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Charis welcomes Edafe Okporo in conversation with Charles Stephens for a discussion of Asylum: A Memoir & Manifesto. A poignant, moving memoir and urgent call to action for immigration justice by a Nigerian asylee and global gay rights and immigration activist Edafe Okporo. This event is co-hosted by The Counter Narrative Project and the Atlanta Pride Committee. The Counter Narrative Project seeks to shift narratives about Black gay and queer men to change policy and improve lives. We stand in the tradition of Marlon Riggs, Essex Hemphill, Joseph Beam, James Baldwin, and Bayard Rustin.
On the eve of Edafe Okporo’s twenty-sixth birthday, he was awoken to a violent mob outside his window in Abuja, Nigeria. The mob threatened his life after discovering the secret Edafe had been hiding for years—that he is a gay man. Left with no other choice, he purchased a one-way plane ticket to New York City and fled for his life. Though America had always been painted to him as a land of freedom and opportunity, it was anything but when he arrived just days before the tumultuous 2016 Presidential Election.
Edafe would go on to spend the next six months at an immigration detention center in Elizabeth, New Jersey. After navigating the confusing, often draconian, US immigration and legal system, he was finally granted asylum. But he would soon realize that America is exceptionally good at keeping people locked up but is seriously lacking in integrating freed refugees into society.
Asylum is Edafe’s eye-opening, thought-provoking memoir and manifesto, which documents his experiences growing up gay in Nigeria, fleeing to America, navigating the immigration system, and making a life for himself as a Black, gay immigrant. Alongside his personal story is a blaring call to action—not only for immigration reform but for a just immigration system for refugees everywhere. This book imagines a future where immigrants and asylees are treated with fairness, transparency, and compassion. It aims to help us understand that home is not just where you feel safe and welcome but also how you can make it feel safe and welcome for others.
Edafe Okporo was born in Warri, Nigeria. He migrated to the United States in 2016 as an asylum seeker and is now a refugee of the United States. Edafe is a global gay rights activist, the founder of Refuge America Inc, and one of the country’s most visible voices on the issue of displacement, leading an organization with a vision to “strengthen as a place of welcome for LGBTQ displaced people.” A graduate of Enugu State University and the school of Business at NYU, he currently lives in New York City.
Edafe is among the inaugural winners of the David Prize, which honors individuals with bold visions for creating a better and brighter New York City. He is also a Logo 30 Honoree. He lives in New York City.
Charles Stephens is an Atlanta-based writer and founder of The Counter Narrative Project (CNP). He is the co-editor of the anthology Black Gay Genius: Answering Joseph Beam’s Call (Vintage Entity Press) and co-editor of the forthcoming collection Race, Justice, and HIV: Visions for a Society Without Bars (Springer Press). He has been a participant in the Lambda Literary Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ Voices and the Tin House Winter Workshop. His writings have appeared in the anthologies For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Still Not Enough: Coming of Age, Coming Out, and Coming Home and If We Have to Take Tomorrow. He has also contributed to Atlanta Magazine, Lambda Literary Review, Advocate, Creative Loafing, Georgia Voice, and AJC. In 2017, he was a recipient of the Christopher Hewitt Award for Drama. Stephens is a graduate of Georgia State University.
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A “moving…dramatic” (David Ebershoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Danish Girl), and urgent call to action for immigration justice by a Nigerian asylee and global gay rights and immigration activist Edafe Okporo.
On the eve of Edafe Okporo’s twenty-sixth birthday, he was awoken by a violent mob outside his window in Abuja, Nigeria.