Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Racism Revealed in ADL Video

Racism Revealed in Video from ADL

I had an email from the Antidefamation League, ADL, this week. TEAM Westport and ADL have overlapping interests in addressing racism and other forms of discrimination. The racism revealed in the video, not so many years ago, is shocking.

No surprise, this was an end-of-year appeal. I watched.

Suzanne Cover’s comments are heart-warming, brave, and hard to hear.

She describes growing up in a town in Connecticut where she was the only Black child in her class, often in the whole grade. In first grade, her teacher said she had to sit in the back of the class because students could relate better to her.

In second grade, students drew pictures of their class. One child’s picture left her out. He said, “You don’t count because you’re Black.” The teacher accepted this explanation of racism revealed, and hung his picture with others without comment!

ADL first asked her to speak years ago. She credits her experiences as their spokesperson with helping her become the successful person she is today.

I ended up contributing, which I hadn’t intended at the start!

Nine Writers Longlisted for Prize

I wrote about the Etisalat Prize in May last year when the winner was announced. He was Nigerian author Jowhor Ile who won for his novel And After Many Days. I haven’t read it but it’s on my list.

Brittle Paper just announced the nine long-listed writers for the next prize.

Lesley Nneka Arimah, Ayobami Adebayo Lead the 2017 9Mobile Prize for Literature Longlist

The company itself has changed names. It faces challenges. I just read,“Five firms are bidding to acquire troubled telecom firm 9Mobile (formerly Etisalat), the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said yesterday.”

I hope they will still fulfill their commitments for the prize! It goes to a “new writer of African citizenship.” Four of the nine authors in the long-list are Nigerian.

The winner receives £15,000, an engraved Montblanc Meisterstück pen, and a sponsored fellowship at the University of East Anglia,” the announcement in Brittle Paper says.

Best in my opinion: 9Mobile will purchase, “1,000 copies of each of the shortlisted books for distribution to schools, libraries and book clubs across the continent.”

The finalists will also be taken on a multi-city book tour in Africa.

Chimamanda on Becoming a Fashion Icon

Also from Brittle Paper comes this story about Chimamanda Adichie’s writing. I loved reading her advice. It’s not only about fashion, but also a little about life!

Let me know if you also enjoy it.

The Chimamanda Adichie Guide to Becoming a Fashion Icon

Greater Response to Boko Haram?

The general commanding the Nigerian forces against Boko Haram has been replaced.

“Nigerian and other media speculates that the replacement, made without official comment, is in response to the military’s shortcomings over the past months in the fight against Boko Haram,” Ambassador John Campbell wrote in the article.

He continues, “If so, the personnel change reflects a welcome focus on accountability of the military leadership at the highest level. It also reflects a willingness to address problems instead of denying that they have occurred.”

That would be a welcome change. I’m sure you share with me a desire for a stronger response to Boko Haram. I long for the day we learn they are basically no longer active.

Margaret Anderson Answers Clem’s Question on Church

My friend Margaret Anderson consults and blogs about finding consensus through identifying commonalities. She has written a lovely response to Clem’s question about why Unitarians celebrate Christmas in a blog post of her own.

She says, “Ideas of what it means to ‘believe in Christ’ vary widely.”

But, she says, “The teachings and behaviors actually described in the gospels mostly boil down to opening up one’s heart and mind, treating others with love, kindness, generosity.”

She adds, “A Christmas service inspires people to be open, kind and generous whether the service is based on gospel, Christian history, the [Unitarian Universalist] Seven Principles, the spirit of Christmas, or something else.”

I hope you’ll read her post. If you like it, you can sign up for her blog.

Birthday Champagne and Celebration

Delightful champagne at my birthday dinner!

Delightful champagne at my birthday dinner!

We celebrated my birthday with friends at Coromandel in Darien CT. Byron bought a bottle of delightful champagne for toasting! The food was delicious, the company great!

My December 13 birthday is shared with a friend in England, Alec. Years ago we were working on a production for the Festival Players in Lagos and discovered we shared not just the same day, but the same year as our birthday.

We’ve lived on different continents for decades but still exchange cards every year. Alec sends his entertaining and insightful Christmas letter with his card. Though he and Helen left Nigeria even before I did in 1986, he pays close attention to the country. He comments with insight and wit.

In this year’s letter he said, “There are still the by now almost routine atrocities by Boko Haram . . . still able to find a steady stream of deluded recruits to speed themselves explosively into the next world whilst causing as much destruction as possible in this one.”

Applebloom, Alec and Helen's B&B in Kent.

Applebloom, Alec and Helen’s B&B in Kent.

He continues, “As a spin-off from this, we have a series of confrontations between farmers and nomadic Fulani herders . . . the prehistoric-sounding “Cattle Wars,” due to said herders being forced southward due to the Boko Haram activities, and grazing on the farmers’ land.”

I love reading his letter with news of his family and their life in Kent where they run “Applebloom.”

Another Dec. 13 Birthday

I just learned the daughter of Rex, who runs the travel company that takes us to and from the airport, turned twelve on the same day! So I declare Dec. 13 a good day for birthdays!

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. Suzanne looks a lot younger than I, and therefore, it is sadly surprising to learn that it was still happening so recently. I couldn’t help but reflect that so many Americans seem to think the south is the main hotbed of racism, and this happened in New England. I haven’t seen or heard of anything like this in Houston ISD as I watched my nephews grow up. What Suzanne is doing is sort of the racial equivalent of the “Me Too” movement about sexual harassment and assault.

    • Yes, it’s very sad, isn’t it? I think it still happens when teachers do not know how to respond, or perhaps don’t care to. This is an area that TEAM Westport works actively to correct. Having more people of color in a classroom helps, but much more is needed!