Brothers Back Home: Our Trip to Nigeria

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    For 11 days, September 30th through October 10th, my family took a trip back to Lagos, Nigeria. For a lot of reasons this trip was extremely important, and everyday I’m thankful that I was able to embark on such an amazing experience .My brother Cole and I both had a lot to say about our trip, so it made no sense to only allow one story. With that, I give you Cole Ezeilo’s experience Back Home.

 

   Ezeilo. That is who I am. That is what I am. That is what’s made me the young man I am today. Before my trip, I honestly didn’t know who I really was.  I knew that I was Nigerian and Igbo because of my father, but I never thought it would make a big difference, especially in the American “melting pot” society we live in today. I am a firm believer that heritage and self-knowledge is the backbone of any man. So the moment I stepped out of the plane in Lagos, Nigeria, I immediately knew what it meant to be a Nigerian. What it meant to be an Ezeilo.

    Contrary to popular belief, Lagos, Nigeria and Nigeria in general isn’t filled to the brim with slimy scam artists that are impoverished hoping to get any money they can find. Lagos also isn’t some rural city where zebras and giraffe’s roam the streets. It’s simply a city that has people everywhere like any other place. But what sets Lagos apart from any random city and the reason why people are so scared of the city is because it’s incredibly fast. And when I say fast I mean fast in every sense of the word. The cars are fast, the conversations are fast, heck, even the days seem faster! It’s simply a faster paced society and the people native to Lagos have always known this lifestyle. On the other side however, when outsiders view the Nigerian society, it makes them uncomfortable because their humans and their natural instinct is to reject change and differences. So prior to my trip, I was simply an outsider looking into my own culture but now I possess the ability to not only adjust to a fast-paced society but more importantly switch between a fast and a slow one. This is what I think makes me unique. The fact that I’m a true African-American or rather, an American-African.

    There’s a certain joy you get when you open your eyes and see family everywhere. It’s truly a humbling experience because you know for a fact, that you’re a part of something much bigger than yourself. I can remember the exact time this feeling hit me. It was during my father’s 50th birthday party on the beach of Lekki, a section of Lagos. All of the Ezeilo’s were up dancing regardless of age or gender with each and every one of our faces painted with smiles. We were able to connect on a different level and many of us had nothing in common except one thing… Ezeilo. I believe it was at this time that my life changed for the better. You see, it’s so easy to say that the people over there that were not taken from the Atlantic Slave Trade are completely separate from us. Especially as a young black man in America, the systemic racism has been set up to disconnect us from our heritage and culture and more importantly, our family. But I’m lucky and blessed to say that I’m part of the large percentage of American-Africans and know who and where I come from.

   So as I got on the plane to leave Lagos, I thought about the knowledge I’d acquired on this trip. This wasn’t information that could be taught in a classroom. This also wasn’t information that I ever could’ve learned here in the states. It was information and care from the family that loved me unconditionally upon arrival and this is of unfathomable value. This is Ezeilo.

 

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Shout out to my brother Cole Ezeilo, the boy that’s gonna rule the world one day. Pop4all.com if you didn’t know already. The following are my words. I hope you enjoy.

 

For me, I knew I was never going to forget this trip when I landed in Enugu State, where my father was born.

After my grandfather’s passing, the entire Ezeilo family was shocked to hear about the hero that was Godwin Ezeilo. He was such a strong figure, saving hundreds of lives in his own lifetime, that his death was almost unfathomable. Because of this, many elders in the family refused to believe the news of my grandfather’s death. With my father being the oldest son of his immediate family, it was his job to travel back to Enugu State to tell his family the news. I came along with him, and what I saw will stay with me for as long as I live.

As I took the brief flight from Lagos to Enugu in the middle of our trip with my parents, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I knew that the Ezeilos were a big family, but for 17 years this big family had been nothing but a concept in my head. No faces to any names, no memories between one another, and no ways of connecting on a personal level. Is this really going to be like my how dad had talked about it for all this time? Will I be able to relate to my own family?  And finally, what is the true strength of the Ezeilo name? All of this tossed and turned in my head as we finally landed at the Enugu airport. From there, I never stopped smiling, maturing, and learning.

With every step I took on Enugu soil, my family grew almost exponentially. My Uncle Paul, who was the backbone behind this entire trip, took us all around the state to introduce us to all of our family members. Everywhere we went there were more and more Ezeilos, each with an enormous smile and an even bigger heart. Something that really stuck out to me was being in the presence of a living and breathing king  who just happened to share the last name as me. Does that make me royalty? Yeah, I think it does. Following this, we moved all around the state through each  house, apartment, estate, or mansion, where Ezeilos were ready to make us feel at home. I met different  uncles, aunts, great-uncles, great aunts, and an insane amount of cousins. I met governors, engineers, and bankers to name a few. It was like a family reunion, except the entire state felt like being in your cousin’s backyard.

When we got to the village where my father and grandfather and great-grandfather was born, however, I experienced something that I had previously never felt before. To this very moment I can’t truly describe the sensation accurately. It was a mix between an out-of-body experience and a lucid dream, as crazy that sounds. I’ve been walking around and talking to people all day, but for some reason as soon as I touched down on such a significant place in my family’s history, things were different. I knew this was bigger than me, to say the least. The village traditions had so much meaning to them that you couldn’t help but stare at and study every movement the elders made. The Igbo, our language, was fluid, strong, and at some times it felt like I could understand them despite never knowing the language. And every time I shook a hand or introduced myself, I was met with such overwhelming joy.  After these traditions and speeches from my uncles and father were finished, my father and I chanted and prayed over the grave of my great-grandfather, James Ezeilo, the man who built everything I saw around me. It felt like I finally unlocked a part of myself that I had been questioning for so long: what does the name Ezeilo really mean? Well after narrowing it down to a country, a state, a village, and finally one man, I can confidently say that I know where I come from.

Now, there were many more stories and memories I had from this trip. It was amazing in every aspect of the word, and I’ll never forget it. But to me personally, the one experience that changed everything was my time in the Ezagwa village. I know EXACTLY who I am, who my people are, the strength my family has, and the power of being back home. Coming back from this trip, it felt like I had a gold suit of armor with a crown to match. The name of this outfit, you ask? E-Z-E-I-L-O. I dare you to try and stop me now.

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My Experience at Howard University

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ImageLast year, I put up a post on the topic of college, specifically dealing with college as a black kid. I went back and forth on a few ideas, but for the most part I wasn’t too sure on what direction I should take. Should I go with a majority school? A PWI? Should I go to school out of the country? And of course, is an HBCU the best option? Well, after my experience from the last 4 days, I can say without a doubt in my mind that I will definitely be going to a Historically Black College and University. And if I had my choice to pick, it would definitely be Howard.

 

I say this because Howard really does give off the feeling of a utopia for young black people. Not only is there an incredibly broad spectrum of black people from around the world full of different experiences and skills, but everyone is on a path to success. Never in my life have I seen so many people who you could tell were focused and driven to succeed in their own way. Whether it was the psychology major or the aspiring music producer, everyone had a special type of fire in their eyes whenever they talked about their future goals. It was incredibly inspiring. And I know that one could apply that to any HBCU, but it’s different at Howard. Howard holds a standard of excellence unlike any other HBCU, and that’s reason why they’re ranked number 1 amongst HBCUs. And in many areas, such as the School of Business, they’re ranked extremely high amongst colleges in general. So in terms of academics, Howard is the move.

 

And in terms of the social life, it’s almost disrespectful trying to explain it in words. To quote one of our group’s leaders “ nothing will prepare you for Howard except Howard”. The city of D.C. seemed to have a heartbeat that never stopped, and every day was a new adventure. I could write for days on some of the memories I had around Howard and D.C. , but to keep it short, I’ll just say that this trip will always hold a special place in my heart. From insane Uber rides, to late night runs to IHOP, Step Shows, and everything in between, this trip was great.

 

And even with all of that, I also got the opportunity to attend sessions on various schools of study at Howard. Whether it was the School of Communications, the School of Arts and Sciences and of course the School of Business. Each of these sessions provided not only more information on the school, but extremely useful information dealing with majors, tips for high school, and the application process. I wanted to go to more at the end of the trip, but the ones I did go to helped in many ways.

 

So to conclude, I simply want to thank the Howard University Alumni Association for the opportunity to experience Howard even for only a few days. The bus trip was extremely memorable, all of the chaperones were laid-back and resourceful, and the entire attitude toward the trip was a great mixture between “enjoy yourself”and “learn as much as you can”. To say I’m thankful is an understatement.  And after being on Howard’s campus and receiving only a glimpse into the life of a Howard Student, if all the right things line up, you can find me in D.C in a couple of years.

 

“H-U?!?”

 

“YOU KNOW!”  

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My Experience in London

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Well, I’m back.  

 

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted something, but due to my summer job, the World Cup, and preparing for London, I simply didn’t find the time for TDL. But man, do I have a story to tell you guys now! Now as some of you may know, I was given the opportunity to go to London over the summer break. And thanks to all of you guys, I raised enough money for me to go on the trip. I remember vividly how I felt when I got on the flight, being a mixture of jubilation and curiosity. The plane ride was long and tiring, but you gotta love international flights (Virgin Atlantic is insane).  After a long time in baggage claim, I finally met up with my other teammates who was on the trip, and began our journey.To be honest I didn’t know what to expect, but I was surely about to find out.

 

Now first off, let’s get the soccer out of the way (or “fútbol” for the next 10 days). As I’ve said before, I love soccer very very much, so to me it was exciting to play against players from other countries to see how they play and how we match up. At first we played well with a 4-2 win over a local club team. I scored, everyone had a good time, and we were optimistic about the upcoming games. But then we soon realized why the English Premier League is a little better than Major League Soccer, if you know what I mean. Our next game we tied 2-2, with both of our goals off of penalty kicks. It was rough, really rough,but a tie isn’t a loss, I guess. And finally came the last game against a better ranked London team,where we lost 3-0.We could barely get a shot off, and I wish I could play that game again. So with an average turnout of 1-1-1, I think that we could’ve done better, and we could’ve done worse. Not much to talk about.

 

And now, it’s time. It’s time to answer the question that I posed in the beginning of this journey. The question that will tell you all there is to know about where I came from.

 How does it feel to be a black boy in London?”

          And for my final answer, I say: it feels like nothing at all.   I know this sounds weird, but let me explain. When you’re a black person, and you live in the United States of America, you act accordingly. You try not to be too loud in public places, you stay away from the police, and you get your fair amount of side comments and interesting looks. In England, and especially in London, this simply doesn’t exist. To start, everybody is interacting with everybody. There is no racial divide anywhere that I could see, and we went to a lot of places. The interracial dating was through the roof, there were black and Indian and Chinese people doing every job a white person did, and it all seemed normal. Black people would walk around the same as white people and everybody else, and they all seemed to coexist naturally, unlike anything I’ve seen in the United States. I seriously was taken aback when I saw this, but it makes complete sense.

 

As I found out, England as a country abolished slavery almost 35 years before the U.S did, and there was no Jim Crow afterwards. Let me just say that again: there was no Jim Crow laws following the abolishment of slavery. Can you imagine that in the U.S, and the results that might have come from it? Maybe we didn’t need to get sprayed on by fire hoses. Maybe we didn’t have to go through Brown vs Board of Education. And maybe, just maybe, we didn’t have to see good people like Martin Luther King Jr. get shot.  From public schools, to restaurants, to even the U.S military, all of that would have been integrated. Now there was still prejudice in England, of course, but everything would have been equally shared. So that’s why I say that it doesn’t feel like I’m a “black teenage boy” in England. I interacted with as many people as possible, I walked into as many stores as I can, and I made sure that I never shied away from conflict of any kind. And as a result,  there was nothing remotely racist when it came to problems in England.I simply felt like a teenage boy, not a “black teenage boy” with all the negative connotations that come with that title America. Surprisingly, I had more problems because I was American.

 

It was such an amazing experience, that I will truly never forget.  I don’t know how or when, but I am getting back to London one way or another. There’s no way I’m not. We sadly had to go back a day before my school started, but everyone agreed that this was the best trip ever. And when I got back and started my first week of school, I of course came to the loud and bustling halls of Grady High School. The same school where  the teachers ask guys like me two and three times if i’m sure i’m in the right class (because i’m supposed to be in remedial classes, obviously). Yup, i’m back in America. Great. So that’s why from this day on I’m not going to give you “a black boy’s point of view in this day and age”, because that’s too broad. I’ve seen the other side, including my trip to Ghana last year, and at this moment, I want to see something other than the U.S for a while. From the sights, to the sounds, to especially the people, being out of the country sounds really good right about now. So right now, and from now on, I’m giving you “a black boy’s point of view in America”, because that’s the perspective that needs to be heard.

 

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An Opportunity of a Lifetime: A Trip to London!

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An Opportunity of a Lifetime: A Trip to London!

An Opportunity of a Lifetime: A Trip to London!

  At this moment right now, there is no question of what my favorite sport is. My favorite sport is the sport that draws in fans from around the world. And as I said previously, it is the sport that turns off the world’s problem for a full month to celebrate and enjoy a wonderful event known as the World Cup. That sport, of course, is fútbol (otherwise known as soccer) and I can not get enough of it. I love the emotion that is brought with playing it, as if the game that you’re playing is the last of your life. I love the way it transcends culture borders, giving all countries from Jamaica to Japan a chance to enjoy themselves. I love the wave of jubilance felt when you score a goal for your team, as your teammates rush to you to share the moment. And on top of this,I love the friendships and bonds formed by going through hardships and triumphs with your team. Basically, I love soccer in a lot of ways. But probably one of the most valuable things about soccer is that it can open doors to opportunities that you may have never been able to experience.  For this reason, I am writing this post for you today.

        Currently, I am part of a club soccer team in Atlanta, officially named the U15 “Inter Atlanta FC 99Elite.” We are a great team full of kids like me who just want to keep getting better at what we love. Personally, I love every minute of it, for not only am I getting better, but I can also spend some time with some pretty cool guys as well as a cool coach.The reason I bring this up is because this summer, my team and I have the chance to make it to London, England, and work with some of the English Premier League’s biggest soccer teams: Fulham FC and Chelsea FC! Both being located in London, my team will be able to train with these teams and watch them perform live. We will be staying in London for a total of 10 days, and will also get to experience the cultural landmarks that London has to offer. This includes seeing Big Ben, St. Paul’s Cathedral and many more things. It truly is the opportunity of a lifetime, and I am truly privileged to be given this chance. But there is one problem:

I need some money.

        Now my parents are willing to pay for the flight to London, but I need to pay for room and board, as well as other possible expenses. This is a total of around 2000 dollars, which needs to be made by the trip ( the last week in July). This is where I am asking you to come in. But do not get me wrong,  for this is not a charity case.

        You see, I am all about giving the point-of-view from a teenage African American boy in the world that we live in today. It has been my mission ever since I started thedarkerlens.com. and I plan on sticking to it. As a writer, I am always trying to expand my views on how the world thinks of me and people like me. And so far, I can only speak of incidences and experiences that I have living in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. I was fortunate enough to go to Ghana, West Africa, a couple of years ago.  Europe seems to be different. In Europe there are customs, traditions, behaviors, and history that are very different than what Americans are used to. For example, although there was still slavery in the British Caribbean, slavery ended more than 50 years before it did in America! But in contrast to that, England has also been guilty of having moments similar to Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis with the murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993 (whose killers where just found two years ago). So due to these things as well as others, I feel like the race relations in this foreign country could be interesting to experience. This experience could definitely aid my writing in many ways.

        I also feel like this is an opportunity for black kids like me to see that the world is much bigger than what they think it is. I often interact with people from school or other places, who see their lives and careers only through the lens of their home town! They simply do not know how large the world is, and how many opportunities it can give you. By going on this trip and telling everyone I know about it, hopefully my peers will realize this.

        So with that being said, it would be more than appreciated for you to help me out in my hopes of making it to England. I promise to post an in-depth account of my experience to show you what it is like. I will bring you the sights, the interactions, and especially the relation between black and white Europeans. This is something that a lot of people (especially kids of color) do not get the chance of doing, and for that reason I am trying to seize the moment when it arrives. So please help out for not only a soccer player trying to get better, but also for an inquisitive teeager who would like to know what life is like across the pond.   Below you can find a link to donate.

>LINK TO DONATE<

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