Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, keynote speaker at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration in Westport

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, keynote speaker at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration in Westport

The 12th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration in Westport was fabulous! The highlight for me was the keynote speaker, Dr. Ibram X. Kendi. His title was “How to be an Anti-Racist.” We cannot stand by and be silent, he said, in the face of racism. We have to confront it when we see it.

During the Q&A, he replied to a question about how to speak to someone who is making racist remarks, while asserting s/he is not racist. He said, “Ask the person to define ‘racist.’ Then you be able to address him with his own words when his comments are racist.”

The 12th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration was on Sunday afternoon, January 14. The same morning I had read an op-ed he wrote in The New York Times called “The Heartbeat of Racism is Denial.”

Kendi's book Stamped from the Beginning

Kendi’s book Stamped from the Beginning

I bought his book, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. It’s weighty in size and message, and long. I’ve started. With over 500 pages, it will take a while. Also digesting the ideas will take a while. 

He uses five main characters as “tour guides:” Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, W. E. B. Dubois, and Angela Davis. I’ll keep you posted. Please do the same if you are reading it.

12th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Entertainment

In addition to the inspiring speaker, we were entertained by the outstanding Weston High School Jazz Ensemble. Students from the Regional Center for the Arts also performed. Their lovely dance, with about 14 teen-age girls, was choreographed by Kristen McAfee. Chris Coogan and the Good News Gospel Choir sang.

Nigerian Culture and Customs – First Class

Today I taught the first class of four on Nigerian Culture and Customs at the Bigelow Center for Senior Activities in Fairfield, Connecticut. There are 16 participants. I know Diana from church; she had told me she was enrolled. John was in the class I taught last year.

It’s such fun to share my knowledge and love of Nigeria with an interested audience. They had lots of good questions.

Today’s class was on language and names, with a quick intro to Africa’s size and Nigeria’s place in the continent. I also provided a map of the major tribes’ locations.

Comet, tall, on the left, and Nebechi, in front of our house. Comet's pink hair was a hit!

Comet, tall, on the left, and Nebechi, in front of our house. Comet’s pink hair was a hit!

I used a picture of Clem’s sister Nebechi and niece Comet to talk about names. Comet was given her name because she was born at the time of Hailey’s Comet. And Nebechi? Her name means “Look unto God.” That’s not what I said in class today; I’ll correct that next week.

As always I teach people how to say my surname, but I just realized I forgot to tell them the meaning. Two items to make up next week!

Here’s the overview of the 4 weeks; I think you can still join if you want!

  • Intro to Nigeria, language and names and meanings, how they’re given
  • Structure, family roles, it takes a village, bringing up children, patriarchy and land
  • Marriage and the ceremonies, families connected
  • Kola nut and palm wine, the Dibia and traditional religion, religion today

Nigeria Celebrates New Year’s with Masquerades and Music

I promised video from Nanka. The first is of the masquerade Agaba.

Agaba is known to be especially frightening for young children. Women are not supposed to watch him, and someone suggested I move from my front-row seat. But others said, “Stay! You are entitled.” They explained that after a certain age, women can watch!

You see money on the ground and being tossed at the masquerade. This is called “Spraying.” The masquerade’s helpers collect the money.

Igbo Band

The second is the Igbo band that played whenever there was no masquerade in front of us.

If the sounds seem somewhat raucous, that’s’ because they were!

I love these sounds. The Igbo instruments include the ogene, or gong, and they had two. The jug, or udu, is struck with something that looks like a fan but is percussive. The wooden block has a name, I’m sure, but I don’t know it. And there’s a gourd with dried seeds that is shaken so it rattles. I’m not sure you can see it in the video, but it was there.

They played to me during their performance, singing about the white woman who speaks Igbo.

My son told me how to include these; thank you, Chinaku! But I couldn’t upload them to YouTube directly from iCloud. That was a bother, so instead I emailed them to myself and then uploaded to YouTube from the computer.

Is there a way to do it from iCloud? I used Google to search for an answer, but what I found didn’t help.

I will show you one or two more next time. My favorite is masquerades who impersonate women!

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. Greetings,
    Thank you for sharing these videos of the Igbo band and the New Year’s masquerades and music. I will try to stay alert to finding when you have another enrollment of your class. I hope that it happens again!
    Many thanks.

    • Thank you, Robert. I appreciate your comment. I will be teaching another class in Norwalk Community College Lifetime Learners program starting March 12 on Breaking Kola: Nigeria’s Customs and Culture.