Views expressed are my own and do not represent the Mandela Washington Fellowship program

Let the games begin!

Ignite Talks are mini TedTalk style presentations about anything that’s important to you or you’re passionate about. I knew we were gonna have to do these Ignite Talks from the Pre-Departure Orientation. The Embassy had kinda brought it up. By kinda I mean, they brought it up and explained why being selected is prestigious.

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So, 700 Young African Leaders are scattered across the United States of America in several almer maters. Each almer mater gets to select one Mandela fellow to represent them in Washington DC for the summit. At the University Nebraska-Lincoln we have 25 fellows but only one can give the Ignite Talk in Washington DC.

I’d known for months what I wanted to talk about. It was off-brand for me but I was gonna do something on Male Mental Health. I DM’d the Friendship Bench on Twitter for some figures and statistics. I had a solid foundation. A week before I left for the States, I had to give a talk at work for Thoughtful Thursday and I decided to test my Ignite Talk idea. It was a hit!

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I was set.

No, I was over confident. I knew what I wanted to say so I relaxed. I didn’t start writing the actual speech until the day of the presentation. And guess what?

I had too much information.

I literally had 5 different talks based on one topic. I consulted with Saddiq and he didn’t help issues at all. Cause from there the ideas went from five to like fifteen. What was I gonna talk about?

I finally decided on the topic, “Seeing men as humans.” It was loosely based on my regret for not having invested in a relationship with my father throughout my childhood. I had all sorts of multimedia ideas on how I was gonna deliver it but moghel had left it to the last minute. Twas too late to go back for the oil, the foolish virgin was me. I’d have to do without. I know how the story ends otherwise.

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When they say Young African Leaders, they aren’t playing. Everyone brought the heat with their Ignite Talks. I didn’t get the privilege to hear all of them but the ones that I did hear sparked something in me. I guess that’s why they are called Ignite Talks. I’ve never seen my fellow Fellows so passionate about anything.  Even the quiet ones came out of their shells and left it all on the podium. I was dazed and amazed.

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We were down to the top 6 and I was in!

  1. Peace Muusha – Zimbabwe
  2. Sir Eric The Vet – Kenya
  3. Thembelihle Zulu – Zimbabwe
  4. Victo Nalule – Uganda
  5. Fatumata Addina Jabbie – Liberia
  6. Thembiso Magajana – South Africa

Now we had to do the talks for the whole cohort. I was still stunned when my name was called. You see, while I was giving my talk, the judge kept taking notes vigorously. I’m dramatic but it did feel that way. I thought oh my gosh, he is taking note of all mistakes. When I got my sheet back, not a single negative comment. See the power of perception?

Ultimately, Victo from Uganda was selected to do the Ignite Talk in Washington DC. We’re in good hands.