|Expanding the Biafran Narrative
|Photos and information courtesy of Chris
Wesson, Martin Wesson’s grandson
Martin (Marty) Wesson volunteered and risked his life for Biafra, performing Public Relations roles and helping to organize airlifts to the young nation. This entailed sourcing pilots and planes to fly in relief supplies, which brought him into partnership with Father Tony Byrne of the Holy Ghost Fathers who oversaw the Joint Church Aid and Caritas International segments of the flights. It should be noted that while Wesson was primarily involved in bringing humanitarian aid to Biafra, he also used the opportunity to spearhead the clandestine delivery of weapons to the country.
To increase public awareness, particularly in the United States, Wesson also worked with philanthropists like Father Raymond Kennedy of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Africa Concern, and Howard Cogan, a lawyer. Subsequently, he was influential in ensuring that documentaries and the media played a key role in highlighting the Biafran tragedy.
On 29 May 1969, Bruce Mayrock, a 20-year-old student at Columbia University, New York, set himself ablaze near the premises of the United Nations Headquarters, also in New York, to protest war crimes, human rights violations and starvation policies against civilians of the seceding nation of Biafra. The next day, Bruce died of injuries resulting from his self-immolation. His indignation was provoked by the largely apathetic attitude of organizations like the United Nations and then Organization of African Unity toward the plight of Biafrans; the self-seeking and shameless roles played by nations like Britain, Russia and Egypt that provided military support to the Nigerian side and the lukewarm attitude of nations like the United States.
Bruce was one out of many individuals worldwide, including celebrities like John Lennon and Jimmy Hendrix, who expressed their rage, on different levels, at atrocities committed in Biafra. These individuals acted selflessly, had nothing personal to gain and were willing to sacrifice so much, sometimes their lives, to restore stability and dignity to people whose lives were being ravaged ways unimaginable. They exemplified the real definition of empathy and justice, which is the principled desire to advocate security and well-being for all, regardless of nationality, culture, race or ethnicity. How ironic, since our haters and enemies are sometimes those who claim to be our kith and kin, as was demonstrated in the Biafran experience.
|Photo Source: Columbia
|Below, picture from Documenta 14
"Biafra’s Children: A Survivors’ Gathering"
Athens Municipality Arts Center, Parko Eleftherias
Athens, Greece, June 30 - July 1, 2017