It was just a year ago this month that Houston’s Nigerian community held protests along with other cities nationwide in support to #ENDSARS, the movement that called for an end to violence and police brutality against Nigerian citizens at the hands of the special anti-robbery squad in the West African country.
Now on the first anniversary of the movement, Nigerians in Houston continue to pay their respects to the lives lost and reflect on what the next action of the diaspora will entail.
Ayo Shofoluwe, founder of the philanthropic organization PeacexPiece, partnered with the SAiD (Society of Africans in the Diaspora) Institute to reveal Shofoluwe’s 20.10.20 Project: The Declaration of the Nigerian Youth.
The event, with more than two dozen in attendance, included a community conversation around the pressing issues facing Nigeria and the vital role Nigerian youth play globally in the development of the country through the medium of a visual art exhibition and petition.
“October 20, 2020 became the date that will forever be engrained in the minds of Nigerians worldwide as army officers arrived at Lagos, Nigeria’s Lekki Toll Gate, surrounded a large group of peaceful protesters and opened fire in the air and at the crowd,” Shofoluwe said.
“It made me angry. I wanted to amplify the voices of my people back home. This is our official response to those responsible for that tragic incident. This exhibition showcases the future of Nigeria and that is the youth.”
The exhibition introduced 10 striking photographic installations of Nigerian Diasporans in Houston decked out in bold colored Ankara fashion designs, with each photo sending a message of resilience, reassurance, and resistance.
“At SAiD Institute, our goal is to help mobilize and bridge the gap between youth in the diaspora and in Nigeria. How can we channel our anger into something that is not confrontational?” said Debo Folorunsho, executive director of SAiD Institute. “Nigerians, especially in Houston, have the power, resources, and influence to bring change to Nigeria.”
The event concluded with community members providing strategic ideas and sharing their personal experiences in Nigeria. Houston resident Benga Ayeni said in order for any progress to happen there has to be a strategy in place.
“We aren’t the first to protest and we won’t be the last. We can’t fight fire with fire,” he said. “We can’t play into the [Nigerian] government’s hands. We can counter their strategy and learn from our elders who’ve fought before us.”
The launch of the 20.10.20 project visual petition to end SARS is featured on change.org.
Laura Onyeneho covers the city’s education system as it relates to Black children for the Defender Network as a Report For America Corps member. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org