Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Happy Valentine’s Day

White Privilege – More Conversation

I love all the attention our essay contest is getting. After all, that’s the point – to stimulate conversation!

On Saturday morning TEAM Westport Chair Harold Bailey was interviewed on CNN. The interviewer was Michael Smerconish.

Harold sent an email the night before to alert us. I knew I’d be out, so I recorded it. I watched the program later.

Harold refuted the contention that the topic is an attempt to discredit the town or make us all feel guilty. And he said explicitly that there was not outrage in Westport, as some media had said.

Smerconish said the controversy had led him to think about white privilege, which he hadn’t done before.

He contacted the one black student in his elementary class in a Philadelphia suburb decades earlier. They had been friends but had lost touch.

Darryl Chatman responded. “I would say there was a white privilege. And yes, I was aware. Everything that happened in the lives of everyone else was because of opportunities being more available . . . It was a part of something I had to live through.”

I have found that many people in town now know about the essay contest – many more than would have known if there had been no controversy. They are not outraged. They are glad we’re having the conversation.

Bill Buckley photo from Dan Woog's blog 06880

Bill Buckley photo from Dan Woog’s blog 06880

We have decided to have the public ceremony as scheduled at the Westport Library on April 3. But the judges, not the students, will read the winning essays. We will not release the names of the winners. They will receive their awards and have photos at a private ceremony.

But perhaps the winners’ names will be public. Michael Smerconish said he would like to have them on his program!

Memorial Service for Bill Buckley

On the same Saturday in the afternoon TEAM Westport members gathered with many others at the jazz memorial service for Bill Buckley. He was the husband of our member Judy Hamer who is also my friend.

Three of the amazing jazz musicians at the memorial service at Meadow Ridge

Three of the amazing jazz musicians at the memorial service at Meadow Ridge

“Bill Buckley devoted his life to bettering the lives of others. As a partner of Rediscovery Productions, he produced and directed films on notable African American figures such as Fannie Lou Hamer, Marion Anderson, and Dr. Charles Drew,” the program said.

Bill loved jazz. Six instrumentalists and three vocalists, people Bill knew and followed, performed for the service. There was more jazz than talk!

Hospice Chaplain Marlon Simpkins, M.Div., gave opening and closing remarks. Judy’s daughters, Bill’s daughter and sons, and Judy spoke.

Judy dancing with her daughter

Judy dancing with her daughter

The program had the most wonderful picture of Bill in his signature cap on the front. Inside was a photo of Judy and Bill dancing.

I loved watching Judy and one of her daughters dance to the jazz.

WestportNow had a piece about Bill. The obituary released by the family is at the end of the article.

I wouldn’t call myself a jazz fan. But I’m a bigger fan now than I was before the service!

And I loved seeing people from so many parts of my own life at the service:

  • TEAM Westport, of course
  • Sister Grannies which Judy invited me to
  • Baker’s Dozen Book Group, likewise

    Fay, a friend from Baker's Dozen Book Group, with me at the service

    Fay, a friend from Baker’s Dozen Book Group, with me at the service

  • Westport Library Board where I served years ago
  • Unitarian Church
  • Y’s Men of Westport where I hope to speak
  • Other writers

Living in Community

My next post will be from California. I’m going to the Third Annual International Unitarian Universalist Women’s Convocation at Asilomar. On Saturday I’ll present a workshop, “Living in Community – Lessons from Africa.”

I’m always glad of an opportunity to talk about the customs that make people in an Igbo village know they belong!

Boko Haram News

On Monday evening public television’s NewsHour had a report about Boko Haram. They showed video that was apparently made by Boko Haram.

Audie Cornish interviewed Ibrahim Ahmed. He hosts a weekly VOA broadcast in Nigeria. He said VOA had received 18 hours of video. Audie asked how VOA knew it was authentic.

He said VOA knew the videos were real because the men spoke Kanuri, the language of the region. And they talked about events that were not public knowledge.

One of the more horrifying scenes shows Boko Haram holding a “tribunal” in a captured town. A man is on the ground, being whipped.

Ahmed said that until last year Boko Haram was better equipped than the army. But then the army upgraded. “And that is when they started winning the war and kicking Boko Haram out of these major cities and towns,” he said.

Audie asked Ahmed whether he thought the area could be rebuilt. He said yes, “but it’s going to be really difficult, because the crisis or the carnage that Boko Haram has done in the area is just unbelievable.”

Tiny Chip to Diagnose Disease?

I was intrigued to read about a tiny chip that can perform diagnoses from a drop of liquid. I thought of the tubes of blood drawn for my annual checkup recently. Results took a couple of days.

“Labs-on-a-chip are an attempt to simplify the process, using droplets of liquid . . . passed through a sensor capable of isolating and manipulating single rare cells, screening for drugs, or detecting individual proteins,” the article said.

For a country like Nigeria where centrifuges and other equipment used in lab tests are not available, this could be a life-saver!

You can read their paper describing the discovery in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. But don’t hold your breath. Despite the breakthrough, scientists do not know when the technology will be available.

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.

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