I never need to open my refrigerator to know what produce it houses; I keep a mental file of what I have purchased. For instance, I know that right now nestled next to the long-lived carrots and celery are a single red pepper and a package of cremini mushrooms.

These vegetables nag at my memory because they must be used soon, or they will spoil.  Fruit is easier to track; it mounds in changing patterns, visibly, in a bowl on the counter.  I bought a bowl from a Signals and Wireless catalog warehouse sale nearly twenty years ago, and since then it has been a focal point of my kitchen.  Today I removed a large cantaloupe from it and cut it up; I peeled an orange yesterday, and as I bit each section in half, its sweet, sticky juice ran down my fingers.   I will keep eyeing the lemons this week, pondering—muffins? lemon-sauced chicken?

Somehow, I have become a person who plans meals around produce—around a deep-seated fear of wasting.  It should not be surprising to anyone that fear leads to oversight—to order. For me, this particular fear manifests as a steady anxiety as I move through each week—even before that, as I shop, agonizing over the amount of fresh goods to buy. Often, I place three apples in a bag, then return one to the display, calculating: how many days will I cut one up for lunch? I weigh a bag of hearts of Romaine in one hand and a bundle of Brussels sprouts in the other—too much for a single week? 

I used to plan meals enthusiastically for my three boys and myself, the years we were alone, especially as they reached high school, and I had to maintain a budget.  They could eat enormous amounts of food. It was my job to make sure there was enough, that it was affordable, and that it was relatively healthy. I always went to the store with a list of dinner ideas for that week—hearty meals, often pasta-based, that would feed these young men who ate like a crowd — chicken lasagna, spaghetti pie, brown rice hotdish. Buying extra ingredients, especially fresh ones, was a burden I avoided.  I could succeed only if I avoided waste.

I made up rules in those days, too, allowing myself permission to buy certain items that were stocked in abundance—say, cereal—only when they were both on sale and I had a coupon.  It was never onerous to remember the parameters I set for myself; I was proud of my frugality and practicality.

Now, things have shifted; I have shifted. I go to the store with a list and some vague ideas, but I prefer to plan as I cook. This week, I will make a pinto-bean and vegetable casserole on Monday that will use peppers, zucchini, loads of onions; chicken drumsticks and a potato kugel on Thursday that will incorporate one package of mushrooms hiding in the crisper drawer and the remnants of a carton of sour cream. As the week progresses, I will worry more and more, scour through cookbooks to find the recipe that will allow me to use what I have before it goes bad.

When I wake in the middle of the night, I wonder: What will I do with that red pepper? An egg bake? I experience a strange mixture of triumph and relief as I figure it out, plot to avoid my shame — letting food spoil.

*                *                      *                      *                      *

The kitchen of my childhood was not always a happy place. My mother stayed at home with my two sisters, my brother, and me for many years, filling our table with hearty meals she had grown up with on the farm — fried chicken, pot roast, meat loaf. She served what my father wanted, always—never scrambled eggs because he preferred them fried; bacon that was limp rather than crisp.  We begged her to make our Sunday frozen orange juice in the blender; we craved the light froth at the top of our glass and, as we kept sipping, the cold tart taste of orange that followed. Though she made it that way sometimes, she seemed annoyed that we would constantly ask.

She did some canning in those days, too. I remember standing next to her, my nose just above the cupboard’s edge, watching her pour hot paraffin onto jars of chokecherry jelly. I sensed she did not like this work; she spoke sharply to me when I asked to have a jelly sandwich for lunch.  I knew even then she was trying to be frugal, having watched her peel a sink full of the tiny apples that grew on the tree right outside the kitchen window for a measly pie or two. The thin spirals of peel mounded in the sink, as she turned each fruit in her hand, boring out the bruises, their sweet, cidery odor filling the kitchen. She did the work because she knew she ought to and because she had helped my grandmother on their farm do it as she grew up, but it didn’t seem to give her much joy.

Then, my parents divorced (my father was an alcoholic and a philanderer), and my only brother died — twin tragedies that would change the whole trajectory of our childhoods and family life. My mother had to take multiple jobs to support us, since at the time she had no marketable skills. She’d gotten married at 19, having given up a decent secretarial job and independence, as did many women in the early 1960’s. She had four children in quick succession and had to use her energy to clean and cook and keep us out of her hair. What spare energy she had was spent to defend my father against bosses made angry when he missed work or came in hung over. She had little energy left over to hold my father accountable for his dalliances; the lipstick collars (the worst clichés) slid by with little fuss, until he confessed to my mother that he had carried on an affair with the next-door neighbor couple. That was enough for her, and the Catholic faith she treasured, to permit divorce.

After the divorce, my father rarely paid child support (which we discovered only years later), and so my mother shouldered the entire burden of feeding us on a very strict budget.  I wonder if she was as proud of her efforts as I am of mine now.

The divorce changed the way we ate, of course. Dinner was whatever could be made quickly — Kraft macaroni and cheese, Dinty Moore beef stew, spaghetti with Ragu sauce, fried Spam sandwiches.  I assumed some of the responsibility for cooking—really, heating—those simple meals because I was interested and because I knew it would help my mother.  The mood in our kitchen, not surprisingly, was often lighter without my father and the tension his drinking had brought to the family. But there was still a hint of tension underneath.

We were not destitute, but we were poor.  We had enough. Mostly. Sitting around the kitchen table on Sunday mornings, we scoured the newspaper—together, all of us, my mother, my two sisters, and I—for grocery coupons and sale items. Eventually, I shouldered this task of meal planning for the entire family. Trips to the grocery store would be as purposeful and efficient as I could design them—there was no extra money for frivolous food we didn’t explicitly need for meals.  I relished the task, took pride in making sure we ate well on our skimpy budget.

Toward the end of the month, inevitably, money dwindled. No more shopping could be done.  We ate generic canned chicken noodle soup (with its salty, slightly rancid broth) or oatmeal, sometimes bread and gravy — a dish I despised. I understood that using up leftovers was our only choice, but I swallowed my mouthfuls grudgingly.

Once the beginning of the month came, my mother got paid, and the welfare check came, we’d have a full cupboard — beginning again a cycle of abundance and want that became a familiar element of the landscape of my childhood.

We were not unhappy.  Dinners were full of conversation; we cleared the kitchen table and did homework there.  A single box of Chef Boyardee pizza mix, embellished with a bit of hamburger, fostered a celebratory mood. We picked up slices speckled with small mounds of meat, bit off greasy mouthfuls, tangy with the flavor of the sauce.  A simple bowl of Dinty Moore beef stew over a toasted English muffin satisfied; its gravy scent was overlaid with the sweet, earthy smell of carrots. The glory was not that the food tasted good; it was that we were together, fighting—though we wouldn’t have said it at the time—for our place in the world, in spite of setbacks.

The older I got, the easier it got; my mother gained job experience. She moved into accounts payable and then into credit — work that was both higher paying and more satisfying.  It took less effort to make ends meet.  She eventually began cooking again, as she transitioned from multiple jobs to just one.  She cooked for pleasure now: rich manicotti, affordable sirloin steak — seasoned and broiled –, mashed potatoes, baby peas.

When we three girls were in high school, she bought a dishwasher and had my uncle install it, though that did mean no more nights when my two sisters and I stood at our separate stations—washing, rinsing, drying and putting away the dishes—with music and good-natured bickering our soundtrack for this simple work.

*                *                      *                      *                      *

The kitchen of my present is a perfect room. It is large and square, painted recently a pale gray green with one wall—the one above the windows that face the front yard (with its bird feeders, hosting cardinals and chickadees)—painted a rich lavender-blue for contrast. Cupboards line three walls, including a tall pantry cupboard.

This is the room that sold the house to me. I spend most of my time here—it’s where the music is, where guests gather.  It’s where I scan cookbooks and magazines, looking for creative ways to use the vegetables in my crisper drawer.

This morning, as I diced that red pepper I was so worried about for scrambled eggs, I smelled its sweet acidity and felt a deep satisfaction with my life; I did not know I would end up here, in such abundance. I lead a life of privilege, one that still takes me by surprise. As a child, we rarely had fresh vegetables, except for potatoes and carrots from our garden. As I chop, I feel enduringly grateful for what I have.

Out of abundance comes vigilance.  I must not waste what I am lucky to have. To have enough also enables me to give, to extend my good fortune to others.

My son Nate stopped by yesterday because he was sick and needed to borrow a thermometer.  He took his temperature in my kitchen, then pocketed the thermometer because he needs to make sure he’s fever-free for work. Before he left, I also managed to place in his hands a few bottles of non-alcoholic beer I bought for him for a recent family gathering. I offered packets of tea for his cold, and a lemon — too good in the tea — for the vitamin C.

On rare occasions, a stalk of celery browns and wilts, or a bowl of leftover gravy or spaghetti sauce (always homemade) molds in its dark corner of the refrigerator.  I throw the celery into the compost bucket—a good save since most food that goes bad in my house can be saved in some way.  If I had a dog, I’d save even more:  I’d feed him whatever I couldn’t eat, as my grandmother did on the farm. 

I have wrestled my demons and won, warded off the certain shame that comes with failure. The reward is the wrestling.  I keep my convictions in a world of ease and waste, with muscular effort.

Tracy Youngblom earned her MFA in Poetry from the Warren Wilson College Program for Writers. She has published two chapbooks of poems and two full-length collections, including her most recent, Boy, set to release in February 2023. Her work has appeared in journals such as Shenandoah, Big Muddy, Cortland Review, New York Quarterly, Potomac Review, North Dakota Quarterly, and many other places. She has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize in Poetry, most recently in 2017.

We pronounce them “luckies,” which always made sense growing up because we felt so lucky to eat them. It was their salty richness, their fluffy potato innards, their cascade of oil soaking the paper towels ensconcing them on the dinner table.

There were other delights at Hanukah every year, from sweet gelt munched far too early in the day, to strips of corned beef I adorably termed “Hanukah bacon,” to the classic gefilte fish only the adults looked forward to. But latkes, for our ever-secularizing family, were the reason for the season.

It was my aunt, Sherri, who guarded the latke recipe. As a teenager and young adult, Sherri had been a wayward rebel, eschewing her parents’ warnings as she threw herself from one reckless adventure to the next. But in her mellow middle age, she had come to adopt a respect for tradition that even Tevya from Fiddler on the Roof would have been proud to see.

Sherri diligently grated potatoes every winter, carefully sprinkled matzo meal into the gloopy mess, and unfailingly watched for the telltale browning on the little pancakes. Her partner, Ron, stood by her side at the stove, piling the sizzling latkes on the paper-towel-laden plates. Early on, I learned that if I helped dish out the spoonfuls of batter into the boiling oil, I might be able to snag a latke or two fresh off the stove.

And as the years went by, I also gradually learned the family recipe for latkes. I learned the delicate but entirely unscientific proportions—one to two potatoes per person, two onions per ten potatoes. I learned how to identify just the right consistency of the mush—it should be gloppy, but not runny. And I learned how to navigate the all-important oil that brought the whole ceremony together, turning spoonfuls of lifeless goop into morsels no one could put down—it had to be sizzling, but not popping. That was the key.

While my three younger siblings washed their hands as soon as potato-peeling duty was over, I, like my aunt before me and who knows how many eldest daughters before us, hovered in the kitchen learning the family lessons.

But would it be enough to make latkes on my own?

I wouldn’t have a choice, moving from Pittsburgh and its rich multicultural heritage, to a Montana town with just over 20,000 people and no synagogue.

I wrung my hands as I drove from outlying town to outlying town, scouring each small grocery store for the crucial Manischewitz ingredient. I eventually thought to google matzo meal, and my kind Jewish forebears directed me to the exact aisle where a tub of the essential item could be found.

I carted my treasure back to my studio apartment, along with my eggs, onions, potatoes, salt and, of course, oil. I bought a cheese grater and sat down to work, pulling the trash can beneath me like we had always done at home. I sawed with a small knife and missed my aunt’s Rotato device.

My fingers bled, potato chunks flew, and I found myself missing the camaraderie of peeling — the familiar arguments over music and the competitions over potatoes peeled. I glanced at my new menorah, still gleaming and free of wax. It had been a gift from my mom when I moved to Montana.

I wrung my fingers out after the unending chore of grating. I mixed in all of the ingredients and, with more than a little trepidation, began to pour the oil.

My first spoonful sizzled sharply, and I winced. Hot oil splashed out of the pan at me. I reached for another dollop, and then the fire alarm started blaring.

I panicked and grabbed the entire pan, yanking it off the burner and running with it out onto the apartment lawn. I threw the hot pan into the snow and fanned at the smoky air with the door. Eventually, the alarm stopped sounding, and I gingerly picked up the pan.

With a fan blaring and the door propped open to the cold December air, I carefully ladled out the rest of my batter. I let the latkes cool in the soaked paper towels and seasoned them generously with salt before I dared try one.

They looked like my aunt’s, they smelled like my aunt’s, but after six hours of nonstop work in the kitchen, I couldn’t bear it if they didn’t taste like my aunt’s. I selected a cooling latke from the top of my pile. And there it was. The salty flavor. The flaky texture. As good as I had tasted in my grandmother’s small apartment in Pittsburgh.

Glowing, I eagerly wrapped up the rest and piled Tupperware upon Tupperware into my green VW Beetle. I careened into my office, my arms laden with latkes, ecstatic to share my triumph with my coworkers.

“Latkes,” I called out breathlessly. “I made latkes, everybody.”

The newsroom stared at me. No one made a move to get out of a chair. I remembered how my family always pronounced Yiddish and Hebrew words differently, from latke, to kebosh, to l’chaim.

“Lat-kuhs,” I deliberately enunciated. “There are lat-kuhs here.”

Still, no commotion.

I wasn’t deterred. I picked up one of the Tupperware containers and carried it to my nearest coworker. He just looked at me blankly. Then the next just stared, and the next, until I found that not a single Montanan in my forty-person newsroom had ever heard of a latke.

Bewildered, I tried to explain their potato-filled flavor without dumbing them down to simple potato pancakes. I couldn’t help but start to panic as I saw the steam on the sides of the Tupperware begin to vanish, signifying the beloved latkes were cooling at an alarming rate.

“Try one!” I insisted.

My friend Jake, a blonde-haired Idaho transplant, lumbered his way over to me and my sprawling latke collection. I babbled about applesauce and sour cream as he took his first bite.

“A little oily,” he noted as he chewed.

I grinned and grabbed one for myself. “I know.”

Bret Anne Serbin is a journalist in Montana. Her nonfiction has been featured in Deep Wild Journal and is forthcoming in Archer Magazine. She graduated from Swarthmore College with a degree in English. She’s originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

I have always  known that “Black is beautiful” even before I became aware of the popular phrase that is now a cliché. Black is beautiful because Black skin is the most durable of all human skins on earth. Its pigmentation is  resistant to many skin diseases. It’s a covering that slows and belies the scourge of aging

Have you ever seen a senescent White man? Mr. Joyman is my paramount boss and owner of a flourishing bakery in Port Harcourt. He is sixty-seven, with a frame slightly bent not by sickness, but old age. A sixty-seven-year-old African is still fully erect. A sixty-seven-year-old African is still blessed with a tough, smooth skin. And some, still boyish! The African blood is a beauty that displays its soldiery in the war against virus and bacteria. Have you ever wondered why in the past the colonisers from the West were easily afflicted and sent out of the world by malaria, cholera, and dysentery? Have you ever wondered why the newest afflicter, coronavirus, has killed far more white blood than a black blood? That is the answer.

Africa also had another beauty, a greater one in the past. I am a voracious reader. Sundays free me from my bakery’s assignments. We do bake on Sundays, but as a supervisor, I have the privilege of staying off work. It is a privilege that affords me the time to read books about different facets of life. I am more a fan of literature and history. I have a bulk of these books, more so than any other kind, in my mini library at home. It is from my home library I draw out this past beauty of Africa, written in poetry:

“Rejoice and shout with laughter

Throw all your burdens down,

If God has been so gracious

As to make you Black or Brown.

For you are a great nation,

A people of great birth

For where would spring the flowers

If God took away the earth?

Rejoice and shout with Laughter,

Throw all your burdens down

Yours is a glorious heritage

If you are Black, or Brown.”


Gladys Casely Hayford, an African American woman titled her poem, written in the 1930s, “Rejoice” because she wanted Africans to be proud of a glorious heritage, a great birth, and a great nation. Casely Hayford makes me realize that Africa had an impressive past, unlike what the likes of former President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, wants me to believe. The Frenchman gave a speech on July 27, 2007 at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, Senegal in the presence of an audience of 1,300. He said: “The tragedy of Africa is that the African has not fully entered into history…They have never really launched themselves into the future. The African peasant, who for thousands of years has lived according to the seasons, whose life ideal was to be in harmony with nature, only knew the eternal renewal of time… In this imaginary world, where everything starts over and over again, there is room neither for human endeavor, nor for the idea of progress.”

Unfortunately, or rather, ironically, Sarkozy said this at a center of learning named after a great Africanist, Cheikh Anta Diop. Diop was an anthropologist and a historian. He was among the first whose works dug out the glorious history of Africa hundreds of years ago. The first Black man to point out through his findings that the ancient Egyptians were Black. Yet his findings are still debatable on the table of scholars and historians.

While some researchers and archaeologists believe the Black race entirely populated ancient Egypt, others see the ancient land as multiracial with  the Black man existing among the Hamitic and Semitic inhabitants; Black pharaohs also sat on the Egyptian throne. Other historians give a flat no to the concept of Black inhabitants in ancient Egypt. But the doubtless truth is Africa has a history of abundance. The Sarkozys of this world attempt to deny that and reduce our ancestors to peasants who were only in tune with their natural surroundings, and dead to ideas and exploits.

The Francoise-Xavier Fauvelles of this world will continue to counter the fallacy with: People like to think of Africans as more rooted in nature than culture. But history teaches a different lesson: of kings, diplomats, merchants.” And the Mutabarukas of this world will continue to educate with his reggae song, “Great Kings of Africa.”

Ironically, Anta Diop’s namesake and fellow Senegalese, poet David Diop, gave a glowing tribute to Africa of old during his short life on earth. I can still remember Diop’s most famous poem titled, “Africa:”

“Africa my Africa

Africa of proud warriors in ancestral savannahs

Africa of whom my grandmother sings

On the banks of the distant river

I have never known you

But your blood flows in my veins

Your beautiful Black blood that irrigates the fields … “


My library holds a history book called The Story Called Africa, written by Maina Maikasuwa. Maikasuwa, through extensive research and quoted works from other researchers, Europeans and Africans, unearthed an authentic African story. It is a balanced story of “gory” and glory. I heard the book won a prize a few years ago.

But my former favorite books on Africa were: Toward the Decolonization of African Literature by Chinweizu Ibekwe and How Europe Underdeveloped Africa by Walter Rodney. Now my favorite is the voluminous work by Amanga Habinomana titled The Unveiling of Timbuktu.

The Rwandan author chronicles the gradual rise of Timbuktu, a sort of city state in the ancient empire of Mali. Initially this African city was a large storage house for salts and other goods. It was a waiting area for traders to choose goods for trading at big markets. Travelers coming from Europa, Arabia and the Americas brought gold to trade for salt. Some of these traders chose to make Timbuktu their permanent residence, and before long the village became a small town and, in turn, a city.

By the early 1300s, Timbuktu had become a hub, a center of attraction, and the pride of the Malian empire. People came from across the continent. Europeans were awash with rumors of Timbuktu’s abundant wealth and resources. It was said that, in 1324, Mali’s sultan-leader, Mansa Moussa, travelled for pilgrimage to Mecca with 60,000 slaves and servants and with an abundance of gold. During his visit to Cairo in Egypt, the price of the precious metal dropped precipitously. Explorer Ibn Battuta from Arabia visited the famed city 30 years later, and his descriptions of the bustling city stoked the flames of European imagination.

During the period, Europa (as Europe was called then) was plagued by the ice age and the bubonic plague. Listening to the constant impressive tidings about a faraway African city spurred a dream they wished to achieve. They dreamt of streets lined with gold in Timbuktu. The city was a sort of African El Dorado.

Can you imagine that? White folks longing to visit an African city? Wow! Timbuktu was at that time, what London, Dubai or New York means to Africans in our present days. Many Western historians will never broadcast this African history of glory.

I also read that the peak of Timbuktu’s greatness occurred in the late 15th century. And guess what the prime commodity in the city was? I know many will shout out gold! But it wasn’t; it was books! Hundreds of scholars studied at the almost 200 maktabs (Quranic schools in Mali).  These scholars worked as scribes, which increased the number of manuscripts in the City-state. Visitors to the city, especially scholars were specially welcomed and entertained in the hope that they would share their knowledge and books.

 I read a Nigerian newspaper that has a column squarely dedicated to African Literature and history. The columnist quoted from the words of an American intellectual at California State University, Brent Singleton. Singleton graciously, or rather, factually corroborated Habinomana’s Unveiling Timbuktu, about the importance of books during the golden day of the land. He said, “The acquisition of books is mentioned more often in Timbuktu than any other display of wealth, including the building and refurbishment of mosques.

Like Timbuktu, the Nok civilization is also a reminder of Africa’s beauty.  The old-time civilization was located in the southern part of Kaduna state, Nigeria. The people of the land had perhaps the finest sets of terracotta in the world. It’s no wonder, bulks of these sculptures, stolen by thieves, are still nowhere to be found.

The Benin civilization, unlike Nok’s, has good news about her stolen artifacts. Not too long ago, French President Emmanuel Macron demanded the return of twenty-six artifacts that were stolen by the French colonial power in 1894 from the kingdom of Benin. The stolen goods have been returned and were received by Oba Ewuare II, the current Benin monarch in the modern day Edo state of Nigeria. In 2014, his predecessor had received two artifacts taken from the Benin kingdom in 1897 during an invasion by British soldiers which resulted in the monarch going into exile. But why steal from a people considered inferior and crude? Well, perhaps, that will be a discussion someday.

Africa had produced great minds in the past and has produced new great minds today. These include Soyinka, the first African man to win the Nobel prize; Wangari, the first African woman to win the Nobel prize; Okri, the first African to win the Booker prize; Evaristo, the first black woman to win the Booker prize; Adichie, for her feministic revolution and impressive mastery of writing stories; Kperogi, for his unusual mastery of the English language – an exceptional wordsmith; and Weah, the first African to be crowned world footballer of the year by FIFA in 1995 and the only African to date.

Africa has produced firsts worldwide. Ethiopian Haile Gabreselasi, was the first human being on earth to run a marathon with a world record time of 2:03:59 in 2008. African American Ben Carson became the first doctor in the world to perform the first successful neurosurgical procedure on a fetus inside the womb, the first to dissever a set of twins conjoined at their heads, and the first to develop new methods to treat brain-stem tumors.

“Africa’s history has been badly distorted,” says a friend of mine whom I visit. Like me, he is passionate about the history of our Africa. Often times, when we converse, our conversations unconsciously revert to history. I visit him on a Sunday with two loaves of bread as a gift. Bassey is a chronic consumer of Joyman Sweet Bread. I use the adjective “chronic” to describe my friend because he eats bread and drinks tea to a state of disgust; at least, that is how I see it. I have never seen anyone else eat bread and drink tea for breakfast, lunch and supper. And when he wants to add something different, it is either bread and beans, or bread and akara, or bread and moi moi, or bread and butter. But the day I met Bassey adding okra soup, I understood he badly needed redemption from his addiction. He had sliced the Joyman Sweet Bread into two halves and smeared it with two spoonfuls of a thick okra soup.

“Bassey, what on heaven and earth are you eating?”

“Okra pie,” he replied gleefully with a mouthful of the odd combination.

“Okra what?” I asked with a repulsive mien mixed with something like a smile.

“You don’t know what you are missing. This is hyper delicious and nutritious.”

It would have been a great disservice to my pal, going to his house without Joyman Special Bread. Ha ha ha! So, we sit on the only settee in the living room which also doubles as the bedroom. His bed is directly opposite his settee. We are still full-blooded bachelors. The need for living for a two-room apartment for family has not arrived. I confess I rented a room and a parlour a few months ago to free myself from the harassment of my immediate boss who kept chiding me for being a supervisor living in a single room. “Don’t you know you are the only supervisor in the world living in a single room?” He would mock.

The reason I said our history has been badly twisted,” Bassey continues, “is because of two things. First, because of the racist slur unleashed on Bernadine Evaristo last year by the BBC when she became the first Black woman to win the prestigious Booker Prize. Without this age of information technology, her achievement would have been deleted, twisted or buried forever like the achievements of some African greats in the past. No one would have known her as a Black writer of worth. She would have become hearsay, a rumour, a myth.

I listen attentively to my friend’s analysis even though I remember everything with more detail. It was in October 2019 that Evaristo’s historical feat was bruised by the racist utterance of a presenter on the world’s most popular radio station, the BBC. I still remember every word uttered as the presenter said, Now, this is a bit different from the Booker Prize earlier in the year where the judges couldn’t make up their minds, so they gave it to Margaret Atwood and another author, who shared the prize between them.”

The first Black woman to win such a coveted prize as the Booker was contemptuously reduced to a nameless “another author” while her white co-winner was named. The degrading comment instantly sparked a public outcry. Evaristo, herself, understandably provoked, tweeted to her huge fans on twitter. She said disappointedly, “BBC described me yesterday as ‘another author’. How quickly and casually they have removed my name from history – the first Black woman to win it. This is what we’ve always been up against, folks.”

The BBC apologised and stated that their presenter’s words were not intended to belittle Bernadine Evaristo. Whatever. The damage has been done.

“My second point is,” Bassey continues, “how can a race be labelled as inhabitants of the Dark Continent? Do you know what that means?” Of course, I know, but I shake my head to listen.”It means the race is full of shit and negativity. It means the race has never been blessed with exploits and adventures; therefore, it has no history. A fat, smelly lie peddled by white racists.”

Bassey puffs out carbon dioxide from his nostrils; a glum appearance dampening his visage as if the lie and mischief are newly inflicted. As if he is the new Kunta Kinte. Ha ha ha! That is Bassey, always an emotional being. I release a throaty cough to pave the way for me to speak, but Bassey speaks on. He says,”But we must, just like Chinweizu and Habinomana, continue to kill the lie and rise to speak about our truth: Our undiluted African story, a story of worth. We must rise up in spite of the heavy burden of falsehood and hatred on our heads bent to pin us down forever. Maya Angelou told us to rise above our enemies’ lies. Remember her poem, ‘Still I Rise’?” I nod. The first stanzas of the poem captured what I just said now. She says:

“You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.”


I leave Bassey that evening with a truth he agrees with. The truth is that we can only rise if we love ourselves and unite, like Bob Marley’s “Africa Unite” encourages. After all, part of the injustice of lies and slavery meted out on us were rooted in the inharmonious postures we assumed  and the lovelessness reeking out among us. We may be playing the second fiddle now, but we must have a hidden plan to become an equal economically with the West. We need a new Sankara, Lumumba, Sisulu, Biko, Che, Brutus, Gani, Bitek, Mitshali, Zik, Rodney, Mandela, Kenyatta, Sawaba, Tosh, Marley, Macaulay, Awolowo, Funmilayo Kuti, Balewa, and more; we can attain this feat.

Langston Hughes, a great African American poet, talked about this equality years ago in his poem, “I, Too”. He said:

“I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.

They send me to eat in the kitchen

When company comes,

But I laugh,

And eat well,

And grow strong.



I’ll be at the table

When company comes.

Nobody will dare

Say to me,

‘Eat in the kitchen,’


They’ll see how beautiful I am

And be ashamed!

I, too, am American.”


We must be proud of who we are to achieve this equality. We must be proud of Africa to beautify Africa. Stephen Adinoyi’s “My African Pride” echoes that pride when he says:

“Oh Africa, so proud to be yours

Your colour on me, my glory

And I vow not to bleach

Sweet Africa, wish every day I could make merry

For the graceful natures of your abode

Low I bow sometimes to kiss your lovely soil

Which beneath lie my ancestors

Proudly, I cherish my differences from other races

My colour is my crown

No reason to frown

Loving the way I was born

Oh Africa, with you no boredom.”


Finally, it’s necessary to say this: the West is not the eternal enemy of Africa. We have gained some things from the White man. Their advancement in science and technology is one of the sweet pies they have shared with us. If we are fortunate to become strong economically, we mustn’t rustle our feathers on their faces in their presence. But rather, stretch open arms of harmony to them. The world badly needs this.

Again, Stephen Adinoyi says it well in his poem called “Black or White,” about this harmony I desire. He says:


Open your arms

To Black or White

It’s no mistake

For that Hand to make

Black and White

Able to make

All Whites

All Blacks

But He makes Blacks and Whites

His discretion makes the difference

Yet in the difference lies sameness

Inside the White

Lies the replica of the Black

Colour is no crime

Cos the content is one

All fashion so fine

By the greatest Divine

Open your arms

To Black or White




Stephen Adinoyi is a writer of prose and poetry. His poetry and a short story have won multiple prizes. His published novella is titled “Teen of Fifteen.” He is a fellow of the Ebedi Writer Residency. His writing has been published in various newspapers including New Nigeria Newspaper and The Sun. He has been published in numerous journals and literary journals including Ebedi Review, and Ake Review. His writings have been anthologized in several publications including Fireflies, After The Curfew, and Footmark. He is the Chairman of the Association of Nigerian Authors, Kaduna Chapter.