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Aisha Aminu

The Side of Writing Nobody Tells You About

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Last Friday, I was riding the train home after a long day in New York City. I remember being tired and hungry and just wanting to go to sleep. As the train moved lazily through the night, I remember glancing out the window and noticing the abrupt absence of city lights. Fascinated, I put my face to the glass, trying to make out where we were and what the landscape looked like without city lights. Before I knew it, I was sucked into another world and it felt like I was flying through the night sky in another world or maybe another century. When I finally leaned away from the glass, the very first thing that came to my mind was: “I have to write about this.” That eagerness to share is the essence of writing. If you’ve never felt that eagerness, that rush of adrenaline that comes when you know you’re about to write something good then you really need to ask yourself if you enjoy writing at all.

There are two things that are the driving forces of any good piece of work: the technique and the emotion. Both are equally important in different ways. If your article or piece of work doesn’t follow a basic structure or even the basic rules of grammar then the emotional weight of your piece just feels like an awkward weight on your audience’s shoulders. Similarly, adding emotion and being able to provoke empathy with your work breathes life into your writing and transforms your work from mediocre to a masterpiece. However, you should be smart about how you pair these two elements.

When I started writing, I mostly tried to write pieces that came from a place of emotion. Although the pieces I wrote were good enough, I quickly realized that my creativity burned out quickly and my writers’ block lasted for months. I also realized that if I kept drawing on my limited life experiences, I would run out of things to write. So, I developed a system that still works very well for me; I started putting myself in my character’s shoes. I ask myself: “What would my character do or feel when faced with a particular situation?” This system allowed me to live life through their eyes, to feel what they would be feeling. The best way to write is with your head; emotional writing is like a burst of energy that gets you across the finish line but it’s logical writing that keeps you in the running.

There is a huge difference between a writer and someone that writes. For a writer, writing is more than a full-time job or a hobby; it’s a lifestyle. A writer brain is not something you can just turn off. Writing affects the way you live and even the way you experience and process thoughts and emotions. Writers and creatives in general live as outsiders looking into their own lives and it’s that feeling of isolation and self-awareness that allows us to be able to convey thoughts and ideas through our respective mediums. Writers often romanticize their suffering for the enjoyment of others. There is so much that goes into being a writer than no one can teach you. You can always learn to join words and phrases into coherent sentences but no one can really teach you how to be a writer. That process is something you must experience by yourself.

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Pop Culture June: On The Black President

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              Artist, activist, misogynist, revolutionary. These are just a few words commonly used to describe one of the greatest antiheroes to ever grace the face of the Earth. Fela Anikulapo Kuti was born Fela Ransome-Kuti in 1938 to Funmilayo and Israel Ransome-Kuti. He rejected Ransome as his name, calling it a slave name.  Instead, he took on the name “Anikulapo” which literally translates to “He who carries death in his pouch.” This name change represented his rebirth as a social justice warrior, his rejection of everything the “white man” represented and his disdain for anyone who chose to oppress his people and anyone who went along with said oppression.

              The 1970s saw a young Nigeria under military rule struggling to pick up the pieces of the Civil war and establish herself as a force to be reckoned with. The 70s also saw Fela and his band-The Afrika ’70-speaking out against the actions of the military government using a combination of jazz, funk, highlife, psychedelic rock and West African folk music that was dubbed “Afrobeat”. The masses loved Afrobeat; it was new, it different but most importantly, it was bold and Fela’s brand of bold was just what Nigeria and the world needed. Needless to say, the officials of the military government were not great fans of Afrobeat. Even though he was labelled a menace and a criminal, Fela’s steps didn’t not falter in the slightest and he continued to make his mesmerizing music.

              It wasn’t just the military government Fela spoke out against. He called out the complacent behavior of Nigerians just as much as he did corrupt leadership. He was the people’s greatest critic and champion. He openly criticized Nigerians’ blind faith in religion and their abandonment of their traditional culture. Nigerians were suffering and smiling and it frustrated Fela to no end to see once great African civilizations forcefully put together and reduced to sheep.  With that frustration, he wrote songs like “Colonial Mentality”, “Beasts of no Nation” and “Shuffering and Shmiling” that basically struck middle fingers in the face of the Nigerian public and government and the masses loved him for it.

             What do you do to someone who was woke way before it was socially acceptable, who married twenty seven women to make a statement, who rejected every symbol of oppression of the African people, who would not stop calling out the government that repeatedly threw him in prison, who formed a commune and a political party in his backyard, who was unapologetically himself all of the time? You call him “The weird one.” You give him his own Broadway show. You label him a madman. You make him an icon and a legend. Fela was one of a kind and the world knew it. He might have died a long time ago but the fire he lit in our hearts continues to live on as it will for years to come.

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