Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Two Books About Home

Anita Hill in her Brandeis photo

Anita Hill in her Brandeis photo

Anita Hill and Reimagining Equality

For one of my book groups we’re reading Anita Hill’s Reimagining Equality Stories of Gender, Race, and Finding Home. The title and the paperback book which I found on my bookshelf felt familiar. But it was only when I opened it and saw the table of contents that I remembered I had led a discussion of this book three years ago!

That was part of our adult education programming, called Odyssey, at the Unitarian Church in Westport. It was part of the initiative organized by TEAM Westport and the Westport Playhouse around the play A Raisin in the Sun.

In preparation for the discussion, I emailed Anita Hill at Brandeis where she is University Professor of Social Policy, Law, and Women’s Studies . She said, “I haven’t developed a study guide for the book, but realize that one is overdue.” She then gave me what she called, “the most direct questions related to contemporary issues that the book raises.”

Reimagining Equality, published by Beacon Press

Reimagining Equality, published by Beacon Press

Her first question was, “How are communities that enjoy the best schools, best public service, best access to jobs, etc– ‘privileged spaces’ — historically shaped by racial and gender roles?”  We could easily have spent two hours every week for the three weeks discussing just this! So much history in our country is shaped by those roles.

But I started the first session with this instead: “In her introduction, Dr. Hill says, ‘I invite readers to think about their experiences and yearning for home, even as they read of others whose experiences are different . .’  What are your own experiences?”

Two people said they assumed growing up that they were in the right place. Two said they wanted to leave where they grew up as soon as they could. Another named a city in Canada that would always hold special meaning as home. Others said they had come upon home accidentally.

How would you answer? What is the meaning of home for you? Have you found your home?

Family Means Home

Daoud Hari-photo by Megan McKenna

Daoud Hari-photo by Megan McKenna

I’m listening to the audio book The Translator A Tribesman’s Memoir of Darfur, by Daoud Hari. It is read beautifully by Mirron Willis.

I connected immediately with his statement when he said that in Africa family is everything.

A few days ago the broad outline of a speech on community and belonging popped into my head early in the morning. Maybe I’d been dreaming. Or maybe it had been forming overnight after I’d thought about Peace Corps connections, Anita Hill and the meaning of home, Darfur, and my ties to Clem’s family.

I wanted to write it all down right away, but the day got away form me. So now I’m trying to remember.

I believe I started by saying that we all crave community – a home – as Anita Hill says.

I didn’t feel a strong sense of belonging to a community growing up. I had good friends in high school, college, and in my Peace Corps training group. But they weren’t my “tribe”, an expression I hadn’t ever thought of for myself until I heard my sister-in-law Mary say it about her son Charlie.

It was when I got to Nigeria I really felt at home. I have often wondered why.

I think the sense of belonging is palpable in Nigeria. Once I made myself at home with Nigerian friends, customs, music, and language, I was accepted. Though I would always be an outsider by race, that didn’t matter. Somehow I didn’t have to prove myself.

The Translator, published by Random House

The Translator, published by Random House

When I met Clem’s family and made an effort, they accepted me. Maybe it was becoming part of a strong family that made me feel I had found home.

The author of The Translator describes the tragedy of Darfur in his 2008 book, he makes clear the importance of land and place with family at the center.

Today, even though I don’t want to live in Nigeria again with all the daily hassles, I miss the sense of community, family, and belonging.

Boko Haram and ISIS

Has Boko Haram been driven out of towns in northeastern Nigeria?

A New York Times article provides an overview of changes from poor communication several years ago to higher quality videos in late 2014 and Twitter activity starting in January this year. The author says, “Experts have suggested that the Islamic State may have sent media producers to Nigeria or that Boko Haram video footage was sent to Libya, the Middle East or even Europe for production and editing.”

In the first three months of 2015, Boko Haram made an agreement with ISIS. Soon after, “Boko Haram stopped releasing videos and its Twitter account was disabled,” the writer says. It may be that the “counterinsurgency effort by Nigeria, Chad and Niger forced Boko Haram to retreat on some fronts and may have curtailed its media production.”

But a new video came out in early June contesting the government’s claims of victory.

Then I read today’s NYT article about the poor efforts by our country and its allies to combat ISIS with social media. I was surprised at the assessment. Surely we can do better!

But then we are not as single-minded about defending freedom and opposing radicalism as ISIS is about their caliphate and commitment to radical Islam. What can we do to make our social media efforts in opposition to ISIS more effective?




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. Thanks for Anita Hill’s question on “home.” It provoked a good discussion for us. (I had not realized “home” was in the title of her book.