My parents are one of the founding families of our local Yoruba association, which has been running for almost 10 years (it’ll be 10 years later this year). My dad actually had the honour of giving a (longish) keynote speech when the association launched and he served as president over the last year or two. The association meets every two months and their main activities as I can determine are a picnic in July, the end of year/Christmas party and the Yoruba school initiative on Saturdays for children up to the age of 13.
For the last few years, my dad has been encouraging me to get involved in the association because without “young people”, the association will die. It’s true that the average age of those attending meetings is probably around mid-40s, and the picnic and end of year party are rarely attended by people in their late teens, 20s, or 30s, aside from those of us whose parents are founding members and who ask us to attend. In fact, attending these sorts of events is one of the reason I call myself a Good Nigerian Girl (in a tongue-in-cheek way!).
There are a couple of other Nigerian associations in the city, and the president of one of them is a guy around my age who seems very dynamic, focused and hardworking. He stepped into a pretty bad mess with lots of politics, but according to many of the elders of the community, he’s making strides in the right direction. I ran into him at an event last weekend and he asked me to take the post of Youth Coordinator. I was reluctant at first (I would prefer to be responsible for public relations and publicity) but the more we talked the more interested I became, though I refused to commit. The main reason was because I felt like I would be betraying the Yoruba association if I got on board with this other association, especially since the Youth Coordinator of the Yoruba association had recently contacted my sister and I regarding helping with youth coordination. So, I called the Yoruba association’s Youth Coordinator and she said the help needed was actually for this other association, which meant I was free to volunteer as Youth Coordinator after all.
I have to admit I’m scared to hold this position. There is a significant time commitment, and I don’t want to be involved in something that is disorganized and shoddily run, something I already told the president. I feel like I’m going to attend the meetings and be that annoying person asking for a calendar or asking for timelines for things, but someone has to do it. The new president seems to like order and organization too so maybe things won’t be so bad.
Then of course there’s the youth. It’s a tall order to ask one person to be responsible for Nigerians ranging in age from the late teens to the early 30s (as far as I can tell that is the age range). This will probably mean organizing different events for different age levels and although I know how to run an event, I still have my insecurities: I’m not a cool person, I never have been. I’m a bit geeky, more traditional, so if these kids expect me to be up to date on all the latest Naija lingo or music, they will be disappointed. If they expect me to be a fashionista, again: disappointment awaits them.
Also, in my experience, college and university-age adults stay away from Nigerian-run events for a few reasons: first, they may not hear about it due to poor publicity, secondly they find the events dry and disorganized, and thirdly they may not want to associate with Nigerian cultural associations, period. However I’m at the stage where I feel the need for Nigerians to make more of an impact on our city. There are quite a few of us around and we know so little about each other. We don’t network, we don’t support each other’s initiatives because we don’t know about them, and I think we should do more in that direction. So personally, my goal is more to build community and provide resources for those who might be new to the city, but I know I will have to let the people who identify as youth direct what we do because if they are not interested in it, or if they don’t feel a part of it, there will be no youth to coordinate.
How about you? Are you involved in a (local) Nigerian association? What has your experience been interacting with Nigerian associations (either as a member or an attendee of an event run by a Nigerian association)?