Tag Archives: death

Gratitude: Remembering Maya Angelou

” A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” Dr. Maya Angelou

Gratitude: Remembering Maya Angelou, RIP

Gratitude: Remembering Maya Angelou, RIP

On May 28, we lost a consummate renaissance woman and an inspiring influence to many of us. In her rich and varied lifetime, Dr. Maya Angelou wore many hats; she was a celebrated poet, memoirist, novelist, film/television producer, professor, actress, educator, dancer, dramatist/playwright, historian, filmmaker, gourmet chef and civil rights activist. She lived life with gusto and taught me, and I believe many of you, the beauty and power of words. When I heard news of her death, I was numbed into silence. I felt a deep sense of loss as Maya was a cherished mentor to me, albeit from afar; her writings and measured words always filled a creative gap in my spirit.

Letter To My Daughter

Whenever I needed a dose of unfettered truth and a touch of mirth, I would reach for Maya’s books and poetry. When she wrote Letter To My Daughter, and And Still I Rise, I felt her words speaking directly and personally to me. As a foreign student in the USA, her books gave me clear and intimate insights on the soci0-political milieu that formed the fabric of her stories. Her books offered a lens into the daily life and struggles of an African American woman and I soaked up every morsel of information they shared. So you can imagine the pain I’ve felt, and the difficulty I’ve had writing this note of gratitude to Maya Angelou.

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Nelson Mandela: Madiba R.I.P.

“As I have said, the first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself… Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.” Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela: Madiba Africa Dead at 95, RIP

Nelson Mandela: Madiba Dead at 95, RIP  1918-2013. Photo via g987fm.com

Utata Madiba, Ndilusizi… Hamba kakuhle! Enkosi kakhulu! (Father Madiba, I’m sad… Go well. Thank you very much!)

Nelson Mandela’s retirement charity launch

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, Tata Madiba, Khulu, Dalibhunga, 95, passed away today. One of Africa’s giants has fallen and we are heartbroken. His light and legacy of peace, goodwill and reconciliation will shine brightly for eternity. I am deeply saddened by this great loss to our global community and have dreaded this day for years. I’ve dreaded this day because I knew it would mark the end of a spectacular and inspired life; a life devoted not only to the battle for freedom and equality in South Africa, but also to the path of peace, justice and reconciliation amongst nations.

Growing up, I was made aware of the racist Apartheid regime in South Africa; it was painful and sad to read about the segregation, the passbook system, the killings, and the arrest and sentencing of Mandela and other activists. As a HS student in England, I listened to Bob Marley’s song War denouncing the appalling conditions on the African continent; especially pointing out the terrible oppression in the southern region. In school, we read about the Sharpeville massacre, the Soweto Uprising of 1976, and the courageous war against Apartheid fought by many, including children, who gave their lives for the right to be free in their own country.

Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment was on our lips as many nations boycotted South Africa, and students held demonstrations demanding his release and an end to apartheid. A few of my school friends were South African and, over the years, I received several invitations to visit and spend time in Jo’burg and Durban. However, my parents were concerned and wouldn’t let me visit because of the horrific system of segregation and brutal discrimination against black people; what they referred to as the “Unsafe conditions in SA.”

Nelson Mandela: Receiving the Truth & Reconciliation Commission files from Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Nelson Mandela: Receiving the Truth and Reconciliation Commission files from Archbishop Desmond Tutu Photo via biography.com

Nelson Mandela: First meeting with President Obama in  DC, 2005

Nelson Mandela: First meeting with President Obama in DC, 2005. Photo via Wikipedia.com

Nelson Mandela:  Prison cell in Robben island, South Africa

Nelson Mandela: Prison cell in Robben island, South Africa. Photo via Wikipedia.com

Years later, as an undergraduate student majoring in political science at an American university, I had ample time to read more about South Africa and Apartheid. It was a topic that came up quite often in class discussions, and inevitably, we would have heated discussions about when it would be set aside for a new way of living in South Africa. Back then, some of my classmates felt that it was so deeply embedded in the psyche of the people that it could only end with massive bloodshed. The rest of us believed the days of living under that oppressive regime were numbered.

One point my classmates and I agreed on was that South Africa’s destiny was inextricably tied to Nelson Mandela’s. We believed that if he ever left Robben Island Prison alive, Apartheid would unravel. What we weren’t sure of, back then, was that it would happen in our lifetime. To my great surprise and joy, Mandela was finally released from prison in February 1990; after serving 27 years of a life sentence for his political stance as an anti-apartheid activist, he was freed. South Africa and its people were freed, and oppressed people in other nations were inspired to continue their quest for freedom.

After Mandela’s release, the world watched as the apartheid system crumbled and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission conducted its hearings and healing process. Many cheered as he took his place as the first democratically elected leader of an all inclusive South Africa in 1994. Nelson Mandela served as President for four years and stepped aside to encourage others to lead South Africa’s diverse and complex people; few leaders on the continent relinquish power willingly. In later years, he acknowledged that he sacrificed being with his family for a much greater cause, the liberation of his people, and if given the chance, he wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.


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Chinua Achebe: Celebrated Nigerian Author Dies at 82

“The Ibo people have a proverb that when a man says yes his chi says yes also. Okonkwo said yes very strongly; so his chi agreed.” Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe: Celebrated Nigerian Author Dies at 82. 1930-2013 RIP Photo of Chinua Achebe by Craig Ruttle, Associated Press

Chinua Achebe: Celebrated Nigerian Author Dies at 82. 1930-2013 R.I.P.  Photo of Chinua Achebe by Craig Ruttle, Associated Press

It is with great pain and sadness that I share the news of the passing of an illustrious writer, a great son of Anambra State, Nigeria, and one of the pivotal influences on my life as a reader/writer. It was Chinua Achebe’s book, Things Fall Apart, that opened my eyes to the rich and varied culture of my people, the Igbos of Eastern Nigeria. I read it as a preteen in Nigeria and it left an indelible mark on me; it gave me a clear understanding of the importance of roles, rituals and respect in Ibo land.  Ikemefuna and Okonkwo’s harrowing tale gave me both nightmares and a deep appreciation for the traditions and tribulations of our culture.

“Among the Ibo the art of conversation is regarded very highly, and proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten.” Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe: Celebrated Nigerian Author Dies at 82. Book: Things Fall Apart

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The Falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart, the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. – W.B. Yeats, “The Second Coming”

Who could ever forget the power and magic of Achebe’s mastery of idiomatic expressions that remain a fairly ubiquitous part of every day speech in Ibo culture? Who could forget the quote above that laid the foundation to the title of his book? Or the opening paragraph in Things Fall Apart that introduced us to Okonkwo? I ate up Achebe’s words like candy, devoured all his other books, and developed a lifelong love for his writings. His Fiction echoed the messages passed on through our collective history and ancestral lineage. His words were stark reminders of what shaped ancient Ibo history and the legacy we could pass on. More below.

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