Thursday, December 19, 2013

Nigerian Parties: Then and Now, A Two-Part Series

Happy Holidays everyone!

With Christmas Day fast approaching, we're all gearing up to wind down with family and friends. The holiday season is bittersweet time for me, because as much as I enjoy spending time with my nuclear family (read: parents, siblings, and a few nearby cousins) I miss spending time with my extended family. 

And with what seems like the majority of my Twitter timeline leaving for Nigeria the past few weeks I must admit...I'm hating. Hard. I see y'all posting about packing and passports and parcels and I'm just...jealous. (Also, thumbs up for that alliteration, and another for me remembering the word alliteration! Alright freshman English!) 

So to cheer myself up, and those of us not lucky enough to be spending time with loved ones back home this year, I've decided to share a few memories I have from the best part of the holidays, the parties. I'll do it in two parts, this week discussing parties when I was younger, and next time, present day parties. 

Now, I touched on this very briefly a few weeks ago on twitter, but I've got a love-hate relationship with Nigerian parties.

I can remember going to them as a child, and being so excited to see everyone. The entire process of going to a party was just buildup of suspense and excitement. First, you had to hear about it. Usually from a family friend or parent, sometimes from another busy bodied child. Then I would pester my parents about their weekend plans and whether or not I had been good enough to go. I would carefully make sure all my homework had been done and my chores completed satisfactorily. No speck of dust or uncompleted math homework was going to keep me from a tray full of my Auntie’s meat pies.

Then, once I had received the okay from my parents, it was time to pick out my outfit. It didn't matter if it was the day before the function or a week before, as soon as my parents said we were going, I went to my closet. Sometimes, we were lucky and got to get new clothes for the party, but usually, I had my own pieces to mix and match and play fashionista with. Chei, if you could see my room those days, I don’t know if I thought I was Barbie or Princess Diana or Foxy Brown. I wanted to wear all my clothes to the party. Sometimes my mom would come in, at the last minute imagine, and try to “help” me pick my outfit. I don’t know which dictionary Nigerian parents learned from, but help means guide, not force.

I would have my outfit laid out, ready to wear. I would go and bath, washing carefully so as to not disturb my hair which had probably been pulled and twisted into some style by my older sister earlier in the day. After scrubbing up, I’d apply a generous layer of Vaseline, so as to look healthy. I don’t know what it is about Nigerians and shiny kids, but apparently a dry kid is a sickly one. Anytime we were to go out in public my mother made sure to smear our faces with “crème” so that people will know that we were healthy and well taken care of. I remember a friend of mine and I laughing years later as we shared stories and she told me how her father used to glob on the Vaseline on picture day so that they could send home pictures of their “healthy” children. Whatever shoddy doctors the British brought to Nigeria that told them health meant looking like a Thanksgiving Day turkey need to be brought to trial and made to answer for their crimes against comfort. But, I digress.

By the time I slipped and slid my oil covered feet down the hall (don’t ask me why I lotioned the bottoms of my feet…just…don’t.) and got back to my room, my mother would have changed out the outfit on the bed. Sometimes I’d "Risky Business" my way through the door just as she tried to slink out and I'd just stare at her. With respectful yet astonished disbelief. (Which meant I looked at the floor and tried not to blink because Jesu Christi if she even got in her mind to think I was rolling my eyes at her…*looks to the heavens*)

“That clothes doesn't look good,” she’d explain, pointing to the new outfit she’d picked. “Wear this one,” she said as she’d close the door and go check on the status of my little sister’s bathing.

Cheiiiiiiiiiii!!!!!!!!” I’d mutter as I sank to the door. “This dress is not going to look nice! No one is wearing this! I don’t want to wear Nigerian clothes! You can’t play in lace!” I panicked. How would I run? How could I jump? I mean, when was the last time you saw someone win the Olympics in Vlisco? It’s not possible!

Mommyyyyy! This dress is itchyyyy!” I’d cry out, hoping she’d take pity on me.

YOU HAVEN’T EVEN TRIED IT, TELLING ME YOU’RE ITCHING! OYA, MA ISUGHI YA I GA ESO ANYI AGA (wear it or you’re not going with us)!” she’d answer. (Looking back, I don’t know why I tried that lie so often, like she was a new woman each time. She birthed me; I've literally known her my entire life. She didn't care if I was itchy or not, red tulle was just going to be the move that night.)

After fighting with myself (and my mother, in my mind) I got dressed and headed out, pulling on my stockings the whole way. …Which devil invented pantyhose anyway? And who was evil enough to make it in children’s sizes? Why? Why would you do that to us? What did we do to you? If Africans ever get reparations for colonization, I’d like to request that in lieu of currency, I’d like every pair of pantyhose removed off the shelves. Which royal do I need to talk to to make that happen? Does George have power yet? Or is it like the Lion King? Does Mufasa need to be sacrificed? Who’s the Mufasa of Windsor? Eya confusion dey.

After ripping my pantyhose in several places and sliding around on the cold leather seats of momsie’s old-school Volvo, we’d finally arrive at the function. And what a function it would be. You could always tell a Nigerian party apart from any other celebration on the block. Children would be milling about in the parking lot, playing games and running random 100 meter races around the block, until someone’s Big Auntie came and shut the fun down. Teenagers would be sitting on cars, making moon eyes for each other while chugging Fanta after Fanta. The sounds of Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Brenda Fassie, Magic Systeme, Awilo Logomba and others could be heard down the street, willing mamas and papas to shake nyash from the car door to the dance floor.

If the party had a gate fee, there’d be a line of adults at the door trying to argue the price down, as if they themselves didn't set the price at their last meeting. All types of stories were told at those tables. “Ahn ahn! You see these children! They cannot feed themselves, you want me to starve my kids for dance party?” or “What is this? This price na Naira or dollars? Which president is here that you can charge this price?” One time I heard an uncle yell out, “Pahdin?! 20 dollars just to dance? Two-zero dollars? For simple party? I don’t have that kind of money!” he said, as if we didn't all see him pull up in a brand new Benz.

After muttering their way through the line, we’d shuffle our way through the crowd at the door and make our way to an empty table, all the while eyeing the food line. When it reached a suitable length, my sister and I would shuffle our way over to the tables, scanning each offering thoroughly before allowing any auntie to put it on our plate. It's not everyone who can make good jellof, you know. After snarfing down plantain and goat meat and sneaking a few sodas, we'd make our way outside. 

Now, I don't know if it's just the parties we frequented, or if it's a worldwide thing...but the parking lot at a Nigerian event is just a breeding ground for danger. Kids would be playing tag around the parked cars, teenagers would be sitting in or on said parked cars, and someone always ended up running straight into the street after a ball or to escape being "It". Or somebody got in a fight cuz some one's shoes got stepped on or tagged out too quickly or accidentally on purpose got mushed while getting tagged...

...inevitably right as some Big Auntie looked outside. Then we'd all get herded back inside and had to begin our fun inside.

Kids mehn, kids can have fun anywhere. We played in parking lots, bathrooms, waiting rooms, hotel lobbies.....churches (don't loud it)...anywhere we had enough space to play a hand game or throw a ball...or some one's shoe. Someone always lost a shoe.

I think that was my favorite thing about parties growing up. Besides the fact that I was surrounded by family and friends, good music and better food; I got to have fun with other kids who were just like me. I got to be carefree and throw my head back and laugh and tell stories to kids who wouldn't judge because we lived the same reality.

I miss that feeling. Being able to talk without fear of judgment, to laugh with abandon, to feel that sense of home, not because of where I was, but because of who I was with. I don't know if it's because of how old I am, or because of where I live, but things just aren't the same. I've spent years searching for that feeling and haven't found it yet. I'm left cherishing memories of events long past, and people long gone.

The holiday season is a time to reflect on and review the past 12 months and spend time with loved ones as the year draws to a close. It's a time to spread joy and happiness, to bond over nostalgia as you create new memories. Here's to hoping this finds you all well, and that you're able to find your sense of home this season. 


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Third-world problems from a First-world Penthouse

I recently ran across a post on Tumblr that had me so enraged I had to sit down in a corner and think about life for a few minutes. I just had to center my mind, body, and soul because the anger that was coursing through my body was enough to unalign my chakrahs or whatever the hippies are calling it these days. I had to get my "woosah" on. You ever been so mad you turn into Sinclair from "Living Single" and "woo woo woo" yourself? Just step outside yourself for a second and look at your life in relation to the planets and moons and galaxies before you slap someone or become a danger to yourself? 

Yeah. That was my life. And what, you ask was the post that had me so up in arms? 

Photo credit: David Margules
Now, chile...when I tell you this picture alone was enough of an affront to my everyday wellbeing...the text accompanying this visual travesty was just...well...:

"When people ask me “Why do you never where shoes?”
I say:

“What would you trust trust? 2 million years of evolution or 40 years of commercialism and podiatry.”"


BABIES wear shoes before they can even walk. They have shoes for staying at home, for the garden, for the shower, even for the ocean. AMERICANS BURY PEOPLE IN SHOES. Think about that shit. You're born, they put shoes on you. You die, they put shoes on you!

Why?! Because they can! Because God has given them the chance to. People back home are tying together plastic bottles and rubber tires to have something to make the walk to fetch water a little easier, and here people are rebelling against commercialism and sanitation by refusing to wear shoes.

They even have signs that warn people that they must wear shoes or they won't be served. When was the last time you went home and people without shirts and shoes were just milling about the stores and restaurants?! Nobody has to be told there to properly dress up before going out.

When now their feet become hardened and uncomfortable, when they cut and scrape them and have to deal with sores and wounds and infections, when it takes them multiple scrubbings to return their soles to anything resembling clean, no one can say I didn't warn them.  

Melanin-deficient Americans have this idea in their heads that a supposed "third-world" way of living is somehow rustic, exotic and desirable. They've convinced themselves that a proper penance for their privilege is donating 67 cents to an organization that will adopt, train and feed a foreign child for them (while still keeping them in their same squalor and general area, of course) and then adopting select elements of that child's background. They'll "feed the children" themselves all the way to the nearest Starbucks' and then become enraged when this vehicle of American capitalism and commercialism sends them back to their penthouse apartments to find proper footwear before entry. They'll rail against the system and denounce "the Man", tweeting furiously from their Apple devices with an anger so white-hot you might even see a bit of steam escape their ears if you look close enough. 

To say it's ironic would be a gross understatement. 

In America, barefoot is a political statement. In Africa, barefoot is a unfortunate mark of circumstance. They're running towards what we're running from, but don't have the good sense to look back and ask why we're heading in the other direction. 


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Rape and Sexual Abuse.

(Don't hate me, I know it's been a while *cringe*)

Today's topic is way more serious than the post that I originally had queued up, but it think it'll be a good one nonetheless. Today I co-hosted an episode of No Rubber on the issue of Rape and it was an emotional rollercoaster for all involved. If you don't know what No Rubber is, allow me to introduce you to what I feel is one the greatest things to happen to this generation of Nigerian youth.

No Rubber started years ago, and in my early days on twitter I used to be up on it heavy heavy, but when i left for a few years I (shamefully) fell off. It's a Internet radio show hosted by two guys, Kay and A, who come each week with a different topic and share their matter how you might feel about it. It's all about letting loose and going in raw...hence the name "No Rubber". Topics have ranged from abortion to "ho phases" to interracial relationships and more. The reason I say it's one of the greatest things to happen to Nigerian youth is actually the platform it's hosted on.

Gidilounge radio, the gidilounge app and as a whole are absolutely sick. In the best way possible. It's like the pandora of African/Nigerian music. You can listen to the latest music, join in and listen live to radio shows, save playlists and they even have "lounges" which are preset stations for any mood you could ever be in and they play the hottest music. Personally, I listen to the 'highlife' station when I'm cleaning the house and the 'turnt up' station when I'm at the gym or whenever I need a pick me up. Not only do they have these options, but they host indie music as well, something you'd be hard-pressed to find on Pandora or Spotify. Gidilounge connects Africans in the Africa and all over the Diaspora. If you follow me on any of my social networks you already know just how hard I ride for the gidilounge app...I've actually been known to commandeer peoples' phones and install the app for them by force. Lol, it's almost an addiction...almost.

Find No Rubber online at, on Twitter at @No_Rubber and follow the hosts at @BmoreNigerian and @Bmore4life, producer Babse at @1babse. You can tune in and listen live Wednesday at 4pm PST/7pm EST/ 1am Nigerian time on either or download the app for Apple, Android or Blackberry devices and listen in to past episodes as well. As I tell you guys all the time on my Twitter (@Chinaija) and Tumblr, make sure to join the conversation each week on twitter with the tag #NoRubber or join the Tinychat hosted on the Gidilounge site. It's always a good time!

-(end shameless plug)-

Back to the topic at hand. I didn't get the chance to express all my thoughts on the matter, so I've come here to let it all loose. Some of what I say is likely going to be controversial, judging by some of the reactions I received earlier, but to be honest, this blog is my space to tackle the issues that I want to. (Also, You can listen to today's episode by listening through the Podcast app, the Gidilounge app or heading to (episodes are at the bottom of the page).)

This post doesn't encompass all my thoughts on the matter, and was written from notes I jotted down prior to, and during today's show.

Rape and our Society

Rape is normalized in our society. We make jokes about it so frequently that I've seen children use the word, without even knowing the concept. If you're a gamer, you know just how often the word "rape" is thrown out. Rape and sexual assault are things we always seem to be talking about, but no one ever really talks about. 

We throw the word around so much that it loses it's meaning, and it's seriousness. Rape and sexual assault isn't something to be made light of, it's a very real thing that happens to about one in four women in their lifetimes.

When we discuss rape, we also need to discuss that it happens to men as well. We have a tendency to brush that under the rug and in the process of that we marginalize a lot of men and young boys. They are lost, confused, hurt and angry and we don't ever seem to get around to discussing or helping them.

We view rape as a crime against the weak and vulnerable, and with this label we lose a lot of men in the fold. Because men are supposed to be seen as strong and independent, a lot of them don't reach out for help when they are assaulted for fear of being seen as weak...or even gay.

Sexual assault has nothing to do with orientation. Sexual predators are just that, predators. Rape isn't a crime born of lust, it's one born of power. Men who rape men aren't necessarily gay, just as those who rape women aren't always straight. Sexual offenders are equal opportunity offenders. They prey upon vulnerable people, no matter what gender.

The gender of your attacker doesn't determine your orientation, but it may define your attitude towards people of that gender, which is why we see women who have been attacked by men become so uncomfortable and uneasy and untrusting of men that they may seek relationships with women. I know a large number of women who aren't actually lesbians who seek out relationships with women because they find themselves unable to feel comfortable with men. 

Not all men are rapists, and not all rapists are men. As much of a joke mainstream society has made it out to be, there are women who rape. They rape women and men alike. It can happen. It does happen. It needs to be addressed. We have this romanticized view of women who rape as sexual teachers, as mentors who guide boys and girls. This view is wrong in so many ways, and not only does it allow these women to escape guilt, it also leave their victims confused. Rape is rape. No matter the sex of the offender.

Rape and Power.

One of the underlying causes of rape is a loss of power in the offender. Like a lot of serial killers or psychopaths, rapists often feel a sense of powerlessness about their own lives and seek to regain that by attacking others. Things like chronic unemployment, mental illness or past abuses contribute greatly to a persons likelihood to offend.

Which is why we need to re-define manhood. Though not all offenders are men, a larger majority of them are, and most violent offenders are men. With the ways in which the world and society are changing, a lot of the things we used to define manhood have gone out the window. Women are entering the workforce and higher education at higher rates than men, especially men of color. A lot of households nowadays are either female run or have a woman as the highest earning breadwinners. Our economy has shifted from industry to more service based and technical, which is (based on the way we educate and socialize children in the West) more suited towards women. We have generations of men who are unprepared for the world they live in an this lends itself to a lot of issues, like unemployment and feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness. If we don't re-define what it means to be a man, and with the job market still slowly recovering, we're going to be dealing with a lot of issues with the next few generations. And I believe rape is one of them.

Fake Rape Reports.

They are also fake rape reports. That happens. People are accused of rape falsely and that conversation needs to happen as well. These people take away from the seriousness of the reality whether as a joke or as a way of ruining someone's life. I have friends who have been falsely accused of rape or assault and the effect that it has on a persons' life is devastating. Falsely accusing someone of a crime is a crime, and it should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. But this is a small group of people and we shouldn't allow that to deter us from seriously talking about rape and it's consequences.

On Victim Blaming and Recovery.

People who have been assaulted often blame themselves. We as a culture have a way of looking at victims, especially adult victims, and explaining away the offender's guilt. "If she hadn't worn that," "She shouldn't have drank that much," "They shouldn't have left children with so and so," "He should have defended himself,"

All of this is wrong and we need to really be ashamed of ourselves for this. Rape is never the fault of the victim. No matter what a person is wearing, how much they drank, how good they were twerking on you, no is no. Silence can be no too. The only 100% sure yes is a "yes". Tread lightly.

When discussing victims, we need to look at the fact that a lot of victims don't seem themselves as victims. Sexual abuse in our culture has become so normalized that people don't often realize they were abused or the extent of the damage done to them until years down the line. I don't know if any of you paid attention to the interview that Chris Brown recently did where he talked about losing his virginity...but that story he told was a textbook example of a victim who has no idea he was a victim. The idea of older sexual "mentors" or "teachers" is so prevalent in our society that an 8 year old can confidently say that a sexual act with a teenager was consensual and beneficial. If you cannot legally give cannot give consent. 

We need to have an open space for people who have been assaulted to speak and open up and ask for help. In our community we have this sort of disdain for people who seek outside help for personal problems and that needs to end. Some problems cannot be left to our aunties and uncles or to God alone. Therapy is a needed element to healing.

It took me years to be able to recognize that, but talking to someone outside the issue is absolutely necessary. Even if you cant afford or can't access a professional, talk to someone. otherwise you're left to internalize the issue and let the trauma eat you alive. Whether it be through a hotline, through the Internet, church, distant family, friends, etc. Just talk to someone. Get your thoughts out, and get help.

Hotlines and Helpful Resources

National Rape Abuse and Incest National Network hotline - 1 800 656 HOPE (4673)
Suicide and Crisis Hotline (Canada-wide) 1 800 448 3000 (& visit link below for further info)

If you are outside the United States, please visit this site and see where you may be able to find help: RAINN international

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Vanilla bean Frappucinos and very basic females.

I remember being accosted in a Starbucks’ one day after the barista holding my drink mauled my name to announce that my Frappuccino was ready. “Oh my gawd, that is SUCH an interesting name!” one white woman in billowing skirts (yes oo, skirts plural) and smelling of patchouli gushed, as she turned away from the whole wheat, whole grain, free trade, preservative free, gluten free, taste free bagel she was stuffing into her mouth. 

“Where are you from?” she asked, mouth full of food. (I always wonder, are white people so wrapped up in everyone else’s otherness they forget themselves? They seem so unaware, talking with mouths full of food, eating during meetings, and unwrapping noisy wrappers on telephone calls. Do they think about these things or are they just things we, as immigrants and other “others” concern ourselves with? My mother would have a fit if I spoke to anyone with even a piece of gum in my mouth.)

“Uh, the South End,” I replied, knowing, but refusing to give the answer she wanted. “No, but like where are you from?” she pressed, as if pinpointing my birthplace would somehow help her wash down her fiber filled breakfast. “I don’t get your meaning,” I responded, wishing she would just ask why I wasn’t white, which was to me, essentially her point.

“She means are you like African or something?” her (probably only) Black friend piped in, before now hidden from view in her voluminous kente cloth…shroud…for lack of a better word. My god, this woman had draped herself in the biggest piece of basic black, yellow, and red kente and doused herself in the strongest perfume she could find, probably because it was labeled “African musk” or something. She reminded me of that scene in Tamra Davis' movie CB4, where Allen Payne shouts, “I’m Black y’all! I'm Black y'all! And I'm Blackety Black and I'm Black y'all!” She probably listened to Lady Blacksmith Mambazo and Malcolm X on her iPod before she fell asleep in her ikea bed. Maybe she gave herself the Black Power fist in the mirror every morning.

“I don’t see why it’s any of her business, but yes. I am,” I responded, unsure of just how to take on this new conversational partner…in this conversation I didn’t want to have. “I’m Nigerian,” I said, looking around for the door as my drink slowly melted in my overheating hand.

“Oh, I feel that,” she said, bobbing her head enthusiastically as if I had asked her a question. Blonde tipped dreadlocks flew in every direction. “I love Africa man, the culture is just so…rich, ya know?” she went on.  I didn’t know what she felt. I have no idea what culture she was talking about. But with a sick, perverse curiosity, I decided to ask, “Yes, it is. Where have you visited?”

“Oh, nah. I haven’t been to the motherland just yet,” she said meekly. “But I knew a girl from Zimbabwe in high school, and my life partner’s life giver is from South Africa.”

I stared at her as if she had three heads. What kind of code was she talking? Life partner life gini? She pulled up a picture on her phone and thrust it towards me, “He went back with her last year and sent me pictures.”

Pinching myself for engaging, I looked down at her phone. My brow furrowed as I searched the photo for a life sorcerer or whatever she called it. “These are white people on safari kwa,” I murmured, sure she had shown me the wrong picture. “Yah,” she replied, “isn’t it so cool! Or…well, you’re probably used to it, being from there and all.”

I drew back quickly, cramming my empty hand into my pocket to keep from yanking her head out of her yansh. Why do people always think Africa is a neighborhood? As if I can cross Nigeria street and enter Uganda compound. Safari is never going to touch Nigeria. The first time I saw a lion was in Boston. 

“Is it true you guys eat goats and bugs and stuff? My home girl dated a guy from Nigeria and he ate cow’s stomach! I could never eat none of that. Too weird,” she exclaimed as she wrinkled her nose.

“Are you a vegetarian or something?” I asked, trying to keep the anger out of my voice.

“Nope, I just don’t eat weird food, hehe. Regular ole American food for me, I’m not much of adventurous eater” she explained.

As I drove home that day, assaulted with fast food billboards and radio commercials announcing the latest grease-laden specialty, I began to think.

I really find it puzzling that people find it so easy to pick and choose what they want from African cultures. Shaki no fit pass your lips but you can use dudu osun to wash your face and shea butter to oil yourself. Egusi never enter your compound, but you fi enter McDonald’s in “ethnic” and "tribal" kente hipster head tie.
Injera is strange, but Ronald McDonald’s clown self can piece together scraps of mystery meat and package it as a chicken nugget and people will sell their children for a bite. They came out with a fish nugget a few months back and I bet money people would be more willing to eat that cobbled together excuse for fish than to put a bit of stockfish in their mouths.
I don’t know man, when it comes to food, I’d rather grab a piece of fresh goat meat than a slab of genetically modified beef. They’re nuking and modifying and copy and pasting the heck out of American foods, and people continue to eat it.
I’m NOT saying I don’t understand any of the reasoning behind it (because I do), all I’m saying is, I’d be a little more cautious putting something in my mouth that comes from the kitchen of the unknown. It might taste good upfront, but it’ll wreak havoc on your insides.
Physically and spiritually.



Sunday, October 13, 2013

Allow Me to (re)Introduce Myself

My name is HOV! *launches into full blown rap battle with self*

Okay, maybe not the best introduction...

For those of you that don't know me or aren't fully familiar with me, I'm your favorite bloggers favorite unknown blogger. I'm your favorite artist's most obsessive stan. I'm your best friend's best imaginary friend and your worst enemy's worst nightmare. In other words, nobody actually knows me, but everyone should really get to know me. ...You know?

I'm a 22 year old first-generation Nigerian-American woman, meaning my siblings and I were born here in the States, but my parents weren't. (Ndi Igbo, kwenu! America, hi.) I majored in sociology, which means I'm obsessed with identities and examination and feelings and whatnot. It also means I'm very long winded and a bit too used to writing essays. Now that I'm out of school (for now) I've found myself needing a place to dump my thoughts and examinations and feelings and whatnot. As I figure my friends on Twitter and elsewhere are tired of me flooding their timelines and feeds with unnecessarily deep ruminations and pseudo-academic posts and other big worded ways of saying "I've taken to posting things that aren't being seen by the right audience," I started this blog.

My main focus is starting this blog is share with you all some struggles, insights, and breakthroughs I've come across as a young woman raised in a Nigerian household, in American society; something I'm sure a few of you will have experience with as well. I welcome you all here to learn and grow with me.