Lola Audu

On Culture + Intelligence

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to extend the dialog around cultural intelligence with REALTOR leadership within the State of Michigan.  The keynote Speaker for the conference, David Livermore PhD spoke to a packed room about the implications of failing to understand and develop a coherent professional approach to assisting people from other cultures with their housing needs.

Quoting from an article published in the Michigan REALTOR magazine,  Livermore indicates that he is 'hard pressed to think of a group of professionals in our state who matter more to our future than Michigan REALTORS.  You're often the first face of Michigan to those thinking about locating here.  And with the growing diversity of those moving to our neighborhoods, the way you treat these potential residents could make or break us'.

That's significant responsibility to be sure!  I have had the opportunity to teach sessions on home ownership to immigrants from Nepal, Burma and Congo.  It is humbling to recognize how much some of our fellow citizens have endured to start from scratch in making a new culture a home base.  You're just scratching the surface if you think acclimating to the American way of life is simply a matter of learning English, dressing in western style clothing or eating a burger.

In fact, the visible aspects of what we commonly reference as 'culture' are simply the tip of the iceberg.  Much of our cultural experience and bias lies well below the surface and many of us are unaware of how deeply impacted our automatic reactions are when faced with someone who differs from what we consider the norm.

Over the years, I've had the opportunity to service the real estate needs of individuals from all sorts of professions, cultures, religions and persuasions of various sorts.  As far as I'm concerned, human beings can never be neatly categorized and labelled, no matter how much we think we know or can see.  Every man is an iceberg.  What is visible above the surface doesn't even begin to reveal the enormity of who a person is nor does in capture the gift that the richness of diversity adds to the tapestry of life.

Next month, April 2016 is Fair Housing month!  It's a time when the real estate industry intentionally focuses on increasing awareness around the issues which separate and segregate us.  My hope, my dream is that one day Fair Housing won't be an issue which focuses on what divides us, but will instead be an opportunity to remind America of what unites us and makes us strong in this amazing melting pot that we call the American dream.  One which includes the rights of home ownership.


Design A Workshop with LA SPEAKING

Have you ever been to an event or workshop and thought, "I wish they had covered  (insert topic) during the session?"  LA SPEAKING is pleased to announce our latest innovation in audience engagement - Design A Workshop.

Lola specializes in bringing together people from every industry, and catering her workshops to fit your needs. With tremendous experience behind her, Lola brings an infectious energy to all of her workshops and seminars: make her one of the premier event speakers in the Grand Rapids area.

Using the Design A Workshop tool allows Event Planners, Program Directors and Educators to put the building blocks together in a unique way and create and audience experience which is fresh and insightful.

The tool features six major building blocks which can be put together in a number of ways.  In addition, specific areas of interest can be added to build more content and focus in a particular area.







Time:  4-6 Hours  

BUILD A WORKSHOP:  Choose combinations of 2-4 topic areas to build a unique offering for your team or organization.

Please contact us for additional information

Christmas Puff Puff & Couture...


Depending on where you are from, this hot little snack item may be known as a Beignet (New Orleans) Berliner (Germany), Paczki (Poland) or Puff Puff (Nigeria - West Africa).  Best consumed  shortly after emerging from the  sizzling oil and eaten without adornment or sprinkled with a bit of sugar; it's like a little culinary festival undulating the taste buds.  Warm molten yeast bread, perfect for any festive occasion or gathering.

I'm always intrigued by how different cultures celebrate traditional festivals and by how versions of similar types of food specialties are found all over the world.  My mom would make a tasty, nutritionally dense dish called Ekpang on special occasions from cocoa yam, spinach/collard green leaves, tomatoes and onions, meat or chicken, spices and palm oil.  

The dish took hours to grater the coco yams, season and steam in molds or tin foil and also prep the palm nut soup that suffused the yams with spicy flavors.  She was originally from the Cameroons and as a kid, I thought that no one else had ever eaten this dish.  Later, I would discover versions of the meal were enjoyed throughout various communities along the West African coastline.

In 2016, I am introducing a brand new course offering about Cultural Intelligence and the advantage that cultivating this skill set has for our personal and professional lives. Culture speaks in many different ways, but perhaps nowhere more eloquently than around food and the shared experience of holiday traditions including what we wear.  Celebrations are an opportunity to revel and express our identity.  Clothing is often a significant part of this.

I have fond memories of Christmas celebrations which were centered around family, food and the thrill of getting brand new clothes! Those brand new clothes were inaugurated into our Sunday best for the remainder of the year.  

The notion of giving gifts was very different as a child as well.  In fact, for our family the focus for Christmas presents was on watching our parents eyes light up as we gave them gifts that we had carefully crafted for them during our time at school.  Their exclamations of delight and the proud display of those homemade mementos on a prominent shelf in our home, were some of the best memories I have of Christmas as a child.


The Art of Communicating with Squiggly Lines

 I think words are shape makers.  Communication at its core impacts us in so many ways.  A great conversation engages my thinking and energizes me.  So does a great book or article.  The words of some of my favorite African female writers like poet Patricia Jabbeh Wesley and Chimmanda Ngozi Adichie  create a complex tapestry of imagery  around the colorful, exotic energy that is the African diaspora experience..

Nigerians in particular are known to be expressive word shapers. Even our phone calls are not quiet.  It is as though our words must be enunciated clearly and loudly enough to ensure they travel through invisible space without unraveling.

Growing up, I found it amusing to listen to supposedly private conversations which were more like big box expressions of large sound waves splashing against the ears of just about anyone who cared to listen.  

 Words punctuate, truncate, elongate, morph and dilate around our personalities creating context and flourish.  Conversations which are inspirational, encircle me with warmth and gratitude.  Angry words pierce my soul like sharp arrows.  

I think the best conversations occur in the wide open space of the unexpected.  When I am open, curious and accepting, all sorts of opportunities for interesting interactions emerge.  I enjoy in depth grown up conversations, but find that some of the most interesting  shapes of dialog swirl around  kids whose world view is not yet neatly formatted.  Conversations with truly curious people (including kids) are like squiggly lines.  They're fun, refreshing and thought provoking!

The best word shaped space for me is the cloud.  There's something about the curves of a cloud which engages the nuance of communication in an interesting way.  When I'm in that 'cloud space' with an audience, I know that what is being created is unique.  A point in time which will never be repeated, but is savored, and animated not unlike the quirky energy within a squiggle - creating an experience which energizes and transforms myself and the audience in some unique way forever.