Regular reporting and commentary from the inner rings of Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Primary interests: Cleveland/NEOhio regional public affairs; African American politics, commerce, culture and society; public education; national and international affairs; Cavaliers∫Browns.
Friday, October 18, 2013
Claiming Culture, Telling Your Story, Nigerians in Northeast Ohio
Political Correctness didn’t start in
A close friend of mine surprised
herself recently when she pulled off a feat at work on deadline with great
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
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.
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
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.
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.