Drums echo across Downtown Brooklyn
“Something terrible has happened,” sang the young members of the New York African Chorus Ensemble. “Find my sister, find my brother . . . cry for the land.”
Those wrenching words of a traditional African lament expressed the fears of those gathered Sunday night at a Brooklyn Borough Hall vigil for nearly 300 abducted Nigerian schoolgirls.
Leaders of many faiths joined educators and officials to pray in several languages for the safe return of the girls. Their prayers were punctuated by the insistent beat of drums, which echoed across Borough Hall Plaza in Downtown Brooklyn.
Islamic militants attacked the girls’ school in Chibok, Nigeria during the night of April 14. According to AP reports, the Boko Haram terrorist group is threatening to sell the girls into slavery. Some may have already been carried into other countries.
The Nigerian government refused offers of international assistance for weeks, and outrage is growing across the world. The terrorist group is already responsible for the deaths of thousands of Nigerians.
Many speakers said they could not celebrate Mother’s day when so many mothers in Africa were crying for the return of their children. The crowd on the steps of Borough Hall chanted, “Bring back our girls!”
“We must turn pain into purpose,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who co-sponsored the vigil with media group Applause Africa. He said the abductions were a stark reminder of the threats faced by women and girls around the world.
“Sex trafficking is a $32 billion global industry, and it’s happening across the globe,” Adams said. The girls were kidnapped in Nigeria because terrorists “wanted to stop women from being educated.”
Imams, pastors and rabbis said they were outraged by this act. “We are, as Muslims, in unity with our Christian and Jewish brothers,” said Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid, of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem. “Some of our daughters have been kidnapped; some of our nieces have been kidnapped; some of our grandchildren have been kidnapped.”
Police chaplain Rabbi Abe Friedman said the kidnapping of the schoolgirls “touches all faiths.”
Dr. Mojúbàolú Olufúnké Okome, Professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College, said, “We are heartbroken. Those girls have to be reunited with their families. Those girls were going to school, working to improve their lives.
“Nigeria is the wealthiest country in Africa, Nigeria is part of the United Nations,” she added. “Article 14 of the government of Nigeria says securing the welfare of all Nigerians is the responsibility of the government. We want them to stand by their word. You’re an autonomous country – then show it. Bring back our girls.”
Michael Ikotun, co-founder of Applause Africa, said the U.S. government has joined in the search for the missing girls. “We need to find the girls, and then we have to rehabilitate them back into society and back into school.”
City Councilmember Laurie Cumbo (Fort Greene, Crown Heights, Prospect Heights) said that one of the greatest attacks on humanity is “to not help the women of the world achieve their capacities.”
She said that while the incidence of other crimes was decreasing, sexual assault was on the rise in New York City. “We need to change the dynamic,” she said, as men in the crowd called out in affirmation.
Former City Councilmember Charles Barron said it was outrageous that it took so long for the world to spring into action to rescue the girls. “Just as you look for a Malaysian airline, you better look for your children.” As a man, he pledged to mothers and significant others “to love you and protect you. We’ve got to find our babies.”
© 2014 Everything Brooklyn Media