Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

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.”


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. Loved this blog today! Gives me hope when there isn’t much arounD!