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Chicagoans, leaders rally for kidnapped Nigerian girls

 
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Lande Sanusi addresses crowd Daley Plazwho want return kidnapped Nigerian girls Saturday afterno5-10-14. | KevTanaka/For Sun-Times Media

Lande Sanusi addresses the crowd at Daley Plaza who want the return of the kidnapped Nigerian girls Saturday afternoon 5-10-14. | Kevin Tanaka/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 12, 2014 7:02AM



Rahap.

Mary.

Fatima.

Grace.

Those are some of the names of more than 200 Nigerian girls who have been kidnapped by an Islamic extremist group in that West African country.

And at a rally in Chicago on Saturday, organizers wanted to make sure the name of each girl resonated and was heard, so as hundreds of people marched through the Loop, their names were called out.

The rally, which began at the Daley Center Plaza, brought together Nigerians living in Chicago; politicians, like U.S. Reps. Danny Davis and Bobby Rush; Chicagoans who are sick with worry about the girls and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who walked at the head of the march.

“Whatever threatens one of us directly, affects the rest of us indirectly,” Jackson said as the crowd repeated what he said.

“We will retrieve our girls. We will retrieve our girls. We will retrieve our girls,” he added.

Similar #BringBackOurGirls rallies were held in Boston, Dallas and Detroit this Mother’s Day weekend. The United States and Great Britain were sending military, intelligence and law-enforcement experts to Nigeria to aid in the search for the kidnapped girls.

The April 15 abduction was part of a reign of terror by Boko Haram, a group that the U.S. designated a terrorist organization last year. Amnesty International blames the group for 1,500 deaths this year in Africa’s most populous country.

The girls’ plight was a blip on international radar until social media drove it to the forefront. The hashtag, originating in Nigeria, has been tweeted one million times.

Online petitions demanding international intervention have garnered hundreds of thousands of signatures. Facebook and Google Plus pages have organized rallies in countries across the globe, with the movement often propelled by the famous, such as first lady Michelle Obama, who tweeted #BringBackOurGirls on Wednesday. France and China also pledged support.

“They’re still out there somewhere,” Lande Sanusi, an organizer, told the crowd. “We don’t know where they are ... The only thing that we know is their families miss them, we miss them and we want them to come back home.”

As the group marched on Michigan Avenue — with visitors gawking at the parade of people wearing red and chanting names — Kemi Olumuyiwa said she participated to stand up for the rights of the people of her native Nigeria.

“We want to make our voices heard,” the 41-year-old said.

For many, the rally went beyond the search for the missing girls.

“We Nigerians in diaspora, we have to liberate our people back home,” said Adeyinka Dada, 47.

In Nigeria, he said, people “live under fear” but there “is power in numbers” since now millions all over the world know about his peoples’ plight.

And the rights of women were also an issue at the forefront.

“Together we say we will not give up on the girls,” Chicago blogger Wendy Widom, who started the Facebook event page #BringBackOurGirls Chicago, said. “...Today marks the moment when Chicago together declares that girls everywhere must be safe. Today is the day we stand together and say ‘We can and we will make a difference.’”

Contributing: Maudlyne Ihejirika

Email: bschlikerman@suntimes.com

Twitter: @schlikerman



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