MIAMI GARDENS — In about three months, Ayomide Fatunde will enter Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study chemical engineering.
Had she not come to the United States when she was 8 years old, the petite teenager, who was also accepted at Harvard, Princeton and Columbia universities, could’ve suffered the same plight as the girls who were abducted April 15, she said.
Fatunde was one of several speakers, including Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., who addressed a crowd of about 100 at a rally Saturday at the Rolling Oaks Park in Miami Gardens, organized by the Coalition of Concerned Nigerians in South Florida to bring local attention to the situation in Nigeria.
Many of the participants carried placards calling for freedom for the kidnapped girls. Some of them displayed the social media hashtag sign
#BringOurGirlsBack that has become the rallying cry in support of the students.
“I am full of anger for the blatant disregard Boko Haram has displayed for basic human rights. I am full of fear for the future of the daughters of my country and I am full of disappointment because the Nigerian government has done next to nothing to bring about justice,” Fatunde shouted from the stage. “We want our girls back. We want them back alive. We want them to have rights.”
During her address, Wilson read a bipartisan resolution which she introduced last week in the House condemning the abduction. It passed Tuesday night.
“Bipartisan support of my resolution on behalf of the young women in Nigeria condemning the latest act of terror by Boko Haram sends a clear message to Nigeria and the international community: Women around the world have the right to be free and live without fear. Women should not be forced to risk their lives to get the education they want and deserve,” said Wilson.
Yinka Tella, a member of the Coalition of Concerned Nigerians in South Florida, organizer of the rally, said he doesn’t know any of the Nigerian families whose daughters were kidnapped but is very familiar with the area and its dire poverty.
“I used to be a journalist in Nigeria and I went to all of those areas,” Tella said. “I know the terrain. It’s a very rough terrain and it’s in one of Nigeria’s poorest regions, so these kids are really striving to do something for themselves.”
Tella said that urgent action should be taken to rescue them. “We don’t know if they are being raped; we don’t know if [Boko Haram] have killed some of them; we don’t know anything,” he said.
The Miami-Dade branch of the NAACP was represented at the rally by Brad Brown, its vice president. The branch has initiated contact with the national NAACP to express support for the United States providing technical assistance to Nigeria in the effort to locate and rescue the girls.
Fatunde said that while she’s deeply saddened by the kidnappings, she is pleased with the international response, in general, and the United States’ in particular.
“As of right now, they’re on the right track. I don’t support aggression but I do support them taking action,” said Fatunde, who is also a member of the human rights group Amnesty International. “Those girls are going to come back. I have faith in that.”