Defining Sade Joseph
Like most truly interesting people, Stillman College biology major Sadé Joseph is difficult to define. You could label her quiet, but she does not hesitate to turn up the volume when sufficiently motivated. You could also call her conservative, but then again, she is progressive too. She speaks Yoruba, Pidgin English and Jamaican Patois, and she recently learned the meaning of “fixin to.” She is Nigerian. She is American. She is a New Yorker. It is impossible to describe her in a single sentence.
Although she moved from Nigeria to New York when she was only three years old, she says she never really left Africa. “All the different cultural groups have their own ‘country’ in New York, so it’s like I was still in Africa,” explains Sadé, whose core values about education and life were shaped by her family’s heritage.
“We are Nigerian. We’re really, really, really African,” she says. “So there is no such thing as a ‘C’. It’s unacceptable. It’s harder to live in Nigeria than over here, so Nigerians have to push to make it. I know nothing but to try to strive for the best. That’s the way I was taught, and that’s the way I will teach my children.”
Sadé likes to prepare traditional Nigerian dishes like Jollof rice and stews. “In my culture, you learn to cook at a very early age. Whenever my mother went into the kitchen, I followed her. If I had a big sister, she would have followed my mother into the kitchen and I would have followed my big sister into the kitchen,” Sadé says.
The competence Sadé displays in the kitchen seems to spill over into every aspect of her life. Whether screaming chemistry equations across a room as she helps a friend prepare for an exam, or dashing ahead during track practice, she demonstrates that she can lead as well as follow.
People sometimes assume that Sadé is quiet—until they see her leap into a fierce classroom debate. “I’m not a person who has to talk all the time, or has to always give my opinion. But if I feel input is needed, I’ll strongly emphasize my point. I’m naturally argumentative, and I will verbally defend my view. I can be quiet, but I can also be very boisterous. If I have knowledge and the tools needed to educate someone, I will speak up.” Although she admits that her “underlying goal” during an argument is to change the other person’s mind, she is also open to understanding different perspectives and cultures. She learned Patois from Jamaican friends in New York, and is now immersing herself in the Southern vernacular.
Despite her traditional views on cooking, she is a progressive thinker who actively seeks solutions to world problems. Sadé plans to one day build an institution that includes housing and educational facilities for underprivileged children. “I’m not the type of person who cries easily, but when I see the homeless, I have to turn my face away,” she says, explaining why she is determined to help. While her noble ambition may sound unrealistic, Sadé habitually calculates the cost of her dreams and plans for success.
One of the many lessons she learned from her Nigerian family is that “nothing is free.” “When I choose to do something, I already know in my mind the amount of energy and sacrifice it will require,” she states. Building an institution for homeless children will be expensive. To help finance her dream, she plans to become a plastic and reconstructive surgeon. She never contemplates failure.
“My mother tells me, ‘Go to school. Get an education. Make me proud.’ And then she usually adds something like ‘You can do it in Jesus’ name!’” Sadé smiles. “There is nothing that can’t be done. Failure is not an option. This is how I was taught. I know nothing different.”
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