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I left the classroom for opportunities where I could expand my impact to serve more people- Briana Urbina

American Born -Puerto Rican descent who loves everything about her culture, is a Councilperson for the City of New Carrollton, a community organizer; lawyer, teacher, and caregiver that always bring people together and advocate for justice.

Briana Urbina in an exclusive interview with Adewale Adenrele speaks about her growing up, experiences, challenges, and major responsibilities in her chosen career and political journey.

Below are excerpts:

Can you tell us briefly about yourself and your family?

I am a middle child with an older sister and a younger brother. My wife Laura and I have been married for 14 years. We became caregivers to my younger brother with special needs in 2012 and adopted our oldest son in 2016. We welcomed our youngest son in 2022.

Recently, you went on vacation, can you share the exploration experience and aspects of tourism you like?

I went to Puerto Rico, and we stayed in the town of Luquillo. It was a wonderful trip. The thing I enjoyed the most was the food. I am 2nd generation Puerto Rican and I love everything about my culture. We ate out every day, at different restaurants and we all enjoyed trying new foods and eating the staples I was raised with. We plan to one day buy property in Luquillo because it is a beautiful town and is close to many tourists hot spots.

Briana enjoys Puerto Rico with her two son

Tell us about your early childhood…Where did you grow up, who were the most memorable characters growing up, and what do you remember about your town/city during the time you were growing up?

I was born in the Bronx, NY, and raised in a suburb of New York City, Middletown, NY. I was primarily raised by a single father alongside my younger brother. Our sister is more than 20 years older than us, so she was not present in our day-to-day lives. I was a total tomboy and enjoyed sports. I still truly love sports. I was always outside riding my bike, going for runs, or shooting hoops in the driveway.

Who influenced you the most in life and why?

I have been most influenced or impacted by my brother Andres. He is a person with intellectual disabilities, and we grew up inseparable. I always knew there would be a day I would come to be his caregiver and expanding his access to opportunity has been my life’s work. I think growing up with a sibling who has a disability instilled a sense of justice and equity in my heart at a young age. I never wanted my brother to be excluded and I never understood the structural limitations our society has placed on people with disabilities.

You adopted your kids, tell us the process of adoption and your reason for adoption and do you wish to adopt kids from Africa?

I have one son who is adopted and one son that I carried. I would love to have more children, specifically a girl but for a variety of reasons, I think it unlikely we would adopt again. Childcare costs as well as the costs of adopting are the greatest barriers to us expanding our family. Sadly, there is no country in Africa that allows same-sex couples from the US to adopt. I did the research prior to becoming pregnant with my youngest because we wanted to adopt again but very few countries allow same-sex couples to adopt. If it were possible and affordable, we absolutely would have welcomed a child from Africa.

As a community organizer; a lawyer, a teacher, and a caregiver how were you able to combine all at a time?

How do I do it all? Not very well. I was a teacher from 2015-2017. I left the classroom for opportunities where I could expand my impact to serve more people. I still see myself as a community organizer in my roles as a Councilperson for the City of New Carrollton and as a lawyer because I am always trying to bring people together and advocate for justice. I have been at my current law firm for nearly a year, and I enjoy my work because the work that I do can have a lasting impact on my clients’ lives. I am honored to have that responsibility and I do not take it lightly.

Tell us your experiences, challenges, and major responsibilities in your chosen career.

I really struggled in law school. I nearly failed out twice. Even after graduating, my professors all warned me not to take the bar exam because they were certain I would fail. I studied 12 hours a day, 7 days a week for 12 weeks (only taking 3 days off) and I passed the New York Bar. I was the first student from my law school to do so. I have a lot of belief in my ability to succeed and I am a praying woman. Passing the bar is still my greatest accomplishment other than being a mother.

Briana and her wife Laura at her swearing-in

Discuss a time you faced adversity and how you overcame it, also how you handled an unexpected situation at work, actions you helped your team to succeed and what career accomplishment are you most proud of.

As a woman and a mother in the workplace, there are so many challenges. I had to quit my last job because they didn’t offer maternity leave. I have since found a workplace that has been truly accommodating to me as a mother and understands that you can’t schedule your children’s illnesses and school performances. Balancing it all is the struggle of a lifetime but I think it is important for my boys to see their mother and women in general who work hard, who are ambitious and who are educated. I really don’t have a story specifically regarding overcoming a challenge in the workplace but overall I want to work towards creating a society that values work/life balance and affords women equal access to professional opportunities.

In the past 20 years, the political space has achieved some of the most dramatic breakthroughs in the world. The number of female legislators on the continent has increased, would you consider yourself a politician someday?

I am a politician now. I was recently re-elected to the City Council for the City of New Carrollton. I was promoted to the position of Council Chair where I preside over a council that is all male, except for myself. I have great pride in my political success, and I aspire to continue to earn the confidence of my community.

Ethnic groups and tribes have customs and traditions that are unique to their culture. What do you like about African Culture? Have you been to the African Continent before?

I have been to the continent one time. I had a short visit to Morocco while I was studying abroad in Spain. It was an amazing experience and unlike any other traveling, I had done before. My oldest son is African American and he is really interested in all animals, native to Africa, so it is my dream to take him on Safari when both of my boys are older. As a Prince Georgian and native New Yorker, I have many friends from across the continent and I love learning more about the different cultures of their ancestry. As a woman of Puerto Rican descent, I value my own connection to the continent and have always seen the beauty of the diaspora across Latin America.

Amazing memories are unforgettable; can you share with us the most amazing memory?

I guess my most amazing memory was the day my son’s adoption was finalized. It was over Zoom and the Judge asked Javarie if he wanted to describe my wife and me to the court. He said, “Briana is the bad cop and Laura is the good cop.” When she asked if there was anything else he wanted to add, he said, “No.” Everyone on Zoom laughed and she made her ruling granting the adoption. I didn’t expect to get as emotional as I did but we all (Javarie, Laura, and I) cried. I will never forget how tightly I squeezed Javarie and how tightly he squeezed back at that moment. It will probably be my favorite memory forever and surprisingly was more impactful that the birth of the baby I carried. Being an adoptive mom is a completely different experience and he chose us as much as we chose him. The baby didn’t have a choice and so much of our bond is built on biology. Javarie was 8 years old when he moved in and it took years for us to be worthy enough to be his parents.

Briana, Laura and their sons Javarie and Luis.
Briana, Laura and their sons Javarie and Luis.

What advice would you give the younger ones?

My advice would be never to wait for someone to give you permission to do what you know you are capable of doing. Chances are, no one will give you permission to do what you can do. You can’t rely on outside validation and your driving force has to come from God, from hard work and your belief in yourself.

Thank you for sharing with ADM.

Thank you.


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African culture is characterized by a strong connection to nature, ancestors, and the divine- Chief Oluwole Ifakunle

In this exclusive interview with Adewale Adenrele, the World renowned Chief Ori Aare Ago Oluwole Ifakunle Adetutu Alagbede of Oyotunji African Village Shares his journey for over 35 years lecturing and teaches Ifa philosophy. his views about the transatlantic slave trade and how to change the narratives,  he also spoke about a media campaign programme to celebrate Yoruba religion, and how he established connections to something meaningful that represents our cultural past among other interesting issues.

Below are excerpts:

Researchers put forward a new narrative explaining the variations in African ancestry in the Americas and how these variations were shaped by the transatlantic trade, how have you and many others changed the narrative for development?

As a Traditional priest/researcher/teacher and a chief of Oyotunji African Village who has been actively involved in changing the narrative regarding variations in African spiritual tradition in America, and around the world, I can say that it has had a profound impact on my understanding of history and development. By putting forward a new narrative that emphasizes the role of the transatlantic trade in shaping these variations, I have been able to challenge and deconstruct existing Eurocentric perspectives that have dominated historical discourse for centuries.

One of the significant ways in which this new narrative has affected development is by highlighting the agency and resilience of African peoples who were forcibly brought to the Americas as slaves. It has helped me shift the focus from a narrative of victimhood to one that I can recognize the active contributions and cultural richness that African populations brought to the world.  They could not destroy our humanity. This has had a transformative effect on the perception of African diaspora communities and their role in shaping the social, economic, and cultural fabric of Americans.

Furthermore, my new narrative has led to a re-evaluation of social and economic disparities in  America, particularly those experienced by Afro-descendant communities. By acknowledging the historical context and systemic factors of racism, that have perpetuated these inequalities, I see policymakers and development practitioners are more inclined to address them through targeted interventions and policies. This shift in understanding has paved the way for initiatives aimed at promoting social justice, racial equity, and inclusive development.

In addition, changing the narrative has influenced academia, encouraging scholars from diverse backgrounds to engage in research and discourse that explores the complexities of African diaspora history and its implications for contemporary society. It has opened up new avenues for interdisciplinary collaboration and the exchange of ideas, leading to a more comprehensive understanding of the African diaspora experience and its lasting effects.

Overall, changing the narrative regarding African ancestry in the Americas and highlighting the influence of the transatlantic trade has had far-reaching implications for development. It has challenged prevailing biases, empowered marginalized communities, informed policy decisions, and fostered a more inclusive and equitable approach to social, economic, and cultural development.

The Yoruba language is spoken in the West African countries of Nigeria, Benin Republic, and parts of Togo and Sierra Leone, therefore constituting one of the largest single languages in sub-Saharan Africa. Yoruba is also spoken in Cuba and Brazil.  Does it mean that many people have their ancestral back in Nigeria?

Yes, the widespread presence of the Yoruba language in various countries across West Africa and the Americas, such as Nigeria, Benin Republic, Trinidad, parts of Togo, Sierra Leone, Cuba, and Brazil, suggests that there are significant ancestral connections to Nigeria for many people.

The dispersion of the Yoruba language and culture can be traced back to the transatlantic slave trade, which forcibly brought 40 million plus Africans from different regions to the Americas. During this period, Yoruba-speaking individuals were among those who were captured and transported to various parts of the Americas, particularly in regions with significant African diaspora populations.

A huge Yemoja/Olokun festival in which we all appeared on a program called “Hapi” Where we did the ceremony of “Nangure” at the sea for the cameras at sunrise for Olokun

The retention and preservation of the Yoruba language and cultural practices in Cuba and Brazil, for example, indicate the resilience and tenacity of Yoruba heritage despite the harsh conditions of slavery. These traditions were passed down through generations, forming the foundation of vibrant Afro-descendant communities in these countries.

It is important to note that while many individuals in Cuba, Trinidad, Jamaica, Brazil and etc. may have Yoruba ancestry, it does not necessarily mean that all Afro-descendant individuals in these countries have direct ancestral ties to Nigeria. Over the centuries, intermixing and cultural exchange with other African ethnic groups and European populations have contributed to the diverse Afro-Latin American and Afro-Caribbean identities present today.

However, the prominence of the Yoruba language and cultural elements in these regions indicates a significant historical and ancestral connection to Nigeria, specifically to the Yoruba ethnic group. The retention of the Yoruba language and cultural practices among Afro-descendant communities in the Americas serves as a testament to the enduring legacy and impact of African heritage on these societies.

 The 5th African Spirituality Conference attracts global participation and shows that a lot of people are acquiring knowledge across the world, how have you been advocating and sensitizing people about this?

As an experienced advocate and promoter of African spirituality, I have been actively involved in advocating for and sensitizing people about the significance and relevance of African spirituality in today’s world. I have been engaged in various activities and initiatives to raise awareness and promote the understanding of African spiritual practices and beliefs.

One of the primary ways I have been advocating for African spirituality is through organizing and participating in conferences and seminars. By organizing the 5th African Spirituality Conference, we aimed to create a platform where scholars, practitioners, and enthusiasts from across the globe could come together to share knowledge, insights, and experiences related to African spirituality. This conference attracted global participation, ensuring that diverse perspectives and experiences were represented, and providing an opportunity for people to acquire knowledge about African spirituality from various cultural contexts.

In addition to conferences, I have been actively using various forms of media to advocate for African spirituality. This includes writing articles, publishing books, and maintaining a strong online presence through websites, blogs, and social media platforms. By sharing informative and educational content, I aim to reach a wider audience and create spaces for dialogue and discussion about African spirituality.

Furthermore, I have been involved in community outreach programs and workshops, both locally and internationally, to sensitize people about African spirituality. These initiatives are designed to dispel myths, challenge stereotypes, and provide accurate information about the diverse spiritual practices and beliefs within Africa. By engaging with individuals and communities, I strive to foster understanding, respect, and appreciation for African spirituality.

Lastly, I have been collaborating with like-minded individuals and organizations to amplify our advocacy efforts. By joining forces with scholars, activists, artists, and spiritual leaders, we can collectively promote the importance of African spirituality and its relevance in contemporary society. Through collaborations, we can reach larger audiences, engage in research and publication projects, and develop educational materials that help spread knowledge about African spirituality.

Overall, my advocacy and sensitization efforts have been aimed at highlighting the richness, diversity, and significance of African spirituality. By organizing conferences, using various media platforms, engaging in community outreach, and collaborating with others, I strive to promote awareness, understanding, and respect for African spiritual traditions and their contributions to the global spiritual discourse.

There should be a media campaign programme to celebrate Yoruba religion, customs, culture, and tradition through spirituality in purity, with the aim to bring together a wider audience of Orisha devotees, traditional worshipers, and traditional and cultural institutions. Would you support this project, what do you like about African Culture and traditions?

As a practitioner of African spirituality, I wholeheartedly support the idea of a media campaign program that celebrates Yoruba religion, customs, culture, and traditions through spirituality in purity. Such a program has immense potential to bring together a wider audience of Orisa devotees, traditional worshipers, and traditional and cultural institutions, fostering a greater appreciation and understanding of African spirituality.

What I particularly like about African culture and traditions, including those of the Yoruba people, is their rich heritage and deep-rooted spirituality. African culture is characterized by a strong connection to nature, ancestors, and to the divine. It embraces a holistic worldview that recognizes the interdependence and interconnectedness of all beings and the importance of maintaining harmony with the natural world.

The Yoruba religion, with its intricate system of Orisa worship, offers a profound spiritual framework that emphasizes the relationship between humans and the divine forces or deities. I appreciate how Yoruba spirituality provides guidance through divination, rituals, and practices that promote personal growth, community cohesion, and the cultivation of a balanced and harmonious life.

African traditions and customs are also deeply embedded in community values, storytelling, music, dance, and art forms. They reflect a vibrant and diverse cultural tapestry that celebrates the unique identities and contributions of different ethnic groups within Africa. I appreciate the oral traditions that have been passed down through generations, preserving history, wisdom, and cultural knowledge, IFA.

Furthermore, African spirituality and traditions often prioritize communal well-being and social harmony. They promote values such as respect for elders, intergenerational cooperation, and collective responsibility. I find this emphasis on community and interconnectedness to be deeply meaningful and relevant in today’s fragmented and individualistic society.

Naming ceremony 2022
Naming ceremony 2022

By celebrating Yoruba religion, customs, culture, and traditions through a media campaign program, we have an opportunity to showcase the beauty, depth, and wisdom of African spirituality to a wider audience. It can serve as a means of cultural preservation, empowerment, and education, fostering pride and self-identity among African descendants and promoting cross-cultural understanding and appreciation among people from different backgrounds.

Overall, I believe that African culture and traditions, including those of the Yoruba people, hold invaluable wisdom and teachings that can enrich our lives and contribute to a more inclusive and spiritually nourishing world. Supporting initiatives that celebrate and promote African spirituality is a way to honor our ancestors, preserve our heritage, and inspire future generations.

Ooni of Ife, One of the foremost kings in Nigeria was hosted by President Lula, as the country unveiled some initiatives for the reunification of the over 100 million Afro-Brazilians via his program tagged “Back To Home”. How would you describe the visit and the program?

The Ooni of Ife’s trip to Brazil, where he was hosted by President Lula, and the unveiling of the “Back To Home” program for the reunification of over 100 million Afro-Brazilians, is truly a remarkable and wonderful initiative.  The Ooni of Ife’s ideas and the program itself hold immense significance and potential for fostering a stronger connection and sense of belonging among Afro-Brazilians to their ancestral homeland in Nigeria. By recognizing and honoring the shared heritage and cultural ties between Nigeria and Brazil, the program aims to address historical and systemic disconnections caused by the transatlantic slave trade. This initiative is wonderful! I think it acknowledges the importance of cultural and ancestral roots in shaping personal and collective identities. It provides Afro-Brazilians with an opportunity to rediscover and embrace their Nigerian heritage, strengthening their sense of pride, self-identity, and belonging.  Reconnecting Afro Brazilians, with their homeland, will help them to reclaim their culture, heritage, traditions, their language, and it would help to contribute to their overall growth and development as Africans in the diaspora. The program opens doors for meaningful exchanges. It promotes cultural diplomacy, tourism, and economic opportunities, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation between the two nations.

Furthermore, the “Back To Home” program has the potential to create a ripple effect, inspiring similar initiatives and dialogues across the African diaspora. It highlights the importance of preserving and celebrating African culture, spirituality, and traditions, not only in Brazil but also in other countries where the African diaspora is present like Cuba, Trinidad, and the United States.

Overall, the Ooni of Ife and the “Back To Home” program are remarkable and commendable. It is my hope that it will produce cultural, reconnection, pride, and empowerment among not only Africans. This is a strong step towards healing historical walls, and acknowledging both those who are in the diaspora, as well as those who remained in African borders. This program exemplifies the vision, leadership, and powerful unity that our Ooni is promoting.

As an African American of Nigerian descent, I can share my experience and perspective to motivate other Americans, especially Nigerian Americans, to join in promoting the Yoruba Cultural agenda and contribute to the socio-economic and political emancipation of our people globally.  I have festivals for the ancestors and the Orisha.  I have appeared on television programs like National Geographic and spoken at some of the top universities here in America and abroad like Harvard, Yale, Florida State, and more.

I emphasize the significance of cultural heritage and the power of reclaiming and celebrating our roots. By engaging in activities that promote the Yoruba Cultural agenda, we can foster a deeper connection to our Nigeria Yoruba heritage. This connection can instill a sense of pride, identity, and belonging, empowering individuals to take an active role in shaping their own narrative and contributing to the development of our communities.

Secondly, I would highlight the importance of unity and solidarity among African-Americans and Nigerian Americans. By coming together and working towards a common goal, we can leverage our collective strength, resources, and networks to effect positive change. By joining forces, we can amplify our voices, advocate for our interests, and create opportunities for economic and political empowerment on both local and global levels.

Speaking on National Geographic show with Morgan freeman 2017Season 2 episode 3 “The story of God”
Speaking on National Geographic show with Morgan freeman 2017 Season 2 episode 3 “The story of God”

I emphasize the role of education and knowledge-sharing. By engaging in the Yoruba Cultural agenda, we can deepen our understanding of Nigerian history, culture, traditions, and socio-political dynamics. This knowledge empowers us to challenge stereotypes, dispel misconceptions, and contribute to more nuanced and informed discussions about Africa’s in diaspora.

Additionally, I would highlight the potential for economic opportunities and entrepreneurship that can arise from engaging in the Yoruba Cultural agenda. By promoting Nigerian and Yoruba cultural products, arts, crafts, cuisine, and tourism, we can contribute to economic growth, job creation, and community development. Encouraging Nigerian Americans to explore business ventures, collaborations, and investment opportunities in Nigeria can also strengthen economic ties and foster mutually beneficial relationships.

Lastly, I would emphasize the transformative power of representation and the importance of inspiring future generations. By actively participating in the Yoruba Cultural agenda and promoting our heritage, we become role models and mentors for younger generations. We inspire them to embrace their cultural identities, celebrate diversity, and pursue their dreams with confidence. Our involvement can contribute to a more inclusive and representative society where African-Americans, Nigerian Americans, and other marginalized communities are valued and recognized for their contributions.

In summary, my experience as an African American of Nigerian descent motivates me to encourage other Nigerian Americans and African-Americans to join in promoting the Yoruba Cultural agenda. By highlighting the significance of cultural heritage, unity, education, economic opportunities, and representation, we can inspire others to embrace their roots, contribute to global development, and work towards the socio-economic and political emancipation of our people. Together, we can make a lasting impact and create a brighter future for generations to come.

African ethnic groups and tribes have customs and traditions that are unique to their culture. What do you like about African Culture?

I would argue that the question is somewhat unfair because there are numerous aspects of African culture that I deeply appreciate and find joy in as I express my cultural heritage. As members of the diaspora, we often have a strong desire to establish connections to something meaningful that represents our cultural past.

First and foremost, I must mention the vibrant and captivating traditional clothing. The colors used in African attire are truly remarkable, symbolizing royalty, pride, and a profound sense of identity. Wearing these garments allows us to embody a rich heritage, evoking a sense of regality and character that is truly awe-inspiring.

Additionally, the language and idioms within African cultures hold a special place in my heart. They possess a unique ability to convey simple ideas in ways that are deeply profound and thought-provoking. The manner in which these idiomatic expressions are used to articulate one’s thoughts and emotions is truly remarkable, capturing the essence of the African linguistic tradition.

Being a diviner myself, I cannot overlook the significance of the stories, parables, and rituals associated with African divination practices. These narratives and rituals are abundant and teeming with wisdom and cultural richness. They provide profound insights into the mysteries of life, serving as a source of guidance and spiritual nourishment. Engaging with these stories and rituals is both enlightening and enriching, allowing us to connect with our ancestral wisdom and heritage.

Playing the Drum at a Juneteenth Festival Ceremony 2021
Playing the Drum at a Juneteenth Festival Ceremony 2021

In summary, there are countless aspects of African culture that bring me immense joy and pride as I express my cultural heritage. From the splendid colors and designs of traditional clothing to the expressive language and idioms that encapsulate profound ideas, to the abundant and profound stories, parables, and rituals associated with African divination practices, each facet contributes to the tapestry of African cultural richness. Embracing and celebrating these elements allows us to connect with our roots and appreciate the beauty and depth of African culture in all its splendor.

African Development Magazine would like to promote your events, and reporting activities, will you give us this chance?

Thank you for considering African Development Magazine to promote my events and reporting activities. I greatly appreciate the offer and the opportunity to reach a wider audience through your publication.

As an advocate and practitioner of African culture and development, it is important for me to share my work and engage with like-minded individuals and organizations. I believe that collaborating with African Development Magazine would provide a valuable platform to showcase the events I organize and the reporting activities I engage in.

By featuring my events and reporting activities in your magazine, we can raise awareness about the initiatives I am involved in and promote the broader goals of African cultural preservation, empowerment, and development. It would also provide a means to inspire and engage others who share a passion for African culture and development.

I am excited about the prospect of collaborating with African Development Magazine and would be pleased to provide you with the necessary information and materials to highlight my events and reporting activities. Together, we can contribute to a greater understanding and appreciation of African culture, spirituality, and its impact on development.

Thank you once again for this opportunity, and I look forward to working with you.

Amazing memories are unforgettable; can you share with us the most amazing memory?

Participating in the African spiritual system has left an indelible memory in my mind—an experience that I consider truly remarkable. It was an honor to serve as an ambassador of IFA/Orisa for Korean peace efforts alongside world leaders of African spirituality and representatives from diverse spiritual traditions across the globe. This particular event stands out as one of the pinnacle moments of my involvement in global peace initiatives.

Through my journey, I have encountered countless stories that have shaped my understanding and deepened my compassion for marginalized communities. While I hold these stories dear, their intricacies and abundance prevent me from sharing them fully within this forum. Instead, I have made the decision to compile my experiences into a book, which will provide a comprehensive account of my perspective at that pivotal point in time. In the future, when the book reaches fruition, I will delve further into my viewpoint and extend the reach of my message.

What advice would you give the younger ones?

First and foremost, our African spiritual traditions are rich in wisdom, ancient knowledge, and profound connections with our ancestors and with forces of nature. These traditions have been passed down through generations, carrying with them the essence of our ancestors’ experiences, struggles, triumphs, and resilience. By engaging in Yoruba spiritual practices, we tap into a powerful source of collective memory and gain insights that can guide us on our personal journeys to fulfilling our destinies.

Participating in African spirituality provides a deep sense of identity and belonging. It connects us to our roots, reminding us of our heritage and the greatness of our ancestors who have shaped our history. It fosters a sense of pride in who we are and where we come from, empowering us to celebrate our cultural uniqueness. Embracing our African spiritual traditions helps us reclaim our narratives and challenge the negative stereotypes that have often been imposed upon us. Moreover, our spiritual practices offer us a profound connection with nature and the universe. African spirituality emphasizes the interconnectedness of all living beings and highlights our responsibility to care for our Mother Earth. By engaging in rituals that honor nature, we deepen our appreciation for the environment and gain a heightened awareness of our role in its preservation. In a time when our planet faces numerous challenges, our spiritual traditions can inspire us to become stewards of the Earth, advocating for sustainable practices and protecting our natural resources.

Preserving our African spiritual traditions is not only important for individual growth but also for the collective well-being of our communities. Our traditions provide a framework for social cohesion, fostering a sense of unity and solidarity among our people. They offer guidance on ethical behavior, justice, and community engagement, promoting values such as respect, compassion, and harmony. By actively participating in our spiritual practices, we contribute to the preservation of our cultural heritage and ensure that future generations have access to the wisdom and teachings that have shaped our identity.

Lastly, by engaging with our African spiritual traditions, we become agents of cultural revival and resilience. In the face of historical marginalization and cultural suppression, our spiritual practices have endured, carrying the flame of our traditions through the ages. By embracing and preserving our culture, we challenge the erasure of our heritage and assert our rightful place in the global tapestry of humanity. Our participation in African spirituality becomes a powerful act of decolonization, reclaiming our birthright and asserting our voices.

Thanks for sharing with us!

You are welcome.



Chief Oluwole Ifakunle is a World renowned traditional chief  (Ifa priest) /researcher/teacher with vast knowledge of African culture and tradition. He lectures and teaches Ifa philosophy. He was initiated into the Aboriginal Ogboni Society as Oluwo which is a society elders. Locally he is the head of “Iyadunni” Aborigine Ogboni in New York and he is the head of the “Egbe Parapo” Ancestral EGUNGUN Society of New York and New Jersey.

Ifakunle belongs to several Congolese lineages where he is known as (Tata Nganga) keeper of the secrets of the mysterious underworld.  He is an author, a storyteller, a diviner, a magician, a counselor, a chess coach, and a director of ceremonies at the shrine in HARLEM “Ile Omo Ope”. Just to name a few of his chief responsibilities.  At his shrine, he has a bi-weekly service focused on spiritual development, mediumship,  and reconstruction of an African spiritual mindset. He’s an experienced life coach and clinical hypnotist with over 30 years of counseling experience. He has worked with clients of all ages and various degrees and types of challenges. For the past 20 years, Baba has used his experience and background in public health to assist clinically trained social workers with children, adolescents, and their families. A long-time supporter of training our young people. Baba has shown his passion over the past two decades through his work with two community rites of passage programs. This passion is further evident through the various rites of passage programs he himself has been initiated to.

Chief has worked with organizations such as Harvard University, University of New Castle in London,  Hunter College (graduate school of social work), Florida A&M University, Florida State University, and the College of Nyack (graduate school) to mention a few. He believes in both spiritual and cultural diversity. He has sat down with the best of the spiritual world leaders at The United Nations and has traveled to Korea for a world peace summit.

He is educated, exposed, and has traveled far and wide.

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Health: “My aim is to help everyone live a sickness/disease free life through nutrition and diet counseling” – IJILADE

The role of a dietitian is to provide expert advice on nutrition, diet, and healthy eating habits. Dietitians are trained professionals who possess knowledge in the field of food and nutrition science. They work with individuals, groups, and communities to promote good health through proper nutrition.

Aroloye Ijilade Emmanuel is a dietitian and a graduate of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, University of Ibadan, He is almost on the verge of rounding up his one-year internship program at the University College Hospital, Ibadan. He’s a rare kind who passionately advocates for cultural awareness and mental health in nutrition and dietetics through assessment and counseling.  He assesses the nutritional needs of individuals or groups by analyzing their dietary habits, health conditions, and medical history to develop personalized nutrition plans.

The Ondo State-born indigene is an online explorer (Kdp Amazon Kindle publisher, freelance writer, and business trader. He works in clinical settings and collaborates with healthcare professionals to provide medical nutrition therapy for patients with specific medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, gastrointestinal disorders, and food allergies.

Dr.Ijilade is a passionate ambitious fellow who loves to embrace new opportunities anytime it surfaces. His common slogan in life is “Nothing is impossible for the Possible Mind”.

In this interview with ADEWALE ADENRELE, he shares his expertise in nutrition, the challenges facing the health sector, and the role of digitalization in the health industry.

Below are excerpts: 

  • What made you want to become a Dietitian comparing other areas of specialization?

Well, I can say that my configuration and passion from inception (my childhood age) have always been channeled towards Saving Lives. In my exposure at my first higher educational level (Polytechnic of Ibadan), I was opportune to study Food Science and Technology where I first had a scientific knowledge of how food is being processed from its raw form to its final consumable forms (For instance, Cassava flour being processed into fufu). This exposure further gave me the inner drive to dive into the Field of NUTRITION  at the Premier University, University of Ibadan where I was further grounded on the further functions of Food to man. Meeting the physiological needs of man via proper food intake remains a golden rule in Nutrition. Having fulfilled my Undergraduate requirement and become certified in the Field of Nutrition, I saw a need to cap it up by digging deeper into the World of Dietetics which shows practically speaking how every man needs a good diet in maintaining optimum health alongside good physical activity and exercise. So in summary, my main reason for choosing this field is nothing but “the inherent passion to see everyman live a sickness and disease-free life”.

After The Dietitian's Ward Round at Children Outpatient Clinic(CHOP) in The University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan (Shot taken around the CMD arena)
After The Dietitian’s Ward Round at Children Outpatient Clinic(CHOP) in The University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan (Shot taken around the CMD arena)
  • Kindly tell us the most challenging and exciting aspects of working in the healthcare industry.

The most challenging aspect of working in the Healthcare Industry is THE HIGH DEMAND IT TELLS ON THE BODY AND MENTAL STATE OF MAN. You might not last long in this field if you do not take your health seriously in terms of bodily exercise and good eating habits.  One thing many do not know is that the Medical system remains one of the very few professions that distinguish Intelligence from brilliance. Like I do tell some people anytime I am opportune to speak at an event; To be a good nutritionist, all you need to do is to read all manner of nutrition-related books. But that is not so with Dietetics. It is so easy to plan a meal for a growing-up adolescent using relevant nutrition facts but that’s not so with Dietetics. In Dietetics, you will be faced with the challenge of not just what type of diet to give the patient but much more ‘in what measured quantity should it be given to such diseased patient”. It is in Dietetics that “what you read in the textbook might be different from what you see in the clinical ward”. While a Brilliant mind would be quick to quote certain facts in procuring treatment just because he read it in a book to a patient whether in-patient or out-patient (which in the medical sense is outright failure), an Intelligent mind would be calculating in his mind what and what could be achieved diet wise after a thorough analysis of such patient’s bio chemical’s results (so he is always apt to details and never in a hurry to administer a nutritional intervention for such patient).. Another challenge in Nigeria which I actually ought to speak on but I might not want to dive into is the issue of Erratic Power Supply and insufficient Medical equipment to successfully run the hospital settings.

AND to the Part B of the Question, my most exciting aspect of working in the healthcare sector is the privilege of meeting with other Health Practitioners during WARD-ROUND CONSULTATION. This experience especially in The University College Hospital, Ibadan remains and will always remain evergreen in my archive. The truth is “you can be sincerely wrong in the field of medicine which therefore makes it a necessity to embrace knowledge always with an Open Heart”. Another interesting aspect that time won’t permit me to expatriate on is the privilege of “Teaching Industrial Trainee (IT students) what I have been taught and trained for by my Senior Dietitians”. 

  • Where do you see yourself within the next 5-10 years of working as a Registered Dietitian?

This question is actually more practical in nature. My next 5 – 10 years as a Registered Dietitian would be a highly demanding and explorative one. I can see myself filling some gaps in the world of medicine. The “how to go about it” is what is being daily unleashed by what I engage in as my daily routine (a few of my colleagues are all witnesses to my funny indoor life). I see myself being a Consultant to Special dignitaries in the affairs of Developed nations; giving my quota in bridging the SDG long-time challenges aside from many others. Please, I will like to pause it here (Smile).  

  • What role do you think digitalization has played in the healthcare industry?

I will say Thank God for Digitalization. I keep asking questions like “If not for Digitalization, how would we ever have known nations in severe malnutrition as Somalia, and Syria”, the constant development in disease treatment as heart transplants in nations such as South Africa have been made known to every specie(human) on earth via Digitalization. Digitalization has created the ease at which communication could be facilitated within intra and interstate. So the health sector has further converged uniformly just because of an interlink called Digitalization. 

  • What do you enjoy the most about working as a Dietitian?

One thing I love about being a Dietitian is that this field makes one use his brain. As I do say; there is a direct proportionality between being a Psychologist and a Dietitian. In other words, a good dietitian is a great Psychologist. Practically speaking, based on the number of patients I have counseled over time, I can confidently say that more than 50% of the Patient’s struggles have been decoded overtime by the logic of “saying out what the patient feels reluctant to say maybe so as not to feel ashamed”. A very good example if I can remember vividly was an Obese female teenager who came for counseling in our Medical Outpatient Clinic. Many of the Girl’s issues were more of indoor fatty consumables which her parents had no control over (reason best known to them). My first few minutes of conversation with her then seem so repulsive until I engage the hand tools of Cognition. You won’t believe it: the counseling lasts for close to 2 hours because a once reluctant girl decided to pour out her struggles to a stranger (ME being the Dietitian in charge) just because I made her see her problem as nothing “big deal in a quote” and secondly because I gave her alternatives to her commonly consumed fatty foods which she enthusiastically accepted. 

  • What is the most common misconception people have when meeting with you?

Everyone who sees me at first always has the common notion that I am a cook or “caterer” which is parallel to the truth 

@ International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Off Ojo Area, Ibadan
@ International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Off Ojo Area, Ibadan
  • Can you think of any client story in the healthcare industry that you are especially proud of?

Well, as per this I have quite a number. But one of them that I have come to appreciate so much is a GDM(Gestational Diabetes) Woman who took it upon herself to adhere strictly to what I placed her on diet-wise. She practically followed my advice by having a special notebook for record keeping of her random blood glucose level. By the time she left the hospital, her sugar level was something to be proud of. Another client is a Barrister who happens to also be a DM patient and he ensured he followed through with every of the diet recommendation given to him 

  • Nigerian Doctors leave to work abroad for higher pay and better working conditions, how do you see the healthcare industry in the next 5 to 10 years if this situation persists?

The current health care in Nigeria is not encouraging; however, it is never beyond repairs. Now that we have a new Government (which I think might be in power for 8 years), let’s hope that they take a concerned and committed gaze toward the health sector. However, if the situation of our poor health system lingers, then we can only see more deterioration in the health system in the next 5 – 10 years.  

  • What type of clients do you see most often while working as a Registered Dietitian?

Actually, there are two main diseased conditions that I have come to encounter since my practice as a Dietitian commenced, the first is Diabetes/Diabetes Hypertensive Patient, and the second is Renal Patient. In short, some of my colleagues have already tagged me as a Dietitian that specializes in managing Diabetes Patients while few tagged me as Renal Dietitian. 

  • African ethnic groups and tribes have customs and traditions that are unique to their culture. What do you like about African Culture?

One thing that still makes me not only love African culture but also to be proud to identify myself as an African is the Food Culture, taking Nigeria as a good example. I listen to a Sports Guy ( a footballer to be precise) recently (about 2 months ago thereabout) who claimed that the secret to his excellent performance on the pitch is the special African delicacy (fufu). So one thing that I can say I have come to appreciate in African society is the language of food that makes us unique over the years 

  • Amazing memories are unforgettable; can you share with us the most amazing memory?

Well, I am grateful to God that I still have My Both Parents alive (and this is not at all to say any ill to Single Parents, not at all). My Parents brought us up in such a way that everyone in the family will invariably have a favorite when it comes to food. So one of the most amazing memories I can ever think of is the Pounded Yam with Egusi soup we were brought up with. I am a Proud Ondo Guy, from Irele Local Government. So anytime our mum pounds (and sometimes our Dad) while we were still teens, we would go outside the house (veranda) and sit on a well-laid mat to destroy the mountain of this special delicacy. After which, our Dad will tell us stories (I really miss those days anyways); sometimes Tortoise, other times Hunter story and all. Also, there are times that our dad will ask us idiomatic/proverbial questions in relation to our deep Yoruba heritage. This moment shall live with me forever and I hope I would be able to teach my own family a bit of what I gained as the heritage from my amazing Parents.  

  • What is one piece of nutrition advice you would want to give to everyone?

My piece of advice to all my audience out there nutrition-wise is that “Be conscious of what you take into your gut (stomach) as food”. Like I do tell people (a lesson my loving mother taught us as children) is that “the easiest way to die is through food”. So please my fellow Mummies and Daddies, Brothers and Sisters, I will leave you with this simple word “WATCH WHAT YOU EAT”.

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[Interview] Awe Oludayo, Managing Partner, OS Concepts, Nigeria

Awe Oludayo is a business analyst with specialties in business process improvement, business process improvement and business process management. He’s the managing partner of OS Concepts, headquartered in Nigeria.

Please tell us about your company.

The OS Concepts is a Research and Management consulting firm with specialties in Human Capacity Development/Training, Agric-Business, Consulting (Performance Improvement, Information Communication and Technology (ICT) and corporate solution development and deployment). We launched operations in 2009 and today have clients all over the world. Operating out of the company headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria, we have been consistently contributing to making the Nigerian (and African) economy better by building a platform that improves the skills-set of Nigerians and Africans.

We have 3 subsidiaries, namely:

  • The OS Concepts Academy (Training, human capacity development)

  • The OS Concepts Consulting (Process Optimization & Improvement, Performance Improvement, Corporate Solution Development, and Deployment)

  • The OS Concepts Agric-Business

One of our services is a program designed for working-class professionals to switch careers from non-tech to tech without necessarily learning coding. Some of those skills that we teach (with exposure to live projects) include Business Analysis, Project Management i.e. Scrum Master (Software Project Management), UI/UX (Product Design), and Data Analysis & Analytics).

We also have substantial investments in the Agricultural sector in Nigeria, including developing Agritech solutions targeted at helping farmers in getting the best of their farming operations.

What is OS Concepts’ growth strategy for 2023?

Our growth strategy for 2023 is anchored on the development of new products to meet the needs of our market (after conducting surveys to gauge the market demands). We also plan to double our presence and investments in Agrictech. We also plan to expand to new markets this year. Even though we operate out of Nigeria, we have quite a number of clients from various countries. Our long-term ambition is to strengthen our presence in a few other countries, especially in Africa and Europe.

How do you perceive the 2023 elections will impact local business and the economy, if at all?

The impact will be huge (just like previous elections in Nigeria). Exacerbating that impact is the new CBN cashless policy that has led to a serious cash crunch in Nigeria.

What government policies can be implemented for companies to thrive in Nigeria?

There is an urgent need to simplify regulations, improve ease of business and harmonize the tax regime. The Government needs to develop policies that will address issues such as power supply, removal of consumption subsidies (fuel subsidy for example) and subsidize production instead.

What are the opportunities for Agribusiness and Agritech in Africa in 2023?

As a farmer, I have identified many opportunities for Agritech and Agribusiness in Nigeria. There are issues related to reducing farm wastes, removing logjams in the farm supply chain, solving storage problems, and solving problems with access to finance and quality farming inputs. The list goes on and on.

Any news or information from your organization you’d like to share?

We are better positioned now, with various service offerings to help young Africans switch to higher-paying careers without having to resign from their current job. These services provide the right knowledge base and experience necessary to triple your income within eight months.


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African Spirituality: I practice Reiki, use Tibetan singing bowl to help people release stress, pains, trauma and grief- Ndigo Washington

Traditional African healing has been in existence for many centuries yet many people still seem not to understand how it relates to Almighty God and religion/spirituality. Some people seem to believe that traditional healers worship their ancestors and not God. It is therefore the aim of this interview to clarify this relationship by discussing a chain of communication between the worshipers and the Almighty God. Other aspects of traditional healing namely types of traditional healers, training and partnership of traditional healers as well as the role of traditional healers in their communities are discussed. Also, it is noted that the services of traditional healers go far beyond the use of herbs for physical illnesses. Traditional healers serve many roles which include but are not limited to custodians of the traditional African religion and customs, educators of culture, counselors, social workers, and psychologists.

Ndigo Washington is a traditional healer, Reiki practitioner using her intuition, insight, and healing energy to help people release negative energy and redirect negative thoughts.  She helps clients/participants, “Recharge and Reset” by seeking to pinpoint the root of their stress, emotional pain, trauma, or anxiety. She offers practical tips to promote grounding, enlightenment, and positivity by using a large Tibetan Singing bowl where clients/participants are required to stand in and experience the impact of the sound frequencies and vibrations when the bowl is struck. This activity, in conjunction with using energy healing and insight into astrology and numerology (at times), enables her to assist clients/participants on their journey toward introspection, self-awareness, and purpose.

Some of her techniques include aura cleansing (smudge/sage); meditation and sharing information regarding chakras/energy centers. She recently partnered with four other holistic practitioners as they formed “The Healing Tree NYC”.  Ndigo is willing to travel throughout the five boroughs, to other states, as well as internationally.

Ndigo Washington is the founder of Healing Drum Collective and a percussionist who she plays congas, djembe, bongos, and other hand-held percussion instruments for over 25 years with an effort to train women and girls of color ages 12 and up the basic techniques to play drums. Her ultimate goal is to create an army of women drummers across NYC, other states, and internationally!! Ndigo is often called to offer libations and joined by female musicians and members of HDC, they perform at social/cultural events, spiritual ceremonies, protests, and rallies.  Ndigo has also accompanied bands, plays, and poets.

Occasionally, Ndigo joined Mama Patrice Ejuwa, Founder of the Healing Drumming Circle to offer healing drumming circles and workshops. They seek to use drumming to help women recover from anxiety or trauma and who are survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and police abuse. They also offer these same services to everyone regardless of sex, race, ethnicity or age (toddlers and under must be accompanied by an adult). Combined they have over 20 drums in their inventory and are willing to travel

In this interview with ADEWALE ADENRELE of African Development Magazine, Ndigo speaks about African Spirituality and how she had help people release stress, trauma, and grief using the healing drum, her entrepreneurial skills, and her signatures with the aim to make people think, question their beliefs, behavior and to celebrate their existence and connections to each other.  Some of her signature designs include: Africa is in My Heart, Black Love is Alive, Love is the Revolution, Sisterhood the Sacred Bond, and Have No Fear/Black Man is Here!

Below are Excerpts:

  • The 5th African Spirituality Conference attracts global participation and shows that a lot of people are acquiring knowledge across the world, how have you been advocating and sensitizing people about this?

It’s extremely important to expose people born in the U.S. as well as Africans born in the continent about our accomplishments both here in the US and throughout the diaspora. While we come from very diverse backgrounds and experiences there are values that we have in common. I seek to offer information regarding education, religion, and customs that bridge the gaps. I also seek to remind us that we’ve been educated based on European and Western belief systems and the importance of embracing African and Eastern viewpoints instead! I seek to promote and live my life according to principles, values, and a structure that aligns more with an African and Eastern belief system. Therefore, I live my life according to standards that ensure everyone is allowed to benefit and not just the individual. I honor and recognize family members who came before me. Therefore, recognizing the role our parents and grandparents played and making sacrifices so we could have a better life.

When it comes to lifestyle and let’s say Western culture. I strive to defy beauty standards that dictate Black women must “look like” European women in order to be defined as “beautiful”. I made a conscious choice over 30 years ago to wear my hair in its natural state. So I don’t straighten my hair nor do I use weaves or wear wigs. I use a minimum amount of makeup, mostly lipstick and I definitely do not use bleaching creams on my skin.

When African people born on the continent and people born in the Americas, the Caribbean, and throughout the diaspora are willing to see and accept our own beauty and intelligence our overall sense of self-worth and value will be honored, cherished, and revered! Similarly, when it comes to medicine, Western culture dictates that we take a pill and/or need surgery for our ailments. There are other methods that include using herbs, adopting better eating habits like a plant-based diet as well as incorporating yoga, meditation, mindfulness, sound therapy, and energy healing modalities to achieve balance and an overall sense of well-being!

The setup of Tibetan SingingBbowl for the conference
The setup of Tibetan Singing Bowl for the conference
  • There should be a media campaign programme to celebrate Yoruba religion, customs, culture, and tradition through spirituality in purity, with the aim to bring together a wider audience of Orisha devotees, traditional worshipers, and traditional and cultural institutions. Would you support this project, what do you like about African Culture and traditions?

Yes, I would support this type of project and campaign.

A lot of people born in the Americas and throughout the diaspora have questioned and sought answers regarding what we’ve been taught and led to believe about religion.

I can go as far back as my childhood and remember having a sense that something was “off” about the image of Jesus being portrayed as a European. This caused me to reject this image and seek answers. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I can across a book, “The Way of the Orisha” and a subsequent trip to Cuba helped me discover Yoruba.  Images of deities, traditions, and belief systems that are rooted in African culture and promote matrilineal customs are important to combat patriarchy and religions that seek to oppress others. While I respect religions that promote treating others with humanity and dignity, I’ve found solace in the teachings connected to Ancient Kemet. I aim to live my life according to the principles of MAAT. These two religions as well as the Akan tradition provide followers with a sense of pride. Stories, images, and portrayals of deities, Goddesses, Pharaohs, Priests, and Priestesses in the image of black people are something that must be nurtured and protected, particularly as a result of our disconnect from our motherland due to the Transatlantic Slave Trade!

  • Ooni of Ife, One of the foremost kings in Nigeria was hosted by President Lula, as the country unveiled some initiatives for the reunification of the over 100 million Afro-Brazilians via his program tagged “Back To Home”. How would you describe the visit and the program?

Ooni of Ife’s visit to Brazil promoting Yoruba culture for African People’s Peace and Progress Agenda is a “no brainer” for a country with a home close to 100 million African people. Brazilian President Lula embraced the Yoruba King recently and pledged to continue his commitment to building a bridge between the people from both Brazil and Africa. Ooni of Ife declared that Brazilian people will be able to build and reside in his homeland. While extending this opportunity, he also called for President Lula to grant direct access to Brazil to ensure trade, commerce, and cultural exchange between the two countries. History has proven that words uttered by world leaders and elected officials become rhetoric unless they’re backed by legislation and funding. A call for unity of African people worldwide is needed and urgent at this time. African religions and cultures have been dismissed, belittled, and overlooked for centuries. It’s time for African Spirituality to take center stage. As long as the voice of the working class people are included and are invited to sit at the table as plans are developed and implemented, that will be a true win and turning point in the history of bridging relations between Africa and Brazil

  • The Yoruba language is spoken in the West African countries of Nigeria, Benin Republic, and parts of Togo and Sierra Leone, therefore constituting one of the largest single languages in sub-Saharan Africa. Yoruba is also spoken in Cuba and Brazil. Does it mean that many people have their ancestral back in Nigeria?

The interest and increase of African people seeking to learn and speak Yoruba can be viewed as a conscious effort to return to one’s ancestral roots.

Language is an important aspect of promoting one’s culture. We’re witnessing a time in history where people throughout Africa, other countries like Cuba and Brazil as well as locations in the Caribbean and North America African and indigenous people see this language as a connection to the religion. We can conclude that indigenous and African people want to embrace their ancestral heritage and view this as a sense of cultural pride.

Mama Patrice and Ndigo at the 5th African Spirituality Conference
Mama Patrice and Ndigo at the 5th African Spirituality Conference
  • Tell us about your journey as Entrepreneur, what are the challenges you faced while doing this and how did you overcome them?

My journey as an Entrepreneur began in 2002 when I co-owned a shop in Harlem. However, I left and relocated to St Croix, US Virgin Islands in December 2002. I relocated there after a police abuse incident and I needed to recuperate. I was experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). I began writing poetry and that became my tool on my healing journey. I knew I would return to NY and I wanted to put some of my poems and signature statements on t-shirts. I connected with a friend to help with designing t-shirts. I returned to NY with products to participate in the International African Arts Festival (IAAF) held in Brooklyn, NY. As I began considering products, the same designer had a button-making machine. So I decided to include buttons. I now had my products on 3 items, i.e. t-shirts, bandanas, and buttons.

I was able to publish my poetry book and began performing my poems in 2007. Covering vending fees at events and festivals is often a determent for most Entrepreneurs. I was able to vend and sell my products at certain venues in exchange for compensation for performing. Another major hurdle was conducting business as a woman. Unfortunately in the business of purchasing t-shirts and using silk screen designers is dominated by men. There were times when men would cross the line and seek romance when all I wanted to do was conduct business. I was able to secure assistance from my sibling, my brother. He became a valuable and reliable source of support and assisted with creating marketing materials for me as well as with designing my e-commerce website.

  • With your vast experience in your brand and signature #Africa is in my Heart #Black Love is Alive #Love is the Revolution, how have you been able to impact others with training and empowerment?

I seek to impart a positive outlook on life, increase one’s self-esteem, and bridge connections between individuals. I recognize that racism, capitalism, and oppression have impacted Africans born on the continent as well as African Americans born in the US and in the Caribbean. For generations, there’s been a constant effort to divide people of color. So I aim to remind people to be patient with each other. I offer other possibilities and reasons why people behave the way they do. I emphasize that most of our education is rooted in Western culture and that it’s important to uphold African values that promote images and showcase people who contributed to society and history. I also remind people about the importance of living our lives and being family and community oriented as opposed to looking at life from the lens of an individual. As indicated by the belief Ubuntu, “I am because you are” becomes apparent. Lastly, I encourage folk to remember this phrase, “Hurt People Hurt, however, and more importantly Healed people, Heal People!”

Additionally, time constraints were the most challenging, finding time to be creative and juggle home life, work, and business goals was draining. Therefore, I made a conscious decision to leave my full-time job and dedicate my time to pursuing my business goals

Ndigo's signatures
Ndigo’s signatures
  • Have you been to Africa continent and what can you say about NIGERIA?

I’ve had the fortune and blessing of visiting our motherland, the African continent when I was in college. I was a student leader and several student leaders from colleges across the City University of New York (CUNY) were invited to participate in the first African/African American Summit in 1991. This Summit was promoted by Reverend Leon H. Sullivan. The goal was to bridge the gaps between these two entities and promote business and trade. The original itinerary did not include us meeting with college students and youth while we visited Senegal and the Ivory Coast. We pushed for this to happen and our requests were honored. Our trip also included a trip to the Door of No Return. This part of the trip was heart-wrenching, necessary and spiritual. I learned the principle as symbolized by the Sankofa bird. In order to seek a successful future, one must return to their last. Over thirty years later I know this trip was enlightening and a blessing. Every Black, Caribbean, and African American born must experience returning to our motherland and rediscovering our roots!

  • Amazing memories are unforgettable; can you share with us the most amazing memory

During my upbringing in Harlem, I remember as a child walking down the block with my brother, who happens to be 3 years older than me. For some reason we were stopped by the police and the police pushed him. I remember being vocal and speaking up for my brother. I must have been around 11 or so when this incident occurred. I’m certain this incident had a direct impact on my actions later in life. When I was in college, I became active in social justice matters and advocating for changes and speaking out against police abuse, misconduct, and killings.

  • Thanks for sharing with us.

You are welcome, Thanks.


ADM 2023


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Interview: US Senator Chris Coons on Africa, Leaked Documents

Top White House officials such as Vice President Kamala Harris and first lady Jill Biden have crisscrossed the African continent this year to implement what President Joe Biden has described as partnerships between the United States and African countries. And a range of U.S. government officials — including lawmakers — have also traversed the continent, doing lower-profile work.

VOA White House correspondent Anita Powell sat down with Democratic Senator Chris Coons, a longtime and frequent visitor to Africa.

“This is a continent of incredible potential and opportunity,” Coons, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and its Africa subcommittee, told VOA. “If we can work in close partnership with young African nations to address climate change, food insecurity, human rights, sustainable development, urbanization — some of the key challenges of this century — we can solve those problems for the world.”

Coons also spoke about his upcoming participation in a classified Senate briefing over the recent leak of more than 100 classified documents by a member of the U.S. Air National Guard.

Those documents covered matters with global impacts, like U.S. spying efforts around the world, assessments of the Russian and Ukrainian armed forces, and of China’s aerial capabilities and access around Taiwan, the democratic island that Beijing claims as its own.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

VOA: You recently accompanied the vice president on a multicountry Africa tour. What were the measurable, demonstrable outcomes of that and other high-profile U.S. visits to Africa this year?

Senator Chris Coons: The key goal here is to show up, is to engage, is to demonstrate that the United States is a trusted, valuable partner in public health, in economic development, in the transformation of the energy sector, in helping agriculture transform to combat food insecurity. The vice president, in the country that I traveled with her to — Ghana — focused on youth opportunity and entrepreneurship and creative enterprises, and the implementation of the Global Fragility Act.

She announced $100 million in investments to help stabilize Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, and Togo — countries in that I’ve also been actively engaged.

VOA: Let’s talk about Sudan. Yesterday, VOA talked to [former U.S. and U.N. diplomat] Jeffrey Feltman, who told us that the U.S. “got played” by both of the combatant leaders in Sudan. Is it time for Congress to break ties with the ruling military leadership in Sudan? Are you planning to author something on that?

Coons: This is something that had been feared for a number of weeks as relations between them got tenser and tenser. I have not given up hope that there is still a path toward an end to the violence, but we need to prepare for the very real possibility that Sudan is about to descend into all-out civil war. My concern is that this may quickly become a proxy war. I am talking with leadership here this week about our options for the path forward.

VOA: Kenyan media is reporting that you played a big role in bringing about an accord between President William Ruto and his nemesis, opposition leader Raila Odinga.
Can you take us into the room? What you did do, what you promised? And is the U.S. seen as a capable negotiator, facilitator, and guarantor in these sorts of disputes?

Coons: I had the opportunity to have, I hope, some positive and productive personal conversations with the deputy president, with the former prime minister, and with the former president, to just help them hear each other and to act as an intermediary. I think central is the path forward for the [electoral commission]. That is critical to there being in the future free and fair elections in Kenya.

My core message, frankly, to everyone I met with was: The United States is not trying to push any specific outcome or alignment of this government. We’re simply trying to help you hear each other and recognize that democracy is fragile, is difficult, and requires there being space for a legitimate opposition to be heard, for complaints and concerns about the economy about the election to be heard, and for the duly elected president of the country to be able to lead the country forward.

VOA: What are your intentions and hopes for the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief [PEPFAR] and the African Growth and Opportunity Act [AGOA]? Is there bipartisan support for continuing both of them?

Coons: I had a chance a number of weeks ago to visit Botswana, South Africa, and Zambia to look at their PEPFAR programming, to look at the history and the future of PEPFAR. I think it can and should be reauthorized. And it will get a strong bipartisan vote to do so.

It is expensive, but it has a significant positive and sustained impact. I think it shows the world — but in particular, the countries that principally benefit in Africa — that the United States is capable of being a great partner over many years to persist in what is a really critical fight that helps the whole world, but that particularly helps those at the margins — the poorest women, children, those who are immunocompromised — to live good and full lives.

I was closely involved in the last reauthorization of AGOA. I’ve seen the positive impacts it has on the ground in a few countries, principally South Africa, Kenya, and Ethiopia. It’s possible for many more countries to benefit from AGOA, to use it to export apparel or produce or manufacture products in the United States.

VOA: This intelligence leak has triggered a review of security protocols. You’re going into this classified briefing. What concerns and questions do you have?

Coons: This is a significant breach of American intelligence. And there’s clearly going to be accountability at the unit level, as well as for this individual who I expect will end up spending a significant amount of time in jail for these actions. If someone with this relatively junior rank and youth in our military can expose such significant secrets for such a callow and simple reason, it has to raise larger questions about the control that we’re exercising over the flow of intelligence products both within our military and across our government.

I’m expecting to hear what else has been learned about how this happened, what response there’s been, and how we’re going to better manage intelligence information.

VOA: And are you concerned about tightening information and the implications of that as the U.S. continues to fund expensive and sensitive efforts like the war in Ukraine?

Coons: I am optimistic that we can show that the oversight that’s happening both remotely and now in person on the ground in Ukraine gives us confidence that the money we are sending is being well spent.

In my visit to Kyiv last fall with Senator [Rob] Portman, we spoke to our ambassador there, some of the accountability teams, and the outside contractors that are providing insight into how our funds are being spent. And I’m so far optimistic that we’re going to be able to meet that mark of showing the American people that the money we’re investing in Ukraine’s defense in Ukraine, fighting the Russian occupiers, is money well spent.


Source: VOA

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I’ve helped my community to fight against racism and religious discrimination- Candomblé priest, Luiz Fernando Martins da Silva

Luiz Fernando Martins da Silva is one of the participants and a speaker at the 5th African Spirituality Conference which was held recently at African Institute Essex College, USA.  The Candomblé priest, lawyer, and retired professor of law describe the event as one of the best with a unique opportunity for him to dialogue with the global audience from the African Diaspora, who profess some form of African-based religiosity. He discussed the topic “Paths to Health, Mental, and Spiritual Well-Being in Brazil: The Fight against Religious Racism Committed against Religions of African Origin in Brazil”

In a chat with ADEWALE ADENRELE,  Luiz Fernando Martins da Silva said he has been active in the fight against racism in the Black Movement since 1990 and in movements in favor of religious freedom, especially Candomble which is an African-Brazilian religion combining African, Roman Catholic, and indigenous Brazilian elements. Specifically: the ceremony or dance connected with this religion.

“I started in 2000, and rose to the position of Ogã, and in which I confirmed myself in 2007, in the most sacred temple, in the City of Salvador Bahia.  As a lawyer and professor of law, I was able to help my community to fight against racism and religious discrimination. I ended up participating directly or indirectly in some of the best-known causes involving the practice of racism against black people, in causes in defense of affirmative action policies, such as quotas for black people, and also in causes aimed at protecting the exercise of the right freedom of religion for adherents or priests of religions of African origin.” He said

In this photo, taken between religious activities, on the left, we have mother Edelzuita de Omoloú, one of the most distinguished priestesses of Ilê Axê Oxumarê, in the center, me, Ogã Luiz Fernando, and, on the left, Equedi Inara.
In this photo, taken between religious activities, on the left, we have mother Edelzuita de Omoloú, one of the most distinguished priestesses of Ilê Axê Oxumarê, in the center, me, Ogã Luiz Fernando, and, on the left, Equedi Inara.

“And as a Law Course Professor for 25 years, mainly teaching about Human Rights, I was able to help train generations of lawyers who are sensitive to the need to combat the practice of racism, and all forms of discrimination, especially those practiced against religions of African matrix, such as Candomblé. I also had the opportunity to do the same things working within the Brazilian state, when I held the position of Ombudsman in the Presidency of the Republic, assigned to the Ombudsman of the Special Secretariat for Policies for the Promotion of Racial Equality of the Presidency of the Republic – SEPPIR-PR, in the management of Minister Matilde Ribeiro, in the government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, from 2005 to 2007”

While differentiating between the European and Western African belief systems, the priest said there are many, considering the various perspectives that the question allows. One is that the basis of the main European religions is centered on a written code covering mainly the Judeo-Christian traditions, the Holy Bible.

In Africa, however, the ethnic variety of the continent and the history of colonization and diaspora make it difficult to generalize the theme. Currently, the Abrahamic religions predominate in the African territory: Christianity, and Islam, with the so-called traditional religions, practiced, which vary according to the territory and ethnic groups, being their oral base.

The Yoruba religion, for example, is based on a belief system of the eponymous ethnic group currently inhabiting West Africa, mainly Nigeria. It is based on the idea of ​​a supreme creator, who reigns above the deities known as Orishás (Deities). Many Brazilian religions of African origin derive from Yoruba, such as Candomblé and Umbanda. Ancestors are also worshiped.

Luiz Fernando Martins da Silva also responded when asked if there should be a media campaign programme to celebrate Yoruba religion, customs, culture, and tradition through spirituality in purity by bringing together a wider audience of Orisha devotees, traditional worshipers, traditional and cultural institutions.

“I believe that this would be one of the most important good practices to overcome religious intolerance and favor the environment of religious freedom. In my country, Brazil, there are several national and regional laws favoring not only the fight against anti-black racism but also the contribution given by Africans who came enslaved for the construction of the Brazilian nation, as well as its traditions, cultures, and religions. Candomblé in Brazil has always influenced government officials to achieve these goals. The terreiro I belong to, Ilê Axê Oxumarê, based in the city of Salvador, Bahia, which has the spiritual guidance of Babalorixá Sivanilton Encarnação da Mata, better known as Babá Pecê de Oxumarê, is always meeting with the community that worships the Orixás, with government authorities, and even with the Academy, to claim rights and disseminate the religion, through lectures, meetings, and presentation of projects.

In the same vein, Luiz Fernando Martins da Silva express excitement over the visit of Ooni of Ife, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi (Ojaja II) at the Official launching of Annual African Religion Day (ISESE DAY) that was held inside the banquet hall at the President’s office in Brasilia, Capital of Brazil and was hosted by President Lula, as the country unveiled some initiatives for the reunification of the over 100 million Afro-Brazilians via his program tagged “Back To Home”.

Photo: Minister Matilde Ribeiro and I are speaking at one of the UN plenary sessions, in Geneva, Switzerland, at the aforementioned Seminar.
Photo: Minister Matilde Ribeiro and I are speaking at one of the UN plenary sessions, in Geneva, Switzerland, at the aforementioned Seminar.

I found this visit very auspicious, as very important. His Majesty, the Ooni of Ilé Ifé, brings with him many traditions, culture, and ancestral strength that we need in my country. His leadership allows them to open doors that would hardly open for groups or people in their countries. In Brazil, it was no different. He was not only received by the President of the Republic and his wife, but also by the authorities who head other State bodies, such as the Legislative Power, where he spoke. Ooni was also very well received by the African-based religious community, which is very diverse and regionally distributed, but mainly by Candomblé practitioners in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Rio Grande do Sul, and Bahia, where the Yoruba tradition is well established with strong initiatives like these create possibilities for religions of African origin to practice their rituals with assurance and freedom.” He said

While discussing tracing back ancestral links to Nigeria, the Candomblé priest also talked about the Yoruba language and tradition which is from the West African countries of Nigeria, Benin Republic, and parts of Togo and Sierra Leone, therefore constituting one of the largest single languages in sub-Saharan Africa. Yoruba is also spoken in Cuba and Brazil. “

In Brazil, Candomblé is made up of religious communities (called terreiros, roças, casa, etc.), which are distinguished by linguistic groups that we call “nations”. So we have Candomblé Angola, Jeje, Ketu etc. The so-called Candomblé Ketu, based in Yoruba, mainly from Nigeria, is considered the best known in Brazil. It is mainly practiced in the state of Bahia, from where it spread throughout the country, expanding mainly in the states of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Rio Grande do Sul. From Bahia to the Amazon Region, variations of Candomblé Ketu are practiced, with names like Xangô, Xambá, etc. The language spoken in the rituals practiced in these Candomblés is Yoruba, keeping due proportions, as it is transmitted orally. Ketu’s teachings are transmitted by the Babalorixás and Yalorixás through speech, who teach the initiates to worship the Orishas. Regarding the Egungun Call; of the rituals referring to the Eguns, the person responsible for the cult is called Ojé or Alpini, according to the hierarchical degree of the priest. This cult is more recurrent on the Island of Itaparica, in the State of Bahia, and the language used in the ritual practice is Yoruba.

However, the Yoruba language spoken in the Ketu Candomblés influenced the official language of the Brazilian State, Portuguese, due to the cultural strength of the religion, reaching the point of incorporating, definitively, countless words and expressions.

Luiz Fernando Martins da Silva said he is ready to support, promote and publicize African Development Magazine in Brazil, among partners in the government, in civil society, among Candomblé militants, priests, supporters and among academics. He stressed further that he had some works that were recorded in journalistic articles or published in electronic magazines or in e-books. And also that he had represented the Brazilian State at a UN Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, in 2006, accompanying the minister of my country that I served for 2 years, dealing with the repression of crimes of racism and anti-Semitism on the internet.




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My priority is to advocate for betterment of the residents – Councilman Ric Gordon

The council is generally the legislative branch of the city government, as well as its policy-making body. The council also looks into the city’s goals, major projects, and infrastructure improvements, such as community growth, land use, finances, and strategic planning.

The fundamental role of a councilman is to serve the interests of their community as a whole. In the event of a conflict between the public interests and the private interests of the councilman, the overall public interests must prevail.

Ric Gordon is a councilman that represents the city of Greenbelt, MD, USA. He was born on September 19th, 1982 in Prince George’s County, Maryland, USA. He is a product of Prince George’s County Public Schools. Ric graduated from Morris College in 2004 obtaining his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and also did Pre-Law with a Minor in Psychology.  Ric went on to his Master’s Degree in Public Administration.  He grew up to love politics when he was 10 years old and he has been involved in serving the public for over 30 years.

Ric is a practicing political scientist who serves in various organizations throughout Greenbelt. For instance, he served as the chair of Greenbelt Voices Rising, the former Vice Chair of The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board for Greenbelt, and the former Vice President of GATe TV; to name just a few. He is a proud member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc and Prince Hall Freemason. He is also a publisher, author, and speech writer.  He is a community activist that has held various voter registration events and community rallies against community violence. He is an advocate for his fellow residents of Franklin Park to the extent that he clamored for their needs and concerns between the property management and the city of Greenbelt. He currently works at the United States Department of Transportation under the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the Office of Defects & Investigations (ODI).

Councilman Ric Gordon lives happily with his wife Carla J Gordon,  4 Kids and 5 Grandkids, and their dogs Nix, Maxx, and Marshall, they reside in the Franklin Park Community in Greenbelt West. One of their daughters is a twenty-two-year-old Zandra Muldrow who married to Naval Shipman Damien Muldrow and they have one child named Josiah Markel.

Councilman Ric Gordon had an exclusive interview with ADEWALE ADENRELE and shares his humanitarian experiences, love for politics and public services in assisting residents with their day-to-day concerns as well as his views on equitable development to effect change on a local level.

 Below are Excerpts:  

 City Council requires a significant time commitment, usually 2-4 meetings a month, as well as reading prep prior to meetings. How do these activities fit in with your other commitments?

Actually, we meet 2-4 times a week. These meetings do not include other organizations’ meetings which I am part of in the community. For me, all these activities are part of what I used as my rallying cry (The People’s Work 24/7).  Since I was 10 years old, my love for politics and public service has been a dream of mine, so I see it as every opportunity to live my dream. I properly calendar each commitment to balance with my life as a husband, father, and grandfather.

 What do you believe is the role of the City Council in the community?  

Our job is to advocate for our residents, our county, and our state. Also, my job is to make the best decisions as possible for the betterment of all the Greenbelt residents. We are here to help, guide and assist our residents, with their day-to-day concerns. We lead them in the right direction for the best solution through various community organizations. As for myself, I held various community events over my nearly two years on the council which provide over 400 Backpacks and school supplies, food boxes, and countless books, toys, and home supplies for residents.

 Do you think you have any personal or professional relationship that could become a conflict of interest while serving as a Council member?

I can say NO with total confidence because I have learned early to keep my personal life separate from my political life because I work hard to make sure that all decisions that I made were in the best interest of my constituents not for myself.

 What is your approach to handling controversial and complicated issues?

My approach is simple, I talk to the people and seek their thoughts and share my thoughts with them. This brings a great dialogue that leads to a common ground solution on most issues.

What have been the most challenging and the most rewarding aspects of leadership for you?

The Challenging thing in most leadership roles is that every decision you help to make and pass is not going to please everyone, but the most rewarding aspect of leadership is the smile that glows on residents’ faces when you are serving them, be it through food box, toys or supplies giveaways.

What skills and experience do you have that you believe would be beneficial to you as a Council member?

My experiences through life have helped me to become a better servant because I know what it means to be unemployed, homeless, and dealing with life struggles. This helps me to understand those residents who are struggling because I have been there before and lived it too. My communication skills and is a very open person help me to relate and build a cordial relationship with the residents of my city.

Based on what you know about City government, what do you see as top priorities for the City and why? 

We currently have several priorities in our city such as ARPA projects through government funding which allows us to offer Scholarship Programs, First Time Buyer Programs, Childcare Vouchers, Medical Vouchers for low-Income Families, and the upcoming City Budget and the continuing historic reparation commission.

At the most simplistic level, a councilman acts as a representative like you but what are your responsibilities? And also tell us your plans for the people you represent.

My plan continues from what I have already been doing and that is The People’s Work 24/7. My plans are to continue giving all of myself to the residents of Greenbelt, by serving with every fiber of my being and continue to give a voice for those that feel they don’t have a voice.

The council also looks to the city’s goals, major projects, and infrastructure improvements ranging from community growth to land use, finances, and strategic planning. What are your contributions in this regard?

I continue to suggest continued economic and sustainable growth for our community through the resolutions and the budget I have helped to pass to give our city the economic boost that it needed.

African Development Magazine would like to report your activities; will you give us this chance?

Yes, I would be honored.

Amazing memories are unforgettable; can you share with us the most amazing memory of yours?

My Amazing moment was meeting The First Black Governor of Maryland West Moore and attending his inauguration.

 Thank you for sharing with us.

Thank you.


ADM 2023

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International Day of UN Volunteers: Nigeria’s Ebiboderi Opukiri advocates for peace

Tell us a bit about your background.

I come from a large family and we’re quite close. My inspiration is my mother—she was the best administrator that I know to date. She passed away some 8 years ago but till now, she guides everything I do in my life through the values and principles she passed down to us. I owe her everything.

Could you explain what your job is and what is the impact you have on the ground?

As an Administrative Officer for the UNMISS Field Office in Western Bahr El Ghazal, I get to work a lot on the logistics and operational side of ensuring that our peacekeepers are fully on track to help build community confidence. I build relationships with a lot of in-mission interlocuters and I also help ensure staff welfare. It’s very interesting because I get to understand the nuts and bolts of what the world’s largest UN Peacekeeping mission does. The core of my job is people management and I think that’s where my biggest impact has been.

What do you like most about being a UN Volunteer?

The spirit of volunteerism is genuinely something I empathise with. There is no greater entry point into the United Nations system than a UN Volunteer – it enables you to contribute to a cause larger than yourself. It’s very gratifying and rewarding.

What one thing you have learnt since starting your mission?

I think the biggest lesson for me has been working and being productive in a multicultural environment. You will never find a place like the United Nations because the name reflects its character. This is a place that unites people to serve for peace and human rights. You get to meet different people every day. I have learnt a lot from colleagues across the world and made lifelong friends.

Do you have a message to other people who want to follow your career path?

Do it. Take the plunge. Pack your bag and accept the challenge. My family members were worried that I was heading to a duty station that is totally unfamiliar to me, but this was an opportunity to meet new people. It is a beautiful experience and exposes you to many possibilities where you can do anything, be anything.

Any message for the people of South Sudan?

To the people of South Sudan—I have come to learn about the history and the culture of this young nation. Building peace is hard, but things will get better and South Sudan will prosper; keep believing and you will get there. South Sudan is each one of you and you have a common responsibility to build durable peace for your children. Struggles are always part of the road to success and South Sudan shall prevail.

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‘I am 43 percent Nigerian’- Meghan Markle

The Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle says she discovered she is 43 percent Nigerian after she carried out a genealogy test.

Markle shared this in the latest episode of her podcast, Archetypes, where she expressed her desire to learn more about her roots.

The Duchess of Sussex told Nigerian-American actor Ziwe that she discovered her roots after having her genealogy done “a couple of years ago”.

The Mirror reports that the Duchess told her guest that “I’m 43% Nigerian” to the shock of Ziwe, who shouted “No way!”.

Ziwe then asked her if  she was serious and inquired to know more if she is Igbo, Yoruba, or the rest

“Are you serious? This is huge. Igbo, Yoruba, do we know?”

But Markle said she was going to find out more about this.

“I’m going to start to dig deeper into all of this because anyone that I’ve told, especially Nigerian women, are just like, what?”

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