Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Refugees and Migrants at the UN

High Level Summit for Refugees and Migrants

Yesterday in beautiful late summer weather, I met my friend Marilyn in New York. After lunch at Le Pain Quotidien we went to a panel on refugees and migrants hosted by the NGO Committee on the Status of Women.

Curry chicken tartine - delicious!

Curry chicken tartine – delicious!

It was held in preparation for the High Level Summit for Refugees and Migrants on Monday at the UN.

“At the General Assembly Heads of State and Governments will come together at the first-ever high-level summit for refugees and migrants to discuss a ‘Global Compact for Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration’ and a ‘Global Compact on Responsibility-Sharing for Refugees’,” as UN Women says.

UN Women’s Deputy Director Lakshmi Puri was invited but couldn’t come. In her place was Meg Jones, Chief of Economic Empowerment at UN Women.

Meg Jones at panel on refugees and migrants

Meg Jones speaking at panel on refugees and migrants

She made a strong case for paying attention to UN speeches. When our own UN Ambassador takes the floor and speaks on upholding the rights of women and girls, we should write to thank her. That thank you, Meg said, may get back to others in government, and can help! Wise advice.

Meg had to leave right after delivering her remarks. She asked Andrea Milan, Programme Analyst – Migration, from her Economic Empowerment Section, to fill in for her to answer questions.

Eva Richter, treasurer of the NGO Committee on Refugees, and a representative of the International Federation of Business and Professional Women, gave background. She was part of the group preparing the Outcomes Statement, recently completed.

The UN General Assembly High Level Meeting will use this statement and its appendices. As I understand, they will build their ‘global compact’ on refugees and migrants using these.

Andrea Milan and me after panel on refugees and migrants

Andrea Milan and me after panel on refugees and migrants

For Monday’s General Assembly, the list of speakers includes 65 names! Even if each speaks for four minutes, that’s 260 minutes, or more than 4 hours.

And there must be time for each person to get to the podium.

Long Overdue Museum of African American History and Culture

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is opening this weekend. Our country is long overdue for this recognition of our collective history!

I knew I would like to visit though I didn’t feel a personal connection. But a few days ago that changed.

My friend Judy who is African-American told our Sister Grandmas that she and her husband have been invited to a donor’s reception on Friday. Her family gave a collection of photos and letters.

Now I am more connected! When I do go, I’ll look for their donation.

National Museum of African American History and Culture

National Museum of African American History and Culture

The Museum’s website says, “The historic significance of the newest and 19th Smithsonian museum – and its importance to all Americans – will make [its opening] an unprecedented local, national and international event unlike any other opening of a cultural institution in America or globally in recent memory.”

I agree – this is the history of our country!

For how long have we white Americans expected African-Americans and Native Americans to look at the history of pilgrims, early political leaders, and 19th century industrialists as ‘our common history’?

I can see myself in representations of white settlers, pioneer women, or early 20th century immigrants. Can a Black woman say that?

I thought we might visit on September 26. We’ll still be in DC after the Peace Corps convention. But the museum website says they are taking timed ticket requests for November and December now.

The New York Times has a wonderful introduction.

Former Slave’s Letter

Another friend, Sonja, sent this link to a letter from a former slave.

It’s exquisite! You can also read what is known of the history of the man who wrote it, Jordan Anderson.

I hope there are more documents like this in the new museum, though I doubt any other will be so well-expressed!

Connecticut Judge Rules on School Funding

The disparity in funding for schools in the state of Connecticut has been an issue for many years.

Sheff vs. O’Neill is the most famous case, decided in 1996 by the Connecticut Supreme Court.

Night heron photographed by my cousin Thomas Thompson

Night heron photographed by my cousin Thomas Thompson

“The  Court ruled that the conditions of segregation and racial isolation in the Hartford schools violated the state’s affirmative obligation to provide Connecticut’s school children with a substantially equal educational opportunity under the Connecticut Constitution,” according to the Sheff Movement.

There have been changes in schools in Hartford, the state capitol, but much of the state remains in dire straits for school funding.

Westport where we live has a strong tax base which funds education. The large city next door, Bridgeport, does not. It was a manufacturing city but no longer has many factories. Unemployment is high. Its schools are poor.

Now there is a new judgement. It came in response to a lawsuit that claimed that the reliance on property taxes unfairly burdens poorer towns and cities.

“Too many American high school graduates are ‘let down by patronizing and illusory degrees,’ Judge Moukawsher wrote,” according to The New York Times. He said the state must have a new plan within 180 days.

And An Appeal

No surprise – State Attorney General George Jepsen has appealed directly to the Supreme Court, bypassing the state Appellate Court. He is challenging only part of the ruling. He says it that takes too much authority away from state and local officials.

At least he recognizes the need. “Nevertheless, the ruling identified profound educational challenges that remain and must continue to receive serious and sustained attention – and action – at every level of government, ” he says.

If you subscribe to the Wall Street Journal you can read more here, though only about the ruling, not the appeal.

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. Hi Catherine,
    I’m a founding member of the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture. However, I’m going to wait a while before visiting the museum. Tickets for the opening day were snapped up immediately, and it’s likely to be the same for several days after that. Good luck to you for Sept 26.
    The museum building is said to be inspired by Yoruba art. Good for the architects!

    • Thanks, Steve. And thank you for being a founding member! I’m not trying to visit on Sept 26; as soon as I saw they were taking orders for November and December I decided not to try! I’ll just have to come to DC to see the museum at another time. What I read said that the design mimicked a Yoruba hat; another said no, not the hat but a Yoruba architectural detail.