Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Kano Horror, Birthday Joys

Kano Horror

A Christian woman trader named Bridget said something offensive to Muslims in the market in Kano, northern Nigeria, on Thursday. The result was a Kano horror.

Did she mean to be offensive? Or was her comment innocent but mis-interpreted as anti-Muslim? I don’t know.

But whichever it was, she was killed by a mob in the market for what they said was blasphemy.

This Kano horror was all over the Nigerian news, but you may not have seen it.

President Buhari spoke out right away and condemned the killing. He asked for calm and encouraged people not to seek revenge. “Let us learn to respect each other’s faith, so that we can know each other and live together in peace,” he said, according to the article in Naija247news online.

Blasphemy: Buhari Mourns Late Bridget Agbahime

Kelvin’s Birthday

And for happier news!

Beth greeting Kelvin at his surprise party

Beth watching Kelvin’s surprise!

We celebrated our son-in-law’s 50th birthday with a surprise party on Saturday night. It was great fun. I think he was really surprised. Our daughter Beth was thrilled with pulling it off!

He had asked his mom to come from Nashville.

That wasn’t part of the surprise. Beth told Kelvin to invite her, to “go out to dinner with family.” We were there on the same excuse. Their son Kenechi came home from Cornell, again for the “family dinner.”

What fun! Who have you surprised?

My Story About Mama

Cake to show his Steelers support

Kelvin is a Steelers’ fan!

For my writing class on Thursday I had to write a longer piece than usual, between 3000 and 4000 words.

I wrote about my husband Clem’s mother. And even with 4000 words written, I’m not finished with her story! She was a strong woman and a major influence on him.

I’ve already written a piece about his father. I’m working on how I will put these together with other stand-alone pieces to make a cohesive book. I want to tell about Igbo customs through relating people’s life stories.

And I really want to relate the strong sense of community I knew in Nigeria to understanding race in this country. If you have suggestions, let me know. All ideas are welcome! And here’s part of what I wrote:

Mama’s Story

From my first day of meeting Clem’s parents in 1963, I sensed that his father, whom I always called Papa, wanted people to know he was the power in the family. But as I came to know them during the year before Clem and I married I recognized that Mama was influential and could hold her own quite effectively. Over the many years I knew her I learned that she was the core of the family, the solid force behind Papa, and a warm and loving presence to her children and many other relatives.

Mama in 1950's photo

Mama’s photo, perhaps 1950’s

During that first year and in subsequent years together, I learned her story. She was from Agulu, just a few miles from Nanka and a little larger. She was born in the second decade of the 20th century into a family with one older brother. Two younger sisters followed. Her father like the vast majority of Igbo men of the time was a farmer. He and his wife or wives grew most of what they ate. They sold a few items, perhaps extra cassava tubers or yams, in the local market. They had chickens and goats which would be slaughtered for special occasions.

Mama was the only one of his children who went to school. I would love to know why, but I never did find out. Perhaps she was more curious than the others, or more courageous. There was no school in Agulu, so she would have gone to Awka, about four miles, on foot every day. She attended ABD, the name given to the first three years of primary school at the time, and could read and write a little English. She became a Christian under the influence of her teachers.

She would have been popular in Agulu as she reached marriage age. She was attractive and with her little education, a tempting target for young men’s attention. At village events, when the young unmarried women danced in the moonlight, she would have stood out.

Her father had certainly considered her marriage prospects. Marriage among the Igbo, and in much of Africa, is a union of two families, not just joining of two people. The members of each family call all others in the partner’s family by the word ogo, meaning in-law. So her father was on the lookout for a good candidate.

When Clem’s father returned to his home town after several years in self-imposed exile, his father and mother welcomed him as the prodigal son. They were happy to know he was alive and well. When he explained that he had come home to find a wife, they were even happier and devoted themselves to helping him on his quest. His father’s older brother was consulted as were others in the extended family. Other clan members too were asked where to seek a bride for the returned son.

Several men in Nanka had married women from Agulu, the nearest town to the west and slightly larger. The two towns share a massive erosion site. Agulu also has a lovely large lake.

There were no known scandals about any of the women from Agulu. Not one had been sent away by her husband, returned to her parents with nothing except a request for repayment of the bride price. They had all produced children, with enough sons among them to be respectable. So Agulu seemed like a good choice. Someone had heard about a young woman who had become a Christian and had some schooling.

Stay tuned for more about Mama!

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.