When Akachi Azubuike moved to Houston from Nashville in 2003, what ended up being a move to further her education at the University of Houston became a stepping stone that led her down a pathway to discovering her true African identity.
For the last five years, Azubuike has been on an intentional journey to trace her genealogy and family lineage. As a Black woman in the diaspora, she wanted to stay connected to her roots while finding a community she can call her own.
Azubuike not only discovered that she was of Nigerian descent, but she learned her lineage traces back to Igboland, the indigenous homeland of the Igbo people, located in southeast Nigeria. As part of her efforts to embrace her heritage, she legally changed her name to Akachineke, which means “Hand of God.”
One day, she decided to join the Houston chapter of a young professional organization called Umu Igbo Unite. The organization is dedicated to the preservation of the history and cultures of Igbo people. She joined the group in 2018, and is now the public relations officer of the chapter.
UIU Houston Chapter hosted their first Igbo State Cultural Fair on May 21, just a few days before Houston’s annual Africa Day celebrations, to educate Africans in the diaspora about the diverse history and cultures of the different states representing Igboland.
“So many people have been removed from understanding their culture and knowing who they are. As much as America is considered the ‘melting pot,’ there are so many people who truly don’t understand the essence of what their culture is,” Azubuike said. “I’ve been able to find blood relatives who are alive who came from Igboland to the United States. I’m learning more about the different states in Igboland compared to this broad brush western culture used to paint Africans.”
In Nigeria, Igboland is roughly made up of seven states:
- Abia State
- Anambra State
- Ebonyi State
- Enugu State
- Imo State
- Northern Delta
- Rivers State
During the fair, UIU members from each of these states must showcase the uniqueness of where they are from. Everything from fashion, dance, music, signature delicacies, and historical facts about each state are presented to the audience.
“Even though we are all Igbos, we all have cultures and traditions that distinct us from one another. We are showcasing the differences in these Igbo states,” said Raphael Onyeka, cultural chair of Houston’s UIU. “There is a disconnect among Igbos in the diaspora and programs like this help bring them back to the culture and teach them certain things belong to where they are from.”
Iheanyi Ezeagwula is a chapter member who decided to reintegrate with his Igbo community by joining the organization earlier this year. Although he was born and raised in Nigeria, there were some new things he learned from the fair.
“I’ve learned so much from this event (including) facts shared that I had no idea of about the origin until now,” he said. “It further reinforces how proud I am of my Igbo culture.”