BIOGRAPHY – JOSHUA KINGSLEY KWAO ANIM
Come unto me all ye who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
Joshua Kingsley Kwao Anim aka Paa J, Ray Charles, was born in Osu, Accra to Helena Azu (a business woman, political activist Entrepreneur) and Mr Henry Baah Anim a Magistrate, both deceased.
At age 5, Paa J as he was affectionately called, apparently followed his older brothers to the shops for bottled soda water which ended up breaking. How the pieces of glass got into his eyes, nobody knows but the accident left him with a complete sight loss at that tender age.
Despite this setback, his parents had great plans for him and enrolled him in the Specialist school for the blind (Akropong Blind School) where he had his formal basic education. He learned to read and write in Braille which equipped him tremendously.
He led a normal life just like his siblings and wasn’t allowed to think that disability was inability. With no sight, Paa J used his other senses of touch, hearing and smell to identify everyone. No one could sneak past him. Shake/hold his hand and out popped your name without one saying a word. His many nieces and nephews couldn’t understand how he could describe or take pictures of them; what they never knew was he got others to describe the picture or person in detail. His retentive memory served him well.
His mother pulled all political, religious and educational strings; in fact, any string she could muster including seeking healing from well-known preachers. There was no crusade his family didn’t attend spanning the length and breadth of Ghana and beyond. However, physical healing didn’t come in the way we all expected, but God directed them to no less a person than the 1st President of Ghana, Dr Kwame Nkrumah of blessed memory who ensured Joshua’s voluminous books and Braille equipment were imported which aided effective learning. Some of us learnt to use the braille alphabet out of curiosity!
His secondary education was in a different environment, a state school, Labone Secondary School for sighted students - he competed from a disadvantaged position, but this did not deter him.
He continued his ‘Advanced’ level education at the renowned Achimota School (formerly The Prince of Wales College).
He was still quite young when his son Alex was born in 1962.
His beloved mother died in a tragic accident in 1965. His older sister, Theodora, took over from their mother. Paa J helped out on school holidays and excelled in whisking eggs (manually) for cakes in those days. Their late mum was also a confectioner - another role his sister took on.
Paa J had a great sense of humour influenced by various friends and life events. Those of us who were his "eyes" and went everywhere with him, remember the jokes he shared; one would completely forget his disability then. We thought he could’ve been a comedian. He drew people to him like a magnet – he was never short of friends and company.
Paa J had an opportunity to attend a conference for the blind in the then West Germany. He informed his family but sought blessings from his maternal uncle, affectionately called (Broda) who tried to dissuade him from travelling due to his disability.
Paa J’s 1st cousin, James, overheard the conversation between them and recounted that until that day hadn’t heard the word ‘bleak’ when Paa J used that word to assert himself thus:
‘Broda’, oha nii'ɛ efee BLEAK eha mi ee. To wit you’ve
made this look bleak for me
BUT I WILL GO. End of story.”
Such determination, knowledge, academic brilliance and intelligence rarely witnessed in a “handicapped” young man who, not only took no for an answer, but taught a younger person what the word “bleak” was. A word that he Joshua might have used to best describe this pandemic!
Another maternal uncle, Papa and others ended up financing his trip.
From the Conference Paa J headed for London where he settled and pursued a Degree Programme in Social Work at The London University. He worked in his chosen field as a social worker.
Paa J had an enquiring mind - the many questions he asked during visits or calls. He could recall incidents long forgotten by others. He could navigate the London Underground and directed some of us! He was a fountain of knowledge many of us will miss.
He dabbled in local politics and became a Councillor here in Lambeth where he helped many people who approached him, until series of strokes robbed him of some of his independence. He was moved into a purpose-built flat to enable him live independently.
As fate would have it, Paa J met and married Esther Sackey. His immediate family made up of his Sister Theodora, Abigail Tagoe and her children supported him at their wedding.
His health continued to fail in the last decade or so with various setbacks, which ended on 22nd April 2020.
Paa J leaves behind Esther, son Alex, Grandchildren and great-grandchildren and many friends and family.
Upon hearing of Paa J’s death, a friend from his Achimota school days wrote this:
“Fare thee well Ray Charles, Joshua Anim. You were one of a kind. Witty with an elegant turn of phrase. Friends from our school days at Achimota where you had a room dedicated for your special needs. We connected again in London and spent many a joyous Sunday afternoon at Collingham Gardens. Then in Brixton when you became a councillor at Lambeth. Heard you were unwell. Rest in perfect peace in the Lord."
“Sorry to hear about a big brother and a friend. We were together in Stannard Hall, in the late 70s,early 80s, which was a London University Hall of Residence in Camberwell. He was very popular with all the students in those days and in times of trouble counselled all of us. Great memories.”
After waiting patiently for physical healing, Paa J finally heard Jesus of Nazareth passed by him on 22 April declaring what a hymn writer penned which summed up his challenges in the 3rd verse of this hymn:
Jesus! ‘tis He who once below
Man’s pathway trod,‘mid pain and woe;
And burdened ones, where’er He came
Bro’t out their sick, and deaf, and lame, The blind rejoiced to hear the cry:
Jesus of Nazareth passeth by.
Paa J, your family and friends near and far say
Yaa yɛ hejɔlɛ mli
Kɛ yaashi beeyinɔ ni wɔbaa kpe ekonn.