For 20-year-old Columbia University student named Bruce Mayrock of Westbury, New York who on May 29, 1969, set himself on fire in front of the United Nations Building in New York City to protest genocide in Biafra. He died the next day, May 30th, 1969.

He died for me.

Like so many others


He could've asked,

"What concerns me?"

But he didn’t.


He was moved by distended abdomen

Of the children of Biafra

Full of kwoshiokor

And our indifference.


He climbed down his Ivy League chair

Into the valley of the United Nations

Wrote on a large cardboard sign:

"You must stop the genocide, please."


But nobody listened

Nobody stopped

Nobody paused

To hear the cries of the little children of Biafra


If I were born months before

If I were weaned from my mother's breasts

I could've been one of those children

Whose pictures shamed the cover of Life.


He died for me.


He didn't have to.

But he did

Because nobody listened

And nobody is listening, even now.

Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo is the author of “This American Life Sef.”

Bruce Mayrock set himself on fire in front of the UN Headquarters to protest genocide in Biafra

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