MyNewsGh.com has dug into the inside of a story that is going viral after the death of a principal actor in it- Barbara Blackwell who was the daughter of Grace Coleman, a Deputy Minister of Finance and MP under the John Kufour administration.
Barbara Coleman Blackwell was buried on Friday 10th September 2021 after she passed in late August.
The inside report which led to Barbara’s imprisonment, sickness, divorce and death has touched many people. However, Ama Owusua also had a story which she reported to authorities when after she managed to retrieve her seized passports and denied the wages she was promised before she left Ghana.
Margaret Ama Owusua is a relative of Barbara Blackwell all from a village behind Effidause Asokore. Ama was brought to the US for six months to assist in Nanny care for Barbara but later testified against Barbara, causing the US authorities to charge Barbara and her husband with enslavement.
Ama Owusua said Barbara and her husband made her work around the clock seven days a week, taking care of the couple’s young daughter and son, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry and raking leaves, and never paid her for her labour.
Dramatically fighting back tears at several points in her testimony, Margaret Owusuwaah testified in federal court in Greenbelt that Barbara Coleman-Blackwell, 33, an accountant, and her husband, Kenneth Blackwell, 37, piled on so much work that she had no free time for herself, enslaving her against her wish.
Ama Owusuwaah who was 44, testified that she was often ordered to clean up after Blackwell vomited and had to remove Coleman-Blackwell’s shoes from her feet as she reclined on a sofa or chair. She also said that Coleman-Blackwell arranged for her to care for the children of five of her friends and kept almost all the money the friends paid for her services.
The US authorities quickly roped in mother of Barbara Blackwell, Grace Coleman who was a Deputy Minister in Ghana and asked for the Kufour government to extradite her to he charged. The government refused but she was sacked as a minister. The reason she was wanted in the US was because she facilitated the US visa for Ama Owusua to go and assist Barbara Coleman with nanny duties.
The Blackwells went on trial in U.S. District Court accused of bringing Owusuwaah to the United States illegally and enslaving her as an unpaid domestic servant.
Barbara’s mother, Grace Coleman, a former deputy finance minister of Ghana, was charged with arranging to bring Owusuwaah — her cousin from a poor village — to the United States under false pretenses and with forced labour. The situation caused so much embarrassment to Grace Coleman that she died in 2009 at the age of 66 with her daughter still in prison at the time.
Barbara and her husband were charged with abusing Owusuwaah from February 2000, when she came to the United States and began living with the Blackwells, until July 2001, when she ran away, way above her 6-month visa stay.
MyNewsGh.com sighted opening statements in which attorneys for Barbara and her husband said Owusuwaah was not an abused domestic servant, but a family member who wanted to come to the United States. They said she voluntarily took care of the Blackwells’ daughter, Kendra, who was born in 1997, and helped with household chores.
“She asked to come to the United States to help with Kendra,” said Boniface K. Cobbina, Coleman-Blackwell’s attorney.
But testifying through a translator, Ama Owusuwaah said Barbara arranged for her visa and told her she would be paid $150 a month for taking care of their baby.
After working for about two months without payment, Owusuwaah testified, she asked for her wages. Barbara called her mother (Grace Coleman) and handed the phone to her Ama Owusua to speak.
Grace Coleman angrily told Ama Owusua that if she ever raised the issue of her pay again, she would ask the Ghanaian embassy to immediately bring her back to Ghana and she would be locked up when arrives at Kotoka Airport.
Many times, Ama Owusua said, Barbara ordered her to clean up after Blackwell vomited. “When he vomits, Barbara calls me to clean. Sometimes she calls me while I’m eating, and I can’t eat any more,” she told the court as sighted in documents MyNewsGh.com accessed.
Owusua said her passport was seized when she arrived in the US and in July 2001, she found her passport inside the pages of a magazine in a closet and ran away to the home of a friend of Barbara who had been nice to her. The rest is history.
The Judge, Williams sentenced Barbara’s husband to to six months of home detention and three years’ probation. Judge Williams found the evidence showed that Barbara Coleman-Blackwell was more culpable than Kenneth Blackwell, her husband.
A relative of Barbara Blackwell wrote on Twitter that: “Barbara never saw her house or set foot there again from the day she was arrested. From detention to court to jail for 5 years then straight to airport to Ghana with only the clothes she had on her back.”
He added: “Ama and her family got their karma. She and her husband are now both blind and she had a stroke that has left her paralyzed and bedridden in the states”.
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