Sometimes we need reminders of our Jollof-powered potential. Here are ten TAL-approved career inspiring TED Talks to help you through the workweek.

 Zain Ejiofor Asher, Trust Your Struggle

Nigerian Zain Ejiofor Asher had a hardcore African upbringing. Her story of her Nigerian tiger-mom’s determination for her to get into Oxford is one made for storybooks. It worked, she got into Oxford and went on to Columbia and become a CNN anchor covering international news. As a receptionist, Zain knew what she wanted and went after it. Along the way she learned that working hard isn’t the only ingredient for success. Zain confirms that there is truth to the adage, preparation is the key to success. She tells us to become a master preparer like her brother Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Chioma Omeruah, Don’t be a Waste

I laughed so hard watching Nigerian Chioma Omeruah take us through her journey of finding her purpose. With a ball of energy and through multiple accents ( a Latina, Nigerian, British, and American) Chioma will make you want to take life by the reins and just live—on your own terms. “People are hustling and you are sleeping, don’t be a waste.” – Chioma Omeruah

Dr. J. Nozipo Maraire, Indigenous versus Indi-genuis

Here at TAL, Zimbabwean Neurosurgeon and Writer J. Nozipo Mariare’s book: Zenzele: A Letter for My Daugther is a first-gen must read. We live and breathe this book. Not only has Dr. Maraire blessed us with her amazing book, she goes on to deliver a powerful talk on how we can change our mindset to create opportunities for others and ourselves. She connects the dots between those who resign their lives to mediocrity and those who use their natural talent to flourish and make waves. Dr. Mariaire’s energy is infectious in this rousing talk.

Amma Asante, The Power of Defining Yourself

Ghanaian-British Film Director, Amma Asante walks us through how she defined her own path as a black woman in an industry dominated by white males. Amma offers nuggets on the importance of actively defining yourself in order to guide your career. This video should be an inspiration to first-genners making their way in foreign lands with people who rarely look like us.

Kumla Dumor, Telling the African Story

We lost Ghanaian BBC Journalist Kumla Dumor way too soon. He left us this gem, “there is power in challenging conventional wisdom.” Kumla encourages us to do our research, find the truth, and believe in the institutional knowledge we have to write and report on our stories.


Minna Salami, To Change the World, Change Your Illusions

Nigerian-Finnish Journalist and creator of, Minna Salami tells us to be wary of the one dimensional representation of the the African woman. She points us to the three representations of African womanhood – (1) the struggler, the woman who is fighting famine and despair (2) the survivor, the woman who made it out of the despair, but still looks beaten down (3) the Empowered woman, the woman who only became empowered after surviving a struggle. Minna points out that we are never shown the African woman who just sips green tea or simply relaxes. Let this TED talk remind you that we have multiple dimensions to our stories. Waking up each day to enjoy the simple things in life as a first-genner is an act of telling your story.

Maame Yaa Boafo, Being the Real Me Without Apology

Ghanaian MaameYaa reminds us that we can fervently pursue a career in the arts. Maame proudly shares that you can turn frowns into nods. Make no mistake about it, you will be underestimated or overlooked, but rest assured your time in the sun will come when you live authentically.

Ikenna Azuike, My Wakeup Call

Keep this quote by Nigerian-British Broadcaster Ikenna Azuike in your back pocket – “It is better being at the bottom of a ladder you want to climb then being at the top of a ladder you don’t want to be on.” Ikenna Azuike gave up a lucrative career as a Bank Attorney to become a satirical video blogger and broadcaster. Ikenna’s outgoing and funny personality shines in this talk. We don’t all need to be lawyers and doctors, art and satire can also move the world.

April Yvette Thomson, Re-writing Your History

The first five minutes of African American Tony-winning producer April Yvette Thomson’s account of her kindergarten teacher calling her a liar because her parents taught her that she’s from West Africa will have you in stitches. April owns her history and tells us to write on a daily basis to dump out the negative self-talk to find clarity.

Somara Theodore, Evolving Identity of a First Generation American

Trinidadian-American Somara Theodore has a pretty cool job. She’s a meteorologist for ABC Cleveland. Her talk on the complexities of balancing two cultures is preaching to the TAL choir. I loved her comment that likens the world of first-genners as a swinging pendulum. Somara eloquently tells us that our goal should be to find stability and balance as we swing from the pendulum of multiple cultures/realities/perspectives. What a great visual!

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