Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Will You Celebrate?

International Women’s Day March 8th 

How will you celebrate? I will go to the Westport Library in the evening to hear Caryl M. Stern of UNICEF speak on the refugee crisis and its implications for human trafficking.

My friend Barbara is introducing her.

This video from a collection on the website of International Women’s Day brought tears to my eyes. See what it does for you!

I will also work on a couple of tasks for the US National Committee for UN Women during International Women’s Day. One is to consider possibilities for increasing membership and strengthening relationships with members.

I also have to prep for the next meeting of the bylaws committee.

Awolowo Remembered

This evening Karen, another former Nigerian Peace Corps volunteer, sent a photo of herself with Chief Obafemi Awolowo from the 1960’s. I knew his name from Peace Corps training, even before I landed in Nigeria.

Awolowo, his wiffe, and Karen between them, 1968

Awolowo, his wiffe, and Karen between them, 1968. Hard to see.

Awolowo was a key part of Nigeria’s independence movement and an influential figure in Nigerian politics for several decades. I spoke about him in the class I taught on Nigerian history in the fall. He died in 1987.

He promoted Yoruba culture, forming the Egbe Omo Oduduwa, or children of Oduduwa, in London where he was studying in 1947. Back in Nigeria he formed the political party called the Action Group.

Better picture of Awolowo

Better picture of Awolowo

From 1952 to 1959 he was Premier of the Western Region where he introduced universal free primary education and free health care. He led the opposition during the first government after independence in 1960.

Wikipedia says, “Awolowo is best remembered for his remarkable integrity, ardent nationalism, principled and virile opposition, and dogged federalistic convictions. His party was the first to move the motion for Nigeria’s independence in the federal parliament . . .  He is credited with coining the name “naira” for the Nigerian standard monetary unit. . .

“He . . . established the WNTV, the first television station in Africa; erected the first skyscraper in tropical Africa: the Cocoa House (still the tallest in Ibadan) and ran a widely respected civil service in the Western Region.”

Thank you, Karen, for the photo. She said, “My landlord in Offa was the Chief’s personal secretary, so I got a chance to meet him.”

Are You Angry?

Do you read The New York Times Sunday Styles? I almost always save the section, and about half the time I actually read it during the week.

Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah, host of “The Daily Show”

I loved Philip Galanes’ interview with Lupita Nyong’o and Trevor Noah. I learned that Lupita, who won the Oscar for her role as Patsy in “12 Years a Slave,” is Mexican-Kenyan and graduated from the Yale School of Drama, so we’re fellow Yale alums!

Trevor is the comedian from Johannesburg who is Jon Stewart’s successor at the popular “The Daily Show.” He grew up in apartheid South Africa with a white father and black mother.

Even if you don’t want to read the article, you might want to click the link just to see the wonderful photo of the two of them at a restaurant in New York.

Galanes said, “Let’s start with #OscarsSoWhite, since we have the last actor of color to win one.”

Noah said, “He makes you sound like an endangered species.”

Lupita Nyong'o

Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o

“Isn’t she?” Galanes said, pointing out that there hasn’t been an acting nominee of color since then.

Noah says people often ask him, “Why aren’t you angry?” about racial injustice or unfair treatment. His answer: “Because I grew up in a world where being an angry black person got you nowhere. It got you shot or arrested.”

They talk about the shows they’re involved in. “When it comes to diversifying, I had never realized how ingrained people’s mentality can be. It’s not even conscious,” Noah said.

Then he described trying to find new people for “The Daily Show,” including people of color. But almost all the audition tapes they were getting were from white males.

So he went out to find comedians of color. Turns out they didn’t know the show was hiring!

Why? Because they couldn’t get agents, and agents are the ones who send in the tapes! They were gatekeepers.

Lupita said, “They told me I was too dark for TV. But I came to accept myself. And a lot of that had to do with Alek Wek [South Sudanese model], the way she was embraced by the modeling industry.

“Oprah telling her how beautiful she was. . . It was very powerful. Something in my subconscious shifted. That’s why this conversation is so important — because it burns possibility into people’s minds.”

I agree; the conversations are powerful. So are the images. Like the movement “We Need Diverse Books,” having chioldren of color see people who look like them as featured characters makes a big difference.

Nigerwives – My Legacy

Mona Opubor is  Indian-American, married to a Nigerian. She wrote a wonderful essay that was published in 2013 in Kalahari Review. I saw it then and commented, but had forgotten until a Twitter message reminded me.

I asked her to give me the link again.

I love her writing! She describes the dismay of her first visit to Nigeria. Yet she made the brave decision to make a go of Lagos living.

And I love her Twitter profile: “Indian-American writer/mother/Nigerwife, living the dream in Lagos, Nigeria”

She makes me proud that I was one of the co-founders and first president of Nigerwives, still going strong today, helping women like Mona feel at home.


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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