Food for Thought

What Now?

January 16, 2015

By now, you’ve most likely heard about the 2,000 people massacred in Baga, Nigeria. And as usual, it took a while for the media to pick up on this pressing news topic. But were any of us truly surprised? Unfortunately, no.

When I heard the story myself, I had a really hard time processing it – ‘not again,’ I thought. I shared and commented on a couple news stories on Facebook and the story stayed pressed against the back of my mind – I couldn’t shake it. Something about this news story – and not just the events itself – was really bothering me.
It wasn’t until a friend of mine who works for my school’s newspaper sent me a message that I truly began to articulate my thoughts around this topic. She wanted to know my opinion on it and whether or not the Elon African Society (EAS) would have an event on campus raising awareness about the issue like we did for Bring Back Our Girls

I began to respond and before I knew it, all the things that were bothering me overflowed onto the screen. In a series of Facebook messages, I told her:
“For now, EAS is having discussions on our facebook page and in our burst the bubble class, but we’re kind of stumped about what to do on campus bigger than that, that would make a significant difference. All we could truly do is lend our voice to the movement (#weareallbaga, #bagatogether, #pray4baga), which is valid in and of itself, but does not accomplish much unfortunately – as much as we would like it to.

As far as my opinions, of course I think it’s horrific and I’m so angry at the whole situation and once again, we have western media ignoring African stories. 234 girls go missing. Doesn’t matter. 2,000 people die, still doesn’t matter. I just feel like we’re going through bring back our girls all over again. But honestly, western media is not the only one to blame.
I read this great article in the guardian that criticized the reaction of Nigerian politicians as well. For example, Goodluck Johnathan, Nigeria’s current president(1), announced his condolences about the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris but has said nothing about the massacre in his own backyard.

If our own politicians say nothing, why do we expect western media to say something?

And I think in that lies the true importance of all these hashtags, because now we as concerned citizens must take on the responsibility of calling attention to our own stories. With this social media, digital age, we would be crazy to just sit and wait for politicians and western media to take up our stories. We are responsible for doing that ourselves.

That said, the example of bring back our girls is a little disheartening because despite the loud and fervent outcry of our campaign, most of our girls are still missing. And therein lies the limitations of social media and hashtags(2) – we’ve called attention to it and now what? We wait for our governments to respond?”
Other people have expressed similar sentiments about the importance of not waiting for Western media to take up our stories and wait for other people to care about what is happening in our country. We need to wake up and show we care too. In his article for Face2Face Africa, Victor Bomi writes that Nigerians must stand in solidarity against such attacks. France pulled together a million person march for its 17 citizens that died. Where is Nigeria’s solidarity, he asks? Why are we waiting for others to acknowledge that our lives matter when we should be doing it ourselves? We need to come together and put aside ethnic and religious differences.
I am totally with Bomi- yes, let’s have a march. Yes, let’s put aside our differences and show solidarity.

 

I love marches, I think they are a great way to show solidarity and speak out loud. But at a certain level, aren’t marches(3) these days just a louder and more visual form of social media?

And as my friend pointed out, there were marches in Nigeria and around the world about Bring Back Our Girls, and yet – again, our girls aren’t back yet.
So what do we do after the social media noise? What do we do after the march? And that my friends, is where I don’t have an answer. I mean of course, you think of writing letters to our politicians, signing petitions and all of those really great civic engagement things….and if the letters and petitions are ignored like our tweets and marches….what next?
And that question – what next? – is what has been gnawing at me for the past couple days. I got a college education so I would know how to solve all the world’s problems right? How can we just keep letting things like this happen? What more can we do as average citizens and college students after raising awareness, leading discussions, writing letters and standing, tweeting or marching in solidarity?
And now, here I am at the end of this blog post – just as frustrated as before I realized what was truly bothering me. My Nigerians, my peers, my fellow human beings….what next?

Is anyone else out there feeling like this or am I just a jaded college senior whose starry eyes are clearing up as the ‘real world,’ quickly approaches? A world where a well written letter to senior staff doesn’t get the same kind of recognition it does at our small liberal arts college.

 

  1. To my Nigerians out there voting in February – please do not vote for Goodluck and his hench men. I don’t know much about this other candidate, but Goodluck has already shown that he doesn’t care about what’s happening to Nigeria. His main concern is his own image, not the people his country.
  1. One of my professors wrote a really great article about the limitations of “hashtag activism” and their inability to produce real change. Great read.
  2. Granted some marches are more dangerous than other. Today in the U.S., as long as you get the proper permits or whatever, you’re allowed to march. No one stands in your way, and if you called in the right people, authorities might even keep it safe for you. Of course, not everyone has it that easy and some marches are banned or brutally stopped.

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