Interviews of Famous People Series: Chika Unigwe

In class today, students were reading an article on author Chika Unigwe, and I informed them that I used to work for Yahoo! Voices as a contributing writer and had interviewed the author when she visited Smyrna, Georgia, from Belgium before she relocated to Georgia with her family. Upon further reflection, I decided to upload the articles I wrote for Yahoo! Voices into my blog since the contract I signed with Yahoo! is no longer valid. Also, that branch of Yahoo has been shut down.

Author Chika Unigwe Brings a Cause Célèbre to Atlanta

The harbinger of uncomfortable and eye-opening news, Nigerian author, Chika Unigwe, came four thousand miles to expose Atlantans to a festering human condition spreading too rapidly worldwide. Unigwe proffered unflattering details on the cancer of human trafficking during a gathering in her honor on Friday, November 18, 2011, at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Marietta.

The much publicized writer and the winner of numerous international awards and fellowships, Unigwe elaborated. “The incident is so prevalent that it has created a new middle class in Nigeria. Parents receive money from strange men in Italy to groom their daughters, and Italian men pay the tuition. The parents traffic their daughters once they graduate from high school,” Unigwe continued, deeply concerned.

When Amy Edwards of St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Smyrna learned that the author was coming to visit her sisters in the Atlanta area, she acted expeditiously and arranged the reading of On Black Sisters’ Street, Unigwe’s novel. Using the book as a platform for the exposure of the rancid disease of selling humans, Edwards revealed the inconvenient truth that Atlanta is one of the top U.S. cities–and an infamous hub–for trafficking modern slaves.

The mother of four boys, Unigwe disquieted her fans as she revealed unsavory facts of legalized prostitution in European countries and the enslavement of thousands of Nigerian girls who are bonded to pimps and madams in Belgium for a minimum of five years.

According to Unigwe, “The daughters are given to men or are sold into slavery to women in the United States, Belgium, Italy, and other countries as long as the girls send money to Nigeria. Some of these girls want out, but they are bound and gagged by their parents’ need for the money they send. There have been reported incidents of pastors involved in the sale of humans.”

The condition reached an alarming proportion locally that it prompted Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin to launch the “Dear John” program in 2006. The Georgia General Assembly followed by passing HB 200, “Freedom from Human Trafficking Act,” in 2007 and revised it in 2011.

Despite local, national, United Nations, and other international laws, “The problem of human trafficking continues because of widespread corruption. A staff at Heathrow smuggled Nigerian girls into London through employee exit,” Unigwe narrated.

“As part of my research for my novel, and with my husband’s approval, I dressed as one of those girls on the streets in Antwerp to gather first-hand materials. The difference between European and Nigerian pimps is that European pimps control with drugs; Nigerian pimps use psychology.”

Edwards encouraged attendees to get involved by connecting with the Governor’s Office for Children and Families, Not For Sale, A Future Not a Past, and Street Grace.  These organizations are dedicated to awareness and prevention of child exploitation as well as to the restoration of victims. Any person can help by reporting any incidents or possible victims of child sex exploitation and human trafficking to the Georgia Care Connection Office.

Interviews of Famous People Series: Mayor Shirley Franklin

In class today, students were reading an article on Mayor Shirley Franklin, and I informed them that I used to work for Yahoo! Voices as a contributing writer and had interviewed the Atlanta mayor. Upon further reflection, I decided to upload the articles I wrote for Yahoo! Voices into my blog since the contract I signed with Yahoo! is no longer valid. Also, that branch of Yahoo has been shut down.

Unfortunately, I was unable to locate that article since Yahoo! Voices no longer exists. Here is the picture from my camera.

Mayor Shirley Franklin Speaks at Kennesaw State University

Interviews of Famous People Series: Kayongo

In class today, students were reading an article on Derreck Kayongo, and I informed them that I used to work for Yahoo! Voices as a contributing writer and had interviewed Mr. Kayongo. Upon further reflection, I decided to upload the articles I wrote for Yahoo! Voices into my blog since the contract I signed with Yahoo! is no longer valid. Also, that branch of Yahoo has been shut down.

Here is the article with accompanying pictures from my camera.

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Kayongo Challenges KSU Students to Go Beyond Soap

The founder and chairman of The Global Soap Project foundation posed several challenges to Kennesaw State University students during a speaking event hosted by the American Democracy Project, an arm of the University, on Tuesday, October 25, 2011, in Kennesaw, Georgia.

An agent of change, Mr. Derreck Kayongo, who has been nominated as one of The top 10 CNN Heroes of 2011, roused the audience with the initial question of “Can you be creative when you are hungry or are being chased out of your home?”  Resounding verbal “No!” and energized negative headshakes greeted his declaration.

With a passion for saving the world’s marginalized millions, whether through CARE or through his own foundation, Kayongo meshed the issues of global poverty, children’s welfare, women rights, creativity, history lessons, economic development (and lack of), environmental stability, global healthcare, social justice, and the crippling effects of culture in his hour-long delivery as a backdrop to his daring message to the students.

A child refugee himself, Mr. Kayongo, the social entrepreneur, warned, “Lack of rights is a bottleneck on economic development.  If women do not have the right to own properties, they cannot be a part of an economy and cannot obtain loans to better themselves and their families.  This is the crippling effect of culture on economics.”

Kayongo, who has given more than 300 speeches on key issues, added one more today as he challenged these future entrepreneurs. “Do not go out into the world with a lukewarm approach.  Have gumption, creativity, and ambition.  Find simple solutions that can save the world.  Build a network of creatively influencing people.  Combine your education with practicality.  Having an education is not enough.  What practical things can you do with it?”

Continuing his impassioned plea, the Regional Director at Amnesty International charged, “Travel.  Get the heck out of here.  Use your professors.  They are well connected.  Use them to boost more than your education.  Use them to step out into the world.”

The father of two children and the winner of the Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition, Kayonga jelled his message from CARE, Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, with his message from his own non-governmental organization, which he started with his wife, Sarah, in the basement of their house two years ago, for which he cashed his 401K.  The hospitality industry’s soap wastage spurred the birth of The Soap Project.

“You have no idea how important soap is until you try taking a shower without one.  The bottom billion of the world’s 7 billion people cannot afford soap.  If labor is unhealthy with sanitation problems, diarrhea, malaria, or other diseases transmitted through unwashed hands, the other three factors of production are at a halt.  For every 15 cents invested in production, humanity saves $7 worldwide when all GDPs, from the most developed countries to the countries with only a $300 per capita income, are combined.”

Kayongo, whose childhood in an upper middle-class family was unceremoniously upturned one day in his native Uganda under the infamous dictator Idi Amin, spoke of governance and freedom as the two keys in human survival.  “With continuing poor governments globally, economies stay the same or get worse.  You have freedom, the only people who can knock on the doors of your congressional representatives, tell them off, and still be safe enough to come home and sit down to dinner with your family.  Use your elected officials.”

As he awaits the December 11, 2011, worldwide telecast of the outcome of the online votes for the finalist from The Top 10 CNN Heroes of 2011, the former adjunct professor at Beulah Heights Bible College and the Senior Advocacy Coordinator for the Southeast region with CARE International never rests.

The donor of unopened bars of soap to homeless shelters is working with Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta to explore best avenues for increased volume and delivery to more recipients worldwide to accommodate the ever growing needs of millions to help him scale over the 20 countries he currently serves, including Swaziland, Kenya, Haiti, Uganda, and Ghana. Kayongo is canvassing inlets for finances and volunteers for his NGO.

Wrapping up his speech, the man who has monitored elections with former President Jimmy Carter in Ethiopia and Sierra Leone, charged KSU students with, “Discover your passion with gumption, be visionaries, and let those visions save the world.”