Making Space for New Voices – Guest Post with Nnenna Kalu Makanjuola

Jun 13, 2018

I feature a woman of color’s work once a month. Please click the links and explore!

Nnenna was introduced to me by my first guest in this series, Kerra Bolton. I was immediately so curious about her creation, Radiance magazine. What a cool and giant undertaking. I couldn’t wait to learn more about her.

What book changed your life the most?

My two books (sorry I couldn’t pick one) are The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer.

What teacher or mentor changed the course of your life?

I had this History teacher in high school, Mr. Eugene Nwoke and he taught each class with such fervent passion, I had never seen anything like it. I was used to the sort of boring teaching that encouraged rote learning and until I took his class it had not occurred to me that learning could be so enjoyable; that one could study a subject simply for the love of it. For some reason, this realization felt like such a monumental discovery in my life ten  and because of it I’ve always sought after interests/subjects that light up my soul hoping that someday I too can speak on a topic the way he taught his class.

What belief or fear gets in your way the most often?

I have this fear of dreams unrealized. However clear my dreams may be to me, I sometimes worry I won’t get to fulfill them.

What belief supports you to be brave and true to yourself?

Speaking of books I believe as Paul Coelho wrote in The Alchemist that “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.” Time and time again, this belief has played out in my life so I often come back to it when I need reinforcement to stay true to my heart’s calling.  

What called you to create Radiant?

Radiant was inspired by my father’s battle with heart disease. He had his first open heart surgery in the US when I was about 10 or 11 and when he returned Nigeria, the post-surgical care was rather interesting, to say the least. We had so many questions — what to eat, drink, what foods interact with this or that medication. That was pre-internet. And many years later when the internet days came into full force, there still wasn’t a reliable health magazine that one could go to for consumer health information that’s relevant to the Nigerian/African or even to read about how others are overcoming or dealing with their health challenges. I was running one early morning thinking about the state of health affairs in Nigeria and the idea to start a health magazine came to me. I knew nothing about magazines or publishing but decided to go for it all the same. And here we are!

What’s the most rewarding thing about creating your magazine?

I always thought my answer to a question like this would have something to do with helping people, saving the world and making a difference. But really to see my vision through from idea to a finished, tangible product (i.e. go from talking to doing) has been most rewarding. It makes the idea of making a difference seem that much more doable to me.

How has creating it changed you?

I’ve heard it said that entrepreneurship is the best personal development journey you’ll ever go on. It’s true. Creating Radiant has changed me in every way. I’ve faced some of my worst demons, overcome some big hurdles and discovered more about my true self along the way. I am less afraid, more empathetic and I know now that I can do anything I set my mind to.

What opportunities do white women have to support women of color’s work that you don’t see being leveraged or perhaps even acknowledged?

They can support our work much the same way they support other white women’s work. It’s that simple. Hear us. See us. Buy our work. Share our work. Refer our services. Collaborate with us. Invite us to speak at your panels/events/conferences. Invite us to your podcasts. We want to shine and be heard too.

What makes you hopeful for our world?

When I was growing up, the old folks always seemed to think the world was going to blazes. I’m feel that way sometimes. It’s comforting to know that there’s a perpetual crop of hopeful young people eager to take on the batton in the relay to change the world. They keep me hopeful.

Nnenna Kalu Makanjuola is the founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of Radiant Health Magazine, a bi-annual print and digital magazine dedicated to the African woman. Find Radiant at Barnes & Noble stores and other retailers near you or online. Ships worldwide.

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