by Ezinne Ukoha
For the past couple of months — I’ve received consistent updates about a young Nigerian woman — Kechi Okwuchi — who happens to be a contestant on the Simon Cowell fueled — America’s Got Talent. She’s amassed an impressive following for reasons that have everything to do with talent and the magic she wields — each time she showcases the spirit of a winner.
The “American Dream” has undergone major renovations since I last checked and it hasn’t all been good. When I was in my formative years — I believed that the dream was to be able to travel light years away from your ravaged homeland — in order to reach the “promised land.”
Now, that I’m way older than I would like to admit — I can confess that the dream of “Being American “— seems to be wrapped around the perpetual ritual of self-worship, self-indulgence — and sharing the luxury of such an existence for the pleasure of an applause track that never ends.
It can only end — when you stop being American and uproot the American Dream in your hands — with the rules of engagement — panting for your commandments.
You basically have to own your shit to be the shit.
Kechi Okwuchi owned her destiny — the moment the flight she took back in 2005 — that was headed for Port Harcourt International Airport in Nigeria — crash landed — killing 107 passengers. Okwuchi who was sixteen at the time — was one of three survivors.
Kechi who was attending boarding school — was headed home for the Christmas hols. I remember quite well the excitement in the air — as we anticipated extended days of not being monitored or dutifully harassed for the hell of it. We looked forward to the overflow of activity.
You never imagine at that age — the monstrosity of life’s ultimate betrayal.
One minute you’re a teenager on her way home and the next you’re lying in burning rubble along with other bodies — you can barely see. You might be conscious enough to comprehend how royally fucked this is — because you happen to be a citizen of a country that isn’t equipped to save you.
And yet, despite the massive odds against her — Kechi survived the event that almost killed her. The numerous surgeries, post-traumatic episodes and loss of so-called friends tried to deter her soaring spirit — but when you got it — You Got It!
Kechi used her love for music as the anchor for the moments that were too hard to bare. When I peeped her story — what moved me the most — was her recollection of how her melodious habit had always been a powerful force in her life.
That still remains my crutch from the forces that threaten to galvanize my efforts to stay alive. My emotional enslavement began when I was too young to recognize it — and the only way to be distracted was to use lock myself in the tunes of nostalgia.
There were no options that involved organically stumbling on a killer selfie and posting it for the healing purposes of emphatic likes.
We just had TV shows, movies and music. And back then there were no branches that took you to a plethora of avenues — primed to instantly give you appropriate relief.
The only thing I could control was the music. And the healing effects of those sessions continue to bond me.
I’m almost certain that if I had been in Kechi’s web — the journey would’ve ended when I looked in the mirror and saw my once delicate features — blended into a horrific collage. But, Kechi was tossed into the spiritual realm when she was handed what is typically deemed as more than we can handle.
As I poured over the now twenty-seven-year-old’s testimony and revelled in her undeterred quest to “make it to the other side” — I was struck by the fact that I probably would’ve been able to face the harshness of my fate — by garnering the strength to pursue life’s schedule with remarkable gusto.
I’m frankly perplexed that most Black outlets aren’t doing a whole lot to shine the spotlight on a Black Girl — who surpassed the unfathomable to be on a real stage — with reputable judges — under the lights and gaze of camera lenses — that can’t help but capture the embodiment of the American Dream.
Kechi’s performances are memorably riveting when you consider the sheer willpower that pushes her through each take. In the time following her horrific mishap — The Houston-based heavyweight got a degree in economics from the University of St. Thomas — and she is hoping to complete her Master’s as soon as possible.
I mean, this girl is beyond. She should’ve been rocking the house at the recently hyped BlackGirlsRock! 2017 that BET staged in New Jersey. Kechi Okwuchi —needed to be front and centre — just to shimmy some of that fairy dust that always seems to be encrusted on the variety that are able to pay their way — some of the time.
Kechi wasn’t grabbed in the knick of time and tossed over the back of a horse that gallops away with the two destined lovers in tow.
Her American Dream comes in the form of just showing up for the glory of breathing free air without constraints of the impossible. When I watch her sing — I don’t see the scars until she’s done. Her voice evaporates any misconception — that she’s held back by her damning aesthetic. She sounds sharp and strong — and her beauty would blind any of the girls that Vogue magazine recycles with exhaustive defeat.
Headlines are my bread and butter — ever since I accepted my punishment for being a starving artist. As a content programmer — I’m besieged with headlines and images that do very little to convince me that “dark times don’t last for long.”
The stuff never ends — but on this day — I was captivated by the offering from WWD that featured a cover with Kylie Jenner and Kris Jenner with the glaring caption: “Billion Dollar Baby?”
This is how you pitifully visualize your dreams as Americans.
It’s all or nothing. Fully clothed or just the full-body wax you discovered from Kim Kardashian West’s feed. It’s either you want to be the fantasy or you want to be a human being with the vulnerability to match.
When I think of #BlackGirlMagic I usually get stuck trying to converge expectations with slots that adequately fit.
That day ended when I found Kechi via Youtube and wondered out loud why she wasn’t garnering the love she deserves from those who profess through Instagram — how their Stories match the magic Black Girls possess — when they Rock!
Kechi Okwuchi has Made America Great Again — for me.
It’s hard to muster any level of optimism when you end the night and start the morning with crusty headlines that prove why bad things happen to good people. This country doesn’t deserve the shitfest distorting The Office of the Presidency — while literally paralysing our ability as a nation to function — without the alarming reminder that we’re royally screwed — indefinitely.
Kechi’s impeccable journey from the bowels of hell to the verses of Ed Sheeran songs — is all the ammunition I need to keep fighting for my survival and the hope that tomorrow won’t ever mimic the casualties of yesterday.
Making America Great Again is about eradicating the virus that holds us back from cringing at the audacity of senseless violence or keeps us from viewing each other with respect — that was borne in us, but has been singed away by the clicks and swipes — that we do in our sleep so we don’t have to remember when we bleed.
I’m living for the American Dream again — and it looks and sounds a lot like me. Maybe it’s because she’s Nigerian. It could also be our shared Igbo heritage. I honestly think it’s due to the qualities that grown men bark about but can’t even begin to reconcile — until they meet a Black girl who almost died, but escaped death for the task of illustrating how America will make her great.
And FYI — her last name isn’t Trump. It’s, however, you choose to pronounce it. As an American.
She is making America Great and her hashtag can be activated while she’s still alive! #KechiOkwuchi
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