Morgan State alum Iyore Odighizuwa grew up in a multicultural household in Portland, Ore.
“My mother is African-American and my father is Nigerian.” It isn’t surprising then that she would doggedly pursue a true understanding of the West African word “akata.” Used by some Africans when referring to Black Americans, it is often quite controversial. Originally a documentary film, Odighizuwa is now using a podcast to delve into the subject. She is the producer and host of “5 Mins With an Akata?”
Part of what is so intriguing about the word akata are the various interpretations of it. “When you talk to so many people about it like I did you find there are so many different definitions. Some defend it, others think it’s very derogatory and should not be used. I think I have found, though, somewhat of a pattern between the different definitions. That’s the secret sauce so I won’t reveal it here,” she stated in an interview with the AFRO.
The podcast, each episode just five minutes long, comes out every Tuesday. “I wanted it to be digestible, like a snack of information, “ said Odighizuwa. “I don’t want people to feel overloaded. It also gives me an opportunity to have fresh content each week.”
For each episode Odighizuwa interviews a different guest about the term akata and what it means to them. There will also be bonus episodes this season. “I did them because some of the interviews were just so amazing, so dope,” she explained.
The podcast, said Odighizuwa, is part of what has actually been a lifelong mission. ”It was part of a student documentary that turned into a docuseries. I wanted to put it to bed but it just kept coming up and people kept asking about it.”
Odighizuwa majored in broadcast integrated media with a concentration in TV Production at Morgan State University. Her original intent was to focus on television and film but her brother encouraged her to do an internship at the local radio station. “He said you need to do an internship and you have a radio station right there.” While WEAA, the NPR affiliated public radio station of Morgan State University, wasn’t accepting interns at the time, she was allowed to volunteer and went back the following year as an intern. Though at first she was reluctant, her mind soon changed. “I thought of radio as old and stuffy but I fell in love with it.” she said.
As she grew up, Odighizuwa often overheard, or was part of, discussions centered around comparisons of experiences of continental Africans and diasporan African-descended people, particularly Black Americans. The word akata would often be used. Due to her ethnic background, and the strong connotations of the word, she was often intellectually and emotionally invested in what was said. “I was raised thoroughly Nigerian and African-American, so I always defend both sides,” she stated.
Odighizuwa admitted she was offended when she first heard the word. “I’m not offended by it anymore but the first time, yes, I was offended and I didn’t want to be associated with it.”
Though she focuses on the word and the cultures which it usually relates to, Odighizuwa said she isn’t trying to come up with a definitive absolute definition of the word. “I’m taking the audience on a journey with me, hoping they arrive at the same place I did or gather their own thoughts on it,” she stated.
Beyond just an exploration of the word though, the podcast tries to have a conversation about the divisions between Africans and African-Americans, something neither group is usually willing to discuss openly. “The word kind of symbolizes the lack of unity between Africans and African-Americans,” Odighizuwa stated. “The driving vehicle is defining this word but the deeper issue is, how do we get beyond this division that we have between the two groups.”
Odighizuwa believes the theme is universal and that the content will resonate with people of all cultural backgrounds. “Black, White, Hispanic, Asian whatever there is this kind of tribal or regional division that all groups go through.”