I had worked about 10 years in Africa over a 25 year period when I met my wife, Ifeoma Udem, in 2006, it was simple chance and good fortune like the way it happens there. The unexpected, the extraordinary surprise. We met in the Spring of that year in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, a chance acquaintance at a friends house.
Some months later, we were married in her village several hundred people attending-some say more- to the village square to celebrate with us for two days. I was lucky to get to the marriage because my driver got lost somewhere near Afikpo and everyone was worried about the bridegroom showing up. Luck found the right road. She had two dances before her people and in the end passed the palm wine to me. This was my hope, because Igbo women have the choice of pouring out the palm wine or giving it to another man. Igbo women are free to decide even at the last moment. In Onicha village, gargantuan pots of food cooked over wood fires and endless flasks of palm wine were gathered from the community. Chiefs and Mrs. Chiefs. All of her relatives and now all of my new ‘In-laws’. We were blessed and within a year our first son was born, the first child for either of us and another celebration under African skies. He was named Claude Chukwudi (Igbo for ‘God Is’). I like this name, it is popular for Igbo boys and I like the diminutive, ‘Chuks’ sounding like ‘Chooks’ and I believed it would serve him well as he grew up. Anyway after getting Ifeoma’s visa (we waited 12 months), we flew to the USA on KLM.
We were first in Eugene, Oregon before we moved down to the Austin area. Truly it was wondrous to return to Texas. My family is all over this proud state and some of them had not seen me for decades and many wanted to see whether I was still real. But as wonderful was that were the couple hundred families from her tribe, living here, and they took us in. Her tribe, which you will learn about in the section on Villages in the Metropoles, believe in community. They were with us through all of our transitions another son, the visit of my mother in law, and we shared their lives, their celebrations of marriages, graduations, ‘birthings’ (as it is said by some Africans) as well as the sad times, times of sickness and wake keepings. We belonged to a village that took care of their own. Our second son was named Benjamin Chiemerie (Igbo for ‘God Did It’) and the whole village celebrated it.
I began to notice that there were other villages of other tribes and realized that there was an Austin Africa and later saw another side of serious organizations trying to help refugees and struggling immigrants. There are many organizations working to help refugees and struggling immigrants. Being a volunteer to one of these groups is a wonderful way to learn about Africa and help.
Finally, I began to see what I will call ‘Africaphiles’ (my words); people interested in Africa for many reasons; its music, art, life, and culture. Not only at the Universities, but across the spectrum of the Austin community. I saw people wanting to have part of Africa, to be part of Africa. In doing research on the web, I saw tremendous African resources: music, movies, university lectures, free eBook downloads including an eight volume, 10,000 page UNESCO History of Africa, all sorts of culture and history for those that are interested. There are hundreds of movies on rural and urban African life that are addictive. And of course, there is African music.
For these and many other reasons, we thought to open a ‘village square’ for Austin Africa where the many cross-currents of those in and of Africa could communicate and share. Austin Africa wants, among many things, to provide access to the many elements that make up Africa through the following categories: Austin Africa, Deep Africa, Villages in the Metropoles, an Austin Africa academy for the more scholarly interests and an AustinAfrica Review for the arts and entertainment.
Of course in any village, not far from the square there are markets and Africans being entrepreneurial, we hope that you will visit our cyber booths: Ifeoma’s Food, Flair, and Fashion and Princes of Africa to see what’s available on market day which is every day for us.
Most importantly, we hope to deepen Austin Africa and grow a wider community of sharing, of African life and love.