Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Three Approaches for Social Change

Peace Corps Prep

I participated in a panel at the University of Bridgeport yesterday afternoon.

Steve Hess, Assistant Professor at UB

Steve Hess who was a Peace Corps volunteer in China finished his service in 2008, went straight to grad school for his Ph.D., and is now on the faculty at UB where he is Assistant Professor of Political Science and East Asian and Pacific Rim Studies. He’s also in charge of the Peace Corps Prep program which hosted the panel of former, or as we usually say, returned Peace Corps volunteers. Can you guess why we use that language?

Why are Peace Corps volunteers back home called 'returned' instead of 'former'?

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Panelists and students in the Peace Corps Prep program. I'm in red in front
Panelists and students in the Peace Corps Prep program. I’m in red in front

There were about forty undergrad and grad students who came to listen. We covered several generations of Peace Corps. I was the oldest, having served when President Kennedy was still alive. Robert built wells in Tunisia in the ’70’s, Peter was a teacher in Thailand in the ’80’s, and Caitlin just came home last year from her community development work in Sierra Leone.

We all loved talking about our experiences. Most of the students seemed engaged, and they had good questions. They enjoyed the few paragraphs I read from my book to illustrate challenges. You can read them here – I only read the part about dinner in the hotel.

Civil Rights 50 Years On

This week will see major events celebrating the 50th anniversary of the civil rights march in Selma, Alabama.
Yesterday’s email from the Unitarian Universalist Association, UUA, talked about the Living Legacy Project, a UU initiative to commemorate the 1965 voters’ rights march. You can follow comments from the events on Twitter.
From National Review

From National Review

Rev. Peter Morales, President of the UUA, wrote in the Huffington Post, “We must recommit to the work of those who struggled before us. We honor the sacrifices of Jackson, Reeb and Liuzzo [Unitarian Universalists who died in 1965]. But we look also to the future, to the vision of Dr. King’s Beloved Community. I encourage everyone — Unitarian Universalists and people of any or no religious affiliation — to join the racial justice movement of today, to proclaim that #BlackLivesMatter. The future will judge us by how we answer that call today.”

I know a few people who are going. Do you have friends taking part? Are you going?

UN Women and the US Committee

Yesterday I joined the U.S. National Committee for UN Women, or USNC-UN Women. My friend and colleague Marilyn told me the organization is looking for new board members. I was immediately interested so I joined knowing that membership would be a basic requirement. The USNC is the national committee that supports the work of UN Women.

I remember going with her to hear the inaugural speech when UNIFEM and three other UN agencies dealing with women were combined to form UN Women. They are holding a March for Gender Equality and Women’s Rights on International Women’s Day-  this Sunday – at the UN Plaza in New York. There is a Facebook page with info on all the social media connections; I won’t go to New York but I joined the Facebook group. The celebrity spokesperson for UN Women is Emma Watson.

Emma Watson, Spokesperson for UN Women
Emma Watson, Spokesperson for UN Women

I had to look her up. Do you know who she is?

Just two days ago I said to a friend that it was about time for me to consider becoming part of a nonprofit board again. The USNC-UN Women is the national committee in the U.S. to support UN Women. There are national groups in many countries, and in the U.S. there are chapters in many cities.

I haven’t been on a board since I negotiated the return of the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office, UU-UNO, to its original home at the Unitarian Universalist Association, UUA. (I wish there were shorter names!) I had been board president. When the organization was no longer a separate entity, it no longer needed a board.Our time-intensive work on the Ministerial Search Committee at the Unitarian Church in Westport will be done soon. I’m not involved in church fundraising now.

My book is published. I’m giving talks and book signings, but so far they are not too frequent.

The information Marilyn sent said they will be adding very few board members, so I don’t know my chances. I sent in the required materials this afternoon including Marilyn’s warm recommendation.

I also sent a message to the current president, a fellow Mount Holyoke alum with whom I’ve corresponded, to tell her I was applying. She was very enthusiastic in her reply; I hope that bodes well.

Fashion Fun

Next time watch for fashion news about Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in British Vogue.

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. Hi, Cathy,

    heard this on the radio today and I ask myself why I had never heard of Bryan Stevenson besore??? If you have 45 minutes, please listen, he seems
    such a wonderful person:

  2. Hey Catherine,
    This is all terrific and interesting news. I am thinking about your US Commission to the UN. All of these things entail some lobbying. Whom do you know who might be connected to the organization who could endorse your candidacy. Being the amazing Seven Sister alumna that you are, I am certain that you have checked out the board listing already and looked at the staff and sourced out LinkedIn to see if there may be past board members or people to whom you or others whom you know might be connected. <-I know. Long sentence that one, but you get the point. Cannot wait to celebrate your 50th anniversary!

    • I barely saw you on Saturday evening. Let’s find another time to get together. Yes, current board president is a Mount Holyoke alum with whom I’ve corresponded already; she knows I’ve applied.

  3. Boy oh Boy…..busy busy busy….I get tired just reading about your meetings and adventures….Go for the position, you probably have a better chance than anyone!!