I just finished my first set of final examinations for the day at my university in the United States. I came home to my apartment to seek respite from the craziness of it all, participating in the ritual that is social media to unwind.
It was sunny late afternoon on April 30, 2014. And with the intense writing that my exams required and the presence of the hot sun, I was tired and ready to retreat to the couch to rest. But there was not much of rest after what my friend shared met my eyes at the top of my newsfeed.
I saw “Boko Haram”in the Washington Post article and I couldn’t help but think, Oh God. What have they done this time?
You see, I am a Nigerian. And I am a woman getting an education without having to fear for my life.
Yet there are girls who are at the mercy of the Boko Haram, risking their lives to get an education and are being threatened to be sold for $12.
Heaviness does not describe the weight of what I feel.
Shortly after discovering this, another Nigerian friend of mine liked the Bring Back Our Girls Facebook page. I quickly hit the “like” button, making sure to keep up with information regarding the 300+ kidnapped girls and their hopeful return back to their families. I went wild on Google, trying to find every bit of information I could about these girls.
For weeks, the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls has flooded social media. I read somewhere two days ago that this hashtag has been used 800,000+ times.
Two day ago, I finally saw a story on an American TV news outlet praising social media for shedding light on this dark tunnel of a situation with all of us hoping that there will be light at the end of it all.
Prior to this, I have conversed with my family for several years about the state of the Nigerian government very eager to do something to serve my mother country. It hit especially when I visited a couple years back and saw some of the evidence of corruption myself. I’ve considered going back for a significant amount of time. I have considered permanent repatriation.
But I have often been met with no hope for radical change. That our government is too corrupt and broken beyond repair and the problems are too complicated to comprehend. That it would take more than just a few Nigeria-versed and Western-versed voices to bring change.
So, like many other African countries, foreign aid and foreign initiatives have been a possible source of hope, if any at all. And by foreign, I mean Western. Often times, the philanthropic work in countries in Africa and in other third world countries are met with a resounding praise for their efforts, enforcing dependence and admiration of white people in foreign lands. This phenomena is commonly known as the “white savior complex.”
Which brings me to this tweet I saw yesterday:
— 5'5 with brown eyes (@seelolago) May 7, 2014
And this one:
— Hotep Slayer (@FeministaJones) May 8, 2014
There is no mention of the originator of #BringBackOurGirls in her interview who is in fact a Nigerian woman. And people of color and their allies in Twitterverse did not let her or CNN get away with it.
She later claimed that Oby Ezekwesili (@obyezeks), started it all…but mentioned it as if that is what she had been saying all along in her interview.
— Ramaa Mosley (@Marystrawberry) May 8, 2014
Obviously, there’s incongruence in her statements. And many pointed it out. Others criticized people of color and their allies for pointing this out, easily dismissing the origin of #BringBackOurGirls as unimportant.
The Nigerian origin of Bring Back Our Girls and lives of those precious Nigerian girls are not mutually exclusive. To dismiss the origin of the hashtag as irrelevant is to dismiss the progress of Nigeria. To dismiss the origin of the hashtag as irrelevant is to dismiss that the people of Nigeria stepped in where the government did not, that perhaps we’ve taken a step in the right direction and have finallystarted on a long journey to be self-sufficient state. To dismiss the origin of the hashtag as irrelevant is to perpetuate the notion that all black lives and their efforts do not matter. That initiatives only hold water when a white person starts it. To dismiss the origin of the hashtag as irrelevant is to dismiss the cry of Oby Ezekwesili, the cries of the Nigerian mothers, their families, and their allies that have been heard around the world.
So yes, it is important. And we all need to see that. And by doing so you are actually helping Nigeria.
A tunnel has both a beginning and an end. Millions are journeying through it with that hashtag and voicing the message in social media and in rallies all across the world. But for a mission to be successful, it’s important to know where it is going. It is also just as important to know and acknowledge where it started.