Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki Granted Visa to Attend Chicon 8

Nigerian sff author Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki announced today he has been granted a visa to attend the 2022 Worldcon in Chicago this weekend after a second interview at the U.S. Embassy in Lagos. More information to follow. (For details about his first interview, see here.)

26 thoughts on “Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki Granted Visa to Attend Chicon 8

  1. This is terrific news!

    Does anybody know what worked? Official sources all acted like a second interview was never going to happen.

  2. Huzzah! I hope Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki has a great time at Chicon 8 and congratulations on his Hugo nomination!

  3. Wonderful news!

    @rcade–I suspect a bunch of people got a bunch of email and said, oh, hey, an unexpectedly large number of people care about this guy we never heard of coming to this event only a few of us realized was as large as it is. And these “Hugo Awards” turn out to be more significant than we (or our Lagos embassy, perhaps) realized.

    I.e., the embassy initially didn’t see any reason to grant the visa, but when it caused a fuss, they also didn’t have any real reason to deny it, certainly not enough to embrace a controversy over it.

  4. Wow, excellent news! Congrats to everyone all around! And thanks to all the fans whose outpouring of support was almost certainly why this happened!

  5. @rcade
    @Lis Carey

    I know at least part of what worked. The short answer is, writing elected representatives made a difference. I’m hoping soon I can tell the little part of the long answer that I saw.

  6. Yeah, I thought so. You don’t argue with the guys sending out form letters. You go over their head to someone with clout who sees how this embarrasses the US.

  7. Hooray for Donald! Many thanks to the sf crowd who endorsed him, and to the State Dept where reason prevailed (in this case). Hope Chicon8 is a great time for everyone. Wish I could attend.

  8. (Currently just arrived today (Tue 30 Aug) –by air– and now in the Hyatt Regency Hotel Chicago – the main Chicon 8 Con Hotel venue) : this is excellent news. [ BTW, my previous offer to cover –as a Chicon 8 replacement– his membership of the UK NatSFCon (Eastercon) 2023/”Conversation” (Hilton Metropole Hotel, NEC, Birmingham, UK : Fri 7- Mon 10 April inclusive), still stands – assuming he gets UK clearance to attend from Nigeria. I can’t cover his travel or accom though. ] Best wishes.

  9. @Sarah Avery–

    I know at least part of what worked. The short answer is, writing elected representatives made a difference. I’m hoping soon I can tell the little part of the long answer that I saw.

    That’s…more or less what I said. Though I admit to not having any inside details.

  10. This is 75% excellent news, although there’s still the border crossing itself. Border agents have the ability to not admit a person, and their Hulk-deny attitudes can rise up from the most minor (or non-existent) reasons. Or they’ll play power games, keeping a person waiting in secondary for hours. This type of long delay recently happened to a person I know who was flying to the US to give a TED talk. These petty tactics have happened to CEOs and senior scientists.

    I used to teach at a summer executive education type program (so not arriving with student visas, which the agents are used to. Novel situations can irritate them). Eacc year on the arrival weekend we’d have at least one or two participants get stuck in the airport. We’d had given them warnings that this could happen and careful phrasing of what to say and what not to say.

    It’s a real verbal Scylla and Charybdis to figure out how to imply “yes, officer, it is entirely up to you to decide to let me in, you alone are the authority and the decision maker, and that Representative A and Senator B, Neil Himself and 10k people in Twitter are watching is not at all relevant and I’m not mentioning them.”

  11. This is great news. I am still paranoid about him getting into the US. I am not a religious person, but I am sending all my positive feelings to the universe about this working out.

  12. Here’s my little sliver of the long answer:

    Many people wrote to their elected representatives. The only person I know for sure heard back is me. I have heard that some of the people organizing ChiCon got Senator Tammy Duckworth interested. I gather other people had different avenues they were working on, too. I hope people who know more will tell those stories.

    I cut and pasted Mike’s letter, added a couple of paragraphs, and sent it to my whole congressional delegation. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) replied. He could write a letter of support if Ekpeki made a second application for the visa, because the previous decision could not be overruled, and if Van Hollen’s office received a bunch of specific documentation about the case.

    I got in touch with Chris Barkley, whose post here was the reason I knew about Ekpeki’s predicament in the first place. Barkley started working with Ekpeki on the documentation. We all had some questions, so we followed up with an assigned member of Van Hollen’s staff. (The staffer has asked not to be identified, so I’m using they/them pronouns for them.) Everybody thought we had the weekend to get the paperwork ready so the letter could be written.

    On Friday, Ekpeki got word that his reapplication appointment would be on Monday. Suddenly, that letter of support had to reach the embassy before Monday’s start of business hours in Lagos, which is several time zones ahead of DC. Barkley tried to reach the staffer and learned they were scheduled to be out of office for meetings all day. As far as we knew at the time, nobody else advocating for the visa was having better luck than we were. It looked like the only way forward was to get some live human to commit to sending that letter of support before the weekend. Because Barkley doesn’t live in Maryland and didn’t have a constituent’s claim on the rest of Van Hollen’s staff, I phoned every number I could find that had any connection with the senator’s office.

    Of course, legislative staffers are awash in death threats from fascists these days, so you can’t get a live human on the first try. I left voicemail messages everywhere and made a cordial, courteous, but flagrantly undeterrable pest of myself. Basically, I did what I remembered from Indivisible’s advice back in 2016.

    Ekpeki and Barkley got the documentation finished in a hurry. Barkley sent it all with a fresh email to the staffer who was our point of contact, imploring them to make time for that letter of support before the weekend.

    I was preparing to phone All The Numbers again, when the point of contact staff person phoned me. Their colleagues had tracked them down because of my previous round with All The Numbers. They stepped out of a meeting in progress to tell me they had the news and would work on the letter of support over the weekend. It’s true what people say about the overtime legislative staffers put in. I confirmed that they had Barkley’s latest email and everything they needed.

    On Sunday, they emailed Barkley and me to confirm that the letter had gone to the embassy in Lagos and been received.

    Monday, Ekpeki let Barkley know that the second appointment had seemed to go better than the first, but it was still unclear what the final answer would be. So I emailed the staffer asking if one more nudge was possible. I didn’t hear back on that one.

    This morning, Barkley texted me with the jubilant all-caps news: HE GOT IT! HE GOT IT! THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!

    Chris Van Hollen is a person who can hear about a situation like Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki’s and say, yes, that’s a kind of problem senatorial power should address. I owe my thanks especially to his staff member, because they looked at that initial email and said, yes, this was the kind of thing they wanted to bring to the boss’s attention. Many, many people who wrote their representatives would have pushed as hard as I did if their representatives and congressional staffers had given them any opening to work with.

    And if I ever hit a wall of official indifference about something really important, I hope I have an advocate as determined as Chris Barkley.

  13. Outstanding work! I’m so glad you all found one sympathetic Senator to take action.

  14. Excellent work from Sarah and Chris — congratulations!

    And Chris Van Hollen has long been a positive force in Maryland politics, so I’m not surprised he had such a responsive staffer. Good for both of them.

  15. Wonderful news.
    Much appreciation to everyone who worked for this excellent result. Wishing Ekpeki and all other Chicon attendees a wonderful time!

  16. Yeah, Ekpeki could run into some Trumphole in Customs who had sour corn flakes that morning. Fingers still crossed.

    I hope he gets a big fan welcome in the airport after he gets through, though.

  17. It seems so redundant to say it, but all over fandom our hearts are bursting! Yay! Hallelujah! “Let justice prevail, though the heavens fall”!
    And thank you, thank you, thank you, Chris, for your Herculean efforts, to bring this wonderful event to pass.

  18. Pingback: More Information Shared About Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki’s Successful Second Visa Application | File 770

  19. This is great news! Thank you to everyone who helped out with this, you’ve done a wonderful thing.

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