Sometime in September
I tasted this freedom
I ran from the dark
I walked to delight
I became invisible by holding my breath
I recognized my lows
I wrestled with lions “because I am African”
I did not kick him out; I just did not let him back in
I listened to jazz and took a bath
I smelled of divine
I felt pure
My humanity became my weapon and my refuge
I placed ties to blood
I placed joy over all
My soul was painted with gold
They broke, they shattered
But my soul was painted with gold
I did not look for peace
In the place I lost it
I did not bleed, nor did I forsake
I cried, and I said, “Why not!”
In the presence of whys
I took back all that was mine
For all is mine, and mine comes first
I loved me, and I hated me too
For self-love is alpha yet underrated
I neglected dismay
And disobeyed the world’s idea of beauty
I am I, for I is one and I for all
In 2014, I left Nigeria for the United States to explore new educational and professional opportunities through the Niger Delta Scholarship Award, a full study abroad scholarship from the Office of the President.
Upon arriving in the United States, I completed a Summer Bridge program at Northeastern University and then transferred to the University of Lynchburg where I earned a Bachelor of Arts in communication studies with an emphasis in social influence. Following the completion of my bachelor’s I was accepted into the university’s Master of Arts program in nonprofit leadership studies. I was on track to complete my master’s program until 2017, when I was incarcerated and spent 17 months in jail and 2 months in an immigration detention center.
While incarcerated, I always felt like I couldn’t breathe; like I was under water. It was like a dream where you scream but no one can hear you. I have never felt as helpless as I felt during my incarceration. It was as if the whole world had crumbled down and nothing good could ever happen again. Even after my faith and zeal were restored in that space, there were times when I still felt broken. I just wanted it to end. Every day I woke up and all I saw was orange, four walls, and pain. When visitors came into the units and walked around looking at us, I felt like an animal in the zoo.
After I was released, I was unsure of what to expect for my future. Of course, I wanted to change the narrative, to go back to having the zeal that I had before my incarceration and continue on the path towards a great career. But to be honest, I really was not sure what to expect.
The first month after I was released, I applied for the Pivot Program, a yearlong transition and re-entry program at Georgetown University that focuses on business and entrepreneurship. The support was incredible, and just a few weeks into the program, I began to see changes. When others asked about the program, I found myself continuously saying, “everyone involved with the program truly cares about me.” I developed new business skills and learned how to conduct myself in a professional setting. I learned how to market myself, handle my finances, tell my story and the importance of truly changing the narrative.
Upon joining the program, the idea of winning after such great loss became an undoubtable option. Being in a space where all you hear about is self-growth made me grow. I created a website and published my first book, a beautiful voluminous book of poems titled Izuo-, which is the first half of my name, meaning Savior.
While in the Pivot Program, I struggled to find the right idea for the business I wanted to launch. I was called upon to pitch a business idea in an event and, right before I was set to present, it flashed in my head: makeup and poetry, a combination of my two passions.
The company would incorporate my poetry onto the packaging of a high-pigmented eyeshadow line. These poems will serve as positive words of affirmation to empower the individuals that use the product. The makeup industry needs more positivity and beautiful words to inspire and empower consumers.
The name for my business, Flolango, came to me as I was preparing for the official business pitch competition that takes place before the Pivot Program graduation. Flolango is a combination of my grandmother’s first and last name, Florence Kalango. She is filled with light, positivity, and warmth – the exact feeling I want our products to give people. It perfectly represents the true meaning of the product and nothing could have better represented the product.
My journey will not stop there. I want to go back to school to finish my master’s degree and then continue on to pursue a Ph.D. program. The Pivot Program has made me more zealous and determined. I am thankful and I will succeed.
Izuo-Ere “Mimi” Digifa is the founder of Flolango and the author of Izuo-, a collection of poetry encompassing the totality of many human life experiences. She is a graduate of the 2020 class of the Pivot Program at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. Flolango took second prize at the 2nd Annual Pivot Pitch Competition. You can learn more about her poetry here and follow her on Instagram here.