I know, I know. This must come as a surprise for you considering how I praised Chimamanda and expressed our new love. Well, everything I said about Chimamanda remains true. She’s still my BFF, and we are still getting married. However, there are some things I observed at the event that surprised me.
Let me preface this by saying that I may not be completely objective since (1) I am a book lover, and by default, I love book-related activities, and (2) I obviously love Chimamanda too.
All that being said, my disappointment was that in this event space that held about 300 people, less than 50 were Black. And even less were African and Nigerian. The event took place in Ellicott City, an area I am unfamiliar with, but if I had to guess, I’d say it’s predominantly white. Still, we are Nigerians. We are travelers. And we are movers. That’s why we are everywhere. Therefore, if Chimamanda was having an event in Third Hell and we wanted to be there, we would gladly burn beside her, so I don’t think our lack of presence had anything to do with the location.
Before the event, I was sure I’d go there and run into my people. I thought the place would be buzzing with my people – not because I thought Chimamanda did not have non-Nigerian/African fans, but because I thought that my people – Chimamanda’s people – would be first in line to celebrate with their person. But when I saw that the crowd consisted of mostly older white people, I began to wonder about us.
Here we were at a free event with one of the best writers- if not the best writer – to come from our country and continent in recent times and we were nowhere to be found. I don’t expect everyone to be a Chimamanda fan just because we share a country/continent/skin color, but I suppose I’m having a hard time understanding why we are not there to listen to a woman of substance. I don’t ever hear a buzz about Chimamanda’s books unless she says something that pisses the Nigerian community off. But when Toke Makinwa wrote a booklet about her shameless desperation for a man, people took screenshots and shared them, and some people called her their hero. I suppose I don’t understand why we celebrate mediocrity and shy away from intellectual people and conversation? And to be clear, this does not apply to all Nigerians/Africans.
On one hand, I was glad to see how much Chimamanda transcends race and culture, but on the other hand, I want to tag her and keep her for us only, make her exclusive to African blood. It makes me remember how the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Steve Harvey, and Kevin Hart have been accused of selling out and becoming too mainstream, but will black people support them enough for them to be where they are today? In other words, if they pandered to black people and if they only had black supporters, would they be where they are today?
And if our sister, Chimamanda only had Nigerian or African readers/supporters, would she be where she is today?