Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

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?

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. I’m sorry to hear about the visas. Penny wise and pound foolish.