The Questions 100 — No. 14: Daniel Challenges the Stigmas of Being Black with Dyslexia

NO. 14: HOW HAS DYSLEXIA MADE LEARNING AND ACHIEVEMENT DIFFERENT FOR YOU? 

DANIEL (@DANIELODUNTAN) ANSWERS.

LOCATION: LONDON

I guess being dyslexic is a weird one. It’s a perplexing situation because you’re grateful in a way that your mind thinks different, but it’s also very very draining. You’re working twice as hard as everyone just to achieve average. I got diagnosed really, really late in terms of schooling, so I underachieved a lot in school. I thought I was very slow, not intelligent.

I got books with —I hope he sees this one — I got books with my math homework, with my math teacher writing ‘hopeless’ in red ink because I was really bad at math. That does stuff to people’s confidence. It wasn’t until I got to Uni that I realized that— even Uni was a struggle. I didn’t do well. But a really good friend of mine, she noticed how my writing was chicken scratch. She noticed that I might be dyslexic and she pushed me to get a test done.

Realized I was [dyslexic], got the test done, and it was grueling because all the secrets, all the tricks I had kind of developed over the years came undone. The guy who was testing was like, ‘I don’t know how you actually coped for so long. Your understanding is way above your actual grammar and your actual spelling. Your spelling is years behind, your grammar is years behind, but your actual understanding comprehension, even intelligence, is way beyond that. So you had to put the ideas down in a way that people could understand, but not actually putting it in a way that is efficient.’ So I had to go the long way ‘round.

It’s quite difficult. Being Black also is even more difficult because not only are you Black but it’s like sometimes you’re not recognized as having difficulties. You’re just a troublemaker. I feel it limited me in terms of job roles I applied for. Which is a bit sad. I feel like I could’ve climbed the ladder, a corporate ladder, or maybe even made more money if I had a bit more help earlier on. Most kids get found they’re dyslexic quite young have brilliant minds, you know, brilliant kids. Some of the greatest thinkers in the world are dyslexic. I just think maybe there needs to be awareness about it especially in the Black community. That’s with everything, whether it be mental health, whether it be depression, anxiety, all these different things. Or just learning difficulties.

Again someone like me, I voice about it, talk about it to keep the conversation going so other people coming up they don’t have to struggle. But for me, I champion dyslexia. I think it’s an advantage. I want to come to a place where I see people willing to hire dyslexic thinkers because they think in another way that maybe people who don’t have that condition or that learning difficulty, they’ll think, ‘Well hold on this person thinks in a different way. Let’s hire them. That’s a strength that they have.’

I think it’s helped me alot in the creative roots to pursue — even the mixes, I produce. I think you have to have a dyslexic brain to produce those kind of things. Each of my mixes I look at it like a work of art, like a piece, like a film, like a score, like a classical music score. That has a beginning, introduction, content in the middle, and it has an ending. So some of the topics I touch in mixes — one of them is called “Palm Wine Beats.”

It’s basically me, from the Diaspora outside Nigeria looking at my homeland and looking at it as an outsider, while also trying to inform people of what it is. Kind of like how a DJ would dig in crates for old soul samples, jazz and all that stuff, I’m doing the same with my own culture.

This place called Nigeria — What’s inside of it? What’s it about? And the people and trying to humanize Africa. For a long time, I feel like it’s a place made by media and the powers that be, it’s a place of famine, disease, war and hardship. Yes, those things are there, but there are also many other things there that don’t get really picked up on. It’s a way for me to highlight it. Like Vol. 1 deals with the humor and also the culture, music, and parts of politics that mirror today. And Vol. 2 deals with the Biafran War, things that people didn’t know about. People email me saying, ‘This is amazing. I never really knew Nigeria was so layered.’ A lot of people didn’t know Nigeria is a 100 years old and was developed by the British. It’s also educational and informal. A lot of people they can’t read books, in the sense that they ain’t got time to read the book or go to Uni or college or whatever. So for me it’s a snapshot, it’s a little window and hopefully it will spark the interest in someone to say, ‘Yo I’m going to look into that.’  

Another mix I did was called “Black is a Culture.”

It basically deals with — man where to start? — the whole idea of people liking black culture, but not liking the black experience. They want to basically partake in the culture, but not necessarily experiencing it. So it’s almost like a thing where, ‘Yeah. I like what you’re doing. I like your art. I’m going to take that.’ But when it’s time to stand with you or empathize with you, I don’t want no part of it. I think it’s for people of color but also for people on the outside to get a glimpse of what it’s like and what it feels like.”

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