We Should Care. Bigly.

My Model United Nations team represented Angola, a country that was all too familiar with internally displaced persons (IDPs). We had experienced a 27-year civil war that led to the displacement of more than three million people, so we hoped that the adopted resolutions at the conference would spur the international community to come to the rescue of displaced people around the world facing the harshest living conditions imaginable.

The UN Human Rights Council negotiations took place in the Sheraton Hotel on Seventh Avenue in New York City. Members of the Council spent the week deliberating on strategies to strengthen the human rights of returnees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in conflict-ridden regions. After several hours of debate, deal making, and writing with fellow delegates, we adopted three resolutions that would shape the Council’s response to the plight of IDPs around the world.

I recall this memory partly with fondness because the National Model United Nations conference was one of my best experiences as a college student, but more so with a heavy heart because in my own country, Nigeria, the humanitarian crisis now demands action to a degree surpassing what we called for in our simulated world.

In the last five years, more than 15,000 Nigerians have lost their lives to Boko Haram’s terror. Over 2.1 million people have fled their homes as a result of the violence. Many families have also had to cross the border into Cameroon, Chad, and Niger in search of refuge. The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates there are currently 1.8 million internally displaced people in the six northeast states. Borno, the site of the recent IDP camp bombing that killed dozens of Nigerians, has been affected most significantly.

Right now, there are 4.5 million Nigerians who do not know where their next meal will come from. Approximately 244,000 children are currently severely malnourished, with about 49,000 at risk of death, according to the World Food Programme. Children are literally dying of hunger. Evidence has emerged showing that security officials rape and abuse women in IDP camps in exchange for food or the freedom to move around camps. Women and young girls lack access to sanitary pads and dignity kits.

screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-1-26-41-pm

IDP Statistics as of 2016. This visual is courtesy of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

These are not data points. These are real people—families, women and children—with dreams and aspirations. Lives have been disrupted and futures remain uncertain. They are not objects of pity, but whole beings that deserve to lead lives that they have always imagined for themselves.

By many standards, the situation in Northeast Nigeria is one of the most severe humanitarian crises in the world, yet we are not paying enough attention to it.

But we should care. Bigly.

As the writer, Elnathan John, put it, “the only difference between you and an IDP is that Boko Haram did not raid and sack the community you once lived in. That’s all.”

Nigerians like myself who are far from the crisis must resist the urge to ignore it simply because it seems to be happening at a distance—the same goes for the rest of the world. Let us instead tap into our shared humanity with the people of northeast Nigeria and act in accordance with this responsibility to help improve their immediate reality. Ask yourself what you can do. And do just that. I am asking myself too.

This isn’t a simulation. This is real life.

Make a donation; reach out; tell your friends about what’s going on in Nigeria; write about it; visit an IDP camp; call your Congressman.

Do something.

 

Words Matter

“She belongs to my kitchen and my living room and the other room,” said the President.

Each time I read these words, one person keeps coming to mind: my baby sister in Nigeria.

Taiwo, if you’re reading this, I want you to know–and believe–that you do not belong to any man’s kitchen, living room or bedroom. Not even if the man is a President.

You belong to any room that you dare to aspire to.

Dream big.

Speak your truths.

Do stuff.

And never give up on your ambitions because of any man. You are not here to cater to the fragile egos of men. You will rise above society’s expectations of women.

In a related but unrelated note: I don’t think America’s next President is going to be a man 🙂

My Public Apology to George

Dear George,

You must be surprised to hear from me at this time. I know. But I have a few words that I must say to you.

I am really really really sorry for my misguided comments about Drake’s most recent album, Views. A couple of months ago I had the following to say in a Facebook post:

“Taking a moment out of my day to acknowledge how underwhelming Drake’s #Views album really is. 20 tracks in yet I’m not really in my feels; I have not called my ex, and; I have not shed a single tear. This is quite tragic.”

Immediately I published that post, you expressed your disagreement in the strongest terms possible, arguing that Views is in fact Drake’s best work. In response, I said that you would need to prepare a PowerPoint presentation to justify your position. Oh, forgive me. I didn’t try to make you feel a way, and if I did, please know this: it wasn’t on purpose.

In all of this, you were clearly perplexed as to why I had failed to recognize—in your own words—The Beats. The Feels. The Evolution.

My brother, I have seen the light now.

giphy.gif

Since we spoke, I have spent a lot of time listening to the album, and I have ended up liking it. I listen to it all the time now. Seriously. Like, I listen to it when I commute, when I pretend to make gains in the gym, when I clean, when I cook, when I play FIFA. Even on my Snapchat, I publish clips from the album with the caption #Views. I played it so much that concerned folks started reaching out to me to ask if someone had broken my heart. Of course, I can neither confirm nor deny the accuracy of their concerns. Anyway, you should also know that I’m even listening to it right now as I write this letter to you. I was in Lagos for a part of the summer and on multiple occasions, my brothers gave me the rare privilege of controlling the aux cord. I played Views over and over again, and they liked it. They really did, and for some reason this makes me feel some pride. Speaking of pride, I’m sure you know that the popular song on the album, “One Dance” features Nigeria’s very own Wizkid. Ahhhh!

Before I conclude, I’d like to share with you some of my favorite lines from the album:

1

Don’t get hyped for the moment then start to backpedal/Don’t let your newfound fame fool you or cloud up your judgement. – Weston Road Flows

2

Always saw you for what you could’ve been . . . Like when Chrysler made that one car that looked just like a Bentley. – Keep the Family Close

3

And I turn the six upside down, it’s a nine now. – 9. I don’t really know what he meant here, but it just sounds so dope. 

4

I had to let go of us to show myself what I could do. – Feel No Ways

5

They’ve been sayin’ it’s love, but it isn’t love, is it?/You don’t worry ’bout fittin’ in when you custom made/I’d share more of my story but you wouldn’t believe it/I might take a breather but I won’t ever leave you/If I was you, I wouldn’t like me either. – Views

6

Certain people need to tell me they’re proud of me . . . That mean a lot to me – Redemption

7

That ***** knows me better than I know myself.Faithful

I have to stop writing now. However, I hope that these words convince you of the sincerity of my apology for speaking ill of #Views. I Feel it now. The Beats. The Feels. The Evolution.

I am keen to hear from you soon. Hope you write back.

All my best,

James Ladi Williams

 

 

Yes.

Something special happened to me, and each time I think about it, I feel as though I am still dreaming. I had been praying and waiting for an email that I hope would make a difference in my life. That email finally came, informing me of my admission into the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. I felt an indescribable joy that made me cry.

There are those who believe that their accomplishments are by their own doing, but I am not one of them. God did this! And I have no words to accurately convey my gratitude. I am thankful to everyone that has helped write this story, especially my family and mentors who continue to believe in—and support—my dreams. Your labor of love is not in vain, and by God’s grace, I’m going to make you all so proud.

Also, it’s my birthday today, so I get to send a special request to the heavens. late.jpgI pray that your dreams and aspirations come true, and when they do, I pray that you are kind enough to share your story with the world.

IMG_3408It’s lit.