‘Bring Back Our Girls’ Comes to Union Square

Gugulethu Mlambo, 33, calls for the international community to act on the safe return of the missing Nigerian schoolgirls. (Photo by Zainab Akande for Voices of NY)

Protestors wear Nigerian gele and chant the social media hashtag for the missing schoolgirls, #BringBackOurGirls. (Photo by Zainab Akande for Voices of NY)

Protesters demand safety for schoolgirls and all women.  (Photo by Zainab Akande for Voices of NY)

Brenda Colling, 63, a textile designer, receives assistance in wrapping her scarf. (Photo by Zainab Akande for Voices of NY)

Melissa Ogunsu, 37, poses with her sons. Ogunsu’s husband is Nigerian, but she says, “I’m a woman before anything—women always get the shaft being sold into slavery. It’s wrong.”  (Photo by Zainab Akande for Voices of NY)

A mother and her child don colorful gele at the rally (Photo by Zainab Akande for Voices of NY)

Orundundacosta Johnson, 68, (right) and Motondani Jama, 68, (left). “This shouldn’t be swept under the rug,” Jama said. (Photo by Zainab Akande for Voices of NY)

Naima Gomez, 6, holds a sign at the rally. Naima’s mother, Mileisa Gomez, said she wanted to educate her daughter about the tragedy. (Photo by Zainab Akande for Voices of NY)

Sabrina Lamb lives in Harlem and works at a nonprofit organization for children. At the rally, she urged people to take action by calling their local congressmen. (Photo by Zainab Akande for Voices of NY)

Gugulethu Mlambo planned to attend brunch in Manhattan with friends when she decided that what she needed to do was take action.

So, she organized a rally.

Mlambo, 33, from Hoboken, New Jersey, wanted to bring awareness to the plight of 300 schoolgirls kidnapped by the Nigerian Islamic militant group, Boko Haram. While Nigerian authorities said that some of the girls managed to escape, it is believed that 276 remain missing. And according to CNN, the group is now threatening to sell the girls.

Mlambo, a South African and a member of RockACrown for 234, made a post on Facebook calling for others to join the May 3 protest. The flyer went viral and the rally was organized within the short span of three days. The number of people who came out to support the cause amazed her.

“I thought it was just going to be me and my friends,” Mlambo said.

“I was expecting about 10 people at most. Now someone told me there’s about 300 people here. I’m overwhelmed.”

The actual turnout, according to one organizer, was over 500.

The protest, held in Union Square at midday on May 3, brought hundreds of women and men of all ethnicities together as chants of  “Nigeria, the world is watching,” “Bring back our girls” and “African lives matter” filled the air.

As a sign of solidarity, female protesters wore flamboyant head wraps — specifically, traditional Nigerian gele often worn at parties and weddings.

Ozioma Egwuonwu, a Nigerian DREAM activist and international speaker, said attending the rally was of absolute importance.

“I am Nigerian — and I show up when I see dreams being marginalized,” Egwuonwu, 33, said.

“That is exactly what is happening in Nigeria right now to these young women.”

The Nigerian schoolgirls were abducted from their dormitories in Government Girls Secondary in Chibok on April 15.

In the aftermath, the Nigerian government has been heavily criticized for not doing enough to rescue the girls. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pledged assistance in helping find the girls with Britain in the talks to assist as well.

According to organizers, the next step for RockACrown for 234 is to be able to find solutions for the story of the missing Chibok girls.

“We’re going to regroup,” Mlambo said.

“We’re going to come back even stronger.”


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