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Senior Wisdom: Emeka Ekwelum

Name, Hometown, School, Major: Nnaemeka (Emeka) Ekwelum, Boston, MA., Columbia College, Comparative Ethnic Studies

Claim to fame:

  • Co-writing and producing FRIEZE, which is one of my greatest achievements to date (special shout out to our amazing cast and production team—I love you all).
  • The day that Felicia Marie Bishop dedicated her thesis to me. In case you’re unaware, she’s a boss, which makes me a boss by association.
  • Increasing my family’s assets by winning an iPad at a career fair that I almost didn’t attend.
  • Living on the stoop of the Intercultural Resource Center (IRC).
  • Being Columbia’s “most agile grandpa.”
  • Waving at strangers, strangers who eventually become my friends.

Where are you going? I’m moving back to Boston to teach 7th Grade English as “Mr. Ekwelum” (*cringe*)…currently still in search of a satchel to officially complete the transition.

Three things you learned at Columbia:

  1. A graduating senior recently confessed to me that he didn’t believe in institutional oppression. I can confidently declare that Columbia has objectively failed to breed “global citizens.”
  2. “It might be helpful to think of deadlines as mere guidelines.” Sarah Joan Thompson CC ‘11, you’ve created a monster.
  3. The personal is indeed political.

“Back in my day…”

  • $.50 John Jay takeout containers hadn’t yet been employed as another form of extortion at Columbia.
  • The Black Students’ Organization had a banner.
  • Not enough courses were offered in CSER, which still holds true.
  • The entire Harry Potter franchise (and The Varsity Show) only featured/needed one Black student…this fact also still holds true.

Justify your existence in 30 words or less: Sticky Wings (Dallas BBQ). Haribo Gummy Bears. Westside Market’s Tango Panini (with onions). Edith, Chuks, and Chinyere Ekwelum. Popeye’s Biscuits. Felicia Bishop. Wikipedia. Unsung & Unborn Strivers. IRC. Sweatpants.

Is the War on Fun over? Who won? Any war stories? When I can still laugh at 6:30am, a few hours before my fifteen-page research paper, of which I’ve only written a header, is due, I know that I’ve immersed myself in the company of great people. If there is indeed a war, my friends and I are #winning.

Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? According to Wikipedia, there are over 500 different varieties of cheese recognized by the International Dairy Federation. Specificity is key!

Advice for the class of 2016:

  • Don’t be afraid to hold administrators accountable.
  • Make sure you’ve seen/held an e-form before you graduate. Additionally, invest in the Columbia community but don’t lose yourself in it.
  • We are all products of various socializations. Constantly challenge yourself to understand why you believe in what you believe.
  • If frat parties aren’t your thing, don’t make it a thing you do.
  • Experiment with your education; you might not actually want to be a banker or doctor. You never know how a random elective might enhance or clarify your academic and/or personal interests.
  • No means no.
  • Cry when you’re overwhelmed. The purge is so necessary.
  • STUDENTS OF COLOR: people at this institution have sullied the terms “multicultural,” “community,” “diversity,” and “global.” Don’t buy into the propaganda, the “self-segregationists” that I’ve encountered at Columbia have primarily been White students. Don’t get distracted…just keep strivin’.

Any regrets? I regret not dating enough. #scramble (?)

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  • Student of Colour says:

    @Student of Colour I hate the resentment that underlies this senior wisdom. As if the VShow or Harry Potter actively discriminates against black students, for example.
    As a black student at this college, I’ve found that no group works harder AGAINST the notions of amicable equality, healing old wounds, and working together towards a future unburdened by the past…than the BSO.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous As part of the 13% black students at Columbia, I can agree. People like Emeka and Felicia are not representative of the inclusive spirit that the black community intends to promote on campus. No longer should we rely on the crutch of “institutional racism” and demand charity on the grounds of discrimination. We must learn to take personal accountability and foster the spirit of inclusiveness. And NOT exclusiveness like the reverse racism mentality Emeka is mired in. The reason there weren’t any black students (except 1) in the Varsity show is a) we constitute only 13% of the school’s population and 2) Black students didn’t audition. Simple as that.

      My brothers – white/black whatever – we MUST stop blaming race on damn near everything. Debating over the color of our flesh is a total waste of time when there are those who are starving and dieing of disease. Perhaps, we wouldn’t all be so ethnically self-conscious about each other’s racial makeup if we didn’t have to fuss over something as trivial as the number of black students in the Varsity show.

      Most importantly, I don’t need or want the pity or charity of others because of something as stupid as the color of my flesh. To be honest, I have often had it far easier than my white peers. So please, instead of whining, let’s all collectively return to our natural state of color-blindness, move on with our lives and start worrying about things that actually matter.

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous ignoring race isn’t the answer either…

        1. Anonymous says:

          @Anonymous Why is it not? Race should matter no more than one’s sexual preferences, which in turn should matter no more than whether one prefers tea with milk or without. Sure it exists, but how much better would the world be if it was entirely mundane?

          1. Anonymous says:

            @Anonymous lol at your clarence-thomas-like response, and lol at reductionism. race is a much more complex issue (as are gender and sexual orientation). no one is persecuted because they prefer tea with milk or without.

          2. sigh says:

            @sigh oh, people.

      2. yay! says:


      3. Michelle says:

        @Michelle First, your use of the phrase “reverse racism” shows that you do not understand the difference between the words racism, discrimination, and prejudice. Dig deeper, discuss, then get on your high horse if that’s your thing.

        Second, I doubt that he goes around talking about how the Varsity Show is more than average discriminating against Black people. It’s just an easy example to make his point clearer. Again, you are not understanding his overall argument.

        Third, there is current well-respected research that shows that race does matter, especially in a context like elite education. So PLEASE do not advocate for a color-blind sense of diversity until you look into the data. And then if you find the research to be lacking, get involved with the research discussion and work with a research team to work on getting some support for your argument.

        Finally, modern racism is harder for me to handle than overt racism. The paternalistic attitude you have going in this comment is gross.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous wow, the resentment is ridiculous. He acts like he’s at a white supremacist school

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous The “self-segregationalists” at Columbia have primarily been white? Do we even go to the same school?

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous step 1: read beverly tatum’s book on the development of racial identity
      step 2: read the extensive literature on racial self-segregation
      step 3: have a conversation with prof. peter bearman (or another professor in the sociology department who has studied this issue)
      step 4: get back to me

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Emeka is keeping it real, per usual. It’s unfortunate that others just aren’t getting it… Good luck to you and keep striving!

    1. Ugh says:

      @Ugh Sometimes blindness works two ways. Sure, majority students might not be aware of institutionalized racism, but minority students often seem to intentionally shut themselves off from those interested in hearing their perspectives, forget listen to contrasting opinions. Case and point is above me.

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous Not sure how my affirming Emeka equals me shutting myself off. Also didn’t get the impression that any of the above commenters were interested in hearing my perspective. They only seemed interested in silencing Emeka’s.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous As an African-American student at CU, I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve been to a few BSO meetings as well, which just confirmed my suspicions.

  • fucking hypocrite... says:

    @fucking hypocrite... this kid is a “self-segregationalist” if i’ve ever seen one.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous name-calling is unnecessary. this comment needs to be removed.

      1. your strategy... says:

        @your strategy... remove every comment that i don’t like and can’t accept

        1. your strategy says:

          @your strategy badger Emeka’s opinions and call them invalid until the rest of us stay silent.

  • anonymous says:

    @anonymous What an embarrassment of a senior wisdom post. If this guy thinks that columbia has sullied the terms “multicultural,” “community,” “diversity,” and “global” then he is going to have a mighty hard time in the real world. I think instead of complaining about how he has it so hard, Emeka should wake up and join reality like the rest of us.

  • cc'12 says:

    @cc'12 ‘A graduating senior recently confessed to me that he didn’t believe in institutional oppression. I can confidently declare that Columbia has objectively failed to breed “global citizens.”’

    This hit so close to home. Emeka, I’ve always admired your intelligence, courage, and genuine kindness. Wishing you the absolute best wherever life takes you.

  • Student of Color says:

    @Student of Color THANK YOU Mr. Ekwelum for telling it as it is!

  • man says:

    @man the sr wisdoms need to quit with the inside jokes. and the constant shootouts to exclusive cultural organizations

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous this is just speculation, but i highly doubt that you’d have a problem if emeka had shouted-out a greek fraternity

  • Actually says:

    @Actually black HP students – Lee Jordan, Angelina Johnson, Dean Thomas, Blaine Zabini. Non-students – Kingsley!!

    1. CC '12 says:

      @CC '12 Not sure this helps…they are all minor characters without the nuanced development of lead, or even secondary characters. It’s easy to get a “token” feel when reading about them.

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous yea kingsley….the token badass auror and eventual token minister for magic

        1. CC '12 says:

          @CC '12 I stand corrected, then. There is approximately one non-token black character in the Harry Potter series.

          1. Anonymous says:

            @Anonymous while jk rowling apparently couldn’t make everyone happy, her creation of the weasley family did make HUGE inroads in the fight for ginger-equality

      2. anon says:

        @anon I know this is controversial but I’m just gonna say it: does Jk Rowling have any well-developed, round characters, white or black? I’ve never met any individual as mind-numbingly dull as Harry James Potter.

        1. anonymous says:

          @anonymous AVADA KEDAVRA

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous I’d really be interested in some of the other things he finds racist besides the varsity show and all of those self-segregating White devil columbia students.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous What star and illuminating contrast between this wisdom and the last one. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm…..

  • CC '12 says:

    @CC '12 Why all this hostility over, what, two or three bullet points in this entire senior wisdom? C’mon everyone. He definitely isn’t the first senior to express resentment towards Columbia, and he won’t be the last.

  • DATE ME says:

    @DATE ME please?

  • 2012er says:

    @2012er In all my interactions with him, I have only known Emeka to be a courteous, friendly, and intelligent guy. You may not agree with everything that he has to say, but don’t attack him as a person until you have the chance to get to know him and have a full dialogue on these issues.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous all hail the white majority as we continue our oppression despite being the most diverse ivy league school by not letting blacks perform in plays…other than ones we give them the exclusive right to perform in all-black ensembles during study days, a priveledge given to no other student group.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous If you’ve actually seen the show or even the posters advertising the show, you would know that it was an inclusive show, and not an all-black show.

    2. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous i am truly questioning whether you even go to columbia…

    3. Evan says:

      @Evan Last time I checked, I am white and was in that play (which was called “Frieze,” in case you care). And I wasn’t the only non-black student in it. There were multi-racial, Latino/a, and other white students in it as well.

      You clearly would have benefited from seeing the show, and obviously didn’t. We weren’t awarded any “priveledge” (sic, y’all), so check yourself. Please. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

      Emeka is an incredible guy and I am more than proud that I got the chance to work with him and get to know him before he graduated. Keep on keeping on, MekCity.

        1. Evan says:

          @Evan I mean, obviously. But, *snaps*, nonetheless.

  • cc says:

    @cc this is awful advice: ““It might be helpful to think of deadlines as mere guidelines.”

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Emeka agrees that it was bad advice…

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

  • Y'all Already Know says:

    @Y'all Already Know This picture = every single picture on a Columbia Security Alert, ever


    @JESSENIA MARTINEZ The world is not ready for a person like Emeka. Just like the world was not ready for many of the “greats.” Your ignorance baffles me.

  • bwog is dumb says:

    @bwog is dumb why does the question about oral sex and cheese exist? i hate it and i hate bwog.

    1. agree says:

      @agree the question is not funny and i feel bad for all the senior who obviously understand that these profiles will live on for eternity on the internet…they want to protect their professional/general reputation but they have to come up with something witty to say about oral sex and cheese…embarrassing for all concerned

  • Sean Walsh, CC14 says:

    @Sean Walsh, CC14 From experience, the Varsity Show is not a racist student organization — in fact, it’s just the opposite. The LAST thing the Varsity Show considers in its auditions is race (which, I think, is honorable, because they focus on what actually matters – who can sing, dance, and act the best). While this year’s (last year’s is another story) cast admittedly wasn’t very racially heterogeneous, the people behind the scenes constituted a wonderful array of cultural backgrounds. But even then, none of us really quantified their contributions by their race but rather by their immense dedication to the show.

    At the end of the day, I apreesh the Veesh and so should you! :)

    1. Shelley Farmer says:

      @Shelley Farmer First of all, I don’t believe that Varsity Show is a racist organization and I thought this year’s show was fantastic.

      However, though I don’t believe that race should be the primary criteria for casting the show, I do believe that it should be taken into consideration. Varsity Show is supposed to be representative of the experiences of the entire Columbia community. Though one show could never hope to represent all of the specific details of the various experiences students have here, it seems odd that the make up of the show should be so radically different from the make up of the student body. The cast was enormously talented, but, having attended callbacks, I know that students of color auditioned who were equally talented (many of whom went on to deliver wonderful performances in other shows this semester).

      Also, though the group of people behind the scenes may have been diverse, overall, there was not a great deal of diversity among those who determined the show’s point of view (writers, composers, director).

      I don’t believe that diversity should be imposed on the show in an inorganic way, but I think it is important that those creating the Varsity Show strive to accurately represent the student body and utilize the outstanding talents of students of color. This year’s show was great. Hopefully, next year’s show can be just as good, and a bit more inclusive.

      1. anon says:

        @anon Shelley, you’re awesome and I wish I knew you better.

  • Daro Behroozi says:

    @Daro Behroozi wow, Bwog sure is hostile territory! Emeka, your courage is inspirational. thank you for the great work you did during your time here. i only wish that we could have collaborated more and earlier!

  • de says:

    @de emeka is one of the kindest people you will meet on this earth. love you a bunch and continue to stick up for what you believe despite the hate.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Emeka, I agree with you wholeheartedly. Thank You for keeping the personal political as usual. I admire and respect you. And this has nothing to do with the bowtie you gave me ;)

  • Kia says:

    @Kia Oh that comment above was me, Kia. I’m not about that anynomous life.

  • cc'12 says:

    @cc'12 yay, people complaining about uppity/angry minorities! i love everyone.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous as an alumni of color, this is the only senior wisdom ive read this year that keeps it real! thanks emeka!

  • Annie says:

    @Annie I loved our time as stoop kidz, son!!! IRC 4 LYFEE <3 <3

  • Pazia says:

    @Pazia Emeka–You are an incredible RA and an inspiration. I think all of the reactions to your comments remind us why we need to keep struggling–in our communities, our institutions, our friends and within ourselves to be able to try and create justice in a way that makes sense to us. I appreciate your strong voice and your unwavering dedication to what you think is right. Our community–and the world–needs more people like you.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous im baffled, just baffled by how myopic some of you are. you all remind me of that one white student who can’t fathom the concept of stereotype threat because he has never been anything but white. for a second, take your heads out of your asses, and try to understand what emeka is saying. he can ~explain it to you, but he can’t ~understand it for you…

  • cc 13 says:

    @cc 13 yeah, damn emeka, i regret you didn’t date me

  • Alum of color says:

    @Alum of color “For a second, take your heads out of your asses, and try to understand what emeka is saying. he can ~explain it to you, but he can’t ~understand it for you…”

    As an alum of color who only really understood this when I graduated, truth.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous If the world was comprised of only Mekas, it would be a much better place.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous People there is a difference between self-segregating and making people feel uncomfortable. Emeka engages in the latter, because he wants people like many of you who have commented on this post to analyze what exactly about the situation makes you uncomfortable. Stop confusing these two things, when you do, you just diminish your abilities to understand why you classify minorities as angry and loud people of color. Grow a pair and engage in conversations. Emeka does welcome everyone to discuss, if YOU turn his offers down, DON’T freaking go on saying he’s self-segregating. eryepra

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Emeka has done the opposite of complain. He was worked so hard to improve our community and make it a more pleasant and accepting place for students of color. Frieze was incredible and so was the V show – the Varsity show just doesn’t speak much to experiences of students of color. I know it’s completely foreign to many, but he and many students of color can cite multiple incidents where this community has not been so good to them. whether its interpersonal encounters or the administrative struggles to increase CSER funding etc. or the bwog hatred following attempts to increase faculty diversity. this does not mean black students hate it here or don’t know how privileged we are for being here. i for one love it here, but I am well aware that without students like Emeka and others Columbia would not progress to become a more tolerant and inclusive community. also, students of color or any group for that matter. also starting your post with “as a student of color” or whatever group is dangerous. speak for yourself and yourself alone please. because as with all things, not everyone agrees. to the student how claimed he isn’t inclusive. I don’t think I have met a kinder student. it is possible to be kind, appreciate, and inclusive while being critical and hold people accountable.
    I will genuinely miss you Emeka and I, too, regret you didn’t date more! ; )

    1. lol says:

      @lol speak for yourself and yourself alone please? what about a few sentences before when you wrote that the “Varsity Show doesn’t speak much to the experience of students of color?” with nearly EVERY phrase you speak for students of color, however, when one student of color says something that you don’t like, SUDDENLY, that person isn’t allowed to speak for anyone!

      this is the kind of hateful groupthink that is pervading Columbia now. Emeka is a symbol of modern day racists and should be attacked for his polarizing comments. with this bwog post he has only stirred racial animosity toward whites, further splitting the community. he deserves to be shown the door.

    2. lol says:

      @lol and yes, it is possible to be kind, appreciative, and inclusive while being critical. but this is the only post most of us will ever have to get to know Emeka. the senior wisdom ends on a note which denounces white students. he sounds like he may be a very decent guy and made many contributions to this campus, but this wisdom is very unfortunately written. maybe he should not be attacked as a person, but his words should definitely be condemned.

  • Daniel Valella says:

    @Daniel Valella Emeka—

    I know how strong and confident and real you are, and so I know you won’t let the misguided rhetoric let you down, but I wanted nevertheless to reaffirm how much good you’ve done on this campus from day one. You’ve been nothing but amazing to me and to every other Columbian I know, and you say the things that need to be said—the things that, often surprisingly, the majority of our community seems not to know, not to understand, and/or not to care about.

    Keep on doing what you do! I’m immensely excited to witness all of the wonderful accomplishments that are sure to come your way in the future near and far.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Emeka, delighted to have met you this year. You’re a wonderful, inspirational force, and I wish you all the best in the future. Keep doing you.

  • CC'14 says:

    @CC'14 Thank you for telling it like it is. I wish I had met you before you graduated!

  • truth says:

    @truth white people freaking out: columbia university

  • Jana Janelle Johnson CC '11 says:

    @Jana Janelle Johnson CC '11 1. Frieze was absolutely amazing… with it’s very multi-racial cast
    2. I LOVE that Felicia Bishop justifies your existence (one of many things)
    3. It’s unfortunate that the nit-picking of some of your comments has overshadowed your overall message to be critical of the things, people, experiences, and institutions that we encounter everyday… This post and the associated comments are a great example of how a clear vision/goal can get muddled by negativity… Don’t let that get you side-tracked
    4. Lastly, as you so eloquently said “…just keep strivin'” …advice that both Black and White readers can take… what a perfect way to conclude your advice
    5. I Love you dearly and will forever support you… But you already know this :-)

    Shout out to the Intercultural Resource Center (IRC) and the Black Students’ Organization (BSO) – Two of the most character-shaping affiliations for me to date.

  • Jonathan (Fellow GM Scholar) says:

    @Jonathan (Fellow GM Scholar) Proud of you for speaking out about issues that many students of color face across the nation. Keep keepin’ it real, as you’ve done.

  • anon says:

    @anon “We are all products of various socializations. Constantly challenge yourself to understand why you believe in what you believe.”

    Can this be a proverb, please?

  • Erik says:

    @Erik Emeka – You are a great, strong, inspirational person! Though we often focus on what is wrong in the world, your words and actions are an example of what is right – which makes you a powerful change agent. The comments on this wisdom just prove your points about the wildly unchecked institutional oppression that happens at Columbia on the daily! Must mean you’re doing something right :) Much love fam. Erik

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