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Content The QUEEN& I JOY AND BEAUTY HEARTBREAK AND FAITH CAREER AND IMPACT PASSIONS AND BONDS Genesis Grief Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ) Joy FM Miss Ghana 1995 Heartbreak Prayer Works Working Girl Naasei Memorial Foundation 6 19 28 43 49 Photo Credits: DMAC Photography, Charles Motion, Chelsey Photography Akosua50 Logo Credit: BrandIt 3 The Birthday Journal

Her love for me felt so tangible I could almost touch it, but she did not tolerate any nonsense. rriving at our gate, I tried to tidy my school uniform, socks and shoes, wiping my oily hands on the skirt part of my uniform. My mom was waiting at the gate, with a frustrated look on her face, and a cane in her right hand. I contemplated how to run past her into the house; should I run towards the far end of the gate where there seemed to be more space? Should I stand still, until she lost concentration, then I could whizz right past her? Or should I make a quick move, and run in between her jean clad legs, as she stood, legs apart? I was that tiny. It was not the first time this was happening and it wasn’t going to be the last. Mom did not own a car, she never learned to drive. In view of this, I and the other neighborhood school children walked to and from school which was about a 15-20 minute walking distance or occasionally got a lift from other parents. Well, that wasn’t the issue. The issue was that I had arrived home late from school again. School had closed hours ago, but instead of going straight home, I had stopped to play ampe with a group of girls, my tiny body wriggling each time I jumped to take my turn, then afterwards we had stopped to pluck mangoes, to chase a hen and her twelve black and yellow chicks and eventually, stopped by the waakye woman’s place at Community Eight; the waakye lady giving me two small spoonfuls of the rich brown looking rice and beans, some gari, macaroni and a little fish, in exchange for my fifty pesewas. She topped it up with golden rich tomato stew, and a heavenly smelling shito, and wrapped it in deep green waakye leaves. Mom normally packed lunch for me, but on occasion she would give me some money to buy lunch. This was one such day. Perhaps it was instances like this that made me develop a love for street food and local food. Later, as the aroma of the waakye-leavesinfused-food wafted into my nostrils, and I perched on a big stone to eat, I forgot that I had to hurry up and go home, or my mother’s cane would be waiting for me. I look back and I will describe my mom’s love for me as tough love spurred on by the Biblical principle of sparing the rod and spoiling the child. She was a strict disciplinarian but also loved me to bits. Her love for me felt so tangible I could almost touch it, but she did not tolerate any nonsense. “ 4 The Birthday Journal

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The QUEEN& I 6 The Birthday Journal

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Genesis I was born in Accra, on June 3, 1973, to David Kofi Larbi from Apirede, Akwapim and Gloria Aba Addison from Anomabu. I was named Akosua Twewaa, after my paternal grandmother. I have been told that my dad named me “Rose” – after his mother, but my mother found a way to officially change my name to Judy. Don’t ask me how she was able to do that without my dad’s consent! Growing up, I lived with my mother, who was a single mom. It was the two of us, and a host of other close family and some musicians. I saw all the things my mom did for me. As I was growing up, I remember our little gossip sessions as we talked about everything any mother and daughter would talk about - from her day after a hard day’s work at the nightclub she ran at Community One, to how she “blasted” one of her bandsmen who frustrated her at the club. We watched television together, listened to music, and sometimes danced together. There were nights we would hang around in the living room for hours, oftentimes both of us falling asleep on the couch with my mom in her favorite couch in the family room. To this day, my love for sleeping overnight in the family room couch can be attributed to this. 9 The Birthday Journal

Mom was really a unifier. Of all her children, I lived with her the longest, my other siblings lived with their paternal families; besides, my siblings were way older than me, the sister that I came after, Sabina, being a whopping seven years older than me. And yet, mom had a way of bonding us together, leading to such closeness between us. I did nursery and elementary school in Tema before attending Akosombo International School for my secondary education. I first realized my resilience as a student at Akosombo International School. Tiny as I was, my most prominent features were my eyes, I was an easy target for bullies. I recall one particular huge and tall senior who would often make comments about my huge eyes, and those seniors who took advantage of how emotional I was, would make sensitive comments because of which I would burst into tears. Then there was the fact that I was a playful child, and thus failed in my first year of secondary school, and had to repeat a class, at my mother’s insistence. In all these instances, my pride was pricked, my ego burst, my spirit kind of quenched, but I did not wallow in self-pity. I picked up myself and morphed from that wimpy, nerdy child, to a bubbly, can-do anything, well-focused and high-spirited senior who became the entertainment prefect in form four. It was therefore not surprising when I went to Archbishop Porter Girls’ School, a spanking new student in lower six, and was elected entertainment prefect. I probably brought my bubbly, entertainmentfocused self to the school. Perhaps, the attraction for the girls was my love for dressing up, or my knack for sneaking my makeup kit into school without being caught by the senior housemistress. Make up, which we would ‘steal’ ourselves to apply, as we went out on exeat days. I think the girls quite fancied my bravery. I brought some spunk, a tad of naughtiness to the prim and proper Catholic School. I was always the first to raise my hand, whenever we were asked to do cheerleading and it was not strange to see me actively taking part in jama sessions. Interestingly, one of the Catholic nuns in our school, Sister Mary, I picked up myself and morphed from that wimpy, nerdy child, to a bubbly, can-do anything, wellfocused and high-spirited senior who became the entertainment prefect in form four. My mother was my cheerleader, a shoulder to cry on, and a guide for the times when life-changing decisions needed to be made. “ “ 10 The Birthday Journal

recommended that I would make a good nun and should be encouraged in that direction. I wasn’t even Catholic and don’t know what Sister Mary saw in me but I am amused whenever I remember that. Like, I was looking all around to see if there was any other person in the school called Judy Larbi, because the ‘Judy Larbi,’ that I was, and the word nun, could never be used in the same sentence. Sister Mary took a lot of interest in my life and well-being but she never succeeded in making me a nun. Far from seeingmyself in a nun’s habit, I imaginedmyself adorned in a beauty queen’s sash. My mom had told me stories about how she entered the Miss Ghana 1960 beauty contest and ended upwinningMissWestern Region in 1960 and becoming second runner up in the Nationals. How, even the crowd had screamed that she should be the overall winner. Her story mesmerized me. I dreamt it up so much that it is not surprising that I ended up taking part in the Miss Ghana pageant myself in 1995. My mom was a real fashionista. Sometimes we would twin, wear the same styles to certain functions. Sometimes I would wait for her to go to the restaurant, and then rampage through her wardrobe, seeking one nice blouse or item of clothing or shoe or jewelry that I had seen her wear and really liked. My mother was my cheerleader, a shoulder to cry on, and a guide for the times when life-changing decisions needed to be made. She was my older sister, my best friend, my critique, and my confidante. She instilled discipline in me and was everything I could ever ask for in a mother. She was my backbone, and because she was not afraid, neither was I. Looking back, I realize how much my mother influenced my life and the person I am today. She instilled in me the values of hard work, determination, and perseverance. The things I would carry along the most, as I grew up, were her resilience, tenacity, hard work, ethics, entrepreneurial skills. I loved how she followed through on all her talents and interests and challenged herself beyond her capabilities. 11 The Birthday Journal

A Baby Bear A Mother’s Glory Her Tender Care A Day Never Forgotten 50 years ago, a Day to this Date God gave Gloria a Baby of Glory Named her Judy, a Flower of his Glory - a Woman of His Praise Today, she turns into her Golden Story just as Gloria did in her Day of Glory The days ahead will be filled with God’s Glory of Love and Glorious Blessings With His will that guided Gloria into His Glory’s rest. As Gloria watches Judy from Heaven today turn into a Glorious Golden Age The Beauty of Her Love will never fade on her Golden Baby Celebrate this day with a Glorious Shout, Judy. A name filled with Judah’s Praise and Glory To whom He has blessed your age from Glory to Glory With Grace and Elegance alone – you are aging beautifully And to His Glory alone shall be your story forever GLORIA’S GIRL TURNS GOLDEN! By Jennifer Osei-Nartey (née Osei-Agyepong) Former TV presenter, Ghana Broadcasting Corporation 12 The Birthday Journal

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I never thought my mom would ever die. Never. My mom died at 86 years, but she never talked about her age, and she never discussed death. In February 2021, I got a call to say she was ill, so I got in touch with my cousin to take her to the best health facility in Tema whilst I prepared to go home. Unfortunately, mom died a few days before I got to Ghana. I felt crushed. Anyway, I flew back home for the funeral. It was a big funeral, with the President and the Vice President of Ghana in attendance. I didn’t know she had been so influential until I was writing her tribute, I learnt about the many things she had ever done in life. How she started out her career at the Timber Marketing Board and then moved to the Tema Development Corporation where she worked for ten years. How upon the encouragement of two of her aunties, she took the huge ambitious leap into the entrepreneurial industry, first by selling women’s wigs, which were imported from China, Europe and the United States. Grief I didn’t know she had been so influential until I was writing her tribute, I learnt about the many things she had ever done in life. 15 The Birthday Journal

How she was one of the founding residents of Tema, having lived there from the sixties, mom showed such an interest in its development that she was often consulted on development activities and to share ideas as to how to improve the city. She would make donations, attend town improvement meetings and was awarded a Tema Citizens Award. I have seen pictures of her on billboards, for the Cocoa Processing Company of Ghana, a bar of chocolate in her hand. I am sure that beautiful picture of hers’ inspired Ghanaians to love their own locally produced Chocolate. I even learnt that she was one of ten people invited to take part in national tours, in a bid to get Ghana to join the other countries in the sub region to switch to left-hand driving, away from the tedious British right-hand drive. She was fearless like that. Her fearlessness is what has shaped who I am today. I found out about how my mom had delved into the big entertainment industry by setting up a band in the late 70’s, and even producingmusic. She was such a risk taker! To be bold enough to delve into that big male world and thus become the first Ghanaian woman to achieve such a feat, and at a time when cultural expectations of women were such that they were expected to be docile and submissive. I look on in awe at old records of songs like Sweet Gloria, So So Kyen Kyen, and Asonaba, that I found among her things. It has been two years already, since mom died, and I’ve learned a lot about grief. It feels like it never ends. Like, there are days it hits me. There’s also the good times and memories, I guess, that is what really keeps me. I miss her dearly, and I cherish the memories of our time together. Her fearlessness is what has shaped who I am today. She was such a risk taker! To be bold enough to delve into that big male world and thus become the first Ghanaian woman to achieve such a feat, and at a time when cultural expectations of women were such that they were expected to be docile and submissive. “ “ 16 The Birthday Journal

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JOY AND BEAUTY 19 The Birthday Journal

Fast forward to after sixth form and my results were not good enough for university. “She has to rewrite the papers before the university will accept her,” Professor Akyeampong, an aunt’s family friend said, when he saw my results. Me? Rewrite the A-levels? Never! I was tired of studying. “Then she should try alternative tertiary education,” he offered. That was good advice, a life saver. Instead of whimpering and wallowing in self-pity over my poor results, I reassessed and reanalyzed my options. Taking a step back, I looked at my older brother, Abdul Malik Kweku Baako Junior, one of Ghana’s seasoned journalists. Journalism, of course! That’s what I wanted to do. After all, I was a product of David Larbi, Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ) 20 The Birthday Journal

a pioneer of broadcasters at the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), and Gloria Addison, onetime runner up of Miss Ghana, both showbiz personalities and entertainers. Besides, I had a skill in public speaking, something I had developed during my days as entertainment prefect. To crown it all. I had always admired Christiana Amanpour, a CNN news anchor, and wanted to be like her. In 1994, I enrolled at Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ), and I obtained an Associate’s degree in Journalism. While I didn’t do a lot of entertainment activities at GIJ, I still made myself available at all the dances, and was still my bubbly self. And then, I entered the Miss GIJ beauty contest in 1994 and won. The interesting thing about GIJ was the mix of both seasoned journalists and freshers like me. Seasoned journalists, in the sense that they had been practicing for years but were at the institute for a more formal training and for their certificates. In this way, a wealth of knowledge was passed from the more mature journalists to the freshers. I was in class with people like Karl Tuffour, a seasoned sports journalist. I really enjoyed the work at GIJ; I enjoyed my assignments too. Besides, I had a skill in public speaking, something I had developed during my days as entertainment prefect. To crown it all. I had always admired Christiana Amanpour, a CNN news anchor, and wanted to be like her. “ 21 The Birthday Journal

Almost all my knowledge was theoretical. How was I going to be part of making our radio station a force to reckon with? To reach the heights of the BBCs and the CNNs? “ 22 The Birthday Journal

Journalism was a brilliant choice. I excelled in broadcasting, first at Kabral Blay-Amihere’s ‘The Independent Newspaper,’ where I did a short stint, and then to Joy FM, where I started as an intern under the leadership of News Editor FredChidi andPrograms Director Samuel Attah-Mensah. Being the first official private radio station in the country, the idea was for it to meet international standards. Initially, it felt daunting. What did I know? Almost all my knowledge was theoretical. Howwas I going tobepart ofmakingour radio stationa force to reckon with? To reach the heights of the BBCs and the CNNs? To always be ahead of the pack, and ensure fair professional reportage? I did not despair. Putting my whole self into the job; I took on big challenges, watched international media, sharpened my communication, writing and presentation skills so that they met international standards, developed alliances and valid sources of information. I endured long working hours and took up the first interest in online broadcasting by being the main character behind Joy FM’s online news portal myjoyonline.com. Little wonder then, that I was hired permanently after my internship, that I was chosen to report on big assignments like the first sitting US President to visit Ghana - President Clinton’s visit in 1998. I also had an opportunity to be invited alongside very seasoned journalists like Kabral Blay-Amihere and Kofi Coomson to travel to the United States for a 2-week journalism training across 6 states. Joy FM 23 The Birthday Journal

Perhaps my resilience came into sharper focus when goaded on by my friend, Jennifer Osei-Nartey, I took on one of the most daunting endeavors, by entering the Miss Ghana Beauty contest. My mother had once run in a similar contest, did I have as enough courage as she did for such a venture? Yes, Miss Ghana was about beauty, but it was about beauty with brains. Did I have the fortitude to go through it all, the ‘thick skinnedness,’ to ignore trolls and critics, the self-discipline to go through the processes of learning how to catwalk and to maintain a good posture? I was good at public speaking but was I ready for the big stage? Did I have the courage and energy to go through all the grooming and preening; the maintenance of my skin, hair and nails, and the wherewithal as well as all the frisking that came with Miss Ghana 1995 making and trying on new apparels as my coach, stylist and designers with counseling frommy mother developed a new wardrobe for me? Could I keep up with the food regime needed to attain the required weight, vital statistics, and shape? And could I combine all these with my internship at Joy FM? Imagine the joy when I won the regionals and then the explosion of joy when I came second runner up at the Nationals. It was the same achievement my mom had clocked in 1960. Talk about being a chip off the old block. It was one of the beginnings of my exposure as anything, as a beauty queen, as a media personality. I mean, think of going to Miss Ghana, being a second runner up, and then working for the first official private radio station in Ghana. All of that exposure was just great. It was a great experience to have all that. 24 The Birthday Journal

My mother had once run in a similar contest, did I have as enough courage as she did for such a venture? Yes, Miss Ghana was about beauty, but it was about beauty with brains. “ 25 The Birthday Journal

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Heartbreak and Faith 28 The Birthday Journal

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I put my tiny son, Naasei, on my chest and wept. He was so tiny he could even fit in my palm. He was so helpless, As I wept, I thought to myself, why me? Why me? I felt forsaken. In 2000, I migrated to the United States. I had been married for six years but we had no children, we had been trying for years. Then, in 2006, I conceived. How joyous that felt. I immediately started shopping for baby stuff, and when I learnt of the baby’s gender, my shopping intensified. I meant to give my child the best of everything. Anytime I passed by a shop window and saw cute boy stuff, I would stop to see whether I would buy it. I had started to put up a nursery in the house and had started to look up boy names. I had been starved of children for so long and I wanted to enjoy my son. I dreamt all day long about him, I looked at my scanned images of his almost fully formed body, how he would be handsome and intelligent, he would love football and race cars. He would be successful, my pride and joy. It was as if I woke up early every morning because of him. I called my mom every day to get tips on motherhood, on what to expect, on milestones, what would it be like when he was six months, and oneyear-old and all the milestones after that? How different were boys from girls in terms of raising them? I felt fulfilled. It was a normal pregnancy. Then, I went to work one day, and I felt a gush of water, woosh, just like that. They called 911, and I was rushed in an ambulance to the hospital. After two hours, the doctor said, “we have to take the baby out in order to save you.” And that’s how it happened. At twenty-two and half weeks, they told me they couldn’t save the baby. They left the baby onmy chest for 20 minutes, and then he passed, took his last breath, then they took him fromme. I wept. And wept. I looked at my hands, they were empty. The women in the maternal rooms just near mine, were probably holding their babies to their chests, were counting the fingers and toes of their babies, were assessing them to see who they looked like, pride on their smiling faces. The mere cry of a newborn baby pierced my heart to its very core. One woman had just been discharged and was going home with her twin children, amidst congratulations from the health staff. And there I was, empty handed. Empty. I spiraled into a very dark hole, unable to wake up in the morning, actually not wanting to wake up in the morning, and yet unable to sleep at night. It felt so unfair. Food did not taste like food, I letmyself go, unable to comprehend it all. It was my first experience with mental breakdown, depression. My first experience with grief; like real grief. What a traumatic experience it was. I wouldn’t even wish it on even my worst enemy. I had lots of questions for God. That’s when my faith journey really began. Heartbreak 30 The Birthday Journal

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Examining the pink and blue bundles in my arms, with tears streaming down my face, I asked, “is this really me?” Me? Was this really Akosua of the empty hands of three years ago? Was it really me with arms bursting full of babies? There I was, pinching myself, afraid that I would wake up and it would be a dream. The doctors and nurses congratulating me, my mother and my friends jubilating and celebrating by my bedside, singing praises, raising their hands in worship and adoration, I could no longer keep it in, I got up with my precious gifts and danced around the room with them, more tears streaming down my face, tears of joy. I didn’t feel embarrassed about the racket we were causing in my room. I would sing out loud, I would praise my God, I would shout out for all the world to hear what my God had done for me. Faith 32 The Birthday Journal

Not giving up, not letting go, trusting God with all my strength paid off. Amazing to note that our two years of intense prayers had not gone to waste, that God was truly a prayer answering God. We had prayed every single day; weekends, holidays, every day, both day and night, myself, Prince, Theresa, Delah and Terry at various times. Prince calling me at midnight during his night shift, me hiding in my wardrobe for privacy so I could call upon my God without interruption. I had laid my agony before the Lord, knowing that nothing was too difficult for him. At Christ Covenant Chapel, which was my home church at the time, I would often lay at the altar during worship times and cried and prayed my heart out, my prayers, specifically, I wanted twin children, a boy and girl. And to think that when God answered, it was exactly as I had asked. Consequently, I adopted the name Prayerworks as I am a living testimony of God answering my very specific prayer. Right from seeing the two pink lines on the pregnancy kit, down to rushing to the hospital to confirm if I was really pregnant and finding out on the second doctor’s appointment that I was carrying twin children, I saw the mighty hand of God. It was glorious. I would sing out loud, I would praise my God, I would shout out for all the world to hear what my God had done for me. “ 33 The Birthday Journal

We had been considering all kinds of options including IVF treatment. With this pregnancy, I was again diagnosed with an incompetent cervix but I never gave up. Our prayers were intensified with me calling Rev. Kingsley Ayesu, one of my spiritual fathers who prayed with me right before my doctors ordered strict bed rest at 15 weeks of the twin pregnancy till about 36 weeks of my pregnancy journey. Our prayers were answered and at almost 39 weeks, I had a normal twin delivery; we couldn’t ask for more. Ekua and Kweku are my heart and soul, my pride and joy. They are adorable, and I’m grateful for God’s timing of bringing these two beautiful gifts into my life. I love them to the moon and back and will do any and everything to see them enjoy the best things in life. My favorite thing to do with them is making memories by traveling. Ekua and Kweku are my heart and soul, my pride and joy. They are adorable, and I’m grateful for God’s timing of bringing these two beautiful gifts into my life “ 34 The Birthday Journal

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My mom is my rock; I depend on and look up to her for many things. My Mom: • Style Icon • Beauty Pageant Winner • Joy FM Star • A Twin Mom • Career Mother Since I was a little girl, I have always looked up to my mom as my idol just like she looked up to my grandmother Sweet Gloria as her idol. I have always seen my mom as a loving, kind, and successful woman. Throughout my life she has always taught me that to become the woman that she is today, there are many sacrifices she’s made in life, which included leaving Ghana as a journalist and coming to the United States to fulfill other career dreams. Mymomismy rock; I dependonand look up to her for many things. Throughout her life she has done so many amazing things and has been there for my brother and I. I am so proud of my mom for the many things she’s accomplished including being a second runner up in Miss Ghana Beauty Pageant in 1995. She was also Miss Eastern Region that same year. It is one of my top goals to contest in a beauty pageant one day just like my mom and grandmother. Mom, I love you so much. Thank you for always being there for me. As you turn 50, I hope you achieve all the goals that you want to reach. You are now another year closer to retirement – enjoy! Your loving daughter and look-alike Ekua “ Insert: Notes written by Ekua in 1st Grade 37 The Birthday Journal

When I think of my mom, I think of so many different things and words like happiness, joy, adventure, and determination. I know my mom is determined to celebrate her 50th birthday in grand style because she started planning this birthday celebration over a year ago or maybe even more. One thing I admire about my mother, Akosua, is that when she puts hermind to doing something, she does everything in her power to do it and do it with excellence. That’s my mom for you! She’s one of the most determined human beings I know, and she inspires me every day with her determination to succeed in life. And that is one thing I am assured of that my mom will do anything to make sure my sister and I are also successful in life. Some things that I wish for my mom as she celebrates her 50th are obviously more money so we can travel a lot, and for her to have the best birthday ever. I also wish for my mom to have many years and for God to bless her with anything that she’s asked for; because to me, she deserves it. My mom works very, very hard. I love my mom so very much. She is the best gift ever. Mom, I can’t wait to spend your special day with you and party hard. Thank you for being an awesome mother to me. when she puts her mind to doing something, she does everything in her power to do it and do it with excellence. I love you, Mom. Kweku! “ Insert: Kweku, Mother’s Day 2021 38 The Birthday Journal

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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum, Accra Disney Cruise, Bahamas Snorkeling in Hawaii Black Star Square, Accra Hollywood Walk of Fame, Los Angeles Coca Cola Headquarters, Atlanta

Vacation ‘R’ US The Big Island of Hawaii Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

CAREERAND IMPACT 42 The Birthday Journal

Scan here to learn more about Akosua’s Impact in the world. 43 The Birthday Journal

My career journey began in May 1995 as an intern in the Joy FM newsroom under the leadership of News Editor Fred Chidi. It was an amazing opportunity and a great experience to be part of a group of pioneer employees of the radio station in Ghana. After my one year internship, I was hired as a full-time broadcast journalist working alongside other seasoned journalists in the newsroom – covering local, regional and national news. It was an honor to be one of the pioneers and to be working with the likes of Gabby Adjetey, Samuel Atta-Mensah, Eugenia Appiah, Fred Chidi, Ivy Heward-Mills, the late Komla Dumor, Doreen Andoh, Ashiokai Akrong and a host of others. In early 2000, when I migrated to the United States, I wanted to pursue my passion in media. Unfortunately, certain cultural barriers and other circumstances prevented me from pursuing my dream job and that led me to enroll in a US college to pursue another degree this time in Professional Communication and Public Relations. After graduating from college, I made a career pivot with an opportunity to work for a Minnesota-based Fortune 100 retail company for 13 years in a variety of roles in Internal & Corporate Communications, Change Management & Organizational Effectiveness, Supply Chain, Finance, among others. After my children grew older, I decided to focus on building my career. I needed my children to appreciate me as a career mother. Fearful as it seemed at that time, I shook up all fear and launched into moving up the ladder in terms of my career. I took up the challenge, looking for bigger and better opportunities which caused me to switch jobs as I delved into working for a Fortune 500 retail & technology company in Minneapolis , where I pursued my new-found career in Organizational Development and Change Management for 7 years, after which I was promoted to a role leading Strategic Initiatives for the company’s Inclusion, Diversity & Equity [ID&E] function. A position in which I have championed and supported a successful redesign of the company’s Inclusion, Diversity & Equity capability based on learnings, industry trends, talent needs and external market competitiveness. Working girl 44 The Birthday Journal

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Formed; She was in June in the Disco Seventies when neon lights strobed the night life making it crazy and frenzied, and in the eon where ‘fros were a signature hairdo and Bell bottomed men swept the surface of the city, unknowingly Made; She was in Ghana aka the Coast of Gold in an era where the magnitude of womenfolk kept the furnace warm as they waited for their Men to bring home the bread they have won; In that period where only a handful of women ventured to step on their soapbox and express themselves. Made; She was through Gloria, a Fantini Ewuraba whose veins music pulsed as she ruled the night sitting astride El Paso and an Akwaipim krakyi, David who’s dexterity with the microphone was a marvel. Together; The Fantini And Akwaipim seems to have halved and meshed themselves in her thereon. Thus, she grabs the mic and her voice sans effort amplifies her on any space, huge or tiny. She hears Music and can’t sit still A Gemini; She landed on earth on the Sun’s Day. An Akosua! Christened Judy and identified as a Larbi, who tottered through Tema, made footprints in Akosombo, and Journeyed through the Arches of Bishop Porters, to being acclaimed Beautiful to Broadcasting with JOY Then; America swallowed her as she bites into Burgers and toss Salads. But. Not quite Because Her tongue still relishes and curls around morsels of fufu, banku and it’s Spicy accompaniments and the culture that brewed her. Dipping into love, She became a Mrs to an Osei. wading through a solitary barren patch for 7 years till on a threshold of total supplication on God’s altar, sprung in her a Heart & a Soul Who confound and stun her Stamping on her Prayerworks A label Akosua revels in Today; @ Half a century years old, having trudged out of her valleys and elevated herself to enjoy stunning views Akosua Buys Best Focuses on Prayer How amazingly it works as she embraces God’s immense goodness Here’s to Judy Akosua Prayerworks Larbi, a Child of God. A Phenomenal Woman. An idealist. A Mother. A loyal friend. An advocate. A Chill Chic, with a heart for charitable causes and a voracious appetite for Culture. And Perfection Ntology23 46 The Birthday Journal

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PASSIONS AND BONDS 49 The Birthday Journal

I could have fed my grief when my Naasei died, but for that indefatigable strength stored up in me (a legacy from my mother), for years later, I started the Naasei Foundation. A way of keeping my son’s memory alive, it all started with my friend Eugenia TakyiMenson, introducing me to one Edith Uyovbukerhi, who dealt with preemie babies. Looking at a picture of a preemie baby wearing a regular sized diaper, I noticed that the diaper was literally bigger than the baby. That was when I decided to launch the Naasei Memorial Foundation in 2015, to distribute diapers to preemie babies in Ghana, starting by asking friends on Facebook to donate free boxes of diapers, which I shipped to Eugeniawhopassed it for distribution through Edith’s Foundation, Little Big Souls. In 2021, in a bid to experience line level relationships with preemie mothers, I started to distribute the diapers myself, something that I strive to do each November during National Prematurity Month. This was at the time my mom had died and so it helped inmygrieving process. I also knew it would be my mom’s wish that I continued the work of giving, which she instilled in me, even in my grief. There was real satisfaction in seeing the joy on the faces of the mothers and seeing the children incomfort.Wedistributed thediapers at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Holy Family Catholic Hospital, Nkawkaw, and a host of others. Naasei Memorial Foundation 50 The Birthday Journal

As I celebrate my 50th milestone birthday this year, I hope to make it a part of my celebration, because the celebration is for the entire year. There is much more that I have achieved, but time and space hinders me, but it all drives towards the fact that I come from a string of strong women, my mother inheriting my grandmother’s strength, and me drawing from hers, for when I look at my mother’s achievements, and juxtapose it with how far I have come, I can clearly agree with the old saying that “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” I have what she had. Resilience. And though I know more challenges would come my way, I would remember that my mother had reached crossroads in her life too, that she had had mountainous challenges, had had sleepless nights over certain issues, but she had surmounted them all. And if my mother could do it, then I can too. And in the words of Abraham Lincoln – “all that I am or ever hope to be, I owe it to my angel mother.” 51 The Birthday Journal

Family 52 The Birthday Journal

53 The Birthday Journal

Weekend mornings on this patch of land in front of Gloria Addison’s El Paso Nite Club in Tema has always been a busy hangout of the local kids. The old nightclub itself has lost its glitz and nightlife, but its front yard is where the kids these days have uninhibited fun in endless games that spontaneously spring up at the sight of the first few kids who show up with a decent soccer ball. This is where Judy Akosua Larbi Osei grew up, and on this long trans-Atlantic flight back home with her twins to visit her mom she wondered what her mom, Gloria would think of her. Mother and daughter look alike and from a distance you will think you are looking at the portraiture of the same person when you look at their pictures at the same age. It’s surreal. Judy has no grand narratives or tales of self-mastery to share about her life, instead she will tell you hers has been an act of faith of a girl who grew up with the simple ambition of making her mother proud. Afterall, her older brother is the revered Ghanaian political activist and journalist Abdul Malik Kwaku Baako whose near-mythical reputation must have been inspiring and overwhelming for his siblings. She slowly pulled the airplane window shade down and dozed off with arrival at Kotoka airport some five hours away. The last of five kids on her maternal side of the family, Judy, her close friends call her Akosua, grew up with two things instinctively serving her well: being tough and being suave in equal measure. Beyond the usual sibling squabbling these traits will later be her shield in journalismand a life in the senior leadership rungs of corporate America. She was born at a time when her mom had just moved the family to Tema and was finishing plans to set up a restaurant and a night club which she would name after El Paso, the Texan frontier city. Tema in the early 70s was still a new city which had been built from the ground up by the Nkrumah government only a decade before. With a modern harbor as the anchor business in the new industrial town, Tema attracted gritty blue-color and itinerant types who needed a water-cooler to socialize. That was El Paso. This is where the young Judy watched her mom fight to carve out space and thrive in the male-dominated entertainment business in Tema. This is where she learned how to use resilience and candor to build character. It served her well as a high school student at Akosombo International and Archbishop Porter Girls in Takoradi. Beyond her good looks, resilience must have been the motivating reason for participating and coming close to winning the 1995 Miss Ghana Beauty Pageant. “My mom participated in a beauty pageant in her days, so I did it to honor her” is always her response when the subject comes up in casual conversations with her friends. After journalism school in 1995 Judy got a job as a news anchor and reporter at Joy FM, one of Ghana’s premier radio stations. The radio job was her first one after some encouragement from her radio jockey dad, David Larbi. It’s hard to tell whether she gets her mastery of public speaking from her dad or the studios of Joy FM. Some of the friendships she made at Joy FM still endure “I catch up with them when in Accra and remain friends with them online” she recalled as she half-giggled through pages of WhatsApp postings from the Joy FM platform. When in the mood, Judy tells some of the funniest newsroom jokes. Some birds are not meant to be caged after five years at JOYFM; Judy moved to Minnesota in 2000. Like most first generation immigrants her life has not been a tidy arrangement of happy milestones. In 2006 she lost her first child Naasei who was born 22 weeks early but hasn’t worn the experience as an invitation to others to lament her loss with her. Instead, she uses her story as an inspiration for other women and couples struggling to start families. As a spiritual person who believes in the timely interventions of God, Judy’s The Akosua I know By Kofi Opare Addo Former pioneer Joy FM Sports Journalist 54 The Birthday Journal

prayers were answered when she had her twins Ekua Osei and Kweku Osei three years later in 2009. Now 13 years old and vibrant, the twins easily tower over her but the glint in her big eyes shows a deep gratitude to God. She is the loudest cheerleader when her kids are playing sport. Watching her pace on the sidelines on gamedays you suspect she doesn’t have the faintest idea about rules of basketball, football, soccer, and volleyball, but compensates that with a mother’s unfailing support; win or lose. Her eyes well up from the anguish of losing Naasei, but in 2015 that grief gave her a new energy and purpose to start a charity that distributes diapers to mothers with premature babies in Ghana. She has relied on the donations of many friends to support hundreds of premature babies from deprived communities in Ghana. “Perhaps I could use charity as a jump off board into philanthropy when I retire” she often says. At 50 though, retirement and philanthropy can hold off in the distance because now the girl from Tema is busy driving Diversity and Inclusion at Best Buy. As a Senior Director for D&I at the Minneapolis based Fortune 500 company, Judy is a pivotal voice in the company’s strategy to manage an expansive pool of employees from all cultures and backgrounds. After many years in the corporate space Judy has not hit her ceiling yet. “I love my job” she quipped quietly as she clicks quickly through a packed calendar to schedule a meeting with a mentee. She still finds time to mentor young people, especially young African kids who buffered by the sacrifices of their first-generation parents often lose perspective under the weight of living up to their parents’ expectation and fitting into American life.” Judy still goes back home to El Paso, but its welcoming ambience left when the family matriarch who created that lively space passed on two years ago. The neighborhood kids still bounce about on the dusty foreground but are probably unaware that this used to be a hub for live-band music and good food. And that brings a mixture of happy memories and sadness which she struggles to shake off whenever she looks at her mother’s faded black and white picture on her wall in her Minneapolis home. As she nears her 50th birthday, Judy holds on to her mother’s words as her own motherhood matures and endures for her twins. “Judy as long as you have God, resilience, love-of-neighbor and life you will be fine.” 55 The Birthday Journal

Happy Birthday Akosua Dr. Hazel Berrard Amuah Akosua is love. Akosua is very loving and familyoriented. She takes her relationships seriously and it’s evident in how she is raising her children. The best memories one ever has is when they are vulnerable. I met Akosua when she came to APGSS (Archbishop Porter Girls Secondary School) in 1990. We got on immediately and our relationship flourished quickly into one of care, truth and fun. We had breakfast together every morning because Akosua wanted to ensure I took my daily medication. Hot doughnuts and milo with Akosua daily in boarding school is definitely a much-cherished memory. She was the entertainment prefect too! Oh my God, if I love Kojo Antwi it’s because Akosua made me. I wish her God’s blessings of peace, joy, prosperity and good health. Kate Addo The one thing I love most about Akosua is her dedication to her kids. Her motherhood journey is very similar to mine, so most of her stories, and actions, have a special resonation with me. My most cherished memories with Akosua were when as young women we would spend half of our student time eating and the other half laughing at little things. I wish her love and laughter. I also wish her many beautiful, happy, healthy, prosperous years. Virginia How do I pick one thing?! I love her passion for people, ensuring that people know what is possible for them. She will make time for anyone to make sure they feel heard and seen. Judy loves her family and will do anything for them. I enjoy hearing her talk about her kids, siblings and friends who are like family. We first met when she joined Best Buy’s Inclusion, Diversity & Equity team. I am not sure how we hadn’t met before but Judy is such a blessing to me. God put us together at the perfect time, we needed a friend at work as we were both grieving. She took the time to be a mentor to me, a friend and a leader. I am so proud of the work Judy has done and I know she will continue to flourish at work as well as outside of work. I wish for prosperity, joy, love and kindness. Oh and lots of travel, fun and dancing with family and friends. LOVE YOU! Eugenia Eshun-Baidoo She loves the good things in life and lives her life like there is no tomorrow. My great memories are many, one was in December 2022 in Accra. We spent an afternoon at JamRock catching up on life over good food and great music. My wish for Akosua is that God will continue to bless her and grant all her heart desires. 56 The Birthday Journal

Julie Akosua is a strong person who never allows anything to bring her down. I’ve seen her pull through all her difficult moments and conquer every one of them. Akosua will never hear music and sit quietly in a corner, so you can imagine the fun we had at Archbishop Porter Girls having her as an Entertainment prefect. Akosua on this special day, I pray the next decade will be filled with love and happiness. I ask that the Lord will bestow upon you special heavenly grace, and I pray that the Lord will give you multiple portions of all your support and effort to enrich the lives of others. Have a fabulous one and cheers to another 50 years. Kwabena Akoto Akosua has an expressive and inquisitive mind. Her love for her family, interesting travel destinations and support for her closest friends is truly remarkable. Her drive and passion for supporting premature babies in Ghana are also truly profound. Her free spirit and kindness are what make her an amazing friend. Akos, you and I share many similarities. We both have girl/boy twins. Our fathers were best friends for almost 50 years straight from Adukrom. Our birthdays are a day apart from each other in June. Congratulations on elevating to the 5th floor. I wish you an abundance of blessing, grace and happiness beyond this year. Elizabeth Addai One thing I love about Akosua is her love for pictures. Akosua, on this special milestone, I wish you a long and happy life. Milly K Akosua, you have such a kind heart and generous spirit. Your compassion and empathy for others is truly inspiring! Turning50 is a time to reflect on all the amazing things you’ve done, and to look forward to the incredible adventures that are ahead. Here’s to a happy and healthy 50th birthday! Louisa Asiedu-Phillip Akosua is a happy and positive person, she creates a good vibe around people. Memories I have with Akosua were from way back in school. I was running late to the dining hall and forgot to take Akosua’s plate. YESU! The punishment l received. My wish for you and your next decade is to continue to be who you are. Akua Ahenkorah What I love about her is her positive outlook on life. I recall with great joy the moment she said yes to being Baby Myla’s Godmother. I wish her great health and for God to bless everything Akosua touches in Jesus’s name. Clemencia She is caring and loyal. You can count on her to be there for you. Lovely memories, the purple party when we were at Joy FM many moons ago. We even had themed parties then before the year 2000. I wish you more blessings, good health and abundant grace. 57 The Birthday Journal

Rosemary Larbi What I love most about Akosua is her tenacity, resilience, and can-do attitude. These are truly admirable qualities that have helped her through some of life’s most difficult challenges. It’s inspiring to see how she’s been able to face and overcome so many obstacles, from the loss of her baby to the end of her marriage, and the passing of her parents. Through it all, Akosua has shown incredible strength and determination. She never gave up, even when things seemed impossible or too much to bear. Especially after her mum passed and she willed herself to live for her, “Heart and Soul.” In the face of adversity, Akosua has remained steadfast and focused, willing herself to stand tall and push through until she could find a better place. Her ability to pick herself up and keep going is truly remarkable. Even in the midst of her struggles, Akosua has remained compassionate and caring, showing love and support to those around her. She may have stumbled from time to time, but the crown never fell. She never lost sight of her goals or her desire to make things better. In short, what I love most about Akosua is her unwavering spirit, her determination to overcome any obstacle, and her unbreakable resilience. She truly is a remarkable person, and it’s an honor to celebrate her. When my father-in-law passed, Judy and I were tasked with organizing the Sunday lunch. As the two of us set up the tables and chairs, we were both feeling a little nervous about how everything would go. I knew that this was an important occasion and that I wanted to make sure everything went smoothly. Judy (Akosua had to leave JJ and me to finish off as she was needed at the church) little did I know what was in store for me! When it was time for everyone to sit down and eat, I suggested that everyone should help themselves. The people of Apredi seemed thrilled with this idea and started piling their plates high with food. Some even took more than one plate and produced bags to empty the 2nd and 3rd plates into!!! Akosua’s expression of shock was priceless. She came looking for me when she heard “ the eat-all-you-can buffet “ was my idea. I vanished from her vision. She quickly took charge of the situation, telling everyone to only take what they could eat and reminding them that there were others who needed to eat as well. It was like watching a superhero in action! In my case, I was peeping from my hiding place. When she had everything under control, and the eating went on, I bravely appeared. Akosua and I exchanged looks of amusement and disbelief as the people of Apredi ate their fill. It was like a feeding frenzy at a zoo! Afterwards, when everything had settled down, Akosua turned to me and said, “Lesson learned. Never underestimate the appetite or the nonsense of the people of Apredi!” The memory of that day still brings a smile to my face. It was a moment of laughter and fun in the midst of a difficult time, and it’s a memory that I will always cherish. May the coming years be filled with good health, happiness, and peace. May she continue to grow in strength and wisdom, and may she find joy in all that she does. May she find success and fulfillment in her personal and professional endeavors, and may she always have the support of her loved ones. I hope that Akosua will have many wonderful experiences and create cherished memories with her family and friends. May she have the opportunity to travel to new and exciting places and explore new cultures. Dearest Judy. Happy 50th birthday! May the next decade be the best one yet. Ivy Heward-Mills I love her vivacious personality! There’s nothing more beautiful than a woman who wears her values, joy, faith and confidence unashamedly. That’s Akosua!! Countless!!! Countless fun memories of cracking inappropriate jokes off-air in the studios of Joy 99.7 FM and laughing hysterically before Akosua would read the news impeccably like nothing of that nature happened just seconds before! Countless awesome memories enjoying fufu at Heavy Do and countless beautiful moments on the rare occasions we get to catch up on her visits to Ghana. 58 The Birthday Journal