers franchises and a book store. Right now, though, this celebration that she's putting together is her official send-off. She's getting ready to add one more position to her resume.
I am about to instowed (sic) Queen Mother Nana Batwe Adubiya II of Konko Village in Ghana, West Africa.
Yep, she's going to be a Queen.
Turn that up some for me.
So a few months ago, Britton got a call from an ex-boyfriend.
I mean, I'm telling you, it's been 17 years since I've laid eyes him. And to get a call out of the blue, please, come and be my Queen Mother.
There have been a few changes in the past decades.
When I knew him as a 20-something, he was just John Abu, 25 years later, he is King Nana Mosi Botang II and it came to him that I would be a choice to come back and help him with his kingdom.
So this week, she's getting ceremonially installed.
And I will have on a half million dollars worth of Ashanti gold. And I'll be in a big chair, high above the crowd with it on and six men will be carrying me.
But this position isn't all gold and gold, there's something in it for the villagers and the king, too. In a recorded statement from Akropong, Ghana, King Nana Mosi Botang II explains.
KING NANA MOSI BOTANG II
(through interpreter) Whoever becomes chief of this house is responsible for managing the village.
Over the years, the region has declined, he says, ever since a plantation was closed there.
(through interpreter) We have tried to protect what's left and since I became a chief, I have decided to redevelop the village. And what we usually do is we contact individuals who are interested in helping and we give them positions, usually a developing king or queen mother. They are usually able to help the villagers improve their lifestyles.
So basically, Britton is going to use her connections and her busy savvy. She has experience with aid projects in Sub-Saharan Africa to be the patron of development for this town of several thousand people.
(through interpreters) Schools and teachers, sometimes they need furniture, books, stationary, accommodation, also good drinking water and electricity. Also, sometimes, some of them don't even have different clothing. And also, we are going to teach them about personal hygiene and other things.
And this, it turns out, is kind of a thing that happens in Ghana. Barak Hoffman runs the Center for Democracy and Civil Society at Georgetown University.
MR. BARAK HOFFMAN
It's a big country, becomes more educated and more urban, chiefs are having to look for says to maintain relevance. They need to adapt themselves.
Kings and chiefs in Ghana don't have a formal political role. In fact, they are not allowed to participate in politics. Ghana is a democracy and that's the way most Ghanaians would like to keep it. But chiefs are still extremely popular and can be fairly influential.
In the past, right, chiefs were extraordinarily powerful. They could determine who could go to school. That no longer exists. What the chiefs do control is land and that was important for much of Ghana's modern history. It's becoming less so now as the country is becoming more urbanized.
So in many cases, says Hoffman, chiefs are trying to stay relevant by spurring economic development. And in several cases, it's meant bringing in well connected, well appointed friends from the outside.
And what these chiefs are bringing are not massive infrastructure projects. You're not bringing in Boeing manufacturing plants. It's much more modest, maybe roads, schools, health clinics, maybe some micro-finance opportunities, things of that nature.
But before all the hard work, comes the party. Coronation happens today during the annual Odwira festival marking the Yam Harvest. And that's how, by the end of the day, Busybee Britton will be Queen Bee. I'm Sabri Ben-Achour.
To check out photos of D.C.'s own busy woman turned Ghanaian queen and to see images and tweets from the coronation, head to our website, metroconnection.org.
Time now for a quick break but when we get back, the secret stories of D.C.'s consummate outsiders, tourists.
MS. THERESA BELPULSI
And of that one million, about 51 percent are student groups that come here. And that's approximately well over 30,000 motor coach busses that come to the city on an annual basis.
That and more in just a minute on Metro Connection, here on WAMU 88.5.
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