• My Father
    23/Feb/2015

    Wow! Thirty years have come and gone without my father. As I was thinking about writing a tribute to my father, I was lost in thoughts: Any man can help create a child, but it takes a real man to love, cherish, and raise that child, even the child he did not help create. I wish my father could have lived another 30 years. Death was inconsiderate of my father, of his goodness and all. It did not give me the chance to say, “Goodbye, I love you, Igwe,” or hug him one more time. Rather, Death came and stole. My heart was broken. I was left without a father at 12, but was blessed with a mother whose love cannot be measured.

    I am thankful for the opportunity to have shared 12 years of my life with him. I remember his smiles, his jokes, and his laughs. His laughter was always accompanied by hand gestures especially when watching wrestling matches. I also remember how kind he was to everyone he knew. My father was kind to a fault. He expressed undeniably selfless love through unsurpassed kindness to many.

    Growing up in a large family, life was good. But, Life is unfair, and it is indeed. I wished my father was here to walk me down the aisle. I wish he was around to pass his blessings to his grandchildren. I wish he was here to share his words of wisdom with me.

    Every now and then, I sit with my children, sharing all the exciting things about my father.

    Many times, people have shared with me how great my father was to them & their families, and the impact he had in their lives. I smile in appreciation for their kind words.

    My father may have passed on, but his legacy lives on.

  • The Fragrance of Hope
    02/Feb/2015

    She always had this distinct look on her face, an intoxicating smile, and she smelled soft just like the perfume she always wore. But behind that smile and sweet scent, I could see the agony she carried through the walls of her eyes. She looked tired. Still, she maintained a positive aura. As she spoke, I heard a familiar ring in her voice. So, I fixed my gaze on her. I was silent, and I listened.
      
    I learned that for so long, she was weakened by the shackles around her, and was living in a world that she had created for herself. Misery almost became her, but she wore hope with a smile. She almost lost the very essence of her being when she gave other people the remote control of her life. Her body and soul were in disarray, and she ignored all the alarming signals. She hid behind those beautiful smiles, and forgot that she had the key to unlock her destiny and happiness.

    One fine morning, the temperature was just right, she was arrested by her own fears. She took stock of her life; where she has been, where she is, and where hopes to be. She realized that if she kept allowing herself to be overtaken by her weaknesses rather than her strengths, she would miss out on the chance at being fulfilled and not accomplish the reason she was born. Despite what life throws at her, she never struggles to wear a smile knowing how infectious a smile can be. So she spreads her smiles.

    I couldn’t imagine the weight she had to carry. But, I saw more the few. I saw a woman who was ready to break away from the life that she did not want and has said, “NO,” to abuse and degradation. I saw an unstoppable woman. I saw a Survivor. I saw a winner.

    I do know a few things for sure:
     

    •     There is a reason for every season
    •     Never focus on unnecessary things and people. Filter your inner circle, but first start with your mindset.
    •     Find what works; your passion for instance
    •     You must NOT give people the key to your happiness and success
    •     When being strong is the only option, do not give fear a thought
    •     And, never live a maybe life, be certain on your life goals
    •     Life is hope.

    When you underestimate your value, you will never know your worth. Be your dose of inspiration, your success story. Nourish your body and soul with the right ingredients. Peace of mind is priceless. Love is crucial; Love yourself. You cannot give what you do not have. Live more than just a little and don’t just exist. The greatest journey in life is indeed the one that will lead you home safe. You are your own karma.  

     

     

  • ANGER: A RAGING STORM
    02/Feb/2015
    Like a storm, the heart of an angry man rages at the speed of light and sometimes, the outcome is irreversible.

    Many women were murdered by their husbands, their men who were supposed to protect and love them. The deaths of women in the hands of their husbands are happening more frequent. In some parts of Africa, men have used their wives for ritualistic acts (to gain wealth, political status, or hope to live for eternity). In the United States, from 2001 to present, more than 100 Nigerian women have been brutally murdered by their husbands. In 2104, a friend of mine was shot to death by her husband while she was sleeping. The question remains: “Why are Nigerian husbands in the United States killing their wives?”

    Age can be a big factor in a marriage. Maturity is another. The struggle for power; the control of the couple’s finances has always been a dueling issue. You would think infidelity should be a big part in divorces in many of these marriages. Not so! But, it carries its own weight when determining why couples fall the hard way. Today, a good number of persons in marriages merely exist, because it is the convenient thing to do. The couples are living miserably having to face each other everyday. They coexist for reasons, in some cases, neither of the couple could explain.

    But they keep hoping.

    Being hopelessly devoted has put many lives at risk. Indeed, it is a sad commentary about the grace of matrimony. What would drive one spouse into taking the life of the other? As it is in most cases, the wife, the same woman he had taken a vow to protect and ‘…to love for better or worse, ’til death do them part’ becomes the victim.

    There is always an ongoing debate on the issue among adults and young adults in the African communities on why wives are being killed by their spouses. An African man gave this reason:

    “You African women come to America and buy into the American culture. You forget that back home, husbands are lords of the Jungle. Do not our mothers call our fathers, “My master?” Here, you turn your husbands into frustrated men and eventually, into murderers. Let’s leave the Whiteman’s way, and learn to live as Nigerian couples do back home. This is bitter truth!”

    Interesting! A woman listening to the opinion that had come from a bona fide male chauvinist had a different take.

    “It takes two to do the tango. However you choose to paint it, I want you to hear this; our men tend to be abusive to their spouses. The culture we come from has condoned it for years. If we, Igbo women ascribe to American culture, it does not give a man, regardless of cause, the right to take a life.”

    Here in America, when a man physically abuses his a woman or his wife, and she reports it, the man would most likely be arrested and jailed. In most cases, the State would resort to the filing of charges, even if the abused woman wanted to recant her testimony.

    Many African women would stay in a hopelessly known situation; she would take further abuses, including those that are mentally tasking. Well, tradition expects her to be devoted to her husband!

    But wait…

    “A nagging wife is like cancer in the bone,” Proverbs 12:4.

    It takes a man with the fear of God to seek His Grace when he is married to a ‘nagging wife.’

    Nagging is the big bad wolf. And when it comes from a woman, it is much more difficult to contain. This is the bane of most African marriages. Africans by nature are loud talkers. They are hyperbolic; they holler even when fun is in the mix. The sight of two African males in a verbal brawl is usually mindboggling and ear shattering. That is what the situation is at home with feuding couples. Neighbors have been known to call those in law enforcement to settle quarrels between African couples.

    Some of these feuds begin with a wife who couldn’t stop badgering her husband with sharp-edged words she is spewing at a hundred miles an hour. If she is unlucky and draws a husband who is equally sharp-tongued, the fight usually is taken to a level both man and wife couldn’t escape from.

    With all being said and done, how could any woman (or any man) absorb so much abuse and still remain in the marriage? How could a woman not tell that her relationship was in shambles, and could not be repaired? Why would any woman lie to herself about the dangers she faces daily, looking into the eyes of her could-be killer and not know it?

    If you are a woman (or a man), you should ask yourself this question: Do I need this marriage to make me whole, to complete me?
  • Be ‘doggone’ Mindful of What You Say!
    02/Feb/2015
    Recently, I ran into an old friend at a local Grocery Store. After all the hugs and ‘Oh My God(s), it’s been a while,’ exchanges, this old friend asked about my children and how they were coping with not living with their father. Her eyes rounded just as her lips pursed to repeat the question in the event that I didn’t hear her. But, I heard her loud and clear. The glint in her eyes told me she couldn’t give a hoot about my children’s wellbeing. She was clearly molding the next round of offensive bites to start off her weekend gossip. I let a counterfeit smile ride my face to change the ugly countenance that had begun to press against my unmade face.

     

    “They are doing great actually! Growing up fast too. My oldest is almost as tall as I am. God is good. Thank you for asking. You look great!” I mumbled on. “How are you and your family?” I asked her almost immediately. The smile I had crafted had frozen up, and my facial muscles had begun to hurt.

     

    My question to her went unanswered. And here was why: I had to clear the huddle she had placed before me, if I didn’t want the one-sided barrage to continue. The compliment about her looking great didn’t matter; she couldn’t feed that to her ardent listeners. It was flat, and she needed something that has humps; cold cuts, munchies and a crap load of gritty meshes sweetened in a cauldron of witch-brewed juices. What was I to do? This babe was on a roll! I thought maybe she was going to talk about my recent live television interview with Emmy Award Winner, Fox 26 News Anchorwoman; Melissa Wilson. Nah, nah! She fired away, burying me deeper than she had dug the grave.

     

    ‘Nkem, I am very disappointed in you. As a matter of fact, you should be ashamed that your children do not live with their father too. A woman has more dignity in the community and amongst her peers when she has her family together, especially considering where we come from. So biko (So please), when asked, do not take pride in telling people that you are a single mother. You ought to be ashamed of yourself and not be seen in public.’

     

    I stared at her and was appalled at her audacity. Rare? Yes! But when you find it, the bearer is usually a plutocrat. Gagged? Indeed I was! In the middle of a Grocery Store, I was stripped, flogged, and hung out to dry. When the initial rush of anger receded, I took that deep breath, without making it obvious. She stood in my face like Rhoda of the Nile with all her teeth exposed in a Fu Manchu smirk. How could I respond to such vapid utterance; the ignorance and stupidity that rode on her condemnation of me was a high-wired act, and I didn’t think I had enough of 4th of July fireworks in my repertoire to knock her silly. What I had was lame and neither fully esoteric nor powerful enough to make the kind of dent on her impudence and douse her down like a bowl of sopping oatmeal. The only option available was to knock those teeth out. That would have been great. You see, she is a practicing dentist, and wouldn’t have too much trouble putting her teeth back. However, any physical engagement would have worked, if I were bigger. If only looks could really hurt! However, I am glad I am neither violent nor abusive.

     

    My spirit soared above the metal awnings holding the roof up. Does she know the hell I had been through? We all go through stuff no matter the persona we each wear. But then again, being educated doesn’t mean wisdom is applied intelligently.

     

    ‘Oh, let me have women around me that are shy and thoughtful. Sleek-headed, over schooled brats as Bellisimo here are mean and selfish…such women are dangerous,’ my heart wailed.

     

    Physician heal thyself, I thought.

     

    “Doc…” I began. “I hope that you’d never see the day come when you’d pack and leave your husband. Being a single mother is not a disease. It doesn’t lower or degrade your status, nor would it depreciate your value as a human being. And being married does not appreciate your value,” I finally managed to say.

     

    We should do our best each day to improve ourselves. What we say to one another must be carefully measured, thought out before we release that first salvo. Clearly, my Doctor friend did not have a moment to bite on those words to soften their impact before she spat them out. Here’s another thing she failed to do; she couldn’t have been so dumb not to know that my feelings could be hurt. Then again, it could be the plutocrat in her or the carriage of her, the stinking persona she wears like an over-made Barbie doll, that compels her to thumb her nose at others.

     

    Even if I had wanted to lash back at her to even the score, I wouldn’t have been able to; my frozen face and the smile it bore like a crazy woman’s visage wouldn’t let me. So, I held my tongue tight and branded her unnecessary and irrelevant at that precise moment. I literally shoved her into the realm of those, especially, them that walk hollow, think blandly, and would always dress in borrowed robes as a way of bottling up my rage. There were other cheap contraptions on this woman. I will spare you those to avoid any further, meaner construction of her being. But know this; she must be de-cluttered and her inadequacies reshuffled and rebranded. And I know exactly how to do that.

     

    Events happen in our lives to make us better, stronger, tougher, and wiser. And at the same time, there are other things that happen our way to destroy and weaken us, only because we allow them to take place.


     

    If being single, divorced, or separated are all diseases, then there should be an over-the-counter remedy to right them. And, it’s neither an abomination, or is it? I am not kidding you: Exactly ten weeks after my encounter with her, the Doctor packed up and vamoosed; she packed up alright…with her two kids in tow, and left her husband and the home she had lived in for the past fifteen years. Dr. Do-no wrong, sighted irreconcilable differences like I had done. However, her own gist tapered wickedly; he had pulled the wig off her head, grabbed the natural web and pounded her frontal lobe against the wall to knock her out. Believe me, I am looking forward to having an intimate lunch with this woman. I will buy her a drink…no juices, unadulterated concoction. Whatever I have them serve her must pack a wallop. You see, I must loosen her up to listen to her yarn. Oh, I will pick up the tab too. And right after she had had that first sip…bang!!! That will be me firing the first shot to see how the staccato would ring in her ears, and how her body would hang after the barrage hits her. Hello?

     

    Remember: The past is only a memory. The present is here and now. Never be defined by the challenges that life throws at you, nor by the forces that weaken you, nor the people whose mission is to make you just as miserable as they themselves are! Be your own success story. ~ ND


     
  • THE COLOR OF MY SKIN
    02/Feb/2015
    First generation African-American families brought to the new world did not drop from spaceships. They came in slave ships. Somehow, somewhere in time past, many Africans, young and old were abducted from different parts of the beautiful continent of Africa and sold into slavery. They were shipped to the New World called ‘America.’ Overtime, they became ‘African-Americans.’

    U.S citizens, including African-Americans, are fortunate to have been born in America; ‘The Land of Opportunity.’ Millions of people dream of coming to America. In almost every case with these immigrants, they hope that someday they would become U.S citizens, or at least, obtain a permanent residency status. They would rather not be tagged ‘Aliens,’ legal or not!

    Pause for a second. Delete all forms of discrimination, all superiority and/or inferiority complex from the frame of your mind. Now, ask yourself: Who is an immigrant in the United States?

    Given what we know about American history, this question must exclude the Native Americans. When this question is examined, it could go back to the beginning of time…the time before Christ and even beyond. One generation begets another. This cycle of life or bloodline will continue as long as there is life. It is true to say that the human race is inter-connected. The things that connect us are many and will remain eternally unbroken.

    In recent genealogical studies, African-Americans have been known to trace their roots to particular tribes in Africa. The same goes with the larger white population, whose roots go back to Europe and Asia. Among African-Americans, the surprising oneness in heritage becomes a given. Every American therefore, with the exception of the Native Americans, is an immigrant.

    Skin color is that unique fabric of oneself that cannot be traded in any marketplace. It is our inheritance, bestowed upon us by Nature. Nothing could delete that glaring fact. It is therefore a big part of what makes each of us stand out.

    Many African-Americans are still struggling with their true identity, unsure of who they really are and where their ancestors had come from; the complexities of being an African in the Whiteman’s land. The idea itself is strange, and brings with it, a hint of degradation. To call someone born and bred in America an African is a hard pill to swallow for some. Hence, attaching the tag ‘American’ completes some of them… and justifiably so.

    On the other hand, many Africans born and raised in Africa are in a struggle to fit into the Western culture. Many would rather prefer to be labeled Americans, even Europeans, as a way of forcing everyone to see them as more urbane.

    Back in high school, I met a few girls that, given a chance to get married would have done so for all the wrong reasons. Every one of them would have preferred, and would have loved to marry a Whiteman (an oyibo) for one simple reason, to have an oyibo baby. One time, I had a girl say this to me: ‘I just want my kids to look different, especially my daughters… you know, just for the hair.’ Eventually, she did marry a White-American and had two children by him. Her weird dream was realized; her children had curly hair. It is worth repeating… she married for all the wrong reasons. Apparently, she was also ignorant and battling with self-rejection, insecurity, and culture orientation disability.

    Often times, people are roped inadequate in their self-imposed battles as they struggle to become something that they are not. It becomes a recoiling nightmare; a bad journey that could, if not restricted, destroy that individual. Eventually, they lose themselves. To bleach your way out of your blackness, and to talk virtually without one’s African accent, does not change who you are. I know for a fact that some Africans love it when they seem to have lost a sizeable drone in the way they originally sounded before coming to America. Maybe, these Africans sound more polished than others because they have been outside their native country for so long. But still, it does not change who they are.

    One wonders why parents would choose to suppress their native language in lieu of a foreign one. ‘My children can understand my native language, but they cannot speak it.’ That’s how it starts! Or, ‘My children can neither understand my native language nor speak it.’ That clearly stokes it! Many parents sing this like a song, and say it with such pride. Therefore, it is not surprising that children, especially the ones born and raised in many parts of West Africa are unable to communicate in their mother tongue.

    If the trend is not reversed, we could lose a big part of who we are. If only parents would take the time to teach their children (maybe, stay social media), their efforts should payoff; the kids would, inadvertently learn to live and preserve that which has been given to them. They would most likely pass this on to the next generation. That is how culture survives, how traditions and customs are preserved among people.

     

    However, some Africans that were born in America prefer to be tagged wholesomely American. Many of them have gotten used to saying this tiresome maxim;

     

    “I am an American, but my parents are Africans.”

     

    I can appreciate it when a child born of African parents in the United States says for instance, “I am a Kenyan-American” rather than saying, “I am an American.” It makes me wonder where their African heritage fits in. This cycle of ignorance has continued from one generation to another and it needs to be broken.

    Although, not everybody wants to fit in, but most times, many do hope that they could. This is about culture and tradition. No matter where you were born or where you live, culture should matter. There is nothing wrong with embracing a culture that is not yours. However, one should not have to lose the values they were born into in an effort to absorb that which is foreign.

    The older generations of immigrant Africans have a better handle on who they are. They are a lot better at maintaining their Africanness; their values and cultures. The so-called Digital Natives; the new generations of African immigrants are not so good at maintaining their identity. Furthermore, they are slow, and sometimes fail altogether in raising their children in that proper manner the African culture and traditions demand.

     To be black is to be from a unique heritage. To love and be proud of who you are, regardless of your ethnicity or nationality is everything. When one attempts to look, sound, and act like another, in an effort to fit into a profile, it does not change who you truly are. All people are made in the image of God. We are different, yet we share similarities. If you are black, but speak the language that is not yours, and not your mother tongue, you are still black. It is that simple.

     

    There is Africa in every black person