Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Protesting Boko Haram, A Visit to Nigeria, and What I’m Reading

Boko Haram and the girls from the Chibok school in northeastern Nigeria continue to occupy the news, our minds, and frequently, our conversations. My own most recent conversation about the Nigerian kidnapping was with Sylvia, my new friend who works at Bloomingdale’s in New York.

I met Sylvia, who is an Igbo from Nigeria, last November at Bloomingdale’s Clinique counter. She was the lovely salesperson who helped me when I wanted to buy an eyebrow pencil. I guessed – correctly – that she was Nigerian from her looks and her speech. Then I surprised her by speaking to her in Igbo. I wrote about the experience, Nigerian Connections at Bloomingdale’s, and submitted the story to The New York Times. They published it in the Metropolitan Diary section in December 2013. (It’s listed on my publications page.)

Sylvia at Bring Back Our Girls protest New York

Sylvia Chinedu Morales at Nigerian Consulate Protest

I stayed in touch and saw her when I was in New York two months ago. I called Bloomingdale’s yesterday to see how she was doing. She told me she attended the “Bring Back Our Girls” protest at the Nigerian Consulate in New York on Saturday. She sent a photo of herself at the protest. I asked if I could post it, and she said she’s honored that I want to.

I’ll tell you the whole story of our meeting soon and even include the part I had to take out for The New York Times submission, which was limited to something like 300 words.

Today’s New York Times had a front-page article with a photo of the kidnapped girls. I know there are many other posts and stories, including Nicolas Kristof’s piece from this past Saturday where he talks about the significance and importance of educating girls. I posted about his story in my other blog. Is there a post or story you’d like to share?

A Visit to Nigeria

But there is also other more cheerful news from Nigeria. My friend and Peace Corps colleague Chuck Larson just returned from a trip to Lagos where he gave a keynote speech on the legacy of Chinua Achebe. In fact, he was in Nigeria when the girls were kidnapped.

His trip was a joy, he says, and he’s eager to go back, even though he doubts if Nigeria will ever be a tourist destination. I disagree with him on that point. Give the country eight to ten years to get its electricity in order, and have another two democratic elections carried out successfully, and I have hope for the beginnings of tourism. There are so many places to see, some already with luxury hotels. Jos with its hills, the modern capital city of Abuja and the famous Abuja Rock, dye pits in Abeokuta or Kano, and the

Central mosque in Kano

Kano Mosque

impressive mosques and emirs’ palaces around the north are all worth a visit. I’d love to go back to the ancient city of Daura where an old man told me legends about the origins of the Hausa people. Tourists could imagine what the Sahara is like from many places in northern Nigeria.


I have mentioned listening to Teju Cole’s book, Open City, which I’m continuing. I’m also reading Twelve Years a Slave, Solomon Northup’s account of his years in captivity.

Twelve Years a Slave

Twelve Years a Slave

I’m told the book reveals even more than the film about his experiences and that’s what I’m finding.

I’m co-facilitating a conversation about the book at the Westport Library on Saturday May 17 (the next Afo) with my friend Judy Hamer. If you are nearby, please come. The book is available for just 99 cents in several formats, and the library has several copies too. I’m reading it on my iPad. Two weeks later the library will show the movie. Did you see it?

Brigitte won the challenge to identify the parts of our sons’ names that are Igbo words for God – she had the first, but not the only correct response – there were two others. I was impressed! I’m sending her the anthology Love on the Road 2013. I notified her in a Facebook message, and she said, “I am delighted to have won the book. especially since I have already been wondering how to get hold of a copy” Winners all around!

Final Notes

The editors of Love on the Road 2013 have announced a repeat of their contest – Love on the Road 2014. Maybe one of you will be published next year!

Will you share my blog with your family, friends, and colleagues, and invite them to subscribe? If each of you brings one more subscriber on board, we can double the number!

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.