Community, Uncategorized

Why we need a communal approach to equality and justice

A thought just clicked in my mind today, about selfishness as it correlates with injustice. Corruption is selfishness, racism is selfishness, promoting ‘gender inequality’ is selfishness etc. Injustice is very much centred around the idea of ‘the self’ which includes a person’s likes and dislikes, as well as his or her beliefs.

To really tackle injustice from the crux, we must constantly remind ourselves and society that there is usually room for more. Ever gone late to a class or a meeting that was being held in a small room, around a long but limited-capacity table? Well, what happens is that people start to make space and a space for at least one chair comes up. If there is no space at the table, the person who came late, will take a seat behind those seating at the table but still gets to hear what is being spoken. To me, that person is still considered to be at the table – and is benefiting from the same information that everyone else in the room is hearing.

There is usually room for more.

Again, selfishness is a factor that correlates to injustice. It is often puzzling as to why someone will take the effort run to be a political leader in a nation and end up looting the treasury and/or oppressing the people through wars or dictatorship. Some organizations aim to have diversity in race and ethnicity but do not care to make a plan that will sustain the diversity and make all feel welcome.

The marginalized must also not behave like the oppressors, in their defense for the self …

As a Nigerian, I try to keep myself in the loop of things trending in Nigeria. I noticed that it is problematic to some Nigerians (not all), when they see other Nigerians rooting for the Black Lives Matter movement. To such people, their anger is essentially – How about the injustices in Nigeria? Why not focus on Nigeria instead?

I can understand where they are coming from, as there is a lot of inequality in Nigeria. There is injustice. Also, I know the anger of feeling left out because your tragedy doesn’t make world news. But, we must remember that there is room for more. Injustice against me should not blind me against oppression that others are facing. I think that as a citizen of the world, it is my duty as it is every other person’s, to care about people no matter what part of the world they are in, especially when they are facing oppression.

Remember, selfishness is a factor that correlates to injustice. Even when the oppressed person takes on that notion of the self against others, it is wrong. It is just like acting in the manner of the oppressor.

In our collective strive for a just world, we must remember that there is room for more. A communal mindset sets the pace for just societies and hence, a just world.

Love & peace,

Chiamaka

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Love is love. Hate is wrong

Rainbow

Photo from: http://thehungergames.wikia.com/wiki/File:Rainbow.jpg

In our world, justice co-exists with the popularity of the message that we should all love each other despite individual differences. Perhaps, this is the normal order of what the world should be like? I don’t know, I guess the answer to that question lies with the Almighty. However, that co-existence that was stated above, makes me feel that we need to keep on with the message of love but also constantly include the logic behind love – the logic behind loving each other, regardless of religious belief, race, sexual orientation, country of origin, tribe etc.

I believe that the logic behind love is that it benefits both the lover and the recipient – love brings about trust and it brings people closer. I guess the logic of love can mean different things to different people but it is indisputable that love benefits us all and our world needs more of it. A world in which 50 people are killed and 53 are injured, at a gay club, is definitely in need of more love. A world in which you can be sentenced to 14 years in prison in Nigeria because you identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer, needs more love. A world where Donald Trump can be the front and leading man for the Republican Party, needs more love and less hate and fear.

When Donald Trump first came into the spotlight for his presidential ticket campaign, he seemed to me as a total joke. I felt strongly that there was no way this man can possibly come close to the presidency. However, I was so wrong. He has won the support of numerous people in America and he is now the official candidate of the Republican Party. It’s still perplexing to me that someone who boldly spews hate and puts people against each other, can have the support of several people in a country as (seemingly) developed as America.

Friends, hate still exists strongly in our world. The newly crowned Miss USA is African-American and I saw a snapshot of racist comments that some people had for her, on Facebook.

Now, let’s head over to Nigeria, shall we? It is my desire and I urge that the anti-gay law in Nigeria be trashed. It is against our collective human rights as a human race to put anyone in prison because the person is gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual or queer. I urge the masses of Nigeria to push against this law and I urge the current President to annul that law. It is embarrassing and unjust.

What happened in Orlando on June 12, 2016 must never repeat itself, in anywhere in the world.

Certainly, many of us need to understand or be constantly reminded of the logic of loving. It’s not about throwing out the word – I love you – or – I’m colour blind – or – I love all people. We must truly understand that there are great benefits to internalizing love and seeing it as something that should be rendered to yourself and also, externally to others.

Love and peace,

Chiamaka

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Social justice: more voices, more actors are needed

Everyone has a path. I do not expect everyone I know or everyone that reads this blog to tackle social justice in a head-on approach, the way I sometimes do. Choose what works best for you. However, one thing is undeniable – no matter the path and passions that align to you, you have a voice. Your voice encompasses your power, your identity, your fearlessness, what you choose to stand for. Nobody has power over your voice, more than you do.

Different parts of the world are caught up in a web of suffering and injustice, of different sorts. Our world needs as much people as possible to stand for virtues, for the right things and not for fear and silence, in the midst of injustice. You do not need to identify as an advocate or attend protests to be a person tackling societies issues. The point is that as citizens of the world, we have a mandate to use any kind of opportunity that we are given to promote social justice and in whatever capacity that we can. This week, I had the pleasure of speaking at two events in Lagos. One was the Association of African Business Schools’ (AABS) 2016 Connect conference and the other was the Lagos Ideas Week event.

At the AABS conference, I gave a presentation on – Boosting Entrepreneurship in Africa, to a room filed with business school deans from across Africa who came to the conference to enlighten themselves on best practices that could be applied to their business schools. I thought it was a great opportunity for me to speak about issues of some African economies. So, I gave a presentation (with slides) on how business schools can better train their students AND also take the impact beyond their students to the community, by offering free business training to marginalized people or challenging their students to come up with business creation strategies aimed for the people on the society’s margins.

At Lagos Ideas Week, during my talk on Developing Reading Habit and Creative Writing, I was told to recommend a book to the audience. I suggested one that had touched on the 3-year civil war that happened in Nigeria many years ago. I further added that the civil war is not really talked about and we need to learn from it so that we can forge ahead as a country bound by love and not divided by tribalism. If you have been told stories or have read about the Nigerian civil war, you would realize that it was genocide, targeted mainly at the Igbos of Nigeria. Tribalism is still a huge issue in Nigeria which each tribe needs to tackle and put a stop to. Tribalism in Nigeria is not targeted in just one direction.

I got those opportunities, they were not about human rights advocacy but for a world terribly bent by injustice, hate, war and poverty, I thought I should infuse an element of current affairs – sad current affairs, to be specific. I think we often feel that standing for the right thing is automatically equivalent to putting yourself at risk. Each person has their journey in terms of the way they choose to go about justice but you can still live a life without risk by using your opportunities to speak about people on the margins of society.

Again, our world needs as much people as possible to stand for virtues and justice. Will you answer the call? I hope “Yes” 🙂

Love,

Chiamaka

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The world is ours. No more excuses

The world is truly, as it is often said, a global village. However, I feel this is easier said than it is practised in our world. We live in a world were our diversity divides us. People are marginalized because of their religious belief, the colour of their skin, their country of origin, their sexuality. Diversity is not a problem, it is a blessing. It is an opportunity for us to have an open mind and with an open mind follows learning, opportunities for peace not war, opportunities for love not hate. Opportunities for a better world.

Many nations in different continents are stricken by violence and social injustices. However, it is not only the government and citizens of those particular nations that have the responsibility of creating peace and justice in their society. Each human being has a responsibility to the other. This is what humanity is about. Separation by borders, languages or oceans should not be an excuse for you or me not to care for others.

We are all similar in that we belong to one world. No matter the other differences that we may have in culture, position on the map of the world, skin colour, sexuality – we are all brothers and sisters. If you live in Canada, you should care about the insurgence of Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria. If you live in Kenya, the Syrian people should be in your thoughts and/or your prayers. Facebook should be able to provide its users with the flag of ANY nation where a catastrophe has struck, so that they can mourn with them. You should not only read news articles that have to do with your country or your content. My point is, let us all strive for an open mind because this is what our world is in dire need of. Wholeheartedly accepting our diversity will lead many societies and our world to great strides.

“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept” -Angela Davis 

I will not accept to keep silent on issues of injustice that are marginalizing people and taking lives in different societies. I hope you won’t either. We are all brothers and sisters.

Love & Peace,

Chiamaka

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Unlearning, after Oppression

Close to two years ago, I read excerpts of the book – Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire, for a class that I was taking. Till this day, some of the main points of those pages that I read are still stuck with me and actually help me in understanding the world we live in, to some extent.

One of those main points was that when people are being oppressed, they get so used to this way of living that they are reluctant to free themselves. They even begin to aspire to be like the oppressor.I may have just perplexed my readers but I will explain. Let us apply it to real-life occurrences.

I was born and raised in Nigeria, a country that went through the torment of colonization. We gained our independence on October 1st, 1960. Much was stolen from us but thankfully, our ancestors also preserved a great deal, especially the richness of our diverse Nigerian cultures. Although it has been several years since gaining independence, I do see that in Nigeria, we unconsciously and consistently aspire to be in the like of those who oppressed our people. Nigeria was colonized by the British and given the time that it was, you just like me can probably imagine it was White men and women. And it actually was.

In Nigeria today, some aspire to have the skin colour of Caucasians. Skin bleaching is popular in our cities (not everyone does this however), the darker skinned Africans are made to feel inferior because the Africans/Blacks of lighter skin around you are hailed like royalty and you are not. We even judge our development and intelligence based on Western standards. For example, if you cannot speak English in Nigeria, you are an illiterate (I used to think this way too) – seems like we have forgotten that before and even after the coming of Whites to our land, our ancestors made their own equipment, could tell what time it was without a clock, could speak their native tongue with envy-inducing fluency. Just to mention a few. So, how dare we reduce ours and others’ intellect to ‘nil’ or ‘smart’ or ‘genius’ or ‘literate’ based on whether or not they can speak English? I feel sorry that I used to look at intellect that way. But I am on a journey of continuous enlightenment  and decolonizing my mind.

These kinds of issues do not just persist in Nigeria. I have noticed similar attitudes in Blacks from different nations and continents.

One might wonder why many of us of African-descent unconsciously strive to have similarities with the oppressors of our ancestors. Maybe we feel that, when we have the features of those who oppressed us and our ancestors, we gain power – because the oppressors dominated. However, I know not any power greater than that which comes from the love of oneself. This kind of power stays unshaken even in the midst of a world of  suppression of your kind.

Love & peace,

Chiamaka

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On Ghomeshi: Despite the verdict, now ‘we know’

Just two days ago, Jian Ghomeshi was trending all over Canada and even beyond. This is not the first time that the former Q radio show host would trend. He trended a great deal back in 2014 as accusations of sexually inappropriate behaviour and non-consensual sexual violence  towards women started to come forward. However, on Thursday, it was the outcome of his trial that gripped the nation. Jian Ghomeshi was found not guilty on all charges laid against him. A very perplexing outcome considering that several women had offered their accounts of how Jian Ghomeshi beat and choked them without consent. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) had fired him after they received graphic proof. So yes, Friday’s verdict was a shocker.

I am not doubting that Justice William Horkins’s verdict was in line with his expertise or training in law but something that was made clear by his statements leading up to his final verdict, was that he did shame the victims. He touched on the soft spots of may I say, broken people seeking respect, dialogue and justice in the court system. For example, Justice Horkins had referenced Lucy DeCoutere’s (one of the complainants) seeming willingness return to Jian Ghomeshi after the abuse took place.

It is not rocket science, we all probably know or have heard of one or two women who are still married to their abuser, who are still reproducing with their abuser. It is perplexing to understand why this happens but ever figure that the woman herself is probably confused too? As humans, we are lonely beings with a need for attachment and sometimes, this drives us to attach ourselves with those who are nothing but the worst for us. So, that a woman would contact her abuser does not mean that she loves to be slapped or choked. The focus should be on the person who has been accused by numerous women of violent acts towards them. Rather, Justice William Horkins had raised an eyebrow over Lucy DeCoutere’s behaviour after abuse – communicating with Ghomeshi in a romantic way. I see that he spoke from a point of privilege, probably never having gone through abuse and probably never having cared or wanted to understand the kinds of effects abuse has on women and even men.

I once saw the statement “Justice is not law”. People go to courts for a chance at justice, you do not necessarily go to courts having an assurance for justice but there should be an expectation for respect, not victim-blaming or shaming. Now, we have been enlightened by the brave women who came forward with their stories against Mr. Ghomeshi. Now ladies, you know that if Jian Ghomeshi messages on Facebook, you will instantly block him, now I know that if I am on the same pedestrian lane with Mr. Ghomeshi, I will prepare myself for self-defense.

Who said the victims did not win in this. They won because they have enlightened so many and many of us remain unshaken by the verdict. We stand by the truth.

Peace,

Chiamaka

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Compassion and enlightenment

This  past week, I felt a heightened sense of connection to my surroundings and people around me, especially strangers. I experienced a deep feeling of compassion for strangers who I could see were hurting and/or had a disability. I felt so vulnerable to compassion that I was wondering if I need to tame myself in this aspect because I feel that way often. Last week was just another encounter with that vulnerability. However, at a point, I answered myself with what I believe was the perfect answer – “Compassion is good”.

After all, isn’t that what makes people and societies better? It is okay to feel hurt for another. When you feel compassion, you are compelled to act. One of my main goals in life is to love and be loved. If I try to block myself from being vulnerable to compassion, it would be impossible for me to love and if others don’t have compassion for me, they cannot be committed to love me. In a world so marred with hate, violence and injustice – compassion  will be our redeemer. I believe that if we connect deeply with ourselves and allow ourselves to feel compassion, we will be compelled to move in the way of social justice.

Compassion is needed for social justice to happen and more importantly, it is a main facet of what it means to be human. When you open yourself up to compassion and allow yourself to feel for others – whatever that feeling may be, you are allowing enlightenment to set in. When we feel compassion, we seek more understanding of the person or situation that we feel compassion for. I can imagine that it is compassion that moves the numerous people who support an organization like Amnesty International, which is committed and steadfast in lending a hand to those whose human rights have been violated.

So friends, I urge you to open yourselves up to compassion. Allow yourself to feel it and allow it to move you in the direction it may. Personally, I have found that compassion moves me to great things – to enlightenment, to help, to make someone happy, moves me to be grateful for the little things in life. So, I imagine what a world we would have if we all permit compassion to takes its course in our hearts. Compassion enlightens us and compels us to act in ways that can truly change our world for the better.

Love & peace,

Chiamaka

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