Nia Black Amuzie: ‘If you are consistent, you will be inspired to achieve desired goal’
Nia Black Amuzie is a media personality and commentator with focus on African/Black cultural, social, and political issues. She is the founder of Nia Black Studios where she hosts the virtual show, Conversations with Nia, and the Business Spotlight segment featuring businesses around the Greater Houston Area.
A graduate of the King’s College London where she bagged a Masters in Global Health and Social Justice, tackling global epidemics around the world while focusing on international actors such as the United Nations, International Monetary Fund and World Health Organisation, she was awarded the Global Diaspora Champion by the American Caribbean Chamber of Commerce for her work in advocating for diaspora affairs in the United States and also for her extensive work in improving education in Africa under her non-profit, Glow Up Africa.
In this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, she shares her passion for empowering disadvantaged communities and her activities in the Diaspora.
Share with us your growing up, how did that influence your career path?
I was born in Nigeria, moved to the U.S. when I was 15; I grew up in Chicago, Illinois. I went to High School in Chicago and lived with my three older sisters and my father. My mother at the time was based in Nigeria. Just like every Nigerian family that migrates, we moved to find better opportunities. I am thankful for the opportunity to move to America, honestly. I always say, ‘America raised me’, because it is in America that I discovered my gift, my passion and most importantly my voice.
Watching Black Americans treated as second-class citizens broke me to the core. I went to a school on the Southside of Chicago where students didn’t have access to good educational infrastructure. The buildings were damaged; we didn’t have enough textbooks, there was a huge disparity between what students in black neighbourhoods had access to and what students in white neighbourhoods had access to. That sparked a fire in me, and I spoke against the inequality on different platforms while in High School in Chicago.
When I visited Nigeria in 2009, I saw the state of Nigeria and I broke down. I thought, if I can fight for my black brothers and sisters in America, what about my people? We don’t have good electricity, our roads are bad, the healthcare and educational system is broken, I thought I needed to be a voice within the diaspora whether through media or through outreach and that’s what I have been doing.
What does ‘Black’ stand for in your name?
Everyone always ask me about that. Growing up in Nigeria, people called my father, ‘Eddy Black’. His name is Edwin, but Eddy for short. My Dad has very beautiful deep dark skin. He became a household name in my Village, Akpulu in Ideato North LGA, Imo State, and he was known as a humanitarian, one of the first people to put electricity in my village. His name carries weight in my village. I decided to take on the ‘Black’ to honour him and continue his legacy.
More importantly, I took on the name to embody Black Excellence. I want my actions as a black woman in the world to bring positivity to the Black Diaspora and for the world to view us with the respect we command.
Your interest lies in African culture, social and political issues, what informed this?
My desire to effect change in Africa. I always say this, the greatest immigrants are the ones that learn and equip themselves in a foreign land and take their skills and all they’ve learned back home to develop their nation and continent. That is why we migrate, to be exposed and to learn new things, for the sake of cultural, political, and economic exchange.
And with this mentality, I am challenging every African in the Diaspora to do the same. Imagine how powerful we will become if every Nigerian in the diaspora takes their innovative skill back home? It’s over. The rest of the world can make room.
How well would you say the Diaspora community is contributing to the GDP of Nigeria?
Very well! The reality is that the Diaspora is connected to Nigeria. Our family is in Nigeria, most of us were born in Nigeria; we outsource our businesses to Nigeria. This empowers us to pour into the Nigerian economy. We can do more, and we will do more if the Nigerian government provides a fluid avenue for this to happen.
Programmes and opportunities that bridge the gap between the diaspora and Nigeria should be put in place so we can reap the benefit of having successful Nigerians in different parts of the world. Ghana and its tourism sector is a great example. I would love to be involved in bridging this gap in any way possible.
As a media personality, how are you able to hone your skills?
Through practice! I practice in front of the mirror; I use Google pronunciation to help me annunciate better and I watch those who have come before me, or people doing what I am doing. I watch how they speak, the depth of their voice and the way they ask questions. Oprah and Michelle Obama are my greatest inspirations.
Share with us some of your activities through your non-profit. How have you been impacting African communities?
We focus on empowering youths and rebuilding educational infrastructure. We built water supply in a school in Owerri that fell apart, then we continued to focus on empowerment, speaking to students in secondary schools and primary schools in Ideato North and providing them with school supplies.
During the Pandemic, we hosted an empowerment session for university school students in partnership with another non-profit called No Back Pack Day. Now, post pandemic, we are strategising and working on continuing the water projects in more schools in eastern Nigeria.
You have hosted successful Nigerians in the diaspora, what stand out for you in these interviews?
This is a very good question! Honestly, what stood out for me, or I should say, a common theme I noticed in interviewing successful Nigerians across the Diaspora is that these individuals have a champion and a tenacious spirit. Living in a different country as an immigrant is hard. The things we do to climb the ladder: the insults, the challenges and the struggles are next to none. It’s quite easy to give up and breakdown.
To see these successful people overcome and become the richest and most powerful people in their industries, despite their experiences, is astounding. Every single one of them I interviewed had a strong mentality. To them, it was a thing of, either I win, or I die trying, but I will win. Bluntly, this speaks to why Nigerians are some of the most successful immigrants across the world. We fight, and we win.
What do you consider a high point of your career?
Mine is simple, a high point of my career is always when I have immense impact on people. It could be through a speech I gave or through them watching my programme or just by me existing in my black excellence. The highest point will be when I can have impact on a wider audience and a bigger population.
I am thankful for everything I have achieved. God has been good, I got a chance to host the Mayor of Houston’s annual Africa Day event, which brings in 13 African Ambassadors. I have spoken on TED Talks in Ghana, preparing to speak on TED Talks a second time in Houston. I am the recipient of the Global Diaspora Champion Award; it’s endless. I am thankful.
Share with us some of the challenges in the course of work and how you were able to surmount them?
Well, my biggest challenge has been trying to do more work with my non-profit in Nigeria. As a person living in the diaspora, it’s hard to find people that will run with you and successfully implement your work on ground in Nigeria. I’ll be honest; this is what many people in the diaspora complain about. We want to do more, we want to invest in Nigeria, but who do we trust?
The level of corruption is at an all-time high. I tried building a water supply in a secondary school in Owerri and the principal was asking for one million naira before the project will continue. You are asking me to give you one million naira before I can help the students in your school? Students who cried to me telling me they don’t have water? The project had to be stopped and then the engineer stole all the equipment and the generator, let’s not even go into that.
Regardless, we move. I started to focus more on empowerment and speaking to students in different schools, but in 2023, the goal is to help build more educational infrastructures.
A lot of young women struggle with building their career due to stereotypes, how would you advise them?
Yes, I will tell them to keep building and be consistent. Listen; there will always be roadblocks and challenges when building something. These challenges come in different forms. It shouldn’t stop us from continuing to build. If we are consistent, surely, there will be a breakthrough.
If we are consistent, we will be inspired in different ways to achieve our desired goal. New ideas will come, new inspiration will come and that will lead us to the right direction. Also, don’t let that fire in you burnout. There is a reason why you chose the path you are walking on. Good things don’t come easy, if they did, then people won’t have a story of greatness. It is through challenges that we are moulded to become the best we can be. If you fail, fail forward, and if you fall, fall forward.
What is your philosophy of life?
I must achieve that which God has called me to achieve! That’s it! To be honest, it’s still not clear. I don’t know what I’ll do or who I’ll become in the next 10 years, but I know it will be great so I must stick around to see it. I am excited. I have a calling and I want to see it unfold.