(This post is part of a series highlighting the finalists for Dallas LGBT+ Bar Association’s 2020 Justice Award. The award recipient will be announced in late January 2021.)
Winifred Jacob (they/them), who goes by “Freddie,” is a charismatic young person from Warri, Nigeria, who organized and participated in the recent anti-police brutality movement to end state-sanctioned violence. The protests specifically addressed SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad), a division of Nigerian police that was created with the intention of addressing armed robberies and burglaries. Unfortunately, like many police units around the world, SARS uses the authority of the State to engage in profiling, harassment, extortion, and extra-judicial killings. In addressing police brutality, Freddie uses a combination of social-media digital activism and on-the-ground physical protesting to express dissent and bring light to the inherent queerphobia, transphobia, sexism, and classism that shapes who SARS targets in Nigeria, and how this violence occurs. For their participation, Freddie has faced familial rejection and has had their bank account frozen by the Nigerian government (19 activists had their accounts frozen for receiving funds to help with protests) rendering them destitute. You can find out more with the social media hashtags #EndSars #QueerNigerianLivesMatter.
Below are Freddie’s responses to an interview conducted by association leaders.
What is liberation and what inspires your work?
Liberation to me means liberation for everyone. Everyone has their own definition of what liberation means for them, individually. I define it as freedom from the shackles of oppression for everyone. I don’t believe in single-issue liberation because like Audre Lorde said “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” This means I do not believe in a one-sided liberation, I don’t feel at peace with the idea that I can be free while my neighbor or someone else isn’t. So liberation, true liberation, means a world where everyone is free and not oppressed. Looking at the world and concept of freedom through an Intersectional lens is what inspires my work.
Describe a perfect world
Depends on what perfect and a perfect world means to me. Human beings are flawed so I think any place we inhabit will be flawed as well. So a perfect world for me means a world where the earth isn’t being destroyed by us, where every human being regardless of their identity is treated equally and not denied their fundamental rights. A world where we take care of each other and not let differences divide us. A world where those differences are acknowledged but that recognition isn’t used to harm each other but rather help each other.
What legal barriers exist for the achievement of your perfect world
Well there are a lot of organizations and Queer activists who are doing all they can to push for the dismantling of homophobic laws in Nigeria like the SSMPA (same sex marriage prohibition act) and other oppressive laws that persecute the lives of LGBTQ Nigerians. I see more voices being raised; however, because of these laws and our society that upholds them, the visibility of LGBT activism in the country can sometimes be intentionally ignored. It’s very hard for queer Nigerians to raise their voices when their existence and activism is made illegal.
Who inspires you?
Marginalized individuals inspire me. The Beautiful and phenomenal women, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, people who keep raising their voices against a social system that has chosen to ignore them. Their resistance, their strength, their ability to push back and still celebrate themselves makes me smile and cry too. They’re my inspiration.
Where do you see the End SARS and Queer Nigerian Lives Matter in 5 years?
I want to remain very optimistic because these conversations are already happening. Queer Nigerians have done a lot to raise awareness on Intersectionality and push away the narrative that we’re just a “distraction.” Never did I think I will see queer people (who are also victims of police brutality) protesting besides cishet Nigerians. But I was wrong because we have always been at the forefronts, we have always sacrificed our lives and well-being for change and revolution. Sadly our work, activism and contribution to movements continue to be erased. However in the next 5 years I strongly believe we would see the harvest of the beautiful work we’ve been sowing because whether society likes it or not—things are changing, change is happening, Queer Nigerians are coming out and taking up space already.
How can people contribute?
People who have influence and privilege can help in becoming great allies. True allyship works with listening more than talking. People who are straight and cis should listen and take action. They can help in raising awareness, donating, and supporting marginalized individuals. They can help in actually standing by us through rain and storms. I’ve seen so many allies back down when the heat becomes too much and it’s just sad. There are a lot of Queer Nigerians who are poor and disadvantaged. Like myself, a lot of us struggle because of our identities. Employ, help, platform, listen, document, write about, include queer people as an ally. Give us opportunities and help amplify our voices.
If you would like to support LGBTQ Nigerians please consider donating to TIERS (The Initiative for Equal Rights) https://paystack.com/pay/tiersdonation .