Hi Friends, I added a section to the bottom of the original #bringbackourgirls letter that I published here on AmbitiousBlackFeminist.com with links related to mobilization efforts in RI.
Letter to Leaders and the Media:
by Reza Clifton
May 2, 2014
(graphic courtesy of Mary J. Blige FB page)
To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing to you about a matter that has literally taken my breath away. I am talking about the case of 234 female students who were kidnapped on April 15, 2014 while in school in Nigeria. According to an April 30 BBC News article, the students “were about to sit their final year exam and so are mostly aged between 16 and 18.”
I am not writing this to complain about inaction on anyone’s part, or to go back in time to discuss how much should have been started immediately; I am writing to implore you to help. We all believe that education is a human right and kidnapping/trafficking violates that and other rights. You and I – we both went to school and both had days when we went in just for exams. Many of us have children or work everyday with 16-18 year olds. Personally, I recently began teaching a group of high school students, a majority of them girls/young women of the same age – and an age group with whom I’ve previously worked. I also have experience working with young people of all ethnicities and races, including White, Latino, and those with Black/African origins – including African Americans, Jamaican and Haitian, and those from or with West African roots. Like other children and youth given access to education, “black and brown” girls are smart, driven, innovative and capable.
I understand that you are busy, and I understand how frequently you hear arguments like, “aren’t there enough domestic issues to focus on,” or “well of course something like this happens in Africa,” but I ask you again to look at both the facts on the ground and the evidence about what’s at stake. First of all, though Nigeria has seen its share of conflicts, due in part to disputes over oil reserves, government corruption, and conflicts between religious groups, it is also a success story in terms of the educational rates in many parts of the country, it’s Nollywood film industry, and economic activities seen in cities like Abuja and Lagos. On the other hand in Borno State, according to the Nigerian government site, the majority of the people of Borno State are farmers, herdsmen and fishermen.
Human rights organizations for decades have spoken of the benefits to families, villages, and communities in non-industrialized nations and regions when the allocation of education and resources include women. And remember, developing nations are often identified as breeding grounds for terrorism, often due in part to rates of poverty and the absence of education – all things addressed by schools serving girls, and by educated girls who go on to be women and leaders who help end poverty in their communities and countries. Trafficking and forced marriages, the situation some of the kidnapped girls are being subjected to, according to various reports, interrupt this potential.
According to the BBC, it is a terrorist group called Boko Haram that “has been blamed for abducting the girls from their school.” Their name, details the report, means “‘Western education is forbidden’ in the local Hausa language.” A reporter in a story from NBC News reported that a recent rally led by women in the region and mothers of the abducted occurred on “the same day that the U.S. State Department released its annual global terrorism report, which names Boko Haram as one of the most dangerous groups in the world — ranking next to the Taliban in Afghanistan and al-Qaeda factions in Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula…” This is not the first time they’ve attacked schools and female students.
I understand that, in a time of critical domestic issues like high unemployment and problems with our own educational system, that it would be easy to defer to the State Department report; to say we are aware that this is a dangerous group and there is already an anti-terrorism strategy in place. But in the name of over 200 girls who were kidnapped while trying to take exams, I implore you to try a little harder and dig a little deeper.
More media coverage and awareness can help, and a statement sent around and posted on your front page can help make that happen.
Yes, the authorities in Nigeria need to handle this matter, but they may need to be reminded that the world and you are expecting action immediately.
Yes, there are processes and deadlines for budgets, but there are also emergency hearings and closed door meetings where you can at least raise awareness if not funds.
Yes, the United Nations is often the trusted source for global peacekeeping efforts, but we have also seen sitting department heads and former leaders from the US interject and infuse personal efforts into important diplomacy and geopolitical matters, but it takes requests and pressure from lawmakers and members of the press.
In one day, on April 15, and in one vicious and symbolic fell swoop, the world, not only Nigeria, was attacked. We must respond swiftly and with our own symbolic might that shows that 1) we will not tolerate this kind of abuse; 2) we are committed to peace and ending terrorism; and 3) we care just as much for the lives of girls and women as we do the lives of soldiers, bankers, athletes and passengers on intercontinental flights.
Thank you for your time. Below are links to a number of articles, including the two referenced above and others to help you learn more about this devastating situation.
Reza Clifton, Providence, RI
Writer/Poet, Digital Storyteller, Cultural Navigator
Publisher, 3 AM is the New Black
Digital Media and Audio Storytelling High School Teacher
RI MOBILIZATION LINKS
– http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/ and http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm