Last year, at the peak of the #EndSars protests in Nigeria, Nigerian poet Jumoke Verissimo and academic James Yéku curated a documentary of writings from Nigerian writers in response to the brutality. The collection, aptly titled “Soro Soke: When Poetry Speaks Up,” was essentially an effort by members of the Nigerian literati to contribute to an ongoing, important conversation the best way they knew how. It was published digitally, here on Brittle Paper.
However, the quest is far from over. As we approach the anniversary of the tragic shootings in Lekki at the height of last year’s protests and in the face of persistent police brutality, Jumoke Verissimo and James Yéku are looking again to curate yet another collection that would serve the same purpose as the first, as well as immortalize the memories of those who lost their lives for a just cause barely a year ago.
Interested writers are expected to submit poems (not more than 2) to Jumoke Verissimo ([email protected]) or/and James Yéku ([email protected]). The new anthology would run in print as well as a digital version published here on Brittle Paper.
Deadline: July 2, 2021.
Read the full press release below.
#Sòròsókè: A Collection of #EndSARS Poems
In the aftermath of the George Floyd protests in the United States and around the world in 2020, young people in Nigeria were also united in a nationwide outrage expressed both on social media and in different Nigerian cities (especially Lagos) and the Nigerian diaspora in response to a similar police infraction that claimed a life. The online protest against police brutality was explicitly articulated through the hashtag #EndSARS. With the #EndSARS moment coming to symbolically capture the many other systemic constraints in Nigeria, it generated other hashtags such as #Sòròsókè—the imperative for people to speak out against police violence and the larger culture of governmental failure in Nigeria..
For many young people, poetry became a critical means of speaking out against#EndSARS, as many started to document in verses and other creative avenues their lived experience of police brutality as well as their peculiar encounters with the SARS unit of the Nigerian police. As the events unfolded, culminating in the Lekki killings of October 2020, we began a collaborative project to compile and digitally publish poems in real-time, curating them on the pan-African literary platform, BrittlePaper. This online collection brought together first-hand accounts from Nigerian poets, exploring the traumatic realities of #EndSARS. While writing a poem or any form of response is difficult in the thick of an emotionally upsetting traumatic event, poetry became for us an instrument of radical expression. #Sòròsókè—responding to larger forms of inhumanity and social injustice in Nigeria, captures the need for public indignation and the disruptive exhortation to speak out against the socio-political conditions that continue to propel state violence.
As we approach the first anniversary of the Lekki killings, the hashtag #EndSARS continues to appear online because the circumstances that gave rise to it at first persist in the public arena, even as the dark moments of police deviance and political oppression intensify. Again, we are looking to poetic reflection as a critical means of remembering the events of 2020. This new print edition will attempt to keep the memory of the protests, the intensities of emotions, and the memory of those who died in 2020. It is a way to speak out against oppression, continuing a tradition of how poetry works in tandem with activism in the African space. We hope that the poems in this proposed print edition will once again speak truth to power, emphasizing that Nigerian lives matter, and that young Nigerians are not passive actors who exist only to encounter the Nigerian state precariously. We continue to believe in the power of a collective curation that leverages radical voices and opposes the impositions of a state apparatus notorious for extrajudicial actions. We hope that this print edition, like the digital iteration, can be seen as a creative text that connects back to the rich protest tradition which inspires the current wave of revolution-demanding cultural productions on police brutality in Nigeria. We are, therefore, again inviting poets to write their #EndSARS protest, log their tenuous relationship with the Nigerian state, and map out in verse, possible futures for a country that continually unfurls an endless season of tragedies. Please consider submitting your poems (not more than 2) to [email protected] or/and [email protected] by July 2, 2021. We are currently arranging with a notable press for this important publication. For inquiries, please write to Jumoke Verissimo, University of Alberta, Canada, or James Yéku, University of Kansas, US. Thanks.