This post was written by Hatchet reporter Melissa Schapiro.
Nigerian activist Bisi Alimi spoke to a crowd of GW students Monday, telling them to use the their freedom to change the lives of those being persecuted around the world.
Alimi made headlines in 2004 for being the first openly-gay Nigerian to appear on television. After coming out, he continued his work with the LGBT community as well as those affected by AIDS until repeated death threats caused him to flee in 2007. Allied in Pride and the College Democrats co-sponsored the Marvin Center event, which saw about 50 people in attendance.
American politicians are hesitant to deplore human rights conditions in Nigeria because the country provides the U.S. with an abundance of cheap oil, he said. That’s an example of an area where young Americans have the ability to affect change and should take a stand, he added.
Alimi urged students to have conversations with the politicians whom they can access and to ask the tough questions. He insisted that young people need to challenge their leaders and hold them accountable for placing business interests ahead of basic human decency.
“Humane foreign policy should transcend trade, it should transcend arms deals [and] transcend war,” he said.
Alimi added that there is still much to be done for human rights worldwide because of all the politicians who are content to look the other way. He applauded leaders like Hillary Clinton, who are publicly proclaiming their dedication to fight for the rights of everyone, regardless of nationality.
He pointed to Clinton’s speech at the U.N. as a turning point in the discourse about marginalization in Africa, saying it helped the world see that it’s a global issue and not just something to be handled within African nations.
Alimi currently works in London and teaches political science. He remains incredibly passionate about humanitarian efforts in Nigeria, working with organizations such as Naz Project London to raise awareness of the atrocities that are being committed and to help gay Africans who immigrate to England.
He just Monday became an official British citizen, jokingly telling the audience that he received an email stating that he is now “a subject of the queen.”
Kate Bell, community service director of GW’s College Democrats chapter, was instrumental in bringing Alimi to campus. Bell said the College Democrats were “overwhelmingly excited” to welcome Alimi, and were inspired by his speech to bring more human rights speakers to campus.
“We need to recruit more speakers to come and talk to us and keep that conversation going,” she said.
But she said the College Democrats want to do more than just talk. Aside from increasing the amount of speakers focusing on human rights concerns, she hopes to organize phone banks for students to call their representatives and talk about humanitarian issues.
“We definitely want to continue this momentum. Bisi has given us so much advice and motivation to go out and make tangible change,” Bell said.