Moving to Chicago wasn’t really a deliberate decision I made. It was based on several death threats I received working with the men who have sex with men community (MSM) in Nigeria and as a gay man.

I was arrested twice by the police force all because I was sensed to be gay.

Sometimes I question God for making me go through all these troubles all because of me being me – and this made me wish it was a mistake that God created me.

Currently in Nigeria, the LGBTI community faces a lot of stigma and discrimination which leads to violence, attack by the public and even attacks by those closest. Men who have sex with men most especially get beaten up and arrested by police because of being gay.

Last year, the president signed into law the same-sex prohibition bill and as a result of this action, a lot of people involved in providing services to the community are liable to end up in jail if they’re caught. Even the doctors that treat MSMs, organizations associated with them, any suspected gathering of men are all liable to 10 yrs in jail. With all these happenings, there was a voice in me that was saying, “God has a better plan in your life and you need to accept it and believe in it.”

I was granted asylum in April 2014 which I got in less than six weeks after I submitted my application. This is far shorter than the typical example of how long a case can take. This was a big testimony for me because there are thousands of folks who are still in the process for years and they have not received asylum. It really made me have faith in God and know that God has a better and brighter future for me.

Since arriving in the US, I became one of the newest employees of the Reconciling Ministries Network here in Chicago as the Africa Central Conferences Coordinator.  I also co-founded Chicago LGBT Asylum Support Program (CLASP) because I know first-hand the difficulty asylum seekers face when they arrive here in the US and the lack of resources available to them.

At CLASP, our major aim is to assist LGBT asylum seekers while they await the long and complicated process of applying for asylum here in the USA.

This means assisting with basics like housing, food, transportation and relational support. It’s hard enough to transition to a new life in a new country, but its especially difficult when you’re forced out of your own country with few resources because of threats of violence.

The program currently has about 10 folks seeking our support here in Chicago. This vital ministry is in need of financial support to continue assisting our LGBTQ siblings who have faced the same sort of challenges I faced in Nigeria. We need your help in ensuring they have their basic needs met here as they find their footing making a new life for themselves. Our program is essential for these 10 folks and those yet to come but we need your help to keep this organization afloat.

Please consider helping us so we can ensure asylum seekers in Chicago have a reason to believe there is hope for them to rebuild a life here. You cannot imagine the difference your contribution can make directly in the lives who need your support the most.

Learn more about how you can help here.

Dennis Akpona

Dennis Akpona is an LGBT activist originally from Nigeria. He was granted asylum from Nigeria where he fled persecution as a gay man. While in Nigeria, Dennis worked for seven years in the nonprofit sector for a number of organizations including Journalists Against AIDS, Initiative for Equal Rights, and Population Council.

Since arriving in the United States, Dennis has not stopped working for, and on behalf of, LGBT individuals. He volunteered at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and is a co-founder of Chicago LGBT Asylum Support Program or CLASP. Knowing first-hand the difficulty arriving asylum seekers face and the lack of resources available to them, Dennis took it upon himself to organize and start CLASP to assist LGBT asylum seekers while they await the long and complicated process of applying for asylum. Due to his love for giving back and helping others, he completed a bachelor's degree at Northeastern Illinois University in Social Work and a bachelor's degree in Accounting from Lagos State University in Nigeria. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Social Work from University at Buffalo.

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