The theme of Black History Month is ‘Proud To Be’. Can you share what this means to you?
I am proud of my Black heritage and the extraordinary resilience it gives me to thrive in a world characterized by the marginalization of Africans, occasioned by the slave trade and the present-day neo-colonialism. Despite our disadvantaged status in the contemporary world, we still succeed on different fronts, from the Black scholars in Oxford and other top academic institutions to the Black innovators running tech and innovation companies and the global thought leaders setting the pace for global advancement. I am also proud to be a youth when Black youths drive innovative gears to place Africa as the next economic powerhouse. From the fintech companies powering the economic realization of the continent to the growing adoption of renewables in the energy systems, young Blacks are increasingly involved in change-making. As an African, I also feel proud of our contribution towards curbing climate change. With Africa contributing to only 2-3% of global warming, we have the leverage to call on the developed world to adopt eco-friendly practices and save the planet from the global warming crisis tagged code-red by the IPCC and the United Nations Secretary-General.
What is your experience of being a Black/Brown Rhodes Scholar studying at Oxford University?
Being a Black Scholar in Oxford is challenging in many ways, which I have experienced. First, the small community of Blacks makes it hard to form a community or a social support group on whom to lean. Coming at the peak of the global pandemic in 2020, it was tough to integrate into a community because of the isolation and the lack of social activities. Additionally, I lacked mentors to guide me through this era and to help me adapt to the Oxford and UK systems. The socio-cultural distinctiveness remains relevant. Subtleties like the drastic change in the food and the weather/climatic differences with short dark and cold winter days play significant roles in the lives of Black students. These underlying issues were difficult to surmount.
Notwithstanding, the Rhodes Trust and the community of Scholars, other Black students, and close friends from different ethnicities lightened the burden. Rhodes House listened to my challenges and provided the necessary resources and support to make the right decisions and live a good life. I will remain indebted to some friends who offered helpful tips, a listening ear, and a supporting shoulder.
How have you experienced community at Oxford?
Community is a relative term. While the Oxford community is welcoming, the minority nature of the Black ethnicities makes it challenging to integrate with the Oxford system. More so, not all natives understand the black perspective on life. As such, they have different aspirations that do not align with that of a Black Scholar. Thus, the community is more robust among fellow Blacks who share cultural similarities, challenges, and aspirations.
Are there any cultural celebrations or traditions you miss while in Oxford/ due to COVID restrictions?
From Oxford’s perspective, I miss the much talked about meet and greets organized by the Rhodes Trust for Scholars. Formals, in-person seminars, and social parties like the Afrobop rank among the list of activities I look forward to having. Generally, I miss traditional events in Nigeria that bring my extended family together to share our experiences and bond better. I also miss the traditional food like palm wine and pounded yam and egusi soup. I relish them.
Chukwumeka (Nigeria & Keble 2020) is a 26-year old Nigerian Rhodes Scholar, passionate about energy transitions for Africa’s economic advancement. He is the Vice President of the University of Oxford Africa Society and was recently named a top 3 Rare Rising Star in the United Kingdom for his academic, leadership, and entrepreneurial exploits. An electrical engineering graduate from the University of Nigeria, he is reading for the MSc in Energy Systems at Oxford, studying the renewable energy transition’s social, economic, political, and technological perspectives.
In 2017 he co-founded Greenage Technologies, a renewable energy company, serving as the COO from 2017-2020. At Greenage, he co-created energy system designs and implemented energy projects, delivering over 1MW of power to schools, hospitals, and small businesses in partnership with USADF, USAID, All On, and Genesys Tech Hub. The Greenage team also developed the process plant that integrates pure sine wave inverters and charge controllers in Nigeria.
Asides from his work, he engages in social development projects, co-founding the Coal City Fellowship with the Ganglion Initiative and the Oxford Africa Society to provide academic and professional mentorship to African youths and build the next generation of scholars and leaders.
He loves football, basketball, afro music, reggae, movies, nature, and good food. But, above all, he cherishes the virtues of love and kindness and believes that they are the keys to unlocking a better world.
Throughout Black History Month, we will be sharing and celebrating the stories and experiences of Black and Brown Rhodes Scholars. Thanks to everyone who is participating.
Find out about how the Rhodes Trust is examining its own legacy and focusing on eliminating racism.