Friday, November 7, 2008

Absentee albino Ogoni man misses reunion

There is a major Ogoni reunion in St. Louis this weekend and I am missing it.

The Ogoni are a minority tribe from the Niger Delta in Rivers State, Nigeria. About a dozen Ogoni originally came to St. Louis as political refugees in 1996 after the execution of their leadership by the Nigerian military government on Nov. 10, 1995.

Nigeria targeted them - according to the Ogoni, with the direct collaboration of Shell Oil - after the Ogoni organized themselves to protest the pollution of their environment through the exploitation of oil reserves. Their leader was a tiny, courageous author named Ken Saro-Wiwa.

Mira Tanna, then of the American Friends Service Committee, was the leader of a large coalition of local activists who galvanized around the Ogoni who ended up here.

Now Mira reminds me that the Ogoni in the U.S. are holding their commemoration of the 13th anniversary of the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other Ogoni activists this weekend, November 8 - 9 in St. Louis. Members of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People will be coming from around the country.

There will be a picket at the Shell station on Grand and Forest Park Parkway (near Saint Louis University) from 10 - 11 a.m. on Saturday, November 8. This is the event MOSOP would love to have a large presence of supporters attend.

There will be panel discussions from 1 - 3 p.m. in the afternoon on Saturday at Messiah Lutheran Church, 2846 South Grand, followed by food. This is painfully delicious food.

On Sunday morning from 9 a.m. - noon, there will be a memorial service integrated into the regular Sunday service at Messiah Lutheran.

I joined in the struggle with Mira and the local Ogoni, back in the day. We led monthly protests at local Shell stations, we lobbied the Congressional Black Caucus and the State Department in Washington, D.C., we received visitors from Shell USA, Shell Nigeria, and Royal Dutch Shell who tried to convince us we had our facts all wrong, we recorded rebel radio that was broadcast to Ogoni villages from London.

We quieted down after Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha died, allegedly in the act of coitus. His death list, presumably, died with him. Many of us were on it. Many of the Ogoni in the U.S. are now comfortably assimilated, though surely this reunion will reignite some of the old passion.

I am sorry to miss it - I am celebrating my wife's birthday with a small road trip; the art of staying nondivorced, as I explained to the Ogoni leaders who called me with the initial invite - but I heartily encourage anyone in St. Louis who cares about social justice and African politics to attend these events and meet these amazing people.


The image is from a protest on the 2nd anniversary of Ken's death in Bombay.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We missed you, Chris, but felt your spirit. Our fingers got cold gripping those old "Boycott Shell" signs but our hearts were warm and it was wonderful to reconnect with a lot of folks. Happy birthday to Karley!