Posted by: Viola | April 14, 2015

My essay honoring the Chibok girls

While working on the BIRDS OF CHIBOK poems honoring the kidnapped Chibok girls, I wrote a short essay for the girls, as well. I was doing as much reading as I could, combing the web for updates about the girls. In doing so, I learned a lot of things I had not known about their kidnapping and about the terrorist activities and tactics of Boko Haram. I watched video clips of the girls who managed to escape and who felt safe enough to grant short interviews. The girls were deeply traumatized and afraid.

It frightens me to think about what the girls had to go through and what most of them continue to experience, since the majority remain in captivity. What these young women have had to endure is simply harrowing. Few of us can picture it. But we can imagine the girls as people we know, as people we would study at school with, be friends with, live as neighbors with, have as sisters and daughters and cousins. It’s our capacity to imagine these girls as our own that lets us empathize with their struggles and their reality, however foreign it may be to us. Our ability to imagine and feel for the girls is what allows us to remember the girls and continue to advocate for their return.

In a time when we are bombarded with so much information and devastating news and events, we must ground ourselves in the stories of people and stay connected to their experiences. It keeps us human. Tyrants and terrorists are counting on us to become so depressed and overwhelmed by their garish activities and tactis that we quit caring. Their sinister work must never reach deep into us and win.

One of our main challenges, in the fight against terrorism, is to keep our awareness and our emotions alive and strong. We must keep feeling and keep remembering, keep listening and speaking, in poems and stories and songs. If we stop doing so, if we stop remembering and honoring our fellow human beings, then we will be in great trouble. When terrorists seek to dampen our hearts and mind, we must fight back with light and love. We must keep a fire going in our hearts and minds. We must stay alert and strong.



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