Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

April 27, 2017
by Catherine Onyemelukwe

Legacies of Biafra Conference

Legacies of Biafra

I had a wonderful time in London. Legacies of Biafra, Reflections on the Nigeria-Biafra War 50 Years On, was an exciting and well-presented conference.

Yvonne and friend with me outside our hotel.

Yvonne and friend with me outside our hotel.

Louisa Egbunike and Yvonne Mbanefo were the principal organizers. Unu mere nke oma! (You did well!)

I took the Heathrow Express from the airport to Paddington on Thursday evening. I climbed into a taxi by 9 pm. Louisa was just returning from SOAS to the Tavistock Hotel as I got out. She invited me to join her and her friends for a late supper at the Indian Restaurant in the hotel.

SOAS was just two blocks away. On Friday morning I went to the panel, “Writing Biafra.” Dominique Otigbah presented “Remembering and Misremembering.” A frequent assumption is that the Igbo people were the only group involved in Biafra. But she said it’s important to remember the role of minorities. Others made similar comments.

Panel audience

Powering Biafra

My panel, “Real Life Accounts of the Nigeria-Biafra War,” was at 11 am. The audience seemed to appreciate my paper “Powering Biafra, One Key Actor.” I described my husband’s role during the war. During the Q&A, a woman in the front row mentioned her hometown Nanka.

Kate is from Nanka and remembered following me around during the Biafran War.

Kate is from Nanka and remembered following me around during the Biafran War.

After the session she approached the table where I was selling my memoir. “You said you’re from Nanka. My husband is also from Nanka. I was there during the war,” I said.

She looked at the memoir and my name, looked at me again, and exclaimed, “You’re the one!”

“What do you mean?” I said.

“During the war we children followed you around in the market, calling out, ‘See the white woman who speaks Igbo.'” I told her she could read all that in my memoir. She bought it!

In fact I sold all 12 copies. One person even paid for two more which he’ll pick up from us in Westport, CT!

My favorite plenary session was “Tim Modu, in conversation with Philip Effiong II.” They knew each other 50 years ago. Tim’s father was Biafra’s Vice President. Philip’s father was Chief of General Staff of Biafra.

Tim Modu in conversation with Philip Effiong

Tim Modu, left, in conversation with Philip Effiong

Tim has a large stash of letters of his father’s, some of them from Philip’s father. He read from a couple that showed the deliberate and careful planning during the war.

Philip Effiong as Chief of Staff was an example of the important role of minorities. He was not Igbo, but Ibibio, a different tribe, different language.

“Shrine” to Legacies of Biafra

At the center of the stage was a collection, like a shrine. Yvonne Mbanefo explained the elements. There were candles for memories of those lost in the conflict. A bicycle tire with photos attached was in the display. So many people relied on bicycles to get around.

The "shrine" on the stage at the conference

The “shrine” on the stage at the conference

There was a bowl and ladle to remind us that food was used as a weapon of war. I found the short-wave radio the most evocative. Like so many people in Biafra, we huddled around the radio to get the latest news of the war. Even when we suspected that Ojukwu was not completely truthful about Biafran losses, we listened avidly.

At the top of the make-shift shrine was the hat belonging to Philip Effiong, His son assured us it was the real thing!


On January 8, 1970, the Head of State of Biafra, Odumegwu Ojukwu, fled the collapsing country, leaving Effiong to become Head of State. After wide consultation, Effiong announced the end of the war. He surrendered to President Gowon a few days later, saying

“I, Major-General Phillip Efiong, Officer Administering the Government of the Republic of Biafra, now wish to make the following declaration: That we affirm that we are loyal Nigerian citizens and accept the authority of the Federal Military Government of Nigeria. That we accept the existing administrative and political structure of the Federation of Nigeria. That any future constitutional arrangement will be worked out by representatives of the people of Nigeria. That the Republic of Biafra hereby ceases to exist.”[1]

I heard the news that night in my apartment in Cincinnati. I had not heard from Clem for many days. You can imagine my relief when I got his letter a few weeks later. He was safely back in Lagos.

“Save Biafra” Buttons

A year ago my friend and Peace Corps colleague Jim sent me several “Save Biafra” buttons. What better place to take them than to the Legacies of Biafra conference!

I wore one on my name tag. A woman sitting next to me in a plenary session admired it. I sold her one for two pounds! I gave one to the organizers for the Legacies of Biafra exhibition in 2018. They are collaborating with the Nigeria Art Society UK.

I gave the final one to Tim Modu.

Half of a Yellow Sun, Adichie's novel of Biafra

Half of a Yellow Sun, Adichie’s novel of Biafra

A Final Pleasure

On Saturday afternoon I took time off from the conference to meet up with our niece Comet. She’s been living in London since she was a child. She rides her bicycle everywhere!

We found a coffee shop nearby. Afterwards I took her into the conference with me for the expected video greeting from Chimamanda Adichie, author of Half of a Yellow Sun, that takes place during the Biafran War.

They had decided to Skype instead. There were technical problems. In the end Chimamanda was only visible to the person on stage with her laptop. She turned it around for a minute. It was a small screen in a big auditorium!

But we could all hear Chimamanda say she would come to the London conference next year. This year she was the keynote at another Biafra conference in Washington DC.

April 19, 2017
by Catherine Onyemelukwe

Combating Boko Haram

Can Boko Haram Be Defeated?

My friend Laura sent me this excellent 2 and 1/2 minute video from the Carter Center. The speaker, Dr. Fatima Akilu, “is a university educator and an advocate for marginalized groups working in the area of psychology and health for more than two decades,” according to Jason Parker at the Carver Center. She speaks about combating Boko Haram.

She has worked with Nigerian government. I read that she uses, “a multi-pronged approach to countering violent extremism (CVE).” There is work in prisons to ‘deradicalize’ prisoners, efforts to build community resilience, and a strategic communications. She designed Nigeria’s CVE program.

My friend Laura with Senator Murphy

My friend Laura with Senator Murphy

The video clip from 2016 relates her conversation with Connecticut Senator Christopher Murphy. He serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Dr. Akilu was at the Carver Center as part of the Forum on Women Religion, Violence and Power.

She says the U.S. continues to place an emphasis on the military approach to combating terrorism. But it is not succeeding. Combating Boko Haram, she says, requires engagement on the ground. She says ideological engagement can help young people understand that Boko Haram is anti-Islam.

Educational opportunities, a change for a livelihood, and psycho-social support are all part of her solution.  Her organization has helped 100’s of women and girls. She says, with greater “peace-building efforts, we would save a whole generation.”

Another Powerful African Woman

Yesterday’s Google Doodle also featured an African woman. Esther Afua Ocloo  started “Ghana’s first food processing factory in 1942.” She needed money and began making jam to sell.

NPR has a story about her life and her impact.

From her desire to help other women get into business as she had done, she began making small loans.

“That’s how Women’s World Banking was born,” NPR says. She cofounded the organization in 1976. The loans maybe as small as $50.

You can watch a really quick video here. The video also explains the Google Doodle. Do you look at them?

Legacies of Biafra2017 Legacies of Biafra

I leave very early Thursday morning for London. I’m attending the Legacies of Biafra Conference. There is a film tomorrow evening but I won’t arrive in time. So I’ll go on Friday morning. The panel I’m on Real Life Accounts of the Nigeria-Biafra War is Friday morning at 11 am.

The paper about Clem is ready. It’s long, too long to read all, so on the flight tomorrow I’ll draft a shorter version.

It will be hard to decide what to leave out. But I’ll have to make choices. I’d like to have between 1500 and 1800 words; right now it’s over 3000!

Here are my first few paragraphs.

An Unsung Hero

The dream of Biafra was built on the hard work of many individuals. The war heroes and political leaders are known; their stories have been written. The technical people who worked behind the scenes are not known. Their stories haven’t been told. One of those key actors was my husband, Clement Onyemelukwe. This is his story.

Flag of Biafra - The Rising Sun

Flag of Biafra – The Rising Sun

Like so many people in Biafra, he and I were both changed by the experience. For me, my year of immersion in his village brought me closer to his extended family, improved my Igbo-speaking ability, and gave me deep knowledge of his people’s customs. For him, the two and a half years of struggle to maintain the dream of independence deepened his resiliency and brought him to the belief that determined people could accomplish feats that seemed impossible. He also became convinced of the importance of relying on local resources and local people to achieve success.

When we married in 1964 Clement Onyemelukwe or Clem as I call him, was Chief Electrical Engineer of the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria, ECN. He had returned to Nigeria from the United Kingdom in 1961 as Deputy and advanced to the Chief Electrical Engineer position in 1962, at the age of 30.

At the beginning of 1967 we knew the political situation was fraught. And we knew that a few Igbo people, colleagues and acquaintances, no longer felt safe in Lagos.  But like many other Igbos comfortable in their positions in the capital we had not thought seriously about going to the East. We soothed his worried parents in Onitsha each time they called.

But in May 1967 two events changed the situation. First my friend Carol’s husband fled to the East while she took their children to Ghana. Her departure made me begin to seriously question the wisdom of remaining in Lagos. Second, Pius Okigbo, retired Economic Adviser to the Federal Government, had returned to the East to be Ojukwu’s right-hand man.

He called Clem to tell him he was needed urgently in the Eastern Region. Though secession wasn’t directly mentioned, it was clear this was part of the preparation for an independent country.

Departure for Enugu

Clem still hesitated, but I insisted. We left for Enugu a week later. The Eastern Region government had already established the Statutory Bodies Council to monitor and control all public corporations in the region. Clem was made the Chairman of the Fuel and Energy Committee of that Council, responsible for the Electricity and Coal Corporations.

Clem had his B.Sc. degree in Electrical Engineering from Leeds University. Mechanical engineering was part of his degree course. He had memberships in The British Institute of Fuel and The British Institute of Management, both achieved through training and examinations. He had experience in power stations in UK’s Central Electricity Generating Board, CEGB. He was probably the best qualified engineer in Nigeria, not only in the East.

As Chairman of the Fuel and Energy Committee he dove immediately into the management of the two Corporations even before Biafra declared its independence.

Next time I’ll tell you more. I’ll probably next post on April 27, skipping one Afo week. On April 23 I’ll be flying home from London.

April 15, 2017
by Catherine Onyemelukwe

Missing Girls Three Years Later

Boko Haram Protest

April 15 marks three years since nearly 300 girls were kidnapped from their school in Chibok, northern Nigeria. Most parents are still waiting to hear the fate of their missing girls. They still have hope. On April 14 they protested again in Abuja, the capital.

Boko Haram has been driven back by the military. But suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism continue.

“On Thursday, Nigerian government officials said they were negotiating the release of more of the nearly 200 girls who remain captive. But the government is known for exaggerating its successes against Boko Haram. Officials made the same statement months ago, so the new one generated little optimism among family members,” the NY Times article says.

Will we ever see the missing girls? Can Boko Haram be defeated, or at least rendered less able to inflict harm? Such difficult questions for the Nigerian government and military.

Sustainable Agriculture

My husband Clem was unhappy that I didn’t write more about Kola Masha’s organization and sustainable agriculture. He was concerned that the methods Kola is proposing are capital-intensive, thus driving out the small farmers.

I’ve read several member stories. Half their featured stories are about women. I liked the one about Naomi Michael.

Babban Gona helps the small-scale farmers by supplying low-cost fertilizer and seeds, giving advice, and perhaps most importantly connecting farmers directly to buyers.

They are not advised to change their farming methods to use capital-intensive means. So relax, Clem, they seem to be intent on keeping the small-holders on their farms, just earning more.

Jackie Robinson

I received an email today from Randy, a friend and a member of our Beloved Conversations group that is meeting for eight weeks to address racism.

He said, “If you have a moment today to check in on any baseball game please do. The Mets (this evening) channel 60 and Yankees are on 73 now.

Jackie Robinson and the number 42

Jackie Robinson and the number 42

“For the non-baseball fans all you have to do is watch for a minute or two to note that all the players are wearing #42, Jackie Robinson’s number. It is the only number that has been retired across baseball and only worn every April 15th, today, the day 70 years ago, that Jackie broke into the major league.”

Denny, another friend and member of the other Beloved Conversation group (we have two going on) replied right away. She said, “I was there! Ebbetts Field, Empire Blvd., Brooklyn! With my brother and my Dad!”

I love the history we have in our midst. Denny is in her early 80’s. She has many memories to share. I value every one I hear.

I am definitely in the non-baseball fan category. But I turned on and went straight to Channel 73. I saw all the players with their number 42! The game has just finished with the Yankees winning.

“For the Yankee fans Marino was the last player to be able to wear 42 and when he retired recently no one in the major leagues is allowed to wear 42 except today when everyone does! Homage to Jackie Roosevelt Robinson!”

Thank you, Randy.

Easter and Passover

Do you celebrate Easter or Passover, or both? Our church honors both. On Sunday we’ll celebrate Easter, though we’re not strong on the Resurrection story. Tomorrow morning our choir will sing for both services at the Unitarian Church in Westport. Lots of ‘Alleluia’s.’

My favorite is the Jazz Alleluia by Thomas Benjamin. You can hear it sung by the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Fayetteville, Arkansas on Easter 2010. The video is pretty jumpy but the sound is great.


In honor of Passover our hostess for my Mount Holyoke book group on Monday evening says she is making a flourless meringue.

400 Years of Nigerian History

Clem is in Florida with our daughter Beth and her family. He loves lying on the beach. I don’t. And I needed to stay home to prepare for the first session of my class on 400 Years of Nigerian History at the Fairfield Bigelow Center for Senior Activities on Monday.

Olaudah Equiano 1747 to 1797

Olaudah Equiano 1747 to 1797

The slides I used two years ago for the class at Norwalk’s Lifetime Learners needed updating. I also wanted to get a single color theme. No, the history hasn’t changed, but I rearranged the sections to take out most of pre-1600 history and expand the information on the period from 1600 to 1800.

I’m including Olaudah Equiano, a freed slave who came originally from Nigeria. He bought his freedom from a Quaker master. He became active in the abolitionist movement in England in the late 1700’s. I knew his story a little, but had to do some research. I love Wikipedia which has a great article about him.

Mother’s Day Gift

My memoir Nigeria Revisited My Life and Loves Abroad is available at Fairfield University Bookstore on the Post Road in Fairfield CT. It would make a lovely Mother’s Day gift. Of course you can also buy it online at Amazon in print or Kindle edition.

April 11, 2017
by Catherine Onyemelukwe

Bridge Building

Bridge Building

Krista Tippet of On Being talked about bridge building.

Krista Tippet of On Being talked about bridge building.

Early Sunday morning I listened to Krista Tippett’s On Being. She was interviewing Matt Kibbe and Heather McGhee who come from opposite ends of the political spectrum but have a commitment to bridge building.

“He’s a libertarian who helped activate the Tea Party. She’s a millennial progressive leader,” Krista says. “They are bridge people for this moment — holding passion and conviction together with an enthusiasm for engaging difference.”

She asks them to talk about how they developed this sensibility to others’ opinions that leads to bridge building.

Heather McGhee, President of Demos

Heather McGhee, President of Demos

Heather McGhee grew up on the South Side of Chicago. Her mother was a holistic healer in a time before that was popular, and Heather was a vegetarian. “Nobody wanted to trade school lunch with me,” she said.

She became part of a family with white people when her father remarried. She says, “expanding the notion of family across race was probably a pretty formative early event.”

Matt Kibbe says, “My dad was constantly being transferred from one dying Rust Belt factory to another. He was pro-Reagan before it was cool. And we had some interesting conversations because . . . I discovered Ayn Rand and libertarian ideas.”

Matt Kibbe, President and Chief Community Organizer of Free the People.

Matt Kibbe, President and Chief Community Organizer of Free the People.

He says it was difficult to find people that he could talk to about ideas. “And one of the reasons I’m such a romantic about technology and social media is I think it’s the great equalizer.”

Heather sums up their outlook well. She says they need to do two things: “. . . to embrace the limitless possibilities of technology and reaffirm the limitless possibilities of another human being that you’re next to in a room. And that is all the more important when the people that you might be next to in a room are different than you. How fascinating and interesting and bottomless that degree of knowledge could be.”

Krista leads them further into conversation about community and their differing views. Matt Kibbe says, “I’ve [made] this really wild discovery that it’s really hard to hate someone that you’re talking to face-to-face!”

I think my favorite line is his. He says, “Because the way we’re safe in society is not by buying more guns. It’s by counting on your neighbor not to hurt you.”

I’m cheering as I write this! You can listen to the podcast or read the transcript at the website.

More Bridge Building

30,000 women held hands around the 6 miles (9.7 km) perimeter of the base, in protest against the decision to site American cruise missiles there, Dec. 1982

30,000 women held hands around the 6 miles (9.7 km) perimeter of the base, in protest against the decision to site American cruise missiles there, December 1982

Then I got to church to sing with the Chamber Choir. We sang “Building Bridges” from the 1982-83 Greenham Common Peace Camp in England.

Our intern minister Lara Fuchs gave the sermon. She was brilliant as she spoke on “Awakenings.”

She had asked her seminary mentor Rev. Dr. Mark Morrison-Reed how to relate to racism. He told her to look around her. She was amazed by what she found in her two homes, Canada and Switzerland, the admired icons of “maple syrup and quality watches.”

She found the museum in her home Winnipeg that shows Canada’s horrific treatment of aboriginal people.

She saw the Swiss who refused to let Muslims build mosques because they would disturb the idyllic scenery.

Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg

Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg

Her ‘awakening’ was her discovery of her own privilege and the insidious nature of racism. With this knowledge she is now more able to commit to bridge building.

Farming in Nigeria

When I was browsing Twitter the other night I saw a post about farming in Nigeria. I noticed its approval of farming as a way to combat extremism. I re-tweeted it.

Then I noticed the person in the photo. I could only see the upper part of his face, but I knew immediately it was Kola Masha!

Kola is the son of our friends. His mom Glenda was American, a musician, and a fellow Nigerwife.

Kola Masha just won the Skoll Award.

Kola Masha just won the Skoll Award.

Kola heads “an agriculture focused, African impact investing firm,” called Doreo Partners.

But the posting in Twitter was about Babban Gona, his other organization, that supports small-scale farmers. He just won “the $1.25 million Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship 2017,” for this work to encourage agriculture.

The award is for business leaders “whose organisations are having social impact.” His award and his organization were the subject of an article in Thomson Reuters Foundation News.

“Low yields and lack of market access trap many smallholder farmers in poverty and drive young people into cities in the hope of finding jobs, putting them at risk of being lured by extremists, said Kola Masha, managing director of Babban Gona.”

“We’re trying to solve this challenge by helping to build thousands of grassroots level farmer cooperatives and supporting each member with services they need to be highly productive commercial farmers,” Masha said.

He believes that millions of people could be attracted to farming if they had the necessary support. This would be good for challenging the attraction of extremism, for the Nigerian economy, and for the farmers themselves.

Igbo Conference Next Week

Next Thursday I will go to London for the 6th Annual Igbo Conference at SOAS, the School of Oriental and African Studies, at the University of London.

Are you near? Come on Friday to hear my presentation on “A Key Actor in Biafra.”


April 7, 2017
by Catherine Onyemelukwe

Let There Be Light

Solar Power in Africa

Kieran Guilbert writes for Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Kieran Guilbert writes for Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Kieran Guilbert is based in Dakar, Senegal, where he is the West Africa Correspondent for the Thomson Reuters Foundation. He wrote about solar power in Africa. As he says, much of Africa is without a regular power supply.

Azuri Technologies has an ‘entry level’ solar system. Customers pay an installation fee. Then they pay by mobile phone or ‘scratch cards’ as they use it. After a period of 18 months to 36 months, they own it.

Nigeria has recently agreed with Azuri to install solar power systems. There is already a pilot program in the north.

Participants in pilot project to use Azuri solar energy in Nigeria

Participants in pilot project to use Azuri solar energy in Nigeria

The system, they say, “can power four LED bulbs, a radio and a USB port with charging cables for mobile phones.

I encourage you to look at the article, if for nothing else than to see the picture of a thatch-roofed dwelling with a solar panel!

“Swapping kerosene for home solar energy can cut African families’ spending on lighting to two percent from nine percent of their household income, according to a 2016 report by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), a UK-based think-tank,” the author says.

Not to mention getting rid of the smell.

“Renewable energy could therefore be key to helping sub-Saharan Africa meet a global goal of providing universal access to electricity by 2030, experts say.”

Wouldn’t that be wonderful!

Literary Light on Nigeria

My memoir teacher Marcelle sent me an article from the online publication “Signature.” The author Keith Rice says that Nigeria seems to be over the decades of political upheaval. Those years included the Biafran War.

“Comprising the largest population in Africa, Nigeria is home to a wide variety of diverse cultures, although, in terms of religion, the population is mostly split between Christians in the south and Muslims in the north,” he says.

Boko Haram remains a challenge. But there is so much more to the country.

Ben Okri's novel The Famished Road is on the list

Ben Okri’s novel The Famished Road is on the list

He says Nigeria has a rich culture of writing. From my days in training as a Peace Corps volunteer in 1962 to today, I have seen amazing works of literature. He says, “The books. . . most by Nigerian authors, represent a cross-section of Nigeria’s strong literary tradition and will hopefully provide some insight into the nation and its cultures.”

Africa’s Giant: the Best Books to Understand Nigeria, lists eleven. Can you guess which before you look?

I’m familiar with all the authors except one. Okey Ndibe I know personally. He is married to the daughter of my friend and fellow co-founder of Nigerwives. He wrote an acknowledgement for my memoir.

Of course Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is on the list with two books.

I’ve read hers, and only one other of the books on Rice’s list. So now my to-read list has grown! I’ll take this list to my book groups and see if each group might select one of the books.

Shining a Light on History and Slavery’s Legacy

Laura Winnick teaches 11th and 12th grade students at a small charter school in Berkeley, California. Her students are black. She is dedicated to helping them understand the history of race in the U.S.

She is described in the article from Beacon Broadside. “A social justice educator, she cares deeply about bringing culturally relevant curriculum, restorative discipline practices, project-based learning, and technology into her classroom.”

Winnick describes her teaching. She says, “We examine: How do race and gender affect our identities? What are the lingering effects of slavery? How are people impacted by their ancestral histories?”

She has her students read Octavia Butler’s Kindred. I was not familiar with the book. Are you? One more to add to my to-read list!

Kindred by Olivia Butler is a popular choice for high school and college students.

Kindred by Olivia Butler is a popular choice for high school and college students.

I learned that it is a frequent choice for high school students as well as for community-wide reads.

Here’s what Wikipedia says. “Kindred is a bestselling novel by American science-fiction author Octavia E. Butler. Part time-travel tale and part slave narrative, it was first published in 1979 and is still widely popular.”

It tells the story of a black woman author who shuttles back and forth between her modern-day life and the plantation where she meets her ancestors and their owners.

“Written to underscore the courageous endurance of people perceived as chattel, Kindred examines the dynamics and dilemmas of antebellum slavery as well as its legacy in present American society,” Wikipedia concludes.

Winnick says that this year, she had her students read the graphic novel adapted from Kindred in addition to the original. They loved it!

After they read, she gave them a travel-based project.

To do it, “they took on the voice of travel guide writers, and ‘advertised’ nineteenth-century Maryland in order to turn advertisement into warning.” The goal, she said, was for students “to distill the details of nineteenth-century Maryland as described by Octavia Butler and make connections between the contemporary moment and slavery’s legacy.”

You can see a few of the completed projects at the Beacon Broadside blog. They are brilliant and forceful expressions of the horrors of slavery and the challenges faced by black people even if they weren’t slaves.

Could we invite students to do something like this for next year’s TEAM Westport essay contest?

Light at the End of the Tunnel for Nigeria’s Economy?

Literature is a positive aspect of Nigerian life. But the economy is not so positive.

President Buhari just announced a new three-year Economic Growth and Recovery Plan.

My husband Clem is not optimistic. He says, “They’ve talked about this over and over and over again until you’re sick of hearing it.” Do you think this time will be different?

April 4, 2017
by Catherine Onyemelukwe

White Privilege: The Winners

White Privilege Essay Winners

Chet Ellis won first prize. Do you think his parents were proud?

Chet Ellis won. He’s standing with Harold Bailey, TEAM Chair, left, Jim Marpe, First Selectman, and Bill Harmer, Library Director, on right.

The three winners of TEAM Westport’s Essay contest on white privilege read their essays to a full house in Westport Library’s McManus Room yesterday evening. They were brilliant!

I was amazed at the sophistication of their writing. I agree with Harold Bailey, our chair, who said at our TEAM Westport meeting this morning, “I was blown away!” And the first prize winner is a high school sophomore!

Chet Ellis’ essay was “The Colors of Privilege.” He wrote about his experience as one of very few African-American students at Westport’s high school.

Chet Ellis won first prize. Do you think his parents were proud?

Chet Ellis won first prize. Do you think his parents were proud?

He was in 5th grade when his family moved to Westport from Manhattan, “where I thought we were upper middle class. I would look up at all the houses bigger than our rental and imagine what life would be like if I were born lighter and richer.”

At that time, he said, “I had no grasp of the deep social issues that had been keeping my people from attaining such heights of prosperity; didn’t yet understand the lack of truly wealthy black residents in my town as indicative of larger social issues. Now as a sophomore in high school, I have a better understanding of the legacy of institutionalized racism. Now I see the history behind the big houses.”

Josiah Tarrant, a Staples junior, won second prize with his essay “White Privilege and Me.” His essay focused on his experience as the white big brother of a black sibling.

Susan Ellis of TEAM chairs the essay contest committee.

Susan Ellis of TEAM chairs the essay contest committee.

He recalled an experience when he was 12 and his brother 6. His mom began searching for an Early Reader book, “featuring a kid that looked like him.”

He said, “I stood next to her and my brother on those visits to libraries and bookstores when we were shown to the ‘slavery section.’ That day marked the beginning of an awareness of how much I had taken my white experience for granted and a realization that things would not be the same for my brother.”

Third prize went to Claire Dinshaw, for “The Privilege of Ignorance.” Clair is a senior at Staples High School.

She began her essay with, “When I was born, I was placed at the top of a predetermined racial hierarchy. . . History textbooks and acclaimed novels told the stories of people like me.”

Judy Hamer of TEAM chairs the panel of judges. She explained the 'rubric' for choosing.

Judy Hamer of TEAM chairs the panel of judges. She explained the ‘rubric’ for choosing.

Near the end of her essay she talked about an issue that TEAM Westport has been addressing for years.

She said, “. . . whereas I have been taught by countless white teachers, non-white Westport residents are forced to contend with the fact that, although research published in The Economics of Education found that test scores increase when a student has a teacher of the same race, Staples High School has only recently hired its first full-time black teacher.”

You can read all three essays at Dan Woog’s blog, 06880, or at Westport Now. You can also see pictures from the ceremony at both, including a gallery of shots of the audience and participants. Thank you, Dan and Gordon.

A Busy April 1

April 1 was my husband’s birthday. Our daughter Beth came with her family to help us celebrate.

Clem with Beth and her husband Kelvin, with one of his presents.

Clem with Beth and her husband Kelvin, with one of his presents.

We had a delightful dinner at Brasitas in Norwalk. Beth had said she wanted plantain. I ran out of time to buy ripe plantain. So the next best was to have it at the restaurant.

We were seated in the room at the back, by ourselves. With a three-year old, that was fine! The staff put a candle on the dessert we ordered. They helped us sing too!

Fairfield University Bookstore Author Event

Earlier in the day I was at the Fairfield University Bookstore for an author event. My publicist Aline was with me. Clem came by for a while. I had just spoken to a woman with a child whose birthday was also April 1.

Aline, left, me, Nancy, right, at Fairfield University Bookstore Author Event

Aline, left, me, Nancy, right, at Fairfield University Bookstore Author Event

I found them so Clem could wish the child a happy ‘twin’ birthday!

Nancy on the bookstore staff was very helpful. She made announcements and encouraged people to come by. I sold a few books.

We had a prize drawing. The winner received a signed copy of my book. I was happy that the winner was someone who had come by earlier. She wasn’t quite ready to part with the money then, though she wanted a copy! So she was really pleased to be the winner.

Museum Exhibit in Berlin

I was intrigued to read about this museum exhibit in Berlin. It’s called German Colonialism Fragments Past and Present. It lies at the intersection of my background in German and my interest in Africa. Indeed, it was teaching German that got me to Nigeria in the first place.

Greeting people at the display table Fairfield University Bookstore

Greeting people at the display table Fairfield University Bookstore

Germany had many colonies in Africa. The division of Africa into parcels ‘given’ to European countries was decided at a conference in Berlin in 1884-5.

But Germany lost its colonies after World War I. So they did not go through the same period of gradually granting independence that others did.

The article in Africa in Words says, “. . . the displays give insight into local dynamics that influenced the course of colonialism: for example, the varied alliances and relationships between local leaders and colonized populations, as well as representatives of colonial administration, military personnel, European explorers, missionaries, and settlers.” The writer says the exhibit is extremely well-documented. It would be interesting, don’t you think?

It will end in May, so there’s no chance I can get there. Maybe it will travel to this country, though I’m not sure who would show it. Is there not a university in the U.S. with serious German scholarship that could host this exhibit?

March 30, 2017
by Catherine Onyemelukwe
1 Comment

Nigerwives and Intersectionality

Nigerwives and Intersectionality

Cornelia Clapp, 1839-1934, Mount Holyoke professor, for Women's History Month

Cornelia Clapp, 1839-1934, Mount Holyoke professor, for Women’s History Month

I read a fascinating interview with a Nigerian writer, Angela Ajayi. Her Yoruba last name interested me. I was also intrigued by the title of the article, “On Cultural Intersectionality and Familial Love.”

Does the word ‘intersectionality’ mean anything to you? I first heard it at the International UU Women’s Convocation. One of the speakers used the term. Is it a new word for connections and meaningful coincidences, or is it more?

The article was on Ainehi Edoro’s blog, Brittle Paper. Ajayi won a prize as an emerging writer.

She won with the story of a Nigerwife who did not stay in Nigeria. The interviewer says,

Your winning story, “Galina,” immerses us in a Ukrainian woman’s relationship with her mother . .  She has ended her marriage to a Nigerian man, has “returned from Nigeria for good,” and has prevented herself from finding love in a second relationship. 

Then she asks,

Galina’s stay in Nigeria is a life of “cultural coagulation that would only result in heartbreak.” Could you tell us more?

The author says,

Without giving away too much of the plot, I’ll say Galina experiences physiological and emotional difficulties while in Nigeria that necessitated such a description. Her relationship with her ex-husband Umaru was unsuccessful, mainly because she couldn’t meet some of the obligations of Nigerian culture.

The interviewer asks why she chose this topic. Ajayi says, “I have always wanted to write about European women like my mother, a Ukrainian, who married African men and moved to African countries. The cultural differences they encountered intrigued me; the character Galina grew out of this intrigue and then later a desire to construct a literary portrait out of this meeting of seemingly disparate cultures.”

I must read the story. The end of the article tells me where to find it. “Read “Galina” in Fifth Wednesday Journal‘s Fall 2016 Issue.

Oxford's Bodleian Library houses papers donated by Nigerwife Barbara Akinyemi

Oxford’s Bodleian Library houses papers donated by Nigerwife Barbara Akinyemi

Nigerwives Papers at Oxford

Nigerwives Lagos Branch published monthly newsletters beginning in the 1980’s. I have sixteen, from 1991 to 2001.

I learned there is a large collection at Oxford Bodleian Library. They were donated by Barbara Akinyemi, an early Nigerwife. The collection also has diaries of her time in Nigeria before she married.

My husband is sure I knew her, and I think I did too, but I can’t picture her. Anyone have a photo?

The editors of the May 1998 newsletter introduced a series of “Profiles of Nigerwives.” Barbara, apparently the oldest Nigerwife at the time, was the first. She went to Nigeria as a nurse in the colonial service in 1947!

Nina Mba wrote the article. She says Barbara, “was the first colonial civil servant to become a Nigerwife.” Barbara’s birthday was celebrated by Nigerwives the next month, when she turned 84. She died a few years later in England.

I wish I’d have time to visit Oxford when I go to England in April for the conference on Biafra. But I don’t. So I’ve written to the staff person at Oxford. She can send me copies. I’ll order a few from years I don’t have. I may use the info in the chapter on Nigerwives. I’ve nearly finished, but could add interesting stories.

Women’s History Month

Steve Clapp, Peace Corps volunteer Nigeria, author, friend, Unitarian

Steve Clapp, Peace Corps volunteer Nigeria, author, friend, Unitarian

Last blog post during Women’s History Month. Instead of choosing someone well-known, I decided to tell you about Cornelia Clapp. I’m choosing her to honor Steve Clapp.

Steve was a Peace Corps volunteer in Nigeria. We became acquainted over the last few years by email, blog, and in person. He died on December 5, 2016 of acute leukemia, within weeks of learning he was ill. His second book, Fixing the Food System, was published just before his death.

When he learned that I was an alum of Mount Holyoke, he delighted in telling me about his relative for whom the Clapp Building was named. He was also, we discovered along the way, a fellow Unitarian.

Steve's book Fixing the Food System, November 2016

Steve’s book Fixing the Food System, November 2016

Cornelia Clapp was an alumna, class of 1871, when the college was still a seminary. She began teaching there in 1872. She was an instructor in gymnastics and mathematics. There’s a piece from the yearbook of 1897 about her.

Wikipedia’s entry about Cornelia Clapp says, “When Mount Holyoke made the transition from seminary to college in 1888, Clapp took a three-year leave in order to obtain a doctorate at the University of Chicago. When she returned to Mount Holyoke, she helped organize the department of zoology, and in 1904 she was named professor of zoology.[10]

Wikipedia also tells me, “Although she was primarily known as an educator and did not author many scientific research papers, she was named in 1906 as being among the 150 most prominent zoologists in the U.S. by the journal American Man of Science.[5]

Clapp Hall at Mount Holyoke College

Clapp Hall at Mount Holyoke College

Don’t you love the name of the journal?

You can read more about the Cornelia Clapp Laboratory, dedicated to her. It was completed in 1924.

In addition to teaching at Mount Holyoke, she was involved in the work at Woods Hole Marine Biological Lab. “She carried on research there, primarily in the field of embryology,” I find at Britannica online.

“She retired as professor emeritus from Mount Holyoke in 1916 but continued for several years to summer at Woods Hole,” Britannica says. She didn’t publish a lot as an academic, but her teaching was legendary. She had an important influence, “to extend scientific knowledge and opportunity to women through education.”

She died in 1934.

Is it ‘intersectionality’ that I write about Clapp because of my Peace Corps connection with Steve, another Unitarian, my daughter had many labs in Clapp, and I blog about Women’s History Month? Enlighten me!

March 26, 2017
by Catherine Onyemelukwe

Denied Visas

Africans Denied Visas

Former Ambassador John Campbell, now at Council on Foreign Relations

Former Ambassador John Campbell, now at Council on Foreign Relations

Former Ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell is part of the Council on Foreign Relations. He blogs about Africa.

He wrote about the African Global Economic and Development Summit that just concluded at the University of Southern California. It’s a conference to promote U.S.-African trade and investment.

Usually, the organizer said, about 40% of the Africans invited are denied visas. That’s bad enough, but this year, “All Africans that had been invited or applied to attend were denied visas, including speakers and African government officials. This included citizens of U.S. partners such as Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and South Africa.”

Hard to have a conference on African-U.S. trade and investment without Africans!

The proposed cut in State Department funding, Campbell says, will make the problem worse. Consular funding which includes handling visas is already “chronically underfunded,” which may mean even fewer people to deal with applications.

His final sentence is really sad. “Many Africans have long believed that the United States discriminates against Africans, as it did against African-Americans for most of its history. Episodes such as the University of South California conference can only re-enforce that view.”

You can sign up to receive his blog posts if you look at the article.

Beloved Conversations

I mentioned the “Beloved Conversation” sessions in a recent post. Today was our 4th of eight. Last week and today we talked about micro-aggression. Are you familiar with the term?

At the International UU Women’s Convocation, as part of the Right Relations team, I spoke about acts of micro-aggression. One white woman touched a black woman’s hair. These women did not know each other. Two other white women asked the black woman if her hair was real.

It seemed that the first white woman thought the black woman’s hair looked interesting; therefore she had a right to touch and ask about it. Who knows what the other two were thinking?

Today our discussion focused on how or whether to intervene when any minority person is confronted by racially offensive comments. Members of the group portrayed three characters. One, an Hispanic woman who had presented a service for the congregation, highlighting her culture. The second, a white ally. And the third, an ‘agitator’ who displayed inappropriate behavior.

Dan, the ‘agitator,’ embraced the presenter, not as a friend but as an ardent admirer of her culture. He spoke over-enthusiastically, “Wow! That was just so amazing,” he said. “Your music just made me want to get up and dance.”

He concluded by telling the presenter, “You know I’m part of our Diversity Committee. We’ve wanted something like this for a long time. You’ve just nailed it for us. We’ve got it.”

Rachel Swarns of NY Times Race-Related

Rachel Swarns of NY Times Race-Related

The woman acting the part of the white ally said, “Do you mean we white people have done our work by observing? Don’t we have work to do ourselves?” She was unable to stop him.

Our discussion of possible actions was lively. What could/should she have done? Could she have just said “Stop! You’re being offensive”? Done nothing? Pulled the Hispanic woman away? What do you think?

Then I came home to find the NYTimes Race-Related weekly email. It included a link to their Facebook video with the header, “How should you respond to racially offensive comments in the workplace and in your community?”

Two NYT reporters John Eligon and Rachel Swarns talked with Madeline Vann, a reader from Virginia who reached out to them in search of a strategy.

I recommend the video. Even if you can’t watch all – it’s about half an hour – watch the beginning. You can also sign up for the email:

Photo-Bombed Dad

Robert Kelly and family from YouTube

Robert Kelly and family from YouTube

Did you see the video of the dad whose kids photo-bombed his extremely serious TV interview? Beacon Broadside published a story about it. “White American South Korean expert Robert Kelly [was] interrupted by his two children while he was in the middle of a live interview on the BBC,” the report said. An Asian woman came in and hustled the children out.

The video was very funny. It went viral. Many responses assumed the woman was the nanny. Some thought she would be fired!

But she’s actually Kelly’s wife. The whole family appeared in a video afterwards.

Lori L. Tharps who wrote the article is an associate professor of journalism at Temple University. She has recently published her fourth book, Same Family, Different Colors: Confronting Colorism in American’s Diverse Families.

She says, “One common problem for families that don’t match, as witnessed by this video, is that the public literally cannot see the familial bond.”

Sojourner Truth, for Women’s History Month

Sojourner Truth, from Digital Afro

Sojourner Truth, from Digital Afro

Rev. Margie Allen introduced me to Sojourner Truth. Margie had a huge poster of this African-American activist abolitionist in her office. I had never heard of her. Have you?

From Wikipedia I see that Sojourner Truth was born in slavery around 1797 in New York State. She escaped with her infant daughter in 1826. “After going to court to recover her son, in 1828 she became the first black woman to win such a case against a white man,” I read.

She took the name Sojourner Truth as she began speaking publicly. In 1851 she spoke at a convention in Akron, Ohio, where she gave, “her famous extemporaneous speech on women’s rights, later known as ‘Ain’t I a Woman.’ Her speech demanded equal human rights for all women as well as for all blacks.”

You can watch a brief biography at

Only one more post during Women’s History Month – who will I feature?

March 22, 2017
by Catherine Onyemelukwe

Conversations About Race

Conversations About Race

"Roots" by Alex Haley

“Roots” by Alex Haley

I was pleased to get an email from my college classmate and friend, Judy. She said, “I’ve just finished reading Roots. I can’t believe I hadn’t read it.  Nor have I seen the series.”

She said, “My daughter remembered that there was controversy about it. . . I wonder if you remember what any fuss was about . . . I’ve thought of you because you span those two continents and I’m sure have thoughts.”

Judy and I talked on Monday. “I do remember reading the book, but I don’t recall the controversy,” I said.

The book came out in 1976. From September 1975 to May ’76 I was in Sacramento working on my Master’s Degree in Education. I’m sure I bought the book to take back to Nigeria with me.

I probably read it that summer as I got resettled. Did controversy come later with the TV series? Do you recall? If so, please tell us.

Between the World and Me

Coates' book, "Between the World and Me"

Coates’ book, “Between the World and Me”

We also talked about Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book, Between the World and Me. It is the ‘class read’ for our reunion in May. Judy is leading the discussion about it. She said that was what led her to other books on Black history and Black issues.

She felt she got a deeper perspective on racial issues from Coates. He conveys so clearly the message that those of us who are white can avoid issues of race if we wish, while people of color cannot.

“Why do we not want to take responsibility for the change, the healing, we need?” Judy said. I wonder that myself. It leads me to conversations about race, including the “Beloved Conversations” we are having at The Unitarian Church in Westport now.

I blogged about Coates’ book in January 2016. Both my book groups read and discussed it.

Kathleen is a member of Baker’s Dozen, one of the groups. She is Black, and an Episcopal priest. She couldn’t come that day but sent a message. She wrote,

Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of "Between the World and Me"

Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of “Between the World and Me”

“Black Americans are undermined, devalued, dismissed, ridiculed, disrespected, subjected to hardships and limitations that others are not. Most profoundly, this web of evil is virtually invisible to those who are not its victims! And so the title of the book is appropriate.  The chasm between those who see and understand (because we are presented with these systemic barriers and challenges and assaults constantly) and those who don’t understand (because, for them, the barriers actually don’t exist and the system works as it should) is profound.

“It is easier to devolve into questions of intent ( I am not intending to be racist) or denial ( I don’t experience it so it’s not there ) or critique of the messenger ( he’s too angry when he speaks of it) or denial ( just because things are hard doesn’t give people license for special treatment) or dismissiveness ( at least blacks aren’t killed in this country by the thousands as in other countries). . .
“And in 2016 as we watch wave after wave of killings of black citizens, and as we watch our brave and good President suffer the disparagement and disrespect at a level that has never been matched, we have a lot to think about. Most importantly it’s my prayer that we will renew our efforts to unmask this evil in all its forms and unravel the sinful and evil effects.”
Thank you, Kathleen.

Madeira and Technology

I follow the blog Africa In Words. They often issue a Call for Papers, or CfP. This one intrigued me.

CfP: Strategic Narratives of Technology and Africa, 1-2 Sept 2017, Madeira, deadline: 1 May 2017

Funchal, the capital of Madeira, an autonomous region of Portugal

Funchal, the capital of Madeira, an autonomous region of Portugal, and site of conference

Why? Because I lived in Madeira with my parents and my two children from September 1968 to May 1969. After that, I visited with my family nearly every summer until 1986.

My mother had died there in 1989. My dad came back to the US and died in Chicago in 1998. In 2004 or so my sister and I went to Madeira to bury our father’s ashes beside our mother.

Madeira is beautiful. I hadn’t thought of it as a place for technology. I don’t know what “Strategic Narratives of Tech and Africa” would be. But going to Madeira would be fun.

I sent the notice to our son Sam who runs a media and entertainment company in Nigeria. Our older son Chinaku advises him on financial and structural issues. Maybe they could present a ‘Strategic Narrative’ together!

Women’s History Month

Today I honor Virginia Apgar, a Mount Holyoke alumna. On LinkedIn a couple of days ago, I read about her.

Virginia Apgar, picture from Mount Holyoke Alum Association via LinkedIn

Virginia Apgar, picture from Mount Holyoke Alumnae Association via LinkedIn

“Virginia Apgar, class of 1929, was the first woman to become a full professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. During that time, she also performed clinical and research work at Sloane Hospital for Women, where she developed the Apgar Score, an assessment for the health of newborn babies.”

I knew her name from my daughter Beth who learned about her in medical school. And I notice that Apgar graduated from Mount Holyoke the same year my mother graduated from Vassar.

Wikipedia tells me that the Apgar score ranges from zero to 10. “The five criteria are summarized using words chosen to form a backronym (Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, Respiration).”

I learned about the test, and I got a new word to boot! A backronym is the opposite of an acronym – an ‘acronym’ created to fit an existing word.

Any nominees for women to honor in the next two posts during Women’s History Month?

March 18, 2017
by Catherine Onyemelukwe

Emily Dickinson and Hope

Honoring Emily Dickinson for Women’s History Month

Poet Emily Dickinson

Poet Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson, 1830-1886, was born in Amherst, Massachusetts. Mount Holyoke College, then called Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, is ten miles away in South Hadley.

Emily attended Mount Holyoke for just one year. Then she returned to Amherst and barely ever left again.

She was a prolific correspondent though. She often sent poems to friends and acquaintances. But very few of her poems were published while she was alive.

After she died in 1886 her family discovered forty hand-bound volumes of nearly 1,800 poems. The first publication of her poetry was in 1890.

The poem I know best is a lovely description of hope. We sang it in one of the choirs at The Unitarian Church in Westport. I looked online and found several versions, but not the one we sang. Maybe the music was by Rev. Dr. Ed Thompson, our Director of Music.

The first verse is

‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

The poem makes me think of a young Mount Holyoke friend. She had a stroke recently. She is in rehab. Like her family and friends, I am hopeful.

Nigeria's Vice President Osinbajo, in charge while Buhari is on medical leave

Nigeria’s Vice President Osinbajo, in charge while Buhari was on medical leave

President Buhari Back Home

President Buhari is now safely back in Nigeria. He has resumed official duties. The nature of the illness that made him remain in London for six weeks has not been disclosed.

Is his return helpful? Or should he have stayed away a little longer? Before he returned, The Economist, in the March 4, issue, said, “If Mr Buhari remains in London much longer, his absence could provide a window for Nigeria’s technocratic vice-president Yemi Osinbajo to push through a proper devaluation.”

So what will happen now? Buhari appears reluctant to let the Naira find its true level. The central bank is apparently unable to act without his consent.

He had originally said he would let his vice-president handle economic matters. Why doesn’t he do that now? He certainly has enough to do to fight corruption and confront Boko Haram.

Nigerwives Newsletters

I have been reading through Nigerwives’ newsletters from the 1990’s and 2000. I’m writing a chapter for my new book about Nigerwives, the organization for foreign women married to Nigerians that I co-founded in 1979.

With other Nigerwives at their January meeting in Lagos

With other Nigerwives at their January meeting in Lagos

In one newsletter I found a list of donors to the Nigerwives Bazaar in 1992. One donor was a law firm. Osinbajo was the first name listed. I wonder if it’s the same person as Nigeria’s current vice-president? Probably; I know he is a lawyer. Is there a Nigerwife connection?

Among other papers from Nigerwives, I found a small booklet printed in 1983. I must have been active in the organization then, but I don’t remember it.

Near the beginning, they list the early members. They didn’t include me at all! Did I pull away after I lost the election for president in 1981 or ’82? I didn’t think so.

This will require some sleuthing. I feel compelled to correct the record. I’d like to know my name stays associated with the beginning of this useful and important organization.

Three panelists. Iyabo in center. President of USNC Lalita 2nd from left. ED Susan 2nd from right.

Three panelists. Iyabo in center. President of USNC Lalita 2nd from left. ED Susan 2nd from right.

From Equity to Equality

On Monday this past week I attended the panel presented by the US National Committee for UN Women. My friend and board colleague Dr. Iyabo Obasanjo helped set it up and was one of the panelists.

Iyabo is the Thomas Bahnson and Anne Basset Stanley Professor of Ethics and Integrity at Virginia Military Institute. She teaches Global Health and Contemporary African Politics. Her PhD in Epidemiology is from Cornell.

All four panelists presented fascinating stories about Strategies for Women’s Economic Empowerment, to match the theme of this year’s Commission on the Status of Women, CSW.

Azadeh Kahlili is Executive Director of the Commission on Gender Equity for New York City. She came to the U.S. as a political refugee from Iran. She was undocumented for 10 years, she said. Her commission has an initiative they call “Level the Paying Field.” You can imagine the goal – getting equal pay for women for equal work.

With the two Igbo Sisters at the panel presentation

With the two Igbo Sisters at the panel presentation

Iyabo said that in her years in politics in Nigeria and in research on women holding political office, she has seen that as gender equity improves, so does economic growth. It’s a fact, she said.

Dr. Josefin Wiklund is from Sweden. She is the Advisor to the Director for UNAIDS New York. She spoke about the importance of keeping girls in school and delaying marriage. A frightening statistic she shared: twenty eight girls under age 18 are getting married every minute around the world.

Sr. Rosemarie, an Igbo woman I met during CSW last year, had contacted me a few days before. I told her about the USNC event. She came with a friend.

I invited my friend Marilyn. We met for lunch first for wonderful conversation about our writing and our books.

The final question at the panel was, “How do we make sure more girls get a full education? Don’t we need parents involved, so they want it for their daughters?”

Iyabo said, “We do, but especially in Africa, this change will be slow. A mother puts more emphasis on her son. Why? Because her son is her social security.”