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Literature Month: Characters (The Real Heart of the Story)

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There are many components that come together to make a story. And in the diverse forms of media we have, different kinds of stories have various strengths and pulls; crime novels thrive on their suspense and mystery; action movies are defined by their set-pieces. However, in all this, there is one thing that I think you will find in most, if not all good stories: good characters.

So, you want to write a story. Not just that but you’re ready to wow the world with your mind-blowing plot, tear-jerking scenes or jaw-dropping panels as the case may be.

Well good on you! But before you start putting it all down, I just want to ask you something. Do you have your characters all planned out? I know you know their names. And that Jack falls in love with Lisa. But let’s delve deeper. What are their fears? Aspirations? Favorite colour? Favorite childhood memory? You don’t have to go down to the minutest detail with each character but I suggest you go quite deep with the main ones. Why? Because characters go beyond being the audience’s emotional connection to your story. Well-written characters are more central to a good story than you may think. Here’s how:

Plot: Characters are defined by the choices they make. The choices they make are defined by the people you make them. Robert McKee says that the more pressure there is on your character, the truer that decision is to their true nature.

A plot is the sequence of events or situations that your characters encounter. There is a marked difference between a plot that happens TO your characters and one that happens BECAUSE of them. Having a greater percentage of the latter usually leads to more compelling stories. You want the plot to happen because of in-character decisions they make.

Theme: Here’s one that many people don’t consider. Most stories are peppered with themes related to the moral or point the writer is trying to get across. While those themes will usually be explored in various plot moments, we learned earlier that good plot moments should be character driven. Meaning, the characteristics you imbibe your characters with should (where possible) tie into the themes being addressed. It would be really difficult to write a story that touches on the issues of sexism without characters that display sexist traits (that kinda goes without saying). However, this also means that you can have characters with values on differing sides of the same theme/philosophy and put them against each other. This creates memorable character relationships and encounters. That properly highlight the theme. Take for example,

Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus from Spider-Man 2. Both characters stand on opposite sides of a spectrum. Batman and the Joker in their order-versus-chaos game of chess, Captain America and Tony stark with their different understandings of how to best do their job. In many cases, the character becomes a vessel for conveying the thematic messages hidden in your text. Use that power wisely.

As I hope you can now see, your characters go beyond just the names on the page. If Jack is gonna fall for Lisa, we’re going to want to know why. If he gets fired from work, let it be because he skipped a meeting to buy her flowers. If your story deals with heartbreak and trust, maybe Lisa is the kind of person that doesn’t trust Jack or the nature of his advances.

Besides, I’ve noticed from experience that sometimes with the right characters, their actions play out organically and the story writes itself.

Now I think you’re ready to put pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard as is more the case nowadays). Your characters are ready to influence the plot and wet the eyes of audiences.

I suggest you do some research too. Check out your favourite stories and see if you can figure out:

-Seemingly minute character traits that somehow come into play
-The elements of the theme present in the characters
-The things that strike you as out of place for a character and why.

Happy writing!

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A Glimpse Into the World of Publishing

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When I started to write at the age of nine, I never imagined publishing. Writing was a coping mechanism for me; my family and I had relocated to Nigeria and I could count the number of friends I had on one hand. When the loneliness crept in, I would turn to words. I would put them together and write on things I didn’t know diddly-squat on, things like love, because when I showed my teacher and mother my works, their approval fed me. I was no longer an awkward nine-year-old girl; I was a poet. A creator. Some would even say a god.
Secondary school was filled with incomplete stories and hackneyed characters. They reflected what I read; white or biracial characters who had simple yet overly complicated lives; lives I could not relate to yet fantasised about. I shared my stories with friends, received their approval, and then flushed the story down the drain. No idea appealed to me enough to commit; I would get halfway into one and then BOOM! A new idea would appear, and I would embrace it wholeheartedly, forsaking the old for the shinier, flashy thing. Until it became old too. It was a proper cycle.
Then in the comfort of my mother’s room, I decided to write a simple story about a girl talking about the ups and downs of her awkward, weird life- a life I could actually relate to a bit too well. I saved the document as ‘Diary of a Misfit- will nit abandon’.* And I would start and drop, pick it up and drop, drop drop drop. It was supposed to be another failed relationship.

 

Then on February 4th, 2012, my mother called me. She told me that she had a publisher (my Uncle Ted had published with them) and that I should write about our experience of moving back to Nigeria (my mother had been telling me this since I was ten lol). I agreed, but on one condition- I had to publish Diary of a Misfit first. And so I wrapped up the story that night. And the ball started rolling from there, and my life has never been the same. All because I was given the opportunity to share my work, my world, my kingdom, my creatures.
There are so many opportunities, so many ways you can get your work out there. The resources are out there. It’s just a matter of you taking that first step. And that first step is not easy- self-doubt, lack of finances, lack of support can be crippling.

That’s why I’m here, to ease your mind. I’m going to divulge a few tips. Now, this is not an academic article, so feel free to correct me or take that step forward and educate yourself properly.

There are various options when you decide to share your work with the world. Either you simply post it on a website (i.e. blog) and call it a day, you create an e-book version and sell it online, or you go about the strenuous but rewarding process of print publishing. Personally, I am a fan of print publishing because it is harder to pirate, you can sell it on your own without paying commission, you don’t have to rely on royalties that may take forever to accumulate, and you can have proper events centered around the book that will generate publicity; in other words, your coin is guaranteed. Online publishing is nice because it’s cheaper, and let’s face it, we’re in a technologically advanced state; when NEPA takes the light and your torch is dead, it’s nice to know you can read a book on your phone or kindle. It all depends on you. Also, nothing is stopping you from doing both. I did.

If you want Nigeria to be your main audience, I would advise you to use quality Nigerian publishers. Yes, they exist. Check out the popular ones like Cassava Republic, Farafina, Quramo, Parresia etc. They’re a bit pricey, but then again, whatever is worth doing, do it well.
However, foreign publishers have good deals e.g. the two for one deal I managed to snag. But then again I had a very encouraging and financially stable mother. It all depends on your resources.

Now for e-books…
If you get a good publisher, they will handle that for you. The problem though is royalties- up till now (4/5 years later) I’ve not received online royalties because I’ve not earned a certain amount of money, which is very hard to attain because the online platforms take most of the money. But then again, that could be more from the publishers.
Amazon has this amazing platform called ‘Create Space’. Pay a small fee and voila- you have a book. I would also recommend ‘Okada Books’- a really nice, accessible and affordable way to share your work with the Nigerian audience. Check them out- you won’t regret it.
My ultimate advice would be to go through your manuscript (make sure you’re comfortable- not fully comfortable but comfortable enough to share it with raised shoulders), make sure you like what you see, start emailing publishers directly to see if there are discounts and research. Remember that you’re the star, but be willing to negotiate- man must eat lol.

There’s a lot out there in publishing; lots of ups and downs. But it’s rewarding because you are adding to the world of literature, sharing your art with people. You have no idea how a few words strung together can spark a revolution. Don’t cheat yourself out of the opportunity to contribute to society, and make nice coin while you’re at it.

If you have any questions, feel free to direct message me on @angelokwuosa, or drop an email at angelokwuosa@gmail.com
* I actually saved it as ‘nit’.
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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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Literature Month: How to Write a Good Plot

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A plot is the heart and soul of any narrative. It allows you to present your characters and how they react to the environment around them in a cohesive way. Think of your plot as a foundation; if your plot makes no sense, your story will crumble. These are a few tips and tricks that I have found especially helpful in helping me create good plots:

  1. Brainstorm:

Everyone’s writing process is different. Ideas for my stories come to me when I least expect them-like when I’m about to fall asleep. Not all these ideas are good and most of them never even make it past the brainstorming process. Brainstorming allows you to test the viability of your idea; if you’re brainstorming on a good idea, it becomes easy to develop the plot and characters. Similarly, a bad idea quickly falls apart during a brainstorming session. Brainstorming also allows you to connect characters and ideas, assign roles to your characters, form relationships between your characters and so on. Because I’m partially a traditionalist and partially lazy, most of my brainstorming happens in my brain but feel free to take a pen and paper to help you out with your process.

 

  1. Start with a basic plot:

When writing a plot, you might be tempted to come up with a convoluted or confusing one that makes you seem clever. Don’t do it. The best way to start a story is with a solid and basic plot. That way, you and your audience know what the story is about at its core. After creating your basic plot, you can add subplots and subtext to make your story complex. Remember, a basic plot allows your characters to shine. It’s okay if you want to write an Inception type story but keep in mind that Christopher Nolan worked on that screenplay literally for years before he chose to direct it. If your audience isn’t really sure what your story is about, they probably will not be able to relate to it or like it and your hard work would have been for nothing.

 

  1. Make sure your characters are relatable:

The reason why relatable characters are so important is because they keep your narrative grounded. They allow your audience to empathize with your story. Since reading books and watching movies can be regarded as stepping into the shoes of someone else, you want to give your audience shoes to step into. That way, it doesn’t matter if your character is an orphan boy in a galaxy far far away because the loneliness and longing that he feels can be felt by every single person who reads your story. Your audience might not understand the world that your characters come from but what they will understand are the emotions that they know all too well.

 

  1. Establish stakes:

As a writer, you should ask yourself: “Why should my audience be invested in this narrative?” It’s an easy enough question to ask but the lack of an answer can threaten your entire narrative. If you find that you cannot answer this question, ask yourself this: “What does my hero stand to lose?” Establishing stakes is key to any story because your hero having a goal means nothing if he doesn’t have anything to lose-be it his life, his money or even his mind. It’s important to note that your stakes don’t have to be life threatening and what your hero could stand to lose should be dependent on the situation that he is in.

This list is in no way definitive. There are many things that I left out that are also key to creating a good plot. This list is basically a summary of the common issues that I believe are easily overlooked when people try to create stories. I highlighted these issues because although they can be easily overlooked, the success or failure of a narrative is highly dependent on them.

 

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The Lottery of Birth

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I would begin this little write up with a quote by British philosopher Bertrand Russell “Men are born ignorant, not stupid. They are made stupid by education.”

What if I told you that almost everything you had been taught since you were born could be wrong? Before we can shape the world, the world has already shaped us. On the day we were born, many of us (if not all of us) were included in a never ending battle of US VS THEM. We were included in a family and slowly we begin to learn about what being a human means, who is in our family, who is not, what tribe we belong to, etc. Now the ideal point for a democracy is to determine who best to rule the nation. But many times what we see in the world is voters making irrational decisions based on racism, tribalism or trivial issues like that. For example in the last American presidential elections, what we saw was a battle of sexes, a battle of races, people put aside the idea of the best leader but rather just wanted someone who they could call their own in charge.

I mean it seems absurd that a man who wasn’t sure of his economic strategies was selected as the face of the so called capitalist party and in a liberal party, a woman who has been supporting the elite class of the nation was selected over a man who had more liberal strategies. But let’s come back home to our dear nation Nigeria. Tribalism continues to be a cancer which keeps on eating at the majority of all Nigerians. Quoting David Ropeik: “Tribalism is pervasive, and it controls a lot of our behavior, readily overriding reason.”

How do we expect to move forward when a Yoruba man can’t deal with the idea of an Ibo man being his president? I mean I think it is pure stupidity that people would rather an illiterate to a well-qualified person cause of his or her race, tribe, sex, religion etc. It is quite appalling that some people can actually utter statements like “it is my tribes turn to rule” with pride and confidence or when parents tell their children they can’t marry people because they don’t like their tribe. Let’s delve into another aspect of our lives that has constant turbulence. Quoting Sean O’Casey “Politics has slain its thousands, but religion has slain its tens of thousands.”

Religion could be seen as one’s explanation for the supernatural. What’s amusing is that many of us choose religions without knowing why? I mean most people practice their religion cause of their families, and they never bother checking whether this explanation of the supernatural actually checks up, but are prepared to spill blood at the slightest push. A study by Vexen Crabtree found out there is a positive correlation between violence and religion For example, according to the economist, in Nigeria from 1990 to 2007, 20,000 have been killed specifically in the name of religion. No wonder Robert Maynard Pirsig said that “When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called Religion.”

Now, here are situations that have occurred cause of religions which many at times claim they are preaching messages of peace;
1) 9/11
2) Mohammed Merah, a French national originally from Algeria, whose story was told by The Economist (2012). His Islamic beliefs led him to the wild conclusion that in order to be rewarded by God and thusly to live forever in paradise, he had to conduct a series of terror attacks in France. He did so, killing four adults and three children.
3) The mass suicide of the people’s temple led by Jim Jones cause of fear of an imminent apocalypse over 270 children died and over 600 adults. On the flip side, this apocalypse is yet to happen.

Now, this isn’t to say we shouldn’t be patriotic or we shouldn’t be religious or things like that. Religion, for example, gives people inner peace and tribes give some people a sense of belonging but I believe these things shouldn’t remove logic and rationality from our mind. I think Barack Obama sums it up properly in his congratulatory speech for Donald trump; “At first, we aren’t republicans or democrats but rather Americans.” Taking this a bit further, at birth we aren’t Americans or Nigerians or Yoruba or Ibo or Christians or Muslims. We are all human. We should always remember this. If we aren’t able to realize this I fear for where humanity is heading.

 

Twitter: @taiwopelumi

Instagram: pelumi.taiwo

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IBEJII

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IBEJII is a storyteller who uses folklore, metaphor and vernacular to clothe his music and deliver in a unique and sensitive manner. IBEJII seeks to explore, traditional Yoruba folk, Jazz, Dance, RnB, Juju among other genres.
Stunt Context:
The Stunt featured 12 models dressed in IBEJII’s signature outfit – a pair of dark glasses, wig and a linen tunic. The models combed various parts of Lagos including, Lekki, Lekki/Ikoyi Bridge, Marina, Awolowo way, Oba Akran, Yaba, Surulere, Alausa, Bourdillon, Opebi, Obalende.
Pedestrians and Motorists had different expressions and attitude towards the models. They expressed worry, surprise, joy, enthusiasm, wary etc.
 

Wearing his birth and musical roots as badge of authenticity, Ibejii’s essence is a fine balance of ‘Taiye’ & ‘Kehinde’ (both twins), the physical and the transcendent, timeworn and timeless, African vibe and international sound.

Part of his debut body of work, ‘Green.White.Dope.002‘ is ‘Afro-Retro’ and ‘Afro-Soul’ in one and a journey of self-discovery – a journey that embraces hope and promise, but also self-doubt and diffidence. Listen Here!

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A Close Shave

Bidemi for LL 3

It was the weekend of Thanksgiving. As an international student with little ties to the U.S, I had nowhere to go for the holiday, so I went home with my roommate, Osafa, who lived in Jackson Township, New Jersey. On the Friday of Thanksgiving, she invited me to visit her friend, Joana and her family. Apart from the fact that I wasn’t busy, I agreed to go because Osafa had told me that Joana’s parents were of Caribbean descent and I wanted to see how non Africans celebrated Thanksgiving.

When we got to Joana’s house, we were met with Joana and the family dog, Roger at the door. Combined with the fact that Roger was blind in one eye and the fact that I was bad with animals and a little afraid of dogs, he made me uneasy. Once inside, we were greeted by Joana’s parents. They asked me the usual questions: What was my name? What was my major? Where was I from? Once I told them I was from Nigeria, they were quick to tell me that their church had an outreach program for the needy with a church in Kaduna (a city in Northern Nigeria). I remember wanting to tell them that while this was all well and good, I did not know much about Northern Nigeria and I knew even less about Kaduna and I had only been there once. I also wanted to tell them that I did not feel comfortable with their association of Africa and Nigeria with poverty. But I didn’t. I ignored my instincts and the warning bells going off in my head. I reminded myself that this was polite company, where my opinion mattered little, especially over such a trivial matter.

Joana’s mother offered us food. They had macaroni and cheese, leftover turkey, pound cake and yams that reminded me more of sweet potatoes than the yams that I was used to. Still, it was a good meal. While we ate, Joana’s mother tried to start a conversation. Joana and Osafa were mostly preoccupied with their own conversation, so I was left to carry the conversation with Joana’s mother. Joana’s mother and I talked about many things. I tried to talk about things back home and relate that with the conversation. I wanted her to see that we weren’t that different and so far, I thought I was succeeding that. That is, until Joana’s mother asked me:

“So how often do you talk to your parents since they’re back in Nigeria?”

This was a question that I didn’t quite understand.

“Um…I talk to them every week, really. Sometimes we use Skype”, I replied.

“Oh. Isn’t that difficult though?”

“Not really. It’s just Skype”

“Well, where do they find a computer and internet to use? Isn’t that difficult?”

Honestly, the first word that came to my mind was wow. I was dumbstruck. This was someone that I thought I shared common ground with. This was someone who had just told me about her values and ideas, her childhood and even her experience as a student at a Historically Black College. This was someone who I thought really understood where I was coming from and here she was asking me if we had computers where I came from.  The first thing I wanted to do was painstakingly explain to her that if my parents could afford to send me to a college here without financial aid, it would cost twice the amount a regular student pays multiplied by whatever the exchange rate was, they probably had Wi-Fi, a laptop and phones. I really wanted to set her straight in the rudest way possible, but I didn’t. This was partly because I was still in shock from what happened and partly because I couldn’t be rude in polite company. Joana’s mother was the mother of a friend of a friend, so I had to regard her as the mother of a friend and I couldn’t really go off on my friend’s mother. Also, while I was still internally dealing with the shock, my brain had kicked into auto-pilot and I had continued the conversation like nothing happened. I remember explaining to her that Nigeria was more advanced than she thought and that was it. The rest of the night became a blur.

The first people I told were my parents. They laughed so hard and then my dad said: “I hope you set her straight”. For the next few days, the incident stayed on my mind and I found myself pondering on so many things. Why did Joana’s mother ask such a thing? Was she being deliberately condescending or did she make the comment out of ignorance? Did I respond appropriately to the situation?  Was I overreacting about the whole thing in general?

After a few days of mulling the near-disaster that was that Friday night, I very lamely, asked Osafa: “Did you hear what Joana’s mom said on Friday about the computer thing?”

“Yeah, Joana’s mom can be really stupid sometimes. Just forget about it. I was going to say something but you handled it pretty well.”

And there I sat, completely justified and satisfied by the fact that Joana’s mother had a tendency to be stupid about many things in general and that her comment had probably been harmless.

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The Generational Problem

Bidemi for LL 4

Earlier this week, I was poised on a couch with a cup of Teavana Peach herbal tea in hand, watching a television show that my friend had stumbled upon on Hulu about a 40-year-old woman who had lied about her age to land a job. Although the show’s premise was great and the show itself felt funny and fresh, it got me thinking about how millennials are portrayed and have become generalized in media and popular culture.

The standard definition of a millennial is someone who was born anytime from the early 80s to the very early 2000s. So it basically doesn’t matter whether you grew up before memory cards became a thing or after. As long as your birth year falls into the category, you are a millennial. If you do fall into this category and didn’t know about it until now, I would like to personally welcome you to the club. Now, let’s talk about how the world thinks you’re probably a Taylor Swift quoting, Beyoncé worshipping,  ironic

Now, let’s talk about how the world thinks you’re probably a Taylor Swift quoting, Beyoncé worshipping,  ironic moustache wearing, chai latte sipping, a non-binary delinquent who does nothing all day but tweet, plays video games and talk about the mystifying benefits of practicing tantra and drinking kombucha.

Now that is a very one-dimensional way to look at an age demographic that spans over twenty years and encompasses people from all races and religions but we use generalizations to classify groups of people we don’t really understand and the generalization mentioned above is what the word “millennial” has managed to conjure up. Having said that, it should not come as a shock that millennials are currently being blamed for destroying everything under the sun. According to God-knows-who, millennials have successfully ruined the American wine industry, hotels, the napkin industry, the Mc Wrap, the movie business, running, the Canadian tourism industry, crowdfunding, retailers, the golf industry, democracy, handshakes, the European Union, cereal, call center productivity, vacations, the Olympics, bar soap, America, office life, the Mexican internet, light yogurt, the Big Mac, gyms and grocers, to name a few things.

So, why are millennials taking the heat for everything? The answer to that question lies in some very long sociological discussions that could easily turn into a thesis paper but the short version is that millennials are not actually destroying everything, it only seems that way. As Karl Mannheim wrote: “The continuous emergence of new human beings…teaches us both to forget that which is no longer useful and to covet that which has yet to be won.” What the older generation sees as a destruction of everything they hold dear is actually just a new generation radically “forgetting” the ways of the past in order to make way for the future. It has always been done, it is just more apparent and may be more painful because of the presence of the internet and our constant need to document our collective experience.

I know this may be hard to believe but millennials don’t hold weekly meetings to plot how to ruin everything. The vast majority of us are just trying to make sense of the world we were unwillingly thrust into. So how about we stop blaming millennials for ruining everything?

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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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The Revolution Will not be Televised

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“The revolution will not be televised” is a song/spoken-word track written and performed by the legendary Gill Scott-Heron in 1970. Although the song managed to evade mainstream success and recognition, Heron successfully coined the legendary phrase that continues to have an impact on popular culture till today. My version of this song is a pastiche and an homage to the literary genius that Heron was. I wrote this piece using current pop culture references to prove that Heron’s poem is especially relevant today. Here’s a link to the original: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGaoXAwl9kw

You will not be able to stay home, brother
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out
You will not be able to lose yourself on lean and
Skip out for beer during commercials
Because the revolution will not be televised

The revolution will not be televised
The revolution will not be brought to you by Google
In 4 parts without commercial interruption
The revolution will not by brought to you by Netflix and
Will not star Jennifer Lawrence and Tom Cruise or Bugs Bunny and Madea
The revolution will not make you look five pounds
Thinner, because the revolution will not be televised, Brother

There will be no picture of you and Willie Mae
Pushing that cart down the block on the dead run
Or trying to slide that television into a stolen ambulance
There will be no videos of pigs shooting down
Brothers on Youtube
There will be no ad campaigns of Kylie Jenner
Strolling through a protest in a red, black and green liberation jumpsuit that she had been saving for the right occasion
The theme song will not be written by Sia
nor sung by Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift,
Selena Gomez or the Chainsmokers

The revolution will not be televised
Will not be televised, will not be televised
The revolution will be no rerun brothers
The Revolution will be live

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