A Collection of Cultures: An Interview with Osi // Guest Post (1)

We’re not voiceless. Pass the mic.”

I don’t know how other POC bloggers feel, but I’ve always felt that there is a shortage of our stories and perspectives… especially given that our stories are many and unique. So, towards the end of 2018, I decided that I would begin sharing the stories of many talented and wonderful diverse bloggers.

Today, we have Osi @ OUKASnation (a nation dedicated to anybody who feels or who has ever felt like an outcast). I’ve been following Osi’s blog for a long time now. Talented doesn’t even begin to describe him – he can rap, make music, and he’s a wonderful poet to boot. Osi covers a lot of topics on his blog from black love (his dating app, Berry, celebrating black love is out now!), his childhood, school years, family, mental health, being a millennial Brit, and gaming. My favourite posts of his is his poem ‘Full Circle’.  Life is hard and Osi isn’t afraid to explore the full depth of his emotions including his ‘Mental Diary‘. He is honest, expressive, creative and sensitive, and I hope the next few years will allow him to build on his many creative talents.

copy of copy of copy of copy of copy of a collection of cultures meet tiara guest post

I’ve been following your blog for a while now, and something that I come across often is your relationship with your parents. How was your relationship with your parents like growing up?

Erm, this is a bit of a sticky question. My Mum and Dad separated when I was 3 months old, and I stayed with my Mum. When it comes to my Dad I used to see him almost every Sunday or at family parties, but even when I saw him on those Sunday’s, it would just be to go shopping, so it wasn’t really that “engaging” if you get what I mean. I guess the relationship was [cool] because I got things that I wanted, but in terms of forming an actual relationship, it wasn’t really there, even to this day. 

On the other hand, my Mum always fed, clothed, looked after [me], etc, and I can never take that for granted. But I feel the way she spoke to me and handled certain situations whilst I was growing up has put a massive dent in our relationship. It’s not like my Dad where I would see him one time for a couple of hours and go back home. I lived with her, so I had to live with these things daily. 

Outside [my] home, [it] was already bad enough for me growing up, so to come back home and get that as well brings a full circle to the negativity which is why it’s near impossible for me to forgive and forget because all I mostly know is sadness and pain. There is still resentment I do hold [to] this very day because I feel a lot should have been done in a better way, and I can’t understand how she couldn’t have seen or known that. So I guess my relationship with my mum growing up was a bit bumpy.

You mentioned that you noticed that your mother has been alone for a while. How do you think that has affected your relationship with your mother and in your own life and relationships?

I don’t think [it has] affected my relationship with my mother. The generation of African my mother came from is what I call the “survival.” It was very hard and strict, and it was all about getting money to put food on the table type thing. Even if I had my Dad around, I don’t think my Mum’s personality would have changed too much. Nigerian parents, or even Africans, don’t really show emotion like that. It’s all about “Are you top of your class?” or “Have you got a job yet?” And like I said, I get it because that’s the generation they came from.

The second part of [this] question I’ve actually thought about recently. Maybe subconsciously it has affected me because I never had that “first-line contact” of what a relationship is. All the stuff I “learnt” was from movies, and it’s definitely not like that in the real world. Maybe it would have helped if I got to see what a relationship looks like first-hand, and I might have been able to manoeuvre better within mine.

I understand that your mum was quite young when she had you, how do you think her youth played a role in your upbringing?

Like I was saying [previously], it’s the “survival.” My Mum grew up in Nigeria, which is a lot different from the UK. Then to come to the UK with the level of racism back then, a new country, a new language, it’s hard. Then to have me at a young age, whilst studying at university, and being divorced, it’s a lot!  But the generation she came from you have to find a way to provide, and that’s what she did. Maybe because of her past tribulations accompanied by the survival mentality she thought: “This is the way to show love.” And the same way people learn better differently also applies to love.

Okay, so I understand that you’re Nigerian, and Pakistan, India and Bangladesh have our own ‘who’s better?’ beefs. So, tell me, how much better is Nigeria from Ghana and how?

To be honest, it’s friendly banter between the two countries, even down to the whole “Who’s jollof rice is better?” It’s Nigeria by the way. I know nothing about the country of Ghana to critique it, and I haven’t had a pleasant experience when I’ve gone to Nigeria. But, to be honest, Ghanaian people are generally much nicer people than Nigerians, in my own experience.

Have you visited Nigeria recently or are you planning to?  

I haven’t been in 8 or 9 years, and I have no plans of visiting. Although, my Mum might force me to go next year because my uncle is getting married apparently. There was a time I used to go every year and stay in the village [in] my mum’s house growing up, and it was f****** terrible – pardon my French. Let me tell you my average day when I was in Nigeria. My Mum would go out in the morning and do whatever and come back at around 8pm. During that time, there would be no electricity since the generator only came on when my Mum was home, and there’s absolutely no electricity in the village and even in the city it goes on/off randomly. So, I had to stay in a boiling house with absolutely nothing to do until she came back.

Of course, I’ve been out to the city and explored. But the city my Mum grew up in Nigeria is terrible. There’s this one mall and that’s it! I’m very sorry that I have a bad outlook on Nigeria, but I haven’t had a pleasant experience when I’ve ever gone. Maybe it’s just the city I’m in because when my friends go, they look like they’re enjoying themselves.

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Graduating, in this economy, how did it impact your job search? What are some of the struggles that you had to experience? Tell me about your toughest interview! 

I did Biochemistry in University looking for jobs in marketing – yeah, I know -, so it’s even more of a struggle than it already is. First of all, that degree doesn’t mean a damn thing, it’s practically worthless. I feel my main struggles are getting an interview in the first place or having your time wasted – a promise of [an] interview or job and hearing nothing back after.

There was this one time the director of a company wanted to have an “informal chat” with me. He was grilling me worse than at the actual interview which I wasn’t prepared for. The main problem is that I always get that email back along the lines of “it was a really hard decision, but the other person just had that little bit more…” which is s*** because I can’t be any more [than] myself.

What do you wish you knew about graduating from university and studying? And what advice would you give to job-seekers?

I shouldn’t have gone to university in the first place. I never knew what I wanted to do initially, and I was more “forced” to go down the science route. But if you’re not looking to become a Doctor, Lawyer, Engineer, work with children, etc, then you don’t need to go to university. People are [paying] £9000 a year to study art, like, really? And this is not me s******* on Art students, but it’s, like, you can do that at home for free. Why are you paying £9000 a year for it?

I’m probably the wrong person to ask [for advice], but: 

  • Try and get as much experience as possible within the field you want to work e.g. volunteering.
  • Always put a cover letter, it makes you stand out more.
  • Only put bullet points of your key achievements in your work experience section. If you were a cashier employers know what you were doing.
  • Mirror your CV to the job description.

And that’s the end of part one, more to come soon!


Check out Osi’s blog, Instagram and Twitter

Are you a diverse blogger who has a story to share? If so, my blog is now open for guest post interviews! Topics will be expanding to mental health, life experiences, culture, community, employment, education, environmental issues, and much more. Please contact me if you would like to feature as a guest on my blog.

Sophia Ismaa

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31 Comments

    1. Thank you for being wonderful to interview, and for being so open about everything you’ve been through. I really hope more young people and especially men can open up more about their life and be as expressive as you are. I can’t wait for part two! 😊

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          1. Ha. Yeah. Can you imagine if we treated other illnesses the same way? Your coworker has a cold and you ask him if he can just not cough and sneeze so much. And kindly stop looking so sick,it’s upsetting.

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            1. I’ve seen a few people do that… but I think most people think it means shouldering a responsibility, we’re not asking you to be our superman, just… let us BE. Let us be sad, let us feel low, and don’t shame us for not “manning up” to appease the crowds.

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              1. Exactly! We’re not even asking people to do anything for us. Just to leave us alone if we bother them. I think it’s because there is still a very widespread discomfort when it comes to mental illness. The idea that anyone can have it makes us want to pretend it will never happen to us!

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                1. I think a lot of people who are in denial of mental health may experience mental health issues themselves and… they just don’t want to be reminded of it. I see that in my community. Bipolar is squandered around for anyone who dares to have a different opinion or volubly express their emotions (like me), we tend not to value emotional expression, and that is just not me. It’s interesting to see how it affects different communities.

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                  1. It is quite interesting. I have been raised in a deeply religious environment, so people tell you things like ‘you can’t be depressed if you have faith in God’, or ‘you are just lazy, that’s why you stay in bed’. It’s very isolating, because you can’t really ask for help if nobody believes you have an illness. And there is the other side, like you said, where any behavior they consider undesirable is linked to some sort of mental illness as a way to label those who suffer from one as villains in a way.. I would love to have the time and know enough people to do a little ‘how is that in your country/cultural community?’ compilation.

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                    1. Hmm. Hearing things like that can really invalidate your feelings and you just end up internalising it which is terrible because, I know when I begin isolating myself, that’s when it gets a lot worse! Oh gosh, I remember when I actually decided to finally get out of bed, start praying properly this time, getting out, going to uni, and though I felt more content and peaceful after I started praying… I was still depressed. It was still depression except I was floating in the clouds. I will say that praying can help, but that’s only when you’ve gotten to a stage where you’ve developed better coping mechanism, so your heart is more open. It’s a tricky area to navigate. I don’t know what we can do to really change the whole system, but it starts with not making it worse for people by invalidating their feelings.

                      I’m hoping to interview my cousin for the series, I really wanted to do one face to face, speech to text, but, that’s not happening, we’re in lockdown. But I really want to explore mental health in Islam, and really dig deep. I’m sure a lot of people in the previous generation are experiencing/have experienced poor mental health, but they don’t want to accept that they are/have. How is it more so approached in Brazil? Is the sector funded well and is there accessibility?

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                    2. It does, it’s incredibly frustrating and erasing when everything gets framed like this, as if you being sick is a moral failure. Sadly the responses I got from my mother were either ‘if you have faith in God you won’t have it’ (she used the same line for migraines too) or ‘No child of mine can be depressed!’ (Gee, thanks, mom, I’m cured now). I have always pushed myself to do what had to be done, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t depresed, it just meant I was functioning. Big difference, but a hard one to explain. Praying is support, just like therapy is support, medication is support. I say it can and even should be used as a part of a treatment plan if the person takes comfort from praying. But it’s a coping mechanism, not a silver bullet, to to speak.

                      Maybe you two can do voice messages? Whatsapp, telegram, skype, etc? Some things are so much better conveyed through voice. Though it would be nice to have something where you can record the convos instead of worrying about writing things down during the interview. As for Brazil, I come from a privileged point of view, as I have always had health insurance through my parents’ (government) jobs. Our Unified Health System (SUS) does offer mental health services, but there is a long wait, as with most public services, and I really don’t know the details or anyone who has had to access mental health services this way!

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                    3. What I’m gleaning from this is that people who don’t believe in mental health think that it’s something that can be easily cured. Whatever advice we’re given is always directing towards us becoming functioning members of society which, sadly, means how well can you hide how you’re feeling. What we need to move towards is that mental health and mental illnesses are usually for life. It’s not going anywhere. This is a part of who we are now (not saying that it defines us), so you can help us and support us like a good ‘functioning’ member of society because it’s not going anywhere. More importantly, I think we really need to start having these conversation in spiritual and religious circles and we need that change coming from the top down. I really hope I can do something about this and I can start at home. I’m so sorry that you can’t lean on your mother for support, and I’m more privileged than you in this way because most of my family are really supportive of mental health. If you’re having a bad mental health day, please talk to me. We’re in this together.

                      I’m going to talk to my cousin, but I might wait for his exams to be over. But I’ll use that to prep the questions because I want to do an in-depth post. We need actual descriptions, not surface level. Hiding our harsher and darker thoughts for the sake of society makes us feel even more unacceptable and unwelcome. The more honest we are and the more accepted these emotions are, the more we can see progress.

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                    4. I think you’ve hit the nail in the head. It’s rarely about supporting the person to be the best they can be within their limitations. It’s about the proverbial fitting a square peg in a round hole. If you don’t fit in the hole you have to adapt or be discarded. We’re moving past the locking people up in most places, but we’ve got a long way to go when it comes to locking up people’s feelings and thoughts. I 100% agree that this conversation needs to be brought into the religious part of people’s lives too, and that it needs to come from the top, as people are looking up to them as to how they will act when it comes to difficult situations. I’m so glad your family is supportive! And thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart. It means a lot!

                      I’m really looking forward to this post, and waiting for exams to be over definitely makes sense! I’ll be waiting on the edge of my seat! I really hope this can be a completely open post with honest answers. No matter how harsh those truths sound, I feel that we all really need to hear them!

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                    5. Because that would mean having to make accommodations which, in essence, means sacrifice on their part. The way it’s framed, even having to put this bluntly, is that to provide support means to lose something when the framing needs to begin with individual healing is a win not only for the community, but paves the way for better relationships in society. E.g. my cousin, that same cousin I was speaking of, knows that when I discuss something that’s affecting my mental health, he understands the importance of validating my feelings. By validating these feelings, you feel safe to be yourself and, in turn, you are kinder to yourself. Consequently, that makes you kinder to others. The causal effect stemming from an individual act of kindness reverberates as empathy towards others. It’s a win-win scenario for all. I think this is something that I need to begin with the elders in my family. We can educate and empower our own little communities. But, of course, I understand it will be tremendously difficult for so many people who have strained relationships with their parents. How are you getting along with your mum these days?

                      FYI, there are two charities who are doing brilliant work in my community – inspirited minds and Muslim youth helpline. I would love to do more to fundraise for them in the future.

                      Thank you so much! That means a lot to me, especially coming from you. You’re making me feel more pumped to get started, and, by the way, I’ve found a way to do the interview, I just need to draft the questions, but I think it’ll be a fun opportunity to adapt when it comes to the flow of the interview! Also, your tweet got buried in my mentions because I’ve been pretty quiet on twitter (Ramadan and all!), but your plants look brilliant! We have our own plant, but it’s kept in a big bottle for some reason! 😂

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                    6. You are so right. I will be honest and say even places that try to do it rarely do it right. It’s a delicate balance between “just act normal”, whatever normal is and “let’s hold this person back because they can’t do life” when the answer is actually “let’s treat this person like an adult and support them where needed”. I feel that we have a long way to go there. And allowing the people affected to speak clearly and freely is a very important first step there.

                      My mom is still defending my brother fiercely and bugging me to reach out to him ‘because when we die you’ll only have each other’, while brother hasn’t even reached out at all despite the drama he’s feeding her on ‘she’s not talking to me’. My dad, mercifully, is staying out of this mess. Same old.

                      And supporting charities you know are doing good work is so important. Let me know if there’s anything I can help with from here!

                      I’m so happy to be making you feel pumped, and very excited to see this interview come to fruition! My plants thank you, they are very happy XD The passion fruit is now moving up the fence, my dad put her there (yes, I have decided my plants are girls lol) and I’m hoping she’ll enjoy it! Also, hey, as long as the plant’s thriving, it’s all good!

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                    7. That’s a really good response and one that can actually very easily be attempted. And I think if someone isn’t functioning well because of mental health issues, there will be subtle changes that you would be notice and that can easily be noticed by close friends, relatives and even your employers (although, that’s the tricky part, but not impossible if adequate training for management is provided). My cousin, the one I’ve mentioned, has been open about his mental health at work whilst still ensuring the best quality work he can provide. “I have anxiety and depression, and, on occasion, I might need a sick day.” I don’t think he’s had to use it because his manager has been very understanding and supportive. When you feel safe and accepted, you feel free to be yourself and, unsurprisingly, feel slightly more confident. So, I wonder if, where possible, we just have to declare, “this is who I am. I am trying my best. Take me as I am.” Similar to how we make accommodations for parents who might need to pick up their kids from school or attend parents evening.

                      Would your mum listen to your dad if he told her to ease up on you? What does your dad think of your brother? Could he be a possibility to someone you could go to? Or does he like to usually stay out of things?

                      Well, is little miss passion fruit is a girl, she needs to have a name, so, what have you decided on? Also, are you planning to use the passion fruit for any dishes? Passion fruit cheesecake is pretty delicious! Passion fruit cake or even ice cream! So many possibilities!

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                    8. I read about something called EAP (employee assistance program) on some US workplace sites, and it includes facilitating therapy (ie, flex time, etc), and I wish that was a thing. I feel the workplace needs to facilitate mental health care, but at the same time, unless they are in the field of treating it, stay out of trying to ‘fix’ the problem. I worked with a young woman who had (mental health issues I can’t really pinpoint) and the way the workplace dealt with it was by deciding nobody should upset her ever. Even if asking her information only she had was ‘upsetting’, we just had to figure it out, and she was extremely rude, yelling at people for saying good morning (‘what’s good about it?’) and going so far as throwing objects on the door (in your direction) if you tried to get some work question answered. It was the other extreme from ignoring the problem (she was also being accommodated with flex time for therapy) and it was just as toxic, or maybe even worse, because the whole office had to walk on eggshells. We need to do better.

                      I honestly don’t think so. My dad is averse to confrontation, and as he has heart problems and high blood pressure, I try not to ask him to step in. He does anyway when she’s too over the top. He loves my brother, but he doesn’t coddle him nearly as much as my mother does.

                      And I do give her a name, don’t I? I’ll think about it. As for what to do with the fruit, I usually just make juice or simply cut the fruit open, put some sugar on it and eat it. Quick and delicious snack! I will have to look at making ice cream, though, it sounds like fun!

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                    9. We have EAP here in the UK as well. It’s really amazing, and you get around 6 free sessions a year as part of your workplace but there are other mental health initiatives to provide support as well. For sure, I completely agree, that unless you’re a trained therapist, I don’t think anyone should be offering unsolicited advise that can be particularly harmful. But that again relates to poor management skills… which leads me to think management especially should be given training on how to handle issues related to mental health. It’s actually such an easy initiative to incorporate without really having to rely heavily on mental health funding delivered by a government.

                      Oh, wow. What they really did was indulge your colleague too much. Something like EAP could have really helped her out and ensured that you and your colleagues weren’t having to walk around on eggshells. They pretty much mandated physical and verbal abuse then, that’s disgusting that they didn’t do anything about that. Oh, just got to the part where was actually receiving therapy. Okay, wow. Seriously?! Throwing things at people and that was okay?! She should have been fired. Nobody should have to come into work with the possibility of being physically hurt.

                      Oh, no! That must be such a difficult situation for both of you. I completely understand why you wouldn’t want any more stress for your father. That’s really worrying. Is there anyone else who can intervene instead like a respected figure at the church they go to?

                      Yes, you must give her a name! You know I don’t think I’ve ever had passion fruit juice, but I can imagine it tastes delicious, pumpkin juice, I’m completely sure I’ve had it and enjoyed it once! Omg. Passion fruit ice cream. I am so excited for you! Let me know how your fruits are progressing!

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                    10. We don’t have it here, sadly, and now I work for a tiny company, so we don’t have a lot of things! 😦 I wish we did, it would be really beneficial to everyone! Though even some training on how managers should handle these issues would be better than nothing!

                      The situation with my coworker was a mess. A couple people left and, while they said nothing, I wouldn’t be surprise if her behavior and the fact that it was tolerated has played a part on it. I agree she should have been fired, there’s a limit to everything, and she definitely crossed the line. Upper management didn’t feel the same, though.

                      As for my mother, I don’t really know the elders in her church, and I really don’t feel comfortable opening up to them, sadly. I just try to manage as well as I can, giving in a little here and holding boundaries where they are most important.

                      I have yet to name Miss Passion Fruit, and Miss Pumpkin seems to be preparing to sprout flowers soon! I’m super excited, though I haven’t been outside much as we’re having rain every day. :/ I’ll see about updated pictures when I can! Take care!

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                    11. Is it true that smaller companies are much more of a delight to work for? I feel like they usually appreciate your work more and that’s so helpful for your mental health. But then I hear that family businesses can be a nightmare if you’re not family. I think every manager should receive training on mental health and how to manage their staff, no matter how good they think they are, they can always learn something new and I think a lot of emphasis should be placed on how they, their team and the company overall can benefit too.

                      Yes. I’m sure it did. If you’re expecting physical abuse at work, sometimes the silence and lack of support and justice after is critical in whether you stay or not.

                      Oh, no. That’s terrible. Who do you go to for support if you don’t mind me asking?

                      I think miss passion fruit and miss pumpkin sound great! Why not go old school little miss and little mr, those books were so much fun! And what! Flower. Yay. Please show us pictures! Rain should mean growth for flowers, right?

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                    12. I’ll say it really varies! Most of the companies I have worked for have not been big ones! I like the ease of access that comes from being able to easily schedule a meeting with your top boss, but sometimes a lot of stuff gets overlooked because things are so tight knit! It’s a balancing act. And I agree, working for a family business when you’re not family can get dysfunctional fast! I do agree, people need to learn both what they can do to help and also where they need to stop trying to help and refer the person to resources.

                      I fully agree. If the coworker hadn’t left, I would sure have walked. I was relieved when she quit and went to do something else.

                      As for support, I am blessed with a few close friends and a lovely girlfriend who doesn’t mind listening to me whine! I have been considering looking into online therapy appointments, though! I feel I could use an impartial third party!

                      Sadly, we had to get rid of miss pumpkin, as she was starting to take up too much space and the HOA equivalent asked us to. I’m hoping they won’t bother with miss Pasion Fruit! I’ll take an updated picture of her soon!

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                    13. I do find that some big companies can still manage little check-in meetings if need be, but I’m assuming that’s more common at charities. I’ve never worked for a family business, I think I’ve only worked once or twice at a smaller office/company. One was great, and wait, the other was a family business… and it was very… lax! Lots of space to enable career progression, but, also, not very considerate of regulations as well. Fat chance that they’ll allow you to work from home!

                      Oh, wow. I don’t think you mentioned that she quit. But I’m glad she did and I hope she was able to seek help somewhere.

                      Oh, yay! I’m so happy to hear that your girlfriend is very supportive! My aunt, she’s in her 50’s is doing telephone therapy and it’s doing well for her, but I hope you get the chance to look into it specifically to maybe explore the relationship you have with your mum because it doesn’t sound like the best.

                      I hope Miss Pumpkin tasted great and enjoyed her last few days in your stomach! XD ooh, yes! I think you sent a picture to me once on Twitter, but I delete the app for 3/4 days a week (it gets too addictive), so I was finding it difficult to locate it in my mentions!

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    1. I’ve just come back to this so it’s a little late (well more than a little), but thank you so much. I’ve given you a follow, and I’ll defo check out your blog (after writing this post) 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

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