The Coalition for African Peace and Justice, a group of activists, community members, and business owners will gather on Saturday, January 24, from 1:30pm – 2:30pm, at Restoration Plaza for a vigil memorializing the thousands of civilians killed in Baga, Nigeria over the last six months at the hands of the religious militant group known as Boko Haram.
“I kept hearing about all of the deaths and killings taking place in Nigeria by the Boko Haram, and I felt like not enough was being done,” said Joe Grant, the coalition’s organizer. “So I reached out to my Nigerian friends in the community and asked them What do you want to do, and how do you want to approach this?”
The one-hour gathering at Restoration will be devoted to prayer for the loss of lives, followed by a conversation around what is happening in Nigeria and possible reasons why:
“This vigil is really a homegoing; it’s the beginning of a much bigger push. We’re going to let the world know that we, over here in America, regardless of our religion, those are our brothers and sisters.”
Planned guest speakers at the vigil include City Councilmember Robert Cornegy, activist and actor Gbenga Akkinagbe, Dr. Shegun Shabaka, chair of the National Association of Kawaida Organizations, along with a Yoruba priestess, an Imam and and a pastor, said Grant.
“Our job is to do the right thing and give voice to the voiceless,” said Dr. Shabaka. “There are people that are dying for no reason. Our goal is to agitate, educate and then organize from here– inform people about the policies of this government and the Nigerian government.”
Rotimi Akinnuoye, who is Nigerian and co-owner of Bed-Vyne Wine in Bed-Stuy, was one of the first people Grant reached out to for his involvement. Akinnuoye said he has cousins who are in Nigeria now who tell him they don’t hear about what is happening in the news because there has been a blackout on communications about the massacres. And, he added, because it is an election year, most of what they are hearing about in the news concerns the election.
“It’s amazing how they’re not getting information,” said Akinnuoye. “They have as little information as we have over here about what is really going on.
“My thing is that we get in touch with the government officials here who are representing Nigeria. I went on [the Nigerian consulate’s] Facebook page, and all I saw were pictures of parties he was attending, him getting married and talk of elections. I didn’t see anything about what was going on in Baga with Boko Haram. How do we get it to where he begins talking about this?”
Grant said Saturday’s vigil will be only the beginning. In February, the coalition is planning a march from City Hall to the Nigerian Embassy demanding that the Nigerian government begin an appropriate military response to the mass killings.
“We want to let the world know that people of color all over the world care about each other. At the end of the day, we’re all one,” said Grant. “When something happens in Africa, we care here.
“But first, let us put these souls to rest. And then we can pick up the fight from there.”