Black Voices at UBC: My prayer book

In the latest for Black Voices at UBC, Stephanie Okoli has written a collection of letters and poems that follow a young girl through childhood.


Hi God,

My mom told me if you love something more than God, you should sacrifice it. So, I got rid of Blankie for you. He was my best friend, my confidant, my partner-in-crime. We did everything together. He was Boots to my Dora. He stayed in my backpack when it was time for class. I only brought it to school once, though. Mom and Remi say I should be a big girl. I’m ten and puberty hit me like a truck. You gave me pimples, boobs and armpit hair. So now I give you Blankie. His final resting place is the blue shed at the side of our house.

Now that I’ve given you Blankie, I, of course, am going to need some things in return. My pastor said if you give to God, he’ll send blessings in return. First thing first, I need a new Nintendo D.S Lite. Can it be Black like my old one? I tried to sell my first one, but I broke it instead. I took out the battery and was going to sell them separately to Matthew Mattia. He didn’t know it was going to be sold separately and now hates me, but business is business. He broke it on the tarmac under the basketball net. It would be great if I could get it for Christmas or my birthday.

The next thing on my list is an iPod touch. Everyone at church has one. We are all the body of Christ and should be treated equally, right? Right, good. Christmas or birthday. I would separate these gifts, though. I don’t want my mom getting suspicious. I assume that all this stuff is gonna come through here and I don’t want my mom second-guessing her good deeds.

The last thing is a phone. Now, if you want, you can replace the iPod with the phone, I don’t mind. I like the Samsung S3. I’m Team Android all day. Plus, if I get an iPod, I can have the best of both worlds. I know this is a lot… actually, nevermind. You parted the Red Sea and made Jesus walk on water! A Samsung is nothing. Anyways, thanks for listening.



Best friends

Hello God,

I need a new best friend, but it seems like all the best friends are taken. Joy was my first choice. We run ‘buy me McDonald’s’ schemes during my mom’s choir practice, so it only seems fitting that we jump into the next phase in our relationship. But, she’s best friends with Ariana. Abi was my second choice, by the way. I met Abi before Joy and we share a deep connection. We only meet on Sundays, but our bond strengthened due to my comedic nature. They both laugh at my jokes but don’t want to be my best friends.

I want a best friend that’s as funny as me. I want her to laugh at my jokes and I want us to talk about everything. She has to be a girl, of course. My mom would act like I was getting married if I had a boy best friend. I can imagine my mom screaming, “Stephy, where’s your husband?” 

She can be real annoying sometimes. 

I pray that she makes me laugh and is kind. I want us to talk on the phone all the time and share secrets with one another. She can be from anywhere too — Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia — I don’t care. As long as we share a love for Super Mario 64, I’m down for whatever. She doesn’t need a D.S. We can share mine. Well, I mean, she can use mine. She can’t take it home or something. And we can’t share mine unless I get a new one for Christmas. Or my birthday. 

I wonder what she’ll look like. Will she be tall? Maybe she’ll like basketball. God, make her like basketball! I don’t watch it all the time, but it’s fun to play. I’d show her all my favourite TV shows, The Fresh Prince, Everybody Hates Chris and My Wife And Kids. She probably already knows That’s So Raven and The Proud Family. I want her to be the Carlton to my Will.

I’d like to meet her soon, please. Not having a best friend is tiresome. I want us to have matching braids and cornrows. I want them covered in jewels and beads. They might scratch our faces when we run and play, but that’s okay. Thanks for listening


A morning Psalm

You are the Am that I Am,

The Beginning and the End.

How I worship You

I kneel before You in splendour, 

and gaze upon Your throne.

Yahweh! I call

You answer me with horns,

And serenade me with trumpets

I dance before the angels

A smile graces Your face

How I love Thee

The only Father I’ve ever known

Your warmth surrounds me

As Your light brightens the shadows

And Your voice beams through the noise


When I speak,

You listen.

You’ve always been close.

I recite your ways

And heed your words

I do my best to obey.

I know you’ll never leave me.

I know you’ll never forsake me.

For your words hold truth.

A beautiful day

Thank you for this day

Thank you for the birds chirping and blue skies.

You made the clouds swirl together, perfect ivory.

I sit on a stoop, taking it all in.

I watch the squirrels run up and down the trees.

Laughing at the sight of them fighting for nuts and pine cones.

The screams of children fill my ears

They race around the park,

Leaping off the swing sets, trying to fly.

The men play soccer

The field becomes their sanctuary

The women cheering on the side become their choir.

Go! Go! Go!

I catch my fellow teenagers dancing from the corner of my eye.

They rehearse their TikTok dances in the parking lot.

The sun bounces off their skin,

Giving them a radiant glow.

The homeless man laughs with his friends.

They pitch a tent in the corner.

They slap the mosquitoes as they land on the bare skin.

I stretch myself across the grassy floor

And think of the ways you’ve been good to me.

Two Canadas

Dear God,

There are two Canadas.

One of vigour and one of isolation.

My joints pop as I’m stretched between the two.

I’m sent down the path of the broken because of the colour of my skin.

My lack of money keeps me there.

But, my birthright makes its way to me, education.

It holds me and equips me with the grace to tell Black Canada’s story,

And show the world my own.

Did you know?

Dear God,

My ancestors are struck by the master’s whip.

Their flesh burns under the southern sun.

Where were you when all this was happening?

Where was our Moses?

Marie Angelique’s leg was crushed by the Brodequin.

Through the pain, she confessed to the crime. 

But what crime was that Father?

Setting fire to Old Montreal was her birthright,

Her right of passage.

Where was her Red Sea?

I’m told to get over it.

“It was a long time ago,” Mother says.

Our lineage stayed in Nigeria, so my mother’s sympathy is thin.

But I can’t get over it.

Where were you?


Dear God,

I’m mad at you. You knew how Africans would find out about Your Word, and You let it happen. You’re supposed to hope, but instead, You aided in Africa’s destruction. I wonder about the Israelites. How they were enslaved under Pharaoh for hundreds of years. You brought them from their destruction and positioned them to be Your Holy people. You led them to the promised land as a cloud in the day and a torch in the night. Why couldn’t You do the same for us? Was it because we were pagans and had to be taught a lesson? You left us to suffer, and we’ve been suffering ever since. 

I think of my mother, who douses herself with bleach cream to get ready to enter your holy sanctuary every Sunday. She’s already light-skinned, but she itches for more; she chases after whiteness. Do you know how that makes me feel? The foundation of my life succumbs to the frail image of western beauty as she adjusts her favourite blonde wig. Are you happy with her? Are you satisfied with us?

Yours truly,

Stephanie Okoli


What are we now, dear Lord?

Your distant,

You don’t talk to me anymore.

I guess that’s fitting since I pushed you away.

I did it in anger, fury.

You left my people to die.

You were never supposed to forsake me.

I want us to start over.

I want to love You.


Dear God,

We’re life partners. I get that now. It was hard to see you or feel you before. The aching sensation of regret and pain flowed out of me during prayer. I could never reach you like I did before. Our connection was broken. The thing that mended our severed lifeline was trust. When my back was against the wall, I cried out to you, and you opened my eyes. You showed me Your plan for me. I demonstrated that you haven’t forgotten me. So, I stretch my arms out to You and smile. I sense your embrace. You’ve given me a new Blankie and new friends. You’ve given my mom a new direction in life. Thank you.


Stephanie Okoli

Black Voices at UBC is an open-form column publishing work by Black writers in UBC’s student community. If you’re interested in getting involved, reach out to