A couple of weeks ago Ur4Africa,a media based group that strives to create innovative African content and provide a space for creative learning and qualitative education for students in Nigeria took 3 of its students under the Public Art Nigeria initiative to New York on a learning sponsorship program to Parsons the New School for Design’s Pre-College. The idea of the program is create a cultural/educational exchange program;improve the kids and also foster a new creative pattern to educational development.

The Director of the Organization Ms Olushola Ajayi gave this report of how the trip went in this diary.These are her words;

Dear Diary

” I had the pleasure of chaperoning three talented students early August for two weeks from Lagos to New York. The students were awarded the opportunity to participate at Parsons the New School for Design’s Pre-College programs Summer Academy. You are probably asking why is this a big deal? Well,these students never once thought they’d have this opportunity! I mean they got to travel to New York for two-weeks, they got to learn something new,learn something creative and learn in a new environment.

First of all let me just say it was not easy. Not only did we have to leave one student behind but we also had to leave a talented artist and one of our most committed mentors, Sunny Efemena, behind because of funding and visas. And let me not forget to mention having to deal with so many “Doomand Gloomers”; people who only thought about the worse possible scenarios –that the kids would run away, that the US Consulate would not award them visas, that the heart of people are evil, people just said, “Don’t do it”. I heard it all. Oh Lagos, why?  But we arrived in New York on August 31st and were immediately met with messages about when and where to meet the students, invitations to the museum and park, invitations to people’s homes for a good meal, and opportunities to be interviewed, etc.

A partnership was developed between UR4Africa and Parsons the New School for Design’s Pre-College programs earlier this year to foster cultural exchanges and learning opportunities for Nigerian based students. It was a test run and an opportunity to see what the exchange would look like, what would be needed and if the students would really benefit from it.   This program Public Art Nigeria is a series of workshops lead by professionals in their various fields that deals with solving problems focusing on the areas of Human Rights, Environment and Health using creative projects. It is an initiative of UR4Africa, a media based organization, that focuses on developing content that is positive, African,and unique. But also focuses on a social responsibility aspect, which isusing media to empower local communities in Lagos.

Now looking back on a stressful two weeks I won’t say it wasn’t worth it!My most memorable moments with these, my kids for 16 days was walking from the subway to our apartment in Brooklyn on days when we were so exhausted from a long day but so happy about what we were experiencing. Our trip to Coney Island with friends and family experiencing crazy roller coasters,having lunch on the boardwalk and laying on the beach. The very best moments were the kids rushing into my class after an awesome experience in their class or at the museum – hearing them rush through excited statements about the MET or the garment district or all the new friends they made.

It made all the stress worth it!   Here is a recount of the magical two weeks!   Thank you for reading and supporting.

UR4AFRICA DIARY: Lagos To NewYork Part 1 #PublicArtNigeria
At the Airport with the Parents of the Kids. Off to New York City

 Day 1-Day 2 students, parents and UR4Africa director Shola Ajayi meet and prepare for their travels to NY. The trip began with a trip to Paris then London before arriving in New York finally.

Day 3 – 2014 Hosea Johnson, a professional photographer from New York, came to Nigeria last year to work with UR4Africa’s Public Art program. He met with the young Public Art representatives to welcome them to New York.Students. Students spent the rest of the day preparing for their week at their new accommodations and school.

UR4AFRICA DIARY: Lagos To NewYork Part 1 #PublicArtNigeria
Hosea Johnson and the kids in New York

Day 4Lola Siyonbola invites Public Art students to Abundant Life Christian Center – Lola is the founder of The Yoruba Cultural Institute.They enjoyed a nice service before walking the Brooklyn Bridge and participating in the International Friendship Day parade in Brooklyn, NY.

 Day 5 – This was the first day of school and the students were excited and nervous. They arrived at the school and expressed that it was not what they expected but they wanted to meet their class and their teachers. The students also got to meet the individuals from the pre-college program that awarded them this opportunity. By the end of the day they were exhausted.It was a hard day, lots to learn, new people couldn’t understand their accents, and the work was much.

Day 6 – Second day of school was better. They enjoyed their classes more and were excited about the projects they would be working on. We spent sometime in the park after school before going to meet Mr. Hosea Johnson again,who invited us to his home for a good African meal (restaurant that serves dishes from different African countries) and a photo shoot. We get home very late!

 Day 7 – Third day of school we are all exhausted and choose this day as our day of rest after school. We head to our accommodations straight and off to bed.

UR4AFRICA DIARY: Lagos To NewYork Part 1 #PublicArtNigeria
The Kids with the mates at Parsons College

Day 8 – Fourth day of school and we are all in the swing of things. We meet Empress Varnado from Black Brown and Digital for dinner and we discuss the experience in the US and Parsons Summer Academy so far before walking her home. We snap a picture of a restaurant named after Mr. Sunny.

Day 9 – Fifth day of school and its Friday! We are all so happy that Friday. We make plans to go to the beach and relax on Saturday. To congratulate the students on completing their first week at Parsons we go see the Fantastic Four at Union Park Regal Theater with friends.

UR4AFRICA DIARY: Lagos To NewYork Part 1 #PublicArtNigeria
At the Cinema in New York

We had a blast! That was a full week and the second we was even busier (see the schedule)and finally met our Do Remember Me partners. Students not only had to prepare for their last week at Parsons by finishing up assignments and project for the end of the session Open Studio Exhibitions but they had to really start thinking about their presentations the we have to facilitate for the representatives at The Ministry of Education in Lagos.

It was a whirlwind but an adventure. It was a risk but totally worth it!The question now is how do we provide more students from Nigeria and Africa with opportunities to see the world and create in it. Help us make this possible every year.  I want to just shout out all the wonderful people and organizations that stood behind us, supported us, donated to us, spread the word for us,solicited for us and hosted us while we were in New York. We couldn’t have done any of this without you.

Thank You

Olushola Ajayi for UR4Africa  

End of Diary