This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
London's Nigerian community gathered in Westminster on Sunday to raise awareness to the atrocities committed by terrorist organization Boko Haram , under the banner #NigerianLivesMatter.
The Boko Haram came to international attention last year, when they kidnapped 276 school girls from Chibok, Borno, sparking #BringBackOurGirls to trend on Twitter. Prior to this the group had carried out bombings, prison breaks, and the massacre of what is estimated to be close to 200 civilians in the village of Baga. The same village was the site of a massacre of 2,000 by the terrorist group from January 3 to January 7 this year.
Unfolding on the days leading up to and including the day of the Charlie Hebdo shooting, the massacre received relatively little media attention. This has drawn criticism—a ren't 2,000 dead Nigerians worth more than a cursory mention in the press?
The rally gathered a crowd of hundreds to a patch of pavement opposite the Nigerian high Commission. When asked about how they found out about the event, many of those gathered cited social media. "I saw the event and coverage through my girlfriend's Facebook," explained Keji.
Other supporters lamented the lack of awareness from wider society. "Outside of Nigerian circles there has been little discussion," one told me. A lot of passersby didn't seem to know what the protesters were on about, which served to reinforce their general point.
Speaking before the event, organizer Akinolo Davies Jr. expressed his desire to empower the Nigerian community through the rally. "This is the opportunity for those in the diaspora to mourn the dead, to show solidarity to those in the effected areas and lastly to galvanize people—t o show that mobilizing is important in civil issues and that people getting together is a form of power and part of the process of effecting change, " he said.
"Change" was a buzzword among the speakers. The young crowd served as a symbol for the pressure mounting on the Nigerian government to be more accountable. When given the opportunity to hold the megaphone, one young girl announced, "we are not our parents."
There was strong focus on the potential change that could be enacted through the upcoming elections, with young people seen as the key to lasting change. Dr. Titilola Banjoko, a diaspora expert, urged everyone to use their freedom as a British citizens to influence the upcoming elections in February by talking to relatives in Nigeria.
Organizer Bwalya Newton said that they were not looking for comparison with the attacks in Paris. "We stand with the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attacks," she said. "It's more the time frame—when it happened at the time everyone concentrated on that one event, and swept the other one under the carpet."
Stop the War campaigner Andrew Murray took to the loud speaker and addressed what for many there seemed to be the elephant in the room, saying the unequal coverage was "racist."A cheer went up, with many continuing to shout in agreement when Murray stated that the British government were only interested in oil and not human life.
For older people at the protest, the rally seemed to be about community. Iyabode Animashaun, a mother who was positioned at the front of the crowd explained, "There's an African saying—'a child belongs to a whole village,' and that's what we should be thinking about. "
This communal sentiment was shared by invited speaker Bisi Alimi, who clutched a Nigerian flag in his hand, as he lead the crowd in chanting "solidarity forever." Other chants heard throughout the day shared this sentiment with "Nigerian lives matter, we are with you Baga," and "Up Up Niger, Down Down Terro."
The group dispersed in the early afternoon after Akinola and surprise participant Skepta gave thanks to the attendees and all presented participated in a minute 's silence. For many, the event had provided an opportunity to turn a hashtag into a peaceful action on the streets. Whilst those organizing the event passed a letter to those at the high commission demanding action on the Boko Haram, the mentality of the crowd was captured by Alimi, when she said, "this isn't about government, they wont listen. We want the media, we want a voice. "