Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Boko Haram Turns Girls Into Bombers

Boko Haram Still Active

I keep hoping that the bits of positive information from the Nigerian government about defeating Boko Haram are true. Though there have been some successes, there are still so many more challenges.

“So far this year, militants have carried out more than twice as many suicide bombings than they did in all of 2016, and the attacks keep coming,” Dionne Searcey says about Boko Haram in an article on Oct. 25.

Dionne Searcey, NYTimes West Africa Bureau Chief, interviewed girls captured by Boko Haram

Dionne Searcey, NYTimes West Africa Bureau Chief, interviewed girls captured by Boko Haram

Searcey is The New York Times West Africa Bureau Chief. She wrote an intriguing and alarming piece based on interviews with 18 girls who were sent out by Boko Haram as suicide bombers and managed to escape.

Their courage is amazing. Can you imagine having a bomb strapped to you that you are afraid to remove? Then being told to enter a mosque and detonate it?

I cannot. But the girls had no choice.

They had been kidnapped by Boko Haram. Often they were told to “marry” their captors. Many were sent out as suicide bombers because they refused.

Searcey says, “All of the girls recounted how armed militants forcibly tied suicide belts to their waists, or thrust bombs into their hands, before pushing them toward crowds of people. Most were told that their religion compelled them to carry out the orders. And all of them resisted, preventing the attacks by begging ordinary citizens or the authorities to help them.”

Determined Not to Kill, Despite Boko Haram Orders

Each girl’s story is different. But they were all determined not to kill others.

Yet to approach strangers and people in authority was a risk. It took a willingness to be disbelieved. They had to persuade others to help them.

Adam Ferguson photographed the girls without showing their faces. His photos are as haunting as the girls’ stories.

Dionne Searcey wrote another piece to give more background on carrying out the interviews. It is also  fascinating reading.

Unitarian-Universalists Confront Their Racist Past

Last week at The Unitarian Church in Westport we held conversations on race and white supremacy. Rev. Dr. John Morehouse and many of us in the congregation want to talk about race. We do what we can to combat racism.

Rev. John led with a description of a major event about race in our Unitarian-Universalist past.

He told us that in the 1960’s the General Assembly and the Board promised funding to a movement of Black Power within the church. This was to support civil rights work. But then they cut the funding.

There was a lot of controversy. Our movement has not yet recovered from the events of those times.  You can see a whole timeline of events in the Unitarian and Universalist churches before they merged and later.

After Rev. John spoke on Sunday, three other people spoke for a few minutes about aspects of white privilege or white supremacy and how these influence our actions.

After each speaker we in the congregation were asked to discuss.

Other Speakers and Viewpoints

My friend and board colleague Carrie talked about perfectionism. She began by telling us she is a perfectionist, which is good in her career of computer programmer, but less helpful when she corrects other people’s grammar!

Our Black Lives Matter banner is back in place!

Our Black Lives Matter banner is back in place!

She related being at the UU General Assembly, trying to finalize a resolution. A young African American man was the parliamentarian. He said, “Focus on meaning, not grammar!”

“I recognized that he was reminding us that we were getting caught up in one of the aspects of White Supremacy culture that we all swim in – perfectionism,” Carrie said.

She pointed out aspects of this perfectionism:

  • Setting rigid and high, even unrealistic, standards
  • Assigning worthlessness to a person who fails to achieve these standards

We were then told to discuss with one other person, “What would you have to change to include others in a group you belong to?”

My friend Sonja talked about individualism. She said, “Individualism exists in a symbiotic relationship with white supremacy culture. At the heart of individualism is the will to . . . construe one’s achievement as entirely self-authored; to interpret privileges as duly earned benefits from one’s hard work.”

She continued, “Individualism holds an individual above group. It’s an ideology based on separation. Individualism denies interdependence and isolates us from any form of connection with others.”

We followed her comments with another question for discussion: “Have you ever been part of a group where your opinion was ignored? How did that make you feel?”

We’ve never had this kind of service before. It led to lively discussion. Some conversations continued after the service was over.

I hope we will do it again some day. Even more I hope we get to a better understanding of how white privilege works and how we who are white benefit from it.

Will we ever get to the place where we can dismantle the effects of white privilege? Not have that privilege any more? That’s a heavy challenge.

I’m happy to say our Black Lives Matter banner is back up!

Thurgood Marshall Film

Dan Woog posted the trailer of the movie Marshall on his blog.You may recall that Dan only posts stories with a Westport/Weston connection. Do you know what it is for this film? You can find out here.

I would like to see the film. Would you?

Author: Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, blogger, speaker. Born in New York, grew up in mid west United States, lived in Nigeria for 24 years, back in U.S. since 1986. Advocate for racial justice.


  1. Dear Catherine Onyemelukwe,
    I am delighted to read your blog. I consider you and your brother Peter heroes for justice. You have both selflessly touched so many lives, mine personally.
    I met you and your wonderful family when you visited your brother Peter. He raised me from my early teens into my early twenties. I learned so much from him.
    I am delighted to see that your parents, and the times that you grew up in, allowed you both to broaden your perspectives to be beautiful people, despite the challenges inherent in doing so. So as you can see in me and I’m certain there are many others who know you guys really are heroes.
    Thank you so much!

    • Thank you, Andre. I appreciate your comments very much and will share them with Peter. I’m curious – how did you find my blog?

      • Your family was like family to me in a very important time in my Life. I remembered our time together in a resort in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I looked you and your husband Clement up and there you were still doing good things. I just want to thank you all for being family to me during those years when I had no one. Thank you!