The back and forth between The Guardian UK and award-winning writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is getting quite interesting (for lack of a better word). What would have ended up as a simple retraction is slowly sliding into the realms of ‘he said, she said’.
In all of this, perhaps it’s a bit self-absorbed of me to be more interested in the fact that hopefully these series of exchanges will help promote both her essay and subsequently the talk about depression. This was the whole point of the essay in the first place!
If all this sounds strange to you, here’s a quick run down of events so far:
-First, on Feb 1, 2015, The Guardian UK, published Ms Adichie’s very insightful, humane, accessible and illuminating essay on depression titled: ‘Mornings Are Dark, I Cry Often’. And before the world gathered her thoughts to share comments and repost on social media, the said essay was taken down by The Guardian with the following statement:
“This article was deleted on 1 February 2015 because it was launched in error, without the permission of the author following a technical error. The Guardian apologizes unreservedly to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.”
Interestingly, as of today, the statement on The Guardian’s page now reads:
“Sorry – the page you are looking for has been removed. This may be because of a legal objection, a rights consideration or for another reason. If you want to contact someone about the page, you can email the readers’ editor on: firstname.lastname@example.org For more on our editorial code and links to our latest corrections and clarifications column, visit the accuracy and standards pages.
-Second, yesterday, Feb 2, 2015, on this blog, I reposted a press statement issued by Ms. Adichie management team (See the press statement here) and based on her version of the story, I issued the following piece below.
My post based on the above press statement issued by Ms. Adichie’s management team:
Like so many people around the world, I read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s poignant piece on depression: ‘Mornings Are Dark, I Cry Often’….when The Guardian initially published it in ‘error’. Hmmmnnnn, my love, respect and admiration for Ms Adichie just went up several notches (if that’s even possible). Her article is such a beautiful, naked, enlightening and empowering piece for anyone dealing with darkness of depression.
Her response to the questionable act by The Guardian is very commendable. It is insightful and powerful that she directly and unequivocally called out The Guardian for their subterfuge, unethical and illegal conduct. It is important that we hold people (in this case the press) accountable and very refreshing to see this in this case.
For anyone dealing with depression, know that help is available (traditional medical resources, alternative health therapies, meditation, esoteric…) and grace also avails. One of the most powerful responses that resonated deeply with me regarding Ms Adichie’s piece was shared by acclaimed Motswana writer, Lauri Kubuitsile (Thoughts From Botswana Blog).
To paraphrase part of her response: “In all sorts of interactions with mental illness, each time I must remind myself to find compassion.” (Emphasis is mine). And I learnt from her that even when we do not fully understand things, we must choose to be empathetic and compassionate to the world around us. This is after all the crux of our shared and sacred humanity.
We at WWN are looking forward to Ms Adichie’s essay being properly re-published via her chosen channels. And also hearing her speak more on this critical, yet often hidden and misunderstood health condition affecting millions. Her honesty and artistry in depicting the journey with depression is sure to be a source of healing and light to millions of people around the world.
We’d also want to commend the awareness campaign by Canadian Telecoms giant BELL for their annual #BellLetsTalkMentalHealth program which seeks to engage stakeholders, citizens, government in an open, honest national conversation about mental health. With increasing cases of depression-related suicides, especially among young adults, we hope countries in Africa, such as Nigeria, Botswana, Swaziland…will join in this timely conversation.
-Juliet ‘Kego Ume-Onyido
-Third, today, February 3, 2015, I wake up to the news that The Guardian has also issued a counter-statement refuting her statement that they intentionally published the depression story without her permission. This is the statement from an alleged spokesperson of The Guardian to IBTimes UK:
“The essay was submitted by Adichie’s agents to the Guardian in early September 2014. After it had been accepted and a fee agreed, a layout was drawn up for the piece – including headlines and pictures – and it was timed to publish automatically on a set date.
“After Adichie subsequently decided not to publish the article in the Guardian, we regrettably failed to delete one of the prepared drafts of the article. As a result, it was automatically published on Sunday 1st February. We strongly rebut any suggestion that the Guardian would deliberately publish an article without the author’s permission.
“Following conversations with Adichie’s agent, we immediately took down the article and offered our unreserved apologies to the author.”
Blogger’s Note (I hope this will be the last time I comment on this):
Wow, who are we to believe? Is this merely a case of different models of the world which got lost in translation and/or interpretation? Are their exchanges a series of an unfortunate, albeit innocent, communication gap or are they indicative of a well-intended integrity gap? None of the above or perhaps a mixture of the two?
In the interest of fairPlay and to avoid what Ms Adichie famously and eloquently described as “The danger of a single story”, I decided to also repost The Guardian’s reply to her statement and the chain of events that transpired to the best of my knowledge (at least, what both parties have shared in the public domain). This is especially necessary because I shared my initial (biased) opinion based solely on the press release issued by Ms Achebe’s management team. Fair is fair and as I am learning daily, everyone is deserving of compassion and worthy to be heard (Thanks Lauri)!
I also sincerely hope both parties take the lessons and blessings from this incident in good faith and move on. In the end, I pray that the real winner is a more robust, open and engaging discourse about Depression and other associated conditions on the mental health spectrum. Then, perhaps all the brouhaha would be well worth it! 🙂
P.S: The idealist in me would like to believe that this was simply a case of honest mistakes and communication lapses…. Neither the Guardian nor Ms Adichie would intentionally mislead us by presently half-truths or falsehoods, right?
And of course being the ‘effico’ that I am, combined with my penchant for names, words and their meanings, I had to randomly look up the meanings of both the ‘Guardian’ (Source: Online thesaurus dictionary) and ‘Chimamanda Ngozi’ (Source: Babynamespedia.com).
The Igbos in Nigeria have a proverb, ‘May you live up to your name(s).’ And so, I end this piece with a message to both the Guardian and Ms Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Even though tempers may be frayed and lines/boundaries may have been crossed or violated, I pray that you each live up to the promise and beauty inherent in the meanings of your respective names! Re-focus the conversation and put the spotlight back on Depression and Mental Health.
-Chimamanda – An Igbo language name which means: ‘My God will never fail or fall.’ (Alternate meaning: ‘God’s power is above all’)
-Ngozi – Also an Igbo language name, meaning ‘Blessing’
A defender, protector, or keeper.“self-appointed guardians of public morality”Synonyms: Protector, Defender, Preserver, Custodian, Warden, Guard, Keeper, Conservator, Curator, Caretaker, Steward, Trustee
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-Juliet ‘Kego Ume-Onyido, MBA (www.julietkego.com)
Poet | Master-Certified Leadership Coach-Trainer -Consultant |
Raising a New Generation of Empowered, Transformational and Creative African Leaders.
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*[A huge thank you to my brother and fellow blogger, Su’eddie Vershima Agema (Su’eddie’s Blog), for gently nudging me into sharing this post]. See, shebi I dey listen well, abi? 🙂
**[The Guardian picture was sourced from google and is a copyright-free content]