Friday, December 08, 2006

From Here On

If you remember the movie, Forrest Gump starring Tom Hanks, you might remember the line, "Life is like a box of chocolate. You never know what you are going to get." That's the best I can do with that quote. Catch this, Life is a field of dreams and you can take what you want but you are never guaranteed of what you are going to get from that dream.

When you start, it is just a dream, some of us aspire to become something, some of us work for it and some of us, well lets just say we dream about it, talk about it, dance around it but never do anything about it. If that sounds like you, all is not lost. You can still get back in the game after all; life is game of miles, yards and inches, what determines your success is how far you are willing to go. What are you willing to give up and are you ready to pay the price so you can gain the prize.

Life is indeed is a journey and so is success. It is a process but the beauty is that you make progress. Anyhow, I better stop with the philosophy of life or let’s say my philosophy. Might be way different to yours but at least we have the beauty of life in common. There she goes again.

So what's the crux of the matter? Life will never wait until you are ready before it decides to move on. You must move with it because it waits for no one. It is down to you what you take from it and how you use. Now I have been doing a lot of thinking about life in general, the future and what I really want out of life. The question isn't about what life can offer me rather it is what can I add to it? Great men and women have done extraordinary things before us and we are still living with their legacy. What legacy are you and I going to leave behind when our time is up? You can answer that for yourself in the confines of your private space. While I remain exclusive about my decision, I would like to point out that life has given me so much more than I could ever imagine and it isn't always great. I have cried, I have toiled and I am still toiling but it is not in vain.

I have realised the grandeur of overnight success is just a myth. Yes it happens for a few people that way. Well that is if you are willing to sell your soul on reality television to make grade D celebrity status. Good luck to you but there are a few of us who are just not bold enough to share ourselves with the whole world that way. This is the point I am trying to get across; there is a certain degree of pride you feel when you achieve something you mapped out to do. You set your mind on it, kept your focus and no matter what came your way, you promised yourself, come hell or high water, this thing ain't (forgive my choice of word) grinding me down. Now that is what I call tenacity; holding on against all odds.

This is where I stop my current craze about falling in love with life. However I will let you know that in the last one year, great things have happened to me. The highlight of it all was writing for The Guardian. No one can ever take that away from me. Don't get me wrong, I worked hard for each opportunity and maximised every breakthrough that came my way. Maybe that's the reason one of my favourite books is called Maximize the Moment. Go get yourself a copy, some great stuff in there.

So what’s next? Well let’s say from here on, I am on fire with the dream that won’t and refuses to die. It is alive and well, and like fire shut up in my bones, it is kicking. Watch this space!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Art Of Listening - Pt 4

Note: To fully understand The Art Of Listening Pt 4, you have to read 1, 2 and 3.

The bottom line is: “Knowing I need to listen and knowing how to listen is not enough. Unless I want to listen, unless I have the desire, it won’t be a habit in my life.” Stephen R. Covey – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

The Art of listening is a skill one must cultivate and that is a task you set for yourself as an individual. Before you read another word ask yourself what are my listening skills like? If you can rate yourself and be honest. You are on your way to developing a habit that will change the course of your life in more ways than you ever imagined.

When you learn to listen to instructions your tendencies to make mistakes are minimised. Think about that for a little while and tell yourself there is no reason to develop your listening skills.

Listening Is Indeed An Art And A Skill To Possess.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Art Of Listening - Pt 3

Being aware of the fact that I need to work on my listening skills is one of the best things that has happened to me this year. Why? Now that I know there is an issue to deal with I will become more conscious of it, and take steps towards becoming a better listener. It starts with my ability to identify the issue because what you don’t admit or acknowledge is an issue you will never take responsibility for it. That’s what being responsible is about; responding to a need, situation or circumstance with the hope for a change. I can’t afford to react irresponsibly because reactions can sometimes lead to adverse consequences but we are not going to get into all of that.

My thing right now is listening to others. Imagine how good it feels when someone says to you; “Thank you for listening.” Believe me when I say without a shadow of doubt it's a feeling no one can ever take away from you. I’ll give you an example; a teenage friend of mine said that to me last month and my response was “I am glad my pain was your joy.” I could only tell her that because I was able to listen to her as we talked about a situation she found challenging and I had been in a similar circumstance in the past. Having a fore knowledge of what she was talking about enabled me to give her some tips on how to handle the same issue next time.

So what’s my game plan? I have every intention of developing my ability to listen to others more, and I must learn not to butt in when someone is in the middle of a sentence. I tend to do that a lot and personally I find it very irritating when others do that to me. Here goes the old adage of treating others the same way you want them to treat you.

The Art Of Listening - Pt 2

Listen! Listen! Listen! I am not claiming to be an expert on this topic but from experience ‘The Art of Listening is a Skill.’ Take this for example when you are in conversation with someone, either in person or over the phone. The individual can tell if they have your attention or not. They know when you are just responding because you think so highly of yourself and believe you are doing them a favour by listening to them blab on and on. Don’t miss this; there are conversations you have no business partaking in because they are nothing but time suckers. There are also conversations you need to listen to because they enhance and enrich you.

There are times you must also listen to yourself or you might just miss an important lesson your intuition is trying to bring across to you. Collecting your thoughts and listening to yourself helps you to clear the clutter that sometimes clouds your mind.

The Art Of Listening - Pt 1

“Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit; reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” (Maxim – taken from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey)

What does it mean to listen? defines it as:

A - "To give attention with the ear."
B - "To make an effort to hear something."
C - "To pay attention."

Listening is a skill you consciously adopt, cultivate and nurture in the process of self development. Lately I have been working on my ability to listen to others while they talk. It has been a steep learning curve because I can attest to the fact that I used to be a poor listener and that affected my relationships with other people in not so many good ways. I wasn’t discerning enough to realise there were times I needed to shut my mouth and just listen. Looking back there were moments all I was supposed to contribute to the conversation; was to keep quiet and not interrupt the other person as they spoke even if I had an opinion on the matter.

I soon realised it was not a good trait to have especially when you are in a conversation with someone and they have to tell you: “Can you please listen to me” or “Please let me finish.” How embarrassing to be told so politely to keep your trap shut.

It is important to study yourself and one of the best ways of doing so is through your ability to relate to others; you learn so much from listening to the other person. Right now I am working on my ability to be a good listener. It helps when you listen to others because you might not be able to comment on their pressing need but your ability to listen to them alone is already a seed meeting a need.There are times when that’s all certain individuals need; someone to listen to them. One of the reasons you will sometimes hear people say: “I wish someone would just listen to me.”

Even kids need to be listened to and heard. They may be small people but they matter a great deal and so does what they have to say. Imagine if we took time to really listen to our kids what a difference that would make to our families. We are always happy to tell them what to do but we never take the time to ask them what they would like to do. There times when the answer to certain minor challenges lie inside the child next to you. How about when you are looking for that fancy bag you used last week but couldn’t be bothered to put it in the right place when you returned home and now you are like a hurricane looking for what to destroy and making others around you uncomfortable. That’s when you hear her sweet little voice “Mummy it is in the laundry basket.” How stupid do you think you will feel as a parent?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

New Dawn

For some people, turning 30 is a scary time because that’s when you start asking yourself what you have done with your life. It was my birthday on the 28th and though I have no intentions of telling anyone my age, I must say I woke up with a sense of peace and direction for the future. I can say without a doubt, I am always very hard on myself and my father has done all he can to let me know he is proud of me. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for the gift of life and I’m equally proud of myself but there is always that sense of urgency that I can do better. For months before my birthday, there was an endless tug of war going on within me and I really couldn’t explain the feeling. Then I read an article where it was explained that it's the growing up process when a person is getting closer to the big number and the morning of life starts.

Sometimes, it’s hard to explain and there are times when I feel like I am just being lazy and we all have such moments. What makes the difference is what you do after you realise the phase of life you are in. Right now there is so much I want to do but I also understand that Rome wasn’t built in a day and you can’t build a castle in one week. It takes time or you might as well build a sand castle and know that after a while, it will come down. My desire is to one day leave a legacy that will last generations after me. I want to look back and even after I leave this earth; people will remember me for the positive contribution I made to the world. I pray that is your desire because together we can make our world better, one day at a time.

For days, I was looking forward to my birthday. My friends and family made it a day to remember. I had so much fun, I can’t even begin to tell you about it but what moved me was when my sister who lives in Nigeria called me and said she bought credit on her phone so she could call me on my big day. No matter how dysfunctional your family is, times like this help you to realise that each individual is different to the other for a reason and purpose. Imagine if you all sound and look the same, that would be a lot of photocopies. I am grateful I have a family.

What matters right now is knowing that it's a new season in my life. I plan to make every day count and pursue my dream with passion and a burning desire to be a success in life not just for me but to be a source of inspiration to those around me.

I refuse to be afraid of the unknown but I chose to look into the unknown and discover what it’s all about. Dream I shall because my dream and all that I hope to be will become a reality.


When I blogged about my experience at the Guardian under the title “Getting There,” I wasn’t sure what to expect for the rest of the week but I was looking forward to it. It was and has been a wonderful experience. I learnt so much, I can’t even begin to tell you all about it.

During the course of the week, I wrote a number of pieces, the numerous feedbacks I got on my work and writing skills really encouraged me and made me want to do better with each opportunity I was given. I learnt the opening paragraph of a news story is what makes or breaks your ability to keep your reader interested. I also learnt to tighten up on my writing. There is no way I could have learnt all of that on the street and it gave me a good sense of direction from those in the industry. To me that was immensely useful.

When I went to the Guardian, I didn’t go in with the mindset of someone who had been published in other newspapers or magazines before. I went in with the mindset of a child who was learning to walk and that really helped me to get as much as I could from the whole experience.

When the intended terror threat to UK airports broke, it was amazing to see how news rooms react and respond to breaking news. It was like a classroom and I soon realised I was in the classroom of life so I could learn lessons that will stand me good and stead for the future.

News is about facts and you have no right to distort what you are reporting, that is the Journalism I have come to know and love and I pray I am not being naïve in hoping there are those out there who would like for it to remain that way.

I am looking forward to the final week when I go back to my favourite desk and learn some more. Journalism is not glamorous but it is rewarding if you work hard. Nothing will ever be handed to you, you have to fight for it and I have every intention of doing just that.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Getting There

It was day one today on Guardian Unlimited. I would say a good start because I worked on the quiz questions and helped to update some information on the money desk. I was happy because I had work to do. The assistant news editor read my piece on Christian fiction, the one I mentioned earlier. She said it was interesting but they don't do stuff like that. That was fine by me; at least I got feedback on my work. She also mentioned she would pass it on to the editor of the books section.

I totally enjoyed my day and I have a plan up my sleeve for tomorrow but I am not going to tell you about it. That would spoil the fun of it. You just come back here tomorrow to read all about it.

At the end of the day, we walked to the train station together and we got talking, she gave me really useful advice, sometimes when on an internship programme, maybe what you need to do is sit and watch people work and see how they do it. It is hectic and for a national newspaper, there is so much to learn. I have always said to myself that I was a features writer but there is absolutely nothing wrong if I also develop news writing skills. I intend to do just that and hope for the best. I was pleased when she said to speak to the other guys around and ask questions. Hearing that from her really encouraged me. Don’t be afraid she said, just ask. I am going to ask and learn.

Her advice really helped me to get last week into perspective when I thought I wasn't doing anything but I learnt so much. I already told you about the features desk, so there is no need to go back there but on the Pictures desk, I learnt how important and integral a picture is to a news story. Sometimes, the picture says it all. Take a good look at the current crisis in the Middle East and the images we see on our televison screens and daily newspapers. What gets at you? For me, it will have to be the images of young children who are getting hurt and those who have lost their lives. Pictures definitely speak volumes. Ask a pictures editor and they will tell you the same thing.

As for today, it has been productive and I am praying tomorrow will even be more productive.

Looking forward to it.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Rude Awakening

In the last few months, I have done everything I know to enable me become a good journalist. Though I am yet to get to the point where everyone knows my name but I really don’t care about that right now. What matters to me is that with every opportunity I am given, I do an excellent job. I have applied to every newspaper and magazine house I know for internship opportunities and this week, I realised, nothing will ever be handed to me. I have to fight, in order to gain something valuable out of every opportunity given to me.

It’s my first week at the Guardian newspaper and for weeks I was looking forward to it. It meant a lot to me to have been selected at all. There were over a 100 applicants and to be 1 of 12 finalists; that is an achievement I would compare to winning an Olympic gold medal. I honestly didn’t know what to expect and to be quite honest, I am still not sure what the next week will be like. Nervous and anxious on my first day though I was advised not to be but let’s face it; wouldn’t you be nervous if you found yourself in the newsroom of one of Britain’s biggest and oldest newspaper? There were times, when speaking I could barely hear myself let alone the person I was speaking to. For the first time, though people always commend my standard of English it was obvious to me, English was not my first language. I was as nervous as hell and goodness was I fidgeting. I did my very best to keep it on a low profile. Times like this, I count it a blessing that I studied drama years back.

The first day to me was very quite, as silent as a grave yard. I was on the money desk and totally enjoyed the mini feature I worked on. It was cool and with the knowledge I gained at the Finacial Times sister paper, The Financial Adviser, I knew the right language for writing a piece about money matters. Low and behold, it will not be getting published, just a few lines in the paper on Saturday but its all good. It’s still an achievement. I was on the Home desk for the next two days and again, very interesting. I read some breaking news on the news wires from the different news agencies The Guardian has subscribed to. Some were just barmy and others very serious but a good mix and the style varied from one writer to the next.

I attended a news conference and gained first hand, how the news I read each day in the Guardian gets started and worked on. People debate about it and give their opinions on any political matter or pressing issue in the public. The politicians were not spared if you must know. What I really appreciated about the conference was the fact that the Editor of the Guardian commends those who contributed to the paper on a daily basis. It is good to be acknowledged for doing an excellent job.

Now I have to admit, it felt weird sitting there and I had taken the approach of asking the person I was assigned to, what he had that I could work on, because I felt it was the best way to go about it. At the end of the day, I am an apprentice and very avenue made open for me to learn, I am going to take it. It didn’t matter to me if I had been published before, I wanted to know what I was expected to do and at the same time learn.

The tricky part is I haven’t quite figured out when to ask a question. Is there ever going to be a right time to ask about anything? People are always busy at work and it is extremely nerve racking when you want to ask because you don’t want to break their flow of concentration. It is only fair to see things from their point of view.

My two days on the features desk have been memorable. I got first hand advice from the commissioning features editor and I intend to take it on board and work with it. She explained the elements of what would attract her to a good feature and make her commission a writer to deliver. It was insightful to see the editor at work and how he runs things. The features desk is an hectic environment because you have to deliver at the end of each day when you work for a daily publication.

Did I mention, I tried pitching an idea in one of the feature ideas conference and my world was I nervous? It was reassuring when the editor laughed as I blurted out MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) reduces your sex drive. That was a fair enough response for me. What did I learn from that? I am not telling because if he laughed, I am sure others will find it funny. That’s all I am saying. Just watch this space

At times I felt unsure when I had nothing to do, I have always been the type of person who finds it hard to sit about, doing nothing and at such moments, I felt a little frustrated but my friend advised; it is at such times I get proactive and find something interesting to do. Hence I went back on the wires to look through some more news reports and see if I would get one or two feature ideas and I did but I won’t tell you.

The lesson is from my moments of feeling frustrated at nothing to do, I learnt if it is going to be, it’s all down to me. Yes I wrote one piece about Christian fiction and the person I was assigned to will be getting back to me on monday but I am not going to wait until then. I have already reworked my piece and I am running with it. Just wait and see what becomes of it. I will let you know.

I am usually forceful in my approach to things but this time around, as an apprentice I have to keep my eyes on ground level and learn every lesson there is to learn in the space of two weeks. It may be time consuming and feels like it is very slow and that my ability to express myself is being stifled but surely, one day I will know why this week existed in the history of my life.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Pain & Pleasure

I have often wondered about the different cycles we go through in life. Education is one of them. Growing up, your parents want you to attend pre-school, luckily for some of us, we might just learn the alphabets on time. A few years down the line, you find yourself in secondary school and before you know what hit you, you are at the end of your A’ levels and you have been given a set of predicted grades. The next step is university, with an exception that you might not even be sure about what you would like to do. Your teacher thinks you are really good at Media studies, so you convince yourself that you were born to be a film maker, the next Spike Lee. So, you embark on a film studies degree. In your second year, you finally realise you hate the course. Alternatively, if your parents believe they know what’s best for you, then you must become a doctor because they have always wanted one in the family. You begin to fulfil their dream and not yours, gradually that dream begins to die and if you are not careful enough to realise on time, yours might die too. Without warning you are full of anger and resentment at the world. Truth be told, all is not lost because if at the weekends, you enjoy the dance and other recreational activities you do, claiming they are just your hobbies. It’s about time you sat down and take an audit of what your strengths are and maybe, just maybe that is where you passion most likely lies. Maybe you were not born to be a film maker or a doctor, maybe all your feet was created for, was to "Just dance." you will never know if you don't try. Frustrated and tired, you abandon your studies and start searching for that one thing you believe you were born to do.

Let’s be honest, not everyone with a film studies degree from university is a big time film maker today. They are most likely doing other things and enjoying it. The industry is so competitive, to survive, you might have to pull a stunt; maybe sell a member of your family or something. Oops, sorry just a joke but hey people are pretty crazy these days. They will do anything for 15 minutes of fame.

It has been on my mind for a while now, why we study, we slave over our books to make the grade and its hard work. Sometimes you don’t even make the grade you feel you deserve. No one tells you about the in-between, having the dream and working hard for it. They all tell you can do it. That is if you are lucky your dream wasn't rejected the first time. I learnt in the last month, that education or rather being a student has a lot to do with abilities and strengths. You must know what you are good at but it is also important to realise that being a student is about your mental strength and ability to survive the course work and exams. You may be the most intelligent person on earth but if you’re mentally lazy, you won’t make maximum use of your brain capacity. Being a student to me is about my ability to look past the pain of studying and the stress of it all and say to myself, if I can get past the pain and push the baby like a woman in labour with the tears flowing in the midnight hour. At the end of the three years course duration, I will give birth to my baby and that for me right now is my degree. After all, once the baby is born you forget the pain and guess what you might even miss being a student. Have you heard people say, I miss Uni? I think it’s because you now realise you are in the big bad world and you have to face up to it. The safety net of being a student is gone and the 10% discount you got at the shop is also gone. It is now you and Uncle John and you have no choice but to face up to him and take on responsibilities as they come.

Staying up to study for the past semester has left me with a messed up sleeping pattern. I wake up at 3am thinking I still have course work to get through. It doesn’t make much sense now but when I get my results, I want it to make sense. I want those days I was frustrated with tears in my eyes, pulled myself out of my misery and got on with the work, with the promise, that it will soon be over. I want it all to make sense when I check those grades and see the fruit of my labour. Only then will I be satisfied and maybe give myself a break or better pat myself on the back and say well done. I won't celebrate so much just yet though because third year of university still awaits me. The mental struggle continues and I know with the amount of light bulbs at the local shop that is yet to be sold, I will not run out of options for the type of lighting I want in my room to make studying easier.

In the mean time, I am looking forward to finishing well. Until then, the mental challenge continues.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Working As A Journo

It is proven by statistics that most people end up not working in the area of what they studied. As a child, my dream was to become a lawyer. Not for a minute did I think I would end up in England let alone study Journalism but today, that's what I am doing. Its hard work and you have to be ready to knock on every door. Sometimes you get a break and bam, you are on your way, for others the story is a little different. To date, I have learnt you must be versatile to survive in the Media Industry, it changes every day and you have to be up to date. Know your market, your audience and above all, endeavour to be the best at your craft, not easy but work at it. It's like a manufacturer; they know their product more than anyone else. A Journalist has to know what he or she is talking about, we are not perfect and mistakes are possible but at all cost aim to avoid them. Saves you a lot of trouble.

Since I embarked on this journey, I have learnt valuable lessons and met people who are willing to help you get better at your craft. I have had the opportunity of working with those who have been in the industry for years.

Sometimes I ask myself, what I was thinking when I filled out the forms for university and picked Journalism but to date, it's been good and I am looking forward to tomorrow. It makes me happy when my friend calls me up to tell me, she did a search on me on Google and materials I wrote in the past came up. That would make any one proud and I am proud of me. So I did a search on myself and my world was I surprised.

These are links to features I wrote in the past and had no knowledge it was online with the exception of NUJ Student ADM.

This I co- wrote with the gentleman whose name is also on the article. He is the editor of Crux magazine and I would like to use this opportunity to say thank you.

A feature I wrote while at The Voice Newspaper in June 2005 but found it on a different website

This was the ultimate for me, just absolutely fantastic. Finding my article in full on the Voice website - Thanks Vic, you're a star

There will be many more and I am more determined today to work hard and make my dream a reality.

Student Life

The decision to go to university was easy to make. It would change my life but I also knew it would be hard work. Dedication, enthusiasm and determination were part and parcel of the recipe for my success. So far my theory has been right, what I didn't anticipate was having a messed up sleeping pattern. While others can stay up at night to study and go back to bed when they want to, I can't. I have been awake since 11pm Tuesday night and its now 10:56am Wednesday morning and I can't sleep. Yes I did some work but I also want to sleep, so I can study some more later today. Unfortunately, I can't. If there's any one out there who has a good idea of what I can do to help me have a balanced sleep pattern and study time for my own good, do let me know. Yes I need to study but my body also needs to rest. Falling ill due to exhaustion is not a good idea and I certainly don't want that.

Help somebody!

Thursday, April 20, 2006


The Opinion piece, "Black Sexual, Sensual and Spiritual" was written last year for a project at Uni. I had no idea what to do and time was running against me, so I thought to myself, why not write about something I had a strong view point on. My aim was not to tell anyone off, I was simply pressing my point of view against the fabric of the page. It worked because my lecturer told me afterwards, "Quite an interesting piece." Read and lemme know what you think

Black, Sexual, Sensual and Spiritual

“Black women, dating back to slavery have always been depicted by this society as sexually loose, as whores, as objects to be used, then discarded” – Kevin Powell, author and activist.

Imagine coming home to your two year old toddler, still in her diapers, gyrating sexually in front of your mirror and turning to you to say, “Mummy, dip it low make your man say oh.” Unaware of her actions, her understanding is that she is imitating a form of art. That’s because it’s all she has been watching on the box known as a television, which you spent your hard earned cash to buy. What’s she imitating? The scantily clad, half naked women she saw in the rap video titled “Dip It Low.”

The excessive exposure of half dressed naked black women in rap videos has raised a serious debate across the Atlantic in America. Led by the leading Black lifestyle magazine Essence with its year long campaign, “Take Back The Music.” After years of letting rap videos define her feminine identity, as skin revealing sexpot and booty shaking sister, the African American woman is finally speaking out and fighting with a vengeance to take her rightful place as a woman of class, dignity and integrity. She is tired of being portrayed as a sex kitten, a sexual object and as something that can be traded back and forth between men in rap videos beamed globally across the globe on MTV, BET and other major music channels, giving the impression that booty shaking and being naked in music videos is all there is to an African American woman.

Hip hop as a culture is 25years old. My question is, why did we keep quiet for so long and let the artist, all in the name of being creative, sell us out as if we were for sale in an auction? Were we so afraid of being criticised as starting another “Hate the black man campaign” because, regardless of the time and stance we take as sisters, we will get criticised by those whose opinion differs to our point of view. We make excuses for them in the name of art and protecting our own because we don’t want to rattle or sell out our black brothers, though they sold out on us.

We are not sex objects to be looked upon with disdain. This is promoted by the Record labels, who claim it’s what the public wants, and the high demand for it explains the extensive production of rap videos with lewd and obscene acts been performed by black women. Record companies say that the public wants these videos and “as long as they keep buying, we are going to keep making them.”

The rap artists themselves defend their form of art, claiming its just art. Nelly, one of the foremost rap artists embroiled at the centre this debate, whose video “Tip Drill”, in which he swipes a credit card down a woman’s thong clad backside, says “I respect women and I am not a misogynist, I am an artist. Hip-hop videos are art and entertainment. Videos tell stories, some are violent, some are sexy, some are fun, and some are serious. As for how women are shown in the videos, I don’t have a problem with it because it is entertainment and women are in the videos by choice.”

That’s the reason we must first start with our own sisters, who make these decisions that gives us all a general identity. We are not asking for a moral code of conduct for us to lives by, nor are we asking for censorship on our brothers’ form of artistry. All we ask is a balance of different images to the ones that currently filtrate our television screens 24/7, because there are black sisters in “Different lights, different body types and different venues.” There’s more to a black woman than the scantily dressed half naked woman that invades our screens.

Where are our Maya Angelous, Terry McMillans, Alice Walkers, Toni Morrisons, Iyanla Vanzants and Oprah Winferys? Where are the images of our black sisters who fought for us, so we could be free to lift our heads and say “I am black, sexual, sensual and I’m spiritual too”? We need more images of our achievers on our television screens to give our coming generation a positive image of black women, a sense of identity and of how a woman should be treated. You may wonder, why argue about the way a woman ought to be treated? According to a group of Emory University Professors in Atlanta, who carried out research on the effects of rap videos on teenagers. “The answer therein, lies in the knowledge that long term exposure to rap music, which is explicit about sex, violence and rarely shows the potentially long term adverse effect of risky behaviours, may influence adolescents by modelling the unhealthy practices.”

What now worries my sisters is not just the impact of the lewd videos or the obscene sexual depiction of African American women on the minds of young girls but on the young boys also, who have been raised by the television they have grown up watching and the music they listen to. It is believed that young men of color derive their idea of masculinity from the media and these videos are showing young men how to treat young women.

It is a conflicting issue deep in the heart of African American women but over here in the United Kingdom, the young generation are beginning to have their debate also. Mina, 15 and a street dancer, said “I don’t like the way women in skimpy clothes dance around men in hip-hop videos. It makes all women seem ho-ish.” Chris, 18, disagrees, saying, “Rap artists are only referring to a certain group of women, the ones they come across,” but when asked how he would feel if the lyrics were about a female member of his family, his response was “Vexed and upset.” Fumi, 19, simply tells them to “Pull their pants up.”

No one wants a female member of their family portrayed as whorish and that’s why this debate centres on the choices we as women make. The rap artists are right to say the women are in their videos by choice and, yes, they were not forced with a gun to their heads to appear in the videos with no clothes on. The question is how we now rectify the problem because it has become a cancerous epidemic in the world of hip hop. Black is beautiful and there’s no crime showing off a black woman as a sensual being but when her identity changes to that of a sexual object with no other positive image to counteract it, then we have a problem.

Jill Scott, an artist in her own right, tells it like it is: “The focus is based on a certain kind of woman’s sexuality,” and that kind of sexuality as far she is concerned seems “more nasty than sexy”. This is a woman whom the rap artists themselves might well not consider to use in their videos because she would not fit into their image of a sexy Cinderella scantily dressed in a bikini but she believes “sexuality is not so obvious, it’s coy. It’s sly. It’s sweet.”

It’s time we taught our daughters and took responsibility for our children, sisters and every young woman around us. It’s time the woman of color challenges herself to do better and stop being an object, subjecting herself to be demeaned. It’s time we change our strategy and take on fame, so we can re-write our history, as I’m a woman and I’m black, sexual, sensual, and I’m spiritual too.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

I Changed My Mind

I was waiting for the right time to give my blog page my 'undivided attention' but sometimes; there is never a right time to do anything. Time does not make itself available to you and tells you, "Today you must do this." You have to decide and say to yourself, "I have to do this today." April 12th, I went to the cinema and it's still fresh in my memory even as I sit here, in front of my keys typing away. I couldn't keep my emotions bottled up but as a writer, I decided to put my thoughts into words. My thoughts and emotions gave birth to "When Did We become Desensitised."

When Did We Become DESENSITISED?

The plan was set in stone and nothing was going to deter me. I had a purpose and was on a mission. Armed with a vague idea of what the movie was about but with an exception. I was not ready for what I was about to see or the truth that would confront me afterwards.

Interesting title, outstanding reviews, “Shooting Dogs” is latest attempt by a filmmaker to educate us about the Rwandan genocide that played on our television screens a decade ago and the world is hoping such a thing never happens again. “Hotel Rwanda” reduced me to tears because I couldn’t understand what would possess a human being to commit such atrocities. With numerous articles and television documentaries about the country and people of Rwanda, “Hotel Rwanda” and “Shooting Dogs” are only surface materials because when you look in-depth, there are those, whose stories we have never heard and may never hear about and they have to suffer their memories in silence.

The cinema was not packed, just the way I wanted it, no distractions and the chair was very comfortable. I was ready and so the film started rolling, half way through I knew I would leave the cinema a different person; not because I felt or believed I was going out to change the world but because I would be in a somber mood when thoughts about my place of birth came up. We are not different from Rwanda. I come from a place where one tribe deems itself superior to the other and the government is controlled by a mixed group of disgruntled members of a populous ethnic group. I'm afraid when I think about what the future holds, more so when I remember stories I was told about the civil war before I was born.

Rwanda is still fresh in my memory because I just saw history as it was on the big screen, the tears started rolling down my face when a mother and her new born baby were slaughtered. I couldn’t comprehend why one man would dismember another in pieces with a metal object. I call it cutlass but it is mostly known as machete and 12 years ago was the last time I used one. It was Labour Day, I was in boarding school and it was my task was to cut down grass that had grown beyond its boundary. That’s the main purpose it’s for, farming, slaughtering of animals and keeping one’s living environment tidy. This was not the case 10 years ago. It became a “Weapon of mass destruction.” How ironic that, we think it’s only nuclear, chemical and biological weapons that deserve to be categorised as “Weapons of mass of destruction.” Rwanda tells me different. The hands of a man can become the destructive element in society. Give him an object and he will turn it into a weapon, give him a weapon he knows how to use and he will show you how creatively he can use it.

Genocide is a word I have heard over and over but never bothered to find out what it meant because it became synonymous with murder to me. Today was different, I checked for the meaning and the realisation that it is a systematic and planned extermination of an ethnic, political or racial group sent chills down my spine. I know that you don’t need me to define the word for you because we all know what it means but I would have to question that belief. If we did, then why did it go on deaf ears for so long and we kept quite and watched 800,000 people perish like a freight of tomatoes.

Reading the stories of the victims had an effect on me I did not expect. Floral Mukampore for example who lived among the dead in order to survive said, “Can you imagine, people died on the 15 April and I lived among them until May 15.” So much has been written about Rwanda and for years to come, more will be written. We will keep talking about it just like we still talk about the Jewish Holocust. The question is have we learnt our lessons? Have we now become sensitive enough to learn from the past? It takes a man who doesn’t feel to carry out actions that are beyond comprehension, then again, who knows what goes on in the mind of such a man. Perhaps he does feel, so much that his actions begin to resemble those of ours who don’t but how can we tell?

The notion of being sensitive, sensitive to what goes on around us, maybe that’s all it is, a notion. Because on my way home, a group of teenage boys were on the bus and one of them was beating up the other and no one stepped in to help this teenage boy. His eyes were red, his face swollen and he kept using his jacket to wipe his tears. My heart went out to him and I felt angry that no one stood up to do anything and neither did I. Why? I cannot answer but do I feel ashamed? It felt more like guilt because when I got off the bus I wasn’t sure what would happen to him. The teenage boy who beat him up earlier was still threatening to beat him up some more. People are afraid of stepping in for fear of getting hurt. The horror stories of those who stepped in and got killed makes you think about yourself before anyone else. We have become so desensitised that we are afraid of doing what is right. This fear has led to selfishness. If we are okay, then we shut everything else out.

Makes me think about Rwanda again, when Lieutenant General Romeo Dallaire, the UN Canadian officer, pleaded for International help but his plea was in vain and his troops were rather reduced in numbers. March 2004, a decade to the ills of the Rwandan genocide, the Canadian foreign minister Bill Graham told the United Nations, “We lack the political will to achieve the necessary agreement on how to put in place the type of measures that will prevent a future Rwanda from happening.” That is what scares me the most, the lack of responsibility both individually and collectively. When no one steps in to help a crying teenage boy, not even myself, makes me wonder, who will help a nation?

It all takes me back home, where the stench of tribalism is worse than that of a sewer. March 2006, I received an email that got me curious and so I decided to find out and in the process stumbled on a story. According to the email, one denomination of the Christian community in Nigeria have been warned and told to pray vigilantly for the nation. For this particular Christian community, they were also told to go and watch the movie Hotel Rwanda and pray it doesn’t become the fate of the nation. The writings are on the wall, the signs are there for all to see, tribal wars, religious battles and gradually, men are turning into robots with no feelings.

This isn’t just about a nation or an ethnic community nor is it just about the ethnic cleansing of Tutsis by Hutus for superiority. It is about us as a society and the realisation that so often, we manage to distance ourselves from the situation before us. Thinking as long as it does not affect me, I am okay. We have become desensitised to the point where we no longer feel the pain of a teenage boy, crying like a baby on the bus while grown men and women watch as he is violently beaten up by another teenager without remorse. When did we loose our ability to be our brother’s keeper?

Monday, April 10, 2006

I'll Be Back

Creating a blog requires dedication. I am yet to post anything meaningful because I am busy with my university coursework but as soon as I get that out of the way, I will give this page my undivided attention. In the mean time, enjoy the student ADM blog page and it contains some of my postings as well as interesting postings from other students present at the conference. Rest assured, I'll be back with my creative juices flowing.
Student ADM blogpage -