One of my duties for EBONY is to decide which of the day's news stories will be published on the site. There's only space for 10, so after sifting through the dozens of articles that populate my Facebook and Twitter feeds every morning and searching a dozen or so different news sites (The Washington Post, The New York Times, Yahoo, Gawker, etc), I select the ones I A) believe will be most relevant to EBONY's readership and B) want to be more relevant to EBONY's readership.
Some days are more difficult than others. There will always be new news. But sometimes, there just aren't many new stories that move the needle. And sometimes the stories that move the needle don't have much of a connection to the Black community.
Still, there are a few topics I can always count on; people (President Obama, Eric Holder, etc), places (Chicago, Ferguson, etc), and issues (police brutality, racism, etc) I search for specifically on those difficult days because I know they're always creating news.
And, since April of 2014, Boko Haram has been one of those topics.
I'm sure many of you were aware of Boko Haram before their abduction of 276 school-aged girls last year and the resulting #bringbackourgirls campaign. And, if you weren't aware of them before then, I'm sure you are now.
What you might not be as aware of — and what, to be honest, I probably wouldn't have been aware of if it wasn't my job to be aware — is that this was just one of dozens of terrorist acts they've committed in the last year. Several entire villages destroyed. Thousands raped and/or murdered. Hundreds more kidnapped.
Although many of us stopped talking, thinking, and writing about them after the national press attention waned, Boko Haram didn't stop.
Below is a random sampling of Boko Haram-related headlines between June and December.
6/4/2014: Dozens Killed in Boko Haram Attack on Northeastern Nigerian Villages
6/5/2014: Hundreds Killed in Latest Boko Haram Attack
7/22/2014: 15,000 Flee Damboa After Boko Haram Attack
7/28/2014: Wife of Cameroon's Vice Prime Minister Kidnapped by Boko Haram
10/24/2014: Dozens More Girls Reportedly Kidnapped by Boko Haram
12/19/2014: Dozens Killed, Hundreds Kidnapped by Boko Haram
And last week, as the international spotlight was on Charlie Hebdo and France — where four million people attended unity rallies yesterday — perhaps the two most vile Boko Haram-related acts yet slipped under our collective radars.
Boko Haram militants opened fire on northern Nigerian villages, leaving bodies scattered everywhere and as many as 2,000 people feared dead. "The attack on Baga and surrounding towns looks as if it could be Boko Haram's deadliest act," Amnesty International said in a statement. Islamist militants sprayed bullets as they stormed in last weekend in trucks and armored vehicles, local authorities said Friday. When they arrived, they unloaded motorcycles and pursued residents who fled into the bush, firing indiscriminately, said Baba Abba Hassan, a local district head.
Boko Haram has already used women as suicide bombers in the past but children had been largely off limits. Although not entirely. In June of last year, which marked the first time Boko Haram used a female suicide bomber, a 10-year-old girl was found wearing a suicide vest, according to AFP. But this latest attack appears to be the first one that was successful.
Officials say it’s likely the girl had no idea what was going on and that the bomb was detonated remotely. "The girl was about 10 years old and I doubt if she actually knew what was strapped to her body," one witness tells AFP. The bomb apparently went off as the girl was being searched to enter a crowded market in Maiduguri and her small body was torn in two.
I won't pretend to have any ideas to even begin to attempt to remedy what they're doing. And, I'm not naive enough to think that talking, thinking, and writing about them today is going to save any lives in northern Nigeria tomorrow. I just know that we can't let this get swallowed up and spit out by the news cycle again. That paying more attention to them, that talking, thinking, and writing about them and the people affected by their violence is better than not paying attention; than not talking, thinking, and writing about them and the people affected by their violence.
And, if you believe in prayer, pray. At the very least, it's better than what many of us — myself included — have been doing: Nothing.