Maureen Aku Disu is a mother, a nurse and a singer. Her song ‘Bloody Immigrant’ is gaining popularity and she recently featured as a guest on Derek Mooney’s radio programme on RTE. Ian Callagy caught up with the Nigerian-born woman and heard all about her efforts to challenge racism in Ireland and how society here can benefit from diversity.

Source: The African VoThe African Voice Cover Pageice, August 2013

What led you to becoming a singer?
“Someone asked me that question not too long ago. Basically I grew up in a house where my mum sang all the time. I think singing is very African as well, it’s a way to speak, it’s a way to say what you want to say. You find, sometimes, that when you a say a word and when you sing it, it’s not the same. There’s always more in the singing part because there’s more soul in singing words. There are more emotions that you can put in singing words than in just saying it. Like I say, my mum sang all the time and my parents had a very, I would say, troubled marriage. My mum would sing to express herself. “Most African women can’t really say things……A woman doesn’t have much say in a marriage and a man can never lose an argument. The man has to win the argument all the time…That’s how it is. Women are suppressed and the woman not showing how she feels is a way of showing respect to her husband. There were a lot of things my mum couldn’t say, but I noticed that she sang about them.”
Most people would know you from being a guest on Derek Mooney’s radio programme on RTE. Could you tell us a bit about your background?
“I am African, Nigerian and come from a family of eight. I came to Ireland in 2002…I was saying on the Derek Mooney programme that a lot of people are leaving [Nigeria]. Everybody wants to go to a country where they feel more comfortable…… Migration will never end; it’s always been part of human history. People always move. You can’t stop people…It will always happen.”
How did you get involved in the campaign?
“I was approached. After my song (‘Bloody Immigrant’) became public people wrote to me and said ‘oh wow, it’s a good job you are speaking up, you’re saying the truth’… They [the European Network Against Racism (ENAR)] approached me. From the onset I knew this was something I was interested in because that’s my message, you know – fighting racism in my own way. So being part of the Report Racism campaign was a breeze for me.”
Do you think it is going to be successful?
“I really pray so. I just hope they will have enough finance to keep it up, because they are not being financed by the Irish government. So I just hope they will have the oxygen to keep it going because it is really needed. It is definitely needed.”
What’s the point in people speaking out about racist incidents?
“A lot of people, especially Africans, come from countries where there’s no justice so they have problems trusting anybody to ever provide justice. So for them they believe that nothing will be done, because they’ve come from places where nothing is ever done [to achieve justice]. But I actually want them to know that that’s wrong. We are in an organised society and things can be done about it. Don’t keep quiet because, I was saying to somebody recently: ‘Don’t think it is going to just pass. If you don’t speak out for yourself at least do it for your children. Your children are in Ireland and definitely you want a good future for your children. So don’t sit back thinking something will happen by itself, we have to do something.’”
What personal experience have you had of racism?
“I was saying on the Mooney show that someone walked up to me one day when I was in front of Trinity College, waiting for a bus, and said to me: ‘go back to where you come from’. There were a lot of us at the bus stop and I was singled out. I’m the one who looked different… In another incident I was walking down the street with my children and a group of boys shouted at us: ‘one coco pop, two coco pops…’ ”
What do you like most about living in Ireland?
“Honestly, organised society, organised society. What I mean is that Ireland is so organised compared to where I come from…I wouldn’t be excited to put my [native] country down, but I’m going to be honest in my answers. Nigeria is not organised. Ireland is organised…In Ireland I can sleep with my two eyes closed, in Nigeria you cannot sleep at night because you are worried. There is a high crime rate…When you walk down the streets you can’t tell what’s going to happen. There can be a protest, there can be killings, there can be tribal issues. It is not organised…It’s not peaceful. I’ve had experiences where people are killed and I was lucky not to be. In Ireland, even when you walk down the street and someone is racist against you…There is the assurance that you are in a society where racism is against the law. If I could find the man who said to me ‘go back to where you came from’ I could take it further. Something could be done.
What are your future career plans?
“I think the main thing that I take to be the most important is to raise my children in the right direction because it is a massive, massive responsibility. No matter the problems you face in life, if your children turn out right you are definitely going to be a happy person. I would be happy to see those who look down on us as immigrants to see them, tomorrow, looking at us and knowing that we have turned out right; that we have really achieved something with our lives. “But I feel that…my contribution in the upbringing of my children is so much the utmost. I definitely want to give everything I do 100 per cent…I believe in God and faith…What God plans for me is going to be what’s going to be. But I definitely dream to be someone that speaks up about how I feel. “If I can make a great contribution in the fight against racism I will be delighted. I really think that one thing the Irish government has to realise is that the fight against racism is something important. We all have to agree that not every Irish citizen is white these days. More people that are not white are becoming Irish and if we agree and we give more citizenship to non-white people and we are not preparing society for a country where we are not necessarily white, it’s going to be a problem in the long run. So the government have to be involved because we don’t want a society where tomorrow it will be a country where it is divided between the whites and the non-whites.”
Our time is drawing to a close. Is there anything else you’d like to comment on that comes to mind?
“I think one thing I really need people to know, or think about, is that you find so many people who say: ‘oh my brother is in New Zealand, my sister is in Australia or my daughter is in the UK. When they have family members who have gone abroad they definitely wished for them to be happy, for them to have a peaceful life where they are. They definitely wish for their neighbours to be good to them. “But when we now see people coming in we forget that they are just like your family member that is after going somewhere else. A family member is as important as those other people. Just be nice to people, don’t think about just your family. You are nasty to someone because that person is an immigrant. But at the same time your child, your brother, your uncle; your auntie is an immigrant in another person’s country. At the end of the day it is one world so …People are definitely going to keep moving.”
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