On the 31st of May 2014, the vivacious Ms. Nkem Ejoh celebrated her birthday, same day that doubled as the inaugural evening for her company Arfaib. The gods must have heard Ms. Ejoh’s prayers because the weather that evening was auspicious and very beautiful. The venue itself was breathtaking like the host and the dazzling sunset that followed suit made the night all the more magical and a testament that something unique and important, a movement in the words of one of the guest speakers had begun.
The night started off with paying respect and remembering our ancestors and this was made more spiritual by the musical accompaniment of African beautiful drums provided by the artist known as D>tOUr, a young, energetic, up and coming African drummer. The cadence of the drums echoing the rituals of long ago and got some of the guest tapping into their African roots and they started channeling by dancing to the sound of the beating drums. This went on for a while just to get everyone into a spiritual state before the libation was given as a token to our African roots.
Once everybody was loose and comfortable, the birthday gal/company owner and moderator called the event to order by introducing the two guest speakers. On this note it needs to be said that although the night was a double celebration, it was also a night for discussing one of the pertinent international issues unfolding on the continent of Africa especially in Nigeria viz a viz the kidnapping of close to 300 girls by the infamous Boko Haram group that has been terrorizing the northern part of Nigeria for so long.
In light of this, Mr. Michael, Igwebuike Nwaesei, a doctoral candidate, a writer filmmaker that has produced and directed two movies titled “The Tragedies of Adata” and “18 months” spoke about the term “cultural disability”, a term he had coined when to understand how we relate to one another in terms of our cultural identities. He reminisced about his days as a student and why he being an African wanted to get rid of his accent only to be told by an American that there was nothing wrong with his accent. He also enthused about the problem inherent in Africans wanting to be Americans and Americans trying too hard to be African.
And this is where the second guest speaker contributed to the conversation. Professor Daniel Black is an Associate Professor at Clark Atlanta University and he is also the author of the books “They Tell Me of a Home” and “The Sacred Place”. Professor Black, a very charismatic gentleman enthused that is it our rights to modify what the ancestors had done. As much as there is tradition, that tradition can also be changed. Times are different he intoned and the circumstances surrounding today are quite different from the instances that brought African-Americans here to the United States. To be African is not a title but a birthright, however understanding that birthright is where most people get lost. The floor was opened up for question and answers and some very interesting questions were asked; that was no surprise given the fact most of the guests were alumni, professors, recent graduates and students of The City College of New York.
The night was brought to a close by Messiah, a spoken word artiste. He spoke about love in all its forms and his poignant words were just the perfect way to bring to a close an otherwise perfect evening.