From refugee to detainee: one activist’s path to organizing


Uchechukwu Onwa’s (he/him/his) calm self-confidence is borne out of nearly a decade of advocacy work within the LGBTQ community, although this self-possession is no doubt also a testament to the brutality he has witnessed and the violence he himself has faced. His composure should not be misunderstood as detachment, however. He is an engaging speaker and storyteller, not to mention accommodating. “You can call me Uche,” he smiled at the beginning of our interview. This is his path to organizing:

Uche was born in Nigeria, a West African country with intense social and legal penalties for perceived homosexuality. The stakes of such perceptions were made clear to Uche when his best friend was attacked by a group of men who believed him to be gay. The men raped Uche’s friend, who tested positive for HIV as a result of the attack. After his diagnosis, Uche’s friend died by suicide, which drove Uche to become involved in a Nigerian non-profit called the International Center for Advocacy on Rights to Health (ICARH), coordinating HIV prevention and education programs. 

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