After Moji and Margaret Solar-Wilson became the first known Nigerian lesbian couple to be legally married in the U.S. in 2017, they became the victims of a barrage of homophobic attacks from the Nigerian community. Living in New York at the time, the women experienced stalking, cyberbullying, death threats, and an onslaught of attacks from the African press. Nigeria’s criminalization of LGBTQ activity meant that Moji and Margaret would be subject to a sentence of 14 years in prison if they ever returned to their home country.
Moji and Margaret moved from New York to Texas in 2018, and decided that since they couldn’t visit Nigeria, they would bring a little bit of Nigeria to the Texas Hill Country. They founded Solar-Wilson Village (SWV) a 40-acre ranch retreat in Ledbetter that offers “a taste of Africa in the heart of Texas,” Moji says. “The mission is to create a sanctuary and a safe, inclusive space for all, regardless of ethnic origin, sexual orientation, religion, or gender.”
SWV hosts a variety of events, from weddings to reunions and romantic getaways. “[We] create safe spaces for celebration, relaxation, or recharging. Authentic African hospitality is an experience that very few in the Western world have experienced,” Margaret says. Recalling the welcoming sense of community from their childhoods, the couple created SWV in order to share that kind of hospitality with others. “The idea for the village was a shared vision, driven by our experience as an African lesbian couple simply seeking to live our authentic lives and celebrate the love we have for each other.”
Sadly, many African countries, including Nigeria, are increasingly homophobic, violent, and hostile to LGBTQ individuals, Margaret says. She adds that this is not consistent with traditional African culture, which is known historically for welcoming strangers with hospitality.
Moji, who is from Western Nigeria, has lived in the U.S. for over 35 years, while Margaret, who is from Mid-Western Nigeria, has lived in the U.S. for over 25 years. They were both born “in the ’60s in post-colonial Nigeria, a few years after Nigeria obtained its independence from Britain, and a few years before the Nigerian Civil War,” Moji explains.
On top of founding and running SWV, Moji is a licensed real-estate broker in New York, and a social commentator, certified life coach, and “inclusion and diversity” expert. Margaret is a physician who has practiced and taught medicine in Nigeria, the U.K., and the U.S. She also holds an MBA with a specialization in healthcare management.
SWV is a sanctuary that is grounded by two principles, Margaret explains. The first is the couple’s commitment to recreate a traditional African experience in the heart of Texas. “No two continents are as far apart as Africa and the U.S. The perception of Africa in the U.S. is so far from reality. [It’s a bit] like having a perception of America as all cowboys and Indians. That perception really colors everything.” The second principle is their commitment to inclusion and diversity.
There are so many things that make Solar-Wilson Village unique. First, of course, in that SWV is a Black-, African-, LGBTQ-, and woman-owned business. Then there is the design, from the exteriors to the interiors. “The grounds are reminiscent of an African Village,” Moji notes. “The interior decoration of our cabins is grounded in African handmade art, carvings, textiles, and masks.” They are even able to offer assistance in facilitating an authentic African traditional wedding.
“Why Texas?” you may be asking. Because, Margaret says, “This is where we are. We don’t have to go anywhere else to share the experience. It’s cultural values. There are no borders to that. We take our culture wherever we go.”
The couple hopes that Solar-Wilson Village will speak to their guests from both continents. To their African guests, it will say, “Remember our history steeped in glorious hospitality to all.” To American guests, it will say, “Forget what you think you know about Africa. This is what real, traditional African hospitality feels like.”
SWV brings everyone together. Margaret adds, “It’s a lesson, and it’s a modeling.”
For more information, visit solar-wilsonvillage.com.
This article appears in the May 2021 edition of OutSmart magazine.