Not for $50 million and a room full of Les Pauls could I tell you how it came to me, but yesterday I found myself thinking about Brion James.

The veteran character actor was ninety-eight shades of awesome. During the 80s, he seemed to be in every other film, always playing a deliciously rough-edged thug or unrefined clod, epitomized in his role as the boorish Detective Kehoe in 48 Hrs. With his sunken eyes, hound dog cheeks and a hanging lower lip, he forged an enduring career with one of the least-attractive faces in Hollywood. Barking in a hoarse drawl with an unremarkable build, he was everything the leading men were not; yet there he was, going toe-to-toe with all of them.

Nigeria’s 50th birthday was a fortnight ago. On October 1, 1960, the British officially turned over sovereignty of the country to the Speaker of the newly independent Nigerian Parliament, Jaja Wachuku, in the form of the Freedom Charter. The new nation nearly convulsed apart within ten years, and in many ways, it’s amazing such an entity has survived intact, an agglomeration of hundreds of ethnic groups (and indigenous languages), many of which were so recently colonized by Britannia that they were not very warm to the idea of sharing political commonwealth with a bunch of circumstantial peers.

The holiday got me thinking of what it means to me to be a Nigerian, born in Nigeria, educated in Nigeria and abroad, living (and naturalized) in the USA, but with a very strong sense of rootedness off the Bight of Bonny. Nigeria is enormous. I’ve read estimates that a quarter of all black people in the world are of recent Nigerian origin. Among such multitudes there is so much to say that I’ve just begged off to a series of vignettes in a number that suits the occasion, and I’ve broken the expansive result into three parts. Please do join me in this sampler from our enormous platter.