Less than a month to go before our inaugural Speak Up storytelling event at Real Art Ways in Hartford, CT.
May 4 at 7:00 PM. Admission is free.
Today I’m proud to introduce our second storyteller, Okey Ndibe. My wife and I had the honor of getting to know Okey while his children attended the school where we teach, and I have listened to him tell stories to children as part of several cultural celebrations at our school.
His biography will astound you. We can’t wait to find out what he has planned for us next month.
Until spring 2012, Okey taught fiction and African literature at Trinity College in Hartford, CT (where the student-run newspaper, The Trinity Tripod, named him one of 15 professors “students must take classes with before graduating”). He is currently a visiting professor of Africana literature at Brown University in Providence, RI where he co-teaches a course with Chinua Achebe, author of the inimitable Things Fall Apart.
Okey earned an MFA and PhD from U Mass, Amherst. This Fall, Soho Press (NYC) will publish his novel, foreign gods, inc. His first novel, Arrows of Rain, was published by Heinemann (UK) in their esteemed African Writers Series. Ten years after its publication, the novel – which has drawn praise from numerous critics and authors, including Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka and John Edgar Wideman – continues to maintain impressive sales. The U.K-based New Internationalist magazine described Arrows of Rain as “a powerful and gritty debut.” He also co-edited (with Zimbabwean author Chenjerai Hove) a book titled Writers, Writing on Conflicts and Wars in Africa.
Okey has taught at Connecticut College in New London, CT (where the student newspaper listed him as one of the college’s five outstanding professors), and Simon's Rock College of Bard in Great Barrington, MA, winning the college's New Faculty Award. During the 2001-2002 year, he was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Lagos, Nigeria. He was the founding editor of African Commentary, a magazine published in the U.S. by novelist Chinua Achebe, author of the classic novel, Things Fall Apart.
From 2000 to 2001, Okey served on the editorial board of Hartford Courant where his essay titled “Eyes to the Ground: The Perils of the Black Student” won the 2001 Association of Opinion Page Editors award for best opinion essay in an American newspaper.
Since 1999, Okey has written a column on Nigeria's political, social and cultural affairs that's widely syndicated by Nigerian newspapers and numerous websites. His unsparing stance against official corruption in Nigeria earned him inclusion on a government list of “enemies of the state.” In January 2011, Nigeria’s security agents arrested him, confiscated his Nigerian and American passports, and briefly detained him. His ordeal was covered by the Nigerian and international media (including major American, British, Canadian, French, and German newspapers). Protests by various writers (among them Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe), writers organizations and the Connecticut Congressional delegation forced the Nigerian government to return his confiscated passports. Okey has been detained five more times since then, most recently this January when the security agency held him overnight for more than 10 hours before he was let go.
Okey is currently working on a memoir titled Going Dutch and Other American Misadventures – detailing his often hilarious as well as frightful experiences as an immigrant in the US. The memoir dwells on such experiences as his arrest – ten days after his arrival in America – as a bank robbery suspect. A widely traveled lecturer and raconteur in Nigeria, Okey frequently gives lectures and readings in Africa, Europe, and on college campuses in the US and Canada. In 2010, the Nigerian Peoples Parliament (a political pressure group of Nigerians resident abroad) elected him as speaker.