I.AM.NOT.YOUR.STEREOTYPE (What I was About in South Korea)

I’m currently in South Korea, my first time in the beautiful Asian country and certainly the farthest I’ve traveled. The country is as fascinating as mysterious. I found myself in a universe that is completely strange to my Nigerian cultural filters. More so, my Lagos filters. As much as I try to view everything with a cosmopolitan and liberal lens, this country manages to put me at equal degrees of wonder and shock. I’ll save my drivel, hopefully, for a travel account.

On this trip, as a Nigerian, and I suspect too - against the backdrop of the recent story of the Nigerians nabbed by the FBI, I’ve had my fair share of being “profiled”. But, as a creative, I chose to respond to this in a way that passes the message that stereotypes are wrong and, hopefully, get people to have more positive attitudes towards others.

I thought, what if I made a T-shirt that reads: ”Not all Nigerians are criminals. Not all Koreans eat kimchi,” and wear it around for the remaining period of my stay? (PS: Eating Kimchi is a stereotype that Koreans generally contend with. I found this on YouTube). The front of the T-shirt will be in the Korean translation. The back, in English. And with a hashtag.

I reviewed the idea with some of my friends. Beside taunting me with jokes - one said I’m about to be donated to North Korea as burnt offering, they support the idea. One suggested that I include an image that Koreans can relate to. I was told about a Ghanaian guy, Sam Okyere, who, to my surprise, is a celebrity here. I emailed him. I’m yet to get a response. But since he’s a star - and a public property of sorts, I placed his face on the front of the shirt to expand the message to include all Africans. Hopefully, his goodwill will add to amplify the idea.

I spent the whole of today combing Seoul in search of plain shirts and a printer. I left Nigeria with a knee injury and I’ve since been in crazy pains. I had been scheduled for some rounds of physiotherapy. But I “escaped” the doctor after the first visit. I planned to continue when I return.

After finishing the printing job, I immediately changed to the new shirt. 

This happened. #IAmNotYourStereotype

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Now, walking down the street, I feel like half of the Korean population, the ones that manage to raise their heads above their smartphones, are gazing at me. I’ve been stopped twice already for random chitchats. Some took my photo. I may never know what happened behind my back, with the English translation.

Another friend, an ace creative director, is on this game too.

This may be a tiny effort in challenging & changing perceptions. I hope it goes in its way in making the world a more open and better place. 

Follow the account on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook before I start to share content - @not4stereotype

PS: But, errrm, my friends and family, please stay close to CNN, just in case. 🙄😝😎

Ta-Nehisi Coates Features on the Cover of Vanity Fair

I’m a fan of Coates. I like how he’s featured on the cover of Vanity Fair. I reviewed his book, Between the World and Me, here.

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Coates has been intellectually wrestling with the darker aspects of American history and policy for a long time. He wrote for the Atlantic for years, and when he published his standout essay “The Case for Reparations,” he announced himself as one of our most essential public intellectuals. While President Barack Obama was in office, Coates made a study of the 44th president, including interviewing him, and used that material in the collection We Were Eight Years in Power, which reflects on race, America, Obama’s presidency, and its immediate aftermath. This continuous intellectual engagement fed his nonfiction and fiction at the same time.

One of the reasons fame is so difficult for Coates to navigate is because he doesn’t hate himself. He knows who he has worked so hard to become, and he is proud of that. New York Times writer David Carr, his first editor, saw that he had talent and encouraged him early on, even though he wanted to quit. Carr, who died in 2015, had known Coates since they worked at the Washington City Paper. Coates has spoken affectionately of Carr’s occasionally aggressive support—Carr was known to chase Coates into the elevator yelling about perfecting story copy. (Coates will contribute the foreword to a forthcoming collection of Carr’s own work.) But the two became close friends over “a relationship built on the mutual interests of journalism, typing, and fun smack talk,” says Erin Lee Carr, who wrote a book, All That You Leave Behind, about her dad. “My father believed in T because he knew he would get there, that the writing demanded it, and it was up to the media landscape to take note. How lucky we all are that Ta-Nehisi kept going. What an incredible loss that would have been.”

 “I was good at two things,” Coates says. “Writing and driving.” He insists that before his big break, he intended to leave writing and become a taxi driver. “My wife was like—absolutely not. She was like—keep going.” He had stories to tell, she insisted. “She saw that in me,” he says, when he couldn’t see it in himself. She led him to nurture it, to embrace it, to hone it. When one of the most remarkable things about you has been born from your beloved’s estimation of you, from their vision of you, how can you not love what you are? How can you not love what those who love you have had a hand in ushering forth, fed fat on nectar through the winter in your life? How can you abhor the emergent self? How can you rend those wings and still the heart that beats beneath the downy, golden skin for fame?”

Link to article - The Beautiful Power of Ta-Nehisi Coates

It’s the International Friendship Day

The interns in my office devised a simple idea to mark the day. Everyone in the office will pick an anonymous friend from a pool and present him or her with a gift, today. They cleverly tagged it “Friends with Benefits”. The giver also stands to receive gift from an anonymous person who would have also selected from the pool.
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I had selected a female colleague and, Gosh knows, I had assumed it would be an easy thing to find a gift. After all, I have a sister that has, at various times, made me have contacts of hair vendors, makeup kit shops, female bags, dresses etc., on my phone.
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I called another colleague that I presumed may offer some intel on what may impress my “anonymous” friend. To my surprise, I was told none of my considerations made the cut.
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After spending the weekend trying to figure out what to present her, I just entered a shopping mall and requested for a Gift Card. That’s all. She can go and buy whatever she wants.
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And then.
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The person that picked me surprised me with a wine. Not just wine. A non-alcoholic wine. My current favourite wine (I change them based on discoveries). But the TOMA brand, with a quirky crucifix logo and its communion description, is an easy favorite. So this is a thoughtful present.
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This evening, or tomorrow morning, I shall be toasting to friendship with the blood on the cross!

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