We reported last year that Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is the recipient of the 2019 Everett M. Rogers Award. On Thursday February 7 2019, the award was presented to Adichie at the Wallis Annenberg Hall where hundreds of students mostly women convened to hear her speak.
The awarders eulogize Adichie as one who weaves her insights about gender, race and identity into the narrative of human experience.
“She uses her stories to grow our empathy and aspirations” said the Director and Founder of the Norman Lear Center, Marty Kaplan.
The award was presented by USC Annenberg Normal Lear Center specializing in the study of social, cultural, economic and political impact of entertainment on the world, to recognize creative excellence in entertainment education designed to benefit society.
Dean of Annenberg Willow Bay delivered the opening remark at the ceremony where she said,
“As a community of scholarly inquiry, we often find ourselves examining the power of stories. We know stories can entertain, educate and also allow us to excavate the buried truths, work through humanities most complex problems, and achieve more equitable and just realities.”
Adichie’s speech which centered between humour and solemnity, sees her address controversial topics like Politics & Fake News, the unbecoming Cancel Culture and the #MeToo movement.
On Politics & Fake News
“What if everyone simply refuses to use the expression fake news,” she addressed to the audience, “because it is saying that over and over again that gives it legitimacy.”
On the implications of the term ‘Fake News’ in the US
“I find myself most worried about the potential death of critical thinking and consequently the death of empathy. Empathy and critical thinking are starting points to radically change the way we deal with everything.”
Adichie expressed frustration about young people’s lack of compassion and tendency to cancel others without room for nuance.
“Stop canceling people, It seems to me that it is not a very productive way to think about things.”
She extended the cancel culture narrative to the #MeToo movement. Adichie said while she is cautiously optimistic, she believes that all justice movements in their early stages cannot afford nuance.
She further teased her concern about media coverage of the #MeToo reports, arguing that the kind of thinking where before a woman is worthy of sympathy, she has to be Blessed Virgin Mary reeks of misogyny. She posited that we need to allow women be complex, flawed and still be deserving of empathy and justice.
Adichie was introduced to the audience by Actress, Playwright & Activist Danai Gurira best known for her roles in Black Panther and Walking Dead. Gurira said Adichie’s work resonated with her on a first read, seeing that “the lives of people like her in African realities full of their own specific complexities were suddenly center stage.”
Following photo session with her award, Adichie, as she fought back tears recollected “I’m doing what I love and it means a lot to me that it means a lot to people.”