Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Peace Corps Friends and Family

Walk for Peace with Peace Corps friends

Walk for Peace with Peace Corps friends. Look closely – you’ll see Clem and me.

Peace Corps Friends and Family

We had a wonderful few days in Washington DC with Peace Corps friends.

I loved it all, but my favorite was the final event.

The Walk for Peace started at George Washington University where the conference was held, and ended at the Capitol.

Motorcycle policeman holding back traffic for us

Motorcycle policeman holding back traffic for us

With our Peace Corps friends, we cheered, chatted, and stopped for photos along the way.

Police on motorcycles lined the route, holding back traffic so we could pass.

Memoir Writing Panel

The events started with the memoir writers’ panel on Wednesday afternoon.

Marian Haley Beil runs Peace Corps Writers with John Coyne. She organized five of us Peace Corps friends to talk about our books and writing process. We had an audience of 35 or 40 people, twice.

Peace Corps friends hear about memoir writing

Audience for the memoir writing panel.

Several times later in the conference people came up to tell me how much they enjoyed my presentation on the panel!

Peace Corps Friends from Long Ago

Peace Corps friends

Bob Wynne with his wife Sandy and me

Back at our hotel we ran into Peace Corps friends from my training group. We spent the summer of 1962 together at UCLA learning about each other and about Nigeria.

Seeing Peace Corps friends from that time is always a highlight. Wednesday evening it was Chuck, Bob, Ginny, and me.

Teaching African Literature

We saw Chuck Larson, also from our group, at the all-day program for Friends of Nigeria on Thursday. He spoke about teaching African literature for 50 years.

When he first wanted to teach African literature, he said, he met considerable resistance. He believes his course on that topic at the University of Colorado in the mid 1960’s was the first in the country.

He said the classic Things Fall Apart sells at least a hundred thousand copies a year in the US but only one thousand in Nigeria. How sad!

Amaka Anku, a Nigerian lawyer and emerging market analyst, spoke about President Buhari’s first months in office. She believes that the Delta Insurgency is as much to blame for Nigeria’s current recession as the low oil price.

Liberian Crisis and an Award

On Friday the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, presented an award and made a speech. She praised Peace Corps volunteers, saying “All of the beneficiary countries’ people regard you so highly!”

I was intrigued by her use of the term “disease” for the crisis Liberia experienced in the last two years. Peace Corps volunteers were withdrawn, but have now returned. She never said the name “Ebola.”

Sirleaf was chosen to present the award because she has been a major proponent of girls’ education. The award was to former volunteer and professor Sara Goodkind.

Ibrahima Sankare of Mali also received an award

Ibrahima Sankare of Mali also received an award for his work on education and health care. My friend peace activist Chic Damback is behind Sankare.

She was the founder of Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) Camps.

She found that girls in Romania where she was teaching did not have many leadership opportunities.

“Obtaining $1,500 from the U.S. Democracy Commission, she and two other volunteers and some Romanian teachers took 81 girls to an eight-day camp in the Transylvania Mountains . . . The Peace Corps liked the idea and has asked her to make presentations . . .so others could replicate it.”

In her acceptance speech she said, “We don’t know the consequences of our actions.”

Her comment made me think of Nigerwives. How has the organization helped women in Nigeria in ways I don’t even know?

The New Museum

We drove by the new National Museum of African American History and Culture a couple of times during the conference.

Every time the museum was mentioned, I said that my friend Judy had donated items, been to the donors’ reception, and had an article in The Washington Post about her!

Then on Monday morning Clem had an appointment at the Department of Commerce. I went with him.

The new Museum of African American History & Culture

The new Museum of African American History & Culture

We were right across the street from the museum. It’s beautiful. I’m eager to see the inside!

Michelle Alexander to be Visiting Professor

My friend and TEAM Westport colleague Dolores sent an email about Michelle Alexander. She is leaving Ohio State University to take up a position at Union Theological Seminary.

Alexander is best known for her book The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindnes.

In the press release we learn her reasons for the change. “A very strong reason I am so attracted to the community at Union,” explained Michelle Alexander, “is that I believe the experience will enable me to clarify my spiritual beliefs, deepen my understanding of systematic theology, and expand my thinking about the possibilities for prophetic advocacy and movement-building across faiths, races, and cultures.”

She continued, “I would like to imagine that a wide range of people of faith and conscience who sing songs from different keys may be able to join in a common chorus that shakes the foundations of our unjust political, legal and economics systems, and ushers in a new America.”

I love her music metaphor as she expresses her dreams.

I read later in the press release that she is writing two books. I’m eager to read the personal reflection, one of the books.

But there’s more! In addition, “. . .she will serve as primary editor of a book planned for Fall 2018, which will be organized as a collection of essays, sermons, speeches, and thought pieces from justice advocates and faith leaders from a wide range of backgrounds.”

Would she take something I write? Will I try to submit? Advice welcome!

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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  2. Aha! I thought the Peace Corps Writers had gone defunct! (I went looking for them after I read Little Women of Baghlan, and while I was writing my own memoir of the Peace Corps.) Maybe they’ll come to the next RPCV career fair in NYC…?

    • Thanks, Maryah. No, Peace Corps Writers are alive and well, but their website has changed to PeaceCorpsWorldwide, as you saw if you followed the link. Since it’s just Marian and John who are volunteers, I doubt they will come to the RPCV career fair. Maybe I’d come if I could sell my books! But then job seekers may not be able to afford books right now!