By Dennis Kabatto, New York.
Umo Igbo Unite of North America (UIU) officials say they struck gold at their recent 8th Annual Convention.
The three day convention held at the Baltimore Hilton from Thursday, August 2, 2012 through Sunday, August 5, 2012 is a culmination of UIU’s concerted efforts to galvanize young adult Nigerian-American professionals and college students in the promotion of personal, cultural and professional growth in the Diaspora.
“We are starting small,” said the Vice-president of UIU, the newly wedded Ms Ijeoma Anadu-Okoli who attended with her husband, “eventually we hope to grow so that we can throw it open to other Nigerian youth who are interested in a similar agenda of preserving our different cultures.”
About 450 registered mostly young adult Nigerian-Americans of Igbo descent from around the USA, for three days engaged in professional and cultural networking, encouraging and supporting innovative business ideas as well as entertainment activities among other things.
Attendees participated in a variety of events including Karaoke Night; a meet and greet mingling/mixer session, where the participants were introduced by the organizers to their fellow participants. Also, a Career Fair workshop about navigating through today’s job market in North America was offered including a talk on health care for young adults in addition to a well attended and very popular session on how to tie the traditional head tie – known as ichafu or gele.
On Friday, day two of the convention, an early soccer game preceded a Sightseeing tour of Baltimore City – the 4th largest Nigerian American Community which was followed by an evening movie premier of famed Nigerian filmmaker Kelechi Eke’s ‘Lost in Abroad’ a funny rather poignant look at the trials and tribulations of a first generation immigrant family in the USA. “It taught me to see things from my parent’s point of view,” commented Nkiru a 26year old attendee from Dallas who was there with her older brother. “It was just like in our household. I could almost hear my Dad talking in that movie,” she added laughing as she recalled a comical scene.
Special guest speaker Dr Ngozi Achebe, author and medical doctor talked about the challenges of writing and also about her upcoming book “The Secret Keeper of Utopia” a coming of age novel based on the Nigerian- Biafran civil war that engulfed Nigeria in the late sixties.
“This is an eye-opener,” noted a twenty-two year old attendee after the talk. “My parents and my grandparents never talk about it. Once I asked my Dad a question about the war and I saw tears in his eyes. It was the first time I learnt he had actually fought in that war. I’ve never asked him about it again but since then I have tried to educate myself about it. I’m glad Dr Achebe gave us this talk today. I’ve even heard some people say it never happened.”
Saturday night was the main event – a gala dinner and a later rousing session with Nigerian hip hop rapper Bracket who entertained party-goers into the early hours of the morning. A nondenominational mass on Sunday morning followed by a brunch rounded off the 8th Annual UIU Convention as attendees drifted off to the airport to catch flights back to their respective destinations.
“We are starting small,” said the Vice-president of UIU, the newly wedded Ms Ijeoma Anadu-Okoli who attended with her husband, “Eventually we hope to grow so that we can throw it open to other Nigerian youth who are interested in a similar agenda of preserving our different cultures.”
Since 2005, UIU have held an annual convention each year aimed at promoting unity, co-operation and general empowerment amongst Igbo youth and young Igbo professionals. People from other cultural backgrounds and ethnicities that are interested in learning more about the Igbo culture are welcome and encouraged to attend.
Adaora Obiechina, the Houston, Texas branch Public Relations Officer indicated she was pleased with the whole event. “There’re some things we did better this year and others we still need to improve on. But overall it went very well.”
“This is the best convention so far,” Uche a 20 year old from Akron, Ohio said as he pushed his travelling case towards the waiting airport shuttle. “I’m going to spread the word to my friends. We’re definitely not missing it next year.”
For more information on UIU activities including upcoming events, visit their website at: http://www.umuigbounite.com
Ngozi Achebe, MD, contributed to this story.