Friday, October 18, 2013

Claiming Culture, Telling Your Story, Nigerians in Northeast Ohio

Political Correctness didn’t start in the 1960s

A close friend of mine surprised herself recently when she pulled off a feat at work on deadline with great aplomb.

I wasn’t surprised. Not only did I know she is incredibly talented; her situation evoked the maxim that “necessity is the mother of invention”.

I see evidence of this truism all around, and increasingly so when it comes to African Americans and the economy. Black people have always had to be resourceful and inventive in order to survive and prosper in a land that was both contemptuous and confiscatory of their labor and yet hostile towards efforts at self-sufficiency.

Back when America still found public education a useful means of instilling common core values in youthful minds, public school curricula were structured to encourage foundational faith in patriotism, Manifest Destiny, and American exceptionalism. Some stories, especially of the American Revolution, were told so often that the mere mention of certain terms or places — King George, Bunker Hill, the Midnight Ride — evokes a common narrative. For example, just writing these words calls to mind Johnny Tremain, a novel I read in elementary school. Was it taught as history or as literature? Either way the effect was the same.

Much of this cultural indoctrination was reinforced by shared religious experience and imagery. I don’t remember whether I learned the Battle Hymn of the Republic in church or in school. In some ways there was little difference between the two. Through the magic of Hollywood, the accepted narrative has been reinforced with incredible special effects, in such films as Birth of a Nation, Gone With the Wind, Johnny Tremain [Walt Disney, of course], and virtually every Western up through mid-20th century.

While this indoctrination continues today at many mega churches, which in some instances seem indistinguishable from Broadway, popular culture is no longer so unilateral in its messaging. Creative artists — musicians, writers, poets, painters et al., — have always found ways to express counter cultural views. Today, abetted and accelerated by the proliferation of technology — iPods, smartphones, iPads, Xboxes, digital readers, hundreds of television channels, a world wide web that facilitates all sorts of individuated information streams — we are each our own disc jockeys, movie distributors, television networks and schedulers, and gamers.

All this is happening as Americans go to church less often, read or watch the same news sources less, and are increasingly victims of or escapees from an increasingly fragmented, pulverized, discredited and disintegrating public school system.

So if we didn’t know about Black Wall Street [see here and here] or Greenwood or Mound Bayou, Mississippi, before, the chances that we can the lessons therefrom are reduced to near nil.

 All of this came to mind when a friend told me earlier this week that Nigeria is the world’s third largest producer of feature films. That probably comes as a surprise to most Real Deal readers, sophisticated though ye be. I mean, tell the truth, in free word association, “Nigeria” is more apt to evoke fraudulent email schemes, rampant bribery, and military government than most anything positive. 

Why doesn’t that free word association evoke “one of the world’s largest populations” and “one of the world’s largest oil producers”, Nollywood, and home to some of the world’s brightest and most energetic minds
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
. [Americanah, by
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, is the best novel I’ve read in a very long time.]

Short answer to the previous question: the history of the Wild West will be different when Native Americans tell it instead of the cowboys.

The curious can get a taste of the vibrant cultural mix that is Nigeria with a visit to Akron tomorrow, Saturday, October 19, where NIMAS [Nigerians in Metropolitan Akron and Surroundings] has organized a Nigerian Independence Day celebration. The former British colony achieved independence October 1, 1960.

The featured guest will be Kene Mkparu, founder and CEO of The Filmhouse.
Kene Mkparu
Pre-event activity will kick off at 4:30 PM with a free screening of one of his films.

The main event kicks off at 5:30PM and will run to near midnight. Music, dancing and Nigerian cuisine will be featured as part of the evening’s “cultural bonanza”, according to NIMAS president Gertrude Mkparu [no relation to Kene Mkparu].

The celebration venue is Tadmor Temple, 3000 Krebs Drive, Akron.  For more information: 330.265.5712 or 440.263.5584.

You can sample a recent Nollywood movie here. You can sample a Nigerian dance here.

1 comment:

Steven E. Boyd said...

thank you Richard...