“We really believe that in whatever community you are, you can shine the light and give everyone an opportunity to shine theirs.” Mercy Akamo, Chief Organizer, TEDx Lagos got the event off the ground on this note. She spoke to an audience who were eager to listen and learn from twelve speakers selected for their exceptional contributions and vigorous support for Nigeria and the African continent. Each speaker’s words were direct and relatable, piercing deeper than a double-edged katana and filling the hall with silent reflections.
The first speaker, Olasupo Shasore (SAN), could not have started his presentation any better, with a brief history lesson that had all attendees rapt as he spoke on the most priceless resource available to man, his IDENTITY. Speaking on the African identity, the historian and former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice (2007-2011) went back in time from the pre-colonial wars to when families were forced into bereavement because members of their households were ripped out of the community and forced into slavery. Thus, these had their identities stolen and misplaced in time.
“Shame was the name of Africa,” Mr Olasupo said. The continent was regarded as a wasteland with nothing to offer but hardworking people to tend the horses, clean the house and mow the gardens. A huge lie this was; the truth they had us believe. As a result, this affected our performance and output as a nation and Africa in general. Our identity was lost in this lie.
“We are the sophisticated civilization that had our identity stolen,” Mr Olasupo continued. “Africa/Nigeria is many things, but “we are not the lazy, underdeveloped, underperforming people, we are great for Africa.”
“Why not me? why not now?”
These were the questions the second speaker who is also Africa’s pioneer female skeleton athlete, Simi Adeagbo, left in the hearts of her listeners as she walked down the stage with a rousing ovation.
Simi’s story is one of rugged determination shown by a young woman who would ultimately leave her mark in Africa’s history books.
The need to “change the conversation and narrative around Africa” was Simi’s driving force. “Too much ill had been spoken about Africa already and it is our job to change this. I wanted to redefine how and what people expect from Africa, and ultimately I wanted to inspire the next generation to dream without fear. …We may not all be an Olympic Skeleton racer,” however, “no matter how big or small the change is, the world is waiting for you to create it. So why not you? why not now?”
“We don’t need your pity … all we ask for is an environment”
The last speaker to grace the stage was Tope Okupe, a disability advocate. Though battling cerebral palsy, Tope refuses to be restrained by his condition, rather he sees the need to do more for people who are mentally and physically challenged. He holds a Masters Degree in Human Resources and is a project manager working with two disability inclusive units in Lagos State on a comic relief funded program to develop children living with disabilities in Nigeria.
As Tope walked into the hall he had his audience mesmerized even before he uttered a word. Here was a man who refused to live a life that would see him relegated to the background a lot of times, pitied and regarded as less everyday.
Despite the many challenges he faced, his mind was set on a hard-fought win that will see many with special needs take a cue from his victories and choose to be more than what the society has made of them.
“All we ask for is an environment,” Tope stated, reminding the public that people with special needs also deserve to be treated rightly and given a chance at life just like any other normal person would.
Other speakers at the event were CEO, 9Mobile, Boye Olusanya; Cultural Entrepreneur, Tokini Peterside; and Bankole Wellington a.k.a Banky W.
Attendees were also treated to thrilling performances by Afro-jazz Guitarist/Vocalist, Femi Leye and global sensation and Nigeria kids dancing crew.
During the course of the event, top sponsors, Union Bank Nigeria and Skoll Foundation swung into action with workshops designed to challenge the attendees to put all they had heard so far to test via interactive sessions with professionals in different fields of practice.
TEDx Lagos held on the 18th of August at the MUSON Centre was truly an unforgettable day. We don’t have too many events like this that challenge the convention and spur one to think way outside the confines of a box created by a society that has seemingly lost touch of its place and identity. Too often we regard ourselves as less when truly we are more than our wildest dreams can imagine.
Feature image: facebook.com/achimede
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