For 27-year-old Michael Ighodaro, the New York City pride march is a bittersweet celebration of his identity and a sombre reminder of what that identity means for hundreds of his fellow countrymen. "It's about remembering who we are and where we came from. It's about loving ourselves, no matter how the situation is. " he says while preparing to walk in the parade for the second time.
On Jan.7, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law a bill that bans same-sex marriage and makes homosexuality a punishable offense with up to 14 years in prison and 10 years for any person or organisation that assist same sex couples or advocates homosexuality imperiling thousands of volunteers helping HIV/AIDS affected people in a country which has the second highest reported cases of the disease in the world. Cases of atrocities against LGBTQI members and activists are on the rise with random arrests and brutal assaults. Homophobia in Nigeria has now reached a tipping point.
Michael, who is living with HIV, fled Nigeria two years ago after being beaten up and threatened with his life by anti-gay vigilantes. He was shunned by his family and was forced to live a life of exile in the US. For the last two years, Michael has actively been a part of the Nigerian LGBT community in New York City helping his fellow countrymen.
Today there are laws against homosexuality in 37 African countries that persecutes thousands of people. Michael's story is about remembering that reality.
(Video produced by: Priyanka Gupta & Claire Pires)