Edafe Okporo, a student within the Human Capital Management Department at the NYU SPS Division of Programs in Business, has recently penned a poignant memoir about his life as a Nigerian asylee to the US and a global gay rights activist. His book, Asylum – A Memoir & Manifesto, which will be published this summer by Simon & Schuster and is available for pre-order now, is an urgent call to action for immigration reform.
The book documents Okporo’s experiences growing up in Nigeria, which passed a law that criminalized same-sex relationships. Okporo was threatened and brutally assaulted for being gay. It chronicles his flight to America in 2016 and his problems navigating the immigration system - he was held in a detention center for five months and spent time in homeless shelters.
Although writing the book triggered painful memories of leaving behind his family and coming to a new country knowing no one, he felt compelled to tell his tale. He expressed that “US immigration policies have not caught up with LGBTQ+ refugees fleeing persecution, and who better positioned to write the story than someone who has gone through the process himself.”
Okporo has fared better in his new home country than many other immigrants, thanks to the help of local agencies and his own drive. He worked at not-for-profit organizations, eventually becoming director of the RDJ shelter in Harlem, which provides asylum-seekers with housing and other critical services. Currently, he is the mobilization director at Talent Beyond Boundaries, an organization that aims to utilize refugees in the global workforce.
Alongside his personal story is a call to action—not only for immigration reform but for a just immigration system for refugees everywhere. He has advocated for Afghan and Haitian refugees. “I think when we read another’s story it humanizes us, creates more compassion, and inspires us to take action,” he said.
The manifesto portion of his book targets three groups: He calls on the US government system to reform its immigration system; the American public to become more aware of the struggles of asylum seekers; and the business community to understand what contributes to the push and pull of migration.
Okporo was among the inaugural winners of the David Prize 2020, a celebration of individuals and ideas to create a better, brighter New York City, and was featured in The New York Times. In addition to his activism, he is the founder of The Pont, a diversity and inclusion consulting company.