What We Should Have Gotten From #BringBackOurGirls

May 13th, 2014  |  by Veralyn Williams |  Published in Blog, Featured, My Two Cents

On the morning I heard about the 200+ Nigerian girls who were kidnapped at their Chibok boarding school by the militant group Boko Haram I was with guy I’m seeing, who happens to be Nigerian. We were listening to the BBC and he (basically) assured me this happens all the time, that they (Boko Haram) are just trying to scare families from sending their daughters to school, and that they will be returned to their families.

Two weeks later the girls were still missing. No news outlet I follow, but the BBC was covering it. And all Facebook posts I wrote on the topic were met with radio silence.

And all this was leading me down a dark place. To the point where actress Lupita Nyong’o was named People Magazine’s most beautiful person of the year, and I couldn’t celebrate it. In fact I resented a society that reported on beauty, instead of the lives of 234 (the number being reported at that time) girls, who were still faceless and nameless in my head.

Then on April 30th I’m scrolling on instagram and I see my mentor/friend @BabesAboutTown post: “234 daughters missing. So many hearts breaking. Share your photo and RT #BringBackOurGirls” I literally stared at her picture for almost a minute, because it was saying what I’ve been thinking and feeling. I clicked on the hashtag and was connected to people that also cared.

And by going down the “hashtag rabbit hole” I soon discovered that “Bring Back Our Girls” originated from the mothers of the missing girls. The mothers who traveled from Chibok to Abuja to march and demand that the Nigerian government go look for their daughters. And I’ve been amazed by what they set in motion. They got the whole world to see and acknowledge, something Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan didn’t do until nearly a week after their protest— 3 weeks after the girls were kidnapped.

Now I’ve heard and read a lot of criticism around the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag. Even from people whose opinions I respect. Starting with what the guy I’m seeing pointed out to me from day one to what my girl told me last night: “Boko Haram terrorising Nigerians is nothing new. So simply bringing back these girls will not end what is an everyday, civil war reality for many Nigerians.” “Everyday people, included (just based on statistics) some of the families of the missing girls, are being killed. Entire villages destroyed. So where will those girls be going back to?” “Are we really saying Western intervention is the answer? You know America is only helping for Nigeria’s oil?”

Hate to be the one to say it (especially to those I love) but don’t come to me with problems, come to me with solutions. What is the alternative? And like you’ve said, “This BEEN Going on in Nigeria.” So why weren’t you talking to me and/or the world about this before?

I can’t even imagine what it is to lose a child— let alone know that your child is missing, who has them, and that no one is going to get them back
for you. That anger, fear, and loss is what fueled those mothers to march, chanting “Bring Back Our Girls” and their strategy was for the world to take notice, and for something to be done. In a moment of hopelessness and feeling helpless, they gave me an action I can take. Spread their message, and tell the world to: Bring Back Our Girls.

I am in America today because my parents saw the writing on the wall of a civil war beginning in Sierra Leone. A war that the history books say started 5 years after we got to New York, and ended 11 years later, claiming over 50,000 lives and displaced millions. And yes there are many civil war examples throughout Africa, and so yes we know what “western intervention” means. But these mothers were calling on NIGERIANS and their PRESIDENT to do something. And what has been done?

I for one will continue to unapologetically stand with these mothers and activists in Nigeria who are giving us strategies for obtaining change in Africa, by Africans. President Goodluck Jonathan, his administration, and community leaders in Nigeria dropped the ball on this one. Can we talk about that?

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