Saturday, May 30, 2020 11:04 am
By Nehru Odeh
Bianca Odumegwu Ojukwu, wife of late Igbo leader, Chukwumeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, is very passionate about issues concerning her people. She showed this trait on Friday, 29 May 2020 when she took to Facebook to celebrate Bruce Mayrock, the 20 year old student of the University of Columbia who died on 30 May 1969 shortly after setting himself on fire in front of the UN Building in New York while protesting the atrocities federal soldiers were committing against the Igbo people during the Nigerian civil war
In two separate Facebook posts she waxed emotional as she remembered Mayrock who paid the ultimate prize for the Igbo people and her husband, Ojukwu who, while alive, had always wanted to immortalize Mayrock, though he couldn’t achieve that before he died.
“In the days following the stroke which would eventually take his life, one issue weighed heavily on Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu’s mind. That ‘issue’ was the immortalization of Bruce Mayrock, the 20 year old who set himself ablaze in front of the UN Building in New York on this day (29th Of May) in 1969 to draw attention to the plight of the Biafran people (a people whom he had never met, and whom he believed were at the brink of extermination, engaged in a desperate war for survival), who died in the early hours of 30th May, on the anniversary of the declaration of Biafra,” Bianca wrote.
However Bianca has almost achieved that dream as Project Mayrock, “a three-storey edifice including a conference hall with Projectors, an exhibition floor that will house artistic depictions, iconic photos and historic scenes of our 30 month long heroic battle for survival” is already near completion.
In the first Facebook posts which she entitled: He Died that we may Survive … Greater Love Hath no Man … Bruce Mayrock (6 MAY 1949- 30MAY1969), Bianca wrote:
HE DIED THAT WE MAY SURVIVE…….
GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN….: BRUCE MAYROCK (6 MAY 1949- 30 MAY 1969)
In a faraway land, interred within a nondescript grave at the Mount Ararat Cemetery in Suffolk County NY, his resting place marked by a modest plaque with the inscriptions ‘idealist, zealot, student’ lies Bruce Mayrock, a 20 year old student of Columbia University who died on 30th May 1969 shortly after setting himself on fire in front of the United Nations Building to protest the atrocities that were being unleashed on the people of Biafra at the height of the civil war.
He had been carrying a large cardboard sign on which he wrote ‘You must stop the genocide….Please save 9 million Biafrans’. At the bottom of the sign a quotation read, ‘ Peace is where there is an absence of fear of any kind…’
Bruce Mayrock came from a very wealthy family, having descended from the Fortunoffs. He was a young man with a promising and wealth assured future ahead of him. His family stated that he had worked actively to protest the war in Biafra, writing letters about the war to the US president and other leading government figures.
In utter frustration and desolation that no one appeared to be listening, he decided to draw the attention of the world to the Biafran plight the only way he felt he could do so….by sacrificing his own life. Someone once said that some prices are so high that they can only be paid in blood.
Our Brother, Blessed Bruce, Continue to Rest In Peace. May the Good Lord shine His light perpetual upon you. You sacrificed your life for an imperiled people thousands of miles away from you whom you had never met. The people of the Land of the Rising Sun remain eternally indebted to you. We shall never forget you, Beloved friend.
To Onye Igbo Obuna, This concerns YOU. A high percentage of our youth today are sadly unaware of these facts but are ever keen to disseminate trivialities that are of no fundamental value…..
Please SHARE, light a candle or whisper a prayer for this brother who paid the ultimate price for us all on this Day in 1969.
In the second Facebook post entitled Project Mayrock: A Promise Fulfilled, she wrote:
PROJECT MAYROCK : A PROMISE FULFILLED.
In the days following the stroke which would eventually take his life, one issue weighed heavily on Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu’s mind. That ‘issue’ was the immortalization of Bruce Mayrock, the 20 year old who set himself ablaze in front of the UN Building in New York on this day (29th Of May) in 1969 to draw attention to the plight of the Biafran people (a people whom he had never met, and whom he believed were at the brink of extermination, engaged in a desperate war for survival), who died in the early hours of 30th May, on the anniversary of the declaration of Biafra.
‘There is still time’, I had assured my anxious spouse.. ‘You will get through this, and then you will do it, as you planned’.
His response destabilized me. ‘I am a soldier..’ he said, looking straight into my eyes with all the equanimity of a man whose fate already lay before him;
‘the only modes of death I am conditioned to anticipate, happen to be death at the battlefield or by execution…I never expected to get this far. If I don’t make it, Do what you can…our people must never forget….’
Sadly, he did not survive….And steadily I embarked, stage by stage, upon Project Mayrock which, to the Glory of God, is nearing completion and slated for commissioning by the end of the year. It is our hope that the surviving brothers of Bruce Mayrock will attend the ceremony. The Mayrock is a three story edifice including a conference hall with Projectors ,an exhibition floor that will house artistic depictions, iconic photos and historic scenes of our 30 month long heroic battle for survival. Sculptures of Bruce Mayrock will adorn the landscape and memorial hall. Pupils from various schools will have an opportunity to visit and learn more about our struggle.
The buildings and some of the artworks as shown here are still in process, however since this particular anniversary marks 50 years of the end of the Biafra War – a momentous milestone- I thought it timely to share this initiative. The only input you are required to make into this project is to pass on the story of this selfless sacrifice, and that of so many others to our struggle, to your children. ‘A nation which forgets it’s defenders will itself be forgotten’(Calvin Coolidge).
My appreciation goes to to the architects and Arcon builders, the sculptors, artists as well the curators working with me on this project, to my children for their research and assistance and very importantly, my profound thanks to Chief C. Martins Ndujekwu…We started this journey together.
To our departed Leader Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu….,
On yet another anniversary of the self immolation and death of Bruce Mayrock, it is my honour to affirm to you – Ikemba Igbo nine, General Of the People’s Army, Odum n’eche Igbo…that We have not forgotten; and the promise is fulfilled . The memories of our Martyr Bruce and of all those who gave their lives that we may live…are enshrined in our hearts and minds. Generations yet unborn will be reminded of their sacrifice. The Mayrock Memorial Building stands as a monument and tribute to uncommon courage and heroism.
Brother Bruce…The people of Biafra, Land of the Rising Sun, today raise their trumpets in your honour. Again, We say THANK YOU. We will Never forget you.
Bianca Odumegwu Ojukwu
29 May 2020.
You can also read here what the Columbia Daily Spectator, a publication of the University of Columbia wrote about Bruce Mayrock here. It was published on 3 June, 1969, four days after his death.
GS Student, 20, Immolates Himself In Front of U.N.
“Bruce Mayrock, a twenty-year old student at the School of General Studies and a sports photographer for the Columbia Daily Spectator, died Friday after setting himself on fire in front of the United Nations to protest the war in Biafra. According to witnesses, the student, who enrolled in GS last January doused himself with a flammable liquid shortly before 3 p.m. Thursday and set himself afire on the lawn outside the U.N. building. Two United Nations guards spotted the flames and chased the youth across the lawn with fire extinguishers. But Mayrock eluded the guards, racing in front of the North Lounge of the building before several hundred horrified delegates and onlookers. The student finally fell to his knees beside a statue bearing the Biblical inscription “Let us beat our swords into plowshares and the guards extinguished the flames. Mayrock was rushed to ßellevue Hospital where he was listed in critical condition with burns over most of his body and was pronounced dead shortly after midnight. At the U.N., guards found a large cardboard sign on the front lawn which said, “You must stop the genocide–please save 9 million Biafrans.” At the bottom of the sign, a quotation read, “Peace is where there is an absence of fear of any kind.” In past years, two other persons have immolated themselves in front of the U.N. Both died of their burns.
“Mayrock, who lived in Westbury, L.1., enrolled in GS and the Jewish Theological Seminary in September, 1967, but dropped out after one year and studied briefly at Hofstra University. He re-enrolled at GS last January. While at Columbia, Mayrock worked as a photographer for the Spectator sports department. Members of the youth’s family stated Friday that he had worked’ actively to protest the war in Biafra, writing letters about the war to the President and leading government figures. However, according to one rabbi, ‘ who said he was close to the family, the student believed that “no one was listening.” “He was an idealistic young man deeply upset by the events in Biafra,” the rabbi said. “People were being killed and he felt no one was doing anything. That’s why he did what he did.”