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Local Nigerians’ success in spotlight as search for kidnapped girls continues

Nigerians may have better grasp of American Dream

Erick Johnson | 5/22/2014, 9 a.m.
Nigerians emerge from their private lives to attend a rally demanding the return of 276 teenage girls to their homeland in Africa. Photo by Erick Johnson

They are affluent doctors and lawyers with families that are college educated. They do not use slang, but greet one another with smiles, nods and curtsies.

Some 6000 miles away from their homeland, about 5000 Nigerians call South Florida home. Since the 1970s, about 3000 Nigerians lived in Miami Gardens before it became a city 10 years ago. They brought from their homeland their religious values and cultures to create tight-knit families. Their role models and mentors are not athletes or even Black professionals but fathers and mothers.

African-Americans may have been in the U.S. much longer, but Nigerians in South Florida, with their nice homes, high-end cars and flourishing careers have experienced more success in living the American dream than their counterparts. With so much success at home and in corporate boardrooms, their lifestyles may provide some answers to longstanding poverty, crime and academic despair experienced in many Black communities and urban areas in Miami and around the country.

But unlike Blacks, Nigerians are not activists. They are known as peaceful, private citizens who live quiet, but active lifestyles. But the abduction of 276 teenage girls by the radical group Boka Haram in April cast many Nigerians in an unusual role as they spoke out against crimes committed against a social institution their culture holds sacred: family.

At Rolling Oaks Park in Miami Gardens, nearly 200 Nigerians joined their African-American brethren last Saturday to protest the return of the girls, shouting “Bring Back Our Girls”, a phrase that has become the anthem of many demonstrations all over the world. Attended by community leaders, such as Congresswoman Federica Wilson, former Miami Gardens Mayor Shirley Gibson and officials from the NAACP, the rally was organized by the Coalition of Concerned Nigerians in South Florida. In Liberty City, Nigerians joined a handful of residents at a prayer service at Mt. Tabor Missionary Baptist Church.

FROM QUIET TO OUTSPOKEN

“We are very private, peace-loving citizens but we will not be quiet on this issue,” said Moses Alade, a physician at North Shore Medical Center who’s also a member of the church. “What the Boko Haram is doing is evil and injustice to many families.”

A majority of the protesters in Miami Gardens are Nigerians from the three cultures major dialects, Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa. Many came dressed in green and white, the national colors of Nigeria. They were encouraged by Black community leaders who led the rally with rousing speeches demanding the return of the girls.

“This is wrong,” said Gibson. “We will not cease to speak out and we will not stop marching until these girls are found and safely returned.”

“This is not just an African problem, but a global problem,” said the Ayo Mide Fatunde, 17, a senior at Nova High School.”I’m angry over the Boko Haram’s blatant disregard for human rights”

HIGH EXPECTATIONS

Despite her youth, Fatunde wowed the crowds with her articulate and passionate speech. Like many Nigerians, Fatunde is a high achiever. She will graduate near the top of her class and will attend the prestigious Mathematics Institute of Technology (M.I.T) in the fall.