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daily kos

FRI OCT 17, 2014





5 More Women Accuse

Marissa Alexander’s Husband

Of Brutal Abusive 


by Leslie Salzillo

According to First Coast News, last week, in Jacksonville, Florida, five new witness may turn out to be the best news for Marissa Alexander, and the worst news for her abusive husband, Rico Gray.In 2010, Marissa Alexander fired a shot into the air, to keep her husband from attacking her. Alexander had just given birth only ten days prior, and testified that Gray was in a jealous fury and threatened her life. In 2012, Marissa Alexander was sentenced to 20 years in prison, for firing that warning shot and harming no one.

In a sworn deposition, the husband, Rico Gray, said:

I was in a rage. “I called her a whore and bitch and . . . I told her, you know, I used to always tell her that, if I can’t have you, nobody going to have you. It was not the first time of ever saying it to her.”

Ironically, according to Florida’s ‘Stand You Ground,’ Law if Alexander had killed Gray, she would have most likely gone free. (In states like South Carolina, Think Progress reports, Stand Your Ground doesn’t apply to victims of domestic violence.)

First Coast News has extensively covered the Marissa Alexander case, and on October 10th they reported that five new witnesses came forth in a pretrial hearing, and testified against Rico Gray and his violent past:

Witnesses Thursday included three women with whom Gray has had children, as well as two sisters-in-law. All accused Gray of physically intimidating or brutalizing them.One girlfriend, Shartrecia Anderson, testified that Gray was prone to violence. “I know what he’s capable of. He will attack if he’s brought to that point,” she told the court.

She also asserted that on at least one occasion, Gray stabbed himself with a fork in order to feign injury to police, and instructed his son to lie to officers in order to back up his version of events.

The prosecution is calling Shartrecia Anderson a liar. Anderson denied Gray abused her in a previous testimony. *Keep in mind, many women are afraid of legally accusing their abusers; fearing their abusers will kill them. And that is often the case. According to Gloria Steinem, and verified by PolitiFact:

*More women were killed by their husbands or boyfriends since Sept. 11 than “all the Americans who were killed by 9/11 or in Afghanistan and Iraq.” (Approximately 10,000)

Rico Gray did not take the stand on Thursday, and is due to give his side of the story(s) soon. It’s uncertain whether Judge James Daniels will take the testimonies of these new witness into consideration when ruling on Marissa Alexander’s new trial in December.
Florida DA Angela Corey, the prosecuting attorney (and failed attorney in the Zimmerman/Martin trial) offered Alexander a 3-years guilty plea. Alexander felt she was innocent, and after having only three hours to decide, turned down the plea. Angela Cory then slapped Alexander with a 20-year sentence. Twenty years, for hurting no one,  yet George Zimmerman walks free after what many call the ‘murder’ of Trayvon Martin.After Alexander spent many months in jail, including time away from her newborn infant, her trial was overturned in September of 2013, reportedly due to jury misinformation. It should be mentioned, the overturn occurred after a very big national protest. Once the original trial was overturned, rather than Angela Corey dropping the case, the District Attorney stated she will seek a 60-year sentence in the new trial. Hard to even type that. It’s disgusting, merciless, unjust, and utterly ridiculous.

Another witness, former Gray wife Dashanna McGriff, alleged a raft of abuses, including being hit with a gun, having her nose broken, and being locked in a closet for hours.

After first seeing a Marissa Alexander headline via Katie Halper/Alternet, I have sworn to continue covering this case until Marissa Alexander is free. I also hope to see a renewed national discourse, not only about victims of domestic violence, but also about those who survive the abuse defending themselves, and are then prosecuted. Many victims of domestic abuse are taken from their children, incarcerated, and left to rot in prison. It’s no wonder so many victims do not report domestic violence. Instead, they often stay in fear, and die horrific deaths.Here are the previous Marissa Alexander Daily Kos diaries I’ve written over the last 16 months. There are many more by other diarists, and you can search those diaries by typing in the name, ‘Marissa Alexander,’ in the upper right search box. The diaries below are listed from first, to the most recent.

Stand Your Ground? Black Woman Fires Shot Gets 20 Years – White Man Kills And Goes Free – WTF

A Letter From Marissa Alexander – The Battered Woman Serving 20 Years For Firing A Warning Shot

Excerpts From Alexander’s Abusive Husband’s Deposition… And She’s The One That Goes To Prison

Anderson Cooper & Chris Hayes Cover Marissa Alexander. First Release Her – Then Argue

Prosecuting Attorney Angela Corey Refuses To Drop Marissa Alexander’s Case – New Trial Scheduled

MSNBC Host Melissa Harris-Perry Schools State Attorney Angela Corey On Domestic Violence

DA Angela Corey Now Seeks 60 Years Against Marissa Alexander In 2nd Trial

Special thanks to Karen Teegarden, the founder and president of - an organization that has continuously published news about this case, and supported Alexander, as well as many victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Many of the above diaries were also cross-posted in Liberals Unite.

If you are being abused, or know someone who is, there is help. Please contact:National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1.800.799.SAFE

For more information on the organizations fighting for Marissa Alexander’s release, visit: Free Marisssa Now, and Free Marissa Now on Tumblr. (Note: There have been a few stories circulating over the past few days saying Alexander’s case was overturned. That story is from last September (2013) and has caused confusion among Alexander supporters.)










Everyone’s stories and ideas

Oct 14, 2014






Chibok school uniforms.

Chibok school uniforms.

Six months ago, 276 Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram. The handful who escaped that night have never told the full story of their ordeal — until now.


By Sarah A. Topol
Photographs by Glenna Gordon


Near the classrooms in the dusty schoolyard of the Chibok Government Secondary School, the Whuntaku girls hold court beneath the green lele mazza tree. There is no sign on the tree, no discernible markings; everyone just knows it’s their spot — where they gathered in the mornings, between classes, and after school to hang out, talk about boys, whatever.

A girl can’t just join the Whuntaku clique; she has to be from Whuntaku, a neighborhood in Chibok, a town in northeastern Nigeria that most people had never heard of before the “incident.” There’s an unspoken code among them: You could be friends with other girls, but you always watch out for your own. Earlier in the year, for example, a senior decided to haze a Whuntaku junior. She had told the junior to fetch her a bucket of water from the pumps outside, where the boarding school students collect water once a day for bathing. But when the Whuntaku girl said she was already on an errand for another senior and would have do it later, the senior yelled at the junior, said she was being “disrespectful.” She made her kneel on the floor of the bathroom for five minutes. The toilet that day was filthy; it’s where roughly one thousand girls in the school bathe, and no one had cleaned it. As the junior balanced her weight on her knees, she started to cry.

When the junior returned to the room the Whuntaku girls shared, the others told her to forget it. “Forgive,” they said. But the senior kept at it, always catching the junior on errands for other Whuntaku girls. She would make her kneel. The third time, the junior had just had an operation on her ribs. This is nonsense, the Whuntaku girls agreedThey stormed out of the dorm, found the senior, and, without discussion, started to beat her. They struck her with their hands, their legs. They chased her around the dorm: “We will kill you!” they said. They had no idea the senior had epilepsy, “second death” in the local tribal language. “She did like she died,” the girls later recalled. But when the shaking passed, they started again.

Chibok has a strict no-violence policy, and everyone knew suspensions were coming. That night, the Whuntaku girls ripped out a piece of notebook paper and passed it around, each one writing her name on a line. At the school assembly the next day, they simply handed the principal the paper, lined up in the order of their names, and then turned and walked out as they were called, heads held high:




Everyone at Chibok Secondary School got the message: When you touch the Whuntaku girls, you play with fire.


Hauwa draws pictures of the solar system, writes the dates of the solstice and equinox, and copies the word “eclipse” again and again.



That mid-April Monday at the Chibok school was hot and languid, and by the afternoon the temperature crept up to 105 degrees — it was the hottest time of year, when the Saharan harmattan winds that crash through the arid countryside settle, but before the rainy season ruptures the heat.

The school, a few miles from Chibok proper, is a vast compound of freestanding buildings, classrooms, teachers’ quarters, and a dormitory, ringed by a low wall with a single gate. On one side, flat brushland stretches to the horizon; on the other, craggy mountains extend skyward. A few years ago, the all-girl school was integrated, and now a few hundred boys from town attended classes during the day, while girls from dozens of nearby villages boarded on the grounds. School had been cancelled for a month due to security threats from an extremist Islamic group called Boko Haram, whose nickname translates as “Western education is sinful.” That night, some 300 girls were on campus.

There wasn’t a girl at Chibok who hadn’t heard of Boko Haram, and none who didn’t fear them. The stories of what the group did circulated widely. They would kidnap girls and force them to marry, to cook and maintain their bases and safe houses. They would order them to kill prisoners they’d captured and brought back to camp and, if a girl refused, Boko Haram’s “real wives” would volunteer to slit the prisoner’s throat out of loyalty. If a captured girl had a child with Boko Haram — as all too often happened — they would force her to cook her own baby and then watch as the fighters devoured it.

The students of Chibok were terrified. False alarms were common. One night, a girl thought she spotted someone outside and led a screaming stampede toward the front gate — a pileup of sprained ankles and scrapes and bruises all because a girl had snuck out of the dorm to talk on her cell phone. After that, the principal told the students never, ever to run. The administration even called the town’s contingent of soldiers, who came to school and told the girls the same thing: If there was an attack — they should stay put. The army would protect them.

The summer before school started, Boko Haram had been pushed out of their stronghold in Maiduguri, Borno State’s capital, by a joint military and civilian operation. The group, which was started by students in the late 1990s arguing that only an Islamic state could fix Nigeria’s rampant corruption, initially got a foothold in the impoverished, Muslim north. But after a military crackdown they’d become radicalized and now they targeted politicians, traditional community leaders, and — increasingly — schools. At least fifty schools were burned over the past two years, and another 60 had been forced to close. In February, the group attacked a boy’s dormitory in neighboring Yobe state, locking the doors and setting the building on fire, burning 59 students alive. It got bad enough that in March the government closed all public secondary schools in Borno State—they admitted it couldn’t keep students safe. Chibok had only re-opened for seniors to complete their college-entrance exams. Everyone else stayed home.

When a student saw the vice principal pick up a piece of paper on the floor warning that Boko Haram was coming, the girls started gossiping. Would the principal cancel school? Postpone exams? The administration called the students together. It was a prank, they said — and it wasn’t funny. Boko Haram wasn’t coming, exams were. Everyone calm down and keep studying.


Kidnapped Chibok girls. Photos courtesy of their families.

2 p.m.


Endurance lay studying in her bunk in Moda House. She was a transfer student that year and had met Boko Haram before. The men had stormed her old school last year in the night, rounding up the female students. “What is the point of education?” they shouted. The girls were silent.

“Why are you being quiet? Don’t you know what to say?” the men demanded. “What’s the point of being here then?”

The fighters made the girls lie flat and press their faces down into the ground. Endurance didn’t notice how long she kept her eyes closed; she heard only their parting words: “We are going to leave you today, but if we come back and see another girl here, we’re going to kill her.”

After that, her parents enrolled her in Chibok — they thought it would be safer.

Endurance’s family lived in Askira-Ube, a town 15 miles from Chibok, where her father farms. Their house didn’t have electricity or a television — which made it hard for Endurance to study or learn English, the language of the college-entrance exams. Still, her parents had high aspirations for their daughter, the youngest of seven siblings and the first girl, they hoped, to finish school and go to college.

Endurance had come to Chibok early enough to claim the best bed in the dorm room—the one in the corner, with the biggest personal nook, where she arranged and rearranged her prized possession: biology books. Endurance hoped to become a microbiologist — a rare goal in Borno State, where most girls dream of family and only 28 percent of children are enrolled in school. Practicing BiologyKey Points in BiologyModern BiologyComprehensive Biology, and Intensive Biology. She kept them in her bed with her. At night, she liked to stack them under her head like a pillow.

The bed next to her belonged to her best friend, Mary. Endurance saw her on the first day, reading a book while everyone else was playing, foolishly. It turned out, Mary was third in the class. Her father was a pastor. Endurance was prim and wiry, with close-cropped hair — people joked that she dressed like a “preacher’s daughter.”

Together, they decided that this year was the most important of their lives. They weren’t like the popular girls at school, including the Whuntaku clan, who always seemed to be everywhere, walking around, heads high, talking to boys, laughing at inside jokes. They spent hours reading and talking about the Bible and how to live their lives in a good way. Endurance wasn’t sure how Mary knew all the good advice she gave — it was a gift God gave her.

“We should be careful with the life we live on earth. We should be careful because some people are going to come and say, ‘We are God.’ We have to love one another, because everyone is going to start hating and killing each other,” Mary told Endurance, and Endurance knew it was true.


Margaret “Maggie” Pogu, 16, loves playing with her friends. Her father is a teacher in Chibok.

5 p.m.


The Whuntaku girls filed out of the Ghana room which they had christened “The Golden Room,” with a sign above the door. Evening prayer was the only time of day when Blessed and Hadiza were apart. As a Christian, Blessed stayed in the prayer area at the center of the hostel, while Hadiza, a petite girl with full lips and an intense stare, went to an empty classroom with the other Muslim girls. At the beginning of last year, when Hadiza had arrived at Chibok, there had been no beds in dorm room, so Blessed offered hers. From that moment on they shared everything—including a mattress.

Blessed was the kind of girl other girls followed without really knowing why. Tall and confident with almond-shaped eyes, maybe her only social downfall was her choice in boys — specifically one called Cool Boy. It started when he passed her a note, saying he wanted to be her friend. Cool Boy was one of the most popular guys at school; she couldn’t help writing back “OK.” It took her longer for her to let him be her boyfriend. He gave her his phone number on a piece of paper, but she threw it away. Then one day she came to class and saw he had carved his phone number into her desk. “Now you can’t throw it away,” he proclaimed with a loafing grin. Blessed couldn’t help it: That was cool.

The problem was that Cool Boy was Muslim. “You’re just not supposed to be together,” said Salama, a Whuntaku girl and one of Blessed’s closest friends. Blessed knew Salama was probably right. Her parents, even if they agreed to the match, would never truly approve; Blessed would have to convert to Islam if they were to marry. She was the only girl in the family, and church is important in Chibok — a Christian outpost from the area’s missionary past. She thought her father, a police officer, would be crushed.

All of her friends, except Hadiza, were against it. Sometimes Blessed wondered if maybe Cool Boy hadn’t cast some kind of juju on her to make her forsake most of her friends in favor of him. If he had, it had definitely worked on her friendship with Salama, one of the most proper girls in the Whantaku circle, and that sucked.

Salama settled herself on the floor alongside Blessed in the front of the room and tried to concentrate on the prayer. It was quiet as the girls took turns. “May God keep Nigeria safe,” one girl began. “May the testing commission be kind to us and show us answers in advance,” another prayed. The girls were solemn. “As we sit and chill in the hostel and jest with our friends, and we say things about other people, may God forgive us,” someone else intoned. “May God keep us safe tonight,” another said.


Rhoda writes a note to her in-laws, thanking them for a composition book. The top right says, “no need of address.”

7:30 p.m.


The Golden Room was lit by torchlight. There was no electricity at Chibok, and after the sun set over the beige bush land the rooms grew dark and streaked with flashlight beams. Girls were draped across their beds, enjoying the slight drop in temperature, scattering their textbooks and notes.

Exam stress was like a blanket. Every sound was muffled. The room’s prefect, a Whuntaku girl, picked up a bucket. She started to drum. Salama, shy and pretty, always dressed immaculately, was sitting on her bed; she watched as Hadiza and another girl started dancing in the middle of the room. Blessed got up next to join them. Others rose, and suddenly the entire Golden Room was dancing — the girls twirling, slapping the balls of their feet, clapping, kicking their legs.

As the beat got faster, the girls moved faster. Salama could feel herself melting into the rhythm — all the stress of the exams, of school, of the future shed with each stomp. Blessed danced alongside her. Blessed was always so confident, so at ease in her own skin. Salama noticed that she was matching Blessed step for step. That made her proud.

The girls danced for hours — they didn’t remember ever having danced like this before. Exhausted and sweaty, Blessed and Hadiza pulled their mattress outside and fell asleep under the stars.


Hauwa Mutah wants to be a biochemist. She is the sixth born of nine children, and her favorite subjects are geography and English.

11:45 p.m.


It started with a few pops in the distance that became a torrent. Endurance heard the noise from her bed and jerked up.

At Chibok there was one guard for the gate and one for the whole dorm. The dorm guard slept across from Endurance and Mary; they called him Kaka, the respectful way to address an elder male in Nigeria. Kaka was ancient — wrinkled and walked with a limp. It was impossible to know just how old he was. He rustled in bed. “I’m going out to look,” he told them, then shuffled away.

Outside, Hadiza was shaking Blessed awake and the two girls ran back into the Golden Room. Inside, there was only commotion and confusion.

Salama’s friend was shouting at her: “You idiot! Wake up! Can’t you hear what’s happening?”

Salama, still half-asleep, pulled on her blue-checkered uniform and ran to the Golden Room’s doorway. The sharp sounds of assault, like a thundering roar, were everywhere at once — she felt the earth shaking. Shadows of girls scrambled past and gathered in the darkness of the prayer area.

Endurance couldn’t wait for Kaka. Dressed in a T-shirt and wrapper skirt, she ran into the prayer room with Mary. They stood against the wall; Endurance took Mary’s hand and listened to the whispers. Mary’s breathing was heavy.

“Should we run?” the girls asked one another.

“We should not run. We should keep quiet. The principal said we should not go anywhere.”

“What is happening?” someone shouted.

Girls were crying.

“Is it them?” another asked. “Is it them?”

“Are they here?”

“What about our parents?”

“Okay, everyone just sit down,” someone said. “Everybody just be quiet, maybe they will think there is no one in school!”

Kaka came back and found Endurance and Mary. “What are we going to do?” he asked. The girls looked up at him; there was little to be done. “We’ll just leave the rest for God,” Endurance said.

Kaka knew what Boko Haram did to men in situations like this — girls they might leave; men they kidnapped or killed. “They may have more mercy on you. They won’t have mercy on me. Let me go and hide,” he said and vanished into the shadows.

Endurance heard the sound of motorbikes. Two men in military uniforms walked into the dorm. “Don’t worry. Don’t run. We are with you,” one of them shouted. “Gather together! Gather in one place!”

In the prayer area, Blessed’s heart steadied. They were here to protect the school, just like the principal had promised.

The girls muffled their sobs and sat down.

In an instant, everything changed. More men charged into the hostel. “Allah Akbar!” the men shouted. “Allah Akbar!” The soldiers poured in, more and more of them, holding huge guns. It was dark and the girls couldn’t see them clearly, but the smell of sweat and adrenaline filled the hall. “Allah Akbar! Allah Akbar! Allah Akbar!”

These men are not soldiers, Blessed thought.


Dourcas Yakubu is 16 years old. Her parents describe her as shy girl who loved eating tuwo (a local dish).


After the last time, they had haunted Endurance. The dreams always started the same: white-clad angels singing beautifully, then her view shifted. Suddenly, there were dark shapes, people, monsters; she couldn’t make them out. They were screaming and shouting, and coming fast. She used to wake up before the monsters got too close. But now they were here.

“Everyone quiet!” one man yelled above the chaos, his face hidden by shadows. He must be the leader, Endurance thought. “Where are the boys and the men of the school?”

“They do day school,” someone answered.

The men weren’t there to intimidate. They wanted supplies. They wanted machinery — things that were impossible to get in the bush, where they made their home.

“Where is the machine for making bricks?”

“There’s no engine,” the girls whispered. “There’s no machine for making blocks.”

“You are lying! If you don’t tell us where it is — you know what we did to other towns, what you heard happened there will happen here.”

A group of men took two of the girls to lead them to the food stores. The other girls were commanded outside, past the lele mazza tree, and over to the gated entrance.


Hauwa Mutah slept on the bottom bunk in her dorm.

Endurance watched as the men divided themselves into three groups. One group guarded the girls; another loaded cars with sacks of rice, beans, pasta, and maize. The third started torching the buildings. It was all so practiced and efficient. Within minutes, the classrooms, the teachers’ quarters, and the storeroom were all bathed in orange flames.

Again the leader spoke up. “Go get your hijabs!” he shouted. A few of the girls riffled through book-bags for head scarves; others stood up, moving toward the hostel, which was so far untouched. Most of the girls remained seated.

“What about you Christians, don’t you have scarves?” the leader asked. “Are you all Christians?” The girls nodded.

“So does that mean we should just kill these — take them and burn them, too?” Endurance heard a man ask.

“No. Just mix them together,” the leader said. “Let’s go!”

Finally, the men set fire to the hostel: Everything the girls had known was now gone.

The leader wasn’t satisfied. “Where is the brick-making machine?” he shouted again. “I’m going to shoot this gun. If I shoot it four times, you are all going to die!”

The man shot. Once, twice, a third time.

A girl stood up: “It’s on the road!” she said. They dispatched her to show them. Salama felt her legs shaking.

Endurance started to pray, her eyes open as she sat in the dusty courtyard. She could feel Mary trembling next to her. She could hear screams and gunshots from the town, then a big explosion in the distance. Maybe one of the petrol drums in the market, she thought. The girls next to her were sobbing: “I’m the only child of my mom and I’m never going to see her again!”

A lone voice asked: “If I die, what am I going to tell God?”

Endurance’s left hand gripped her friend Christina’s, one of her other close friends from Moda House; her right hand held Mary’s. Christina held onto someone else, Mary did the same, and those girls held onto other girls, who held others. Endurance could feel their hearts beating as one.

The Holy Spirit told Endurance to pray. “If I have longer days on Earth, the Lord lead me out of this. If this is my last day on earth, let me see God,” she mouthed silently.

Christina’s body was still, taut like a spring; Mary was shaking. Endurance was calm. It will be like last time. They are going to tell us to go home now, she thought. Endurance willed herself to project calm on Mary, on all of them. She saw more men coming to the gate. “Get up!” they shouted, “Get up and follow this road!”

They are not going to let us go. Endurance stood up and said a prayer: “God give me direction of how to get back home. I am not scared.”

As the girls walked out of the gate, they were still linked. Endurance put one foot in front of the other, her eyes open, her mind clear. She focused on walking, one foot, then the other. They were careful to stay together in their web of hands — girls linked to girls linked to girls linked to God.


Hauwa Ntaki wants to be a nurse or maybe an economist. She was third in her class. She loves volleyball. Her school notebook includes a letter to her brother and notes on the solar system.


The main dirt road was wide, but hundreds of girls were walking together, placing one foot in front of the other as they had been ordered to. Endurance could see girls spilling over onto the side and into the bush. Boko Haram gunmen had them corralled like a frightened, stumbling herd.

Maybe 15 minutes went by; almost every girl in Endurance’s group was holding someone’s hand. “Why are you walking like that?” one gunman shouted at Endurance. She jumped. Everyone dropped hands. Endurance fumbled in the darkness. She found one hand near to her; it was Christina’s. Mary had disappeared, gone in the sea of girls and murmurs.

Endurance started planning. She whispered to Christina: “If we go where they are taking us, do you think we will be able to escape?”

“What do you think we should do?” Christina asked in Kibaku, the local Chibok tribal language; counting on the fact that Boko Haram — a group dominated by Fulani and Kanuri men from the northern part of the state — would not understand them.

“Well, even if we try to escape, and we get killed, at least our parents will be able to see our bodies,” Endurance told her. “That’s better than to go there and then have our lives spoiled.”

“How will we know when to run?” Christina asked her.

“The Lord will tell us the right time.”


Rhoda Peters loves going to church and her favorite food is rice and beans. Her dad is a civil servant in Chibok, and she’s the kind of girl who writes thank you notes to her in-laws when they bought her a notebook.

By Endurance’s count, they had been walking about half an hour when Boko Haram shouted for them to sit down again. There was a big tree on the side of the road, and three trucks and a car parked beneath it. The fighters started re-packing food.

Blessed gripped Hadiza’s hand tightly. She watched as the men drove a lorry toward the group.

“Everyone who wants to live, get in the truck,” the leader shouted, “Everyone who wants to die, step over there!” He fired his gun in the air: pop, pop, pop.

Blessed pulled Hadiza’s hand, but Hadiza wouldn’t budge.

“Let’s go,” Blessed whispered.

“No,” Hadiza said.

“Do you want these people to kill you? Let’s enter!” She pulled her friend.

“I will not enter. Let them kill me here.”

There was a crush to move. Girls were pushing, jostling forward.

“Let’s enter!” Blessed pleaded. She could feel Hadiza’s resistance; her best friend’s hand was slipping away.

We are sleeping in one place, always. We are fetching water together; we are studying together; we are together, always. When we hear this thing, she’s the one who wake me up; she held my hand inside the hostel. Then, from the time that we came outside, we hold our hands together, and then we are moving. We are together, since the beginning our hands are together. Now, she left my hand.

Blessed was pushed to the front of the lorry. She sat down. The girls kept coming, crawling over each other to fit in the truck. A girl sat on Blessed’s leg, others gripped her shoulders. She was surrounded, suffocated by bodies.

The truck began to move. Inside the open-air container, it was quiet. The girls fell into each other, their bodies colliding and falling apart — their weight the only solid part of their existence. It was quiet, so quiet.

An hour passed — maybe more, maybe less — when Blessed heard Hadiza’s voice:

“Blessed! Come! Let’s jump down!”

“Hadiza, I am in the front! There are people on top of me! I don’t have a way to jump down.”

“Okay, Blessed. Please, if you have a place to stand up — stand up,” Blessed heard her best friend plead. “Please, let’s go!”

“Okay, Hadiza, I’m coming,” Blessed said. She tried to move, she pushed up, but she couldn’t. The girls had formed a cage of limbs.

“Hadiza! I can’t stand!” Blessed called. “Hadiza!”

“Okay, Blessed, until you return…”

After that, silence. When Blessed looked up, she saw only stars.


Hauwa lists the names of her friends who are “good” girls, “stupit” (i.e. stupid), and “on top table” — the very best.


There were girls who jumped and girls who fell. Some grabbed tree branches that whipped across the open truck and swung out into the darkness. They leapt as if they knew what was coming, like synchronized swimmers vaulting calmly into a practiced routine they’d done countless times before. Endurance counted them go: One. Two. Three…

Salama saw them, too. They didn’t say goodbye — they just fell away, melting into the darkness. Salama struggled to move. She wanted to get to the edge and vanish as well. As she tried to stand, a girl pulled on her arm. “If you jump, I’ll report you to them,” she said. Salama stayed still.

From her spot in the truck, Endurance could see the next vehicle behind them in the convoy. It was a motorcycle; Endurance saw its lone beam, bouncing in the darkness. She measured the space between.

Endurance had promised Christina that God would let them know when it was time. Where was God now? The motorcycle beam got fainter. Was the truck was speeding up? Suddenly, Endurance realized she wasn’t holding anyone’s hand. Christina was gone — she had jumped.

Was this God’s sign? Endurance wasn’t thinking; she hunched down and sprung into the abyss.


Monica Enoch’s skirt from her sports uniform, from Chibok Government School. Monica, 18, loves singing.


The sun crept over the horizon, slowly rendering the dark shifting limbs into whole bodies and recognizable faces. But light did little to lessen the dull fear that had settled over the group. There was no expectation of the unknown, just blankness.

Blessed had watched the truck pass three villages. She had lost track of time when there came a clunking shudder — the truck had broken down. They were on a dirt road, with unfamiliar bushland in all directions, just flat and yellow, with a smattering of deep green Dogonyaro, acacia, and baobab trees. “Get down!” the men shouted, and everyone scrambled out. “Sit there!” they commanded, pointing to the sandy ground under a large tree. Now the girls got their first real look at their kidnappers.

They were more than a dozen men, wearing mismatching uniforms — police unit pants, military camouflage shirts — some with turbans covering their faces, others with nothing more than ordinary clothes and a gun. A few of them took out machetes and started cutting bramble and putting the thorny branches in a circle around the seated girls. It seemed like they had done this before.

The girls knew now that they were in a race against time. The longer Boko Haram held them, the harder it would be to return to their old lives. If anyone found out what had happened to them, they would be considered spoiled. There were stories about girls who returned home. Their families would try to hide the truth from their neighbors, from outsiders — No, this didn’t happen to us, they would say, our girls have been here all along. If found out, their daughters would never be able to marry. Their lives would be ruined forever.

“I want five girls, now,” said a man in a uniform. “Five girls, for cooking!” he demanded. Blessed watched as five girls stood up. She fidgeted on the ground. I need to find a way to run.

The men finished building the bramble barrier and went to fix the truck. The few that remained were stationed around the perimeter. They had left a small opening in the makeshift fence, a small corridor, patrolled by one man with a gun.

Blessed looked around and saw a few other Whuntaku girls sitting on the ground. She made up her mind, stood up, and walked to the corridor.

“Please, I want to ease myself,” she told the man in Hausa, the dominant language of northern Nigeria.


“Welcome to Third Term / SS One May God Bless / Me and my other people / My Name is Hauwa Nkaki”

“Go back and sit down, you’re not going anywhere,” he said.

The man was young, tall, and fair-skinned; he had long hair.

“Please,” she said. “I need to ease myself.”

“Do it here,” he said coldly.

Blessed bent down and peed in the sand. She walked back and sat under the tree.

The men had gathered in a group by the truck. Blessed looked around; there were only a few men left watching the girls. She could hear faint crying.

“Give me your scarf?” she asked a girl sitting near her. It was a small, black-and-white checkered fabric, and she wrapped it around her tiny waist. Maybe they won’t recognize me, she thought. She stood up.

Her Whuntaku sister Salama was watching from the ground. What is Blessed doing? she thought. Salama was tired and hungry. She could hear nothing and everything. Then she heard only the voice of God: Stand up. Follow Blessed. Then, Satan: Sit down. Sit down. Wait.

The voices’ whirled around her head like a tornado: Follow Blessed; Sit down; Follow Blessed; Sit down. Salama wrenched herself up. She followed Blessed.

“Please, I need to ease myself,” Blessed asked the man again. Salama moved right behind her. Two more girls trailed after.

“Didn’t you just go?” he asked Blessed.

“No, that wasn’t me,” she replied. The girls stood silently by.

“Okay, come back immediately,” he said.

The girls didn’t speak. They walked out of the corridor and around the makeshift fence, past some bushes where they bent down.

“Okay, guys,” Blessed said, drawing them closer. “This is what’s going to happen now. We have to run. If we run and they kill us, so be it. But we have to run now.”

The girls nodded. Blessed peered out of the bush, the men had their backs to the girls; they seemed distracted by the food.

“Now,” Blessed hissed.

The girls ran.


Monica Enoch’s father is a pastor. Her friend Saratu escaped an attack from Gambaru, another village nearby, but lost her family and came to live with the Pastor Enoch and Monica. Both girls were among those kidnapped.


The girls ran without thinking. They ran without speaking. When they got tired, they rested briefly under the sparse trees, flattening themselves to the parched earth and making themselves very small. Then they ran some more. They thought they were deep in Boko Haram territory; militants could have been anywhere.

By the evening, Blessed and Salama and another girl (the fourth had run in a different direction from the broken down truck) took a break under a tree. They heard a cow mooing in the distance and saw a Fulani herdsman’s hut. The girls gathered. “These people are in the Boko Haram area. What if we go and they return us?” Salama asked. But Blessed was firm: They needed food.

When they entered the one-room straw hut, they found a couple there in the evening light. “Are you the girls Boko Haram kidnapped?” the Fulani man asked immediately.

The girls nodded.

“We heard you passing in the night. You’re safe here,” he told them. The girls weren’t sure they believed him, but they had no choice. The herdsman’s wife gave them new clothes, to disguise them, and plastic bags for their uniforms. They brought them water to bathe and fed them maize for dinner. That night, the girls cried and prayed and slept on the floor together.

The next day, the herdsman told them to follow the road and to ask people for directions home. In the afternoon, after walking all day, they rested beneath a tree. A man walked by. “You look really tired,” he said. “What’s wrong?”


Hajara Isa is among the girls who were kidnapped

“We are the girls who were kidnapped from Chibok,” they told him.

“Don’t say that!” he snapped, “Boko Haram comes to this village a lot.” He showed them the path they should take.

Later, a man on a motorcycle drove by and stopped. “What are you doing walking on the streets like this?” he asked.

“We want to go to Chibok,” they told him.

The man looked at their plastic bags. “What’s in there?” he asked.


“Are you the girls who were kidnapped from the Chibok School?”


“Okay, get on.” Less than an hour later, they were home.



Endurance couldn’t run. She had hurt her leg jumping off the truck, so she crawled. She saw the lone beam of the motorcycle headlight, but the machine didn’t see her. Christina found her in the darkness, but couldn’t lift her up. So Endurance pulled herself, with her arms, on her stomach, on her back, dragging herself through the brush. The ground was jagged and hard like stone, she could feel the rocks tearing at her clothes, at her skin. She thought she heard gunshots. Her elbow was bleeding.

A man with a bicycle, then a man on a motorbike, and finally a man with a car carried Endurance and Christina home. When Endurance got to the front door of her family’s small mud-brick house, near her father’s farmland, she saw her neighbors and her family gathered in the living room. Everyone was in tears, as if someone had died. When she saw her parents, she started crying, too. Her family told her how blessed she had been. “You should be serious, hold God closer to you, take care of yourself and live a good life,” one of her brothers said.

The next day, her brother Emmanuel took her to the market to buy new clothes and shoes — black, brown, and red . Everything she owned had been burned in the hostel, including her books. The family took her to the doctor to treat her legs. Endurance had never been to a doctor before. They had to make sure Boko Haram hadn’t done anything else to her. Afterward, she cut off all her hair. Just like that.

The dreams returned. But these dreams were different. There were no angels singing. She dreamed only of the girls. She dreamed about Boko Haram coming back and locking her into a room. Every blessed day, if she managed to sleep, she dreamed. Where is Mary now? Was it right to jump and leave her behind?

When Blessed arrived home, Hadiza came to her house right away. It was as if nothing had changed, they clung to each other and promised to do everything the way they always had. They would not go to the village market or get water without the other.

Blessed worried what Cool Boy would think. Was she ruined now? Would he still want her? Soon, he came, too. He greeted Blessed’s mother — she still didn’t know he was Muslim — and then found her. “I’m sorry this happened to you,” he told her. “I’m glad you are okay.” He told he loved her and promised to follow her anywhere.


Dorcas Yakubu is 16 years old. Her parents describe her as shy girl who loved eating tuwo (a local dish).


When the girls’ parents got to the school the morning after the attack, they found nothing but the burnt shells of classrooms, matchstick dormitories full of metal bed frames and unanswered questions: Where had the teachers been during the attack? What happened to the security guards? How could a school be re-opened during an emergency closure without a security plan? Where are our daughters?

In Nigeria, questions like that hardly ever get answered. After waiting for the government to do something, a group of 100 fathers rode their motorbikes to the edge of Sambisa forest, the swampy national park where Boko Haram had supposedly set up their new headquarters in the countryside. They didn’t have guns, only machetes and knives. The nearby villagers told them to go back: “They have armored tanks; they have everything. They will destroy you,” the villagers said. The fathers relented.

It took president Goodluck Jonathan, who is running for reelection in 2015, three weeks to publicly acknowledge the kidnapping even happened — and when he finally did, he admitted that he didn’t know where the girls were. He then blamed the parents for not providing a list of names and promised to find them. His wife, Patience Jonathan, bemoaned the kidnapping, vowing to join the #BringBackOurGirls protests that had mushroomed across the country. Then she reversed course and declared the protests were merely an opposition-led plot to embarrass her husband in an election year. The first lady said the protesters were most likely Boko Haram members themselves.

That very day, the leader of Boko Haram, Abubukar Shekau, released a video saying he was going to sell the girls. A few weeks later, he sent out another that showed 136 girls sitting in hijabs reciting the Koran.

International media outlets picked up the story, and #BringBackOurGirls trended briefly. Michelle Obama posted a Twitter selfie holding up a sign in solidarity with the protest movement. Western governments promised to support a rescue operation. Then, just as quickly, the world turned away.




I meet the girls in a city in central Nigeria a little over two months after the incident. Blessed and Salama had been to the governor’s house in Maiduguri to help identify their friends in the latest video released by Shekau. Endurance had been to Abuja to talk to some foreigners about that night. She stayed in a hotel for the first time.

At first, the girls are all limbs and awkward giggles. They play on their phones and trade Christian and Hausa pop songs over Bluetooth. They’ve been told interviews like this are the only way to help the girls who are lost, but they’ve never told their story in detail. It’s impossible to know what parts of their tales are true, and what parts they’ve heard from others and repeated as absolute fact, the way only children can. There are moments where they get frustrated. No one has asked them about their lives before: How is this relevant to Boko Haram? How is this relevant to finding our friends?

How they managed to make it home and their friends didn’t is a question they don’t know how to answer. Sometimes they say it was God’s will. Other times, it’s something else. “The other girls were so scared, they did not have the courage,” Endurance tells me. “I have always had courage.”

This is undeniably true. The courage these girls showed in the face of men with guns is almost beyond comprehension. And yet the friends they describe, the ones still in the forest, are just as dynamic and headstrong as they are. In high school, friendships are blood bonds, so intense that the guilt of being free while their friends are in captivity is everpresent.

The timing of their abduction stays with me: They are 17, soon to be 18 — the years that mark the metamorphosis between girl and woman. It’s evident in the way they move their newly acquired figures, jutting out their hips when they pose for photographs, self-conscious and self-aware all at once. What had been their biggest year was now something else entirely. They didn’t know when they would retake their exams. They aren’t sure if this was just a thing that happened to them, or something that will define them forever.

At dusk after one of our interviews, Endurance and I are sitting in the den. The power has cut — outages are frequent across Nigeria— and the light is fading from the horizon. Endurance is showing me pictures on her phone: her friends, her house. She’s taken a photo of us together and photo-shopped a large pink heart around us as a frame. She smiles when she shows it to me. “Beautiful!” she exclaims.

Suddenly, she isn’t beaming anymore; she shifts her weight on the pleather couch.

“How do you think we can bring back the girls?” she asks, looking up from her phone. It’s as if she just remembered that they are gone.

“Praying,” Salama interrupts.

“No,” Endurance decrees, shaking her head.

“There’s nothing stronger than prayer,” Salama lectures.

“I’m still praying, but… what kind of help do you think the government can do?”

“The government screwed them,” Salama snaps, her prim composure wavering. “What is the government doing?” She frowns.

“What do you think, Endurance?” I ask her. I watch her ponder silently. This is the girl who spent most of the time I was with her laughing and breaking out into tiny jigs. She thought seriously before answering my questions thoughtfully and at length. It’s the first time since our initial day together, when she broke down crying about Mary’s fate, that she looks small and fragile.

The international spotlight that had illuminated Chibok for a few weeks had faded, taking all those promises with it. Since the kidnapping, Boko Haram has only gotten stronger; they have taken over villages and towns, raised the black flag and declared their own caliphate. They have kidnapped more women. They have killed nearly three thousand people this year alone. The government has recently claimed a string of victories against the militants, and rumors of a possible prisoner exchange swirl, but negotiations have yet to yield results. Two hundred girls are still missing.

Finally, Endurance responds.

“Their lives have already been spoiled,” she tells me solemnly. “When they come back… Nothing, nothing can help them. They’ll never be the same.”


All of the girls’ names in this story have been changed. They chose their new names themselves.

This story was written by Sarah A. Topol. It was edited by Michael Benoist, fact-checked by Taylor Beck, and copy-edited by Lawrence Levi. Photographs by Glenna Gordon.






  • October 10, 2014





Separate Cinema:

The First 100 Years of

Black Poster Art

soulbrotherv2:Separate Cinema: The First 100 Years of Black Poster Art edited by John Duke Kisch with a foreword by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and an afterword by Spike LeeThis magnificent volume is a celebration of the first 100 years of black film poster art. A visual feast, these images recount the diverse and historic journey of the black film industry from the earliest days of Hollywood to present day.[book link]Shouldn’t it be called African American poster art.
soulbrotherv2:</p><br /><br />
<p>Separate Cinema: The First 100 Years of Black Poster Art edited by John Duke Kisch with a foreword by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and an afterword by Spike Lee<br /><br /><br />
This magnificent volume is a celebration of the first 100 years of black film poster art. A visual feast, these images recount the diverse and historic journey of the black film industry from the earliest days of Hollywood to present day.<br /><br /><br />
[book link]</p><br /><br />
<p>Shouldn&#8217;t it be called African American poster art.
soulbrotherv2:</p><br /><br />
<p>Separate Cinema: The First 100 Years of Black Poster Art edited by John Duke Kisch with a foreword by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and an afterword by Spike Lee<br /><br /><br />
This magnificent volume is a celebration of the first 100 years of black film poster art. A visual feast, these images recount the diverse and historic journey of the black film industry from the earliest days of Hollywood to present day.<br /><br /><br />
[book link]</p><br /><br />
<p>Shouldn&#8217;t it be called African American poster art.
soulbrotherv2:</p><br /><br />
<p>Separate Cinema: The First 100 Years of Black Poster Art edited by John Duke Kisch with a foreword by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and an afterword by Spike Lee<br /><br /><br />
This magnificent volume is a celebration of the first 100 years of black film poster art. A visual feast, these images recount the diverse and historic journey of the black film industry from the earliest days of Hollywood to present day.<br /><br /><br />
[book link]</p><br /><br />
<p>Shouldn&#8217;t it be called African American poster art.
soulbrotherv2:</p><br /><br />
<p>Separate Cinema: The First 100 Years of Black Poster Art edited by John Duke Kisch with a foreword by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and an afterword by Spike Lee<br /><br /><br />
This magnificent volume is a celebration of the first 100 years of black film poster art. A visual feast, these images recount the diverse and historic journey of the black film industry from the earliest days of Hollywood to present day.<br /><br /><br />
[book link]</p><br /><br />
<p>Shouldn&#8217;t it be called African American poster art.
soulbrotherv2:</p><br /><br />
<p>Separate Cinema: The First 100 Years of Black Poster Art edited by John Duke Kisch with a foreword by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and an afterword by Spike Lee<br /><br /><br />
This magnificent volume is a celebration of the first 100 years of black film poster art. A visual feast, these images recount the diverse and historic journey of the black film industry from the earliest days of Hollywood to present day.<br /><br /><br />
[book link]</p><br /><br />
<p>Shouldn&#8217;t it be called African American poster art.
soulbrotherv2:</p><br /><br />
<p>Separate Cinema: The First 100 Years of Black Poster Art edited by John Duke Kisch with a foreword by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and an afterword by Spike Lee<br /><br /><br />
This magnificent volume is a celebration of the first 100 years of black film poster art. A visual feast, these images recount the diverse and historic journey of the black film industry from the earliest days of Hollywood to present day.<br /><br /><br />
[book link]</p><br /><br />
<p>Shouldn&#8217;t it be called African American poster art.
soulbrotherv2:</p><br /><br />
<p>Separate Cinema: The First 100 Years of Black Poster Art edited by John Duke Kisch with a foreword by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and an afterword by Spike Lee<br /><br /><br />
This magnificent volume is a celebration of the first 100 years of black film poster art. A visual feast, these images recount the diverse and historic journey of the black film industry from the earliest days of Hollywood to present day.<br /><br /><br />
[book link]</p><br /><br />
<p>Shouldn&#8217;t it be called African American poster art.
soulbrotherv2:</p><br /><br />
<p>Separate Cinema: The First 100 Years of Black Poster Art edited by John Duke Kisch with a foreword by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and an afterword by Spike Lee<br /><br /><br />
This magnificent volume is a celebration of the first 100 years of black film poster art. A visual feast, these images recount the diverse and historic journey of the black film industry from the earliest days of Hollywood to present day.<br /><br /><br />
[book link]</p><br /><br />
<p>Shouldn&#8217;t it be called African American poster art.


Separate Cinema: The First 100 Years of Black Poster Art edited by John Duke Kisch with a foreword by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and an afterword by Spike Lee

This magnificent volume is a celebration of the first 100 years of black film poster art. A visual feast, these images recount the diverse and historic journey of the black film industry from the earliest days of Hollywood to present day.

[book link]

Shouldn’t it be called African American poster art.







photo by Alex Lear

photo by Alex Lear




There’s no big accomplishment in acting white

(after being subjected to some third stream muzak)




if a chamber orchestra / complete

 w/tympani as percussion


plays a pentatonic scale


includes six and one half bars 

of flute improvisation


& the tune was composed

by an intelligent moor


does that make it






does a dollop of musical melanin

make orchestral scores

something blood might

want to dance to

or squeeze lover flesh to

or fit to express 

what we been through?


is acting 


really more profound 

than afrikan aesthetics?


more tragic more magic 

more real more desirous

than soulful us jumping straight up

and being down, head thrown back

wailing into the blue, slightly off their key

but in our tune, blowing bodaciously 

like there was no tomorrow


must we really 

dot all our eyes

with fields of blue,

cross all our tee’s with the deafening silence

of liberal-arts-degreed negroes demonstrating 

they have arrived by sitting quiet 

legs crossed and morosely 

concentrating on deciphering 

well modulated arias

which resist the tapping foot, still 

the bobbing head and 

reject the shaking of any entraced 

body movements other than polite 

and discreetly tepid applause 

to indicate we’re in the pocket?


must we make ourselves

into something our enemies love 

to listen to

in order for us and our art 

to be considered human?




if you want to play compose and be respected

as a classical musician why not just do that

and not insist that there is anything culturally black

about such a quest except perhaps our skin

and a few references to your lynched

history thrown in


why not just openly embrace what they do

and be what you’ve been trained to do

there is nothing prohibiting you

or me or any of we

from acting white


except maybe our individual angst 

constantly trying to justify

that there be something real

black about passing

over into the age-old truth 

of negro life and history,

abjectly supplicating to white supremacy

with a sambo-colored shibboleth

on our lips: boss, i may not be quite your color,

but i’ve disciplined my black ass to be your kind




acting like our bodies are not us

is one of the most frequent ways

educated blacks manifest

they are cultured


the denial of blackness

is petite bourgeois power




there is nothing wrong

with disappearing


into the tinkling 



of a well composed 




to otherness


—kalamu ya salaam










October 17, 2014








Posted by 

Monika Njava and Mikea at Libertalia showcase (Eyre 2014)

The Afropop podcast “Beko ‘n’ Blues in Southwest Madagascar” showcases a little-known vocal music of southwest Madagascar, and its performance by three remarkable popular singers, Monika and Lala Njava and Mikea. Monika learned this art from the renowned Antandroy musician Remanindry, whose music is also featured in the podcast.

Monika Njava (Eyre 2014)

Monika Njava (Eyre 2014)

Monika Njava: “When I moved to Tulear, I started to also listen to Miriam Makeba. And afterwards, I was transported by the music of the Antandroy when they sang in the evening. They were the ones who guarded the houses, and they played instruments and sang beko. I was transported by this, and I decided to learn this kind of singing. This was how I came to learn with Remanindry. So I didn’t go to music school; the time I spent with Remanindry was my university.

Reminindry with lokanga (Antandroy fiddle) Eyre 2014

Reminindry with lokanga (Antandroy fiddle) Eyre 2014

“Beko [pronounced BEH-koo] is a style of the Antandroy. They sing it at funerals and ceremonies. There are groups of singers. The people who organize the funerals and ceremonies invite the groups to sing, and the beko singers, and they come and ask questions. ‘Give us the history of this party. You are who?’ The name of the family and everything. Then they start to improvise. Beko is based on improvisation, and they start to talk about all the things that surround the event, the history that they have received…

“Beko is a style with a lot of voices. There are some who improvise, and some who make the background. That’s what’s great about beko, no instruments and beko, only voices.”

Remanindry with family and musicians (Eyre 2014)

Remanindry with family and musicians (Eyre 2014)

Remanindry: “Beko. This is for funerals. And when they sing, they hold their hands a certain way. Their gestures are different. This is just a custom. We don’t know the meaning of it.

“An Antandroy funeral could last for three months or five months, with singing and music. That’s the ceremony. We gather cows around the house. We have to sacrifice  30 cows to feed the guests. By gathering the cows around the place where the dead person is, it’s a way to publicize and to declare to the surrounding area that there is a dead person here—a beloved person, a member of the family.

“The cows are a custom, and we sacrifice them. It can be one or two, or 30. If the family is rich, they can hire artists like me. They call me to do the beko during the funeral. If not, they can’t. So they have to pay me in cows or something like that.

Remanindry in his home (Eyre 2014)

Remanindry in his home (Eyre 2014)

“Monika. Monika Njava. She came here, and I taught her. I taught her how to sing beko, the traditional way. You see these gourds on the ceiling? Our ancestors used them to take water, to keep water in. They would go outside and take the water from the well, and then keep it in the house, in the gourds. Because they didn’t have plates and bowls. They would cut the gourds, and use them to make furniture, including bowls and plates.  That’s why we hang them from the ceiling, to remember the past, the way they lived.”

Lala Njava (Eyre 2014)

Lala Njava (Eyre 2014)

Lala Njava: “We are all musicians in my family. The name of our father is Njava. He was a comedian of the street, and my mother was a gospel singer in church, so they were always in music. And we were numerous. I have 15 brothers and sisters, and we’re all musicians. So the five oldest brothers and sisters were the first-generation, and the second generation became the family group, Njava, and we made our careers in music in the 1990s. We won a contest organized by the Radio France International. We won the prize, and we went to Europe to make music.

“Beko is the blues for the ethnic groups of the southwest—that is, the towns we grew up in when we were young. Beko is for the Antandroy, the Sakalava and the Masikoro. These are the ethnic groups of the region. They share this style, beko. One can sing beko with instruments, with violin, with anything, but you have to guard the style. There’s something you can’t leave behind. If you go past that, it’s no longer beko. One must sing with this thick voice. And it has to be very profound. It has to come from the heart. Sadness is the message.

“Beko talks about suffering. You sing it when you’re making spiritual prayers. Because we, the Malagasy, we believe a lot in our ancestors, the life that comes after death. Everyone who is dead, family and friends who are gone, for us, they’re not really dead. We discuss with them all the time, but by singing, especially with beko. You can’t just sing beko any old way. That would lack respect. For these people, you must respect. You must sing beko in the right way.

Lala Njava, Banning Eyre, Sean Barlow (Jonathan Longcore 2014)

Lala Njava, Banning Eyre, Sean Barlow (Jonathan Longcore 2014)

“For me, Christianity and ancestors go together. We are Malagasy. We don’t have religious problems. Religion has never been a barrier. You can be Catholic. You can be Muslim. You can be Protestant, Buddhist… But the good luck that we have as Malagasy people is that we have our God together, and that is the ancestors. So everyone is free. Our power is the ancestors, the spirits. Afterwards, you can go to church and sing gospel, afterwards you can go to the mosque, wherever you like. It’s not limited. Because we respect the God of Madagascar, the ancestors.”

Mikea (Eyre 2014)

Mikea (Eyre 2014)

Mikea: “Mikea is a name of a Malagasy people who live in the forest in the southern Madagascar. These are people who made their lives in the forest. I come from southwestern Madagascar, north of Tulear. I gave the name Mikea to my group, because people don’t know it. It is cut off. There are no roads, no access, no schools or hospitals. I come from there, but I had the good luck to leave my region.

“There are different people in this region. The ones by the shore are the fishermen, the Vezo. After that, it’s the forest, the Masikoro. The Masikoro are hunters and farmers and herders of cows. During the colonization of Madagascar, the Masikoro commanded a lot of respect. Many of the colonials were afraid to live in the villages in the forest at the time. So when we talk about Mikea, these are the Masikoro who live in the forest. They don’t have passports. They don’t have identity cards. We speak our own dialect. Mikea means ‘call.’ Because in the forest, if you want to see someone, if you want to find your family or friends, you have to cry out for them, using the echoes and the effects of the forest.

“I was a beko singer. Beko is the song of the cattle guardians. It’s sung in the villages.  We were not willing to do this in town, because we were ashamed. We couldn’t attract girls with our singing at that time, because we were ashamed of our dialect. And afterwards, when we started to work and make our fusion with blues, we gave a name to our music. It was not tsapiky. It was not salegy. We gave our music the name beko ‘n’ blues. It resembles the blues. It’s the emotion of solitude, insecurity, many things, love. We mixed it with pop music, a little funk, to arrive at beko ‘n’ blues.

Monika, Mikea and others at Libertalia/Afropop showcase (Eyre 2014)

Monika, Mikea and others at Libertalia/Afropop showcase (Eyre 2014)

“It’s rather hard to find people who sing beko among the Masikoro. It’s complicated to sing. You have to have a voice, and you can’t just sing in a straightforward way. You have to control your voice in a certain way, or they won’t listen to you down there.

“The cattle thieves sing beko. This is something I know very well. I was a cattle guardian when I was young. From sunrise to sunset, you are with the cattle in the forest alone. And you sing. The guardians sing beko, and the cattle guardians are the ones who become the cattle thieves later. So it is also the song of the cattle thieves.

“Why are the cattle thieves? There are a lot of political stories here in Madagascar. In town, people live the modern way, with money in the bank. But in the village, there is no bank, so you buy cattle. When you need 100 euros, you sell a cow. The cattle are our bank. We keep cows to guard our wealth. I see you are a rich man because you have 400 head of cattle.

“There are cattle thieves because people didn’t go to school. They are not educated. I have childhood friends who became cattle thieves. They’ve told me all about what happens there, and they asked me all about what happens here in Antananarivo and in Europe. So we tell each other everything and I understand that the problem is that they’ve never gone to school. When you are not educated, you are capable of killing someone and doing harm to your family. And even the country.

“So what do politicians do to deal with this problem? They send the military there to kill people. Maybe this is a short-term solution, but you have to think long term. Because cattle thieves have existed for 40 years. Some people think it is the culture to steal cows. No, this is not the culture. But when something stays the same for 30, 40 years, people start to think it’s their culture. It’s just like the pickpockets here in Antananarivo, this is not the culture of Madagascar. It’s just lack of education. You have to build schools, send teachers, educate youth and their parents.”

Remanindry with wife and son (Eyre 2014)

Remanindry with wife and son (Eyre 2014) 








  • Duende is open for submissions.

  • Deadline: November 15, 2014

Duende welcomes submissions of prose, poetry, hybrid writing, and visual art. We are especially interested in collaborations between two or more writers, or between writers and visual artists. We accept submissions from writers working in English, or translating into English, from anywhere in the world. Duende aspires to represent the true beauty and diversity of the U.S. literary ecosystem. A majority of the work we publish will be from writers and artists who are queer, of color, differently abled, immigrant, working class, youth, elder, and/or otherwise from communities underrepresented in U.S. literary magazines and journals.











Uncanny is seeking passionate SF/F fiction

Uncanny is open for short story submissions. Poetry submissions are closed. 

Editors-in-Chief: Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas

Uncanny is seeking passionate SF/F fiction and poetry from writers from every conceivable background.  We want  intricate, experimental stories and poems with gorgeous prose, verve, and imagination that elicit strong emotions and challenge beliefs. Uncanny believes there’s still plenty of room in the genre for tales that make you feel.

Fiction Guidelines

Uncanny is looking for original, unpublished speculative fiction stories between 750-7500 words. Payment is $.08 per word (including audio rights). We will reject any story that doesn’t follow these guidelines and procedures. You may not resubmit a rejected story.

Submission procedures:

1- Please email your submission to uncannymagazine [at] gmail [dot] com. Make sure to put Fiction Submission: Short Story Title in the subject line.

2- All stories should be in Standard Manuscript Format and attached in .RTF, .DOC, or .DOCX formats.

3- Your cover letter should contain the length of your story, your significant publishing history and awards, and information that might be relevant to that specific submission.

4- Please do not send multiple submissions at once, or submissions simultaneously submitted at another market or anthology.

5- We try to respond to all submissions in 15 days. Please feel free to query uncannymagazine [at] gmail [dot] com if we’ve had your submission for over 30 days.

Poetry Guidelines

We are currently closed to unsolicited poetry submissions.

Uncanny is looking for original, unpublished speculative poetry of any length. Payment is $30 per poem. We will reject any story that doesn’t follow these guidelines and procedures. You may not resubmit a rejected poem.

1- Please email your submissions to uncannymagazine [at] gmail [dot] com. Make sure to put Poetry Submission: Poem Title in the subject line.

2- Your cover letter should contain the length of your poem, your significant publishing history and awards, and information that might be relevant to that specific submission.

3- You may send up to five poems at a time, but please send them in separate emails attached in .RTF, .DOC, or .DOCX formats. Please do not send poems simultaneously submitted at another market or anthology.

4-  We try to respond to all submissions in 15 days. Please feel free to query uncannymagazine [at] gmail [dot] com if we’ve had your submission for over 30 days.

Nonfiction Submissions

Uncanny doesn’t accept unsolicited submissions. Payment is $50 per essay on acceptance. Please see the sample contract (coming soon) for an explanation of the rights Uncanny is seeking.

Fiction Reprints

Uncanny doesn’t accept unsolicited submissions. Payment is $.01 per word on acceptance. Please see the sample contract (coming soon) for an explanation of the rights Uncanny is seeking.

Art Submissions

Uncanny pays $60 for reprint art. Please feel free to email art queries to uncannymagazine [at] gmail [dot] com with a link to your portfolio.









women of color

Expat Women of Color Call for Submissions
Thank you for taking an interest in our book submission. Please complete the book summsion form and upload your writing submission for review. Good luck!


Are you interested in telling your Expat story? 

Note: We are accepting non-fiction, first person narratives for Women of Color Living Abroad (deadline posted below)

The editor is seeking original contributions from women of color who live, work, and/or study outside their country of origin for a collection of first person, non-fiction short stories. Submissions must be 1,500 to 5,000 words (this count was updated 10/7/14) and may include topics involving life/living abroad, traveling, cultural adaptation, and relationship, spirituality, leaving home, repatriation, dating, adventurous eating, pros and woes of living abroad.

*the word count has been adjust to assist shorter work, but one is able to submit up to 5,000 words


Writing for a Cause

This compilation will be published as a collection of resource books for Expat Women of Color. Expat Women of Color is an international networking association that provides personal and professional development and resources for women of color who live, work, study and travel abroad we want to help create online and hands-on products to encourage success through expat living. 

As a non-profit organization, we are provide services and programs to encourage women to have the best lives no matter where they are in the world. This compilation will serve as a fundraising project for our Boarding Pass Program, which takes minority students on a summer international service-learning program to enhance intercultural knowledge, skills, and awareness and promotes travel through international exposure for students who may have never left their own communities. 

The goal of this project is to raise funds to help supplement five female students participating in the Boarding Pass Program, and tell the stories of women or color who are expanding through living, working, or study abroad.


Who should submit? 

We are looking for women of color who are currently or in the past have lived outside their countries of origin as an Expatriate. We encourage military, military spouses, ESL instructors, self-initiated expats (moved abroad on your own without employment backing you), corporate expats, freelance writers, photographs, etc.

Women of Color defined: We are looking for women of African descent (born on the content of Africa or outside with African heritage), Latino, Asian, Middle Eastern, Native American, and Pacific Islanders.

All work should be non-fiction (true) and told from a first person narrative of their experience living, working, studying, or traveling abroad. We encourage writings that detail: leaving your country of origin, relationships (dating / friendships/ family), teaching abroad, working abroad, religion/spirituality, culture shock, home sick, repatriation (coming home), travel disappointments, being single traveling with children, never going back, etc…please make sure you show more than tell in your writing, we want the readers to be on the journey with you.


Compensation and Rights:

Writers will be paid $50 US (not much but remember it’s for a CAUSE) dollars upon acceptance of their stories. Writers will be required to sign a consent form waiving any future rights and certifying their work is original, true, previously unpublished and releasing exclusive copyrights to the publish for of submitted work. Writers will be given (1) complimentary book and a t-shirt and credit for their submitted work. No other compensation will be extended to the writer. The write will also have the ability to order copies at wholesale price to promote their work with pre-approval from the publisher.



  • Accompany a brief bio 250 words or less 
  •  All submissions should be (1,500 to 5,000) words long
  •  Times New Roman, font size (12 pt.) 
  •  Summited in MS Word .doc format no .pdfs (pdfs will be refused

Submission Deadlines and Tentative Release Dates

Please submit your work here or by emailing it to All submissions MUST be received by mid-night on October 25, 2014 (extended). If your submission has been accepted you will receive an acceptance letter with further instruction by November 30, 2014. The tentative release date is May of 2015.






okay africa





British-Somali Writer Diriye Osman

Wins Polari First Book Prize

For Debut Book

About The LGBT Experience

Photo via Huffington Post by Boris Mitkov

Photo via Huffington Post by Boris Mitkov

The Polari First Book Prize is awarded to a British author whose debut book explores the LGBT experience. Submissions can be poetry, fiction or non-fiction, print or digital self published works, as long as they were published in the UK in English within the twelve months of the deadline for submissions (in this case February 1st, 2014). One month after this year’s shortlist was announced, the 2014 prize has been awarded to British-Somali short story writer, essayist, critic and visual artist Diriye Osman for his collection of short stories, Fairytales for Lost Children. Told across different narrators from Kenya, Somalia, and South London, Osman’s stories look at gender and being young, lesbian, and gay in cultures where it’s not often discussed. Osman’s Fairytales were first published in September 2013. “Writing as a black gay African man from a Muslim background,” the prize’s Chair of judges Paul Burston said, “Osman dazzled us with the wide range of literary voices in this stunning short story collection.”

What do you think?


Fairytales for Lost Children is available to purchase here (US). Watch and listen to Osman read from “Shoga,” one of the stories from Fairytales for Lost Children narrated by a Somali teenager whose interest in his grandmother’s houseboy has an impact on the entire family, in the video and stream below.

What do you think?