in this country have not forgotten how women were and are still
discriminated against. To many, Mrs. Hillary Clinton is The Gender
Hope. Many of my sisters and friends from the African continent and the
Diaspora are of the same mind set. They berate me, sometimes using very
harsh words, for not having a passion for gender and for what men do to
women. I do have a passion for gender and I can prove it but that is
not the issue here. However, I must admit that I differ with many of
them on the issue of what men do to women. To a large extent in this
day and age, a person can do to another person how much that person
allows. There are laws and regulations, groups and organizations out
there to help. I don't want to forget gender oppression but I don't
care much for a fixation on it. It should not control my life or tell
me not to scrutinize gendered people. We lose the battle with a
fixation on ONLY gender oppression. It is divisive. Men and women have
fought together and still do. Men too are oppressed; it depends on many
factors such as class, race, ability, not just gender. I have followed
and admired the rise of Hillary Clinton and I respect what she stands
for, but she confused many of us with her support of the invasion of
Iraq at a time that majority of people in this country and the world,
including the United Nations, did not support it. Where is the gender
opinion that ascribes 'peace' to women? That's it for those who
prescribe and ascribe feminine traits! That she appears to be changing
now because of politics is more confusing. When we talk about
individuals in leadership positions such as the presidency, we need to
think about qualities. Women who have risen to the presidency in the
world have not done so because of gender - Margaret Thatcher of Great
Britain, Golda Meier of Israel, Indira Gandhi of India, and Ellen
Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia to name a few. They inspired leadership and
were able to galvanize the support of opposing and/or multiple interest
groups. Two years ago when my nephew told me about Barack Obama, I said
"what?" When my students began to bring up the same name, I had to pay
more attention. Over the years, it had been difficult to get them to
appreciate that they are vectors of change, so I was pleased to see
that someone has not only got them to appreciate it but also got them
to become active agents of political change. This has been seen as
unprecedented in US history. What was responsible for this? Barack
Obama. To have been able to use his ability as a youth organizer to
mobilize people of this country, to me, is one of the greatest feats of
this period. It is fundamental to democracy because democracy does not
want to leave anybody behind. And YES the speech thing. From JFK to
Mahatma Gandhi to Martin Luther King Jr. and Mandela, democracy has
always relied on inspiring leaders.
the issue of Management - Management draws from your ability to use
your personal resources and the resources that are available to you.
America has excellent resources, both human and otherwise, but we need
a leader who is able to tap the best without fear. This is the stuff of
a Commander-in-Chief. Which of the presidential hopefuls has the
charisma to inspire your trust? Which one has shown the ability to draw
human and other resources? Which one has risen from 'unknown factor' to
the frontline position? To super transparent fund-raiser who has
nothing to hide? This leader has the skills for getting this nation out
of its economic quandary. He is Barack Obama. From the position of my
folks, poor women from the other side of town, I look at people for
what they have to offer to my folks and America at this time of
depression when many find it difficult to have enough heat in their
houses. Who has been in my situation and who has shown the empathy for
my situation? Who spoke up for immigrants when all others were afraid?
Who is not afraid to look at the enemy in the eye and talk TO him as we
did successfully in North Korea? Who is willing to dialogue with
enemies at this age that there are too many wars? At this time that
America wants peaceful resolution to conflicts rather than war? I
personally don't want our men and women to be sent to unwarranted wars?
Obama's willingness to dialogue with enemies is appealing. Leaders of
the world are mostly young people. Young people are the shakers and
movers of this global technological world. In this country, young
people are attracted to Obama's youthfulness, sincerity, and passion
for changing the old game of hatred and negativity. Young people can
relate to Obama. They have not yet been corrupted by negativism. The
future belongs to young people and old people who need change to spice
up their life. I see Obama as an opportunity to revitalize the polity
to greater heights. Without prejudice to those wives who claim their
husbands' experience as theirs, may I ask how one determines which of
the husband's experience to claim and which one to ignore? If you are
the wife of a doctor/surgeon and you claim to be a doctor/surgeon
because of that, why won't you claim both the successful surgical
operations and the deaths as well? If someone had luncheons and shook
hands with presidents, does that make that person a president? No
president of the United States had the experience of being president of
the US the first time he contested. No Senator had the experience of
being a senator before s/he became a senator and yet they claim to do
their jobs satisfactorily. I agree that "Obama has interjected
freshness and vigor to politics. He has infused innervating enthusiasm
and brought the healing balm of unity, breaking all thresholds of
divisiveness. That is what America needs now; a stable invigorated
expectant and confident polity that will give teeth to their president.
The effect of Obamamania is supremely positive and dynamic and it is
the catalyst that America needs to carry all the citizens along in
these trying times of threatening economic recession and global
terrorism. Obama has revolutionized politics in America."
I couldn't have put it better. I don't trust desperate people who would
do anything to grab power or whatever it is they are chasing. Clinton's
frightening. Obama's calm, methodical mien is refreshing. He doesn't
mind losing. Clinton
has shown that she does. Which tells me that her ego is more
important to her than service.
Obama exemplifies political courage. At a time when 70 percent of
Americans were enthusiastically supporting George Bush march to war in
Iraq, Obama, a man who had federal office ambitions, took the risky,
courageous position of swimming against the tide, opposing a war that
most Americans, following Bush's predictions, thought was going to go
so well that it would put its critics to shame. That's rare political
courage and sagacity. That's the stuff of a person who would rather be
right and exercise good judgment than win elections by going with the
flow of public opinion.
A man who can lay his political career on the line to take such a
courageous foreign policy position in the interest of America's
strategic interests is infinitely more qualified to be
commander-in-chief than someone who is claiming her husband's
experience as her own, someone who voted for the disastrous war
in Iraq and the saber-rattling Iran resolution.
Africa Dialogue Series - IT’S NOT GENDER
Chinyere for writing this piece. I'm not going to comment on it.
Instead, I am applying to our situation in Germany.
Unlike you, we've made history by voting for Angela Merkel and where
has it brought us? Nowhere. People are paying more tax (19%), have less
in their pockets and there is about 5 % inflation.
Merkel is brilliant, has the so-called experience but is not an
effective leader. At least Schröder carried out reforms
(AGENDA 2020) which is what is yielding fruits today and people know it
and it is always openly discussed. It accounts for the strong economy
because he modernised the ancient system left behind by Helmut
Köhl. I could go on and on about what has gone wrong here. The
latest faux-pas she made was to back that idiot in Hesse, the governor
called Roland Koch who claimed that Foreign youths are criminals and
should be deported. This was after she had held her so-called
Integration convention with representatives from the ethnic minorities
living in Germany.
Schröder woke up from his sleep and lashed out at both of
them. He said they must be blind in one eye because they're looking the
wrong way. The real problems are the Skinheads who are getting more and
more dangerous. At least in his time he did something about them. What
has she done? Nothing. Instead they'r
e using young foreigners and the silenced minority as their scapegoat.
It explains why her party is now sinking and she is struggling with the
changes in the parliament. One thing is certain, she is one candidate I
will never vote for. I will not vote for her because she's a woman and
it makes me feel good to do so. Don't get me wrong the leaders of the
Green Party are women and they are okay and they've done a lot for
their party. These women told her to stop roaming about the world and
start doing the work she is being paid to do!
-------- Original-Nachricht --------
> Datum: Thu, 06 Mar 2008 17:35:09 -0600
> Von: "chinyere.okafor"
> An: USAAfricaDialogue@googlegroups.com
> Betreff: USAAfrica Dialogue
Series - IT’S NOT GENDER
As much as I would have
preferred<br> to stay at the side-lines and
watch the cross- debates on who would be the better president between
Obama and Mrs Clinton.I wish to comment briefly on the analogies that
have been made, particularly on the issue of experience- which Mrs.
Clinton seems to significantly rests her claim as a better
candidate..In all these I think Chinyere's analogy of Mrs Clinton's
experience to that of a surgeon's wife claiming credit for her
surgeon-husband work, is really over the top- Bill Clinton Is
Politician and Hillary Clinton is a politician-so they
are in the same
For current archives, visit http://groups.google.com/group/USAAfricaDialogue
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Original Message From "email@example.com"
>Why is the name Barack Obama "funny"? What is wrong with being
an Afrikan American and what have Afrikan Americans done to any group?
>"Judge me by what I say and what I've done. Don't judge me
because I've got a funny name. Don't judge me because I'm
African-American and people are concerned about memories of the past,"
>Obama tries to reassure Jewish voters
>By CHRISTOPHER WILLS (Associated Press Writer)
>From Associated Press
>May 22, 2008 9:30 PM EDT
>BOCA RATON, Florida -
Dialogue Series - Re: Didn't I Tell You That Obama Is One Hell Of A
Not His but Our
by Chinyere G. Okafor
If Barack is a confused Negro
Then Barack is a tenacious mirror Of the confusion of all of us.
A herculean task you may say
For any mirror in this our world
Of different intents and interests.
Our word that constructs hatred,
And puts labels in shapes and colors,
That clash and slash even by their sound:
Ne-Gro-o, anti-Bla-ack, anti-Semitism, Mis-Ogyny, Mis-And-Rist,
The color of our Hercules might be black and white all in one as God
But his blood is the same one color that runs in all of us no matter
our shape or shade.
So he is human like all of us and can only go as far as we let him if
we are not consumed with hatred of self and hatred for others. We are
the world. We need to welcome the season for plating Change.
By the way, I think that the name Barack Obama is poetic, It is a proud
mountain name that inspires great art, A name that inspires warriors of
old to great heights, A name that carries untold anointing form the
Some people say that the name is like prayer when you say it slow-ly,
Many young and young at heart find the name ex-tremely sex-y.
Barack Obama, your name is fun not "funny," fine not "funny."
- - - - - - - - - - - -
TALK OF ASSASINATION
Friday, May 23, 2008 5:43 PM
USA Africa Dialogue Series -
Re: Obama and Kennedy's Assadination
Which way America?
by Chinyere G. Okafor
Face it America!
We speak peace but action is conflict.
The language is political correctness.
"No negotiation with enemy!
Bomb them to submission!
We are on mission democracy."
The paper is politically correct.
But we the people see the ploy:
"Submission has never been won with war.
Colonization and imperialism prove the point,
That submission plants antagonism and hatred."
It is false bravado to pump the chest,
And tout for fight when we can talk.
Face it America,
Our democracy plays a false note, In the band of bombs and grenades.
It is the aura of the high road,
That subdues evil with strategy.
Aura is negotiation, aura is sense-talk, aura seeks peace without war.
Aura is mature, civilized, and intelligent. In the end, aura is the
The strong one is not intimidated by hints and wishes of assassination,
For the strong one has a purpose protected by favor of good vocation,
The strong one rides grounds of those favored by the Ultimate Spirit.
This is rugged verse. Do not let their jaundice affect your style of
poetry. I do not like all these staccato words and the fury that
the words. it shows girl! After all, he said he excuses her
because she was probably fatigued though of course i do not believe she
was. But so be it. Sleep over your verse and make it more poetic to
reflect your lucidity. H
and CHILD ABUSE:
Reflection on the
case of the Igbo/Nigerian/African Professor who spanked his children
Professor of Business Studies at Alcorn State University and resident
in Jackson, Mississippi.
spanking/whipping Child Abuse?”
by Chinyere G. Okafor
Published as In USA Africa Dialogue Series
Oct. 27, 2006. See
First, I must
acknowledge Reuben Abati for opening up this ‘canker of
--’. The exposition of the dilemma of parents from
countervailing cultures living in the US and who must, therefore, bring
up their children by American code of parenting speaks to many of us
here in the US. Should I feel for the gentleman, notable professor, who
is presumably trapped in this dilemma? And I mean 'presumably' because
I'm not sure that he is a victim of culture clash. I know that I feel
for the children living without their mother and undergoing this trauma
from their father. Now without both parents, they have to deal with
another pain - the prospect of dad going to jail. Speaking as an Igbo
woman from Nigeria, one of the more than fifty four countries in
Africa, I am in a kind of dilemma too about broad generalizations in
the media about African culture, Nigerian culture, Igbo culture, an
Igbo person’s behavior as African culture, when it comes to
negative issues. If a white American hits his child and inflicts wounds
on him, they’ll likely focus on the man’s
background when he was a child to find out why he is violent, but not
so for an African man. It is culture! When an African man beats his
wife, it is explained as African culture. Statistics show that four
women die every day in the US from wounds inflicted by their boyfriends
or husbands, but this is not attributed to American
‘culture.’ It is called 'domestic violence'. It is
not easy to expunge notions of Africa as ugly and dirty that we have
internalized from media, books, and isolated examples like this one
(the African professor that beat his son), but we have to try. Growing
up in Igbo villages and later carrying out research in some as a
scholar, I know that wife-beating exists, but it is not sanctioned. It
is castigated in satirical songs. It also leads to wife-abandonment. It
sometimes leads to vengeance from the wife’s siblings or
family. Similarly child abuse is castigated in Nigeria. But there is
confusion in perceptions. I was involved in a research project in which
we saw great discrepancy between global perspective and the views from
different regions of the world. For example, the practice of sending
children to hawk commodities have often been described as child abuse,
but many market women in Nigeria view the practice as an effective way
of keeping the family together – they know when the children
return from school for they have to come to the market to help out,
acquire skills in the trade, and support family business (not the best,
but in the socio-economic circumstances of the women, What is better?).
Now to spanking. Women, I mean parents, do spank their children, but
not to inflict wound or cause damage. Flogging is not a secret act. It
is usually open. The child usually runs and this is expected to be the
end of it. There is always someone who will prevent it from happening
or rescue the child with “it is enough” (talk of
rules of punishment). I’mnot saying
that flogging is a great thing, because I’m against any kind
of physical, psychological, emotional maltreatment, damage, or
oppression. In the case of spanking a child, when does it slip from
‘correction’ (with good intention) to
‘maltreatment’ (‘bad belle’,
bad intention, inflicting wound, damaging)? Society expects a mature
adult to know the boundaries. Some Americans would not see
‘whooping’ a child’s 'behind' as
maltreatment. Some may call it ‘tough love.’ US law
also leaves the parent to apply mature judgment on the matter. Many
States allow “reasonable and appropriate physical
force” “necessary and appropriate to maintain
discipline or promote welfare of the child.” I
don’t see the difference between the US law on spanking and
the notion of spanking in Igbo, Nigerian, and/or African contexts. I
have never heard that a father put pepper in his child’s
‘wetin-call’, and even though I’ve now
heard it, I know that it is not Igbo or Nigerian culture. I believe
that if it is true, we don’t know the whole story. We can't
gloss over it with generalizations of 'culture.' We have to ask
questions. Why are other Igbo/African men not doing the same thing? It
is Igbo culture for a man and his wife to raise children together. Why
is the professor’s wife not there? I think that we should
credit this man with individuality first, before we jump to that
“abused mother’ called “African
culture.” What is peculiar about his circumstances or
experience that makes him different from other African men in the US?
This kind of investigation might be more useful in saving him from
possible jail term, and also helping him to work out better skills for
managing anger, and maintaining discipline and peace in his family. We
are not all abusers and we don’t come from ‘abusing
cultures’! Chinyere G. Okafor, PHD Department of Women's
Studies Wichita State University
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Response to Pius Adesanmi’s “Disappearing Me
Chinyere G. Okafor
Published in USA Africa Dialogue Series, October 19, 2007. See
I read Kenneth Harrow’s piece as
a reinforcement of the notion that African feminist writing is below
standard and has to “grow up” in order to be
included in world feminisms. I disagree, but he has every right to hold
his opinion. He states that he is in “complete agreement
with” Pius Adesanmi’s critique of Feminist Literary
Theory and Criticism: A Reader; a critique that questions the exclusion
of African women. However, Harrow's view that by excluding African
scholars “Gubar and Gilbert are arguing for a standard of
excellence grounded in culturally defined notions of
quality,” contradicts his agreement. The kind of questions
that he poses also contradicts Adesanmi’s argument for
inclusion of African scholars. I cite only two of Harrow’s
questions: 1. “Is there room within our profession for the
non-African theorists’ work to be read in conjunction with
African literature?” My simple reply is “yes there
is room for the non-African but he should not take up the whole
room.” However, I want to augment my reply with a question:
Why must the theorists, in his question above, be non-African and the
product (literature) be African. He seems to believe that African
literature has to be analyzed SOLELY from the thinking produced from
non-African (western) theorists? This implies the exclusion of African
scholars and theorists. African way of thinking generated from African
experience must be included in analyzing African literature and other
literatures too! 2. “But are we doing the same by excluding
non-African theorists in our readings of African literature, and in our
understanding of what constitutes
‘African’?” My reply is also a question:
Do they use African theorists to understand what constitutes
‘American’ or the west for that matter? It is true
that African critics see the need to view African literature from the
basis of African context and critical perspective, but that has never
meant exclusion of non-African critical lenses. On the contrary, it is
a struggle for the inclusion of Africans in discussing African affairs.
In fact, I don’t know any criticism of African literature by
Africans or non-Africans that did not include non-African theorists or
views. When Harrow said as cited above that “Gubar and
Gilbert are arguing for a standard of excellence grounded in culturally
defined notions of quality;” what culture is he referring to
as the Center from which all others are judged? Is it not the West?
Feminist epistemology thrives on querying traditional way of thinking
and argues for the
and in some cases the rejection of monocentric vision including the so
called classical cannon that has been used to exclude white women for a
long time. I don’t mean that we should lessen standards but
that we should continue to question the constitution of that
“standard.” This is at the core of feminist
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Let’s contest the
millions with a good fight:
On the exaggeration of statistics on HIV/AIDS victims in Africa
Chinyere G. Okafor
Posted on USA Africa Dialogue Series, Dec. 15, 2006.
See USAAfricaDialogue@googlegroups.com OR
I want to appeal to writers not to make this listerv a terrain for
egoistic ‘kantakism.’ I really don’t know
the meaning of the word ‘kantakism’ but I heard it
in a tirade of ‘agberos’ in Ariara market, Aba, Imo
State, Nigeria. I think that ‘agbero’ is often
translated as ‘tout.’ While being very artistic,
dramatic and witty, agberos can be very garrulous and contentious. I
plead that this forum does not degenerate to a level that can turn some
people off, because that is what the feeling of
‘kantakism’ can do. I write to plead with us for
Having said this, I want to state my opinion on the matter of
‘where exactly are the millions?’ (that has taken
up a lot of my computer space). I understand the need to question
western-generated statistics, ideas, and experiments on Africans etc.
There are issues of their hidden agenda and we’ve read about
the subjectivity of some of the most scientifically
‘objective’ research. But this should not relegate
the need for action that has been raised and emphasized in recent
discussions. Even one person afflicted with HIV/AIDS is enough for a
call for action. It spreads through human agency.
The postings on “where exactly are the millions”
remind me of the debate in the late eighties and early nineties about
the origin of HIV/AIDS. Theories of its origin from African green
monkeys and/or western scientific laboratory predominated. But ACTION.
The song of the debate was soon drowned by the tragic melody of the
cries of victims. I’m not downplaying a debate that I
participated in, and I think that it is still relevant just as the
debate on statistics. Can we do our own work on the statistics and
still pursue strategies that work for the control of the disease? I
My thinking on this issue is facilitated by this market
women’s saying: “we telling you say fire burn am,
you asking if it burn im goatee?” As long as we have the
disease, we should focus our energy on eradicating it. If we succeed in
‘killing’ HIV/AIDS (action), we can all shout WE
DON’T HAVE IT. There will be no need for statistics on
HIV/AIDS in Africa when it no longer exists in Africa.
So let’s KILL it! Let’s contribute to the fight
according to our talents. Generating accurate figures, creating
awareness, engaging malpractices, visiting the
‘reality’ (I know a boy who visited an African
country with his Nigerian-American mother and took photographs of AIDS
orphans. He has raised scholarship money for them). Multi-tasking!
When we succeed, the past/old western-generated statistics will still
be there and we can continue to engage them. After all, we are still
contesting other data like the number of slaves, women raped and so on.
USAAfrica Dialogue Series - Women's
hair and women's personality
"On the issue of women's hair
and women's personality"
by Chinyere G. Okafor
Women's Studies' Department, Wichita State University
There is no need to raise hairs over this matter of
‘hair.’ Men admire women with long hair or society
says that long hair is beautiful. We women act like objects and respond
to what we think they say or like. I was immediately drawn by Dr.
Onwueme’s piece and sighed: ‘It’s high
time we begin to talk about it.” Popular culture, as Onwueme
said, is definitely a factor here. Many people were shocked by the
result of self-esteem survey conducted in 1998, because it showed that
African American women were very high on self esteem while Caucasian
women were low. This was attributed to the impact of the TV whose
female characters were mostly Caucasian; TV that catered mostly to
white audiences. The problem now is that American popular culture is
global and this is why we should talk about it and do something,
because no place is left out.
At the wake of all the controversy surrounding the untimely demise of
Nigeria’s former first lady while undergoing cosmetic plastic
surgery, I reworked a piece not in her defense as a colleague wrongly
said based on her cursory look at the paper, but an article that shows
how all of us who point fingers at her are in the same ocean where we
drink images of the tall thin long-haired woman. The article mostly
looks at traditional beauty standards and how they have continuously
been undermined by all of us groomed in the postcolonial or so called
modern and now global beauty criteria.
I want to center my thoughts on this matter of
‘women’s hair’ by looking at the female
personality presented in traditional African mask expressions. I
need to do this because they represent African ideologies and we are
talking about African women. These expressions provide a broader
perception of beauty than the one sold by the global network of beauty
pageants, magazines, and television. Mask performances, particularly
female spirit mask character that represents women, indicate
appreciation of women of all sizes, shades, and shapes in African
ethnic nations; while Western popular culture represents one image as
the ideal; the tall, thin, white (preferably blond) woman. The most
popular icon that represents this image is Barbie. No doubt, her image
clashes with countervailing images of the female mask.
In performance, female masks epitomize societal views of the feminine:
communal, moral, good form and features, nurturing, gentle, vigorous,
dynamic. Feminine personalities are varied and often complex in their
mixture of traits, such as gentility and vigour that may appear
popular terms, but which are admired in many Nigerian contexts such as
in traditional Igbo setting of agbala-nwanyi or the bold assertive
nonetheless lives side by side with the fagile-looking esekelem-anwu
Talking about female personalities, what about skin color? Health
issues are also implicated in the quest for global image and the
‘right’ colour. We buy skin-lightening lotions; we
make the cosmetic industries rich at the expense of our health.
Skin-whitening agents such as hydroquinone, mercury, and steroids have
very harmful effects. Hydroquinone, for example, inhibits the
skin’s production of melanin; an agent that protects the skin
damaging effect of the sun. Black skin is noted for its large amount of
melanin that is partly responsible for shielding it from sun burn
(although the skin can burn in some circumstances), and guarding it
‘against long-tern damage associated with aging –
the development of deep wrinkles, rough surface
texture, and age spots (sometimes called liver spots)’. What
kind of power drives women with melanin-rich skin to peel it off (this
skin-lightening agents do) and endanger their health? Should one find
consolation in the readiness of pharmaceuticals and health systems in
to manage ailments; for those who can afford them?
Eh hen! Talking about hair. It’s not as if our mothers and
grandmothers didn’t have ways of managing their hair and
looking very beautiful. Elaborately
plaited and woven hair in different designs used to be major beauty
enhancers. Plaited hair is beautiful, because of the patterns carved on
the scalp showing the lines and shapes of units of plaits, which are
hair that are tightly sculptured with threads. The style of the plaits
are differentiated by their
suggestive names, such as ‘boys-follow-me’ and
kpafinga (referring to the skill of fingers in the production process).
The styles display faces to
advantage and are able to withstand rain, heat and harmattan cold
weather, without breaking or sagging. Their designs promote confident
personality and complement the artistic styles of female attires.
These styles are being replaced by the more expensive, time-consuming,
and easily messed-up, chemically processed hair with Caucasian-inspired
styles. Some of us argue that straightening the hair with chemicals is
more manageable, but this is largely due to the decline of the industry
that manages African hair and promotes its unique outlook. A similar
situation exists in cosmetic usage where traditional cosmetics are fast
disappearing. Cosmetics such as uli and egu used in making designs on
the body, eye makeup like odo and otangele, as well as body rubs like
uvie and ude-aki, have almost disappeared in the cosmetic apparatus of
True, the decline in hair plaiting is mutating into a boon in hair
scarves, which have become elaborate and stylish with suggestive names
such as Yoruba
derived onile gogoro (sky scraper) and Madam-Kofo (named after a Lagos
socialite). This trend in fashion can be interpreted as a strong area of
resistance and contribution to preservation of the African style as we
continue to search for authentic ways of managing our hair and singing
Brown’s ‘and black and proud.”
Many of us don’t own businesses that deal with
women’s personality and might feel that we can’t
help. We can help by talking about it, agreeing and
disagreeing with sisters and brothers. We'll sing about it and write
about it. They will hear. We also have to make individual decisions
about how we
patronise or don’t patronise popular culture.
- - - - - - - - - - -
ADOPTION BY MADONNA
A NOTE ON THE MADONNA ADOPTION SAGA
By Chinyere G. Okafor
Posted on USA Africa Dialogue Series, October 18, 2006
I have read many postings and newspaper articles on Madonna’s
fostering with intention to adopt thirteen month old David Banda of
Malawi. Like many who have written, I have some anxiety about the
situation. I also have some expectations and hope. First the anxiety. I
am concerned: That David is not in close proximity with his family.
That he will be raised outside his culture and language. That he will
grow up in a racist country where he will not be a first class citizen,
in spite of having a celebrity mother. About the dramatic change in the
child’s life and what the future holds for him. Despite my
apprehensions, I like to look at the positive side and hope that all
the controversy and threats of court cases have sufficiently sensitized
Madonna to the enormous challenges. My field of hope is wide and draws
from the following: Madonna already has two children that are
well-spaced with four years between them, and David joins the family
when the children are old enough to play with a younger brother and not
too old to ignore him. As a mother of two, Madonna is not a novice, so
David will benefit from her nurturing experience. David’s
entry into the family may form a lasting link with orphan-care in
Malawi and Africa. David may retain connection with his biological
family and may not forget his roots. David may become somebody who will
be of tremendous benefit to noble causes. I also worry about the
millions of children who are there and in need of love and care.
HIV/AIDS has increased the number of orphans in Africa and exacerbated
orphan-care management. It is, therefore, important that we analyze
adoption processes to ensure that the juvenile’s rights are
protected and that everything is in his best interest, especially since
many of us are suspicious of celebrity motives. At the same time, let
us all try to lend a helping hand to orphan-care. If we can adopt one
child and give that child love and care; that’s an enormous
gift. If we can adopt by proxy and see a child through school, send
whatever we can to orphanages, that will be great. Another celebrity
provides for many children in South Africa; that’s wonderful.
My point is that we need all hands on deck. Madonna is moved to do her
bit in her own way, and she can’t help being a celebrity.
Thursday, October 19,
2006 8:08 PM
"Dr. Valentine Ojo"
FWD: USA Africa Dialogue
Series - MADONNA,AND THE MALAWI
I like your style - you are one very smart and intelligent lady, and
all, very pragmatic.
That is sadly missing in many of our intellectuals - the ability to
idealism with pragmatism or reality on the ground.
Please keep it up!
RE: USA Africa Dialogue
Series - MADONNA,AND THE MALAWI
I generally agree with
you. However, we are assuming among other things that he is part of an
ethnic group that allows him first class citizenship in Malawi, that
the proximity of his family has been thus far a benefit to him (he is
in an orphanage) etc.....
Thanks for the contribution!
----- Original Message ----- From: "chinyere.okafor"
Sent: Wednesday, October 18, 2006 3:09 PM
Subject: USA Africa Dialogue Series - MADONNA,AND THE MALAWI ADOPTION
with celebrities and African babies? They just can't leave them alone.
According to reports, Madonna is the
latest celebrity to do an
"Angelina", and adopt a child from the developing world.
is true, the 48-year old singer has adopted a one-year-old boy from Malawi
her first visit to the country. Two words: vanity project.
a baby, so she goes to Africa
"saves" one - that way she gets her baby and scores lots of points
for doing a good deed too.
problem with philanthropy, I have no problem with western guilt, but I
of the idea that adoption by white westerns is the best thing for an
Adoption is a complex beast at the best of times but when you throw
the mix the waters get even muddier. The impression given is that by
an African child Madonna is somehow rescuing him from a life of certain
The implication being anything is better than growing up in Africa,
even having Madonna as a mother.
30 years, the similarities between my own adoption and that of
son are spooky.
adopted from an orphanage in Eritrea
at the age of six months by a white couple. My adoptive mother was from
the United States,
my dad England.
Thankfully, they were
academics rather than celebrities.
father was teaching at the University
of Sudan, Khartoum,
my mother, Marya visited an orphanage in Asmara,
the capital of Eritrea.
Overwhelmed by a desire to help, she left the orphanage with me.
told I had no family. This was a lie, a common one, told to make it
I'd be adopted.
ago I discovered my father was still alive, and I had brothers, a
countless aunts and uncles. Two years ago I went back to Eritrea
and met my birth father for
the first time.
you would call an adoption success story. I love my adoptive family and
been successfully reunited with my birth family.
traced my birth family I came face to face with everything I had missed
I have grown up in the relative luxury of the west, and unlike my
family I have not experienced war or famine and yet I still wish I had
think she's doing the child a favour, but really this is all about her.
money she will have spent on the adoption and the money she will spend
child could have gone to help so many more children in Malawi.
course then she wouldn't have a cute black child to show off.
- - - - - -
Friday, October 06, 2006
Africa Dialogue Series - Straw asks Muslim women to remove veil
Who is afraid of the veil?
I am not a veiled woman although sometimes when the heat of racism is
unbearable, I 'play' with the idea of hiding, maybe with a veil so that
people do not see my blackness and African hair, so that I would merge
with the centered power that I navigate every day in America; a
problematic situation that compels me to return to Nigeria where I am
neither black nor bad-haired.
I am not a Muslim, so I’m not going to speak to that, but as
a Christian, I’ve never imagined that not seeing more than
the faces of veiled Reverend Sisters could disrupt my communication
with them. And I often communicate with them. I even have a veiled
woman in my class and she is very erudite. We hear her very well and
her eyes communicate all that we want to see!
If I have the freedom to have breast implants, and to enlarge my
buttocks; if I have the freedom to ignore the health hazards in
cosmetic surgeries; if I have the freedom to bleach myself white or tan
myself black; if I have the freedom to wear clothes that reveal my
cleavages; why should I grudge others their freedom not to show their
cleavages and their hair for that matter?
Why do you want to see my cleavage anyway; and why do you want to see
I will show them to who I want, even if that person is just my visage
on the mirror.
Chinyere G. Okafor, PhD
Associate Professor of English and Women's Studies
Wichita State University
Friday, October 06,
2006 11:02 AM
hetty ter haar
Africa Dialogue Series - Straw asks Muslim women to remove veil
Dear Dr. Okafor,
Many thanks for your email - I couldn't agree more with what you say.
Could I suggest that you send it to the Guardian (firstname.lastname@example.org),
indicating that it is
With kind regards,
Hetty ter Haar
PS I assume you send your message to the USAAfricaDialogue website as
USAAfrica Dialogue Series - Re:
Straw asks Muslim women to remove veil
<div>Greetings from AbujaNigeria
and I do endorse your views on individual rights to choose their mode
of dressing. Its still a north south power game on who decides what is
appropriate dressing and who's rights do we pander to in discussions of
rights to choose.</div>
<div>My name is Esther---
USAAfrica Dialogue Series - Re:
Straw asks Muslim women to remove veil
covering of face and now the discourse
on non-covering of face being practiced in Islam or
Christendom, are both outcomes of 'politics of truth'. What we
need to ask
is why do people veil or refuse to veil themselves? When do
started veiling, and why should they (dis)continue? Why is
it practiced in one religion and not
another. Why was it
entrenched in some doctrines, and why do some other forces
it now? Why do each of us belong and why? Does it give people
take away their freedom? How do people know
what veiling does to
them, do other people have the right to genuinely complain that a
veiled person actually socio-psychologically oppress them? Why do
persons accept their to veil or reject it? At what point do
people say, I
am a Moslem and I don't see anything wrong in my veiling, I
a right to dress as I want as far as it does not against the
other people also argue for nudity! or why do some say I am a
and veiling is unchristian-like. Why is veiling ok is Islam
doctrines) and not so an issue in Christendom (in some
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Straw has unleashed a storm of prejudice
and intensified division
out women who wear the
niqab as an obstacle to the social integration of Muslims is absurd and
been quite extraordinary: one man's emotional response to the niqab -
Muslim veil that covers all but the eyes - has snowballed into a
titanic clash of cultures in which commentators pompously pronounce on
Muslims are "rejecting the values of liberal democracy".
feels uncomfortable and within a matter of hours, his discomfort is
on news bulletins and websites in terms of an inquisitorial demand: do
in this country want to integrate? How does Straw's "I feel .." spin
so rapidly into such grandstanding?
confusions and sleights of hand are legion, and
it's hard to know where to start to unpick this holy mess. Let's begin
holiness, because this is an element which has been absent from the
There are two distinct patterns of niqab-wearing in this country. One
wears the niqab by cultural tradition. Often they are relatively recent
migrants, from Somalia
example, and for the record it is not a "symbol of oppression" but a
symbol of status
[mailto:USAAfricaDialogue@googlegroups.com] On Behalf Of Abdul Bangura
Sent: Wednesday, October 11, 2006 1:34 PM To: USAAfricaDialogue@googlegroups.com Cc: Gemini Subject: USA Africa Dialogue Series - Re: Straw asks Muslim women to
Good Greetings Mwalima Chinyere G. Okafor, Mwalimu Ayo
Obe, et al.:
As a Muslim who attended a Roman Catholic school and served as an Altar Boy
in Sierra Leone, studied Judaism under the tutelage of great Rabbis in Italy,
read my Torah, Bible and Qur'an each day, and try to keep abreast of
discourses dealing with the Abrahamic faiths, the following is my humble take
on the issue of the Hijab. If my posting is a bit late, it is because
I had been waiting for permission to attach the M.A. Thesis of one of my
effulgent graduates, Amy Christianson, a former Christian who converted to
Islam after many years of studying the religion and making sure that her
parents attend many lectures and prayers with us at American University, so
that they can understand what she had decided to do. As soon as Amy gives me
the permission, I will send the Thesis via this listserv. I hope that you
will find Amy's work to be one of the most definitive on the topic. The first
day Amy wore the Hijab, she stopped by my office and stated that she
never felt so liberated. I was, to say the least, puzzled, and asked her why.
She responded that for once, people were listening attentively to what she
was saying instead of looking at her body.
One of my other effulgent students, Rae Borsetti, is now exploring what she
has titled "Modesty as Emancipation: Why Western Feminism Misreads
Islam." I will forward this work to the USA-Africa Dialogue when it is
done, with her permission, of course.
Here goes my humble take:
The Catholic Church and the broader Christian tradition have long taken the
view that sex is moral only for the purpose of procreation. Even within the
context of marriage, birth control, oral sex, and every other manifestation
of sex for pleasure have been tabooed. This negative view of sexuality,
caught up in the institutionalized patriarchy, created a pervasive view of
women's bodies within the Western world as shameful, sinful, and unclean.
Women are taught that having sexual desires of their own made them dirty and
that, by extension, when engaged in sexual activity, they should passively
receive sex. It is no surprise, then, that so many Western women were
completely unaware of their anatomy and their abilities to orgasm until
feminists in the West began to broadcast a message of sexual liberation and
called upon women to reclaim their own bodies and to be comfortable with
their own sexual wants and needs.
This is not necessarily true in Islam. Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH) sexual
stamina was celebrated in Islamic teaching, and the Qur'an instructs both
partners that they must satisfy each other, and that doing this is a
religious act. Thus, in Islam, a woman's level of sexual liberation can be
defined as her comfort in making her own choices about her sexuality and
seeking her own personal pleasure. Thus, while there are restrictions on when
and with whom sex is appropriate in Islam, it is tenable that women in
Islamic societies have historically had a greater degree of sexual liberation
than their Western sisters within the contexts of their relationships.
As a result of the ways that Western women were and are oppressed, they are
inclined to see "modesty" displayed by Muslim women and especially
the wearing of the Hijab as the same misogyny that predominated (and
to a large degree still predominates) Western culture. This is because many
Western women feel the need to reclaim their bodies and sexualities by
wearing less, but Muslim women may see themselves as reclaiming their bodies
and sexualities through their modesty. Thus, it behooves the serious scholar
on this issue to examine the historical and social contexts of modesty in
both Western and Islamic cultures to create an understanding of why women of
each culture choose to express themselves they way they do. Comparing the
scriptures and historical documents from each cultures and interviewing
modern women of both perspectives, thus, become imperative.
USAAfrica Dialogue Series - Re: Straw asks Muslim women to
Chinyere Okafor, the issue is not the scarf, which some
Muslim women use to cover their hair and neck, but the covering of the entire
face. It has nothing to do with breasts, buttocks or anything of that nature,
but whether people feel comfortable talking to a person in front of them
whose face they can't see - whose face is deliberately concealed. Straw
didn't say he was afraid of it, he said that it was not helping community
relations. It is good that some feel perfectly comfortable interacting with
veiled (NB veiled, not scarfed) women, but it is unreasonable not to
recognise that many do not.
I'm not aware that nuns or Reverend Sisters cover their faces. I'm not a
Roman Catholic, but I understand that those nuns who don't wish to be seen,
don't interact at all, but remain in closed orders, so there is no basis for
the comparison with Christianity.
I appreciate people reacting or responding to issues and expressing their
ideas, and I want to plead that people do not degenerate to insults or
unbecoming language in this dignified forum. Let me just say that I did not
address anybody in particular in my text; I expressed my opinion creatively
and this is a credit to the text that inspired me. My piece is not about
personalities please. And here is another inspired piece:
Communication, visual or audio, is welcome.
Radio, words clothed and veiled, is welcome.
Interaction with voices and ideas is welcome.
Television, its visual dimension, is welcome.
Even music without words creates understanding.
The point is not really what we non-face-coverers are comfortable with. It
should not be ‘all about us,’ but about creating bridges of understanding.
Turning the mirror on us to see how those Others see us, as I tried to do in
my earlier piece, is helpful. If we do this, maybe we can begin to appreciate
different notions of bondage/freedom, and continue to build bridges.
USAAfrica Dialogue Series - Re: Higher education minister
backs university's Muslim veil ban
Good to know what is
happening around th world. But excuse me. Why would a moslem woman in
western world feel the air of liberalism to put on hijab yet a
westerner who finds himslf in th moslem world would it difficult to go
naked in the name of liberalism?
Also, may I know why the western world has decided to open itself up to
the extent that it has lost its tradition and now is being intimidated
by non western values and culture. Maybe the west would have to show
the world that it has culture too or else it would be
intimidatd by the cultured Islamic world.We all grow from nature as
naked but developed a technology of covering ourselves as human beings.
Unfortunately the west is leading th world back to nakedness and gayism
in the name of liberalism . The west has bastard christian culture and
making westernisation as chritian culture. It is difficult for a true
christian to raise his head up and be proud of westernisation. So, if
Moslem can intimidate the west with their culture so that they can
begin another western rennaisnace, what is bad about it. Well think
about this thing.
HERO’S Ash Wednesday by Chinyere
(Inspired by "Heroes from the margins: Stories of athletes who challenged racism at Hitler's
Jesse Owens, Marty Glickman, Charlotte
Epstein, Lillian Copeland)
The accolade that you got for
yourself is not what matters. The trophy that decorate your house is not
what matters. In the end: What matters is the MEMORY of YOU in
our hearts. People remember who made a difference. Who stood up for human dignity, Who ignored the general flow and risked
being berated, shunned, and labeled “unpopular.” Who stood up at crisis time, even at great cost.
People remember THE HERO. The world needs YOU at this time.