The #EndSars Movement Inspired A New Wave of Creatives Across The Diaspora

By Branda Ayo

As the Nigerian government continues to coerce, deny, and downplay the #EndSars movement, Nigerian youth and black people across the diaspora are still standing firm to amplify the message. In November, The Guardian reported that Nigerian officials were blocking necessary aid by imposing fines on support groups and made allegations via social media that the Lekki Toll Gate Massacre was being exaggerated. This comes a few weeks after they reportedly disbanded the corrupt police unit, SARS.

As I watched my Nigerian friends on social media express outrage and pain at their country’s actions, I also saw a movement of creatives being inspired to step up and speak out. Creatives like Petah Jay who spoke out during many of NYC’s first demonstrations, and Emmanuel Sasu, doing the work of photo-documenting the movement. Seeing my friends and fellow citizens of the diaspora coming together in this painful time reminds me of the same unity we expressed for George Floyd & Breonna Taylor for #BlackLivesMatter. This is a message that needs to continue being shared. Whether on the continent or across the diaspora, this is something that should matter to all of us. 

#BuhariSoroke #EndSarsNow 

Chinyere M. Ugokwe, the founder of Dashiki Pride and Afreekmoji, is using her social influence to create social change. As an outspoken creative and Nigerian American, she made it a priority to uplift her community and denounce all efforts aimed at undermining the movement. 

In an effort to confront the senseless killings of Nigerians at The Lekki Toll Gate, Afrobeats artists Chief Dejjy, Dolapo The Vibe, and Anny4lyf collaborated together to create their single WHO?”. Their demands for justice and accountability echo through each verse and reminds us that the music and art coming out of the diaspora will not be silent on matters of injustice. 

Since the movement started, there’s been more creative freedom with how people are choosing to express themselves. Back in Lagos, Obayomi Anthony gets his hair plaited. The main reason why the masses are rebelling against SARS in the first place is that, for the youth, it’s very hard to walk the streets of Lagos and to not be harassed by SARS officers just for looking “different”. In a feature article for Dazed, Timinepre Cole, an attorney in Nigeria, shared her encounters with SARS officers questioning why she dressed in a “masculine style”.

Vincent Desmond, Lagos-based activist and journalist also shared his thoughts on how important this moment is for queer people in Nigeria with the hashtag #QueerNigerianLivesMatter. This specific movement is reaffirming why police brutality is also an issue for the gay community.

“SARS [have been reported to] harass people based on individual and collective biases — women who are masc-presenting, people whose [gender expression] they don’t understand. As much as it’s a Nigerian youth issue, it’s also a queer issue. I’ve been stopped and harassed multiple times, and on almost all of those occasions, there have been questions about why I have piercings or why my nails are painted — signifiers of a perhaps non-traditional expression”.

Death is not when you no longer breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. For me, death is when you are afraid to speak the truth.

Activist, Aisha Yesufu, explains that she is fighting for the next generation of Nigerians that are not yet born, the way she would’ve wanted someone to fight for her.

Aisha Yesufu, during an #EndSARS protest at Abuja on Saturday, October 10.

Brooklyn based Nigerian photographer, Sade Fasanya, reminds her followers to keep applying pressure. As a photographer, she documented protests across New York City to shed light on the #EndSars Movement. Her goal was to bring even more awareness to the issues and create space for progress. Without a revolution, there is no progress. 

ENDSARSNYC is one of many local networks to the movement that is uniting and educating people of the diaspora on everything happening in Nigeria as well as any protest or news related to the movement. This work is often met with resistance but the many who are doing the work understand that we must not let up if we do not want to see Naija carry last. 

In the past two months since the massacre, there have been very few changes put into place to ensure the people that their worse fairs wouldn’t come true – that the protests would be in vain. Back in October, the President put out a statement claiming that they would be disbanding the SARS unit effective immediately but many were skeptical seeing as these same officers could just be relocated and not actually held accountable for their actions. 

There’s also been a judicial panel put in place to help with the investigations but like efforts put out by the government in previous years, it’s only been temporary. What Nigeria needs is sustainable police reform that respects the lives of its citizens, the right to privacy, and protection from harassment. Hopefully, we’ll get to see these changes in our lifetime. 

Written by Branda Ayo


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