Sunday, 23 June 2013

ROSA PARKS TAKES A STAND



I quivered a little with fright as the somewhat chubby black woman marched determinedly towards me. It was 1955 and in case you have not guessed, I was a chair in the Montgomery bus. Like my forebears, we disdained bus-seats that were reserved for the people some referred to as ‘blacks’ with disdain in their voices as though they had smelled something rotten. So you may well imagine my indignation, fright, and humiliation when the bus driver took the bus in for an upholstery over the weekend and ordered the men at the garage to reupholster just the nine seats in front of me, and switch me to the row behind the seat that had been behind me, because I was ‘somewhat worn and not as cushy as I used to be’.
The next day, I was naturally shame-faced and quiet all the way to the bus-station, and tried to pretend I could not hear the gloating of the other seats. I knew what would happen as soon as we got to the station: the seats in front of me would be occupied by the Whites, and I would get the Blacks no one wanted. So when I saw a black woman marching towards me, I quailed a little. Why did my mother and grandmother before her hate to be occupied by blacks? Did they have needles or sharp objects on their behinds that could hurt us? Well either way, I was going to find out now, I thought in exasperation as she gingerly lowered herself onto me.
I waited a beat, tensed in terror, aware of the other seats eyeing me with ill-concealed glee ¾ they would giggle aloud if they didn’t think it might scare the passengers. After a second, I realised the bus was already in motion and I had not felt any pain. In fact, if I closed my eyes, I couldn’t tell the difference!
Just as I was heaving a sigh of relief and settling in to a quiet, uneventful journey, a rough voice yelled from the front of the bus; “Hey, seat number 11, everyone on that seat vacate it please. This nice gentleman needs your seat”.
I looked up to see the gentleman; he was ‘white’ and rubbing his grimy hands together with satisfaction. At the sight, I recoiled. If there was one thing I could not abide, it wasn’t Black people, it wasn’t dirty people, it was people who looked like they might fart while sitting on me, and this man had the shifty look of one of such persons.
Then just as I had once more resigned myself to my fate, I noticed that the lady sitting on me, relaxed even more, refusing to budge. I had heard of stories like that, but I thought it was a myth. I tried to poke her a little to urge her to stand up, but that just seemed to make her more comfortable because she sort of wriggled deeper into my worn leather before announcing in a no-nonsense voice, “I am comfortable right here Driver, thank you”.
The driver, or what little of him I could see from my vantage point, turned so red I was afraid he was going to have a small stroke. Then with veins jutting out from his neck, he announced frigidly, in the coldest voice possible, “Ma├ím, perhaps you did not understand me?” He managed to make ‘ma’am’ sound like an insult.
The woman glared right back and her own voice this time, far surpassed his in frigidity, “I understood you very well my good man. But unless I mistake the matter, you want me to stand up so that my fellow human being may sit, for the mere reason that you believe that the colour of my skin makes me somehow inferior and therefore, unworthy to sit even though I came on this bus before him.”
The entire bus erupted in a cacophony of excited noise as people began to understand what was happening. The woman rotated her hips in a kind of weird dance that pushed her further still into my cushions and announced, “I will not give up my seat for this man! If he were ill or old or feeble, that would be a different thing, but he is healthy as a horse and only wants to take my seat because he thinks I don’t deserve to sit while he stands even though I got here first!”
These last words created even more commotion as even the other seats and passengers excitedly talked over each other. In about 15 minutes, when it was obvious that she wouldn’t give up her seat, she was arrested and taken away on charges of ‘violating the laws of segregation’ whatever that was.
I was sorry to see her go, because carrying her for those few minutes made me realise that the so-called blacks and whites were all just human beings with the same bodies, beliefs and ideologies. They may have different skin colour, but they all had the same red blood!
When I get home that night, I learnt from my mother that the woman’s name was Rosa Parks and that she was an ‘activist’, whatever that meant. The next week, I heard she had been convicted and then, she appealed against her conviction. Her actions gave birth to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, one of the most effective non-violent revolutions. It in turn led to the repeal of that segregation law and now, people sit wherever.
That was years ago. Rosa Parks was one passenger I never forgot because she made herself popular and she made me popular too. Today, I live in a museum with all the other seats that were in the bus that day, but when people pass by, I am the one they take pictures of. The other chairs that smirked at me that day are green with envy today and I owe it to Rosa Parks.

Monday, 25 February 2013

THINK. EAT. SAVE – REDUCE YOUR FOOTPRINT




Yesterday on my way to work, I saw two children fighting beside one of the large refuse dumps that often litter the streets in some neighborhoods and as I got closer, I realized that they were fighting over some stale, moldy bread they had picked from the trash and when one of them managed to tear off a huge chunk, he scurried away, shoving it into his mouth, maggots and all! (If that does not make you a little ill, you should probably speak to a therapist). These are the ‘hope of the future’, being killed off before that future, by hunger.
In Nigeria today, 80% of the population are said to be living well below the poverty line and that’s not to talk of the huge number who can barely eat a meal in two days. Sadly, this figure is still better than what we have in some African countries. Till date, I still have nightmares about a little girl I saw last year: Her eyes were sunken and her body shrivelled from hunger as she lay immobile on a dirty little makeshift cot on the floor. At first glance, we thought she was dead. The little girl had sticks for hands and was so weak from hunger that she had to be spoon-fed. After the 2012 Nigerian flood that displaced thousands of people, the rate of hunger in the country went from bad to ‘absolutely terrifying and off the charts’. Unfortunately, the little girl in question, with all her ribs standing out prominently, and her lips dry and cracked from hunger, was better looking than about 40 other children in the relief camp.
In 2012, Somali was hit with one of the worst droughts possible and yet at that particular period, elsewhere in Africa and other parts of the world, zillions of people were eating and throwing away leftovers. Hey, you probably threw away some food yourself.
Some may shrug and wonder why we are talking about world hunger when their own private, little world is falling apart because say, they had to wear the same shirt to work twice in a week. Well I am willing to bet that the little children who haven’t had anything to eat in 9 days are not thinking of going to school because food is a basic.
So how is this your problem? With every food you throw away, you contribute to decay and disease in the community and sadly those who fall easily ill from all the resultant methane emission are those who had nothing to eat in the first place. I hope the irony is not lost on you.
Now some have suggested that they want to help the fight against world hunger but because the fight is bigger than one man, they are not sure how to go about it. First off, that is no excuse because the Internet is a veritable mine of information for any serious person. Now also, the United Nation’s Environmental Programme is one of the numerous world organizations fighting hunger in the world and you can donate. Here’s an idea, convert the cost of the food you would ordinarily waste into monetary value and send to these organizations or simply just organize a buffet of sorts for the underfed in your environment. Yes, people, be a bit selfless every now and then and see if you don’t make a difference!

If you are in support of UNEP’s fight against world hunger, like this on facebook or retweet on twitter. But if you are cool with world hunger, then move on without sharing.

Friday, 8 February 2013

HOW SINGLE PEOPLE CAN ENJOY THEMSELVES THIS VALENTINE'S DAY



Alright, alright, you can wipe that droopy look right off your face! So it’s Valentine’s; so you don’t have a date; so your significant other just dumped your ass two days to the Day; your life is NOT over, yes, despite how certain you are that it is.
Valentine’s Day is one of those ancient traditions that has been so trivialized that it has lost its meaning. Valentine’s has always been a season of letting people who are down on their luck, know that they are loved, by sharing food and stuff with them. Today, people join in a mad dash to secure a date for the holidays and not having a date can feel like a death sentence - trust me, I know!
Well if you have your priorities straight, then you should realize that the goal is not being a ‘happy couple’, the goal is: being a ‘happy you’. No one, no matter how perfect, defines you and you are infinitely responsible for your own happiness because no matter how much your partner tries to make you happy, you can only actually be happy if you decide to be.
So if you are single, you should be loving every minute of it because it means you are confident enough to lean on your own self; it means you get to be selfish and consider only yourself if you want to; it means you get to flirt outrageously with whoever you want; it means you can still get out of bed excited at the thought of meeting someone special and, it means get to hog the remote!
 So if this Valentine’s is meeting you single and unattached, here are some tips to help you have a blast:

1.    Get on a plane to Scotland!
Yep, that’s what I said. Apparently, the Scots have a tradition: on V-Day, you simply step out of your home and the first stranger you see is your Val! How cool is that?

 2.   Do something absolutely new and terrifying like say bungee jumping.
 No, I am not sending you off to go kill yourself, I am simply saying, get a rush of adrenaline in a safe manner of course.

 3.   Be a Scrooge:
Understand, Scrooge hates Christmas. You don’t have to hate Valentine’s but you could certainly do without having big fat hearts shoved in your face at every turn ’cause that’s just wrong! So, avoid, avoid, avoid, mushy Valentine’s scenes and parties; unless of course you have the fortitude of an ox and you know it won’t get to you.

 4.   Party hard!
Come on, everyone has friends that are unattached, and if you don’t you may need to have your head re-examined because dude, you need one of those. So gather your unattached friends and hold a Val’s Day party for them. It will be like visiting a Singles Bar, only better coz here, you know that inappropriate behaviour will be at a minimum since it’s friends all around.

5.   Go see a show!
Notice I didn’t say go see a movie huh? Go see some hard-core, unromantic, adrenaline-friendly concert. Go attend a comedy, or just sit at home with a bowl of popcorn and watch a re-run of Evil Dead.

6. Pamper yourself!
Yes now will be a good time to get in some spa treatment, facials, manicure and pedicure, and even just treat yourself to some good old chocolate and trigger happy hormones - but hey, no going overboard with the chocolates because you don't want to be carrying around an extra 20 pounds all through the year just because Valentine's came around sometime in February.

7. Help others!
It takes you outside yourself, outside your misery, and keeps you honest. Go play with kids in an orphanage, or visit a nursing home. You will feel better. The kids though; nothing fights the doldrums like the laughter of a happy child and right now, you could use some laughter huh?

8. Give yourself a Gift because you absolutely deserve it.

 Being single on Valentine’s Day is only sad if you buy into the faulty assumption that Valentine’s is only for people in a relationship. Besides, whether you are in a relationship or not, it is not a guarantee for happiness because hey, believe it or not, several people in relationships right now, wish they could be you: they have been desperately searching for the nearest exit!

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

HOW TO HAVE FUN THIS VALENTINE’S DAY



First off, whether you are single or coupled up, Valentine’s Day is definitely for you so before you read on, dispel the myth that only lovers get to enjoy this holiday.
Now, if you want to have fun this Valentine’s Day, keep in mind that different rules apply:
·         If you are in a relationship, then you should probably find out whether your significant other even likes the celebration to begin with because I’m thinking that nothing will ruin your day more than having to watch your sweetheart visibly endure every aspect of the romantic day you had planned whilst gnashing their teeth in tune to the romantic blues you put on the CD player. Like Scrooge at Christmas, some people are genetically wired to hate Valentine’s Day, so before you begin planning surprises that are the size of Texas, you should probably get a feel of the land first.  

·         If you are single, then you should avoid your home like the plague on this day (if you loathe your own company) because studies have shown that while a significant number of babies are born nine months after Valentine’s Day, a significant number of suicides and depression attacks also occur during the actual Valentine’s celebration. Yes, even if you invented introverts, you should try to go out and mingle.
If you are in a relationship, then you could both decide to go to one of the several parties bound to be going on all over the place; you could go bowling; or just try a romantic picnic or dinner coz hey, it never failed anyone. Yawn... These are the boring things you could do but if you are interested in how to have fun this Valentine’s Day, you might want to break out of a rut. Yep, the trick is: be creative!
a.    Gatecrash a party! Hey, it isn’t a party until someone crashes it right? Well you could both have fun turning up on strangers’ doorsteps without warning and marching around like you own the place. They will probably throw you out on your asses, but that will be something to laugh about for months and maybe even years later. Though, my money is on no one even knowing that you are one of the naughty gatecrashers.
b.    Go see a concert as opposed to some sappy movie. You can see a movie any old day so why not do something unusual today?
c.    Take your kids out, and no don’t think you can duck out on the excuse of ‘no kids’. If you do not have kids, there have got to be like a thousand kids languishing in orphanages. You could organize excursions for them and take them to the zoo, take them to see a freakin’ waterfall, or just take them to a park; whatever you choose to do, if you do spend your holiday in the company of a number of laughing, shrieking kids, chasing themselves around, then I guarantee that you will go to bed with a smile in your heart.
d.    We all have something we have been putting off all our lives. Nothing sizzles a relationship more than getting an adrenaline rush together. So this Valentine’s Day, you could always do that sky-diving you have always wanted to try; you could visit a shooting range and learn to shoot; you could go wine-tasting... you pick your poison.
Now if you are one of the lucky people who get to decide what they want, how they want it, and when they want it because they are single, then you might want to try one of these:
a.    Refuse to be depressed just because some moron somewhere decided that only people in a relationship get to enjoy Valentine’s and whatever you do, get yourself a gift ¾ yes, no matter how broke you are!
b.    Remember that road trip you have always wanted to try? Well now is as good a time as any. Picture you and your sweet ride, doing 80 miles an hour on the expressway with music blaring from the speakers and the A/C on high; awesome huh? Well you should also watch the street signs coz I’m thinking getting a ticket will be nowhere on your list of ‘Fun things to do on Valentine’s Day’.
c.    Touch base: It may sound kinda lame heading home for Valentine’s day, but have you ever considered that the celebration is really about loving and being loved in return? Who’s your daddy?
d.    You could just pack up and go to Scotland! Relax, I mean visit just for the day! Apparently there is no such thing as a ‘single’ Valentine in Scotland because their tradition says you just walk out the door and the first person you see is your Val. Cool huh?
e.    And, you could always grab up all your equally single friends and have a blast! Better still, make it singles only. Great way to meet someone new huh?
f.     Go shopping: You will be amazed how many shops - especially in Nigeria - conduct sales in the Season of Love. You could catch up on all your backed up shopping and get those items you have been eye-balling for really great prices!
Now if by this time you have not realized that regardless of your relationship status you can absolutely have a blast on Valentine’s, then you must have being doing something wrong! Go back to the top and read this article again.