Action Item: Remembering #BringBackOurGirls

Monday’s going to be a busy day for protests and remembrances in NYC.

In addition to the action mentioned below, there’s also a MoMA-organized protest in Times Square for the Cuban artist Tania Bruguera, which I’ll be covering.
This came into my inbox as a press release and I’m sharing it in full here [typos preserved]:

Empire State Building will be lit in purple and red to commemorate kidnapping’s 1-year mark.

NEW YORK, NY – On April 13 at 11:00am Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), Ambassador of Surinam to the UN Henry MacDonald, Minister of Counter Terrorism of the Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the United Nations Lawal Mohammed Hamidu, City Councilmember Ben Kallos (District 5), Assemblymember Rebecca Seawright (76AD), human rights leaders and activists, a group of High School students, members of the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development, and the #BringBackOurGirls advocacy organization will gather at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza to commemorate the 1-year anniversary of the kidnapping of more than 270 girls from their school in Chibok, Nigeria by Boko Haram. Although some of the girls managed to escape captivity, roughly 230 of them are still missing. Maloney will also announce that the Empire State building will be lit in purple and red on April 14th in recognition of the need to locate the girls and return them to their families.

Maloney and advocates will call for a vigorous international effort to find the girls, along with a full investigation to determine if some of the girls may have been among those murdered last month by fleeing Boko Haram soldiers.

As a gesture of solidarity with the Chibok Girls, the High School students in attendance will tie 223 ribbons around trees and railings. One ribbon for each of the girls still missing.

#BringBackOurGirls Press Conference

April 13, 2015 @11:00am

Dag Hammarskjold Plaza
47th Street between 1st Avenue and 2nd Avenue


Text & Photos:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
I dropped Mariel off at school and started walking south toward 39th Street, where, I hoped, I’d drown some sorrows in an order of tacos. As I rounded the corner of 45th and 2nd, I could hear a rumble, a protest, surely. When your kid goes to school right next to the United Nations, when her school’s neighbors are embassies–mostly African and Middle Eastern–you get accustomed to wading regularly through groups of people who are aggrieved.

As I got closer to 43rd Street, I could see a group of people–women, mostly-making their way to the steps of the Nigerian Consulate. They were carrying signs “BRING BACK OUR GIRLS” and chanting, and when they stopped on the consulate steps, someone produced a megaphone and started counting, from 1 to 234*: the number of girls who were kidnapped from their school in Nigeria two weeks ago. As the person with the megaphone said, “Naija girl 1,” the crowd roared back, “PRESENT.”

Protesters enumerate every girl who was kidnapped.
Protesters enumerate every girl who was kidnapped.

It was impossible not to stop. It was impossible not to cry. “The world should be outraged,” an organizer said.

Only it’s not. Check the trending news anywhere–Facebook, BBC, CNN, even Al Jazeera–and people seem to care more about Quentin Tarantino, medical marijuana in Colorado, and cars plunging into a sinkhole than they care about kidnapped girls who, it’s been reported, might have been paid $12 each to marry their captors.

After a while, I left the group and kept walking, walking, walking.

When I gave birth to my first child, I was overcome with a sudden and entirely unexpected wave of emotions that nothing and no one had prepared me for. For the first time–and with no provocation other than having brought this fragile, dependent being into the world–I could both anticipate and understand an intensity of feelings that I’d had no real reason to feel before. I could understand the ferocity and tenacity of parents who would do anything–anything-to protect and defend their children. I could empathize with the boundless rage of parents whose children had been violated irrevocably. I felt, terrifyingly, that it would not be at all difficult to harm someone else if they harmed my child. I felt, in short, as if someone had opened the door to a room of emotions–many of them dark, and shadowy, and maybe even dangerous–and I had to walk in, regardless of whether I wanted to.

As I walked, I thought about safety. To imagine that ideologues could walk into my daughter’s school and snatch her and her classmates as staff stood by and watched was something I could not comprehend. The fury and helplessness and fear of the Naija girls’ parents must be all-consuming. And those of us in the rest of the world who do care… don’t we feel equally helpless?

What is there to do?

I don’t really know, other than to keep talking about it, to insist that more than 200 girls’ lives are important. And to make my own daughter as strong as I possibly can, because despite all of the advances in gender equality, it still remains painfully, outrageously clear that the world doesn’t care for girls as much as it should.

“We will not forget about you,” said one speaker who took the megaphone in front of the consulate today. “We will keep fighting for you.”

As I walked away, I just kept rolling the words of a Lucille Clifton poem over and over in my head:

you a wonder,
you a city of a woman.
you got a geography
of your own.

somebody need a map
to understand you.
somebody need directions
to move around you.

you not a noplace
mister with his hands on you

he got his hands on

*The number currently being reported as of this evening is actually higher: 276.