Sometimes having no particular expectation can be a blessing. Here was I sitting amongst hundreds of young adults eager to listen to bell hooks on her new book – All About Love. I had no idea who she was, which helped significantly as I sat in the corner listening to every word she uttered with no preconceived assumption.
Then I sensed all sorts of emotions running all over, the ones that make one, right there do a bit of inward reflection. I could feel immense connections between every word Ms hooks spoke and the thoughts that has been in my head for as long as I could remember. She talked about love in many important areas of life: family, romantic relationship and in community. It is the community one that hits home.
So I turned to Cece “Who is this woman?” “She is a social activist” Cece answered, with her gaze still on Ms hooks.
Cece is an African-American lady. She shared her experience growing up and the many social issues she had to face with limited resources. She drew on a chalkboard to show that African-Americans were the lowest on the ladder when we talked about social welfare.
Cece wanted to know about my culture, I smiled at her and could only say I am Yoruba. She wanted to know more but I didn’t want to burst her bubble about Africans and culture-rich mindset because all I had plentiful of at the time was me growing up in my small town and having to deal with issues that were just too big for my child self.
Even more difficult to explain was the fact that my next door town whose only preferred way of settling land ownership disputes was violence is said to be the Cradle of Yoruba.
I often switched off in my Yoruba language class in secondary school whenever my teacher talked about Cradle of Yoruba. I always thought, really? How could that be if compassion for human lives – same kind, same language means nothing?
Reciting the same old history tainted with brutality of innocent lives so one could appreciate how far we have come is one thing but to continue to dwell in the same mindset is plain wrong.
All About Love became my ‘bible’ – I was hooked. I learnt that
“Contrary to what we may have been taught to think, unnecessary and unchosen suffering wounds us but need not scar us for life. It does mark us. What we allow the mark of our suffering to become is in our own hands.” bell hooks
A friend was concerned for me the other day, he is Ijebu in diaspora. Never heard about the crisis, and could not believe we have our own Mafia-like amongst us. Many people are not aware of the depth of it all and those well aware learnt not to talk about it as there are potential consequences, not because the stories were not true but because traditional boundaries are much more important than human lives.
The state of Nigeria today is not out of the blue, it is all inter-connected. People get confused about the devastation in Baga last week of whom to believe – the government reporting of 150 casualties or the private citizens of 2000.
Just like my town ongoing crisis, keeping secrets is a quest to maintain power, hiding and concealing information so as to further keep larger mass in the dark. We have a choice to lift the veil for the benefit of us all.