This issue came up recently while reading through my first non-favorable review so far for The Only Way is Up. While I can take criticism and I am well aware that reviewers are human and we all have diverse opinions, I could not help but feel like I was being told I could not help people live better lives because I was not born poor and impoverished; my story/message is possibly not relevant because it is not a rags to riches story. That could not be farther from the truth. It's like saying Sanaa Lathan has not had any real challenges in her acting career or her life because she was born into the industry and she went to Harvard. I bet she would probably prove otherwise if you cared to listen. I didn't just compare myself to the beautiful Sanna Lathan...just an analogy...Funny!
This is one of the issues I definitely was aware of taking on this project and I actually alluded to it in my introduction. My standpoint has always been that even though I do not have an example of being sexually abused or raped in childhood by my family members or otherwise, I do not have friends who have been locked up for years and years and neither do I have friends that were killed in their teens at a train station or from gang violence, I can still make an impact in this world and be there for those who are dealing with those problems. I am not stereotyping here or saying such could not happen in Nigeria. It is just not as widespread as in the US. (These of course do happen almost as much in the UK also being a developed country with much of the same problems leading up to this trend.) I also know people who grew up in the US exactly like I did with stability and love at home and the provision of basic needs. I watch TV and listen to the radio everyday and it breaks my heart to see and hear all this evil going on around me.
Thankfully, I have had so much positive feedback about The Only Way is Up from all races and both sexes as well as different agegroups that I cannot let this stop me. It is in a sense my way of giving back to a country that has embraced me and allowed me to succeed and prosper. I really do love the United States of America.
The review also questions who my audience is. My answer to that is anyone who wants to improve on themselves. It does not matter where you have been or what mistakes you have made. You can still live a better life if desired and you can especially impact that of your childen early so as not to make the same mistakes. I touch on my childhood to paint a picture of an alternate way of life and the results that are achieved from that way. All I really try to communicate is a change in attitude and mindset that regardless of where you are in life, you can be better. And I am thankful I am having that effect on teenagers, middle aged women, grown men, etc. I know my effort is not in vain. And I am very thankful to those who have and are still supporting me on this project.
With regard to my direct approach, the truth can often be hard to swallow or hear. But how does one sugar-coat the kind of issues I address in my book such as the lack of the intact family, teenage pegnancy, a general social decline, obesity and single parenthood? There is no sitting on the fence for such issues. And I'll take it if the attitude is "How dare this foreign person come to the US to tell us what to do?" I just refuse to be quiet however.
One other interesting point that I know is this: If foreigners can come to the US and succeed, so can Americans. It's not an assumption. It is fact. People just need to change their thinking and sense of entitlement where they are looking to someone else to do for them; they need to take ownership. They need information. And I have seen people do it who have no education or who needed to go back to school or train to be educated in a field that was marketable here. I have seen immigrants work as mechanics, store owners, go to nursing school, work as hairdressers, etc. The fact that I am an MD does not change the principle. If I wasn't an MD, I'd still be successful at something else in this country, probably real estate related methinks!
I was at a mentoring event last night sponsored by Michael Baisden and co. It was amazing and he had the same message. "The president is doing his job. What are you doing?" He's not going to come to your house and ensure your kids stay in school. You need to do that; and the community. He actually started off with this statement: "Ladies, you may not need a man, but your kids sure do!" So, maybe my audience are the people who listen to the Michael Baisden Show or the Frank and Wanda Morning Show. Just maybe! (Funny)
With regard to travel, I also do not assume it is easy or cheap to do this. But for those people who can afford it and do have the means but just think they have nothing to see outside of their great country, I just urge that they try it. It is always life changing. I promise you. Once again I bring up the Frank Ski Kids Foundation and the trips to the amazon, etc for these kids. I had a previous post about this which you can peruse at your pleasure.
About my exact timelines in the UK and Nigeria, that will have to come in my biography which this is not. Maybe I'll get to that someday...Just maybe! I might experiment with fiction next however.
The review also alluded to the fact that I painted the picture of a happy childhood despite having no electricity. Now, what really makes a happy child? It is amazing how happy a child can be with love despite lacking a lot of things we adults would even consider as needs. Those moments I spent sitting on the porch with my father under the moonlight listening to his stories or folk-tales (we called these alo), or howling at the moon were some of my best memories of my childhood and frankly speaking, my life. And to think that it was borne out of a lack of something! And even though video and TV games existed then, we never had any while I grew up. Sometimes technology can be almost like a curse or a distraction to actual human connection. Definitely the computer is. So, I can say most definitely that I was a very happy child. It sure beats losing friends and family members to drugs and the streets anyday (thoughts of which absolutely break my heart). Once again, not stereotyping but for those who are not aware, Nigerians are often described as the happiest people in the world. We let nothing stop us. We keep going and going and going despite any challenges. And if you have seen Nigerians party, you will agree with me we are some happy people. And as much as I hate to admit it because I live in the US, people who live in Nigeria even with petrol (fuel) scarcity and no constant electricity somehow manage or seem to be happier and more fulfilled than most of us who live in developed countries. I still haven't figured out exactly how but it just is. That is food for thought. We may really have it all wrong about what's really important to fulfilment in life.
I will never let go of my belief that one person at a time, one good deed at a time, we can change the world. It all starts in our little corner. What are you doing in your corner? Let's do it. YES WE CAN!