Activist Edafe Okporo did not wait long after arriving in the United States to make an impact. Okporo, who's gay, came to the country in 2016 seeking asylum from anti-LGBTQ+ oppression in his native Nigeria. When the newly arrived Okporo had difficulty locating shelter in New York City, he took matters into his own hands. He sought out available space and created the landmark RDJ Refugee Shelter for LGBTQ+ asylum seekers.
"To be a refugee, a gay person, and a Black man in America is not an easy task. You are always fighting for an opportunity to have a seat at the table," says Okporo, 31. "When you do get a seat, it becomes your responsibility to build a longer table for others and not a fence. That is what I try to do with my work as an advocate and activist."
Okporo has continued his advocacy as mobilization director for Talent Beyond Boundaries, a pioneering labor organization for refugees. The group is working in "uncharted territory," he says, noting that he hopes to "see a more skilled labor workforce from the global refugee community coming into the U.S to solve our current skilled labor shortage."
Okporo also founded The Pont (the French word for "bridge"), which, through training and consulting services, seeks to create a more just and equitable world by building connections between communities, nonprofits, start-ups, and other entities.
Next up for the busy activist is the publication of his memoir, Asylum, due out in June. The book tells his story of living at the intersections of race, sexuality, religion, and systemic oppression in Nigeria. It also chronicles his flight to the U.S. and his activism and advocacy.
"I hope I have contributed to the larger movement of equality for all by showing up and standing up for what is right, even when it is difficult," Okporo says. "To show queer people they can pursue their education, keep a full-time job, write a book, be in love with someone that makes them happy [while] simultaneously fighting for a better world."
This story is part of The Advocate's 2021 People of the Year issue, which is out on newsstands November 23, 2021. To get your own copy directly, support queer media and subscribe -- or download yours for Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News.