Not so “Americanah”

She gave him the stare that she gives anyone who dares to humiliate her in public. It was a stare that when observed, would momentarily paralyze an individual, as a swift chill ran through their veins. He lowered his gaze, ashamed that he had ever opened his mouth to comment on her insecurities. Although she smiled at his realization of his wrongness, the void within her was not yet filled.

Uprooted from her home at age 4, she reaps the consequences of the actions made so long ago by people other than her. “Real American girl,” was among their favorite terms to call her. Along with “White girl,” and “onyinbo.” She always felt grounded in who she was- a Nigerian- and yet, in a matter of seconds all that she knew was challenged by the rhetoric of a few relatives. 

Her predicament is worsened by her inability to speak her native tongue (Igbo), nor can she fully understand it. She often blames her parents for not being more assertive with her when it came to learning the language. As a remedy, she ceaselessly began researching online Igbo courses that would teach her the language, and ultimately help her become more Nigerian. Her obsession with the language got to the point where she no longer wanted to learn Igbo for its intrinsic value, but rather for the extrinsic benefits that it would grant her- freedom from taunting from her extended family. But the reality still remains that she does not know her own language, and every trip back to Nigeria is a solemn reminder of this fact. 

Too American for Nigeria and too Nigerian for America. Not fully assimilated into either culture. An identity crisis that she thought was only reserved for people of mixed races. All she wanted was to be fully accepted by both cultures, and yet she was denied by both. Neither here, nor there. 

She just prays that they will one day accept her for who she has become, a liquid that flows between two cultures, never quite filling either to the brim. 


4 Key Takeaways from the Yale University Emerging Leaders Seminar


I recently had the opportunity to attend the Emerging Leaders Seminar at Yale University’s School of Management (SOM). They hosted seminars on a variety of topics from, “The Value of an MBA in the Global Market,” to “Why Would Companies Invest in Better Environmental Performance?”   

Here are four key lessons I learned from the various sessions:

  1. What qualifies as “risk” in a risk mitigation strategy changes overtime. As policies change and evolve, companies react to the shifts. For example, in the 1960s, although child labor was verbally disapproved of, child labor laws were relatively nonexistent. A company in the 1960s that developed body soap for example, would not factor into their risk mitigation strategy the children in south east Asia working for low pay on palm oil plantations, palm oil being an ingredient in the body soap. However, today, that same body soap company would actively factor into their risk mitigation strategy child labor because of three main factors: strict child labor regulation, watchful NGOs, and the rise of technology and the media.
  2. Companies are becoming more sustainable for two primary reasons. Companies are actively working to increase their sustainability because of reputational risk and profit. As more companies move toward sustainability, others feel inclined to join the movement, fearing that failure to do so will result in dissatisfied customers who prefer sustainable practices. Moreover, being sustainable will attract customers who care about the company’s environmental footprint. In addition, companies care about their profit. Studies reveal that in the long term, sustainable practices can yield higher earnings. While many people contend that sustainability cuts into profit by increasing costs, research has found that sustainable practices have led to efficient operations by streamlining efforts and conserving resources, which subsequently reduces cost.
  3. The importance of social justice in business. According to the Yale SOM website, “the mission of the Yale School of Management is to educate leaders for business and society.” It is integral that Yale SOM graduates enter the business world with practical skills and empathy- ready to bring positive change to the world through ethical business practices. Whether it is through implementing sustainable business practices in a company, or working with vertical supply chain companies to ethically improve processes to enhance the livelihoods of the people at the bottom of the supply chain, Yale SOM graduates are prepared to improve the conditions of our world.
  4. Actively ask for concrete feedback. According to the article, “Vague Feedback is Holding Women Back” by Shelley Correll and Caroline Simard, women are less likely to receive feedback that can actually improve their performance. The feedback they receive is often vague and restricted to bland statements such as, “keep up the good work!” In contrast, men often receive concrete/technical advice from their manager(s). They are told specifically what areas they need to improve, and are provided steps regarding how to improve. As a result, men are likely to climb the corporate ladder quicker than women. Furthermore, giving/receiving feedback is complicated by “barriers” such as race, gender, age, etc. Regardless, it is vital for us to recognize that how we give feedback matters particularly for the individual receiving feedback. Additionally, how often and strategically we ask for feedback also influences our performance outcomes.

I would like to thank the Yale University School of Management for selecting me to be a part of a unique and phenomenal group of future global leaders.

Saturday Sayings: “I am because we are and because we are, therefore I am.”

My dad played a recording for me as I stood in the kitchen washing the dishes. The recording was about two minutes long, but it essentially said, “If Nigerian immigrants can be successful in America, why can’t African Americans?” He nodded in approval of the message the white man was spewing, and I looked at him dazed. 

As a Nigerian immigrant woman living in the U.S., this kind of rhetoric makes me uneasy. It’s elitist and completely denies context. Unfortunately, this is not the first time I have heard such statements.

It is no secret that Nigerian immigrants are among the best-educated groups in the United States. It is no secret that many Nigerian immigrants have been “successful” in the United States. But it appears to be unknown to many Nigerian immigrants how their education and success in the U.S., is intrinsically tied to the history of African Americans.

From Plessy v Ferguson (1896) to Brown v Board of Education (1954), African Americans have had to fight the system. They have railed against injustice, and white supremacy since the slave trade. During critical periods that shaped the lives of Blacks in America, where were most Nigerians? They were still in Nigeria. It was not until the 1970’s and 1980’s when large waves of Nigerian immigrants came to the U.S., most of them on government-funded scholarships for college education. They did not have to drink from separate fountains, or sit on the back of buses- yet, simple recognition of the privileges they had flew over their heads. How many Nigerian immigrants put their foot to the fire? Even today, while many African Americans continue to take to the streets in protest of unjust causes, many Nigerian immigrants continue with their careers as lawyers, doctors, engineers, etc. prepared to benefit from the labor of African Americans. 

One could argue that being successful in such prominent fields is railing against the system in its own right; however, I’d have to disagree. One can be successful and still advocate for the causes of the larger group- the two are not mutually exclusive. Although studies have shown that as people move up the class ladder, their demands for justice become less militant and more complacent. Is this what happened to Nigerian immigrants? Have they fallen into complacency?

At the end of the day, Nigerian immigrants are black, and like many blacks in the U.S., they experience discrimination whether they acknowledge it or not. Whether it’s the fact that despite educational advantages, Nigerians have only a slightly higher median annual income than the general U.S. population. Or whether it’s Matthew Ajibade who was tortured to death by police in the U.S. We need our African American brothers and sisters because we cannot deny our blackness because of our successes. While the “model black minority” may have a nice ring to it, it results in a dangerous divide that will ultimately result in Nigerians immigrants on the losing end. 

This is only my perspective, i’d love to hear the thoughts of others and begin a dialogue. 


Saturday Sayings: We Should all be Feminists


Some people ask:Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?” Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general—but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women.” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

On this gloomy Saturday morning in San Francisco, California, I decided to ignore my chores and take the time instead to read this 64-page masterpiece. Needless to say, this book did not let me down. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, as usual, was witty and straight to the point- we should all be feminists. 

Growing up as a Nigerian woman in both Nigeria and the United States, I connect with Adichie who is also a Nigerian woman. I’ve recognized that Nigerian culture is deeply patriarchal. One that I relent not because I despise men, but rather because I want to be equal to them. Chimamanda clearly states what feminism is – the, “social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.” Yet, some people are incapable or unwilling to grasp such a simple premise. Why?

After I finished the book, I texted someone dear to me about all my take away points from the book. He didn’t respond right away like he normally does. In fact, he didn’t respond an hour, or even two later. It was four hours before he finally replied. He stated that he was well aware of the struggles that women experience because he grew up in a house full of women. Then he went on to talk about how he cares a lot about labor rights. Correct me if i’m wrong, but I texted him about women’s rights and not the latter. Right? So why is it that when the topic of gender equality is brought up, it quickly turns into a conversation of other rights? This is a key point that Adichie makes. For example, yes women’s rights are an aspect of human rights, but we aren’t talking about human rights as a whole, we are talking about women’s rights and to broaden the conversation to humans as a whole is an injustice. 

I challenge you if you haven’t already to read this book. Step out of your comfort zone, and for the duration of the book, and hopefully longer, put on a feminist lens.