“Black LGBTQ folks are not a figment of white men’s imagination,” Gabriel Acevero, the delegate from Maryland’s 39th District, told the crowd gathered outside the Nigerian Embassy on Tuesday, Sept. 12.
Acevero, along with individuals from the D.C. City Council, Prince George’s County Council, and the National Black Justice Coalition, protested outside the Nigerian Embassy to demand the release of the approximately 67 individuals arrested for attending a same-sex wedding in Warri, a city in the Delta State in Southern Nigeria.
In 2014, the Government of Nigeria outlawed same-sex unions, blaming homosexuality on Western colonialism.
A similar mass arrest occurred in 2020 when 47 men were charged with “public displays of affection with members of the same sex,” the New York Times reported. The case was later dropped.
In both instances, homosexuality was demonized as a Western import.
“We cannot copy the Western world, because we don’t have the same culture,” Bright Edafe, a police spokesperson in Nigeria, said at a news conference where the arrested were paraded in front of the media, reported the Times.
Nigeria now faces international backlash, with activists calling the decision to publish the identities of those arrested a violation of human rights.
“We are not a fad,” Acevero continued. “We are not some Western concept. We exist. We’ve been here and will continue to be here to hold governments, like the Nigerian government, and officials and others accountable for what it is that they’re doing. Queer Nigerians are not a threat to Nigerian identity or national security.”
Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, and more than 30 other African countries have anti-LGBTQ laws on the books, Acevero noted.
“When we talk about a context of 56 countries, there’s a lot of work that we need to do,” he said. “That work starts with a lot of folks coming together, but especially black LGBTQ folks in the United States, and recognizing the power that we can leverage — the attention that we can bring to this, but also wanting to build on those trans-national relationships to ensure that we’re fighting for LGBTQ rights both on the continent and over here.”
Murmurs of agreement sounded from the audience and speakers.
Councilmember Krystal Oriadha, the representative from Prince George’s County District 7, stressed the importance of “the idea that the entire nation or the entire continent is monolithic and so surrounded by hate is not true. There are loving and accepting people in those countries that want to ensure that their brothers and sisters have equal rights and that they are not discriminated against and that they are not arrested unjustly.”
Ward 5 D.C. Councilmember Zackary Parker, who is an out gay man, said he will introduce a resolution at the next council meeting that will “speak out against not just Nigeria, but homophobia on the rise across the globe.”
There will also be an LGBTQ task force set up in Prince George’s County, “focusing on issues here in our own communities,” Oriadha announced.
“We need to be able to feel loved, safe, and affirmed no matter where our airplane lands, no matter where we get out of our cars, or whatever port our ships dock at,” Victoria Kirby York, Deputy Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition, said as she concluded the protest.
“The fact that people are sitting in jail right now because they celebrated love is unacceptable, inhumane, unbiblical, and from my readings, against the Quran and Bhagavad Gita. Black queer and trans people can be found going back centuries and millennia. What is new is the importation of homophobia and transphobia.”
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