Last Month I had the pleasure of attending the 11th Annual convention for Umu Igbo Unite in Newark, New Jersey. From August 6-9, hundreds of individuals gathered at the Newark Liberty International Marriott for a weekend of networking and fun.

“Umu Igbo Unite (UIU) works to connect, convene, and empower the next generation of Igbo professionals through networking opportunities and cultural exchange to preserve the Igbo heritage. Founded in 2005, UIU is a culturally rich and dynamic organization with over 800 members globally and over 5,000 in our network spanning various industry areas nationwide”.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself and look forward to attending next year! Check Out the Video Recap, Pictures, Interviews and more below ! Also Check Out the Hashtag #UIU2015 on Instagram!

For More Information about Future & Past Events Visit: http://www.umuigbounite.com/

Click Here to view the 2015 Convention Schedule  http://media.wix.com/ugd/3546e5_f12615a25c6248a6b03a785d18969939.pdf

Check Out the Video Recap from The Nne & Ike Show

CONVENTION GALLERY


I had the opportunity to speak to a few individuals who helped make the weekend a success… Check Out the Interviews Below !

Emeka Okpukpara Jr., MS – President & Founder


1.What exactly is Umu Igbo Unite and when was it founded?

Umu Igbo Unite was founded in March 2005. Umu Igbo Unite (“UIU”) was born from the realization that the way Igbo children were raised in Nigeria, differed vastly from the way Igbo children were raised in the United States and in the Diaspora.  More specifically, it was evident that Igbo parents were members of their own Igbo organizations that provided an avenue for them to remain connected to Igboland, while maintaining bonds and friendships amongst their Igbo counterparts. The founders observed, that while the children of Igbo parents were invited to cultural gatherings, they sometimes felt out of place as they grew and moved on to college and their careers.  From these observations, the UIU Founders saw a need to gather Igbo college students and young professionals together – not only to unite culturally, but also professionally and socially as well. UIU was born to unite Igbo young professionals in the diaspora to familiarize themselves with one another, support Igbo businesses and/or entrepreneurship ideas, as well as, create a strong professional, cultural and social network.

Umu Igbo Unite currently has patrons from all over the world who attend the annual convention. The organization currently has chapters in various locations: Atlanta, GA; Houston, TX; Dallas, TX; New York Tri-State; and Detroit, MI and is still growing. As a result, UIU has created a network of over 5,000 Igbo Professionals throughout the country. Thanks to the wonders of social media, UIU’s reach is global and is growing exponentially. It has become UIU’s standard to have guests attend the annual convention from three different continents representing various countries worldwide.

2.What is the mission of Umu Igbo Unite?

Umu Igbo Unite brings like-minded professionals, entrepreneurs, artists and college students together in order to recognize and develop business, creative and professional opportunities. Networking, essential to individual and professional growth, is the crux of the UIU experience.

The saying goes “it takes a village to raise a child.” We believe that it takes a village to raise a child, effect change, and create unshakable bonds. Through our annual convention, UIU chapters, our sponsors and service to our community, UIU works to create, build and strengthen social networks and bonds.

3. What was the theme for this year’s 11th Annual Umu Igbo Unite Convention? What were some of your favorite moments from this year’s convention? 

Theme: New Generation | New Views | Building Bridges Together

The UIU Convention this 2015 year was the best one to date because it brought together the best of the best in the Igbo community that are in the diaspora. So many amazing moments from the weekend to reminisce on that is hard to pinpoint favorites but I will do my best.

1.The UIUTalk event that was part of the business and cultural summit, featured three amazing women that are accomplished in their fields. Enuma Okoro, is a renowned author and speaker; Adaobi Gwacham is the owner and operator of a Chik-Fil-a restaurant in California, and Tifany Aliche, is an award winning financial educator. These ladies shared their life stories and gave solid advice on how to discover your goals, how to accomplish your dreams and how to prepare for your future. This is what UIU is thriving to do, we must prepare our current and future generations to be better and do more for positive change.

2. Another favorite moment was the community service activity because volunteers helped catalog the care packages that will be sent back to orphanages in SouthEastern Nigeria for the 2nd UIU Cares mission trip that will take place in Igboland in December 2015.

3. It goes without saying that the banquet on saturday is always the highlight of the convention, not only for attendees but also for the planning team members as it is the last major event for the weekend. This year’s banquet lived up to the expectation as the cultural dancers, masquerade, and speakers were on point. The African party was dubbed the largest cultural party in the Tristate. The party was attended by over 1300 young professionals.

4. As the Current President & Co-Founder of Umu Igbo Unite, what are some of the biggest changes you have witnessed from 2005 until now? 

The biggest change that UIU has experienced from the first convention to date would definitely be the size and scope of the convention. The first convention was attended by about 100 people whereas this last one was attended by over 1300 people. The scope of the convention has broadened but the focus remains on social and career networking and advancement. I am very proud that we are not  just a social organization but have held steadfast to our goals of improving the daily livelihoods of our members. Understanding where we come from and recognizing that there are others like you who are thriving and excelling is motivational and inspiring for all attendees to climb greater heights.

Another contrast is that the first one was a regional convention as it was attended by people residing in the east coast, really the southeast and this last one was attended by guests from over 40 states, 5 countries, and 3 continents. The programming has changed now to cater to various segments of people from the professional with ten years of work experience to the newly minted college graduate, there is something for everyone at the Umu Igbo Unite Convention.

5.Why is it important to have this convention every year, and not every two or three years?

First, the people demand it to be so, they want it 2x a year but a lot of tedious planning and fundraising takes place  just to accomplish this once a year so we are sticking to that.

It is important to have this convention yearly as it gives all the chapters a chance to meet up with one another and strategize and share ideas on how to improve. It motivates people to become more active when they see what the other chapters are doing and they can feed off each other. Our strength is in our local chapters, that’s where real bonds and mentorships are made and it’s always a good idea to touch bases and  see that everyone is focused on the goal of uniting.

Also, it gives a perfect platform to discuss potential projects and activities that UIUCares can achieve in Igboland.

6. Can you please let readers know more about the UIU Cares Foundation and other community service activities. 

Today, Nigeria is one of the most industrialized African nations; leading in technology, entertainment, and development. Even with our wealth and resources, we still have a long way to go in providing education, healthcare resources and improved quality of life to our people.

Here at UIU we believe that our people should not be marginalized because of poverty or be denied good healthcare, infrastructure, and education. We also believe education is the key to success that it  and opens many doors of opportunity, a concept each member of UIU mirrors either through professional or educational background.

UIU Cares is geared towards making access to healthcare, education, and a better quality of life a reality regardless of one’s socioeconomic status. We aim to improve the lives of our African brothers and sisters back home and here in the diaspora.

In December 2014, we visited two orphanages in Igbo Land. This was a well orchestrated trip that provided direct aide to those who are in dire need in Nigeria. The orphanages were in Onitsha and Nsukka. We provided clothing, toys and just some good will and cheer to the orphans and their caretakers. This trip impacted over 150 people and we look to expand further during this year’s trip so we can impact over 1,000 orphans in Igbo land. We really look forward to community involvement so if you want to get involved please do not hesitate to contact us at: uiucares@umuigbounite.com. Also look out for the dates of the outreach this December. They will be posted on www.umuigbounite.com. We have created a registry on Target.com with the items we will be taking home, all donations are appreciated. You can access the registry at:

https://www-secure.target.com/gift-registry/giftgiver?registryId=IBuuPIyD1WiOAVJa1jlHwQ&registryType=COLLEGE

Our very own UIU National Book-drive is aimed at donating collegiate level books in an effort to lower the burden of cost of education. Since being established, we have donated hundreds of books to libraries and schools within Nigeria.

We have also hosted a bone marrow drive, since the number of black members in the registry are abysmally low, and we will continue to encourage our members to register in the national bone marrow drive to help those of African descent diagnosed with blood cell disorders such as sickle cell.

Because one of Umu Igbo Unite’s missions is to create awareness of health and social issues, we make it a point of duty to hold panel discussions during our national conventions and offer ways for members to contribute whether it is by donation or through our outreach programs. Nonetheless, through this mission, we have partnered and provided monetary support to the following organizations: African Cancer Care Inc., Nigerian Healthcare Foundation, Nigeria Smiles Campaign, and Nuway Foundation.

7. If someone wants to join or create a chapter in their state, how should they go about it?

Chapter creation is best way to foster growth of the organization. Chapter creation is highly encouraged and supported by the Executive Board. Any interested persons can contact Nneka Ogojiaku at chapters@umuigbounite.com

We have chapters in five regions: Detroit, MI, Tristate (NY, NJ, and Conn), Atlanta, GA, Dallas, TX and Houston, TX.

8. How can readers get in contact with you or any other board members if they have any questions? And social media outlets for updates?

I can be reached at emeka.okpukpara@umuigbounite.com and the executive director Ijeoma Okoli can be reached at contact@umuigbounite.com

We can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with @umuigbounite

The tag for this year’s convention was #uiu2015 so various moments from different users can be found on various social media platforms.

Pictures for the convention will be out this weekend so look out for those. Remember to use the #uiu2015 for easy access to the collection of pictures.

The location of the next convention will soon be announced so stay tuned.

Umu Igbo Kwenu!

 

Michelle Nwosu- Miss Nigeria in America 2015


1. What is your first & last name? And where were you born & raised? 

My name is Michelle Nwosu, I was born in Abia State, Nigeria and I was raised in Greenbelt Maryland since I was 10 years old.

2. Did your upbringing have any influence on you wanting to compete in a beauty pageant? What are the benefits of participating in a beauty pageant? 

What gave me motivation to compete in a beauty pageant was my late brother, Joseph “Jody Jaz” Nwosu. I promised him on his death bed that I was going to continue on his legacy and tell the world his story and here I am granted that opportunity to do so. The benefits of participating in a beauty pageant are endless. You are given a wider  platform to tell your story and accomplish so many great things, scholarship money, new business ventures, but most importantly you get to be an ambassador for the younger generation of women from all over the world.

3.Can you please tell me about your title & platform that you will be carrying out throughout your term?

I am currently the only Miss Nigeria In America 2015. My platform consists of a heightened awareness of autoimmune diseases more specifically Lupus within the African community. There’s a growing number of those suffering from this illness within our community yet, we see a lack of education on this disease. From knowing what the early signs and symptoms are, to knowing how to manage living with them, Mh goal is to share this information so that we are all informed to assist one another. My only brother passed away from Lupus in 2011 and since then I have made it my mission to be actively involved in the research being conducted to find a cure.

4.What are 3 words that you would use to describe yourself & your brand? And Why? 

Humble, Genuine, and Dream Chaser.

Those are three qualities that I’m proud to say that I possess. My crown hasn’t changed who I am as a person, If anything it has made me want to better myself.

5. What advice would you give to any young lady interested in participating in a beauty pageant. 

My advice would be to first of all know the exact reason as to why you want to compete; if you’re competing for the wrong reasons then trust me it will show in the long run. Also, as cliche as it may sound, follow your dream, don’t let anyone or anything stop you from achieving what it is you set your heart out to. I remember before I applied for the Miss Nigeria In America Pageant, I was extremely hesitant, like “what would people think or say?” But look at me now :-).

6. You had the opportunity to attend this years 11th Umu Igbo Unite Convention in New Jersey. Can you briefly tell me about your experience and how it affects you since you are Nigerian?

First of all let me say thank you to Umu Igbo Unite for specially inviting me to their 11th annual convention. This was my second convention(my first was last year in ATL), and I’m proud to say that I support everything Umu Igbo Unite stands for. I’ve never seen nor been to such an event that brings young Igbo professionals from all over the world together to learn more about the Igbo culture while still networking and forming long lasting relationships. If you haven’t been to one, I suggest you stop dulling ooo lol. Cha’ Cha’ Cha’ Igbo Kwenuuuuu!!!

7. How can people get in contact with you ? 

They can follow my social media pages , Instagram: Heybombchelle, Facebook: Chelle Nwosu

Yvonne Orji- Comedian
 

1. Where were you born & raised? 

 I was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, so I claim NAIJA all day, but I’ve lived in Maryland for most of my time in the US. I moved to LA from Harlem, New York.

2. What gave you the confidence to start stand up? Did your upbringing influence you to make jokes 

I entered the Miss Nigeria in America Pageant in 2006, and I needed a talent. I didn’t know I needed a talent until about two weeks before the competition. They were like, “So what’s your talent?” I prayed because I was so unsure on what to do, and God revealed to me that my talent would be “comedy”. I may have not won the competition ( came 2nd or 3rd runner up) but my true calling was revealed to me.

3. Where do you get your material from? Are you selective about the type of videos you produce for the public

Most of my material is observational. Coming from a Christian background, I stay away from cursing and vulgarity. I feel that clean comedy doesn’t have to mean boring comedy. 

 4. Do you work well under pressure ? 

I have performed enough times, that I am now comfortable on stage. . Of course sometimes you feel a bit jittery, but once I hit the stage that all goes away. You have to know your audience, because every joke is not for every crowd. You have to know how to move on from joke that was not received well.

 5. Who are some people in the industry that you might look up to, for guidance, and ways to enhance your craft?

There are a lot of people in the industry that I look up to, one being Chris Rock. I remember him saying, ” It is important to always be professional”. You never know who you will come in contact with, so it is important to always carry yourself with dignity and respect no matter the setting. And be genuine  in what you do, I like things to feel organic and not forced.

6. What inspired you to come to Umu Igbo Unite? 

I love that Umu Igbo Unite gives “Igbo children” an opportunity to come together for a weekend and connect and network. Being that both of my parents are Nigerian, it is important for our generation to continue to live out the legacies and traditions from our parents. I loved that everywhere I turned it was someone who is just like me. We definitely took over the hotel that weekend. I also loved that I had the opportunity to be apart of the comedy show for the last two years.

7. Are there any major projects that you are currently working on, that you would like people to be aware of ? Such as the First Gen Show? 

Recently I landed a role in the HBO Comedy Pilot called, “Insecure”. Click the link to read more http://deadline.com/2015/08/jay-ellis-yvonne-orji-star-hbo-comedy-pilot-insecure-issa-rae-1201504614/

I also wrote a sitcom pilot called,  “The First Gen Show”. The story is semi autobiographical and draws loosely from Yvonne’s stand-up routines and real life experiences. At it’s core, First Gen is about a Nigerian girl who trades medical school for a career in stand-up comedy and the adventures that ensue after her strict African mother discovers her plans. It’s a super funny and refreshing take on the modern day immigrant family. 

First Gen will resonate with a multitude of audiences, but especially, children of immigrant parents from a variety of backgrounds living in America, of which there are millions. The familiar themes of family, tradition and living up to parents’ expectations are universal, and extend beyond race, gender or religion. 

The Goal of First Gen is to be sold to a major network and produced into a sitcom that will be enjoyed by masses for years to come. To help those efforts, the FG team will produce a pilot presentation and a Docu-series.

Check out the Website & OFFICIAL TRAILER Below: http://www.firstgenshow.com/

 8. How can readers get in contact with you?

Youtube:https://www.youtube.com/user/YveeO

Instagram: @YvonneOrji & @FirstGenShow

Twitter: @YvonneOrji

Facebook: Yvonne Orji

Lesley Osuala- Comedian
 

 

1. Where were you born and raised?

 I was born in Houston, Texas and raised in Queens, New York.

2. Tell me about how you were able to become apart of the Comedy “Group” this year. 

It started back in 2014 and I sat in the front row, and I just was in awe of the different comedians ” Namp, Foxy P, Chief Obi, and Yvonne Orji” and knew that I had to become part of that the following year. So I just networked and spoke to some of the comedians and asked for advice and just made my presence known. Fast Forward a year later, and I was able to become apart of an elite group of comedians to tear the stage.

3. Where do you get your material from? Are you selective about the type of videos you produce for the public?

 My material comes from life experiences as well as everyday happenings. It is important as a comedian to keep myself up to date with whatever may be occuring in the news or entertainment. I am also very cognizant of my audience whenever I perform certain jokes. I write my whole set out before performing it (adlibs and everything) so I have an idea of how it will flow.

 4. What does your family think about you doing comedy?

Of course being Nigerian, wanting to “tell jokes” is not something you just tell Nigerian parents. I work in IT, but I also knew that comedy is what truly makes me happy. I think a turning moment for my parents that I was actually good in comedy was the fact the people would come up to my parents and say, ” Oh your son is very funny, I saw one of his videos”. During Umu Igbo Unite, my parents got to see me do stand up for the first time. If anyone was really paying attention to me, I kept looking over at my parents who were in the audience to see if they were laughing. After the set, I was filled with so much emotion, that’s why I quickly ran off. It was great to have my parents in the audience support me and my dream.

 5. Who are some people in the industry that you might look up to, for guidance, and ways to enhance your craft?

I admire Kevin Hart because of where he started from and how far he has come now. He is not afraid to make a fool of himself and be open, and that is why people love him so much. He is also very business minded, which is important in the world of comedy. He also likes Terry Cruz and Whitney Cummings from Comedy Central.

6. What are 3 words that you would use to describe yourself and your brand?  

The three words that I would use to describe my brand would be: Gentleman, Silly, & Classic.

7. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I see myself being invested full time in comedy. I would love to become apart of a show like Saturday Night Live or something like The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.

8. What advice would you have for someone who has a dream they want to pursue, but are letting other factors such as their parents detour them from that? 

If you have a talent that you have a knack for, PURSUE IT ! Spend time with it everyday, and I guarantee you will get better at it. If it is something you LOVE, put in work, and with time I promise the results will be worth it.

9. How can readers get in contact with you?

Instagram: @that_guy_lesley

Thank You so much for reading ! Again For More Information about Future & Past Events Visit: http://www.umuigbounite.com/