To mark the country’s national day and showcase a rich people and culture, Nigerians all over are gathering in Downtown Houston, September 28th
By Anthony Obi Ogbo
After an amazing 2018 colorful parade showcasing the Nigerian Culture, Houstonians are desperately looking forward to a 2019 replication scheduled for September 28th at the same location – the Root Memorial Square Park near the Toyota Center. The last parade was a blast. Downtown wore a distinctive look as a procession of cultural groups decorated in different traditional attires and costumes strolled the streets in utter astonishment, sending onlookers bananas with stunning displays.
October is officially Nigeria’s Independence month. This country, the most populous in Africa, gained independence from Great Britain in October 1, 1960. Celebrating Nigeria’s 59th Independence in a city – one of most diverse in the United States, stands to promote and advance the cultural, civic and social welfare of this community. Studies show that Nigerians are the single largest contemporary African immigrant group in the United States. In addition, the city of Houston is home to the highest population of Nigerians outside of the country.
But the whole idea was not to Africanize the great City of Houston. Nope. Downtown Houston endorsed the parade platform as a city event – thus allowing the Nigerian community to showcase, share, as well as educate the population on the greatness of her art and culture. For those who did not visit last year’s parade, September 28th, 2019 will offer a greater perspective of this community. According to Linda Anukwuem, one of the event facilitators who spoke on behalf of the Parade, “First timers would see a street-wide celebration highlighting this West African country in a unique way. Vendor booths representing various businesses displaying artifact, costume jewelry, fashion, cookery, and even books will be on site.”
According to Ms. Anukwuem, “Nigerians are known for their extravagant flair and this event should be no different. So, along the parade route, there will be various cultural groups, associations, and schools marching to showcase their group and display their culture through song, dance, and fashion. Also, attendees will be entertained with special dance presentations from specific groups.”
Nigeria Cultural Parade is facilitated by Culturally Naija and WeLead, Inc. Culturally Naija was formed in 2016 to preserve the culture and showcase a positive image of Nigerians in the USA. WeLead, Inc formed in 2013 as a not-for-profit change agent, working to empower the next generation to identify, develop and implement opportunities to improve communities.
Organizers of this parade are currently coordinating participating groups. Attendees will have access to various vendor booths and enjoy special Nigerian cuisine by the title sponsor, Wazobia African Market, the Largest African Store in Texas. For the non- Nigerians, an international exchange takes course to create avenues to learn about Nigerian culture and people.
Attendees will also have the opportunity to see incredible performances from cultural groups of the Nigerian community such as; Greater Owerri Community, Oji River Peoples Forum, Umu Igbo Unite, Zumunta Association – Texas Chapter, Mboho Ndito Ibibio, Akwa Ibom State Association, Egbe Omo Obokun of Ijesaland, the Ideato Commonwealth Association, Out-Umuokpu Anambra, USA Association, Rice University-African Student Association, Idemili Young Professionals & Youth and the Orlu Regional Assembly Houston.
Besides increased participating numbers, this year will feature for the first time, some familiar African-American entities. For instance, SHAPE Community Center (celebrating 50 years), one of the longest standing African-American organization highlighting African culture will join the procession to create awareness about the relevance of Nigerian culture in the African and African-American heritage. Other notable guests such as Honorable Sheila Jackson Lee, His Royal Highness Eze & UgoEze ObiChuku, High Chief Priest Solomon Adeyemi Ogunde, Dr. Seun Adigun- Olympian Bobsledder and former Houston Texan, Amobi Okoye would be celebrated and hailed along the parade with a special emphasis on their contributions and impact in the Nigerian community.
The parade participants consist of various school organizations, businesses including various sponsors and cultural groups representing Nigeria, social clubs and local government areas. You see noted Ms. Anukwuem, “When most people look at Nigeria, they think of the three main ethnic groups; Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba. But what makes this event special is that other tribes that are not large in numbers such as Efik, Bini, Edo and Delta will also join the carnival to showcase their culture.”
For many years, the City of Houston along with community leaders organized the largest International Festival (IFEST) in Downtown Houston. Unfortunately, this event died naturally. The Nigeria Cultural Parade in Downtown Houston stands in a strategic position to fill this void. It would celebrate Africa’s artistic magnitude, but also climax Nigeria – a community that makes up more than 80% of the African community. This event comes at the right time, when the values of West African cultural arts is diminishing for lack of exhibition. Ms. Anukwuem said that “The Nigerian Parade is seen by many as a great opportunity to create an international exchange as well as expose and share a culture still unfamiliar to many. The Greek Festival, Italian Festival, Chinese New Year celebrations and of course Cinco de Mayo are staple events that are equally sewn into the fabric of Houston. Basically, it is the norm.”
Houston has always carried a welcoming spirit as the most diverse city (melting pot) in the U.S., and it is also a home to a high number of international communities. Most importantly, Nigeria’s biggest cultural exports are Afrobeats, Nollywood and Jollof rice which indeed have taken center stage and very popular in Houston. “It is time to come together as a community and showcase Nigerian to Houston. We are asking all cultural and social organizations to register and participate in the parade route to highlight Nigerian’s diversity. Information for group registrations can be found at www.nigeriaculturalparade.com. This year’s event will also feature Masquerades provided by SixSense Entertainment. This particular group be highlighted at City Hall during the month of September leading up to the parade,” Ms. Anukwuem said.
■ The parade will start promptly at 10 AM but the Festival ground is open at 9:00 AM. Guests are encouraged to come wearing traditional attires. Information for group registrations can be found at www.nigeriaculturalparade.com., or call 832-452-7784.