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How Influencer Ijeoma Kola Is Slaying A Cross-Continent Move & New Mommyhood

The Ph.D. scholar talks balancing marriage, parenting, and a relocation all in one year.

Motherhood

As women, we often juggle so many roles, from our jobs to our households, and many of us count it all as a normal part of living our best lives. If we want to advance, upgrade, and reach our dreams, we take the steps, make the sacrifices, and enjoy the ride.

YouTube vlogger and lifestyle influencer Ijeoma Kola knows this all to well. In the past five years, sis has married the love of her life, finished out a PhD program, gotten pregnant and relocated to a whole 'nother country---all while running a thriving online lifestyle platform that has attracted more than 80,000 followers on IG alone. She's also launched a tourism platform to connect other women to African culture and experiences, and she has been slowly but surely transitioning a new normal as the mother of a newborn.

We caught up with Ijeoma in this xoNecole interview to talk how she juggles being a wife and new mom, her leap into global relocation while pregnant, and how faith pushes her boss moves:

Image by Ade Osinubi

You and your husband relocated to Kenya last year, and you totally moved your life while pregnant. How was that experience?

I visited Kenya four or five times before moving here, so I was familiar with Nairobi. The first time I came, I felt super-comfortable. The infrastructure and amenities are pretty similar to America, so I didn't feel out of place here versus moving to, say, a more rural part of Kenya or of Africa. In terms of being relatively newlywed, it's been fun doing this with my husband Jonathan because he's from here and while were dating, he actually went to Nigeria for a year and a half and that's where I'm from. He ended up being in my country for a little bit and I ended up being in his country, so I think it helps us understand one another.

Although our cultural experiences growing up were different, now we get to see both sides. I've met a lot of people he went to school with and get to learn more about him a little bit deeper. It's cool to experience that. It provides another interesting dimension to our marriage for sure.

Something we considered when moving is that it's not that unfamiliar to both of us. We have extended family and friends here so that's made the transition a lot easier. Being a new mom in a new country, I was really shocked because it seems like as soon as I landed I was able to connect with three other pregnant women at the time. I have been exposed to a community of new moms. I just really felt welcomed. I find it's so easy to find a common ground with people and easy to make friends simply being pregnant.

Image by Lyra Aoko

With all the change you've experienced in the past six months, has your perspective on balance changed?

There are days that I don't do any work or there are days that I do. I have grace with myself, and I get comfortable with the fact that I can't do everything and I can't please everybody. Just letting go of the weight of having to be perfect is key. If a day goes by and I haven't exactly gotten to everything I want to do, it's totally OK. Tomorrow's another day and [if] I can't get to, [I] can go for it tomorrow.

My husband is really down for the cause and he's super-helpful. His family is also very helpful, and they'll stop by and they've been my support system. I also have a team for the work that I do---an assistant and an agent for my blog who helps with negotiating contracts and collaborations. And we have house help. It's important to surround yourself with people who can help you and to outsource tasks.

What does self-care look like for you now that you're a mom?

Whenever he's napping or I'm able to get a break, I try to do something for me. I get out of the house, and I may get my hair or my nails done. I really like working out, and I make sure I go for a walk---alone or sometimes with my husband. I do yoga and I love facials and massages. The time I do these things can vary because my son has needs and he might wake up at different times or need things [at different times].

I'm hoping that in the next few months we can get a good routine going, but for the most part that's pretty much what it looks like.

As a vloggerpreneur, how has it been in terms of transitioning your business and shifting the way you present content?

My blogging business has definitely changed. It's really been about recognizing that my audience has changed. Once I moved, my Kenyan audience grew, and with that, they have different expectations. The Kenyan market operates differently from the American market and I had to decide how to position myself. You have to know how you want to shift your content--if at all--and I had to adapt. Also, when it comes to influencer marketing, I've had to approach brands differently. For example, a Kenyan brand might have a much smaller budget and might expect different deliverables. It might shift from a focus, in America, for blog post campaigns, to more Instagram-focused in Kenya.

The last change has more to do with becoming a mom. I now have to think more about how the content I post affects other people.

Before I got married, [my blog] just had to do with me and my life. Then, once I got married, it was about me and my husband. There were things I'd post that I'd include him in, but he's not a blogger for a living, so I had to be conscious of that. Now that I'm a mom, it's about being even more mindful of how I post and maybe being a bit more private about what I post or share.

What are your plans for the future in Kenya, particularly your newest venture, the Safe Journey Retreat? 

I'm a spiritual person so I try to be guided by God's calling and what He wants for my life. I try to mold what I do around that. That helps me stay balanced and grounds me. Starting the Safe Journey Retreat made sense for me. It helps me in my position here. I blogged in America, I finished school and I have this audience.

I just moved here, I love it here, and I think that everyone should experience Kenya as a beautiful place to be. It felt very natural to combine all of those---my passion for traveling and Africa in general.

Also, because I'm taking a break from [what I studied in school], it's also a good way to pursue another project as I figure out things. In the early part of my 20s, I spent a lot of time trying to strictly plan out my life. I had this grand plan and I was going to accomplish things by a certain time. Something I've learned over the past decade is that when man plans, God laughs. As much as you have goals and plans, ultimately you don't really know. If you would've talked to me back then and told me that I'd be married and moving to Kenya, I'd say, "Girl, get out of my face!" (Laughs) I try to let go of the desire to overly plan my life. I kind of go with the flow right now. As long as I'm being true to myself, and continue to uplift and inspire---what I'm called to do---I'm at peace.

For more of Ijeoma, follow her on Instagram.

Featured Image by Marta Skovro

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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