The widely renowned Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has been named as one of the distinguished achievers to be awarded honorary degrees this year, by the John Hopkins University in Maryland, United States.
The author of Half a Yellow Sun, a book set during the Biafran conflict in Nigeria, is among seven other recognized visionaries who have excelled in various fields. The eight will be conferred at the university’s commencement ceremony on May 18, 2016.
Chimamanda has become one of the world’s leading feminist and an insightful cultural critic who is influential on the global stage over the years. Her novel, Americanah (a story based on a contemporary love story set in America and Nigeria) won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in 2013. In 2008, she won a MacArthur Foundation genius grant.
Apart from being a great author, Chimamanda has won the hearts of many with her well informed TED talks, including the 2009 TED talk, ‘The Danger of a Single Story’, which has had more than 8 million views since its release. What made Chimamanda stand out is her talk focusing on feminism, ‘We Should All Be Feminists’. The 2013 speech attracted different feminist personalities including Beyoncé, who eventually featured the talk in 'Flawless', a song on the eponymous album that was released in December that year.
When Beyoncé came across the online talk, she told Vogue, "I was immediately drawn to her." "She was elegant and her words were powerful and honest. Her definition of a feminist described my own feeling: equality of the sexes as it pertains to human rights, equal pay, and sexuality. She called the men in her family feminists, too, because they acknowledged the need for equality."
The honorary degree by John Hopkins University is a well-deserved award for Chimamanda whose works of art have a life of their own ranging from political, socio-economic, gender and racial aspects in not only Africa but America where some of Chimamanda’s characters are set.
Chimamanda earned a Master’s degree from Johns Hopkins’ Writing Seminars in 2003 and has continued to be recognized for her literary works at home and abroad.
Last year, she was listed among Time’s 100 most influential people. In November 2015, Chimamanda received the award for the ‘Best of The Best’ female fiction writer from the last decade of the women’s prize for fiction by the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. She also was in New African Magazine’s list of 100 most influential Africans.
In an interview with the Vogue, the author dismissed that she was a feminist heroine. According to the African author, her heroines, she said, are "the nameless women in the market, who are holding their families together. They are traders and their husbands are out drinking somewhere... It's those women I admire. I am full of admiration for them."
Chimamanda has been a source of inspiration for many upcoming African writers who are not sure about the reception of their works of art in the contemporary society. She gives hope to such writers that by remaining authentic and writing with confidence, they, also can take the world by surprise and be recognized for their work.
Others who will be crowned by the university include the revolutionary filmmaker Shelton Jackson (Spike) Lee, and Ellen M. Heller, the first woman appointed to be Maryland's Administrative Circuit Court judge, who introduced court-ordered mediation for some civil cases which facilitated faster and more affordable resolution, among others.
"The men and women in this group are visionaries who have challenged the status quo and changed the world for the better," said Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J. Daniels. "They have made a lasting impact on the arts, public health, the law, neuroscience, and the resilience of communities here in Baltimore and across the globe. At Johns Hopkins, we share their commitment to innovate and to work for the benefit of humankind, and I'm so pleased that these honorary degrees will celebrate all they have accomplished."
Image credit: John Rhoda