What it Means to Type “The End.”

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I’ve been quiet for sometime working on the draft of a new historical fiction novel set in 1800s Abeokuta, Lagos and Freetown. Yesterday, I finished the draft. Minutes after completing it (still basking in the euphoria) I wrote this on instagram:

What does it mean to write ‘The End?’ To a writer, it’s more than mere words. It’s an end to late hours writing, questioning, researching. It’s months and sometimes years of living out the lives of your characters. It’s living on coffee and hoping that will carry you for sometime. For us women writers especially, it’s the feelings of guilt for not making enough time for our children when we are so heavily pregnant with this one. Completing the first draft is an accomplishment. Now to the hard task of editing!”

I still have some distance to cover to get to the final product, but this is a first step.  I can’t wait to share this multi-generational story with you inspired by actual events.

Inspiration Behind Bury Me Come Sunday Afternoon

“These short stories came to me while observing others and sometimes experiencing certain situations. We must peel back the layers, go beyond the surface to understand others and their personal motives.  For those that have been misunderstood, those that do not have a voice, those that have been dealt a bad hand, Bury Me Come Sunday Afternoon is also for you.”

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I wrote the draft of  Searching for Miss Anderson, one of the short stories in the collection  while  in a hospital room watching over my son in January 2015.  Desperation drove me to write. I needed an outlet for the overwhelming feeling of helplessness.  I haven’t felt like that in a long time. Last time I remember was as a poor, struggling international student living in Washington DC attending Howard University in the late 90’s.  Waiting by the bus stop on Georgia Avenue  in the cold of winter, my nose pressed into the folds of a black  puffy winter  jacket, I would watch the mentally challenged homeless man in in his tattered winter coat and equally tattered and dirty wool cap pushing his cart of worldly possessions down Georgia Avenue.  Rumor had it then that he had been an international  student  in a PhD program before he went around the bend and never returned.  It’s no wonder the story is about an international student struggling with mental illness.

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Visiting my alma mater in 2012

The Rake and the WallFlower is about a beautiful soul who continues to inspire me despite what the world considers to be a flaw.  Losing My Religion draws from my experiences growing up  in religious establishments and how if we as a people can be led like sheep to the slaughter if we are not careful.  The Hunchback was inspired by the community of Makoko in Lagos and what they endured during the 72-hour vacate notice in 2012 when one of the inhabitants was killed. The community is still undergoing many challenges and my heart has been with them since I visited in 2014.   Like all the other stories in the Bury Me Come Sunday Afternoon Collection, it  is contemporary suspense fiction .  Each story draws from my witnessing what others have gone through or my own experiences.  We must peel back the layers, go beyond the surface to understand others and their personal motives.  For those that have been misunderstood, those that do not have a voice, those that have been dealt a bad hand, Bury Me Come Sunday Afternoon is also for you.

To my family who understands that writing is my calling and that I must, thank you.

To Quramo Publishing, and staff  thank you. To   Anwuli Ojogwu, you challenge me to be a better writer. For the faith you have in me, and your relentlessness in pushing me to dig deeper, I remain grateful.

To  EC Osondu, Sefi Atta, Yejide Kilanko, and Zukiswa Wanner, thank you for taking the time to read the short stories and for your lovely reviews.

Credible stories of the daily perils that Nigerians fall prey to, at home and overseas.”- Sefi Atta, winner of the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa, author of A Bit of Difference, Swallow, Everything Good Will Come

These are stories worth telling from a writer worth reading” – EC Osondu winner, The Caine Prize for Africa.

“Campbell-Fatoki’s characters share their stories of loss, love and reclaimed identity in a way that leaves you wanting for more.” – Yejide Kilanko, author of Daughters Who Walk This Path

 “In Thread of Gold Beads, Nike Campbell-Fatoki showed her brilliance as a novelist. The short story collection Bury Me Come Sunday Afternoon goes a step further and elevates her as more than a one-book wonder but a masterful storyteller. Each of the stories is eloquently crafted without the condescension to readers that comes with a ribbon-wrapped ending. By turns amusing, sad and painful, each of the stories in this collection moved me to some deep emotion, and they will do the same for you too whether reading about religion, mental illness, gender roles or open marriages. Another wonderful and unapologetic addition to the growing genre of literature by writers from Africa.” – Zukiswa Wanner, author of The Madams, Men of the South, London, Cape Town, Joburg, maid in SA: 30 ways to Leave Your Madam, and Refilwe

picMe, this morning :)

Bury me Come Sunday Afternoon is out today July 6, 2016!  Published by  Quramo Publishing available at book stores in Nigeria and Africa and also available via kindle worldwide.  I look forward to your comments and reviews. Happy reading!

Ikoro Ekiti, The Boy and His Self-Built Fan

The hills reminded me of Hollywood, California.  The trees were exotic, tropical.  The breeze that danced about ever so often was pleasing. I was in Ikoro Ekiti, and it was a pleasant surprise.

The journey was to celebrate the life of  a man I called Dad. I had no idea what to expect since I had never been there or traveled by road any further than Ibadan. It took over five hours of traffic, potholes and incessant stops by the police. As we approached Ekiti, I was captivated by the rolling hills, the vegetation and the people. I wondered if the government realized the untapped resources they had in their hands – the area could be transformed into hiking trails, a real tourist attraction. the only thing I saw that day welcoming visitors were signs announcing stairs to prayer mountains.

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My excitement at seeing rich vegetation of palm trees, banana trees, and some unknowns equally as beautiful was mired by the blackened roots and leaves left behind by the burning of trees.

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The winding streets of Ikoro, Ekiti

Along the way, I saw a man breaking the beautiful rocks into smaller pieces.  I was told he would sell to builders to make decotrations on the walls of homes.  Looking down as I passed by in the car into a small community, I saw a river, I was told that the water would be  cold and ‘fresh,’ the best type to drink.

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I almost forgot why I was there, lost in the beauty of the villages we passed along the way.  Like I said, it was to celebrate the life of the man I had called dad for fifteen years.  The reception was held in on the large Eso-Obe School Field In Ikoro.  The event was attended by too many people to count.  Daddy was a good man.  I noticed many things, but one thing stood out – the young boys carrying those rickety fans, obviously home-made.

They all looked the same to me at first. The boys holding the fans held by wires standing by guests with the miniature fans almost hitting the face. Their eyes pleaded for money when their lips tired of asking. They followed celebrants to the dance floor, almost getting lost in the sea of bodies. They were relentless. As quickly as they were shooed away, they would return. The most convincing “I don’t have money for you,’ did not deter them. From their looks they looked no older than ten to me, some even six. It came as a surprise when this particular boy named Jimoh appeared beside me while sitting down, his fan placed inches from my arm. Maybe it was the look in his eyes or the way his chin was set in a determined way, but I wanted to talk to him.

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Jimoh Ogundiran, the boy with the self-built fan

Jimoh Ogundiran says he is 17 years old but he looks like he is 10.  He is from Ipoti, Ekiti.  He says he’s in JS 2  (seventh grade). I was unable to speak for sometime, not knowing whether to believe him or not. When he spoke though, he seemed to speak with much more knowledge than a ten year-old.  I asked him what he was doing at a party on a Friday afternoon when he should be in school.  He said he had been flogged at school the day before for not having his school fees and decided to skip.  I badgered him with more questions – Who introduced me to the job? How long had he been doing this job?  How did he hear about this party and the others he attended?  On average, how much did he make per party?   He answered every question looking me straight in the eyes – It was the comedian dancing on the field to the music who introduced him, they were neighbours, he said.  He had taken a liking to him and asked his parents if he could go along with him to parties.  I asked if he had to give the comedian a share of his money.  He answered yes and no. He would give him, but most times, he wouldn’t take it.  He didn’t answer how long he had been doing the job, or maybe the loud music made it impossible to hear.  He learned about the parties by listening to the radio. I tried to confirm these from people around who said it was also probably through the newspapers adverts where they scouted around for birthdays, funerals and other party events.  The money he made varied. Some days were good, others not so.  All his proceeds, he gave to his parents, he said.

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Jimoh and me

Jimoh  had learned how to make the device he held proudly in his hands, which gave off a slight breeze in school, he said. So I encouraged him to return to school where he could learn to make even better inventions.  He nodded, but didn’t smile, not once. He did come back and thank me after giving him something for his time spent talking when he could have been hustling with his fan.  His eyes burned with determination A look which screamed that he would make the most of his situation.  I wished this look of determination could have been found in a different environment – a classroom filled with other students.

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Jimoh is just one of the many boys I saw that day running around with their fans, trying to ease the discomfort of party goers and celebrants.  I questioned the parents who let them go off to do this, the system, but who am I to judge?  I plan on following up with Jimoh, and wish him the best.  His path to greatness is steep but his determination  will keep him on that path.

The Damsel and the Outcast

I had seen the share on a friend’s face book wall and clicked on it to read the story. It seemed like a tale from a bedtime story book – a young lady takes pity on a man who society has turned its back on.  I had to meet the damsel who rescued this outcast when I visited Lagos a few weeks ago.

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Olorunfunmi Adebajo

Gbolahan (Gbolly) is about forty-five years old (he’s not sure but Funmi’s older sibling attended school with him and estimate it to be this) and was an alcoholic; had been for the past fifteen years. Everyone knew him as ‘Ire-akari’, (which means goodness will go around) the name of the area/neighbourhood he lived.  They called him that because everyone in the neighbourhood knew him and saw him everywhere – sleeping in the maruwa (the three legged vehicle that travels all over Lagos), standing in traffic asking, sometimes begging to be hit by the vehicles trying to get by shouting ‘Kill me!’

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Gbolly and Olorunfunmi (Funmi) Adebajo had been neighbors for years.  For as long as Funmi lived across from Gbolly’s family house, she had known him to be an alcoholic and a nuisance to the community.  I asked her what made her finally decide to help a man who was a reproach to his family and neighborhood for so long. 

20151108_174937 Behind Funmi is Gbolly’s family house

Why now?

Funmi said she had been in a depressed state that day, a month before her birthday (her birthday was in October). Rather than wallow in the things she wished she had, she intentionally looked outwards.  She walked around with her friend distributing scripture notes and there was Gbolly just around the corner from her house.  She handed him the scripture note and invited him to church.  She forgot about that encounter until a few days later when she saw Gbolly again.  He asked her when she would take him to church like she had promised.  So she did.  That was the beginning of Gbolly’s rehabilitation.  Here’s her post on October 21, 2015 which started everything:

“So on one of those days I hung my head and claimed life had ended for me, I walked past Gbolahan. He lives right across my house and was in class with one of my elder ones. I heard he was very brilliant but I’ve known him to be a chronic drunk for at least 15 years…His case was worse than a mad man. He’d drink ‘ogogoro’ all day, get beaten up and slapped by passersby, get hit by vehicles and then walk/shout all over the street all night. He barely slept and on the days he did, he would sleep in any ‘maruwa’ he finds parked behind my house. He practically had no life outside his bottle of gin.

God laid it on my heart to talk to him and I was surprised that he listened. I’ve paid a nearby ‘buka’ to have him fed twice a day, bought him a sponge, soap and toothbrush. Went to check on him every morning and evening, drove him to church in my car, gave him some place to sleep and found him something to do. I dont want him to be dependent o me so i handed him over to someone else to teach him personal hygiene and a bit of social skills.

To the glory of God, Gbolahan has been clean in the past three weeks. Now he converses coherently and does not stagger anymore, his eyeballs are clear…The whole of ire-akari road is amazed.

He still needs bedding, clothes, money for feeding etc.

I’m grateful to God for the privilege to serve humanity but I’LL BE NEEDING PROFESSIONAL REHABILITATION for my elder brother Gbolahan, I WOULD BE GLAD IF ANYONE CAN HELP ME OUT. That would be the best birthday gift ever.

Any recommendations please?

It’s my birthday and God is teaching me to love without expecting anything in return.”

Since then, there has been an outpouring of love, support, gifts both in cash and in-kind. Her update on November 5, 2015 says it all:

Quite a while right? Our brother Gbolly is fine and in good hands.

We went to the hospital yesterday to meet ‘Dr. O’ who had taken interest in Gbolahan and offered FREE medical evaluation and treatment. I kept smiling while the doctor explained the need for examining vital organs after prolonged abuse of alcohol…i could have been a doctor too but i hated chemistry! Anyway, Gbolahan’s blood samples have been taken…We await the results.

A Nigerian missionary doctor in the U.S also took interest in the story and now, Gbolahan has an appointment with the dentist sometime next week…This is also FREE. Today, we met @Princess Kay Ajibade who specialises in male clothings. …she’s giving him two sets of native FREE.

Someone drove all the way from Ikoyi to bring Gbolahan some clothes in Isolo, a youth corper in Adamawa state sent N2,500 out of his ‘allawee’ to feed Gbolahan for a couple of days…I also went to pick some clothes for him at another location yesterday….Someone even offered to take up his accommodation!!! You have all contributed in no little measure to make this successful.

Most importantly, we met with Keji Hamilton who runs the House of Joy rehab. Pastor Keji has taken the burden of getting a rehab off my shoulders, he is also helping us get Gbolahan someplace to learn a trade while the rehab admission process is finalised.

Thank you all for sparing your resources and time to give Mr Gbolahan hope again. All these would not have been possible without you..

Thank you Nigeria..This is who we are, a ‪#‎GoodPeopleGreatNation

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Gbolly and Funmi few days after rehabilitation began

Contrary to what Funmi said, that she just decided to do something different, she’s been impacting her community for a while. Funmi is a graduate with a BSc in computer science and math and a masters in education administration and planning. She works for the Lagos State government. She has also organized a youth leadership summit in her area for the past six years.

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Meeting Funmi, I was struck by how tall and slim she was. She could be mistaken for a runway model with her looks. She spoke with self confidence, neither brash or over zealous. During our talk that Sunday evening she also told me how she had wept reading some unkind comments – People saying how she was using Gbolly to make money. Some even saying how they had also sponsored several children to school and they never talked about it. She smiled when I told her how proud ‘we’ were proud of her (yes, we ). The diaspora and Africa was/is proud of her.

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Funmi and yours truly

I sense in Funmi a need to do more and have every confidence and hope that this is just the beginning for Olorunfunmi Adebajo. She has been walking her path to greatness for a while now, the world has only just gotten the chance to see her footprints.

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I’d like to say on behalf of all us- thank you Olorunfunmi Adebajo. You didn’t have to do what you did. Personally, you challenged me. I realized I wasn’t doing enough for the people around me, the ones I see everyday.

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We are proud of you Funmi. More grace to you and the best to Gbolly.

If you are moved to help Gbolly and support Funmi, please reach out to Funmi directly on facebook., just search for Olorunfunmi Adebajo or via this medium (comment or send a message) or by email at nikecampbellfatoki@gmail.com. 

I hope you’ve been inspired.  Keep walking your path to greatness. Blessings.

The Face Behind Nigerian Heroes

I  was  featured on Nigerian Heroes last week.  Being the curious person that I am, I also wanted to know more about this person who started the organization featuring and celebrating Nigerians from all works of life;  Shedding a positive light on  country that has received more that it’s fair share of negativity. Here’s my interview with Janine Udogu, founder of Nigerian Heroes. 

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You are the person behind Nigerian Heroes.  Can you tell us more about you?

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My name is Janine Udogu. I was born and raised in Zürich, Switzerland. My parents got divorced when I was still very young, yet they always remained friends. So instead of having only two parents, I ended up having four (my father and his new girlfriend as well as my mother and her second husband).

My stepfather comes from Morocco and I guess that is where I got a little “African Blood.” I had a very beautiful childhood growing up with one brother in a very safe environment. At the age of fifteen I travelled to New York as an exchange student and got the opportunity to study in a very exclusive private school for a year. Coming from a humble background that was a remarkable experience. On my return to Switzerland I finished my studies and started working. At the age of 17 I met my first husband, who was an Asylum seeker from Congo. We got married after I turned 18. But the marriage only lasted a few years. In 2008 I met my second husband and the father of my three children. He is originally from Anambra State Nigeria and he made me to love this country like my own.

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 My interests are of course my children. But I am in love with Nigerian culture. I am studying Igbo ever since I met my husband and I attend all the local meetings my husband goes to (Igbo Meeting, Anambra Meeting), using that as an opportunity to improve my Igbo skills and to learn more about the culture. I love to cook and yes, I do know how to cook Nigerian food as well. My favorites are Egusi and Okra soup, but I also love Ofe Aku and other local soups. Generally I would say that I am very interested in other cultures and languages. I speak German, French, Italian, English a little Igbo and a little Lingala (Congo). I love to travel and to read books and I love being a mother!

 What made you want to start this initiative especially since you aren’t Nigerian?

I have to explain this looking a bit further back. Just like me, my husband had been married before. He even had a daughter with his first wife. So even though his family really liked me they insisted he married an Igbo woman this time. They wanted to make sure that his kids would grow up in Nigeria, learning about the culture and the heritage. Which is very important to them, especially since my husband is the first born of the family. So they found him a wife and arranged for everything. They even paid the “bride price” as it is normal in Igbo culture. When my husband (At that time still my boyfriend) told me about it, I was shocked. But I decided to stay with him, no matter what. I understood that this had nothing to do with the feelings he had for another woman, but with the pressure end expectation from his family. I think my husband was so surprised to hear that I agreed to this set up, that he decided he would not need the Igbo woman anymore. Instead he convinced his family and the elders that this “Oyibo” (white woman) could very well raise his children in their interest and that he would not need to marry another woman. So after we already knew each other for four years, we finally got the go ahead from his father to get married. And we wanted to do it the right way. So we prepared to get married in the Church of his village in Nigeria. Because one can get married many times in court, but in Church, you only get married once!

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I had travelled to Nigeria so many times and I never had any bad experience. That’s where I realized that there was a big gap between the perception people have about Nigeria from the news and the way Nigeria really is. So I decided it was high time to start a project that would change people’s view of Nigeria. And what better way to do that than to show examples of how hard working, successful and positive Nigerians are. That is how Nigerian Heroes came to life

I was so excited about it that I wanted to share this day with my whole family and friends. It was only then that I realized that none of them was willing to travel to Nigeria with us. They told me they were too afraid of Boko Haram, kidnappers and all the other things one could read about in the news. I was very upset. I had travelled to Nigeria so many times and I never made any bad experience. That’s where I realized that there was a big gap between the perception people have about Nigeria from the news and the way Nigeria really is. So I decided it was high time to start a project that would change people’s view of Nigeria. And what better way to do that than to show examples of how hard working, successful and positive Nigerians are. That is how Nigerian Heroes came to life. But this project is not only meant for foreigners. It should also change the way Nigerians see themselves. Because never before have I experienced such prejudices and mistrust amongst people from one nation. Igbos, Yoruba’s and Hausa’s see themselves as individual groups in such a strong way, that up till today some voice out that Nigeria should be divided. Coming from Switzerland, where different “tribes” are, living together peacefully, I think that the best way to unite the people is through education. Teach them that we are all humans, we all have problems and in the end, we all want peace, love and happiness. I hope that portraying Nigerians from all corners of Nigeria will help change the way Nigerians see themselves and make them proud of their nation.

What is the criteria for being a Nigerian Hero?

Everybody can be a Nigerian Hero. Of course you have to be Nigerian. But other than that, there is no criteria. Everybody has an inspiring story to tell, you just have to make them talk about it.

 Who and what inspired you on your path?  

Well I could not mention anybody in particular. But I am inspired by people who believe in themselves and are willing to pursue their dreams no matter the difficulties they face.

What’s been the response to Nigerian Heroes? 

The response has been wonderful. People really like the project and the idea behind it. But it has been hard getting people to talk about themselves. I hope that with more publicity, people will better understand the aim of the project and find it easier to open up and share their story.

What’s the next step for Nigerian Heroes? 

My goal is to make NigerianHeroes a platform where anybody can “nominate” a Hero. As for now, I am myself actively getting in touch with Nigerians asking them to tell me their story. But I hope that in the near future people will get in touch with me instead, whenever they meet somebody that inspires them, so that the person can be portrayed and inspire even more people.

 What haven’t you done yet that you would like to accomplish? 

We are planning to move to Nigeria within the next five years so that our children can see Nigeria as their home and not just a tourist destination they travel to once a year. I am really excited about it and I can’t wait to start packing my bags!

 Where can people connect with you on social media? 

You can find NigerianHeroes on www.nigerianheroes.com, on Facebook: www.facebook.com/nigerianheroesblog, on twitter@Nigerian_Heroes. Any nominations of NigerianHeroes can also be sent to me directly to nigerianheroes@outlook.com

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So imagine my delightful surprise knowing how much Janine loves Nigeria, wants a positive image of the country and is finding a way to do it.  We need more people like her.  Thank you Janine.  Wishing you more success with Nigerian Heroes.  Keep walking your path to greatness.

 

Fourteen Years Later

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It was Tuesday. I had just taken the orange line train from New Carrollton Metro station to Rosslyn into work. I was just two months into my new job. I loved my boss, the work was all that I had thought it would be – fast paced, writing proposals, managing projects and in a few months, I would be going home for my wedding. Life was good.

Until I left the office a few minutes after getting in to walk down the hallway to the restroom. A lady who worked in another office on the same floor, was running towards me shouting “There’s been a bombing!”

It was Tuesday, September 2001, and everything changed. May the lives of those killed continue to rest in peace.

Where were you at 8:46am, Tuesday, September 11, 2011?

TOSINGER: Organically Singing

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 “Tosinger’s music is afrosoul/afrofolk, a genre of original, authentic and inspirational lyrical content for the soul and spirit, with an incorporation of her African heritage and aura, through the use of ethnic vocalisms and her yoruba language in strategic places. Her music is an expression of ambient sounds and uplifting messages delivered on a contemporary platform. Mostly organic, with a preference for minimal instrumentation and a folksy/jazzy feel, her vocal essence & sound has been uplifting messages delivered on a contemporary platform. Mostly organic, with a preference for minimal instrumentation and a folksy/jazzy feel, her vocal essence & sound has been described as soothing and calming reminiscent of Miriam Makeba, Sade Adu and Tracy Chapman.”

About Tosinger

 I am Tosinger. My full name is Oluwatosin Taiwo. A daughter of a medical doctor father and a broadcaster mother, first born and sister to 3 siblings, wife and mother of 2, and an Artist. An Inspirational Afrosoul/folk Singer-Songwriter and Artpreneur. An uplifter of hearts through the Arts.

 I am from Ogun State, Nigeria, born at UCH Ibadan, Oyo State in the mid 70’s and grew up in Abeokuta, Ogun State. I attended primary school at St Bernadette’s Private School, Abeokuta, secondary school at Abeokuta Girls’ Grammar School and later the University of Ibadan for a B.Ed in Communication & Language Arts (1998). I later went on for a postgraduate degree in International Relations from the Nottingham University, UK in 2002 and recently another MA in Arts Administration from the Savannah College of Art & Design, Atlanta. I am currently resident with my family in Atlanta, Georgia doing my music and my creative freelance business on the side dba Dreamweavers Entertainment.

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What motivated you to start singing?

 As a little girl, I discovered I could sing when my maternal grandma (the late Mrs Georgietta Abeke Adesina, a well-known educator and eclectic artsy catholic woman in Itesi, Isale Ake, Abeokuta who is also of a Republic of Benin origin like the character in your bookJ) who I lived with and was very close to; during the earlier years of my childhood (about five – seven years old), took me along to her church choir rehearsals at SS. Peter & Paul, Ake, Abeokuta of which she was a member of. I was the only little girl amongst all the older people in the choir. She surrounded me with her singing and her radio was constantly on 24 hours a day, exposing me to all styles of Yoruba traditional music of the time. Hearing people tell me I had a beautiful voice motivated me to sing more and be more confident on the stage.

I started treading my musical calling path in church and in the later years, as a worship leader at the University of Ibadan’s Victory Christian Fellowship. I started taking music seriously (i.e. professionally) after my Masters in the UK when I attended the School of Creative Ministries at IBIOL (International Bible Institute of London) in 2003. There I realized my wider artistic strength and potential (beyond the church walls) even more and this afforded me diverse outlets of expression and experience. I relocated to the US in 2003 to join my husband and after I had my second son in 2007, I felt ready to launch out and share my musical talent with the world so I started writing and recording my songs about a year later.

  tosinger covertosinger pic Organically Singing was released in July 2015. 

Here’s a free download of a song from the album
Here’s a sampler of the album that can also be included if you want
Congratulations on your many accomplishments.  Tell us what or who inspires you?

Thank you.  I am inspired by God and His creation, nature, family, life events and experiences and observing inspiring people. I also have a passion for the African continent and I am inspired by her people and her culture.

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 What have been the most challenging aspects of what you do?

 Without hesitation, the most challenging part of what I do will be the financial aspect. As an independent artist with the kind of niche music that I make, it is difficult to self fund and market a full music project without the support of a well-established label/company that can leverage their investment and network. Doing it all by oneself despite the indie tools that are available can be very daunting and overwhelming.

 Good music yes, but how shall it reach the right audience if they never hear it? This sometimes triggers low points and frustrations which make it easy for one to give up.

But my passion and faith keeps me going, if God is in it, He will always make a way where there seems to be no way.

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For people looking to get into singing, what do you advise?

If you have the talent of singing, please don’t hide it. Do something daily, no matter how small, that aligns with your dream or gives your talent an outlet of expression. Train and develop yourself as you go as well. Learn new things. Use your gift, the more you give, the more you receive. Consistency is the key. Never stop, keep going. Never give up, keep pushing.

  Where can people buy your music and how can they reach you?

 I just released my latest project, my debut album titled ‘Organically Singing’Original and fresh music of a soulful vibe and inspirational lyrical content with an incorporation of Afro musical flavors, a sublime vocal delivery with a sprinkle of the yoruba language. A healthy musical serving with a nostalgic ambiance. It is available on cdbaby, itunes, google play, amazon and any other digital outlets online. You can also order and reach me on my website at www.tosinger.com. I am on Twitter and Instagram as @Tosinger and on Facebook as TOSINGER – www.facebook.com/tosingersings.

I also blog at www.tosingersblog.com

 What’s in the horizon for you?

 My vision is to impact the world positively through my music and art. This is the journey I am on today. With God’s grace, I will continue to beautifully dream and positively do.  Greater things are on the horizon. I will conclude with my favorite scripture: Proverbs 4:18 — “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day”

 The Debut Album- Available July 2015 on iTunes, CDBaby, Amazon and all other digital outlets. Physical copies are available on www.tosinger.com

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Tosinger has headlined  various musical concerts and  worked with both national and international musicians including Lagbaja.   She organizes the annual Afrodreamfest, a musical event spanning a few days at the end of May.  It brings together Afro jazz/soul musicians and lovers of all things Afro music.  The next one is coming to the Washington DC area in 2016. (YES!! for selfish reasons). For more information visit www.afrodreamfest.com

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Tosinger is an indie artiste who, despite the odds, is getting her music out and living her passion.  She inspires the soul. She’s definitely walking  her path to greatness.IMG_8151

 

Kemi Macaulay-Newman: Mompreneur and Lover of Life

“It’s important to have a laser focus, start small and ramp up otherwise you’d have your arms around everything without really grasping anything.”

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Kemi Macaulay-Newman, CEO, House of Botori

Featured in Magazines –  Pregnancy & Newborn Registry Guide, April, 2014, M Magazine, Woman’s World, Bay Area Parent, Boston Parents Paper, Look East Magazine, Luxe Tentations –   and on television, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of House of Botori is more than an entrepreneur.  She is a go-getter who takes time to also enjoy life.   Here is Kemi Macaulay-Newman, who is also the founder of 9jamom.com.  Be Inspired.

 Who is Kemi Macaulay-Newman? 

I’m a quirky fun-loving geek. I LOVE life, and living it to the fullest is my number one priority. Nothing gives me greater joy than new experiences especially culinary and travel experiences. I’m a voracious reader who loves dancing, swimming, bicycling and generally any outdoor activity; name it and I’m game as long as reptiles are excluded.

I run an Information Security and Privacy Consulting Company advising Government Agencies and Private Sector organizations on leading strategies for protecting their sensitive information, minimizing exposures and overall management of information security and privacy related risks.

 My creative side is not to be left out as I launched a line of diaper bags a few years ago – House of Botori .  I’m blessed to be mom to two amazing boys and married to my number one ace and bestie.

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How did you get started with the House of Botori ?

 I founded House of Botori after my first son was born because as a new mom, I found it difficult to find unique, functional accessories to suit my particular style. House of Botori was born from the desire to merge individuality and functionality without sacrificing fashion – our durable and practical line features diaper bags, lunch and work totes and everyday bags made from African and our signature African-inspired fabrics.

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Ginika ToteThe Ginika Tote – Moms and Celeb moms favorite; featured in Pregnancy and Newborn 2014 Spring/Summer Guide

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Tima Lunch Bag

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The Eneehi Nursing cover – featured in Pregnancy and Newborn 2015 Buyers Guide.

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 What has been the most challenging aspects of what you do?

 The biggest challenge was wading through the waters of manufacturing a line of products – going from conception to design and delivery. It was such a steep learning curve because it’s   a completely different field. I’m a Tech girl who had a great idea I thought would be so simple to execute – create diaper bags using African fabrics. Then I had to learn about fabrics, difference between a zipper and zipper pull, regulatory testing requirements, shipping, product photography, PR versus marketing while figuring out channel distribution. I’d have to say hands-down getting the right manufacturer has been the most difficult part of this process.

 Realizing the impact of order minimums and pricing products correctly to remain competitive and profitable is another challenge. And in all ofthis, ensuring one stayed within the retail schedule – while my products are versatile year-round, it’s important to be able to have samples completed and ready to ship within the applicable season – For instance, we’re launching children’s backpacks and the back to school and holiday gifting season are very important.

 Another major challenge has been making sure to stay focused as I have millions of ideas running through my mind at any given time. In this business it’s important to have a laser focus, start small and ramp up otherwise you’d have your arms around everything without really grasping anything.

  What’s in the horizon for you?

Very excited about expanding our line with an upcoming launch of House of Botori children’s backpacks and lunch bags. We’ve ramped up channel distribution support and will be kicking off a major philanthropic effort that’s close to my heart. House of Botori gives back a portion of our proceeds to support Sickle Cell Awareneess initiatives and we are in the process of launching a campaign that will increase awareness dramatically and raise funds for a non profit organization that provides a lot of support to the community.

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 Where can people connect with you on social media?

Facebook – facebook.com/housebotori

Instagram/Twitter – @houseofbotori

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Kemi in Paris

Kemi’s doing it all and walking her path to greatness. Proud to know her and wishing her all the best.

Meaningful Success

Of late, I noticed people embracing a new type of success; success that carries others along; the success that gives back and uplifts others.

StarI haven’t posted any musings in a while.  These are usually unconnected sporadic thoughts, flashes, rants, eureka moments. I have spared you these.  :-)

 I’m happy to report that in my quiet moments, I’ve done a bit.  I completed the draft of my collection of contemporary short stories.  The exercise has taught me the discipline that brevity warrants.  There’s a skill to being brief while getting the message across. One of the short stories was featured in Brittle Paper http://brittlepaper.com/2015/08/appointment-nike-campbellfatoki/. I hope to bring you more exciting news about the short story collection soon.

 The French e- copy of Thread of Gold BeadsUn Fil De Perle d’Or – is coming out this August via World Reader.  It’s been many months coming and I can’t wait to share it with French readers, especially my Francophone Africans.  I fell in love with the cover, made by Victor Ehikhamenor.  He made the process effortless.  Is there any competition for best book cover, anyone?

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Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of taking on a new project. This came about when I began to ask myself what really is success? Meaningful success, that is. The popular definition always has monetary value associated with it – the top ten richest people on a magazine’s list, the top 100 most influential people in the world, the 100 Most Beautiful People (how this is determined, I don’t know). To others, it’s being infamous, having their names out there for any reason.  Of late, I noticed people embracing a new type of success; success that carries others along; the success that gives back and uplifts others. I wanted to celebrate these ones. Especially the ones who look like me, and make me proud to be African.  The media doesn’t go out of it’s way to do this.

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Our Paths to Greatness was created to celebrate the accomplishments of Africans, dispelling the myths of our great continent and inspiring many to go after their dreams (be you white, black, brown).  It’s time to tell our stories, shout it from the roof tops. If we don’t, no one else will.  A Facebook group and page was created and it continues to grow daily. It is also on twitter @OptgAfrica and Instagram @OptgAfrica

 Leading Africans – Archibishop Desmond Tutu, Buchi Emecheta, Flora Nwapa, Stateman, Kofi Ananan, Angelique Kidjo, to name a few, have been featured- with great feeback.  Young leading Africans like Ishay Sesay, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Qudus Onikeku, Ola Ojewunmi, Akon, Malebo Gololo, Kimberly Anyadike (youngest black female pilot), Abisoye Jemiyo – are not left out. Visit the page to catch up – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Our-Paths-to-Greatness/788904837871778

  OPTG’s vision is clear. OPTG will continue to bring the message that Africa is made up of bright, articulate minds, with one goal in mind – advancing Africa.

Thanks to all those I’ve reached out to, to become a part of this movement. In the next few months more information on the organization’s activities and how you can be a part of it wherever you are hill be shared.

 Meaningful success to me is contagious. It has to affect another’s life positively.  It’s the barber who goes on the streets to give free haircuts to the homeless, it’s the volunteers at the homeless shelter serving others, it’s the rapper equipping African towns and villages with electricity, it’s the teacher using his/her hard-earned money to buy school supplies for students who don’t have.

What’s meaningful success to you?

Malebo Gololo: Making Her Mark in the World

“We live in societies that if we are not true to ourselves, someone else will determine the truth for you and that sucks! How sad it must be to wake up every day knowing that you are not at peace with who you are.  You become an imposter in your own life.” – Malebo Gololomalebo 4

You’ve been described as “Inspirational Speaker, Empress Regnant, Thinker on Development and identity, Soul Whisperer, Supershero,” tell us, who is Malebo Gololo?

I have been through quite the journey and have experienced much light, colour and darkness to a point that sometimes I never know where to start when asked to tell my story. I will therefore not attempt to tell you all my adventures and only choose that which come to mind. First and foremost, it must be known that I am an extremely spiritual person and therefore God is and will always be the basis of everything I do. I am a proudly Afrikan daughter of the soil who took a while to realise how glorious her continent is.  I remember my first trip to Europe and I would get asked where I was from. I would proudly answer “Johannesburg” making sure that they understood that Johannesburg was separate from the rest of Afrika. That was up until Biko happened to me and the rest is history.

“I am Afrika and Afrika is me. She sought me and teaches me to bleed for her Renaissance.”

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My childhood is a bit of a blur mainly because of what happened to me. I did not view my existence through the lens of those who were around me. They saw a beautiful confident young leader whilst I was locked up in a world of unworthiness and self-doubt. This was mainly because I was sexually violated at a very young age. I dealt with this through overeating and disappearing into an imaginary world. I became overweight because of this overeating which caused more self-image/esteem problems, adding to the issues I was already  dealing with.   

Being raised by selfless parents ignited a spark I had inside for humanity. For the longest time I can remember, I have always wanted to become a SuperShero (Based on all the cartoons I used to watch and the imaginary worlds I would often disappear off to). When I was 10 years old, I was part of a peer facilitation programme which certified me to facilitate life skills to my peers and even those who were older than me. After high school, I ditched an opportunity to study engineering to travel around the continent and Europe as a youth development worker with a team of young people – oh what a journey. People loved us; we would speak, dance, teach sign autographs and even offer counselling. When we toured Germany and the surrounds, were a bunch of Afrikans setting the Europeans free – totally rewriting the Afrikan narrative.  

I have had the opportunity of teaching performance art and public speaking to hundreds of young community workers. I have taught at a remedial school and have lived and studied in New York. I dropped out of my programme in New York because I was home sick and I knew my heart was back home. Upon returning to South Africa, I enrolled at University of South Africa (UNISA) and worked for various American youth development programmes. I was then recruited into a corporate position in early 2008 (in an American company). Biko happened to me about the same time I got into the corporate world and this was a start of a revolution in my life. DSC_4902

I started a non-profit organisation called Soul Ova in 2005 which focused on emotional wellbeing and counselling. Initially it was geared at assisting women, but we were so popular and relevant that even men wanted in too. Soul Ova also got to run programmes in correctional facilities (prison) for five years. This was driven by the curiosity to discover and analyse the violent masculinity issues we have in South Africa. 

Struggling to balance my corporate and community work, and my new found consciousness, I resigned from my ever comfortable corporate position at the end of 2011. Although things were going great career wise in the eyes of an observer, it was not where my soul found peace.  I went into a mini sabbatical while pursuing my community work. That is when I found my home as a Thought Leader and Development worker.  I currently run a growth and development company where I offer speaking, MC services and organisational strategies for mostly non-profit companies. Because I found myself overwhelmed with mentorship requests, I started an online female development programme called Lady Leader. I am also involved in various projects and initiatives which speak to identity and development.

I have a learning disability where I struggle with focus and memory. I read a lot to make sure that my brain functions. If I do not do this, then I struggle.

I am a lover of knowledge and as a thought leader; I get invited to contribute about the socio-economic issues facing South Africa and the continent at large. This contribution is done through various channels such as media and events.

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You decided to move from the corporate world into social entrepreneurship.  Why? 

 Community work has always been in my blood and the corporate world became too costly for me.  My corporate work often required me to take my attention off my community work and this caused a huge void inside of me. I was unfulfilled and no amount of money could fill this void. I also realised that the corporate world literally controlled my life and I became a slave to it. When you are not aligned, you are most likely not going to be able to handle the challenges thrown at you. After honest conversations with key individuals I reflected on the type of life I wanted to live. I knew that what my soul hungered for was not found in the corporate space. It was a huge risk because when I resigned I did not have a plan.  I literally took a leap of faith. I usually tell people not to resign after they hear my story as we all have different circumstances to fall on after the resignation. I had a community organisation I could fall on and I was pretty self-actualised when I resigned. It is a different story for someone who has no clue about where they are going. Wisdom plays a huge role in this. 

Here’s a podcast on Malebo leaving her  job:  https://soundcloud.com/malebo-gololo/malebo-chats-to-pabi-moloi-on-power-fmabout-her-leaving-her-job

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I once attended a summit and a speaker quoted these words by Jennifer Brea “Many of Africa’s best and brightest become bureaucrats or NGO workers when they should be scientists or entrepreneurs.” This quote stuck with me as I realised that Afrika in its entirety has become NGO driven due to its dependence on the West and the narrative that Afrikans are always in need of help. If charity does not develop an individual, it cripples them. I did not want to become a disabler but rather a builder. I decided to change my language from community work to development work. My work focuses on developing the identity of an individual so that they could become conscious citizens who contribute to society in all aspects. One of the things that are close to my heart is to see individuals who participate in the economy.  If we do not develop the individual, then no amount of methods and programmes will solve the ills of our continent, especially given our history as a collective.

You wear many hats, how do you juggle it all? How do you prioritize?

All of my hats are interlinked so I don’t find that I have to worry much about juggling characters. I also do not work alone which helps a lot. Besides my assistant who keeps me sane, I have partnered with various individuals to make sure that most projects and initiatives maintain traction. I must confess though that due to my academic commitments and progression, I have had to learn to prioritise and focus on what matters the most.  This is because I want to make more time for my family and friends and probably start a family of my own.

What does your quote “although you did not apply to be born, the choice to live is yours” mean to you personally?

We all have a story to tell and life has somewhere served us a portion we believe is unfair. Some things happened not by choice but because of the families, communities and continent we were born into. The past therefore does not have to determine your destiny. I had every reason to stay angry at my violators. I had every reason to blame life for some of the challenges I have seen along the way, I had every reason to be some drug addict but I knew I would not get my cape and pen (a pen is mightier than the sword right?) if I did that, so I chose to live a life that is worth an adventure.

Who and/or what inspired you on your path?

My parents are my heroes and they have shaped me into who I am. They have allowed me to make decisions and learn from them. I am very close to my parents which is a blessing to me. After my parents, life and everything around me inspires me. I am very intuitive and my spirit is sharp which allows me to read deeper in a situation. This always allows a different perspective.

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You’ve done things that some people never get a chance to do in their lives – skydiving, motor bike racing?  Am I leaving anything out? What drives you?

Besides travelling to countless towns and living with diverse families around the world in my lifetime.  I have always sought to challenge stereotypes and limitations. Because of my self-image problems, I constantly have to remind myself of the immense possibilities within me. Because of the extreme nature of both sky diving and motor biking (and the cost implications), I had to choose one and I chose biking J  

What in your estimation is the single most important thing every individual needs to possess to succeed in life?

“To thineself be true” – Authenticity. We live in societies that if we are not true to ourselves, someone else will determine the truth for you and that sucks! How sad it must be to wake up every day knowing that you are not at peace with who you are.  You become an imposter in your own life.

 What’s in the horizon for you?

Short term: I am so broody – I really want to start a family; mainly to grow the kid’s afro but also for all the right reasons. I also want to finally publish one of the many manuscripts in my possession.

 Long Term: In 10 years I want to be a full professor and have established a leadership school for Afrikans, by afrikans via Afrika.

What haven’t you done yet that you would like to accomplish?

I would like to go on a three-month walk/bike ride around the continent with a bunch of likeminded people. And since we are a bunch of development geeks, a cause will be attached to the trip and we can’t leave out the blogging right?

 Where can people connect with you on social media?

I am very interactive on social media and enjoy connecting with like-minded individuals

On facebook: Malebo Gololo  

Lady Leaderhttps://www.facebook.com/ladyleaderInt?fref=ts

 On twitter: @malebosays and Instagram: malebosays

My Blog: www.malebosays.blogspot.com

Where I am exploring fiction writing: www.malebowrites.blogspot.com

 In closing I would like to quote Laurel Thatcher Ulrich – “Well behaved women seldom make history.” 

 Well Laurel, you are so right!!!!malebo 5

Malebo is a breath of fresh air.  She speaks truth, an old soul in a young woman’s body.  She’s been working her path to greatness for years. Expecting greater things from her. Keep walking your path to greatness Malebo!

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