I grew up reading Hints and Hearts until I was introduced to Reader’s Digest and Vogue. Who am I kidding? I used to read every magazine I came across; whether it was Sports Illustrated, Time, Watch Tower(yes! I read that!) or something really obscure.
I spent time looking at the cover, the design, the layout before I even looked at the stories. And when I got to the stories, I would take just as much time to digest them and imagine my life in them.
It was my desire to own a magazine. And a TV Station. And a film company. All while being a neurosurgeon and working with the United Nations to save lives. (I know! Overambitious!)
My desire was so great that in my teens, I joined a gospel group – Crystals Family – where I was soon made the director of Da’scribes. Da’Scribes were the writers in the group. It wasn’t long before I was planning a launch of a magazine. I got people to send in pictures, stories, poems, song lyrics, jokes, puzzles and more in my quest to get content for the magazine. I spent hours on end designing prototypes of the magazine and even went further to interview people for our signature edition.
It was all love and passion until it was time to produce. We realized that we were just a bunch of poor kids with big dreams. And bring dreams didn’t happen without money. We couldn’t afford to raise…was it ₦50,000 then… to get our copies out. Our inability to raise the money, plus our raging teenage hormones, got us easily burned out.
The dream started to die; for many.
Not for me though. That was my baby.
So I kept the files, checking up on them every once in a while to remind myself that it could still happen. It was so bad that whenever I wanted to travel, I went with those files, believing that as soon as I ‘blew’, the magazine was going to go up. I am slightly ashamed to say that as I write now, those same files are right now in a bag on my wardrobe; beaten by time, slight mold and crushed dreams.
By 2010, I knew the magazine business, especially the production of hard copies, was a dying trade. The quick uptake of the internet (read social media) meant that producing hard copies of readable material was like dancing in quicksand; you were going to drown in debt.
I remember the first day I saw a Kindle with my friend Wuese. I was fascinated! What was this sorcery?! I could read a whole book from a device?! I was shocked. And then I wasn’t. Technology was taking over everything!
And true to form, the magazines began to go online. Bellanaija was leading the pack in Nigeria for lifestyle. Linda Ikeji was replacing City People and all the other salacious magazines we used to turn to for gossip. Even the big names – Vogue, Elle, Ebony, O! – were all using teasers online to get people to buy their magazines. Newspapers? They followed suit! New York Times, Washington Post, even our Guardian, Thisday, Leadershipall knew that if they remained hardcopy issues, they were going to lose relevance and go bankrupt.
I knew my dreams of owning a magazine, especially hard copy, had passed.
So I joined the bandwagon and thought more about the online space than the paperback one.
I started writing on Facebook until my friend Charles said, ‘Girl, you need to put your thoughts in a blog’.
And that was how Shades of Us was birthed.
The magazine was finally going to happen; but in a different format.
I started out writing pieces about my frustration with how women and children were treated. Then I remembered how I used to write fiction during my boring classes to pass the time. And I thought to myself, why the hell not?! The first fictional story I wrote was corny for days. I wrote about love at a time when I wasn’t even into the love thing.
And it was a hit!
People connected to the story and shared their thoughts with me. They were surprised that a person who was so anti-mush could write something so mushy. It was funny because I knew I wasn’t feeling those emotions so I tried to live vicariously through my characters. As more people liked it, I knew that I was going to be doing fiction often.
Anybody who has read my work can tell I have three voices; logical, eccentric and angry. That is because I write based on my personalities; Remimah, who prides herself on being a class act and always wants to be in charge of stuff; Ramat, who is deliberately fun and crazy and weird and all that nonsense and; Ada, who is the angry black woman. So when you see me use ‘we’ in a post, I actually mean me, myself and I.
It is all fun and games until keeping up with the Joneses
(I am talking to you Uche Pedro) leads to massive burn out.
This is why I decided to open the blog. My friends Abraham, Kendo and Toks and my cousin Babiotos have all contributed to the blog. Like Olivia Twist, I want more! The goal is to post new content every day at 9:10am. It seems like a lofty goal but I know it is doable.
So if you are interested in issues affecting black people anywhere in the world and want to share your perspective either in a story, article, news, rant, or whatever, please click here to submit an entry or send us a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I think it is about time that Shades of Us really becomes ‘us’ away from just me, myself and I. Don’t you think so?
And if you just want to read our stories, check out our various pages at 9:10am every day!
Don’t forget to follow us across social media! We are everywhere
(except Snapchat! That app drains data for Africa!) Hit like, follow and let us get talking!
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Ramatu Ada Ochekliye
(You got to know she wrote this. So extra!)