Kojo Baffoe is a writer, speaker, and entrepreneur. Baffoe published his book through Pan Macmillan South Africa titled, Listen to Your Footsteps early this year. In this interview with EW Blog‘s editor, the former Destiny Man editor talks about writing his book, fatherhood, poetry.
Question: Congratulations on your book. Since it was released early this year, how has the feedback been from the general public?
Thank you. Feedback has been positive. With the book, all I hope for is that readers find something in my experiences and the lessons I have learnt from those experiences that will help them on their journey.
Question: Talk to us about the title, Listen to Your Footsteps, why did you decide to go with that title?
I do have a short essay in the book around the title. It is tied to something my sprint coach used to drum into my head – when running, listen to your footsteps, to get a sense of technique, speed, etc. Having later had multiple operations on my leg, I have had a limp of varying degrees and, because I am always listening to my footsteps, there are days when it bothers me. With the book, I was able to articulate how, in a way, I have been listening to my footsteps in other ways. I guess the book is my sharing what I have heard over the years.
Question: You touched on so many themes in the book, fatherhood, identity, relationships, addiction and many others which tie in with your life. While writing this book, were you cautious about what to share and not share about your life?
I have always tried to be deliberate about what I share, especially in these times of social media. Also because, in sharing aspects of my life, I am also sharing aspects of the lives of my family, which is not necessarily my place to, I was cautious, to a certain extent.
Question: Throughout the pages of this book you touch on your relationship with your father and then with your son. Talk to us about how your relationship with your father shaped you into the type of father you are to your own children?
I have always wanted to be a father and I think, with hindsight, that this was influenced by being raised by my father for, essentially, my whole life. Also, working with, and for, my father from a young age meant that the relationship was constantly evolving, with work and personal lines blurring things. My father served as an example as a father and as a man (warts and all) and I try to be the same for my children.
Question: Many of the readers, especially male readers, mentioned how they could easily relate with some of the challenges that you and father had. For example, you call your father ‘sir’ on purpose and all that. With this book, what message (s) were you trying to convey to the readers, especially with regard to fatherhood?
I would say, at the heart of it, is that being a father means working to be a better man and a better human being. Our children, if we allow them, make us better versions of ourselves but it needs us to also step up and do the work.
Question: Many men seem to have difficulties having a relationship with their sons. Based on the kind of relationship that you had with your own father and now with your own son. Talk to us about the importance of a father having a good relationship with their own son?
It is important to have nurturing, loving relationships with our children. That, for me is the starting point. The dynamics between a father and a son are different from the dynamics between a father and daughter, as is the case between mother and son or mother and daughter. As parents, we have a responsibility to our children. A responsibility that comes with challenges but challenges that are not unsurmountable. Our children need to know that we will always love them, we will always support them and that we will always operate in their best interests, even when it doesn’t seem so. As fathers, we aren’t always good at communicating this, especially to our sons. A good relationship between father and son does make it easier to articulate this.
Question: In the book, you also touched on how your son attends therapy, which is something very commendable. Men generally see that as some kind of weakness. How do we change that mentality to ensure that men allow themselves to speak about their emotions instead of bottling them?
To be honest, there are times when I am both grateful and envious of my son that he is growing up in a time when we are more open to the types of support available, including therapy. For older generations who were brought up to suppress emotions because a man is meant to be ‘strong’, we are living with broken pieces rattling around our insides. We need to recognise this and recognise that it is also never too late to try and mend the ‘brokenness’. With that said, it is a difficult realisation and I am still procrastinating on getting into therapy, although I do honestly feel I need it. It is not as simple as ‘speaking about our emotions’. There’s the mechanics of finding the right therapist? Who do we speak to? Does it need to be a therapist or can it be someone else? Will they understand our specific context, cultural and otherwise? Will we be judged for speaking?
Question: In the book you mention how children have an ability to teach you about yourself. Talk to us about that?
How you carry yourself. How you engage with the world. What you consider important. How you react to things. How you speak. The things you like to do and why. As the cliché goes, children don’t listen to what we say, they watch what we do. It is about serving as an example and, because we are all flawed, constantly evaluating whether you are living by the values you are trying to teach your children. This needs regular self-evaluation.
Question: What is your message to all the fathers and sons out there, who are struggling to find each other on a daily basis?
My favourite phrase right now is ‘being deliberate’. We just need to be deliberate about it and self-reflective.
Question: The book is littered with some of your poems. Should the readers expect you to one day come out of your ‘retirement’?
To be honest, I prefer writing poetry to be read than the whole performance side of it. I continue to write poetry – though not as much as I used to – so the ‘retirement’ is more from the performance side. But, I do, infrequently get the desire to step on a stage and share poetry that way. Maybe, one day, it will go beyond desire and I will actually do it. I also still toy with the idea of publishing another collection of poetry. And I am consciously working on other ways of sharing poetry.
Question: Finally, as we will be going into the festive season, what is your message to all your readers and people in general?
The end of a year is a great opportunity to reflect on where we are in this journey through the physical realm and to appreciate life and our loved ones. We are living through historical times that are an opportunity to reconnect with what’s important to us. Be safe, stay healthy.