Posted by N.G. Onuoha on December 9, 2013
She’s Awesomely Luvvie —the self-titled “renowned roaster” and “titan of trifling truths.” African TrendsetterLuvvie Ajayi is the voice behind the popular blog known for saying everything you’re thinking, but you just don’t have the courage (and backup employment) to publish, tweet or post on Facebook.
With over 25,000 followers on Twitter, the Nigerian-American writer and digital strategist is part of a select group in the diasporan blogging community able to build a diverse fan base. Though Luvvie’s following is noteworthy, it’s her HIV/AIDS awareness efforts that really deserve a spotlight. In 2009, she founded the ‘Red Pump Project’ alongside her friend, Karyn Watkins. The organization uses education and social media savvy to create dialogue around the disease’s impact on women and girls.
In this interview, Luvvie talks about her successes, and why she believes the diaspora can serve as the world’s ‘bridge’ to the continent.
AFRICA.COM: What does Africa mean to you?
LUVVIE: Africa is the cradle of civilization. To me, it means respect for the land, acknowledgement of its wealth and being forever tied to it. Africa is home to such beauty and cultural diversity and great people. But more importantly, it’s where my roots are. I was born and bred on the continent and it will always have my heart. I’m a proud Naija gal!
AFRICA.COM: How did you become a leader within the space you operate in?
LUVVIE: I feel like I tripped and fell into where I am today, with a combination of hard work and God’s grace. Ultimately, everything I’ve done to this point has been something that has come naturally to me. I’ve always spoken my truth and been authentically me and life moved me forward and upward because of it.
I started blogging ten years ago and as I built a strong voice and a platform, I wanted to teach people how to do the same. I couldn’t take my influence for granted. What’s the point of being elevated without trying to bring people up with you? I firmly believe that our purpose is to reach beyond our own lives and connect with others.
Part of it is also that I say what I mean and mean what I say. And oftentimes, it’s what someone else feels but they might be afraid to say themselves.
“My business card should basically say ‘Professional Troublemaker’ at this point.”
In the writing space, as a digital strategist and as a social activist, being considered a leader can be a lot of pressure. But again, when you stay true to yourself, it grounds you. And people can see the power in that.
AFRICA.COM: There are two common narratives: “Africa is Rising” and “Africa Needs Aid”. Which is it, or could it be both?
LUVVIE:It’s both but I lean towards “Africa is Rising” because the I’m a bit tired of the narrative of helplessness with “Africa Needs Aid.” Although Africans are not a monolith by any means, I think we’re a resourceful people and the struggles on the continent do not represent the power of the people there.
Does Africa need aid? Absolutely. Many Isms (Colonialism being a major one) came through and did a lot of damage to the people, the cultures and the land. So yes, we do need to help build it back up. However, the resilience of the people cannot be ignored. Africa IS rising and it will continue to do so.
AFRICA.COM: What do you see being the role of the African diaspora living abroad?
LUVVIE: I believe that Africans who live abroad should serve as a bridge to the continent, contributing to the emerging economy and committing to be a part of Africa’s rise. As Afropolitans (cosmopolitan people with a connection to Africa), we have global perspectives and we should bring that back with us.
AFRICA.COM: You’re part of what is being called a “new generation of leaders” – what does that mean to you?
LUVVIE: I think it means we got next and the torch is ours. We’re the disruptors, the innovators, the problem solvers and the dreamers.
“To me, the new generation of leaders are those who are willing to step up and take charge of whatever spaces they want.”
Some are builders, some are sustainers and some are visionaries and their work matters. The energy of young people is what drives movements and it’s our time.
AFRICA.COM: What is your message to young Africans wanting to make a difference, but are not sure where to start?
LUVVIE: Figure out where your passion lies. The intersection between what you love, what you’re good at and what you care about is where you can make the most impact and have the most fun while doing it.