For the past week Nigeria has been ravaged by violence as never seen before. Just last week it was alleged that a 2,000 person massacre took place at the hands of Islamic extremist group Boko Haram. This is considered Nigeria’s deadliest massacre and it took place over the course of one day–Jan. 3 and by Monday bodies were still littering the streets. Recently Nigerian officials stated that approximately 150 people were killed and not the figure of 2,000 that is being bandied about in the few news stories that have covered the situation in Nigeria. But should the number matter? Furthermore, the 150-2,000 lives lost is not all. Over the weekend it was alleged that Boko Haram sent little girls to blow themselves up in public markets resulting in the loss of their lives as well as other innocent bystanders. And yet, in all of this, we are still hard-pressed to get consistent, upfront coverage about Nigeria–certainly not on the level of say the “Je suis Charlie” campaign which is a result of the terrorist attacks on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
What is most daunting about the situation in Nigeria is that, soon enough, it will be one year since the Nigerian girls were kidnapped and, by then, we may not see their return. Though April 15 is quite some ways away, it doesn’t seem probable that those girls will be brought back nor does it seem probable that enough people–particularly mainstream media–are going to be concerned about their return. It is more probable that another hashtag for another campaign will be created before we resolve the issues of the last hashtag. It is also more probable that Western media will dictate our concern and have us up in arms about 12 people who were killed in Paris while they desensitize us to the almost daily slaughtering in places such as Nigeria. In a way it is like saying, “We don’t expect this to happen in Paris, but this is par for the course in developing and third-world nations.”
What then are we to say and do with the response and/or lack thereof to the violence that has beset the people of Nigeria? “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”
It has become far too easy to complain about the lack of coverage mainstream media gives to issues such as Nigeria and if we continue to complain about it we will run ourselves ragged. Instead it is time for us to step up to the plate and be the ones making this news important. Just as many mobilized to make #BlackLivesMatter a force to be reckoned with–and it still is in 2015–we must make #IAmNigeria, #PrayforNigeria, #BringBackOurGirls, and other black and African-centered campaigns the new normal and not wait for anyone else–particularly the mainstream–to do it for us.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are Nigeria. We, especially, African Americans and Black people living in America surely share more with our brothers and sisters in Nigeria and other parts of Africa than we do with other campaigns we support. This is not to minimize the importance of also standing in solidarity with the people of Paris as they grieve for the lives lost, but we must be steadfast and unmovable in our fight for a most fundamental freedom. That freedom is the freedom for a black person to live, move, and have their being as those who also share the signifier of being children of God just as their white counterparts do. A freedom, it can be argued, is a bit more significant that fighting for the freedom of press and speech that allows someone to pen and sketch potentially racist and offensive images.
Maybe it is time for us to make a resolution to ourselves that before we complain about what someone isn’t doing–like what the various media outlets aren’t doing to cover Nigeria–we exhaust ourselves in finding those who are doing something. We are fortunate to exist in a moment where social media allows people to mobilize quickly around news that isn’t being covered by large outlets. Find those spaces, share what people are doing and saying, and watch how others take notice. In doing so we may find that we don’t have to wait for the news but we create it and show those mainstream outlet what is really–or also–important.
We are who we’ve been waiting for. Will you step up and answer the call?
In the meantime, here are some organizations to follow on social media who do well at staying on top of issues that don’t immediately make breaking news:
If you have others, please share in the comments below.