Rally For Kidnapped Nigerian Girls Spurs South Florida Involvement
A sea of green and white flooded into Rolling Oaks Park on Saturday, as more than 150 people rallied to raise awareness of the recent kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria.
The rally, organized by the Coalition of Concerned Nigerians in South Florida, brought religious speakers, political figures and South Florida Nigerians to the Miami Gardens park. Splashes of green and white, the colors of the Nigerian flag, danced on unique headpieces, t-shirts and posters.
Many posters bore the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, which has gone viral on social media in recent weeks. But at the rally, the hashtag #MiamiDemandsOurGirlsBackNow was just as visible.
Yinka Tella, chief organizer, said he wants people in Miami to be very aware of the situation in Nigeria.
"The conversation had been going on for a long time about us intervening more directly,” said Tella, who also works as a counselor at Broward College. “But the kidnapping of these girls made that imperative.”
Tella said he created CONSFLO as a response to terrorist organization Boko Haram’s abduction of 276 Nigerian girls in mid-April. The idea came after his 14-year-old son expressed opposition to visiting Nigeria.
The rally united members of the Nigerian community and others with tribal music, prayer and uplifting speeches from various leaders. Tella spoke, and so did U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson.
"Nigerian-Americans, Cuban-Americans, Haitian-Americans, un-hyphenated Americans, Jamaicans, Venezuelans, Colombians, Brazilians and Europeans bound together in shock," Tella said in his speech. "Together, we must work to defeat terror wherever it might rear its head anywhere in the world."
In addition, Christian and Muslim leaders recited prayers at the beginning of the event.
Islam and Christianity are the two main religions in Nigeria, Christianity making up around 40 percent and Islam making up about 50 percent.
“[Boko Haram] claim to be representing Islam, but Islam does not say that you should be raping girls," Tella said. "Islam does not say you should be killing people. [Boko Haram] is an anarchist organization.”
Oluwole Alle, master of ceremonies, said he thinks Boko Haram will eventually die down.
“I think this is a reactionary organization, and it will fizzle... it will die a natural death," said Alle. "Even though today we're gathered here because of the havoc and wreck [in Nigeria], this is not new, this has been going on for more than 10 years. But thank God for the world attention that's been focused on this right now.”
Tella said he wants the rally to catalyze local community involvement. CONSFLO is sending a petition to the president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, to take more urgent measures. They have also created a petition calling for intervention from the Obama administration.
The main goal is to stabilize Nigeria through national and international involvement.
"A stable Nigeria makes for a stable Africa," said Tella.