Nneka caught my attention with her tweets about her experience as a young woman of colour living in Europe, found myself nodding in agreement to some of her on point sentiments.
I love how she expresses herself!
What do you celebrate about being a woman?
For the longest time, I thought being a woman was only about what I could do for others and only secondary to the male experience (thanks patriarchy), but now I understand and see being a woman as an unbridled sense of freedom. I fully embrace this freedom and the beautiful experience being a woman can be, from the solitary journey of womanhood to the bonding and connecting with other women (and learning from them and their lives) along the way.
What do you wish other women knew?
There is no one path to the journey that womanhood is, nor is womanhood a monolithic experience, especially for us women of color. The journey of womanhood is about grabbing your agency tightly and not letting go. We are all here on this Earth to define ourselves and construct our own identity. The true work (and journey), however, begins once we realize we are charged with stripping away from the false notions we have been handed our entire lives and dare to strike out and discover these things on our own volition.
How do you express yourself creatively?
Mostly through writing. I do dabble a bit into painting and photography as well, but I’d label those as more of active interests rather than true hobbies or things I’m exceptionally great at.
How are you making a difference in the world?
I could list off all the volunteer efforts I’ve contributed to and the philanthropic causes which are near and dear to my heart, but at the end of the day, I think I am truly making a difference by living in my authenticity, every day. Imagine how different our world would be if everyone were true to themselves and strived to honor their essence in every moment and avenue in their lives?
What do you believe is your calling and what are you doing about it?
Writing, unequivocally. I’ve tried to run from it many, many times. I thought perhaps teaching or marketing or non-profit governance would be a better fit for me, at least it’d be easier, in some sense. But each time I’ve tried to run as far away as I could from writing, ditching my love affair with tapping away on a computer or ferociously scribbling words and phrases on a notepad, I’ve run back, heels over head, into writing. It’s not something I can escape nor is it something I’m supposed to escape; this is what I finally understand and have accepted. As much as I love writing, because it can be such an intimate experience for me each time I sit down at my keyboard, I can earnestly say that it can be a draining, frustrating, gut-wrenching, fruitless process. Writing is hard. It forces you to pull things out you didn’t know were there and then, in turn, make sense of them. But this is my vocation. And each time I try to write something, it’s my own act of courage, because I know all too well how easy it is to just walk away.
How do you celebrate where you come from?
I’m a Nigerian American who grew up in the South of the U.S. That in itself is a huge clusterfuck of culture, something I’ve struggled with for most of my life, trying to find the balance between all the different iterations of these spaces I was supposed to call mine, call home.
I’ve gotten to this place, now, wherein I realize it’s not really necessary for me to create separate designations.
All of me can peacefully coexist.
I’m a woman.
I’m a Black woman.
I’m a Black woman from the South.
I’m a Black American woman from the South and am also African.
It might be confusing to others, but to me, I just live each day being me. Isn’t that celebration enough?
What do you consider to be the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?
I just returned from living abroad in Madrid, Spain for nine months. It was a longtime dream of mine to live abroad and when I visited Madrid in 2012, I knew Spain would be the country I became an expat in. The nine months I lived there were filled with so many lessons and insights. I truly grew up in that short period of time, but for the most part, my expat experience was akin to suffering and persevering through endless difficult scenarios and situations. Had I been a woman with little to no strength I would’ve floundered in that experience. Given up with no resolve, no will to fight.
But I overcame being slung racist retorts and notions on a regular basis. I overcame undesirable roommates. I overcame the difficult realization of seeing my reasons for uprooting my life were ill-founded. I overcame every difficult that being an expat (of color) in a country committing to misunderstanding one encompasses. When I look back on that experience, I will forever be proud.