Justin Chidozie is a renaissance development professional, as well as, the founder Center for Health Education and Vulnerable Support (CHEVS) a youth-led organization, renowned for changing the narrative of minority groups through movement building and positive storytelling. Justin holds several national, regional, and global positions in different advocacy groups.
JUSTIN CHIDOZIE’S INTERVIEW
Tell us about your work at CHEVS?
I work as the Executive director at Center for Health Education, and Vulnerable Support; a youth-led LGBTI organization in Nigeria with a focus on sexual reproductive health and rights, human rights, and economic empowerment of young LGBTI persons. We use a feminist approach to intersectional programing, creating visibility for young queer lives. We also build the capacity of LGBTI persons to work on other social justice issues like gender equality, education, and health rights.
Interesting! What does pride mean to you as a young black queer man?
I’m always excited when it’s Pride Month because it’s my birth month as well. So, for me, pride is celebrating everything that makes and shapes us. Pride is about us as a people, in our diversity. Pride to me is simply just forgetting all that is against you, and all that the country you reside in has put in place to bring you down. Pride to me is simply celebrating the love within. So, it is just about the time to glorify or to bring to the limelight all that makes us stronger; all that makes us who we are, and all the colors in us.
How do you celebrate Pride Month in Nigeria? What do you guys do?
So, basically, it’s a difficult one. We have not been celebrating pride, but recently, since COVID, some organizations use virtual platforms to celebrate the event. They have adopted virtual celebrations through Zoom, Clubhouse, and other platforms, while some still organize some closed-door activities in secluded places. But this year is going to be sort of different for us because we are going to go out but not basically on the streets. My organization, in partnership with other LGBT+ organizations, will be organizing a three-day destination Pride; more like a mini-conference to celebrate Pride where we will be offering scholarships to community members to attend.
We’re going to have panel discussions, presentations, and a whole lot of other fun games for two days. So, it’s like the first time we are coming out besides the virtual space to celebrate. Also, my organization has decided to celebrate pride this year, virtually in a unique way. We have an initiative called Read for Pride. Every Saturday of June, we are going to be profiling an LGBTQ+ writer and we will have a community gathering virtually to read their book and discuss the issues that come up from the book. We have some LGBTQ+ writers who are within and in diaspora who have volunteered to be the readers. It is also a way to talk about queer literature and also to publicize their work and create a community of knowledge within our community.
Wow! Exciting stuff. So, what do you love about Pride?
Dedicating the month of June to pride is bliss because it’s my birthday month and I feel like that’s why I’m so fabulous and that’s why I’m all that I am. The basic thing I love about pride is:
“The communion of people who just want to love themselves, be authentic, and learn how to show the world their colors and to speak out for what they believe in, which is part of who they are.”
Because I’ve never seen more authenticity and self-awareness in any of the months or in any of the celebrations than pride month. You see a lot of people putting up the rainbow flags and other identities on the frames and making publicity, even in some private spaces, companies, and governments acknowledge this month. So, the awareness that this is for us as a community crowns it all for me.
Wow. Thank you so much, Justin for your time. This was lovely.