Browse Tag: Spectra Speaks

CAROL Film Review

#RoadtoOscars… Reflections on CAROL.

I must confess — I have been avoiding this film. There was something about the wistful trailer overlaid with piano music that signaled the kind of drama I would resent for its resonance, particularly given all the crap I’ve had to deal with in Nigeria. It seems it doesn’t matter what time period or continent I escape to; girl meets girl can never just happen in peace.

In Carol, the film’s subtle narrative is sporadically interrupted by reality, be it sudden jolts back to the present from a female utopia with the intrusion of men’s voices; or stunning street scenes that the camera can’t seem to hold in focus. And while watching two women wade innocently towards their curiosities makes for good melodrama, the world all around them, made simple and nonsensical in juxtaposition, brought my own discouraging circumstance to the forefront.

I recall an evening my partner and I went out to dinner for a semi-business meeting. One of the men began to hit on me hard, and then put his hand on my thigh. I winced, and after a few minutes of my courage failing, asked him to remove it. I felt my partner freeze next to me, then reach for my glass of water, from which she took a long slip, most likely to keep from screaming. Loud music played in the background. The guy removed his hand laughing, then rubbed my shoulder in parting, almost the way you would pat a dog on the head for bringing back a ball. And our bond broke a little, in that moment, as we shared the dessert he had paid for, and then again, as the two girls who sat across from us chair-danced in sync. No one would know.

In Carol, much like being in love with another woman in Nigeria, the building and breaking of a forbidden intimacy in between the tiniest cracks of conversation, lingering moments, and the invisible parts of the mundane carry all the weight, and yet yield so little satisfaction. Girl meets girl and chases a happily ever after that seems to be constantly around the bend, and yet somehow, always out of reach, or dangerous, or both.

Cate Blanchett gives an absolutely breathtaking performance (as always). And Mara Rooney, though I don’t quite get the Supporting Actress nomination (more on that later), captures the curious innocence that so many of us, now fully bloomed rogues, can recall from our early days awkwardly navigating the thick hegemony of heterosexuality all around us, burdened by a latent, yet gnawing dissatisfaction, and armed only with a gut feeling that we could be loving, laughing, and f**king so much harder. Incidentally, Cate and Mara’s on-screen chemistry is refreshingly convincing, a testament to the two actors, and delicate direction by Todd Hayes.

The Verdict: I’m not sure this film will stay with me the way the “Saving Face,” or “Pariah”, pioneers in queer POC cinema did — two white ladies trying to figure out their lives and damning everything in the process, though typical of mainstream lesbian dramas, ain’t all that relatable on the surface. Yet, it’s hard not to appreciate the deference the film grants so many of us, especially those like me, worlds away, who have had to conjure and re-conjure love for each other, and ourselves, within the confines of society’s outdated definition of “normal.” CAROL’s courage to imagine a world in which girl meets girl could end with a happily ever after, though predictable, is perhaps exactly what we need to keep fighting for the same in ours.

African Women Entrepreneurs in Tech “Lean In” for Social Media Week

Last year, for Social Media Week in Lagos, I organized CODE RED, an event that convened African women entrepreneurs in tech and media. The experience of watching women connect across sectors, exchange ideas, share experiences, and swap business cards was magical, inspiring, fulfilling. For this year’s Social Media Week (themed “Upwardly Mobile”), I hoped for a similar space and, so far, the program does not disappoint.

The first panel I attended – Face the Facts: Lessons from Leading African Women Entrepreneurs in Tech – was described as “a discussion on practical strategies for women and tech companies seeking more women talent,” featured a refreshing mix of women tech professionals and entrepreneurs, including:

Though the panel was only an hour long — which definitely impeded a deeper (and, honestly, more authentic and vulnerable) conversation about key challenges faced by women in the tech industry in Nigeria (another post, another day) — each of the panelists managed to offer the audience at least one nugget of wisdom acquired from successfully (and unsuccessfully) navigating their careers as women in male-dominated spaces. I’ve shared a few of them below, with a few of my own… Enjoy.

1. Tech and “Masculine” Aren’t Synonyms, No Need to “Man Up”

The FutureSoft CEO’s accounts of having her interest in technology constantly questioned (and, at times, dismissed) due to her very feminine gender presentation was poignant, and refreshing; I’ve seen way too many women entrepreneurs dress more “masculine” in an attempt to dissociate themselves from femininity’s (ill)perception as frivolous, unsubstantive, and less intelligent, than stand up to this harmful stereotype. (Funny, since I am yet to hear about women with more masculine gender presentations enjoying sexism-free careers, but hey…). Fact: Whether in heels, power suits, gender masculine or gender non-conforming ensembles, African women founders and CEOs are on the rise all across the continent.

2. Succeeding in Tech Isn’t Just About Knowing How to Code

Of all the women on the panel, the co-owner of Tranzit Nigeria (a local taxi app) seemed to be the most tech savvy (to me at least). Perhaps that’s why most of her remarks focused on the importance of developing other non-tech skills necessary for business. She encouraged women interested in careers in technology to adopt the habit of constantly assessing and investing in the development of broader skill sets. Her comment underscored an oft overlooked fact about tech businesses, which is that they are still businesses; women in tech need to acquire – or at least familiarize themselves with a range of skills (such as people management, finance & accounting, marketing etc) to grow, and ultimately succeed.

3. Knowing (Enough Of) Your Shit Is Enough

African women entrepreneurs in tech should be wary of imposter syndrome (an irrational worry that they won’t measure up if they don’t credential-up). Every single one of the panelists mentioned developing deeper technical expertise as a necessary path to success. I don’t necessarily disagree, but, in my humble opinion, there was almost a little too much emphasis placed on education and credentials, and not enough on raw talent, or even experiential learning. It makes sense that in order to combat the gender discrimination rampant in the tech industry, many women place more emphasis on the acquisition of technical skills and credentials higher than their male counterparts, focusing mainly on their shortcomings over their accomplishments. “You need to know your shit to compete” is often the mantra, and justification for passing up valuable opportunities. I offer an alternate: “Know (enough of) your shit, then go for it.”

4. Create a Support Network

Almost all of the panelists shared their positive experiences reaching out to other women – and men! – for advice and/or ongoing mentorship. The founder of Women in Tech Ghana expressed deep appreciation for a prominent long-time mentor in her life, and both the CEO of FutureSoft and Founder of cosigned the importance of seeking both emotional and financial support from friends and family. But just as a strong inner circle can be crucial to staying motivated, so can colleagues and acquaintances be to staying grounded. The co-owner of Tranzit Nigeria reminded the audience that reaching out to peers for constructive criticism – even if they happened to be outside one’s industry – could lend invaluable perspective.

Check Out These Other Awesome Women-Friendly #SMWLagos Events: 

The full schedule is available on Social Media Week Lagos’ website here.

The Revolution Will Be Online: Spectra Speaks with Jay Smooth on Activism in the Digital Era

standardtwitterpicExciting news! I’m going to be on a panel with one of my favourite video bloggers, Jay Smooth of Ill Doctrine!

The Revolution Will Be Online (A Panel at Ford Hall)
Date: Thursday, October 2, 2014
Time of Forum: 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m., EST
Location: African Meeting House, Museum of African American History, 46 Joy St., Boston, MA 02114.

Featuring Jay Smooth (blogger, The Ill Doctrine), Spectra Speaks (blogger, Spectra Speaks), and Andrew Ti (blogger, Yo, Is This Racist?), and moderated by Callie Crossley (broadcast journalist and radio host, WGBH’s Under the Radar). This event is co-sponsored by The Museum of African American History, ArtWeek Boston, and the Boston Literary District.

We’ll be chatting about a topic that speaks to the crux of all my work: the power of online conversations to propel change in the digital era. Check out the event description below, with my favourite part in bold.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, Ford Hall Forum convenes this panel of popular anti-racism bloggers to discuss how far we’ve come – or haven’t – since 1964. What does racism and anti-racism look like from a Millennial perspective, and how do activists relate to those who came before them? This nuanced conversation will touch upon multiracial contexts, the value of intersectionality, the perils and perks of connecting via commenting, and more. Broadcast journalist Callie Crossley sits down with Andrew Ti, Spectra Speaks, and Jay Smooth for an in-person discussion on how, 50 years later, racism is fought through the world’s electronic town hall.

Don’t Mind My Pre-Panel Pontification

I’ve never described myself as an ‘anti-racist’ blogger; I write about love, empathy, relationships, and media as powerful tools for change. This, of course, includes tackling racism, among other things — democratising storytelling, promoting African voices, ending homophobia, and challenging single-issue politics. Ironically, my online platform and networks are expansive, allowing me the freedom to fully participate in a variety of cross-conversations about making the world better. It’s in ‘real life’ I constantly have to fight against political fragmentation.

intersectionalityCase in Point: As I previously committed to attending this forum to discuss racism in honour of the Civil Rights Act 50th anniversary, I was unable to attend the History Project’s “Historymaker Awards Ceremony,” in which I would have been introducing a really good friend of mine – Omar Thomas, a black gay composer who wrote the first civil rights anthem for the LGBT community – for his award. Similarly, by being in the US for LGBT history month, I’m missing a series of really awesome events back home (and in the US actually) for Nigeria’s 100th year of independence. Le sigh.

Yes, life happens. Calendar conflicts happen. No one’s out to make my choices – of which political event to attend – more difficult. But in the spirit of this upcoming conversation about identity, digital media, and revolution, I feel compelled to share that my connections online grant me far more freedoms to express (and educate others on) the multiple facets of my identity and experiences, than the connections in what critics insist is my “real life” offline.

But While I’m On the Subject: Online vs. Offline Activism, Let’s Discuss

For the record, I don’t believe our lives online vs offline can be so finitely distinguished. If you take a look at how the Kony 2012 social campaign influenced thousands of people to “real life” take action, or how localised efforts to bring back the kidnapped Nigerian girls were bolstered by the #bringbackourgirls hashtag, it shouldn’t be hard to see how interdependent our digital and physical spaces have become (and always have been). That said, there are nuances worth discussing.

Online, I just am: Spectra talking about racism, Spectra talking about love, Spectra talking about Africapitalism, and technology, and X-Men, all from the same channel. Needless to say, my followers are frequently confronted with the fact that I am more than just this or that, but the sum of all my parts, a fact which is more easily overlooked in offline spaces, that aren’t as ubiquitous.

For example, African-Americans who began following me *in solidarity* for my article about Hollywood’s racist casting of the Nina Simone biopic, got to hear me rant quite bitterly about the US black media’s erasure of Lupita Nyong’o’s African identity — mainly referring to her as black the minute she won an oscar — just a few months later. A quick glance of my twitter feed (or overly political bio) may likely have helped folk reconcile the two: she’s a black woman, and she’s Nigerian/African, ah I get it.

If only using my full self to contextualise my political perspectives were that easy in physical spaces.

Online vs Offline NetworksOffline, fighting against isms feels more silo-ed, complicated, compartmentalised even. This is evidenced by how many times I’ve been invited to speak at a prestigious college, say by a minority student group for black history month, and then asked, for example, to “just focus on the race side of things,” as adding in my African identity may be “too complicated.” (No lie). I may have been able to avoid countless awkward interactions with African feminists who upon proclaiming their disdain for the gays ruining Africa, I relayed I was in a same-sex relationship. (Yikes, where’s a halo-like twitter bio when you need one?)

Meanwhile, all this talk of online revolutions has also got me thinking about the way we talk about media, merely as a communications channel, a resource we all should be using to raise hell about the issues that make our blood boil (provided we’re all granted equal access).

As we discuss whether or not we think the revolution will be online, it’s important that we don’t forget that media is more than just a channel; media is a battleground in and of itself, one which not everyone has the privileged to fight within. 

For decades, we’ve been discussing the mis- and under-representation of minority voices in major news and media, which influence public opinion, government, and society as we know it. Yet, across the most popular social media platforms, there are more marginalised groups ‘participating’ as consumers than there are producers, a category of influence still dominated by rich, white men – yes, the same ones who own the corporations that don’t just monitor, own and control your content, but sell private information to the highest bidder.

Access to technology is influenced by socio-economic factors and controlled by the ruling class. Even now, in this new era of democratised media power — even online, the most vulnerable of us are still not safe: women still experience sexual violence; LGBT people are still outed against their will; women of colour are still dehumanised, and much more.

So, will the revolution be online? Oh I think it has to be. The revolution should be wherever we need to defend ourselves with all manner of armour and weaponry. 

Love as a Revolution Totally Sucks

Dear Reader,

I’ve missed this space. But I hope it hasn’t been too long since we last connected. The piece below came to me during a morning reflection earlier this week. I’d been experiencing interpersonal issues with someone very close to me and was wrestling with myself as to the best way through to the other side.

I’m not sure why I’m sharing it… I guess I’m hoping that others who’ve experienced deep feelings of frustration, with their beliefs or themselves, will reach out so we can at least give each other a virtual hug.

Here it goes,


Love as a Revolution Totally Sucks

Leading with Love, especially when you’re hurt, angry, wounded etc, is so difficult, mainly because it’s… well, just plain unfair.

You will not explode, you will not explode, you will not explode...Really, to repeatedly “rise above” the most frustrating, painful, or otherwise emotionally debilitating situations due to racism, sexism, homophobia, other power struggles, or even our personal relationships, practically demands we deny our human instincts: to flee, to defend, to scream in the face of violence.

And all for what? For the sake of “elevating ourselves”, and in so doing, others, to a lighter, healthier place? Why should I have to bear the burden of elevating so many other assholes to a lighter place?? Why should people who continue to wreak havoc upon those with less power benefit from the rest of us trying to be our “best selves”?

On days like these – when I can feel my blood about to boil over, and I have no patience to teach others how to treat me better, and would rather just open my mouth and use my literary talents for revenge, I have to remind myself that the alternative is much worse.

Succumbing to my emotions, placing my own needs above everyone else’s, reacting from a place of anger, pain, and whatever else – especially against people who I do not understand, and I feel so strongly have wronged me in some way – doesn’t make me any better, or different; it just makes me a hypocrite.

And I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I want to use as many tough moments (as I have capacity) to practice re-centering myself in compassion. I want to nurture my curiosity about others feelings and emotional contexts so diligently that it eventually begins to kick in more often than my survivalist instinct to fight or flee.

I want to walk the talk, practice what I preach, be able to look others and myself in the face, and do much better than say “do better”, but “well done.”

That said, I’m human. So, on some days, my emotions do get the best of me, and I clam up, retreat, raise my voice, say mean things, and I let myself down.

Rather than beat myself up, I need to remember that this is okay, too. Because it reminds me that I’m no better than the folks I’m trying to “rise above.” That personal growth is one half perspective, and one half harsh truths. And that the most important thing to remember isn’t the person you are, or even the person you’re striving to be, but the journey that exists between the two.

Don’t ever stop trying.

Love As a Revolution Always Wins

Dear Western Saviorists, Stop Reducing Africa to a Play Pen for Your Personal Development

I went on a rant on Twitter today about western saviorists reducing African cultures to tools for their personal and professional development. It’s pretty much all archived in my storify. Have you heard about this new book? Why do you think Africa is so seductive to westerners – white people, especially – seeking to discover themselves? #storify #westernsaviorism #whitesaviorism

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