In Memory of 2020

I had two separate posts planned before the end of this year but honestly I just couldn't, and then I was just going to not say anything. But then I realized I would not like my last post of this [wild ride of a] year to be that last rant on this blog. 


So in OG blog style, I will ramble on and see where this takes us. This is not a review of the year at all, neither is it a review of my own personal life. At least, I am not planning for it to be that. Who knows what it will look like when I finish?



I am exhausted. 


Yes, I am very exhausted. What a year we have had? 2020 was something. 


At first, it felt like something everyone just said but ultimately, it became all the more clearer that there was something about this year. There was a collective grief we all shared. 


Whether it was Kobe Bryant's sudden death; or the wildfires that ravaged Australia; or whew the WILDEST phenomenon of our generation—COVID-19, a phenomenon that has taken significantly more than we could have imagined; or the racial reckoning and blatant injustice that continues to permeate our society; or the colossal mess that are the politicians running this country; a year in which people were so lonely some had to literally die alone; a year when it became clear just who the essential workers are; a year of sacrifice; a year of grief; a year of anger; a year of generosity; the year of ZOOM; a year marked by scarcity of toilet papers; a year of so so so so many deaths: RBG, THE Chadwick Boseman, Legendary John Lewis, pillars of societies, pillars of families; a year of selfishness; a year of irresponsibility, a year of greed; the year of quarantine; a year of readjusting


What a year we have had. 


Yet, this year was not all horrible. This was also the year people found love; the year people had their babies; the year people signed their book deals; the year people wrote; the year we had each other; the year we rallied; the year people connected and reconnected; the year we laughed; and cried from too much laughter; the year a black and asian woman was elected Vice President of these United states; the year more than 80 million Americans said no to fascism and hate and corruption.  It was the year that was. In so many ways, it just was.

Even in its deepest, darkest, most frightening moments of this year, we can say there is something to be grateful for. Even if it's just you, yourself. 


For all that this year was, for me personally, it will always be the year I defended my dissertation and graduated. I can't tell you how immensely proud I am and how grateful I am to God to have survived that and to have finished so well.


I am so thrilled we survived and so happy about all the great things that happened this year. But I also mourn all that never was this year. I mourn the deaths. So so many deaths. 


I think I certainly could have blogged more than I did. If there ever was a year to record everything down, it was this one. Because it will always be in the history books and what a time to be alive. 


I was extremely busy. Every time I had I poured into completing my dissertation. Since this is still solely a one-man situation, you can see how blogging took a back seat.


I looveeee having a blog. But this year, I also really reexamined my why. Perhaps it's also  why I didn't write as much? Perhaps not.


Many people have been looking forward to 2021 and at first I was tempted to ask, "do you think just because it's a new day, just because the clock turned a minute to 12:00am January 1, things would automatically flip and life becomes oh so perfect again?"  Oh you think cos its 2021 people would suddenly stop politicizing masks and become considerate and empathetic? What do you think will change? But I soon realized it was the wrong approach. The wrong question to ask. There is nothing wrong with hope. And hope, the way people have it for 2021, is actually what we need. And really, the fact that people can still hope for the new year is a testament to how resilient human beings are. The one thing people have not talked enough about is the toll this year has had on people's mental health, on increased levels of anxiety, on fear. The fear of the unknown; the fear that if something like this could happen, what is stopping something significantly worse in the future? 


But there IS light at the end of the tunnel. I know it for sure. Case in point, we do have the miraculous invention that is the vaccine. 


A part of me is worried that, as they said on SNL, the light at the end of the tunnel has shown us how dark and stinky the tunnel is.


Because how would people even get the vaccine? Why is it that people who denied this virus are suddenly getting front line access to the vaccine? Why is that a medical doctor who went online to sow distrust in the vaccine just to sound cool is suddenly getting this vaccine before most other people who actually need it? Why why why? How does the economy recover? Where do we go from here? What about all the hate and racism still prevalent among us?


So many questions.


But all the wrong questions


What we should focus on is the hope. Hope.


I KNOW God will come through. As surely as he lives, he will.


I KNOW we will be fine. So that hope people have for 2021, I hope it radiates even more.


Have an amazing 2021, everyone!


And see you on the other side.


Love,


I







Friday Reflections

1.) First of all, you know how it is: please check out the last post on spiritual and psychological abuse in the Church, and please share all your thoughts. Even contradictory ones :-D




2.) Second, welcome to December. wooohooo! I'm so glad it's the end of the year. But aren't we all? I'm excited for Christmas too. Here is something to get you in the Christmas mood. 


3.) Oh and Happy Hanukkah to everyone celebrating. Or Happy Holidays to people who don't celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah. You too are welcome on this blog. All are welcome! 


4.) An open letter from President-Elect Joe Biden to Delawareans and the First State. 


5.) Wheww this old essay by Ivanka Trump's former best friend is an eye opener and an entry into the world of rich and privileged white kids. My God. First of all, what in the how-can-someone-be-so-spoilt? But also, yuck...how did these really gross people actually get to lead this nation for four years? God save us. 


6.) This person wrote an interesting article explaining the pervasiveness of right wing extremists and donald trump's divisive rhetoric in America's politics for years to come. Y'all this country needs prayers, a LOT of it. 


7.) For all the people with an obsession with "unity" and "reconciliation" and "reaching out to trump supporters", here ya go


8.) An amazing and heartfelt essay by Meghan Markle on loss, grief, love, and pain. 


9.) A brilliant profile on Feyikemi Abudu, one of the fiercest voices in the ENDSARS movement, who skillfully wielded her immense privilege to bring food, support, and freedom for freedom fighters during the protests.


10.) When I read that essay, I thought, wow how can someone grow up just miles from you but with a vastly different life and experience? I mean, her grandfather is neighbors with Obasanjo. She calls a sitting governor "Uncle". Just wow. But the great part is, more than just having privilege, she USED it for good. 


11.) She's the perfect testament to the fact that having or being born into privilege isn't inherently bad, as with most things in life, what matters is what you do with it. 


12.) One last thing, do me a favor and share at least one post from this blog with someone you know! Like right now. You know you want to *wink wink* haha. Seriously though. 


13.) That's it folks. Have a great weekend. 


Why We Must Demand Accountability of Christian Leaders and Christian Celebrities

What I want to write about today grinds my gears real bad and frankly I've wanted to write about it for a long long while. 


Last month, news broke that Carl Lentz of Hillsong, usually called "celebrity pastor" had been fired for "moral failures". I will be honest, when I first heard was like, nah I call BS. My first instinct was you mean to tell me one of the few white pastors who has been vocal and unequivocal about justice for black folks is mysteriously fired? the one white pastor who said it: "black lives matter"? the one white pastor that was critical of oppressive institutions? Okay we see you.

Eventually,  Lentz himself posted and was supposedly forthright about his infidelity and did not shroud it in vagueness and ambiguity as Christian leaders (and leaders generally) often do. I felt really bad for  his wife and his kids because I thought, lapse in judgement aside, no one should ever ever suffer this kind of public humiliation. My hope was that it would be a path to true repentance. And I left it at that.




It turns out that was just the beginning and there was much more rot behind the flap. Lots and lots of rot. There was much more to the story.  Ruth Graham did some investigative work and wrote was was basically an expose on Lentz, his obsession with celebrity culture, and the toxicity that exists in the church (or at least the New York branch). Christians would want to claim this is an aberration, and while Ruth Graham's expose may be an extreme example, this behavior is very common. There are cliques,  social strata, narcissism, and worship of materialistic possessions, and basically everything Jesus preached against abundant in churches. It sucks.


"When [Lentz] did appear on Sundays, he rarely mixed with churchgoers. On Sundays, a team of congregants working as volunteers prevented anyone without the right badge from wandering backstage, and only a few had clearance to enter the green room stocked with a lavish catering spread and changes of clothes to fit Mr. Lentz’s increasingly particular tastes.   The church seemed to go out of its way to cultivate a hierarchy of coolness...when high-profile entertainers or sports stars would try to slip into the main seating area, content to worship with ordinary churchgoers, ushers were often instructed to guide them to the special section in front, or to whisk them backstage to meet Mr. Lentz"


Lentz apparently prided himself on not being a traditional pastor, preaching in Saint Laurent jacket, ripped jeans, and so on.  But I don't want to speak about Lentz himself as much as the culture. Because truly, the problem is not that he was wearing designer things, it's the intrinsic abuse that is constant across Christian circles and why it continues to foster. According to Graham's report, Lentz leadership focused so much on personalities that soon it devolved into having a VIP section in Church, an exclusive green room...IN CHURCH. 


"But several former Hillsong volunteers described a particularly intense culture of working 12 or more hours a day and then being treated as low-status workers by church leaders. After the staff enjoyed catered dinners on Saturday evenings at the church offices, volunteers would be summoned from home to come in and clean the kitchen... and seeing a friend who was a church volunteer sitting at the edge of the room. The volunteer had been enlisted to drive partiers home in the wee hours of the morning, but had not been invited to enjoy the party himself"

In which world should the above even be allowed? As soon as I saw the above quote, I immediately thought of the Lindseys. Earlier this year, there was the revelation about the Lindseys. Which frankly seeing their Instagram pages was not at surprising. Former members of The Gathering Oasis (the church owned by the Lindseys) came out with allegations of the scale of abuse they suffered in the hands of Heather and Cornelius Lindsey. They detailed the widespread embezzlement and financial abuse at the core of their "ministry". When one of them expressed disagreement about how finances were being handled (read using church money to fund personal SUVs), he was fired. In response, the Lindseys touted a spiritual attack on their ministry. Unlike Lentz, the Lindseys own their church so the lack of accountability is even more blatant. Why did one suffer the consequences of his actions and another party continue unscathed? Accountability. 


Interestingly, this excessiveness is not new: the bullying, the spiritual and psychological abuse,  the worship of egoistic figures, the grotesque and obscene wealth (which of course always leads to greed and financial abuse), the toxicity in Churches is wild and must stop. In an interesting article about the "crisis of the Christian celebrity", David French asks why over and over again, a lot of these popular Christian figures seem to continue to "fall" in what almost always leads to shame. He credits the false blessing of the "celebrity"; the attention, the way people gawk and respond to fame; the arrogance; haughtiness; and the ego among other similar things I think the Lord hates. It's almost like they forget how deceitful the heart is, how pride always comes before a fall; like they forgot how to be honorable. Because believe it or not, sometimes you don't even need to be religious to be honorable; to set hard boundaries and stick to it. Where do you and I, the non-celebrities come in? First of all, we have to stop treating them, David French says, like Greek gods. We have to stop fawning over them. They don't know everything and they are certainly NOT the authority on God's word. When another pastor comes with the most lavish, extravagant car, jewelry, house, vacation, clothes, it is okay to wonder what a man of God needs all that for. It is okay to demand modesty and humility from them. Because even Paul said,


"But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that" - 1 Timothy 6:8


We must demand accountability from our spiritual leaders and ensure that they do better. The lack of oversight and deliberate vagueness in Christian churches continues to do debilitating harm to the Church of God. If we want to advance God's kingdom on earth, we have to do away with excessiveness; we must be completely transparent and modest and love inclusively as Christ would do. The Church of God is not a place for status symbols and lifting up certain figures. Status is nothing before God and as the bible reminds us, whoever wants to be great among us must be our servant. 

So please ask yourself, is your Church being transparent about its finances? Is your pastor void of accountability? Is your pastor arrogant and pompous? And with every allegation immediately cries attack from the enemy? Are you worshipping  so-called Christian celebrities who chase clout and fame at the expense of advancing the true Gospel? And have you fallen for taken everything they say hook, line, and sinker?


This post is getting really long so I will stop for now and continue in a second part focusing squarely on greed. 


Love,

I








Book of the Month: Black Sunday by Tola Rotimi Abraham

Hello, and welcome to another book of the month, continuing along the lines of black female authors. Before we continue, what did you think about this post on dual identities and speaking up against injustice?


Okay  moving on. The book of this month is Black Sunday by Tola Rotimi Abraham. It tells the story of twin sisters and their brothers (so four siblings) over the course of two decades as they experience poverty,  betrayal, and deep-seated pain. When we first meet the sisters, their family is not rich rich but they live a comfortable life in Lagos, Nigeria. Due to the volatility of a military dictatorship, for one reason or another, their family falls into hardship after their mother, the breadwinner loses her job. Following this, they also fall prey to a large fraud scheme, which triggers abandonment and a manner of unraveling no family should have to endure. I am being deliberately vague because I don't want to give it all away as reviews tend to do. 





The novel's chapters alternate between the siblings' points of view and I think Tola Rotimi Abraham does a masterful job with the language and writing. The book also explores interesting themes like religion, abuse, poverty, and socio-economic conditions that perpetuate the worst types of cycles. These themes are compelling and very poignant, enough to move you deeply. It felt really familiar in that sense, especially as a book based in Nigeria. I recognized how a society can fail its citizens as Nigeria so often does. And when someone tells a story about a place, it matters that they know that place really well. Tola Rotimi Abraham KNOWS Nigeria and as usual, I love how she does not try to cater to a particular audience. She just tells her story as is. I LOVED that. She's such a brilliant writer, I have to reiterate. 





Okay now onto what I didn't really like about the book. Navigating a book through four different characters is hard so I don't really blame the author as much as it's the style of the book itself. It was difficult for me to know who was whom. To me, this meant each character was not distinctive enough. I am now realizing I was the only one with this problem. Others found it easier and very much distinctive. So maybe the problem is me and not the book. I just felt like it was not cohesive, like it was different short stories in one book rather than a novel. In that sense, the siblings' stories were not woven as perfectly as I would like. I did not connect with the characters at all, and if you know me you know I can be a bleeding heart and can be deeply empathetic. Not for these characters though. Of course, I was sorry that they went through all that but...that was it. Weird. Again, the common trend here is my problems with this book seem to be a me problem and not the book per se.


On to writers more generally: something that irks me about writers is definitely how they try really hard to be poetic, um no Lol. Similarly, when writers try to demonstrate an esoteric knowledge by imposing that knowledge on a character in their book; chileeee.  Like how does someone who grew up in the slum have this depth of knowledge about 18th century French literature. These are not referring specifically to this book of the month, I'm just saying more generally now. Perhaps I need an entire post on things writers do that annoy the heck out of me haha.


Anyway, for being so masterfully written, for the ingenuity, and for showing Lagos the way she did, this deserved to be the book of the month. 


If you read it, let me know what you think.


Love,


I

Are you Nigerian Enough? Linking Social Justice to Your Identity and Online Brand

It's funny because until that fateful Tuesday when men in military uniforms fired at UNARMED peaceful protesters, this was the post I thought I would write about the #ENDSARS movement. Then Tuesday happened, and of course you all know the rest. This post is long overdue (I wrote most of it on October 24, 2020) so bear with me if some of the stuff I mention seem like old news. I'm going to start by saying I WILL mention names in this post not because I want to further vilify anyone (more than they already have been) but because frankly, it makes the storytelling easier and I think it opens the opportunity for conversations and we definitely need more of that. Okay?


Okay.





When the ENDSARS movement started and it was trending on social media, Ronke Raji (a prominent social media influencer) posted a rather insensitive post after having gone a while without even mentioning it. There was a brutal backlash. The problem was not that she did not post early, but that it was some type of footnote to her actual post about...bicycles. It was especially weird because I think she was adamant about not messing up her Instagram aesthetics and color scheme, but at the same time knew her audience was already murmuring about her lack of posting about the movement. So she crafted a caption about bicycles and then at the very end, in two or three lines, dropped some notes about the protest. The backlash was swift. At first, she doubled down, cussing out people in her comments and ultimately locking the comments. It did not stop. She started to lose followers and subscribers. Then she and her husband made a video, which only worsened the situation because her husband's condescending tone made people even angrier. The backlash was even more intense, so much she had to ultimately take down the video. She ultimately wrote a long apology. The verdict is out on whether people actually forgave her.


Hers is just one story among others. Other notable Nigerian-American influencers were all initially conspicuously quiet. Nigerians did not understand. How was it that just less than two weeks before on Nigeria's independence day, many of the same people wore the most outlandish outfits and made ridiculous Tiktok videos about Nigeria? All of a sudden, everyone was saying they were protecting their mental health by not speaking about police brutality and oppression in Nigeria or how they first needed to do "research" before they could say anything. If you need to do "research" before you can decry police brutality, you are not a serious person AT ALL.


How is it that a sizable number of your followers are Nigerians but you could not care to bear the burden of your followers? And most of all, how is it that a few months ago during the Black Lives Matter movement, this same people were able to champion the movement, risk the same "mental health",  forego "research", and decide to not choose silence? 


And yes I got it at first. As someone who has completely lost interest in social media in recent times, I get not feeling like posting on social media. In fact, this movement had been happening for days (maybe even weeks) and I had no idea what was going on. So yeah maybe they didn't want to come online and post perfunctorily just because everyone else was. Perhaps, they did not want to come across as performative. That's okay. But what is absolutely not fine is posting empty words as a sidebar or footnote to your perfect picture that complements your Instagram's aesthetic or petty little palette; because any other alternative messes with your *oh so pretty* color scheme. No. Not only can your followers see through your BS and sniff out inauthenticity, it is also disrespectful to the actual people on ground protesting police brutality and oppression in Nigeria. It is disrespectful to those whose freedoms have been threatened and who continue to suffer injustice while you and your perfect Instagram page continue to benefit from their following. 


The influencing world is annoying enough as it is with its obsession with materialism, no need to even further anger people. Just post whatever you want to post about the latest lipstick or handbag or whatever but please don't post for the sake of posting. Care about black lives whether the black lives are in New York or Lagos. Or are Nigerian lives not black lives? So where was everyone? Black lives should matter whether the black life is in New York or Ogbomoso. So no, your Instagram aesthetic is not more important than oppression and injustice.


Which begs the question, are these Nigerians in America and other developed countries who were at first so indifferent, are they not Nigerian enough? Ijeoma Kola who also received some backlash for not speaking out (but quickly apologized) wrote a post about this issue,


and I wrote a lengthy comment, which I will now expand upon in this post:


I think this is such a complex conversation and it’s really great to take the  effort to dissect it like so. I think it’s also important to understand the nuances of a topic like this. I, too, always marveled at the idea that someone could be accused of not being “Nigerian enough”. Whatever your Nigerian experience is, whether home or abroad, it is VALID. It’s weird because some Americans too would try to otherize us and tell us to “go back home”. So it’s an ever confusing “in between” to be in. I remember someone  abusing me a year ago for criticizing Nigeria (VP Osinbajo, to be specific) when my family and I didn’t even live there, like how dare me. It's weird because this babe has some slight obsession with me and nurses a particular anger  about the fact that I don’t live in Nigeria. But I digress.


I said all this to say I knew where Ijeoma was coming from. That said, in this case, Nigerians in Nigeria who have been criticizing those of us in America for not speaking up against injustice in Nigeria are a hundred percent correct. 


I think for me personally, it’s been maddening to see some Nigerians abroad treat Nigeria like a “vibe”, but don’t actually care for the country. That is why the initial conspicuous silence of a lot of Nigerian-Americans was deafening. How could they? Again, merely two weeks before, they were all on Instagram celebrating independence in the most outlandish way? So when it comes to making jokes, when it comes to the caricature accents, when it comes to “jollof”, when it comes even to ankara and gele or whatever, they could be loud and proud. But when it really mattered, they either had flimsy excuses like “we are conducting research” or remained quiet. That was mighty disappointing. 


I think us Nigerian-Americans must ask ourselves why it is easy to [rightfully] empathize with and fully understand the plight of African-Americans, but then find it so hard to empathize with Nigerians in Nigeria facing injustice? It’s not about any one of us, this is about justice and the fight against oppression so I think if we took a step back, we would understand the charge that any Nigerian who did not speak against SARS is not Nigerian enough. I don’t ever think a bunch of strangers have a right to define my identity [or anyone else’s]. But pungent as it is, this is the one time I can understand monopolizing identity. This is the one time I can understand the gut reaction that propels the accusation “you are not Nigerian enough”.


And it's not just Nigerians. Beyonce, I'm side-eyeing you too. Although she ultimately spoke up and against the injustice, I don't think it was unfair of Nigerians to feel especially betrayed at her silence.


When it's time to tap into our culture, they use social media to promote things that do no more than showcase a caricature of who we are. They make money off our backs.  But now "social media doesn't make you an activist"? There is literal scientific evidence that shows that posting on social media works. Shaming people into action on social media also works. So please, find another excuse besides "not everyone does their activism on social media". 


I was especially furious at white academics who do research in and about Nigeria, who collect data from Nigerians, and USE Nigerians as their research subjects to further their own career but were conspicuously quiet about Nigerians' suffering. We see you. 


Ultimately, of course, it became too big a movement that people couldn't ignore. But I think we have to really think carefully about why we are so attuned to some  people's stories and would readily ignore the plight of others.


I'm not going to tell anyone to fight against every single injustice or post about every single thing (because truly some people do all the work in real life and not on social media). Not to mention, there are so many things to be angry about and everyone won't and can't be angry about every single injustice. Choose to amplify what you want to. 


But every significant juncture like this presents an opportunity to evaluate yourself. Truly, search your own heart and decide for yourself which way to show up in this big, bad, complex world.



Love,


I

Book of the Month: Behold the Dreamers By Mbolo Imbue

Art is so subjective. Ha. Sometime in the past few weeks or so while I was reading the book of this month, I shared a picture of the cover on Instagram Stories, saying it was a fantastically written book, and someone responded that they found it so tedious. Lmao. She said it felt like the author was rambling unnecessarily. I laughed so hard when I saw that. Because how can a book that I enjoyed so much both for its story and style be so irritating to someone else? And the beautiful part about art, about storytelling in particular, is both of us can be right; it's just about how we perceived it.




That said, I hope I will be able to convince you that the book of this month, Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue, is an amazing read. The novel details the story of a Cameroonian couple in New York who grapple with the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2007-2008. And in my opinion, it's one of the best books to tackle the experiences of immigrants in America. Jende and Neni, the main characters of the novel, have recently moved to America from Limbe in Cameroon hoping, as most immigrants do, for a better life for themselves and their six-year old son, Liomi. 


But of course, America is not all roses and they begin to experience this as they struggle to make ends meet with Neni working as a home health aide and Jende driving cabs. Soon, their luck changes dramatically when Jende gets a job as a chauffeur for an executive at Lehman Brothers, Clark Edwards and his family. If you recall, the eventual bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, one of the largest in America's history, was one of the reasons behind the recession of the 2007-2008 that rocked the financial world. But anyway as Jende works for the Edwards, Clark begins to trust him even more. And so we see the lives of these couples intertwine against the backdrop of an historic election and America's devastating slide into one of the greatest economic depressions in its history. Sounds familiar? Alongside all that is happening, several things happen in the Edwards' family that show the Jongas that not only is money not everything, but as they say the "rich also cry". But the Jongas too are dealing with their own struggles. Jende has to deal with visa issues and all through the book we are confronted with the faint idea that the family may get deported to Cameroon as Jende waits for his asylum approval. 


One significant part of this book is how it shows us the idealization of America by immigrants; this relentless belief and trust in America that immigrants like Jende and Neni have upheld. Only to see many of those come crashing. Mbue shows America as both bountiful and troubled. I especially loved that because, in many ways the system is much more fragile than many Americans are willing to admit.  She weaves stories of these two families together to show how the quest for the American dream can break you and can sometimes, no matter how hard you try, elude you.


We also see how insulated the wealthy are, how even in the worst economic downturn, they continue to remain enveloped in their cocoon of privilege. But Mbue does a fantastic job of not bashing the wealthy just because. In fact, she allows you to sympathize with them almost as much as you sympathize with the Jongas who life kept hitting over and over due to circumstances beyond their reach. 


Some other important things to note: For instance, it's funny how even though this was written about a recession that occurred more than a decade ago, it is still as relevant today. Second, the best, absolute best part of this book is the dialogue. My goodness, Mbue is masterful with crafting amazing dialogues of the characters. Witty, wisecracking, emotional, joyful, all the emotions we could depict just from characters having conversations with one another makes the book stellar.


Most importantly though, it depicts some of the toughest choices immigrants must make in this country. This country, beautiful as it is in many ways, has wrung out so much from so many people. And I think this book shows that well. In that way, this book is great.


Another thing I like to point out as I often do with books by Africans is that this book does not pander. There are descriptions of Limbe, in Cameroon that remind you that she is an authentic, an original. I love it. 


This book captured me from the very first page till the end. 


I will say that knowing what I know about immigrants, the ending surprised me a LOT but that's all I will say about that. You will have to read it yourself to make your own conclusions. 


This was a debut novel that held its own and can qualify as a masterpiece. But don't take my word for it? Read it and let me know what you think.


Well, that's it for this month! And make sure to come back next month for the book of the month, ok?


Love,


I

Why We Should Amplify the Historical #EndSARS Movement to Stop Police Brutality and Authoritarianism in Nigeria

When I am enraged, I write. So here goes. I explained here that there was an unprecedented movement going on in Nigeria. It started as an organized and collective anger against police brutality. See, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a unit of the police force was established years ago to deal with crimes related to robbery, kidnapping, car theft etc. Over the years, however, this unit had devolved into something of a rogue unit; a squad of thugs in uniform who began to perpetuate the very crimes they were meant to stop. They harassed innocent young men and women, they robbed, they raped, and worst of all they literally killed citizens. Now, the evidence reveals to us that the success of any policing unit whether in an ostensibly developed nation like America or a developing one like Nigeria is trust between citizens and the police. Where there is no trust, there is no legitimacy for the police. But how can citizens trust you if you arrest them for driving nice cars or using iPhones? 




So of course, people became frustrated. Year after year, people would just randomly disappear after encounter with the police. There were reports of extrajudicial killings, excessive blackmail, sexual assault and rape, innocent citizens getting framed by these thugs who sometimes went around without their uniforms. The long record of abuse continued to pile up and gradually, people started to complain. First, on social media a few years ago with the hashtag #ENDARS. But as with most important social movements, there was a tipping point. That tipping point—one  unlawful arrest and seizure and another point blank murder—occurred  this month when mass demonstrations began across major cities in Nigeria. This movement sparked something I had never seen in Nigeria. It was also when we realized that what we thought we knew about SARS barely scratched the surface of the monstrosity. BARELY. People shared stories, videos of heinous and wicked crimes committed by SARS; the impunity with which they killed Nigerians. 


I especially want to highlight Chijioke's story. Chijioke Iloanya was 20 when SARS officers arrested him at a child dedication ceremony in Anambra State. He literally committed no crime at all and yet instead of releasing him, these ghouls told his family to bring some money for his release. Like any concerned and desperate parent, his parents sold their property to obtain the funds. But upon returning, he was no longer in the SARS office. He has not been found since. Is he dead? Is he alive? His family don't know. And like Yoruba people say, it is better to lose one child's to death than to be held in the despair and hope of the purgatory that is "missing". At some point, news got to Chijioke's father about a river where the SARS officers of that branch often dump the bodies of their victims. In what no human being should ever go through, this man went through a pile of dead bodies, turning them one after the other, looking for his son. This is the kind of overwhelming anguish so-called officers of the law inflict upon the very citizens they swore to protect. Anybody that puts another human through this is an animal that should not live among the rest of us human beings. Such a person deserves to rot in prison for the rest of their miserable lives. 


So you will understand why Nigerians took the streets. And what a beauty to behold. Organized, unified, determined, energized, and yes angry, the protesters demanded an end to injustice and police brutality. The movement cut across class, gender, political ideology and was forceful in refusing to retreat.  In the weeks during which this protest was going on, the governance and collective good shared by organizers superseded anything the Nigerian government could have ever done for its citizens in all 60 years of its independence. The feminist group, Feminist  Coalition raised more than N140 million from contributions of Nigerians home and abroad to provide food, security, mental health, and legal aid to protesters and even relief for victims of police brutality and families of the deceased.  The utmost transparency with which they handled every expense is one for the history books. At some point, the Nigerian government tried to disrupt their fundraising. They found other creative ways to continue to raise funds, even getting the attention of Twitter's CEO Jack Dorsey. People remained undeterred by these subtle efforts to disrupt the movement. Young people came out with a drive and passion you rarely see much less in the middle of a global pandemic that has catapulted ennui into almost everyone. Social media became a valuable engine to spread people's voices. And so it did. The world heard us. Soon, international celebrities amplified voices, #ENDSARS started to trend globally. It was a joy to behold.  


The truth is SARS is a symptom of a much worse cancer—inept leadership, incompetent leaders, and failed governance. And I suspect these same leaders knew that; they anticipated what was brewing. It really is the most basic things. Isn't it always with African leaders? It's terrible healthcare, education,  roads. It's skyrocketed unemployment rates, abysmal systems. It's the basic things intrinsic to a functioning society. Yet, they are inexistent in the Nigerian society. President Buhari has failed in more ways that words can describe. To live in that country is to play Russian roulette with your life. Nothing works: not justice, not governance, not civil service. But the leaders continue to amass grotesque wealth; they continue to go abroad for their own medical treatments while Nigerians die from easily managed diseases; their own kids get the finest education from prestigious universities abroad while  Nigerian kids continue to wallow in dilapidated buildings, poorly staffed schools, and unappreciated teachers. 


You tell me.


Why wouldn't Nigerians protest? It was only a matter of time. Instead of listening, the government used all types of tactics to repress protesters' voices. One operation allegedly transported mercenaries and disbanded thugs to break up the protests, incite violence, set protesters' cars on fire, and intimidate protesters.  Police killed some protesters, detained so many, but people continued and refused to be stopped. After all, the hallmark of any democracy should be the freedom to dissent, to protest, to express your disappointment with your elected leaders whose job it is to SERVE YOU. 


But then, suddenly, in a manner only a man who was once a dictator could so muster, things changed. 


On October 20, 2020, a curfew was announced that was supposed to begin at 4pm, which made no sense because how did they expect people to even get home? But before anyone could say Jack Robinson, men in military uniforms started firing at UNARMED peaceful protesters. There are videos of this online; of solders shooting into a crowd of people. Allegedly, government officials turned off security cameras and lights at the Lekki Toll Gates just before the massacre began. Think what you will about that. All I know is that it was a bloodbath.  They fired weapons into a crowd of protesters peacefully singing [the national anthem], sitting, kneeling. The particular details of the amount of victims (many of whom are either dead or receiving treatments in hospitals across Lagos) is still just as blurry as the video of the event. No one has been held accountable for the murder of innocent citizens. No one.




The handwriting became clearer that night at Lekki: this was state repression. The brazenness is appalling. What began as a peaceful protest devolved into the state murdering and terrorizing its own citizens. What Buhari and co wanted to do was to instill fear in the hearts of people. So that the next time we think of holding them accountable, we would think twice. Right now, the government keeps insisting all of this happened because protesters were violent. But it makes no sense that  people so organized, so committed to change would then compromise everything by suddenly becoming violent. People dared to ask for human rights and were killed for it. My first instinct was to say I couldn't believe it. But I could and I still can. Buhari was a dictator and what we are learning is that he will always be one. Because what kind of a democracy do you kill people for protesting? Sometimes, I wonder and I think, why were people so willing to vote  for a dictator twice? Why?


For days after this state-sanctioned murder, the president (nay, head of state), a former dictator, Muhammadu Buhari was conspicuously quiet. He refused to address the nation. For days (though it felt like years given the circumstance) we waited. And like Nero who fiddled while Rome burned, Buhari set fire to Nigeria and then fiddled. When I say the collective trauma of the past few days have been heavy, I might be understating it. I had never seen as much dead bodies, bloodbath, and massacre as I saw through videos and photos these past few days. I saw blood gushing from people's necks and chest cavities. I saw a mother hold the lifeless body of her son in her hands while she wept in abject despair.  As I write this, the wail-like sound emanating from her mouth continues to ring in my ears. But the head of state was quiet. And when he finally spoke, it was to threaten peaceful protesters even more, warning and giving the indication that he was ready to continue killing protesters if need be. The president of Nigeria did not offer  a single word of condolence to the families of the victims. He has doubled down, insisting that enough was enough and it was time to stop...protesting.


So yes, in a sense, it was time to retreat. But it was no surrender. What he and his cabals have done is to further embolden young Nigerians in our quest for a better nation and for better governance. People now realize the need to strategize and plan NOW for the 2023 elections. Because we can NOT go back to status quo.  So what can we do?  The past few weeks have taught us that we can do the work. We can use our education, skills, tools at our disposal towards a better society. And gosh, it has taught us that there are so many problem solvers among us. We can mobilize, educate and engage, we can continue to remind people, we can strategize and mobilize the grassroots across Nigeria. But it's not just about the presidency. It is local offices, local governments, state legislature, national legislature, the judiciary. We know now that we are not powerless. If anything, what the Feminist Coalition has taught us is that as a unit, we are powerful and can organize. So we need time, we need to be resolute, and we must never ever settle for anything other than a better Nigeria. A Nigeria that works. As I always say, this is a fight EVERYBODY must participate in. You can't leave it for a select few. You can't abandon it. you have to find a way to serve. You must speak up and engage and do better in whatever corner of the world YOU are in. It starts with all of us.


As for those of you that continue to deny the truth, that continue to remain loyal to an administration that has shown time and time again it has no concern for the people, that continue to obfuscate, that continue to deny the deaths of protesters despite glaring evidence of the murder and intimidation, you are stupid and you have no one to tell you. So here I am doing you a favor.


I want to end with a word for Nigerian women; so fierce, so organized, so resourceful, so wise. When the time came, they (we) rose up to the challenge. So I want to thank them for being so so so transparent with funds, for organizing ambulances, for feeding people, for providing legal help, for providing spa treatments, for providing free therapy, for setting up response lines, for speaking up and out, for tweeting, for posting relentlessly on Instagram, for being angry, THANK YOU. I have never been prouder to identify as a feminist—a  radical one. Women, we get the job done. 


Love, and continual solidarity


I

Friday Reflections

 1.) You know, the other day, even my father asked me what happened to the "Friday stuff" I always post. That is how long it's been. That said, we are back






2.) First of all, let us shine the light on the AMAZING revolution going on in Nigeria right now. What a beauty to behold. In a nutshell, Nigerians are protesting against police brutality and oppression using the #ENDSARS hashtag. My goodness, the past few days have been history-making. 


3.) There is so much so say. So so much to say about this protest and I will in my next blog post. I left a long comment on Ijeoma's blog post that made me realize I have a LOT to say about the protest, reactions to it, identity.  Remember that I also literally study things like this: social movements, protests etc. so I have stuff to say from the social justice angle and from the scientific angle. Whew.


4.) So I will definitely be back. But for now, let me say unequivocally: #ENDSARS and #Nigerianlivesmatter


5.) Black lives matter whether in New York or Ogbomoso or Namibia or Congo.


6.) I read this heart wrenching essay by a woman whose husband took his life two years ago. There are so many emotions that it evokes in you especially when you realize the reason he did. I want to remind anyone reading this: if you think you've run out of roads [options], remember that there is ALWAYS more road. ALWAYS.


7.) I also want to shine the light on another heartbreaking personal essay, written by Fahim Saleh's elder sister titled "Mourning my Baby Brother, Fahim". Fahim was heinously murdered in his apartment a few months ago by a former assistant who owed him money. I want to remind anyone reading this: the heart of man is DESPERATELY wicked. 


8.) Black men guarding the home of black mom who was being harassed by white neighbors with feces and dead squirrel. 


9.) How this man went from atheist to Christian. 


10.) Okay the past entries have been too heavy. Here's something foolish and lighthearted: this woman cheated on her husband a week before their wedding. Okay okay, it is more foolish than lighthearted. Still. 


11.) Chimamanda Adichie wrote this beautiful eulogy for her father who suddenly passed away last month, proving once again that she has a way with words. These notes on grief remind us how personal and lonely, yet completely devastating grief is. 


12.) Future grad students, get in here! Lol. Seriously though, if you are applying to grad school this fall, here are tips on how to write your application essay or statement of interest. I will try to continue to share this as application season continues on. I know the earliest deadlines are in December (first week or so). So start that essay NOW.  If you are a black woman, I'm more than happy to go over your application essay for you. 


I am Back, I Think?

I think last month was the first time an entire month would pass without a single post on this blog. And goodness, there are so many reasons for that: evaluating whether I want to continue blogging to begin with (it takes soooo much time), whether it's even worth it, a general sense of ennui about everything, exhaustion with the state of the world, getting tired social media, and goodness, an actual physical exhaustion. The wildest part was how I came here chatting about how finishing my Ph.D.  means I can now dedicate time to my hobbies. *Laughs in trying to publish* Oh, academia! It will take you, chew you, wring you, and then spit you out.






That said, I think I might be back. There has never been a more important time to have a voice and to use that voice. If you don't want to use your voice, then amplify the voice of others. In whatever space you occupy in this world, use it to fight for what you believe in. And you have to believe in something. There has to be something that you care about in this world, because God did not just give us this world, he wants us to fully inhabit it. This means caring more than just yourself or heck even your family. There is too much injustice and oppression in this world for you to settle in your cocoon of privilege and not do a darn thing about it. And I don't understand a person who does not want justice in our world.


That said, as you are advocating, and fighting, speaking out, remember to do so with grace. Remember to not respond to silence others but to have healthy conversations. I want to say even when it's a mad person chatting crap you should still respond with as much grace as possible, but I know this is hard. So at the very least, when you know someone comes to a dialogue with good intentions and a genuine desire to understand, then please be respectful. Don't silence because they don't throw around a soup of woke jargon (not that there is anything wrong with these jargon) just that sometimes, it confuses people.


So I implore you to keep these conversations going. Heck, sit down now, and ask yourself, what issues do I care about the most? Whether in your country or across the world. But make a note of it and start the work to change that issue. We often think we have to be incredibly powerful or that we have to run for office or we have to be famous to do something, nope we don't. I'm not even sure how the conversation got to this. But yes, the point is I am definitely still blogging (for now!) about every and anything. 


I'm working a lot on making research accessible since I am in a capacity to do so. So anything you want me to talk about, I'm down (for almost anything). I truly think I'm back. I have a book of the month post coming up about a really exciting book and yes, continuing our theme of black female authors (yass). I even might have a Friday reflection next Friday (yaaass), and more. So yay!


I hope you stick with me and/or share my work. Thank you for always understanding, especially when I decide social media is too much and send myself on a self-exile because why not?


Ha!


Love,


I

Book of the Month: Becoming by Michelle Obama

Okay. Book of the month: Becoming by Michelle Obama. I am so stale. I know. I can't believe I'm just now reading Obama's Becoming. It is really hard to make this the a book of the month because, how do you write about a book so phenomenal and truly profound? But then again, this book had to go on the record as one of my favorite books. I do generally love memoirs; I have mentioned that before when I wrote about  Trevor Noah and Susan Rice's memoirs. But Michelle Obama's memoir is up there as one of the best, most personal, most heartwarming, and amazing books. The one thought that ran through my mind as I read it was that I did not want to finish reading the book. I just wanted to keep hearing about her life and so I read it sooo slowly; I digested her words page after page;  I consumed it intimately because I did not want it to end. All of this is to let you know I enjoyed reading about Michelle Obama tell the story of her life. I should stop here, and just implore you to read the book. But if you need more convincing, continue below. 



First of all, this book packs a lot into it. But there is a refreshing honesty that seeps through every page. The book starts with her very humble beginnings, in which she describe her upbringing with fondness and love. This is also where we first learn of her father's declining health. In this first part, she takes us all the way from Euclid Avenue through Princeton, Harvard, fancy law firms, public service, hospital administration, and all the way to The White House. Memoirs present the perfect opportunity for people to tell their own side of the story, to clear up the air, and she did that by punctuating with some interesting junctures of their political career. Most notably, she describes the media's portrayal of her as an "angry black woman", "emasculating" and just how frustrated she was with being misunderstood. There is often a profound stupidity of the American media. I mean calling a harmless fist bump between a loving couple a "terrorist fist jab" is so blatantly stupid, so idiotic, I don't even want to give it energy. Moving on.


We also get a glimpse into how hard she tried to maintain her own identity and not be eclipsed into all of her husband's ambition, even despite politics taking over their lives. She reminds us often how little interest she had in politics. Apart from being a political memoir, this book was truly brilliantly written. She wove words together to tell, for instance, the story of her parents' marriage. In her description of how she came to fall in love with her husband, I don't know if it's the cynic in me but I often paused, wondering if truly their love is as beautiful as she describes. I actually think it is. At some point, she describes her husband as this incredibly cerebral man (which is true!) but also he stays up at night thinking about income inequality? LOL c'mon! But yes, it's not all roses and ice cream; they dealt with their fair share of challenges too (including infertility) and she shows how no matter how much you love each other, marriage can be crazy. This perfect, most brilliant, most beautiful husband suddenly chose to head off to Bali (alone!) six weeks after their marriage. 


One other notable thing that sticks out in the book is how she brings us into a world that was just as foreign to her as it is to us. And so she tells the story from the perspective/ position of humility. She describes the awe, the humility, the grandiose that she felt when she first encountered those experiences. It's not altogether surprising that she is this way. The one thing that they did in their administration was to open the White House as The People's House. A lot of people had access to that House that never did in previous administrations. In reading her memoir; whether it was meeting the Queen for the first time or living in a mansion built by slaves; or visiting the great wall of China; her fascination reminds you that this was not the world she ever expected to find herself in. It's exactly what draws you in to this memoir from the very first page till the end. 


How does a girl from the South Side of Chicago—who  grew up in a cramped apartment on Euclid Avenue —get to the halls of Princeton, Harvard, and of course to The White House?


She and Jesse Jackson's daughter, Santita Jackson, were very close buddies when they were young. In fact,  Santita Jackson was eventually Michelle Obama's maid of honor at her wedding. Anyway, Santita of course grew up with Jesse Jackson being her father, and once in a while Michelle Obama would follow her to her father's rallies. As Michelle Obama tells the story, at the time,  she used to marvel at the idea of being the child of a political figure like Jesse Jackson. While reading, I thought, if someone ever looked at Santita Jackson and Michelle Obama and wanted to guess, say, which of the two girls would likely end of living in the white house. No one would have bet on Michelle Obama. That's how wild life is. 


So much is packed in this book. I mean, I didn't even get into her beautiful relationship with her brother; how much of a hard-worker she is;  how proud she is of being a black woman; nor did I mention the high school counselor who told her she wasn't Princeton material. I can't imagine if she actually let that nonsense dissuade her from pursuing her goals. Too often, we give power to people who don't even matter. The woman planted a seed of failure in Michelle Obama before she could even try to succeed. 


"Failure is a feeling long before it's an actual result." - Michelle Obama


You WILL have doubters in this world. But like Obama says in her memoir, you must learn to live with it. Live like you have all the advantage in the world.


Love,

I


I Got a Ph.D.! How I feel About Defending my Ph.D. Dissertation

This year has been a LOT. A whole LOT for so many reasons. But, I can also say this year 2020 is the year I completed the most difficult task of my life. Exactly one week ago, I defended my dissertation and became a Doctor! 


I wrote on Instagram and Facebook that I was speechless. And I think I still am. I don't know what to say because the past five years have been a combination of torture, anxiety, anger, hard-work, resilience, grit, and extreme grace. Let's recount a little of what it took to get here: a dissertation of exactly 245 pages; a two-hour defense of said dissertation; a harrowing (and soul crushing) proposal defense a year ago; two brutal comprehensive exams two years ago; an oral exam two years ago; a qualifier defense two or three years ago (everything is a blur at the moment); tons of classes. But none of that matters now. What matters is that I PhinishedD. I have a freaking Ph.D. I said on all my social media that my amazing family was there for me so this degree is for all us. I meant it. 


The day I defended, I spoke with a lot of people over the phone. My family, my friends, a lot of people called (or messaged) congratulating me. One conversation stuck. It was with my aunty; my dad's older sister. She mentioned that my grandmother must be rejoicing in heaven that day. See, my grandmother had no education as both my dad and aunty reminded me. Not great grandmother, not some  far fetched ancestor, but my father's mother. She didn't get an education not because she wasn't brilliant but because her own parents could not afford to give her an education. It wasn't even a possibility. And then I got a Ph.D. 


We truly are our ancestors' wildest dreams. 


To be clear, I'm not the first in my family to get an education or even to get a graduate degree. My parents are educated. My siblings are very educated. My cousins are educated too. We are Nigerians after all lmao. I'm not even the first doctor in my family. And by the grace of almighty God, I won't be the last.


I'm saying I don't think any of my grandparents on either side, no matter how wildly they dreamt, could have imagined any of this for their progenies. And that truly blows my mind. I have been thinking about that a lot. 


Anyway, the good thing is I now have some time for some of my passions now and if Covid ever leaves (Lord!) I owe myself the most luxurious vacation. I really do. The best part is just having time. I just have time. I feel light, free, relieved. My gift to myself these past few days has been to wake up without an alarm; I only wake up when my body is ready to wake up. I eat my meals slowly, I luxuriate in almost everything but more so while eating. I love it.


I also can now write more about academia and be much more honest. I've never lied but sometimes, I've had to cool my jets. I already have a reputation for being *ahem* let's not complete that. So I couldn't risk getting in my own way.


But now, ohohohoh LOL


Seriously, though. 


I'm hoping to write more. About academia (sure) but also about everything else. I'm hoping to focus more on this blog and all the other things I rarely had time for. 


But if I'm missing in action in the next few days, please forgive me. So much is still happening as you might expect.


A normal person would post all the celebratory pictures from the defense, right? Right.  Turns out I'm not that normal. You would have to head over to my personal Instagram page for that. I don't know why posting my pictures anywhere (even on my PERSONAL page) comes incredibly hard for me. I'm not anonymous so you can definitely find me on the interwebs if you're curious as to what I look like. 


This is a full on ramble now.


TLDR: I did a thing: I got a Ph.D. I will blog more (I hope). And I have a serious problem with posting pictures online. 


Good recap.


Love,

I

Dealing with Hypocrisy and Hubris in the Church and Among Christians

I hate the new blogger interface. There, I said it. 

Something else: this is such an interesting period of time. I can't believe how lackadaisical people are during a global pandemic. I get not wanting to worry, but to just constantly continue to live like [insert whatever insult here] while ignoring the reality that this pandemic is literally killing people, continues to amaze me. People are throwing all kinds of parties, going to restaurants, pretty much living life as they did before Covid. And I don't just mean the regular ignorant ones that protest mask wearing, I mean people like you and me. Scientists, even. My Instagram feed is revealing y'all. It's such a shame. But okay.

Let's move on.



I recently read Matthew 23. It's not my first time reading it, and I am almost certain I have blogged about it before (currently too lazy to look for it Lol). But like most great things, this is worth repeating. The main question at the forefront of my mind is, why don't pastors talk more about this passage? I'm looking at you, Nigerian pastors. I think it's because this chapter was basically Jesus throwing serious shade at them. Yes, contemporary, modern-day pastors. Let me explain.

So, the disciples were just chilling. 

No one:

Quite Literally No one:

And then,

Jesus: These teachers of the religious law and these Pharisees who are official interpreters of the law of Moses never practice what they preach.

Like okay, read them, Jesus! Read them. Basically, Christ was irritated by the fact that these teachers of the Law crushed people with "unbearable religious demands" and never tried to ease the demands. It's almost machiavellian. It felt like they took pleasure in seeing people struggle with these mostly man-made, arbitrary rules. They made noise about rules and laws that they themselves could never obey or comply with. Does that sound even vaguely familiar?

But Christ was not done. Everything these teachers of the law did was for show. They pray for show. They *ahem* post quote upon quote from the Bible for show. They perform their religion for the sake of appearing pious. They post all kinds of scathing social media posts to remind you how you are not being a good Christian, and only ever post themselves in a good light. They only ever share how they have never sinned, or how good they are at reading the bible, or how amazing they are at recognizing the distinct voice of God. Yes, shade. For them, it's never about the heart. For them, it's a lot about receiving the accolades. Like the Pharisees and the Teachers of the religious Law in Jesus's time, too many people, too many pastors love to sit at the head table at "banquets". They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk around.

"Yes, pastor sir!"

"Yes, Daddy!"

They love when everyone kneels or bows or idolizes them because they are pastors. They believe they are above reproach.

"Touch not my anointed," they and their sycophants always readily say. 

They, as in the Pharisees, love the flattery, the adulation. 

The similarity was staggering. It felt like Jesus was here and now and calling these people out. It's becoming worse because it's moving from real life to followers on Instagram. They love being the authority on everything "Christian". They are the only ones with the manual on being a true Christian. Christ warned against titles for they can easily create separation and superiority in the church.

"Don't let anyone call you 'Rabbi' for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. And don't address anyone here on earth as 'Father' for only God in heave is your Father." 
- verses 8-9

I mulled and mulled on these verses and it occurred to me that a lot of pastors would never ever agree to being equal to their congregation. Somehow, over the years, either by themselves or from others, a lot of men of God have elevated themselves as higher than the rest of us. I am not kidding. It's why many revel in being called "Daddy" or "Father".  Except, clear as the day Jesus says to not call any of them father. 

Which brings me to, what is the rationale behind calling your pastor Daddy? I don't get it. Never have. Probably never will. And if you call your pastor "Daddy",  I truly truly want to hear from you. 

Why have people chosen to exalt themselves? The way of the world is to put yourself first, to exalt yourself, and brag "on yourself". The way of the world is pride and arrogance. But the way of Jesus is anything but. Time after time after time, he showed us true humility. Why, then, is it that Christian leaders find it so incredibly hard to humble themselves? Why do they exalt themselves in a way Jesus frowned upon? Jesus was counter-cultural in many ways and maybe even slightly confusing in some, but he was clear on what and who he stood for. This is how I know that to be a follower of Jesus is to care about justice. about mercy. about faith. 

"What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens,[a] but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things" v 23

Since I started writing this post, a LOT has happened (it's 2020 after all).  The point being you cannot enforce stringent, meaningless rules over dress codes under the guise of so-called modesty and then you turn around to post a picture of yourself with your pants unzipped [breaking the very rules you decry students for breaking]. Which brings me to: you can't call yourself a party of "family values" and vehemently endorse and back a person with numerous wives who boasts of grabbing women by the pussy. You can't be pro life because it's what Jesus would do and then turn around to lock little kids in cages. You can't be the Christian party and deny people healthcare. No, you can't. You can't do both. You have to pick one. 

I want to stop here now because this is reading like a full on rant and I did not mean for it to be that way at all. I have to be careful. People's hypocrisy can never be an excuse for me to be hypocritical myself. So while there is anger, there is hopefully no judgement. I don't know that these pastors will see this, I can only hope they do.  It's so easy to judge the Pharisees/Teachers of the Law as hypocritical, but the truth is they genuinely thought they were doing what was right. They actually KNEW the law, all of it. So they must have been completely sure they were on the right side of things and I find that so humbling. SO completely humbling. It's very easy to think YOU are on the right side of history even if you're not. This is why it is incredibly important to always evaluate yourself. Be sure you are not just having mere hubris.   I too get angry at that hypocrisy, but then I wonder, in what area am I being a hypocrite myself? Because again, the hypocrisy of others is not an excuse for your to be hypocrites. BUT

If your righteousness is just for show, if it's just for others to see, then what is the point? Ask yourself that.

Again, it's worth asking, do modern day pastors ever read Matthew 23 and feel guilty because, yikes. Christ went IN. He called them fools, hypocrites, sons of hell. To be honest, Christ continually reminds us that it is sometimes okay to be pissed, to be direct, and to not mince words when it comes to impropriety. So if you're mad at nonsense and someone says is that what Jesus would do, say yes. Christ was passionate. Christ was angry at hypocrisy.

So how do you deal with hypocrisy? Like Jesus did, call it out. But while we seek to act like Jesus did, ultimately we are *not* Jesus. We are not perfect like Jesus. So we must tamper our actions with mercy.  I will leave you with my most recent favorite quote, by Robert Madu:

Grace without truth is meaningless
Truth without grace is just mean


Love,

I

Book of the Month: Daughters Who Walk This Path By Yejide Kilanko

Hello and welcome to the book of this month!

I'm always so excited to talk about these and I hope y'all are just as excited. If you are, please let me know and/or share with others. It encourages me a great deal :-)  This month's own is a miracle on it's own because I almost lost my laptop and everything in it so praise God with me. 



Alright, let's dive in: the book of this month is by Yejide Kilanko called Daughters Who Walk this Path. 
Not that it was planned, but I realized that this year, most of the books have been by black women and I'm even more proud of that hehe. I hope I can keep this up so if you have any recommendations, feel free to put them in the comments below, okay? 

The book is a coming of age story of the main protagonist, Morayo. The book tells us how she went from a charming, carefree, and intelligent girl who grows up surrounded by a loving family and friends in Ibadan, Nigeria to one who is eclipsed into trauma, shame, and a cloud of oppressive silence. All of these occur because  the adults around her have completely let down, in my opinion. But one person stands out in her story and that's her cousin (aunt?) Aunty Morenike, who having walked the path before her was able to guide Morayo through navigating this path too

The author is a master storyteller and I an tell you for a fact that from the first pages, you hardly want to put down the book. A book that draws you in like so is certainly brilliant. This book is feminist, it's powerful, it's a masterpiece and I don't know why the book or the author is not more mainstream or maybe they are and I just don't know. There was something about the way she narrates the book that makes it so real, so visual, and you don't have to have lived in Ibadan to know the descriptions were apt. The characters are so relatable, especially Aunty Morenike. I loved, loved her. It's touching in so many ways.

I'll be honest, it's told in first person and so the earlier parts came across as a little too...juvenile. But as the story progresses, the storytelling starts to mature. All of these make sense in hindsight because as the pages turn, the protagonist grows older. 

My biggest peeve with this book is that it deals with too many issues. On the one hand, that's freaking amazing: to deal with such complex themes within the context of Nigeria. We are talking child abuse, shame, the mother-daughter dynamics, albinism, political violence, sex education...But on the other, it sometimes felt like the author was given a laundry list of themes to tackle and it was all about forcing every single one of them unto the pages of this otherwise fantastic book. But then again, these are topics often not discussed in Nigeria so it was refreshing to hear it said.  

But if you are African or at least Nigeria, the story is one that you're familiar with, especially as a woman. We know how the adults around often choose silence rather than the discomfort that occurs from truth telling. It's funny because one of the biggest events of this book, you could have seen a mile coming. And you keep hoping it doesn't happen but it does. And you are angry at the [redacted] because how could they let that happen to their [redacted]. Then you realize that's real life too. That's precisely how it occurs in real life.  Again, the particular thing that struck me is, this book does NOT pander to "the western gaze". That's what I loved the most about it.

It's a brilliant book so I hope you read it. When you do, please let me know what you think!

Love,

I

Are Men Too Emotional for Politics?

News broke recently that some republican congressman found AOC on the capitol steps, accosted her, yelled at her, and called her disgusting for saying poverty and unemployment are increasing crime in New York City during the pandemic. Any moron would know that this is in fact the truth, and not just in an American city like New York but even in the heart of Lagos, Nigeria. But no. He called her disgusting, crazy, dangerous...

"You are out of your freaking mind!" He yelled at her. She responded that he was being rude and left to go cast her vote on the floor.

According to The Hill, he was coming down the steps and she was ascending the steps when it all happened.

A few steps down, he called her a"fucking bitch". He called a seating Congresswoman a "fucking bitch". It's all too familiar and quite frankly, trite. Women know this language, we recognize this; men hurling insults at us in public to intimidate us.

In his ridiculous non apology, he said he could not apologize for his passion.  Instead of offering a genuine apology, he chose the cowardly way out: making excuses for his behavior.  I'm incredibly glad AOC did not let that ridiculous, pitiful apology slide.  He used his own wife and daughters as shields for poor behavior. The age-old "I have a daughter, wife" spiel that men like him never get tired of using. Because men like him have a hard time seeing a woman as a human being. They can only see women as daughters, wives, mothers. To give some perspective, AOC is two years younger than his youngest daughter. Two years. That's who he called a fucking bitch because they disagree on policy. Ladies and gentlemen, this man is what we call ÀGBÀYÀ where I come from.

When AOC said thankfully her father is not alive to see this man disparage her like so, it broke my heart. But then when she followed up with the fact that she was not raised to accept abuse from men, I screamed! Because, you BET she wasn't.

And then of course, the part that infuriated me the most in his ridiculous non apology was that he mentioned he could not apologize for loving his God. How in the beautiful name of God does harassing your colleague at work demonstrate your love for God? But that's not why we are here today.





The wildest part is that despite rubbish like this, women are the ones branded as too emotional for politics. Even though time and time again we see women calm, reasoned, logical, hard at work, and fiercely advocating for the people they serve. The countries that have successfully tackled the Covid-19 crisis have been almost predominantly led by  women. Women get the job done. Period. Yet one of the most pervasive myths out there is the stereotype that women are more emotional than men.

On the other hand, men throw tantrums, they post unhinged tweets, they declare wars when they are in terrible moods, they lack basic empathy, they are erratic, people still never declare them emotionally unfit to hold elected and leadership positions.

Several months ago when this country had to sit through the testimonies of Dr. Christine Ford and Bret Kavanaugh. One person, who suffered through an unfortunate event that has haunted her almost all her life, was measured, calm, focused, respectful. The other, about to be sworn in as a supreme court justice yelled, cried, spat, berated people, screamed about loving his daddy and of course, beer, and was generally a whole mess.

We continue to let these gender stereotypes permeate our society and people use all kinds of language to rearrange their prejudices. People argue that men are the more calm and capable leaders. Take a moment to take in this most recent story I narrated above about AOC. Imagine a woman being so irritated with her coworker that she accosts him on the steps, yells at him, and then curses at him. Ask yourself what would that woman be called? It would definitely not be passionate.

This is why I always say language matters. What we say and how we say it matters, from when boys and girls are little. The languages we use for girls that force them to be timid are not the same for men that cause them to assume an inherent superiority.

I want to say that being emotional is not the problem. In the words of Amanda Seales, emotion is the language of our soul. It's that we label men's emotions different from women's. This type of double standard must stop at every level but especially at our highest offices.

In her now famous response, AOC said she has tossed men out of bars while waiting tables for this same behavior. The same thing a seating U.S. representative did. She said she has encountered this type of harassment riding the subway. And the fact that such behavior is condoned and normalized is what breaks my heart. Republicans have continually bullied, harassed, dehumanized and tried to silence AOC. It only demonstrates how afraid they are. So we must let them know that there are many more where she came from. That us, young, gifted, smart  black and brown women [ACROSS THE WORLD] will not keep silent. Where our mothers may have tolerated all manners of abuse, where society has continually uplifted powerful men who brag about abusing women only to turn around to remind us they have daughters and wives, we are different. We will bring the fire. We will destroy the culture of the old white boys club. So they and all their stupid emotions better be afraid. We are the true daughters of our fathers. Of our mothers. We are here to stay.

I love love how AOC said by refusing to apologize he has given other men the permission to do to his daughters. Her speech was powerful in many ways and also the best reminder of why we need more women in politics. The cadence, the delivery, the substance, no man could ever. NONE.

Finally, men, you can have daughters, wives, granddaughters, you can call on God from now till eternity and still be deeply misogynistic, and still accost women, and still call women "fucking bitch" without any remorse. You can be all of these things; you can be a tongue lashing, firebrand christian, and when given the opportunity to apologize for your mistakes, squander it while using your daughters, wife, passion as shields. I mean, what a coward!

"Having a wife does not make you a decent man. Treating people with decency and respect makes you a decent man. And when a decent man messes up as we are all bound to do, he tries his best and does apologize, not to save face, not to win a vote, he apologizes genuinely to acknowledge and repair the harm done. So that we can all move on." - Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

SHAME on you, Mr. Yoho. Shame on you, for using your wife, daughters, and the name of God as a shield for terrible behavior. Àgbàyà oshi!


And so to answer the question, are men too emotional for politics? It appears so.

Love,

I