LOUD WHISPERS: Being Present

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I could not stop jumping up and down last week Wednesday when I got a WhatsApp message on my phone. I stared at the images over and over and kept jumping, laughing, almost screaming in my excitement. The message was a set of images from the printing press where my new book ‘Loud Whispers’ was being printed. My book was ready! Two days later, I held the book in my hands and the jumping up and down started all over again.

I thought it would be easy enough to pull together all my ‘Loud Whispers’ articles into one volume. It would not be my first book, so I was familiar with the writing, editing and production process. I published ‘Speaking above a Whisper’ an autobiography in 2013. The book had been hard to write for reasons such as time, and  deciding what to leave in or out. The second book which was published at the same time was ‘Speaking for Myself: Perspectives on Feminist, Political and Social Activism’, which was a compilation of essays and lectures over a twenty year period. The book of essays was not a walk in the park either because quite a number of the entries had to be typed out from original documents, there where no soft copies. Having gone through all that, the idea of doing a book which would feature essays that had been meticulously edited before going online every week sounded like it would be much easier. How foolish I was to think that. However, no matter how intense the labour is, once the finished product is placed in your hands or arms, you forget about the pain and focus on the joy. So, ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to present to you the latest addition to my modest literary efforts, ‘Loud Whispers’. My good friend and big brother of many years, Mr Kunle Ajibade of The News Magazine and author of ‘Jailed for life, a journalist’s prison notes’, has worked on all my books. As we were making decisions on what essays to leave in or take out of Loud Whispers, Kunle said to me, ‘Bisi, nothing seems to get past you’.  My response was, ‘I always try to be present’.

One of my favourite writers, the late Maya Angelou once said, ‘Be present in all things and thankful in all things. She also spoke about being ‘Present’ a lot when she gave interviews.  Loud Whispers is a book about being ‘Present’. Every week I write about things I see, hear, read, or experience. Sometimes there are things I want to write about, in the spirit of being ‘Present’ but due to certain limitations I have to let go and think of something else to write about, something that qualifies as equally ‘Present’. I have managed to overcome my frustration at not being able to comment on a number of things, but I take being ‘Present’ seriously. What does it mean to be ‘Present’? I do not have a definitive answer, what I have is my own understanding of what it means. To me, being present means keeping your eyes and ears open and using your mouth wisely. To be effectively present means that all three organs should not be running at full blast at the same time. Being present means listening, observing and learning. It also means knowing when to use your voice and when to be silent. In being present, we are able to figure out better our role in the world beyond what we do for a living, and beyond what people think of us, or whatever negative experiences or socialization we have gone through. If we don’t get the concept of presence, let us try the opposite, which is absence. Who wants to be absent? Absence means lack of presence, invisibility, loss, no voice, and all the negatives that go with it. So, what we want to be is present in all ways, and this is not just in the physical sense, it means being emotionally, intellectually, psychologically, spiritually present. Being present allows us to be grateful for what we have, it teaches us compassion, and we learn not to take waking up every morning to a shining sun for granted. Over the past twenty months, I have written about politics, the economy, discrimination against women, sexual abuse, building community, relationships, popular culture, it is a long list. I write about things that concern me a lot, some make me laugh, some make me want to cry, and some make me want to tear my hair out. Every time I write I get feedback which raises questions that I try to respond to in other essays. I have therefore found the experience of writing weekly for the first time in my life a profound exercise in being ‘Present’, and for that I am very grateful.

The first public reading of Loud Whispers will be at the Lagos Book and Arts Festival (LABAF) on November 10th at 5pm, Freedom Park, Lagos. I will also be at the Ake Book and Arts Festival in Abeokuta, November 17th and 18th. I will be working with a number of institutions and civil society organisations to take Loud Whispers around Nigeria and beyond, as part of leadership development and mentoring programs. I will also be hosting interactive sessions on some social media platforms. Further information on how people can get involved, as well as where the book can be found, will be available on the Above Whispers website. I would like to say a big thank you to all the fans of the Loud Whispers column. Thank you for staying engaged every week. It would be nice to hear from you if you have any favourite essays from the Loud Whispers column. Many thanks to my darling husband Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who always serves as my ‘first responder’ when I write. I would also like to say a big thank you to the great writer Ama Ata Aidoo, who has been a big Auntie and mentor of mine for many years. She kindly agreed to write the Foreword for Loud Whispers, and she concluded with, ‘Dear reader, welcome to a well-researched volume of solid wisdom and incisive analysis.  These pieces are amazing, touching, sensitive and inspirational.  In the process, you might find yourself pensive or agitated with a sense of the outrage of it all. You might even cry, or you may sometimes laugh so much that you would end up crying anyway’. Have a great week and don’t forget to be ‘Present’.

 edit LABAF Design Option 2b

Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com

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16 Responses to LOUD WHISPERS: Being Present

  1. Femi Diipo October 30, 2017 at 10:11 am

    I saw a flier about this during the week and since then I’ve been just excited. I’ve followed Loud whisper for a while now and there’s nothing more exciting that these wonderful thoughts will be available on printed pages and those who don’t even know about this platform will get to read, see and feel our weekly experiences. This is such a great development ma’am, and truly you have been always present.

    Reply
  2. Dom Dom October 30, 2017 at 10:19 am

    This is wonderful and I can’t wait to meet you in person at freedom park and hear you read some of these wonderful articles aloud. Over the course of this short time I’ve been here, there have been days of surprise, shock, excitement, happiness, sadness, I’ve felt myself reacted in diverse and different ways to these words. Now I feel pride, that I’ve not only witnessed a display of such thoughtfulness and relevance but I’ve learnt greatly from one who is just so amazing and present. Well done ma’am

    Reply
  3. Elaine Nwosu October 30, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    Wow. I am happy to see that we are going to have a hard copy of this inspiring, informative column. God bless you ma’am but for those of us outside Lagos, I hope we will have our own meeting too?

    Reply
  4. folakemi Herbet October 30, 2017 at 3:02 pm

    But why is it 5pm na? some of us will still be at work and it’s a friday. Now, I feel like crying. PLease, go live on that day so we won’t miss much. I can’t wait to get a copy.

    Reply
  5. Lola Adeoye October 30, 2017 at 3:06 pm

    Being present means to be Wise. To be self controlled. I must say, I must learn to be Present. This is another dimension of maturity I have learnt again right here. This column makes one grow every week. I must be Present that’s my watchword!

    Reply
  6. Princess October 30, 2017 at 8:36 pm

    Waoooooah congratulations ma’am. I have really learnt a lot from this great platform, each time I log on to Abovewhispers there’s always something new to benefit from. Well done ma’am much love!

    Reply
  7. DSEED October 30, 2017 at 10:04 pm

    Congratulations for the success of these piece. Everything about you ma have encouraged me. You have been a blessing to my life. Every of your article has played a role in my destiny. So therefore I celebrate your greater achievement. We are proud of you.

    Reply
  8. Akpes October 31, 2017 at 12:02 am

    This is a good one. You are a role model I must confess. Congratulations ma. As for me LABAF is a done deal and I must attend.

    Reply
  9. Ebonychyqui2 October 31, 2017 at 12:10 am

    I felicitate with you ma’am for this awesome success. Loud whispers is going places and your voice shall be heard ma’am. You have made us proud! More Grace to function in Jesus name

    Reply
  10. Olakunle Olajide October 31, 2017 at 3:09 pm

    I will definitely be present, won’t want to meet this opportunity. Congratulations ma’am, your whispers are being heard everywhere changing people’s mentality and informed opinion. I celebrate with you. LABAF is sure and ready to go.

    Reply
  11. Perpetua Dandeson October 31, 2017 at 8:46 pm

    Yaayyy! Congratulations, Ma’am. I’m excited about the Loud Whispers book launch, as I am about meeting you. It’s great to have a handy copy of all the articles you’ve written here, for reference sake. Congratulations, again.
    As always, I’ve taken something with me from this article. I pledge to be present. You are a blessing Ma. Above Whispers is a blessing to this generation. Congratulations!

    Reply
  12. Olushola Aderanti November 1, 2017 at 2:16 pm

    Being Present. I can’t wait to have a copy of the book. It will be a manual for my kids because reading this has made be better adult and I am so sure my kids will be ten times better than me.

    Reply
  13. Bisi Alawode November 1, 2017 at 2:49 pm

    An interactive session on your social media platforms… Yes! I can’t wait. We know our mama is present but we want her to be more present on social media with things like this. All those fake people claiming mentors are too everywhere we need you and people like you to come and take them off. Congrats on your new book ma. God bless you and keep you and keep your home. God bless Our Minister for being there for you too.

    Well done, Above Whispers.

    Reply
  14. Laura Dameson November 1, 2017 at 2:55 pm

    I have read your books before.. Speaking for Myself and Speaking Abovewhispers and I must say, I learnt and fell in love with your person. I can’t wait to lay my hands on this particular book, I will try my best to be at the reading. Just to see you and hear you speak once again….

    Congrats mama. You have done well.

    Reply
  15. Bisi Fayemi November 1, 2017 at 11:16 pm

    Thank you everyone, I look forward to seeing those who can make it. @Folakemi, I am sorry about the timing but it is not my fault, that is the time the book festival organisers provided. Don’t worry, there will be many more.

    Reply
  16. Eric Onuoha November 4, 2017 at 5:30 pm

    Congratulations Ma’am. I hope to be at the book launch.
    To me being present could also mean being actively involved in any given task , putting your heart and soul into it. Informative article!

    Reply

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