December 24, 2008

CNN HEROES - Ordinary People Extraordinary Impact

I just finished watching the show CNN HEROES and knew I had to blog about it. Only yesterday during my blog rounds I went to Happenings and she was asking when to give and under what circumstances one should give people money. I left a comment after reading her post saying it’s hard to discern “truly needy” people from amongst the many beggars we see around us because there are many con men and women out there on the streets interested in ripping off generous people. My Nigerian readers will understand what I mean. We are approached by them when we walk the streets, when we wait at bus stops, when we are stuck in traffic (go-slow) etcetera; they beg us for alms even though they look physically OK.

Anyway, CNN HEROES is an inspiring award show that honours everyday people who make effort – no matter how “tiny” or small scale it may seem, to help lessen or alleviate the suffering of their fellow humans. These Heroes help, inspire and motivate “truly needy” people. It’s impossible to decide which Hero's account is most inspiring. All the personal accounts were fantastic, moving, wonderful and so, so inspiring. Just watching the well made video clips showing these Heroes at work can make anyone leak from the eyes. The humble acceptance speeches given by the award recipients were equally moving. They are simply everyday people compassionate and bold enough to reach out and help those around or far away from them. They are simply everyday people who are being honoured and recognized by the people around them(each award recipient won $25,000 while the CNN HERO of the Year, Liz McCartney won $100,000). That’s something Nigerians and citizens of other countries should emulate, recognizing the Heroes amongst us.

Visit CNN Heroes for the moving accounts and an overview of the celebrity studded award night.

December 16, 2008

Second-Class Citizen by Buchi Emecheta | Book Review

Right from the first page of “Second-Class Citizen” the reader is lead into to Adah’s childhood and the beginning of her dream to succeed in life, her dream to become a "big" person. Nudged persistently by this dream, she is determined to get an education even though it's a privilege given mostly to male children. She overcomes her mother's opposition and never stops learning. Because girl teenagers were not allowed to live by themselves in Lagos, Adah decides to marry. And there the novel begins proper. She marries Francis who is studying to be an accountant and with him come controlling in-laws. She breaks free when she runs to the United Kingdom with her two children to join Francis. Francis doesn’t help her absorb the initial shock caused by her new surroundings, but coldly tells her that from that day onward she must recognize the fact that she's a second-class citizen. Settling down in London, she becomes conscious of her skin colour and discovers that it is a big deal to be a black person in the midst of white people. After resisting strongly and being angry with her husband for accepting and enjoying the label 'inferior', she very slowly becomes conditioned to expect inferior things.

Racial discrimination confronts her when they are rejected by the white landlady of a derelict house after they are kicked out of their former apartment by jealous neigbours from her home country. The rejection is devastating and Buchi doesn’t over-dramatize the incident or the after effect which is stinging, bitter and humiliating. For millions of Africans who haven’t left the continent, the word ‘racism’ cannot be fully understood. In actuality, racism is a word whose concept can only fully be understood by those who have experienced it first-hand. It’s why Barack Hussein Obama’s victory means a lot to the African-Americans and other minority groups living in the United States and the world over, it's why Jesse Jackson wept...

Adah sees the real Francis now – a lazy, manipulative Jehovah’s Witness with double standards. He preaches a lot of the things he does not practice and does a lot of things true Jehovah’s Witnesses would never do. For Adah, it’s a case of ‘Monkey dey work, Baboon dey chop'. From the moment she arrives, every convenience her family enjoys is as a result of her persistence and hard work. Second-Class Citizen reminds the reader of The Joys of Motherhood, another of Buchi’s books, where the protagonist faces the problems typical of mothers in the Nigerian society (Second-Class Citizen was written before The Joys of Motherhood). Adah wants to break free from “slavery” under Francis, but she never quite gets to it until the end of the book.

Buchi's protagonist uses the stories, parables and scriptures from the Bible to draw analogies and sometimes rationalize situations, but not in a way many people will be comfortable with. Like in Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Adichie, Buchi gives a background picture of a period in the history of Nigeria, the years before our independence when well educated men with good secondary schooling or its equivalent rushed out of the country to get quick degrees in anticipation of a period when they would come back to rule their own country . Second-Class Citizen reminds the prolific reader of Unbridled by Jude Dibia. Both Adah and Unbridled’s protagonist Ngozi, are women with not-so-good childhoods who grow up, suffer harsh domination by their men and then break free after enduring too much. Jude Dibia leaves Ngozi in much better shape than Buchi Emecheta leaves Adah – in front of a butcher's shop, not buying any meat but feeling hungry, tired and sick. She's also crying. The diction of Second-Class Citizen is good without being wordy. It’s Nigerian too, the way her characters reason and act. Buchi writes strongly in a way that makes it seem she’s dealing with the very familiar. She also has a very good sense of humour. Second-Class Citizen is an enjoyable and thought provoking novel.

[Image via KinnaReads]

December 11, 2008

December the 13th: Farafina Magazine Event

For more information about the Farafina Magazine Event visit their blog or their Facebook page.

December 05, 2008

Farafina Magazine's Visual Arts and Literature Event

For more information about the Farafina magazine event and biographies of the featured artists, visit their blog