Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Nigeria’s Independence, Chicago & Mountain Day

Mount Holyoke College Mountain Day

Mount Holyoke College has a long-standing (I think since 1838!) tradition called Mountain Day.

One day in the fall the President surprises the campus with bells ringing to announce Mountain Day, a day without classes. Students are given a packed lunch and take off. Some are on bicycles, a few in cars. There are buses that take those who want to climb Mount Holyoke, the nearby mountain which gave the college its name. Most students climb it at least once during their four years on campus. The day often ends at an ice cream parlor or soda fountain.

Mountain Day 2017 at Sunny Daes Ice Cream, Fairfield Connecticut

Mountain Day 2017 at Sunny Daes Ice Cream, Fairfield Connecticut

Alums Gather for Mountain Day

And in recent years alumnae around the world have held social gatherings, usually in an ice cream parlor, to celebrate Mountain Day. We gather at 18:37, or 6:3 7 pm in the 12-hour time system.

Why? Because Mount Holyoke was founded in 1837!

We have to make the plans ahead of time because we do not know what day it will be!

Just before 8 am on the morning, the college sends an email to all alums – It’s Mountain Day!

For at least the past four years I’ve met up with other alums at Sunny Daes Ice Cream in Fairfield Connecticut.

Yesterday was very special because the woman from the class of 1990 who has been the chief organizer for several years had a stroke a few months ago. It was severe.

She was in the hospital, then rehab, for quite a while, but went home last Saturday. Her husband brought her to our Mountain Day celebration. We were so happy to see her looking cheerful and definitely recovering.

The groom Charlie in the center, with his brother Tim on right and friend on left.

The groom Charlie in the center, with his brother Tim on right and friend on left.

Rehearsal Dinner and Wedding Photos and Notes

I didn’t have photos ready to send from our nephew’s rehearsal dinner and wedding in Chicago, but now I do. I’ve scattered them through this post. I hope you enjoy them.

Plea to President Buhari for Independence Day

October 1st was Nigeria’s Independence Day. This year there did not seem to be a lot of celebrating. As the author of the Punch article below says, it is “still wobbling.”

The bride Courtney at the rehearsal dinner

The bride Courtney at the rehearsal dinner

“Over the years, the country has survived many near-death experiences. But never since the troubled era that culminated in the civil war (1967-70) have Nigerians been so divided,” the writer says.

In addition to Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen who are terrorizing farmers, he says, “12 northern states have brushed aside all constitutional strictures to impose penal aspects of Islamic sharia law.”

He continues, “In the midst of these fractious tendencies, the central government is often unable to deal decisively or objectively with the security menace as key political and security functionaries take, or are alleged to take, sides.”

Not a happy description. The article recommends Nigeria going back to a federal system with strong power at the regions or states instead of a strong central government that is unable to lead effectively.

Buhari, save Nigeria from disintegration

My brother Peter with his oldest son Dan at the dinner

My brother Peter with his oldest son Dan at the dinner

False Memories of Biafra?

Ambassador John Campbell writes about the distorted view some have of the Biafran War. He refers to The New York Times’ story a few days ago  which described Igbo traditionalists celebrating the Latin Mass.

He finds this resurrection of the Latin Mass in Roman Catholic churches in southeastern Nigeria troubling. (Southeastern Nigeria is a common reference to the Igbo people while avoiding the fraught question of tribe or ethnic group!)

He believes that today with so many issues facing Nigeria, returning to the traditional Mass makes some sense and may provide comfort.

Our daughter Beth with Peter's wife Mary

Our daughter Beth with Peter’s wife Mary

He lists the same ills as the Punch article I quoted above: “The country faces a continuing insurrection in the northeast associated with the radical, Islamist Boko Haram; “range wars” in the Middle Belt involving Muslim, Hausa-Fulani cattle herders and Christian, minority tribe farmers; the mystery surrounding the state of President Buhari’s health; and a revival of agitation for an independent Biafra.”

Campbell says, “[The NYTimes] story is timely in a number of ways; in particular, it alludes to an oft-cited myth that the end of the Biafran war was characterized by “rape and pillage” by the federal forces.”

Beth and Clem in the afternoon by Lake Michigan. Clem was amazed at the size of the lake - the little we could see!

Beth and Clem in the afternoon by Lake Michigan. Clem was amazed at the size of the lake – the little we could see!

I had to read his article a couple of times to understand that he was criticizing the NYTimes for including the myth about rape and pillage.

“In fact, such violence did not take place,” Campbell says. “Given the re-emergence of pro-Biafra sentiment today, it is important to be accurate about the civil war almost fifty years later.”

He wonders if the desire for conservative religious practices, a reflection of current worries, may also be causing people to romanticize the memory of Biafra.

This interest in reviving Biafra worries him. “[It] appears to be acquiring a Christian colorization that reflects the same ecclesiastically conservative outlook as the popularity of the Latin Mass,” he says.

Beth and Kelly, Dan's wife. Dan and Kelly were married 5 years ago.

Beth and Kelly, Dan’s wife. Dan and Kelly were married 5 years ago.

We should remember the true history of the causes of the Biafran War, and the resolution, and not be misled by myths. He reminds the readers of the coups, massacre of Igbo people, and desire for self-determination that led to the secession.

With the Nigerian defeat of the secessionist Biafra, there was punishment in the take-over of Christian schools and hospitals by the Federal Government. But there was no pillaging, rape, or slaughter of Igbo people.

Be truthful and thoughtful, he seems to be reminding those who think there could be a new Biafra.


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. Glad you climbed that mountain to Sunny Daez!