Unforgettable by Pages Matam, Elizabeth Acevedo and G. Yamazawa


Unison: Teachers used to say,

Speaker 1: “Your behavior is just like your last name… “

Unison: “Unforgettable.”

Speaker 1: In school, I learned a lot more about other people’s names rather than the one closer to my own, as if Matam

Speaker 2: Yamazawa

Speaker 3: Acevedo

Speaker 1: Were so much harder to say than

Unison: Tchaikovsky, Michelangelo, Eisenhower. Like our last names were made of barbed wire, stripping the flesh of those trying to conquer the meanings in their mouths.

Speaker 2: See, my parents names be George, but honestly, I always hated the name George. It reminds me of some

Unison: Old, dead, white guy.

Speaker 2: Being a young, alive, Asian boy, it was hard for me to make the connection.

Unison: I realized my first name didn’t match my background before I knew how to spell assimilation.

Speaker 3: I always wanted a name that set the bar high. That tumbled out of mouths. Somersaulted into a room and split the air. A name like Xochi, or Anacaona, but although I must have punched inside the placenta, my parents decided on something placid.

Unison: Elizabeth.

Speaker 3: A name for princesses, pampered women, and perfume. A name full of grace.

Unison: A name easily washed down with milk.

Speaker 1: Patrick, meaning “leader.” Etymology: Irish, and although I speak French, I am from Cameroon. (speaks French) I would rather a name that would make a throat swell into a song, rather than a sigh.

Unison: Your name is a song!

Speaker 1: Now, I call myself Pages so I can write my own story. It is the only name that I have ever owned.

Speaker 3: I wanted a name of Dominican hills rising, and campesinos uprising, instead of “Long-live the Queen,” but shortened my name to Liz so colonizers had less to hold onto.

Speaker 2: In Japan, your last name comes first. There’s an emphasis on family.

Unison: But in America,

Speaker 2: Your nickname comes first, because there’s an emphasis on accessibility.

Unison: Our parents had to dumb down their identity so our family could fit into a straight-jacket society.

Speaker 2: On countless occasions, I’ve introduced myself, and people would say shit like:

Unison: “But what’s your real name though? That don’t sound very ethnic.”

Speaker 2: You don’t look like a “George.”

Speaker 1: Or a “Patrick.”

Speaker 3: An “Elizabeth.”

Unison: That’s because my name wasn’t given to me. It was given to the rest of the country.

Speaker 1: Because when they hear names like George, Patrick, Elizabeth, what they hear is power, class, intellect. But names like Pedamante, Quvenzhané, Tatsunokochi sound like

Unison: Foreign. Impoverished. Illegal. What they hear is, “GO BACK WHERE YOU CAME FROM!”

Speaker 3: Your name is a dirt pit. It is a black hole, but what they don’t know is that black holes be the brightest source of light.

Unison: I’ve always wished my name was dressed in chain mail, that it was a heavy name, a thick-thigh syllable, shot down with short blades, so when I have my own children, I’m going to name them something special.

Speaker 3: Something to make people stumble on, and guilt-trip over.

Speaker 1: Something to make their skin a little thicker than mine.

Speaker 2: Something to remind their classmates of the last samurai instead of the first president.

Unison: Something real, real ethnic. Something unforgettable.

It Is The Change We Listen For

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Talk delivered by me at the International Conference of Nigerian Students, University of Hull, 04/04/09
Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I would first like to appreciate the organisers of this conference for giving me the privilege to speak at a conference where men and women of great standing have so ably spoken. I hope that I will be able to justify the confidence which they have placed in me.
I have been asked to speak about Nigeria, a country for which I have a great love for, notwithstanding the fact that it is the only country that I have. I do not wish to dwell on Nigeria’s problems of which it is accepted they are many, but on the strengths of this great nations.
I have lived in and travelled the length and breadth of the country, to the North-central, South-east, South-west, in all, about 16 states of the federation. I…

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The politics of charisma, charm and image and the reality of character and substance

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This is a piece I wrote a while back [2010], just contemplating democracy and the ‘populist’ coup in Egypt. Who will win the army supporters or the other supporters?

Funnily enough I started work on this piece before scheduling of general elections by the incumbent government in the UK. Due to my general lackadaisical nature and intrinsic laziness, I have been superseded by events and forced to change the tenor of the piece. In addition to this I would like to write it before the Second Coming so my efforts in piecing my disjointed ideas together would not be made completely redundant by the inevitable passage of time.

Even though we mostly profess to hate politics and the motley crew who administer and gain from its practice, we are ultimately fascinated by it and always drawn into an illicit relationship with it by the fact that we the people are…

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Stronger Than Hate

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The history of humanity seems to be defined by human eyes 

looking away… 

Looking away from dead bodies floating in the water, 

Looking away from p
eople trapped in steel cans, 

Looking away from dead bodies, 

Looking away from people turned to blood and bone, 

Looking away from people turned smoke and dust

Looking away, looking away from dead bodies… 

Always we look away, turn away, go on with our day, 

Guard jealously our plate…leave them to their fate… 

Let’s leave them to their fate, 

They died long before, 

Long before their breathing ceased,

Long before their blood was shed,

Long before the bombs and the fire,

Long before the waters bore them away,

They died from indifference much stronger than hate.


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The ‘Failed State’ as a Doubly False Categorisation of Nigerian Statehood

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MDG oil spill in Niger deltaNigeria has often been described by scholars, commentators, journalists and some statesmen as a ‘failed state’. This designation is based on a faulty appreciation of the understanding of what a state is in international law and what it means for a state to fail within international politics. This paper will examine the concept of failed states and explain why there is a conceptual error in categorisation and suggest further steps that need to be taken by Nigeria – its people and its leaders.
The Argument for Nigeria as a Failed State
Because states were ostensibly created for the complete security of those who live within that state, when its peoples’ security is not observed the state would be said to have failed; for example, the failure to protect human rights is a malfunction of state.
According to Kaufmann and Kraay the crux of good governance is ‘a capable state that…

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Africa My Africa by David Diop

David Diop was born in Bordeaux, France, of a Senegalese father and a Cameroonian mother.

Africa my Africa
Africa of proud warriors in ancestral savannahs
Africa of whom my grandmother sings
On the banks of the distant river
I have never known you
But your blood flows in my veins
Your beautiful black blood that irrigates the fields
The blood of your sweat
The sweat of your work
The work of your slavery
Africa, tell me Africa
Is this your back that is unbent
This back that never breaks under the weight of humilation
This back trembling with red scars
And saying no to the whip under the midday sun
But a grave voice answers me
Impetuous child that tree, young and strong
That tree over there
Splendidly alone amidst white and faded flowers
That is your Africa springing up anew
springing up patiently, obstinately
Whose fruit bit by bit acquires
The bitter taste of liberty.

Diop’s strongest poetic device in this poem is that of personification.  He infuses Africa with human qualities, and talks directly to her.  He reinforces her humanity with the images of “beautiful black blood… The blood of your sweat…. The sweat of your work …your back that is unbent .”