Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Lessons from Africa

Living in Community: Lessons from Africa

Tomorrow I’ll be in New Haven CT to present a workshop, “Lessons from Africa.” The Unitarian Fellowship of New Haven is hosting an all-day meeting for about 100 people coming from churches in the area.

Several months ago the organizers invited workshop proposals. Mine was selected. My one-hour session is entitled “Living in Community: Lessons from Africa.”

My talk is based on the sermon I gave at my church last summer. I seem to have cycled through several titles, but the gist is, “We Would Be One, Sharing and Caring in Community.”

Tortoise as in the stories

Giant African spur tortoise, from Sun UK photo

In that sermon I spoke about 8 lessons from Africa. I’ve added two more for the New Haven talk, so I now have 10.

One that I added was something my husband has told me often. He reminded me yesterday when I asked for his review of my presentation.

He loved hearing stories at night in the village. He calls the practice egwu onwa, or moon stories. The stories always had a moral.

The tortoise was often featured.  He was clever, full of tricks, and selfish, and was invariably shamed at the end.

Conversation or Presentation?

The organizers asked us to say how many people we want at our sessions. I said 10, but now I’m wishing I had said more.

My original thought was that it would be a conversation more than a presentation. But as I prepared, I found that I wanted to talk in some detail about the lessons from Africa.

So now I have a PowerPoint presentation with 27 slides, and my talk “Lessons from Africa” will last for about 30 minutes. The conversation part will be fairly short – 15 to 20 minutes.

With 10 people each person will have a chance to be heard. Then I’ll finish with a few final slides and an invitation to buy my book and sign up for my blog.

I submitted my sermon, slightly rewritten as a speech, to the Connecticut State contest of the National Federation of Press Women.

I won! Now it’s been sent on to the national contest. Wish me luck!

Boko Haram Update

Can I go back with Lessons from Africa?

Audience at Senior Men’s Association of Stamford

Yesterday I spoke to the Senior Men’s Association of Stamford, for an audience of around 100.

Bob, the program chair, had said they were particularly interested in Boko Haram and related activities. So I talked less about my early time in Nigeria.

Several men told me about their own connections to Africa.

  • One had a son (or daughter?) in the Peace Corps in Liberia
  • One had been to Nigeria with Texaco
  • Another had gone to Nigeria as a consultant to the State Department.

I had plenty of new information to share.

A day earlier I’d read a report in Newsweek that two thousand captives were freed from Boko Haram. The joint force from Cameroon, Nigeria, and Chad, had also captured 300 Boko Haram fighters.

But Newsweek also said that, “Boko Haram’s current leader, Abubakar Shekau, recently appeared in a purportedly new video in which he encouraged his followers to continue their fight.” No surrender, he says.

Meanwhile, Nigeria has set up a camp to rehabilitate Boko Haram fighters.

The army announced it on their Facebook page: “In line with the Federal Government’s commitment to the war against insurgency in the North East and in furtherance of its efforts to rehabilitate and reintegrate surrendered and repentant Boko Haram terrorist members, the Defence Headquarters has established rehabilitation camp in an Exercise known as Operation SAFE CORRIDOR.”

Do I believe their statement? Will they succeed? Okey Ndibe is not hopeful.

Getting Ready for Tomorrow 

Okey Ndibe has written an excellent but disturbing opinion piece for Naija247 News. He outlines Nigeria’s many problems that President Buhari has seemed unable or unwilling to tackle.

He says, “The evidence is that, for all the years he spent running for the office of Nigerian president, Mr. Buhari had little or no vision of the direction in which he intended to move the country. He took more than four months to produce a list of his ministers, . . . That timetable said something profound . . . It revealed that here was an analogic president presiding over a country that should be in digital mode.”

Thinking Of Tomorrow Today by Okey Ndibe

Ndibe ends his piece asking where the people are who should be preparing for the next election in 2019. Is he considering a political move?

Darien's Atria. Next time I'll talk about lessons from Africa

My presentation at Atria in Darien

Atria Senior Living

The day before the Senior Men’s Association, I spoke at Atria Senior Living in Darien CT, about 3/4 of the way to Stamford. I spoke less about Boko Haram and more about my life.

Aline who helps me with lessons fro Africa

Aline, my pr consultant, friend, and fellow writer

Like the members of the men’s group, the residents in Darien asked great questions. Several had connections either to other Peace Corps volunteers or to experiences in Africa.

One woman loved my story so much she bought books for all her children, and then came back to get one for a friend and one for herself!

Aline, my faithful, fun, and extremely efficient public relations consultant, always takes pictures for me. I thought it was time for one of her!

Chickens Across the Street

I’ll tell you about them next time!

Holocaust Survivor Anita Schorr

Anita Schorr, resident of Westport for several decades, was a holocaust survivor. She died recently. Dan Woog wrote about her today.

She spoke frequently in schools about her experiences.  She says, “Every one of us has to do something. And yes, one person can make a difference. We need to be heroes again. We . . . must feel that every incident is everyone’s responsibility.”

I couldn’t agree more.

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. A big shout out from the entire Board of the US National Committee for UN Women for your winning speech at the Connecticut State contest of the National Federation of Press Women. We are proud of your work with us as well as the incredible dedication to bringing about changes in Nigeria and awareness of the challenges and successes of the people there. I so enjoy your blogs and never fail to read it.
    Congratulations and if I lived closer to you I would attend your workshop.

    Lalita Janke, Board President
    US National Committee for UN Women

    • Thank you, Lalita. I’m very grateful for your message and your faithful reading of my blog. Sorry you can’t come to the event in NY. Maybe I can do a presentation in Florida one of these days!

  2. Hi Catherine, I have enjoyed reading all your blogs since I signed up after your last LLI course. I found this one most interesting & also concerning. I truly fear for the Nigerian people, not only from Boko Haram which seems to be really getting stronger & more brazen, but more importantly from themselves. The Naija247 News artlcle is horrifying. As bad as our political landscape has been & as ineffective as our government has been the last 12 years, our country survives & does not have revolutions or military coops. I fear the same may not be true for Nigeria. Buhari was deposed once, could that happen again or will there at least continue to be legal transitions in the government during the “fourth republic”? I guess on the one hand, given what’s going on in our election process this year, I should not be making any comment, but——

    • Thanks, Mike. I too fear for Nigeria, but I am more hopeful than fearful. With both sons having decided to live there, I have to be hopeful! But I also believe they and their generation may be able to keep the country from destroying itself! When Buhari was deposed before, it was in the context of a series of coups. Now we’ve had 16 years of democratic (more or less) elections.

  3. Big, big congratulations on your win. Such a good feeling, I am sure. And best of luck with the next level of the contest.