Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Two Stories of Boundary-Crossing Marriage

Boundary-Crossing Marriage

The first story of Boundary-Crossing Marriage comes from the online media site

Online media is alive and well in Nigeria. I would even say thriving!

Vera Ezimora who wrote about Boundary-Crossing Marriage, from her website Verastic.comVera Ezimora from her website

Vera Ezimora from her website

One of the popular online media sites is ‘Naija’ is the way Nigerian’s refer to their country and its customs. now has a youth version, though youth as defined in Nigerian culture often extends to people in their 30’s and 40’s.

Vera Ezimora wrote about her boundary-crossing marriage in “I’m Not Raising a Yoruba Child.”  She is an Igbo woman married to a Yoruba man. She said that even before she met her husband, she had decided that she would give her children Igbo names. This is only right, she says, because the woman does all the work of bearing the child.

Sexism, Tribalism, and Feminism

She begins by saying, “Among my Nigerian people, in the issues concerning gender and tribe, there is covert sexism and tribalism.” I disagree – the sexism and tribalism are overt!

Her husband’s people tell her their child is Yoruba, omo Yoruba, like her husband. She says, “No, she is an Igbo-Yoruba girl.”

She didn’t even know the term ‘feminism,’ she says. But now she knows she is clearly a feminist.

She ends with, “And while we’re on the subject of not raising a Yoruba daughter, I am also not a Yoruba wife. But that’s a story for another day.”

I posted this comment:

“Loved your piece. I married an Igbo man. I was happy to give our children Igbo first names. But I insisted on calling our daughter by her ‘English’ name since that was the name of my sister and aunt. Our older son goes by a shortened version of his Igbo name, and younger son by his Igbo grandfather’s first name, which is also an ‘English’ name. In my memoir Nigeria Revisited My Life and Loves Abroad I recount the time I had to point out forcefully that I was not an Igbo wife, rather the wife of an Igbo man!”

Loving  – the Movie

I saw the movie Loving last night. You probably already know it. The movie tells the story of the inter-racial couple, Richard and Mildred Loving. They married in 1958, six years before me.

They were forced to leave their home in Virginia because of the state’s anti-miscegenation laws. Their case was eventually taken up by the ACLU. It reached the Supreme Court in 1967.

This Time Magazine article from June 2016 states that Mildred Loving never identified as black. She was Indian, she said. But the ACLU needed the black identity to bring their case.

“Mildred insisted she was Indian; but how could the legal team present a case aimed to dismantle the last of the slavery laws to a Supreme Court that viewed this issue only in terms of black and white?” the Time’s author asks.

Nevertheless, the Supreme Court decision was a landmark. It made my marriage legal in the state of Kentucky, the last place I lived in the US before marrying.

When I married in Lagos, Nigeria, I didn’t even know about the miscegenation law in Kentucky. Not that it would have changed my mind.

But my parents felt the repercussions after the Kentucky Post printed a picture of our kiss on their front page the day after our wedding. My parents returned to their Kentucky home to hate calls.

It’s probably as well I didn’t know. I brought our first son, clearly mixed-race, to visit my parents in 1966. Could we have been arrested if the authorities knew? Did anyone care by that time?

And Music That Combines Two Cultures

Rev. Dr. Ed Thompson

Rev. Dr. Ed Thompson

Yesterday our choir presented our annual Christmas concert. Our Music Minister and Director Ed Thompson said, “You knocked it out of the park!”

My favorite was Ubi Caritas. It is a 10th century Gregorian chant accompanied by organ or piano, combined with an African chant and drumming.

In the choir. The sun was just beginning to hit me.

In the choir. The sun was just beginning to hit me.

In his program notes, Ed wrote, “Paul Halley was the Organist and Choirmaster at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York. He was rehearsing this chant one day when, simultaneously, there was a group doing African drumming and chanting down in the basement.”

After irritation at the disturbance, he decided to create a new piece combining the two.

You can watch this version which is accompanied by lush visuals. If you want to get to the section that includes the African music, go to just after the 4th minute. Or relax, watch, and listen to all 10 minutes! You will not regret it.

Christmas Celebrations

On Saturday evening, before the music, were the parties. I was so fortunate to have two holiday festivities to attend. The first was at the unusual home of Rev. Dr. John and his wife Francis.

I couldn’t believe the transformation. I had been to their home a few times before. But they had opened up an additional room so the 100+ guests could flow through several spaces. And it was decorated to the 9th degree. So it was gorgeous, warm, and inviting.

Rev. Dr. Ed Thompson

One of several decorated trees at Marcelle’s.

Then I went to Marcelle and Eric’s annual Cookies and Cocktails party at their home in Wilton. Marcelle also loves decorating for the holidays. Barely an inch was without festive ornamentation.

Again it was lovely. And it was full of writers so the conversation held exciting ideas, writing triumphs, and shared interests.

Holiday Travel

I’m leaving for Nigeria on Friday the 16th for 3 weeks. I will post intermittently, if at all, while I’m away. I will definitely  go to the Afo market in Nanka, the reason for my every-four-day schedule. And I’ll have pictures.

However you celebrate this time of year, I wish you happiness and peace.

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.