Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Aba, Aba

Walking down the coral red road
Hustlers of all ages
They had everything. Everything.
Jewelry. Pots and Pans. Soap. Groundnut. Udara. Meatpie. Dresses. Broom. Sewing Machines.
We were preparing for my dad's age grade so we went to the market to buy takeaway plates and souvenirs. After all, its not a Nigerian function unless one leaves with more than they came with.
Pure water Pure water
Auntie Dash Me, nau

Sweet girl. Where are you from

Several eyes met mine. Men salivating staring at me like a piece of meat.

By now, I had been used to this. I learned how to smile in pain trying to ignore it.

Everyday, " Can I be your friend?". I was convinced that men worldwide suck at speaking to women. They recycle the same three lines yet expect the same reaction out of women. But today was different.

"Ashawo!!" One man yelled as I walked by. Soon after another man joined in " Ashawo!!"

Suddenly a crowd of men began to follow me, " Ashawo!!"

I began to walk faster, reaching out to grab my mother's hand. Every man I passed joined in the mob yelling, " Ashawo!! Gawa!" I ran to my car and remained inside for the next three hours.

I was so confused. I had bought these shorts specifically for Nigeria.  It passed the finger test but I guess it didnt pass the market test.

Aba, Aba.

Monday, October 26, 2015

“Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child”: On Spanking in the Nigerian Igbo community.

"Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child" 

Proclaimed in every Nigerian household, this phrase fosters an environment where children feel unsafe and demonized. Many times, we think what is normal is right or what is normal is good. We believe that because something happened to us, we should continue to do it. We share our collective stories of spanking , standing up with one foot, squatting for an hour, picking out a switch, using pepper on our bodies and think this is okay. Psychology has told us over and over again that negative reinforcement does not correct behavior yet we continue to believe it does. Psychology has told us that spanking or hitting your child has negative effects on their psyche and overall mental health.

While many Igbo names describe the value of a child, children are denied agency, autonomy, and humanity. Children are often viewed as property wherein parents have ownership over them. As the owner of property, parents can do whatever they want to their children. But, children are human beings not property. While age may be a marker of experience, age is not a marker of humanity. Rather than communicate with our children, we are quick to anger and violence. We instill fear in our children, which creates an unhealthy relationship between children and parents. Some children/adults say they have “ turned out fine” but what do we really mean by “ fine”?  It is similar to the hazing process for fraternities and sororities. We justify and rationalize unnecessary violence by saying “I went through it and I made it just fine”.

There are a million vines glorifying the abuse of children by adults. It is normal. We see Nigerian vines with children receiving a spanking for something as simple as taking a plate with their left hand. What is it that makes us so quick to violence? What is it that forces us out a dialogue and forces us towards violence? I firmly believe that our inclination to spank is a symptom of Post traumatic colonial stress disorder. This is not to say that flogging did not exist before the British came to Nigeria, but I do believe “flogging/spanking” was prominent under British rule.

Toyin Falola [ in Colonialism and Violence in Nigeria] explains the use of violence during colonial Nigeria,

“The goal for all of them was the same: colonial subjects had to respect the new colonial institutions and obey the officers appointed to run them. Respect had to be made visible and symbolic: in ways the officers were addressed and greeted and the speed at which instructions were carried out.” [sound familiar?]

 In 1908, the chief justice of Nigeria stated “ The only way to correct Black people was to flog them”. Falola asserts, “ Many officers regarded Africans as children who had to be lectured and flogged to get the best out of them and enable them to mature quickly” [sound familiar?] Furthermore, “ There was a connection between the stereotypes and violence: primitive Africans were conquered by guns and were expected to become economically productive by means of flogging, while those who were unredeemable were put into prison.”

Colonizers made examples out of elders who refused to accept the new structures of colonialism. They would flog chiefs and ridicule them in public, which would send a message to everyone not to “ act out of line”. “ Acting out of line” meant to go against colonization. “ Acting out of line” meant to resist, to speak out, to fight back. “Acting out of line” meant to question. "Acting out of line" meant to think freely. Flogging was a way to dehumanize Nigerians and force them to submit to colonial officers and appointed chiefs. 

In many ways we act as officers to our children. We often use the words “ discipline and obedience” to describe how our children should be but I find this problematic. Discipline and obedience are coded terms that only benefit those with power. We deny children curiosity and humanity when we tell them they are not allowed to question “authority”. We deny our children creativity when we tell them they must submit to " authority". Those with “ authority” are often the most likely to abuse others. Teachers, parents, and church leaders often use their “ authority” to exert power, control, and abuse.   

I think every human being deserves basic respect. Being a child does not make one less human. I understand respecting elders is very integral part of Igbo culture, but to what degree should we respect elders? If an elder is beating his wife, do we stay silent? If an elder is sexually harassing a young girl, do we stay silent? If an elder is repeating the mistakes of the past, do we accept it? At what point do we level down as human beings and have a conversation where all opinions are valued. While we had a council of elders in Igboland, elders were not the sole decision making body. In fact, we had/have multiple groups (men, women, and children). We had collective community engagement. And even if we did not, why do we assume that culture is stagnant? Why do we only hold on to culture when it only benefits those with power?

People create culture. Culture does not create people. If something is culture and it is wrong, then people have the ability to change it. Culture should adapt. Culture is a collection of common experiences, symbols, language, food, geography, expressions used to define a group of people. But culture can change and culture does change. That’s what makes us a better people.

As a stubborn child and adult, I know that no amount of beating will ever make me “ respect” someone. When I was spanked or beat, I simply found creative ways to hide things from my parents. Children should not be controlled. Children should not be treated as property. Children should be respected as human beings. Children should be listened to and talked to. Parents should want children to respect them as parents not fear them. Children make mistakes. Children are still growing. The worst thing we do to our children is make them feel a sense of guilt and shame [ post coming later about shame in the Nigerian community]. The worst thing we do to children is to make them feel as though they have no outlet. The worst thing we do to children is make them fear those who they entrust their lives to.  

We need to evaluate why we are so quick to spank and “ discipline” our children. We need to evaluate why we have a hard time discussing things with our children. We need to evaluate why our children have a hard time coming to us with their problems or issues. We need to evaluate why we have to cling to “ tough love”. We need to evaluate Post-Colonial Traumatic Stress Disorder Syndrome. We need to evaluate why we have a difficult time expressing ourselves and being vulnerable. We need to evaluate why we ignore mental health concerns in our community. We need to evaluate why we put unnecessary stress and pressure on our children. Who benefits and who suffers?

How do we find better ways to engage our children? How to we find better ways to encourage our children?
We need to heal. Too many of us are suffering and we have not carved out the space to discuss these issues. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Women are Catty

Often times people use gendered terms like "catty" and "bitchy" or complain that women don't get along . This brief video explores how these terms are sexist and not equally applied to men. It also highlights how this belief that "women should get along" is both dehumanizing and nonsensical.

Also, I will have another video addressing how competitiveness amongst women is seen as " catty" or "unladylike", whereas competitiveness amongst men is encouraged. I will also discuss how society pits women against each other another and perpetuates this idea of "cattiness" which women then internalize. Feminism is seen as a " threat" is because society and status quo because it destroys the idea that women are catty and don't get along. To keep women in their place, society, men, and women have to perpetuate this myth which women begin to internalize.

Let me know your thoughts.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Introduction: What Does Black Feminism Mean to Me?

Im so excited! I just started a vlog and cannot wait to upload more content. I will try to do a weekly video and I hope you all tune in !

Welcome to my new Youtube Channel, The Afrolegalise. This channel is dedicated to all things Black women. I will discuss Black Feminist Theory and everyday topics that are informed by Black Feminism . But since I don't like boxes, I may go outside this content and talk about something a little bit more sexy =p. 

This video discusses what Black Feminism means to me. To me, Black Feminism is the radical idea that Black women are autonomous human beings capable of making decisions for themselves and about themselves. Black feminism is all an inclusive theory for all Black women. Black feminism is the little bits of joy I have when I talk about my experience and it resonates with other Black women. 

It is extremely healing to speak about your experience and have other people affirm that you are not alone, so I hope this platform will serve as a source of healing, education, entertainment, and anything you want to make it. 

Thank you for tuning in. Feel free to leave topic suggestions or any feedback that you feel will make this channel more resourceful. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Just exist

How many of us can say that we are comfortable with just existing ?

Is there a moment of your day you aren't thinking about the future ?

Consumed with what could would should be or been ?

What is this unrequited love for our future that continues to leave us in disappointment ?

We abuse ourselves sometimes by fabricating things to suppress the present ?

I am a dreamer . I am a thinker . But so often I get so caught up with what I could be that I never find the time to fully embrace myself as I am . Often leaving me with feelings of inadequacy.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Becoming one

Gathered her things
She left nothing behind but herself
She joined him in a new life
A new way
A new her
With the same him
The old him
Who are you when you become one with him

Hopeless Romantic

To be a hopeless romantic
I want your love
I need your love
So in love in the romance of it
Hopelessly wanting what
I Cannot Have
Hopelessly putting pieces that
Were Never There
How naive
Yet how bliss
Hopelessly living in a world where compatibility
Is slim
Is rare
for me at least 
Hopelessly hiding from the emptiness that fills me
As I find ways to keep my mind busy
On you
You who does not exist
Like this poem I type
Hopelessly believing in the power of words
Speak you to existence I say
But i wake up the next day
and still I turn next to me only to see
Emptiness that fills the bedside where the sun rays
Alas, I wake up to light in my eyes
To be a Hopeless romantic


Why do they run from me?
Was it the wrinkles on my face from my big smile?
Pinks gums frightening anyone who walks by?
Gun shot through my heart when you left
I never got to say goodbye
So goodbye
You taught me nothing
everything I needed to know
About me
Impatiently waiting
For your return or so I convince myself
Reminiscing about the moments we never had
Because somehow I always expect more than whats given
Caught up in what I want you to be for me
That I never saw you run away
Dashing through the spaces of my fingers
You did not merely slip
You jetted
And because this happens so often I wonder
Is it me?
What is it on me or about me that made you run before I ever got to say
So goodbye
You taught me nothing
Everything I need to know

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Nigerian Women as Colonial Politicians

Margaret Ekpo and Janet Mokelu . Two of the three(Olufunmilayo Ransome Kuti) women who were appointed officials when Nigeria established its state . Colonialism drastically limited women's ability to gain an education and enter into leadership positions . The British brought their patriarchal sexist culture and prevented women from actively participating in Nigeria . However , as my previous posts showed . Nigerian women understood their oppression and intelligently articulated their conditions and found innovative /creative ways to resist and build community . We stand on the shoulders of giants . While they may not have had the term feminism , Nigerian women and women of African descent have been demonstrating autonomy and working to eradicate all forms of oppression since forever forever. 

Nigeria at 55

Happy " Independence" Day Nigeria. 

Frantz Fanon is one of the best people to theorize the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized and the effects of this situation on our psyche. He most famously discusses the power of language in creating and perpetuating conditions of oppression. I wont delve into Frantz Fanon or the theories of post-colonialism or the process of decolonization, but I understand why people express disinterest in celebrating " Independence" or the end of " colonization". 

I would urge everyone to watch this documentary titled " Concerning Violence" which combines film from colonization and different freedom movements with the words of Frantz Fanon:-->    Concerning Violence . Let me know what you think ! 

Is decolonization an end? What does it mean to decolonized? What does it mean to be colonized? What does it mean to be independent? What does it mean to be sovereign? What does it mean to be free? What does freedom look like to you as an individual and to the world around you? How do we use history and our current situation to re-imagine what we think is possible or attainable? How do we decolonize the mind? How do we celebrate one another by simultaneously recognizing the colonized state we are in? 

Interview with Fela 

Below are excerpts from an excellent author Toyin Falola in " Colonialism and Violence in Nigeria". A great read that i HIGHLY recommend. He perfectly compiles different acts of resistance by Nigerians against the British. I think we often romanticize colonization or water it down; part of that is through our language and the way our independence is framed and discussed. 

This is a passage from a complaining woman about her oppressive situation during colonization . Often times the role of women in nation building is overlooked . During colonialism Nigeria women were the most oppressed as a result they were the group most likely to resist . The British were extremely violent to Nigerian women from kidnapping to rape to cold blood murder. Nigerian women endured a lot during colonization and are still suffering from the generational trauma experienced during that time . Moreover , There are hundreds of resistance/rebellions documented against the British but one of the most important Acts of resistance was the Women's war of 1929 . Like the#blacklivesmatter movement , this movement was led by women in a decentralized yet strategic and intentional faction . This movement gave future nationalist the pride and confidence to stage both violent and nonviolent acts against British rule . Many armed resistance strategies followed after this war and put pressure on the British to leave Nigeria and also gave way for more nonviolent Measures to be deemed acceptable . There would be no Nigeria without this movement . The Women's war of 1929 and it's undeniable success paved the way for what we call Nigeria today . 

Falola states,  "Colonialism undermined and subverted the position and status of women in many African societies. The Women's War of 1929 represents an early response of African women to their disempowerment and the subservience colonialism perpetrated and legitimized. The 1929 riots also reveal traditions of women's activism among the peoples and groups of eastern Nigeria. ria. While there were other examples of protests by women in other parts of Nigeria, the 1929 example offers rich data with which to understand the role of women in the colonial setting."

Colonization was about economic exploitation and political domination . The British were very violent to Nigerians . They cut off the heads of many village elders to send a message to the community . They imprisoned any person who spoke against or fought colonial rule in Nigeria . They burnt down whole villages .They murdered and raped many women and children . They continuously justified this violence by referring to Nigerians as dumb , stupid , uncivilized , primitive, animalistic, untamed, Black, ugly, niggers . As in the United States , Nigerians were not even allowed to use the same public accommodations as British in Nigeria .