THE BLANKET: An Introduction to Us

The human brain has a system of recognizing patterns and overtime saving energy by blazing past these patterns to expected results. When you’re just starting to learn math, you would have to grapple with why 1+1 should equal 2. Over time, you just know the answer is 2. Your mind skips the reasoning process and jumps to the answer and for every time you turn out to be right, the process becomes shorter, leading to faster answers and lightspeed reasoning.

It’s a fascinating fact about the way our minds work.

As the world grows more socially intelligent, we are increasingly aware of the rising epidemic that is “Stereotyping”. I say that we are only getting aware because this issue has been around for as long as we have been. I believe that stereotyping has its roots in our brains trying to reach conclusions as quickly as possible, so much so, it misses out on the individuality of the experience of life.

I dare say, that we are all guilty of stereotyping; it’s our nature.

That last statement up there is stereotypical too. The thing is, this pen is cocked and pointed at all of us not because we have evil intentions all the time, but because we carry a mind that needs to be trained to do better.

The Bible says in Romans 12:2, to be transformed by renewing the mind. The key is in the brain, in the mind. If we willingly take a step back to reconfigure our minds, we will be creating a transformed world. The following series hopes to question as many stereotypes as we can, but it will have no impact on you the reader if you don’t make a conscious and willing effort to accept when you are in the wrong and to make a change for the better.

Humanity is really a host of individuals. The human experience is individual by every definition. To throw a blanket over any group might save you a moment of consideration but you risk prejudice and consequences that might never be recovered from. Take this journey with us not to feel good about yourself, but to make a conscious effort to recalibrate your mind, to be transformed.




Alexander Ikenna & Ezeonyeka Godswill


Writer: Ubamara Ezenobi


She was one of the greatest gospel singers who ever lived.

Mahalia Jackson was born on October 26, 1911, in New Orleans, Louisiana. She was born to Johnson A. Jackson Snr and Charity Clark. Popularly known as ‘the Queen of Gospel’, Mahalia had a powerful and commanding voice, and she was known as the greatest gospel singer of the world while she lived. She started singing when she was four, at the well-known Mount Moriah Baptist Church. Later on she joined the Greater Salem Baptist Church.

The formative years of Mahalia’s life were far from rosy. At birth, Jackson suffered from Genu varum, or ‘bowed legs’. Doctors wanted to perform surgery by breaking her legs, but one of her aunts opposed it. Her mother died at 25 when she was only four or five, and she was left in the care of her Aunt Duke who did not spare the little girl any maltreatment. She and her brother had to do virtually all the work at home at a very tender age, and if the house was not cleaned enough, she was beaten.

Mahalia got married in 1936 to Isaac Lanes Grey Hockenhull. Sadly the marriage did not last. Isaac often tried getting her to sing secular music, something she vowed not to do all her life. He was also addicted to gambling on racehorses, and in 1941 Jackson divorced him.

She began touring her city’s churches and surrounding areas with the Johnson Gospel Singers, one of the earliest professional gospel groups. Sometime later Jackson met the composer Thomas Dorsey, known as the Father of Gospel Music. He gave her musical advice, and in 1939 they began a five-year association of touring, with Jackson singing Dorsey’s songs in church programs and at conventions. His ‘Take My Hand, Precious Lord’ became her signature song.

The song that brought Mahalia world recognition was to come in 1948. Jackson had signed up with Apollo Label the previous year and that year she recorded the song ‘Move on up a Little Higher’. It got so popular that stores couldn’t even meet up demand. The song rocketed her to fame in the USA, and from there on there was no stopping her. Other songs she released had wide praise and won her several awards.

mahalia jackson 2

Mahalia Jackson. Photo credit: BBC.

In 1950, Jackson became the first gospel singer to perform at Carnegie Hall. She started touring Europe in 1952 and was hailed by critics as the world’s greatest gospel singer. In Paris she was called the Angel of Peace, and throughout the continent, she sang to capacity audiences. The tour, however, had to be cut short due to exhaustion.

With her mainstream success, Jackson was criticized by some gospel purists who complained about her hand-clapping and foot-stomping and about her bringing “jazz into the church”. She had many notable accomplishments during this period, including her performance of many songs in the 1958 film ‘St Louis Blues’, singing “Trouble of the World” in 1959’s ‘Imitation of Life’ (an American romantic drama film), and recording with Percy Faith. When she recorded The Power and the Glory with Faith, the orchestra arched their bows to honour her in solemn recognition of her great voice.

She ended her career in 1971 with a concert in Germany, and when she returned to the U.S., made one of her final television appearances on ‘The Flip Wilson Show’. She devoted much of her time and energy to helping others. She established the Mahalia Jackson Scholarship Foundation for young people who wanted to attend college. Her last album was ‘What the World Needs Now’, which she released in 1969. The next year, in 1970, she and Louis Armstrong performed “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” and “When the Saints Go Marching In” together.

Jackson died on January 27, 1972.



I found rags to cover up
I take the lonely road home
Trying to hold back tears
– Mum will be so angry –
I’m at the front door
And I can’t ring the doorbell
The door clicks open and Mum gasps
– What happened? –
– I don’t know –
I sob and drop to my knees
– Don’t worry honey, let me clean you up –
She picks me up and takes
Me to her bathroom, peels
The rags off me, picks out
The dying petals from my hair
And cleans off the ashes from
My body. She gently sponges
Me and shampoos my hair
I let out the tears
– I’m so sorry Mum –
– It’s okay honey, you’ll be fine –
I nod
– I love you, you know that right? –
I nod
When she is done, I look at
The bathroom mirror and touch
My face. I see the glow come into
My eyes, I smile and clean off my tears
– I love you –

IfiokAbasi Okop
© 2019