Root TV: What Nigerians Thought About #BringBackOurGirls & Americans Wanting to Help

The fervor for the #BringBackOurGirls campaign has dwindled and Diana explores what Nigerians made of the world’s fascination with the abduction crisis and whether foreign help was welcomed.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

This article and Root TV segment was published at The Root on November 28, 2014.

From the vantage point of Nigerians, it must have been an incredibly overwhelming experience to go from being a nation with a decent amount of obscurity, to being at the center of a worldwide social media campaign in just a matter of days.

That’s what happened seven months ago in April, when insurgents from the Boko Haram terrorist group stormed into a boarding school in Chibok, Nigeria, in the middle of the night and abducted nearly 300 schoolgirls. The subsequent #BringBackOurGirls Twitter hashtag was born soon thereafter and went viral. People from all over the world held protests, tweeted and crafted Facebook posts expressing outrage and remorse for the families that were experiencing the unthinkable.

But like most humanitarian causes that spark international outrage, the fervor for the movement has since died down and Nigerians are still contending with the conflict, but with fewer outside voices holding their officials accountable and demanding results.

In the Root TV segment above, The Root’s Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele speaks with Chika Oduah—an independent journalist working in Nigeria—about what this entire experience has been like for Nigerians, especially their being at the forefront of the philanthropic cause that was “en vogue” for the better part of 2014. In May, President Obama sent 80 military personnel to the region to assist Nigerian officials with the search—but what did Nigerians think of all the foreign interest and help? Watch and see.

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New Rules: Hillary, Cut It Out; Ebola for Guantanamo; and More Perks for Black Women at Work

new rules_august 15_cover

Allow me to get my ‘Bill Maher’ on for a moment.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

The ‘Hillary Clinton’ portion of this article was published at The Root on August 15, 2014.

They say much truth is said in jest. Plus, Bill Maher’s on vacation, so allow me.

It’s time for new rules:

1. New Rule: If we ban Ebola patients from the U.S., then we have to shut down Guantanamo and rid Cuba of our detainees.

ebola cuba

Since we’re getting all particular about each nation keeping their cooties to themselves, it’s only fair that we put our Guantanamo prisoners on the first red-eye out of Cuba.

Surely Donald Trump—who tweeted that we should “stop Ebola patients from entering the U.S.”—and all those people sending nasty e-mails to the Atlanta hospital treating America’s two Ebola patients, would understand if Cubans decided to take a page out of their book, and developed a new sensitivity for how they’re a stone’s throw away from the world’s most accomplished terrorists?

And it’s not even that the Donald Trump’s and Ann Coulter’s of the nation have all of a sudden become hypochondriacs. It’s pretty clear that implicit in their concerns is the xenophobic idea that the Ebola virus is a West African disease that ought to be dealt with over there, and not here. Hell, Donald Trump said as much when he caught himself trying to cloak his disgust in compassion, suggesting that the patients ought to be treated “at the highest level,” but, of course, “over there.” Some people just can’t fathom the idea that a foreign pathogen is brewing in our midst. It’s as if the Ebola virus is messing up America’s feng shui, and folks are worried that we don’t have the appropriate device thingy to zap those negative particles away.

I mean let’s not act like America doesn’t have a few “harmful” exports that intrude on foreign lands on a habitual basis. I mean there’s McDonald’s, that horrible twerking sensation and the Kardashian clan’s family vacations.

Plus, with regard to the Guantanamo trade-off, the Cubans were never really fond of us housing our most dangerous criminal minds in the southeastern pocket of their beautiful island. This Ebola crisis gives their argument new ammunition. If we ban our Ebola patients from U.S. shores because Ebola is somehow un-American, then we should exercise a little quid pro quo and show the world that we’re ready to act on our principles by ridding Cuba of our detainees.

So, America, send Donald Trump a huge gift basket for this honor, and make way for the likes of Khaled Sheik Muhammed and Abdul Haq Wasiq because they’re coming to a correctional facility near you.

No more subjecting Cuba to our prison virus.

2. New Rule: Your black female colleagues get to have the big piece of chicken during company outings.

black women at work

And that’s just one of the quick-fix remedies to correct for the travesty that black women make 64 cents for every dollar a white man makes for doing the exact same job—this according to a new study released by the National Women’s Law Center.

Others remedies can include a 4-day work week, her own shelf in the refrigerator, extended vacation time and her own personal assistant.

It’s ironic that these finding have come in light of how some black women have been in the spotlight lately for the ways in which they’re trying to balance being a mother and being a career woman. There’s the South Carolina mom who was arrested for leaving her nine-year-old in the park while she went to work and the Arizona mother who was arrested for leaving her children in her car while she went on a job interview. These women are trying to make a dollar out of the 64 measly cents that they are given, and so it’s no surprise that some of them don’t have enough money to afford adequate child care.

So the next time you see your black female colleague taking a half-day, don’t cry foul or furrow your eyebrows, offer to buy her some lunch, thank her gratuitously for her contributions to the company’s bottom line and bow down.

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Pssst! Here’s a Cheat Sheet for the US-Africa Leaders Summit

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama

Need some talking points? Make reference to China’s influence, the unrest in South Sudan and Libya, and be sure to throw in, “Did you hear what Hillary said?!” and you’ll be all right.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

This article was published at The Root on August 4, 2014.

Africa’s coming to town.

And in a big way. Africa’s movers and shakers are in Washington, D.C., this week to chop it up with President Barack Obama about trade and investment opportunities, politics and the U.S.’s interests in the region’s stability. The 2014 U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit is the largest gathering of African presidents and leaders ever to meet with a U.S. president.

If you’ve got your eyes on the international stage, then this initiative should be of no surprise. China has been making a killing in Africa. The Chinese had the insight to take Africa seriously as an economic partner when a lot of nations saw the continent more as a humanitarian charity case. Now that Africa’s influence is becoming increasingly important to a lot of countries’ bottom lines and GDPs, Western nations are looking at the Motherland through a new lens.

The festivities start on Monday. Here are some topics to keep in mind when gabbing about the summit at the watercooler or during happy hour as you take in the news reports that’ll trickle out of this three-day affair:

1.) South Sudan’s civil war is ongoing.

United Nations peacekeepers patrol a road in Malakal, South Sudan, as internally displaced South Sudanese people go about their daily routines.

United Nations peacekeepers patrol a road in Malakal, South Sudan, as internally displaced South Sudanese people go about their daily routines.

The civil war in South Sudan is not looking like it’s getting any better. The 2013 fallout between its warring ethnic groups—those loyal to the current president, Salva Kiir of the Dinka tribe, and those loyal to a deposed vice president, Riek Machar of the Nuer tribe—is picking up steam again since the meetings that were supposed to take place last week to drum up solutions were delayed. Apparently both sides are still engaged in off-the-record conversations about the state of the transitional government. South Sudan is a fairly new country—it split from Sudan in 2011 and has been embroiled in ethnic fighting stemming from that succession ever since. That there’s still fighting going on in one of its northern states is not helping move things along.

The United States and Europe threw down the gauntlet by freezing important assets in the country and told both sides that they have until mid-August to form an interim government that has a clear plan for maintaining the peace.

2.) Ebola is refueling Africa’s “image” problem.

Members of Doctors Without Borders put on protective gear at the isolation ward of the Donka Hospital in Conakry, Guinea, where people infected with the Ebola virus are being treated.

Members of Doctors Without Borders put on protective gear at the isolation ward of the Donka Hospital in Conakry, Guinea, where people infected with the Ebola virus are being treated.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa, primarily Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have people on edge. In fact the leaders of Liberia and Sierra Leone will be skipping the summit in order to tend to the Ebola outbreaks in their countries. Within the past two weeks, more than 100 new cases were reported in these countries, and two American health care workers who were working in Liberia contracted the virus. Besides the obvious health concerns, one point that is not being discussed, which ought to be, is how this recent outbreak is unraveling the years of work it took to undo the perception that Africa is a diseased continent and that travelers going there should beware.

Unfortunately, for many parts of West Africa, that perception is now a reality.

3.) Libya’s power vacuum has taken a turn for the worse.

Libyans take part in a demonstration in the capital, Tripoli, on July 31, 2014, calling for international intervention to protect civilians.

Libyans take part in a demonstration in the capital, Tripoli, on July 31, 2014, calling for international intervention to protect civilians.

The summit, like most initiatives about Africa, will likely focus on the continent’s sub-Saharan countries, but Libya, an African country that is typically brought up during discussions relating to the Middle East, ought to be on everyone’s minds as well.

Getting rid of a dictator is typically a good thing but the power vacuums that emerge often create bigger problems. It’s been nearly three years since Libya’s former leader Moammar Gadhafi was disposed. But in that time, the interim government has not been able to reign in the various law-enforcement groups that have vied to fill that slot and provide security. The situation has gotten so bad on the ground that several embassies were evacuated—including that of the U.S.—and the United Nations no longer has a strong presence in the region.

There’s been chatter that this is the West’s problem, since Gadhafi’s ousting was heavily influenced and backed by Great Britain and France. Some say the enthusiasm to hold Libya’s hand as it transitions to a sound democracy hasn’t been there, and that lack of support is causing a lot of violence, unrest and confusion on the ground.

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11 Compelling Hip-Hop Lyrics That Give Props to Africa

Nas

Nas

If you were to look to rap music to see how American attitudes about Africa have evolved, here is what you’d find.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

This article was published at The Root on June 19, 2014.

Middle America caught whiff of the tension brewing between the police and low-income black communities in the early 1990s because of the lyrics on N.W.A’s Straight Outta Compton album and Public Enemy’s call to “fight the power that be.”

People didn’t need to hear statistics about women entering the workforce in droves because Queen Latifah said so in “Ladies First.” She was no journalist, but she was reporting about a new generation of women who were taking charge at home and work. When Jay Z told folks to “change clothes” and to “throw on a suit [and] get it tapered up,” we knew hip-hop was growing up right before our very eyes.

Hip-hop has always served as a compass for showing the direction that urban culture has taken on a variety of issues, including Africa. Africa has shown up in some pretty interesting ways in hip-hop music, particularly in the profound lyrics and statements made by its artists.

But Africa has always been a tricky topic. Mainstream America was fed a steady diet of images featuring naked tribal men living alongside lions, tigers and elephants while bare-breasted women tended to emaciated children. Disease, famine and refugee camps became synonymous with the continent because of those infomercials that begged Americans to donate a dollar a day to feed an African child. Just this week, Delta Air Lines experienced a social media faux pas when it put up an image of a giraffe as a way to represent the West African country Ghana. Twitter graciously took the airline to task for the error since giraffes are not indigenous to the country.

Through hip-hop, black American artists began educating the mainstream about Africa by singing praises about its people and its culture. At times, they’ve even self-identified as African—which is a pretty major feat since the continent is not always depicted in the best light. For African-American Music Appreciation Month, The Root decided to point its hip-hop compass at the artists and lyrics that provide a sense of how attitudes and perceptions about Africa have evolved.

1. Lil Wayne

Lil Wayne

Lil Wayne

When the natural-hair movement exploded a few years ago, the kinks and curls that Type 4 black girls once subdued with relaxers and texturizers were set free. YouTube instructional videos and articles in mainstream news outlets documented this phenomenon in great detail.

But caring for kinky hair is not for the faint of heart. It requires lots of moisturizing, gentle detangling and an understanding that each luscious strand can think and act independently from the rest, which is what New Orleans rapper Lil Wayne presumably meant when he called it “tough” in his 2008 release A Milli. His reference to one of the more popular countries on the continent, Nigeria—currently the richest and most populous country in Africa—is fitting, too.

2. Nas

Nas

Nas

Nas’ bars are chock-full of history lessons.

On a Thursday morning in 1971, approximately 1,000 inmates staged a rebellion and took over one of the most infamous maximum-security prisons in New York, the Attica Correctional Facility. While holding approximately 40 prison staff hostage, the inmates drafted a manifesto outlining the concerns they had about their living conditions. They protested the prison’s overcrowding, poor food quality, inadequate health care and harsh physical treatment the inmates endured at the hands of correctional officers.

After four days of negotiations, and casualties endured on both sides, the riot was quelled and authorities agreed to adopt more than two dozen of the inmates’ demands. The Attica prison uprising was a watershed moment in the prison-rights movement.

Africa is often thought of as an ideal destination for the enlightened black man in America, and so it is no surprise that the Afrocentric Nas described how if he ruled the world, in his 1996 duet with Lauryn Hill, he’d free the Attica inmates and send them on a well-deserved trip to the Motherland.

3. Drake

Drake

Drake

All the caramel-complexioned girls with parents from countries like Ethiopia, Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia, and names like Mekdes, Louam and Alitash, had to be feeling themselves just a little bit after hearing Canadian rapper Drake’s verse in “Poetic Justice.” He complained about how an East African girl swerved on his advances and instead chose to hang out with another guy.

It makes sense why East Africans are on Drake’s radar. Toronto, his hometown, has a sizable Ethiopian community and one of the largest Somalian populations outside of Africa. According to the 2000 census (pdf), the U.S. takes in a large number of immigrants from countries like Egypt, Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea and Kenya.

If I were Djiboutian and could convince my mom that Drake was one-quarter Afar, I’d take Drake up on his offer, or at least would keep him in the running as a potential suitor. Round-trip tickets to cities like Addis Ababa and Juba are costly, and we all know it means something when a guy offers to meet your mom—and offers to foot the bill for her vacation back to Africa at that. Later on in the song, Drake gushes about their “natural hair and soft skin.”

East African girls, I’m no Cupid, but it sounds like Drake might be a keeper.

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The Annoyingly Effective Ways African and Caribbean Parents Get Their Kids to Get A’s

Screenshot: "ItsMrLawson" YouTube Page

Screenshot: “ItsMrLawson” YouTube Page

As we bask in graduation season, watch these parody videos that show black immigrant parents’ obsession with perfect test scores. And get this: A few of these spoofs are great history lessons in disguise.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

Social media have been inundated with news reports about those brilliant high school students who gained admission to a boatload of Ivy League schools. That many of them are first-generation black Americans (children whose parents come from countries in Africa or the Caribbean) made headlines, too. Not to mention that “Tiger Mom” Amy Chua put out a list earlier this year singling out the Nigerian culture for its prowess at rearing high-achieving students.

It seems as though something special is happening in African and Caribbean households that is making their children excel. It makes you wonder: What, exactly, are their parents doing to raise such successful children?

A handful of hilarious YouTube videos demonstrate some of the antics used by black immigrant parents to get their kids to take their studies very, very seriously. Parents will also be happy to know that some of these spoofs can moonlight as great history lessons. So be prepared to laugh and learn.

1. Nigerian Dad

This Nigerian father is utterly appalled and disgusted that 1) He had to remind his son to bring his report card to him for review, and 2) his son’s average grade was a—wait for it—90. When his son tries to explain to him that he earned the highest grade in the class, his father immediately rejects that line of thought and encourages his son (in an aggressive but hilarious manner) not to compare himself to others. In many non-American black households, regardless of how well the student does in school, parents often encourage their kids to focus on the test questions they got wrong so that the next time around, their child will not get any questions wrong. Perfection is the goal.

As punishment, the Nigerian dad tells his son that he will be eating Ghanaian jollof rice for dinner—and this is where the history lesson comes in. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Nigeria was a hot spot in West Africa. The oil economy boomed and a lot of people from neighboring countries like Togo and Ghana came to Lagos to work and fraternize with Nigeria’s working class.

After a while, when Nigeria’s economy slowed down and jobs became few and far between, the country needed to get rid of its excess labor pool—and thus the “Ghana Must Go” movement was born. Ghanaian immigrants had to take whatever belongings they had, stuff them into medium-sized checkered grocery bags and return to their country.

That brief history (Nigerians were expelled from Ghana for similar reasons in the late 1960s) has always been at the heart of the harmless enmity between Nigerians and Ghanaians. That’s why the Nigerian dad teases his son by suggesting that he will eat Ghanaian jollof rice as punishment: He’s taking a dig at a longtime West African rival.

2. Jamaican Dad

It’s parent-teacher night, and this Jamaican father is not pleased with the feedback he’s hearing about his son’s behavior in math and music class.

At one point the father launches into the lecture that nearly every child has heard: the “back in my day” or “when I was your age” rant. But what’s unique about the African and Caribbean version is that it typically involves walking miles and miles to school—barefoot; not having enough resources to learn once you got there (45 kids to a classroom); getting swats across your wrists if you even think about challenging your teacher; and having to do your homework at home with little to no light (or electricity) available.

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The “Regular Black” and “Ethnic Black” Experiences in College

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Students at Duke University during the 2014 Duke Africa Fashion Show (YouTube)

Kids on the nation’s campuses know the lengths to which some students go to distinguish their brand of blackness.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

This article was published at The Root on April 8, 2014.

I’ll never forget the expression on my friend’s face during one of our African-American-studies classes at Duke University, when she was asked to clarify her response—for what seemed like the umpteenth time—to the question, “Where are you from?” after having answered, “America.”

“Look, I’m just regular black,” she said, with an air of frustration plainly woven into her response.

Regular black. It’s become a sort of declaration used by some native black Americans to distinguish themselves from first-generation black Americans—those whose parents migrated to the United States from Africa or the Caribbean. A friend of a colleague said that the term “JB,” or “just black,” was regularly used at her alma mater, Yale.

And these terms have gained popularity as a convenient shorthand, particularly at top-tier universities and Ivy League schools, where a 2007 study found that approximately 40 percent of black students had at least one parent born in a foreign land—nearly half of the black-student population. Meanwhile, only 20 percent of black college students across the nation have at least one immigrant parent, which means that ethnic black students are overrepresented—and have a large market share—at the very best colleges in America

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