BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — “The Wire” actor Gbenga Akinnagbe is hoping to raise awareness this weekend for thousands of Nigerians killed by Boko Haram.
The Nigerian-American star who played Chris Partlow in the HBO series will host a Saturday vigil at Bed-Stuy’s Restoration Plaza to honor the lives lost overseas at the hands of the extremists’ recent attacks.
A Jan. 3 massacre in northeast Nigeria was deemed the “possibly deadliest” attack in Boko Haram history, according to Amnesty International. More than 3,000 structures were damaged or destroyed by fire and hundreds of civilians were killed, including small children and women, the agency said in a release.
In 2014, Boko Haram killed more than 4,000 civilians, according to Amnesty International. Akinnagbe seeks to bring these figures to light with Saturday’s memorial.
“These are human beings. If it was anywhere else, it would an international tragedy,” Akinnagbe told DNAinfo New York.
“We didn’t think we could leave it up to others to honor the dead and acknowledge these black lives.”
The Bed-Stuy resident brought together locals and elected officials for a call to action.
“It definitely permeates the Nigerian community here,” he said. “People are upset but unfortunately they’re not surprised. This isn’t the first massacre or tragedy, but we are asking accountability from our government and the Nigerian government.”
Saturday’s event will be both a celebration and funeral service for the lives lost, according to Joseph Grant Jr., Ambassador of Arts and Culture for Councilman Robert Cornegy.
African drummers and dancers will perform at the plaza, while faith leaders from numerous religious groups will give eulogies. The memorial will culminate in a funeral procession through Fulton Street and the surrounding blocks.
“I want people to not see the small town in northern Nigeria as some foreign, strange place with dark people who don’t matter,” Akinnagbe said. “I want them to feel that those people could have been them.
“I think part of why this goes largely unnoticed is because we don’t relate anymore. We’re so disconnected. Tomorrow, I want people to connect those dots.”
The vigil is hosted in partnership with Cornegy’s office, the New York Chapter of the National Association of Kawaida Organization, and Rotimi Akinnuoye of Bed-Vyne Wine Shop.
The memorial will be held on Jan. 24 at 1:30 p.m. at Restoration Plaza, 1368 Fulton Street. For more information, contact the International African Arts Festival at 718-638-6700.