Meet one of H-Town’s busiest Gen Z change agents: Akachi Azubuike.
Though you may not be familiar with her name (yet), if anything you do prioritizes Black empowerment you’ve probably run across Azubuike volunteering at SHAPE Community Center, attending classes and events at the Shrine of the Black Madonna Cultural and Events Center, performing as a member of one of the city’s African drum circles, offering panelist insights at the Society of Africans in the Diaspora (SAiD) or coordinating one of the many events sponsored by Umu Igbo Unite, a professional organization dedicated to the preservation of the history and cultures of Igbo people.
Born in Nashville, Azubuike discovered that her lineage traces back to Igboland, the indigenous homeland of the Igbo people, located in southeast Nigeria. But this Houston transplant has love for all members of the Pan-African diaspora, as evidenced by her many community service venues, including Blafrokan, a multi-media platform she created to convey information and entertainment focused on important Pan-African narratives.
The Defender spoke with Azubuike, a University of Houston alum, about her work with the international non-profit, the African Women Mobilization Commission (AWMC;www.awmcglobal.org).
DEFENDER: How did you get involved with AWMC?
AZUBUIKE: I wrote a piece based on the woman and who she is to the world. It was basically my experience and understanding of what it meant to be a woman, and these things you go through from girlhood to womanhood. Hearing things like “You play like a girl” and how you didn’t realize you were internalizing that you’re inferior. I knew there was a thing called “racism” when I was a child. But I didn’t really understand, until adulthood, that I had begun to accept that my gender made me “inferior.” I sent that essay to Dr. Uwa Onyioha Osimiri, the AWMC founder and president, and she loved it and wanted to interview me about it. That began the relationship on a more personal level with her. She would later invite me to learn more and eventually join her nonprofit.
DEFENDER: Why is it critical to center Black women, especially at this time?
AZUBUIKE: I studied economics at UH, and one of the classes I took that stood out to me was Global Economic Development. In that course we primarily focused on Africa. What became very clear to me is Africa was absolutely wealthy. Completely. Yet, the people are poor. And we know there are thriving villages and cities throughout the continent. But in terms of proportionately, for the average person, women make up the largest workforce. They are absolutely underpaid and overworked, and they are in poverty, and thus their children are in poverty. That creates a lot of issues for the people on the continent. But also, when you come over here to the U.S., where you have the fastest growing group of people who are starting businesses, who are getting degrees, and yet they are in extreme amounts of debt, who are working in poverty, who are experiencing the pay gap, which is institutionalized through sexism and racism and all of the other isms, it’s Black women. So, on both sides of the Atlantic, African women are really having a difficult time. It’s important that we center Black women around the world because women tend to uplift the entire community when she’s elevated.
DEFENDER: Does the commission have any events or initiatives coming up?
AZUBUIKE: For those familiar with Boko Haram in Nigeria, a lot of people, women and children, and men as well, have been displaced in IDP camps. So, we’ve done fundraising and we’ve fed so many people, over a thousand, that the heads of state in Borno (Nigeria) invited us and wants to honor us. We have initiatives where we are sponsoring children. Our goal is to sponsor 100 children. Right now, we sponsored about a handful, and gotten them medical care and sent children to school. We also partnered with Pop Solutions to provide Google scholarship training for those in the U.S., but primarily in Nigeria, looking to get into the tech industry. We have one recent graduate and more to come. We were able to get over 500 people to access that training.
It was open primarily to women. And interestingly, even when we offered scholarships to the women, many of them, because of the mindset, going back to that gender inferiority concept, thought immediately, “I should offer this scholarship to my sons or to my husband.” We had to actually advocate, “No, sisters. We need you to learn these things, to have these skills, to be prepared to walk into the future of technology.”
One of our upcoming initiatives is to unite brothers across the diaspora. We’re gonna focus in Nigeria first and expand from there. It’s called the Rock Festival. We sisters are calling to reclaim our communities, and we want our brothers to drum simultaneously, in Nigeria and the U.S. It will be broadcast both ways so brothers can connect and we can let our men know that we love them, that we support them. The event will also honor the heartbeat of the drum, the pulse of Africa, to unite us in one beat, to help us remember we are one family, both here in the diaspora and on the continent.
MORE ABOUT AKACHI AZUBUIKE
What brought you to Houston: I came to UH, graduated from there, by way of my stepfather and mom moving to Texas.
What are you reading now: I’m reading “2000 Seasons” by Ayi Kwei Armah. I’m almost finished with that book. That’s an incredible read. I recommend every African in the world read this book. No question. It’s a fictional story, but it’s based on a lot of truth on how the Arab invasion took place and paved the way for the European invasion and how we ended up where we are in terms of the Maafa. I’m reading Michelle Obama’s “Becoming.” That’s been an enjoyable read. I’m also reading “Dumb Us Down.” That’s a book about what’s going on with the educational system. And “The New Red Book” by Dr. Lindsay Gary, I’m reading that, as well.
Most impactful book you’ve ever read: I’m not gonna say it’s the most impactful, but this is what came to my mind first – “The Miseducation of the Negro.” That book. I just feel like we don’t really understand what he was saying. I read that book in 2017 and it was as if it was written that year, though it was published in 1933.
Favorite movie or movies: I love science fiction, so I’m gonna go with “The Matrix.” And I love the Harry Potter movies.
What’s on your playlist right now: It is a lot of African house music. One of my favorite songs is “Uhuru.” It’s amazing. And I also listen to lo-fi music. Look up Blafrokan and you’ll see the African house playlist, which is phenomenal. It’s literally called “Ancestors Party and Ebo.”