New York City Remembers The Missing Nigerian School Girls

With purple and red lights and a prayer vigil, the one-year anniversary of the kidnapping was marked. 

Empire State Building was lit in red and purple for the global outcry of the missing school girls. ( Ony Nwaohuocha/ NYCityLens)

Empire State Building was lit in red and purple for the global outcry of the missing school girls. (c) 2015 Ony Nwaohuocha.

Tuesday, April 14, 2014, marked the one year anniversary of the abduction of 219 Nigerian school girls. One year later, the girls are still missing and over two hundred New Yorkers gathered at the United Nations Church Centre on Tuesday night to attend an interfaith prayer vigil on their behalf.

Over 5,000 miles away, demonstrators stood peacefully in solidarity with the Chibok girls and their families. The group celebrated the courage and lives of the girls that were kidnapped from their secondary school in Northern Nigeria. People of different walks of life attended the vigil with posters, t-shirts and banners in red and white signifying the colors of the movement that read #BringBackOurGirls.

The hashtag, which went viral after initial reports of the kidnapping, has been used as a demand of the Nigerian government to locate and safely return the girls who are believed to have been kidnapped by the terrorist group known as Boko Haram. Attendees wore badges with a single number representing each of the missing school girls to amplify the magnitude and seriousness of the lives still unaccounted for.

“I think it’s really important to commemorate this one year anniversary,” said Marcia Fingal, former Harlem resident, journalist and documentary filmmaker. “It’s unconscionable that one year has passed and we are still trying to figure where these girls are and there are too many opportunities to find them.”

Dana Vann and Marcia Fingal wear badge numbers representing the missing Nigerian school girls.  (Ony Nwaohuocha/ NYCityLens)

Marcia Fingal and Dana Vann  wear badge numbers representing the missing Nigerian school girls. (c) 2015 Ony Nwaohuocha.

The attendees later walked to the Empire State Building to commemorate the kidnapping. To emphasize the anniversary, the Empire State Building was lit in red and purple: red representing the blood of the missing school girls and purple to represent the universal color for violence against women.

The Empire State Building’s lighting took place with the assistance of New York’s 12th congressional district’s Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who also held a rally in Washington D.C. to remind Congress and the Nigerian government about the missing girls.

The historical building was lit only for the evening to pay tribute to the one year anniversary.

Attendees were disappointed by the amount of time that has passed since the girls’ abduction, yet they remained hopeful that each girl will return home safely.  Here is what some New Yorkers had to say:

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Minna Elias, Chief of Staff for Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, stands with her 11 year old daughter. (c) 2015 Ony Nwaohuocha.

 “ Truly after one year, it’s time for the girls to come home. “ says Elias. “It’s important to know that it’s not just people here in New York City, but it’s people everywhere who are calling on the government of Nigeria to do more to bring back the girls.”

Jae Mobley, 29, of Queens N.Y., is hopeful the girls will be returned home.  (Ony Nwaohuocha/ NYCityLens)

Jae Mobley, 29, of Queens N.Y., is hopeful the girls will be returned home. (c) 2015 Ony Nwaohuocha.

“I heard about the missing girls a year ago, I honestly didn’t know it’s been a year. It saddens me,” says Mobley.  “Not having the safety of your family around you as a little girl is infallible to me.”   

Nicole Peterson, a mental health therapist, participated in Tuesday’s vigil. ( Ony Nwaohuocha/ NYCityLens)

Nicole Peterson, a mental health therapist, participated in Tuesday’s vigil. (c) 2015 Ony Nwaohuocha.

“ I think it’s ridiculous that no one knows where the girls are and it’s been one year. We want to know where are our girls,” says Peterson. “Bring them back!”

Lisa Winkley, a public affairs professional ,from  Brooklyn, N.Y., holds a single number to represent one of the missing Nigerian schoolgirls ( Ony Nwaohuocha/ NYCityLens).

Lisa Winkley, a public affairs professional ,from Brooklyn, N.Y., holds a single number to represent one of the missing Nigerian schoolgirls. (c) 2015 Ony Nwaohuocha.

“ I am deeply saddened that we are still having to bring awareness about our girls,” says Winkley. “I hope that those who have done the evil work can be punished.”

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