Welcome to the month of July. If you look back to the beginning of the year, January, or February, no one anticipated that 2020 would be such a tough year. But from all indications, we can reasonably conclude that it has been a very tough year. Yet, we are in the third quarter. While we continue to deal with the devastating impact of COVID-19, the death of George Floyd, a black man murdered on the street of Minneapolis by police, has become another traumatizing narrative of 2020. It resulted in what Seattle’s Chief of Police described as the fiercest, most organized and sustained civil protest she has ever seen. I hope and pray that in our lifetime, America and the world will become a place where social justice and equality are reflected in every aspect of human interactions.
George Floyd’s death is not an isolated incident of police transgression toward young African-Americans. Breonna Taylor, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, and many more are no longer with us. May their souls rest in peace. As these incidents mount, we at Nigerian Parents Magazine (NPM), understand that young Nigerian men and women are not immune to the travails of African-Americans when it comes to police brutality and racism. Therefore, in the weeks following the murder of George Floyd, and in line with our most important objective – to give Nigerian youths a platform for conversation – we organized a virtual town hall meeting in which more than 150 Nigerian youths from across the United States and Canada participated.
On June 13, we came together to discuss The Impact of Racism and Racial Inequalities on Nigerian-American Youth. It was a big family conversation with expert panelists from different walks of life. I want to express sincere gratitude to our panelists who made time to join our youths as they shared experiences and advised each other on how to conduct themselves when pulled over by a police officer:
Ogor Winnie Okoye. Okoye lives in Boston, Massachusetts where she practices law. She belongs to several activist groups such as the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and many more. Okoye spoke to the youths on the importance of abiding by the law and enlightened them on their rights when dealing with the police.
Ngozika Tracey Njoku. Njoku is a Texas-based clinical psychologist. She talked to the youths about how to take care of their emotional wellbeing during an incredibly challenging time like this. She led the youths in exercises that can help them keep their composure even in the frightening circumstances of police interrogation.
Richard Henshaw. Henshaw is a private detective in Boston. Prior to retirement, Henshaw was a Boston police officer and was responsible for recruitment and training. Henshaw talked to the youths regarding how to behave when stopped or pulled over by a police officer. He also gave them firsthand information about what the police are looking for when they pull someone over. He himself has pulled over a countless number of people.
Chidinma Osuagwu. Osuagwu is a Massachusetts-based researcher and the founder of Afrobeats Dance Boston. She is also a staunch advocate of social justice and equality. Osuagwu brought her youthful energy to the panel. Through her participation, we gained insight into the challenges faced by Nigerian-American youths in America.
In the coming weeks and months, our goal is to organize more Nigerian Parents town halls. We intend to expand the conversation, but we can only do it with your participation. Therefore, we ask that you visit our website on a regular basis to find our town hall schedules. You can also send us your ideas on how to improve participation and continue to build a great Nigerian Parents family.
In this editor’s note, it is important to remember that COVID-19 is still ravaging the United States and many other parts of the world. While some parts of the world are beginning to ease restrictions and businesses are picking up, other parts are still in the middle of the war with COVID-19. It is my hope that we continue to adhere to rules and regulations put forth by governments and states to keep us safe. For example, practice proper hygiene and wash your hands frequently using the universal handwashing technique, wear a mask, especially when social distancing is not possible, and stay home as much as possible. It is only a matter of time – this too shall pass.
Finally, let me say a little about our feature for the month of July – Dr. Uzodinma Iweala, the son of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance. Dr. Iweala is more than just the son of Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance; he is the founder and CEO of the Africa Center, located on Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. The Africa Center is doing an amazing job of transforming the world’s understanding of Africa and the role of people of African descent throughout the world. Dr. Iweala works with a leadership team that includes Board Co-Chairs Chelsea Clinton and Hadeel Ibrahim and Board President Halima Aliko Dangote.
In our interview with him, Dr. Iweala, was candid in talking about things he has never revealed to the public before. He talked about his mother’s efforts and challenges as Nigeria’s Minister of Finance. Dr. Iweala’s novel Beasts of No Nation was adapted as a film in 2015. It is perhaps the best audiobook I have ever listened to, and I have listened to many.
I asked Dr. Iweala whether he thinks that Nigerian writers and artists have been unduly influenced by Western culture, instead of using their talents and traditional cultural influences to address the problems we have, as Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Fela Kuti, Sonny Okosun, and many others did in the past. His answer was interesting –at this point, he decided to show off his dog, which is the same species as mine. My interview with Dr. Uzodinma Iweala will be published on June 15, 2020 in Nigerian Parents Magazine.
As I have done in past editor’s notes, I will not conclude without asking readers to visit our website. Reach out to us with story ideas and suggestions on how we can make your visit to our website more pleasurable. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope that you remain safe, happy and healthy through the month of July.