dear toronto,

If this open letter to tdot is to stay true to its mission, it has to start with (re)acknowledging where we’re at, on turtle island & where we coming from, mama afrika. It’s also only natural that in speaking truth to power, we share that we are in our final stage/week of developing & organising for

  1. The Spaces Between [produced by the Peace camp],
  2. Peace is Possible Parade &
  3. summer workshops at Crescent Town Public School  with Full Circle, Regent Park Camp, Balmy Beach, Learning for Life, Seeds of Hope…..

The ‘official’ werd on the ground is

The Children’s Peace Theatre of Toronto will be holding its 10th annual Summer Peace Camp from July 5-24, 2010. Under the direction of Liz Pounsett and musical direction by award-winning jazz artist Brownman with the artistic direction of Karen Emerson.

A group of 60 children and youth will work alongside professional artists to create a theatrical collaboration called ‘The Space Between’.

This is bound to be the most provocative of Peace Camp productions as the children explore faith and reason and how these concepts affect our lives personally and globally. It confronts head on the issues associate with the interplay of faith and reason with the level of honesty, humor and energy only children and youth can impart. The Space Between is sure to be visually stunning, thought provoking and full of surprises].

http://www.peacetheatre.org/

We’re inviting Tdot, all our friends and visitors, to come with their pikney and friends, join us on Friday July 23rd and Saturday July July 24th in the PIP Parade and the gala performance of the Space Between.

So ofcourse we should first tell you the story about the source of this peace theatre.

Hapo (si) zamani (sana) ya kale

In 2000, the Hannon-Shields Centre for Leadership and Peace reclaimed parts of the Massey Goulding Estate and under the ‘official’ leadership of Robert Morgan, launched the Children’s Peace Theatre (PT)

As Robert has said: “We place children and youth centre stage, not because they are cute or candid, but because they display humanity’s capacity to evolve, even in the harsh conditions of the current times. Young people are demonstrating an instinctive desire to move away from the dominant culture of self-interestedness and aggression, and are moving instead towards building relationships and community due to an innate desire to seek stability, safety, and peace.

It is also evident that young people have the imagination and the energy that will be necessary to establish a new culture of peace. Watching young people from very different backgrounds cross paths, encounter conflict, and find creative ways of making the conflict evolve in positive directions, gives me the audacity to believe that peace is possible.”

http://books.google.ca/books?id=hfBaL4-ei2AC&lpg=PP1&ots=wjbLnY-b6-&dq=once%20upon%20a%20time%20there%20was%20a%20little%20girl%20healing%20power%20of%20fairy%20tales&pg=PA7#v=onepage&q&f=false

[10 years later, the ‘un-official’ werd on the ground on the opening ceremony  is: join us in a prayer circle on Friday July 23rd @ at 7:00am , in the heart of the peace forest.

The ‘official’ plan of the day is the Peace is Possible parade @ 11:00am, and the 2nd matinee of the spaces between which will begin @ 1.00pm, in the outdoor amphitheatre of the Peace Theatre @ 305 Dawes Road.]

[this subjective perspective on the process of manifesting justice, truth, reconciliation en peacemaking; is after many moons of ‘unofficially’ re/claiming the grounds of the peace forest,  since I came back from ‘home’ [aka. in another place, not here…], en in the years before, with osain as my colleague, en his home as my office. Close to eshu, obatala, ogun, oshun, oya en all the orishas.

I am deeply grateful for now ‘officially’ being part of that divine, growing team that is blessed, honoured and privileged to work here, [job soon dun, but it’s a contract with possible extensions of renewal nonetheless, and all the fertile spaces between metarmophoses, healing rituals & building solidarity with people of all faiths, all nations, with one prayer.

I give thanks for the artists, caregivers, comrades, elders en youth, peer educators, healers and peace makers, friends of PT, who contribute their energy, talent & time to rebuilding our communities, with our children, using arts for revolushunary social & spiritual change, sharing our healing stories with the 3c’s of PT]

I pray for health and prosperity, not only for myself but for others. I pray for humbleness, for myself and others. Please forgive my sins, those that I know about, and those that I don’t know about, those I am yet to commit, and those of others. Inspire those without hope, and strengthen those without faith. I give thanks for the cool wotas, the sun, moon, and stars, for the birds, and our trees. Bless all our living relatives.Onikpite]

I give thanks for our continued re/learning of faith in the true (true) ways of the ‘natives’ of port credit Mississauga, for our deepening connecuns with egun,

Bless taylor creek park en all our neighbours en visitors. Bless the ancestors betwixt en between, all around  crescent town, goodwood, thorncliffe, dentonia park, jane&finch, parkdale, regent park, in all our enclaves, trees, en living relatives, in these diverse hoods.

PIP song

I give thanks for the burning, metamorphoses en (for) the spaces between spreading big love en positivity in our communities.  I give thanks that the fiya this time feels like ‘the revolushun’ is with our breaking bread, making arts en crafts, playing, praying, reasoning and replenishing not only ourselves, but with our families and friends, en ‘others’.

Bless the motherless and fatherless, those sick in hospital. Bless the homeless, and those who ignore them. Ifa,  I pray that you continue to guide us in coming to our right/full destinites. I pray that the circle may be unbroken. Bless our wotas en granmama earth. Ase. Ase….

[blogger’s notes: It’s, only officially, been less than a moon that I’ve been working on programs at the peace theatre, there’s still many pieces of the past that I’m not familiar with, but I give thanks that this place, in another space, not home, is exactly where I need to be,….naushukuru that the blessings of yesterday, manifested today en I pray for them to carry forward to tomorrow…..

85 days 16[+72]hours 25 minutes – the caps finally contained the oil spill, and we are bound to pray for our continued healing en self recovery, to learn from our mis-steps, and continue changing the destructive path we’ve been on.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taylor-Massey_Creek

Taylor-Massey Creek is 16 kilometres long. Its headwaters are near Sheppard and Victoria Park Avenues. It flowed diagonally through Wishing Well Park and under Highway 401 at Pharmacy Avenue. The original headwaters were diverted to Highland Creek when the highway was widened to 12 lanes, so the creek now starts at a stormwater outfall just south of the highway.

The creek starts in Terraview Willowfield Park, a restoration project, named after a nearby public school. It flows through two medium sized ponds with naturalized channels. From there it flows southeast through a series of concrete lined channels and drains. This section runs along an abandoned hydro right-of-way before entering a residential and industrial section that is closed to public access.

South of Eglinton Avenue East it enters a shallow ravine and flows south passing through Pine Hills Cemetery. It exits the cemetery travelling west and enters a small park on St. Clair Avenue East. At Warden Avenue it turns southwest, moving through a park called Warden Woods. West of Pharmacy Avenue it enters a city run golf course. At Victoria Park Avenue it enters Taylor Creek Park and continues uninterrupted to where it empties into the Don River East Branch, just north of the forks of the Don.

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by michael hureaux perez

We must build a militant grassroots movement rooted in the working majority that is completely independent from the political organizations dominated by the big business classes.”

 

How good it is to know that if the world were burning to a crisp, the owners of society would let us know before we were completely toasted. First the oil spill from the late Deepwater Horizon was spewing out at a thousand gallons a day, then it was five thousand gallons a day, and today it is quietly admitted that it may be upwards of a hundred thousand gallons a day. Not that I’m shocked, you understand, I expect nothing from the ruling class of this country after Hurricane Katrina was used to purge better than a thousand black people from the planet five years ago.

What does intrigue me, however, is the banality of corporate thugs like British Petroleum, who announce such news with the demeanor of a waiter letting you know the short order cook burned your toast. As for the so-called democratic government of the United States, which should be arresting these criminals at this moment, we are treated to yet another display of Obama’s stentorian skills.

Un(/)fortunately, you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

  

http://www.blackagendareport.com/?q=content/eshu%E2%80%99s-blues-make-them-drink-it 

 The current ruling class of the United States of America is the most corrupt, bloated and incompetent group of gangsters to oversee this country since its founding. Their public face may be sleeker and wary of its “carbon footprint,” they may drink green tea and jog with their kids seated in ergonomically correct strollers through city parks, but they are as venal – nay, they are more venal than the top hatted, cigar puffing fat cats that were lampooned in the socialist press a century ago.

The robber barons of that era at least had enough social consciousness to know that public libraries and public hospitals were a needful thing. The current generation of new age merit class capitalists daily configure new strategies for selling off the public sector, lock, stock and barrel.

Market efficiency will take care of all, na?

 

So welcome to the new efficiency under the predator drone-guarded skies. The new generation of market gurus couldn’t foresee the depth of the banking crisis, they couldn’t foresee the endless nature of their atrocities in the Near East, they couldn’t foresee the disaster that has befallen the Gulf of Mexico. (Gaza, Johannesburg, Mtwapa, Ayiti…….)

Amazing, isn’t it, how people who were allegedly elevated through the magic of the marketplace can’t see a speeding train when they’re standing in front of it? The truth is that our new ruling elite do not care what happens to the economy or the ecology so long as their investment portfolios are yielding high dividends.

 

Certainly the charismatic they put in the White House this last go round wasn’t about to cop to how bad the mess in the Gulf of Mexico is until just a few days ago.

Obama’s response was his usual pursing of the lips, “cluck, cluck, cluck,” and a stentorian reminder to the hup-ho that from now on, they’ll have to play nice. Who needs manatees or pelicans anyway?

Obama’s daily concessions to the ruling gangsters have become the stuff of legend. Even people who never thought he was about much are perpetually astounded at what an opportunist and bloodstained piece of work he’s actually become. He is, in essence, the sort of black politician that all too many white folks – and unfortunately, a great many black people – have come to love and cherish as the best of all possible worlds under the current social order. He’s so obviously disgusting that many of us have grown tired of the topic. He’s just a symptom of our eighteenth century geniuses, Panglosses talking endlessly about their best of all possible worlds.

Our new age Panglosses have basically declared that what we have leading us in this country is the best that anyone can possibly do under the current arrangement. Unfortunately, if this daily grenade range is the best they have to offer, then I can only chime in with the terrible Leon Trotsky, when he observed seventy years ago that if global warfare and the common ruin of nature and humanity were required for the capitalist system to thrive, it’s time it perished.

A triad of transnational behemoths with the appellations Transocean, British Petroleum, and Halliburton have birthed an environmental catastrophe that will in turn imperil the hardwon economic gains of working class people in the deep southern United States for generations. The spill in the Gulf poses a menace to the economies of people of the Caribbean basin: Mexico, the Central American nations, the north of South America. The people who are responsible for this mess are vicious, and we must prepare to make them answer for their crimes against the planet and its peoples.

Obama’s daily concessions to the ruling gangsters have become the stuff of legend.”

So once again: There has been enough “skinnin’ and grinnin’,” and enough group deception around the actual intentions of the so-called “democratic” party. As usual, even as rivers of oil daily threaten not only the crabbing and shrimping industries that have fed our peoples along the Gulf Coast for generations – and not only as such irreplaceable creatures as the brown pelican, the blue fin tuna, and the manatee are threatened with extinction – the “democratic” party leadership stands with its hands in its pockets, and continues to mildly suggest that that the actions currently being undertaken by British Petroleum may not be adequate. Never forget: our ruling class knows that an unspeakable atrocity is palatable when it’s trotted out and played in minor chords.

Our peoples in this country must be made to understand that the destruction of a maritime industry that has kept the Southeastern states in the U.S. relatively solvent for generations and the slow immolation of an entire aquatic ecosystem is a crime against all of nature and all of humanity.

  

We have to stop fooling ourselves. There is a class war going on against our peoples and against the natural world, a calculated gamble that is being pursued by the ruling classes of this country.

If we are to survive, we are going to have to see this game, and raise the stakes………….

The eternal question is: who’s got the plan? There are lots of planners, there are lots of ideas in contention. At the very least, each respective strategy we adopt must retain as its watchword the complete independence of the political organizations of the wage earning majority from the political organizations dominated by the big business classes.

But I would like to modestly suggest that we begin by conducting a militant defense of the public sector of the economy through whatever grassroots community and labor organizations at our disposal – once again, with the notable exception of the “democratic” party, which is not an organization that belongs to the wage earning majority, nor will it ever be. Let’s get clear on that. A lot of us are going to go weak in the knees when the “democrats” break out with their usual “the monsters are coming!” show two years from now when the GOP rolls out creeps like Mitch Romney and Sarah Palin. Let’s declare their agenda irrelevant and organize differently. Let’s build upon what we do as a militantly independent grassroots movement.

The ‘democratic’ party leadership stands with its hands in its pockets, and continues to mildly suggest that that the actions currently being undertaken by British Petroleum may not be adequate.”

Obviously the only ideas that are excluded are racist, classist, sexist, homophobic, shapist, or anything else the capitalist system has come up with to get us to kill each other. No more false unities with people who clearly hate us. Let the polarization that actually exists be open, and let it declare itself openly under the rubric of a political organization rooted in the wage earning majority. There are beginning efforts like this happening in Pennsylvania and North Carolina right now, and there can be no doubt that this will be a long arduous road. All the same, we must get started.

We have to build a grassroots political movement that bases itself upon the energies of the wage earning majority, one that conducts a militant defense of the public sector in this economy. The ruling elite don’t want us to have any political power. Not any. Defend our unions, defend our community organizations, build, defend and expand the public sector of the economy.

The terrible Che Guevara used to say that to accomplish much, one must lose everything.

But be very clear: there are things we have no business losing, and the natural world is foremost among  them. We live in a moment when the ruling class of the most technologically advanced country on the planet is willing to flush all of nature down the toilet in order to preserve its imperatives. We cannot allow that. If all I’m talking about here is what amounts to an existential choice for most of us, maybe that’s going to have to be enough to get some people going. The choice is one of being or nothingness.

As for the fools who are destroying the Gulf of Mexico, who believe as the fool Ayn Rand used to argue, that pollution is good for the global economy – make them drink it.

 BAR columnist michael hureaux perez is a writer, musician and teacher who lives in southwest Seattle, Washington. He is a longtime contributor to small and alternative presses around the country and performs his work frequently.

 Email(s) to: tricksterbirdboy@yahoo.com.

 

 

 

Hadithi? Hadithi? Nipe mji…..nilienda isiolo na kampala, kiambu na malindi, nilirudi nyumbani, for the truth about stories is, they’re all we know, and (where) our heart is,

Leo ni leo….kweli si….

With all the g8, g20, pride and world cup fever in the air, I give thanks for the ‘other’ community festivals where generations and diverse people are celebrating. Like, the annual National Aboriginal day on June 21 & Multicultural day at the Peace Theatre on June25th, where friends and neighbours will come together to entertain and re-educate not only youth, but every one of US.  Ase. Ase……

http://peace.twomangoes.com/

the truth about stories (as a native narrative) is, they’re all we are…[like in this hadithi]

there’s a mood sweeping this nation, in which minority groups are demanding that they be perceived as people. We concur in this mood and we trust that it will not be long before the residents of Kadoka shall have advanced to a stage where they, too, can begin to treat their neighbours as people.

community of wanblee, south dakota

 I respect other religions, but I don’t like to see them denatured and made into something else. you’ve made a blondie out of Jesus. I don’t care for those blond, blue-eyed pictures of a sanitised, cloroxed, ajaxed Christ. How would you like it if I put braids on Jesus and stuck a feather in his hair? You’d call me a crazy Indian, wouldn’t you?

Jesus was a Jew. He wasn’t a yellow-haired anglo. I’m sure he had black hair and dark skin like an Indian. The white ranchers around here wouldn’t have let him step out with their daughters and wouldn’t have liked him having a drink in one of their saloons.

His religion came out of the desert in which he lived, out of his kind of mountains, his kind of animals, his kind of plants.

You’ve tried to make him into an Anglo-saxon Fuller Brush salesman, a long-haired Billy Graham in a fancy night shirt, and that’s why he doesn’t work for you anymore. He was a good medicine man, I guess. As you read it in the Bible, he sure had the power, the healing touch. He was a hippie, too.

Hipi – in our language that means ” he is here, we are here, it is here” – something like that.

So I don’t mind a young white man with long hair and a beaded headband coming to me, asking to learn about our Indian religion, even praying with us.

But I would mind it if he tried to change our beliefs, adapt them to his kind of culture, progress, civilization and all that kind of stuff. I would mind that very much.  You can’t take our beliefs out of our badlands and prairies and put them into one of your factories or office buildings……. 

[excerpts from] Seeker of Visions – John (Fire) Lame Deer & Richard Erdoes

hadithi? hadithi?

nipe mji…..

Dis’ werd on the ground: [is] doing the best we can to provide (revolutionary) pan-afrikan media coverage of the world cup.

So we celebrate Ghana’s Black stars victory not jus’ over Serbia, but in the struggle for afrikan liberation, manifest/ing in the past moons en years (en long ago), symbolised [most significantly for dis’ series on the q/t werd] in other historic events

[such as:- A.L (Afrikan Liberation) D-ay]

http://www.voiceofafricaradio.com/news/351-the-history-of-african-liberation-day.html

So, it’s only fitting that, in honour and memory of our great ancestors, we commemorate this post to the anniversary of the death of Walter Rodney,  a(nother Pan-Afrikan) King.

http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/65084

I give thanks for yesterday, today, and tomorrow, for bredrin and dadas in solidarity, for all the love and resources shared amongst ourselves, and all people liberating not only themselves, but others.

I pray for my families, friends and their families…….Bless our brothas and dadas, cooks, healers, mamas, peacemakers, our children, the future generations and (gran) mama earth. Ase. Ase…….

The q[/t] werd on the ground is doing it true true world cup style….working for unity everywhere from from Ayiti to Zimbabwe,[like in this hadithi] where we give thanks for the fiya, earth, air en wota this time! Mo’ blessings to people (practising and) speaking truth to power!

Hinche, Haiti-

An estimated 10,000 peasants gathered for a massive march in Central Haiti on June 4, 2010, to protest what has been described as “the next earthquake for Haiti” – a donation of 475 tons of hybrid corn seeds and vegetable seeds by the US-based agribusiness giant Monsanto, in partnership with USAID. While this move comes at a time of dire need in Haiti, many feel it will undermine rather than bolster the country’s food security.

According to Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, leader of the Peasant Movement of Papaye (MPP) and spokesperson for the National Peasant Movement of the Congress of Papaye (MPNKP), the entry of Monsanto seeds into Haiti is “a very strong attack on small agriculture, on farmers, on biodiversity, on Creole seeds… and on what is left our environment in Haiti.”

While Monsanto is known for being among the world’s largest purveyors of genetically modified seeds, the corporation’s spokespeople have emphasized that this particular donation is of conventional hybrid seeds as opposed to GMO seeds. Yet for many of Haiti’s peasants, this distinction is of little comfort.

“The foundation for Haiti’s food sovereignty is the ability of peasants to save seeds from one growing season to the next. The hybrid crops that Monsanto is introducing do not produce seeds that can be saved for the next season, therefore peasants who use them would be forced to somehow buy more seeds each season,” explains Bazelais Jean-Baptiste, an agronomist from the MPP who is currently directing the “Seeds for Haiti” project in New York City.

“Furthermore, these seeds require expensive inputs of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides that Haiti’s farmers simply cannot afford. This creates a devastating level of dependency and is a complete departure from the reality of Haiti’s peasants. Haitian peasants already have locally adapted seeds that have been developed over generations. What we need is support for peasants to access the traditional seeds that are already available.”

Who is La Via Campesina?

We are the international movement of peasants, small- and medium-sized producers, landless, rural women, indigenous people, rural youth and agricultural workers.

We defend the values and the basic interests of our members. We are an autonomous, pluralist and multicultural movement, independent of any political, economic, or other type of affiliation. Our 148 members are from 69 countries from Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas.

Blogger’s note: In memory  and honour of Elijah Masinde’s anniversary, we dedicate these stories to (deepening our connection with) our ancestors, bredrin, dadas en pikney.

The Bukusu are one of the seventeen Kenyan sub-tribes of the Luhya (Bantu group of) East Africa.

Calling themselves ‘BaBukusu’, they are the largest single ethnic unit among the Luhya nation, making up about 17% of the whole Luhya population.

The other Luhya groups in Kenya are ABaTiriki, Maragoli, ABaNyore, ABaKhayo, ABaMateka, ABaNyala, ABaSamia, ABiSukha, AbiTakho, ABaShisa, ABaMarachi, ABaTsotso, ABaKabarasi, ABaTachoni, ABaWanga and ABaMarama.

Origins
The Bukusu myths of origin state that the first man, Mwambu (The discoverer or inventor), was made from mud by Wele Khakaba at a place called Mumbo (which translates to ‘West’). God then created a wife for Mwambu, a woman called Sela.

Mwambu and his descendants moved out of Mumbo and settled on the foothills of Mount Elgon, from where their descendants grew to form the current Bukusu population.

Other traditional stories relate of a place of origin called Misri, from Mizraim (Hebrew for Egypt).

Anthropologists believe that the Bukusu did not become a distinct grouping apart from the rest of the Luhya population until, at the very earliest, the late 18th Century.

They moved into Central Uganda as part of a much larger group of people, many forming the eastern extension of the great Bantu migration out of central Africa.

(See Origins of the Luhya.)

Settlement
Together with other Luhya groups, the Bukusu are thought to have first settled around the foothills of Mount Elgon. This area was already inhabited by Kalenjin warrior tribes, and the Bukusu and their neighbours had to build fortified villages to ward off the attacks of these tribes.

The first fortified villages were built at a place called Silikwa (sometimes called Sirikwa). Following repeated attacks and unfavourable weather conditions, folklore has it, a council was held at Silikwa and it was resolved to migrate south and east, where spies are said to have reported large, unsettled lands. However, a section of the population was reluctant to move and stayed behind when the main tribe moved.

Those who stayed behind are said to have become the Ugandan BaMasaaba tribe. Those who left moved into what is now Bungoma district of Kenya, to become the ancestors of the current Bukusu people.

Currently, the Bukusu mainly inhabit Bungoma district of Western Province, which is bordered by Kakamega District to the east, Busia District to the south, Mount Elgon to the north and Uganda to the west.

A large number of the Bukusu are also found in the Kitale area of Kenya’s Rift Valley province, as well as in Lugari-Malava district.

The BaMasaaba of Uganda are very closely related to the Bukusu, with many shared customs and a common dialect of the Luhya language.

Previously, the Bukusu were referred to as the ‘Kitosh’ by the neighbouring Kalenjin community, a name they despised. The reasons for this are not very clear: in some Kalenjin dialects, “Kitosh” means “people of the earth”. This could have been a reference to the agricultural Bukusu, or to the fact that they lived on the lower foothills of Mount Elgon. Following vigorous campaigns by community elders, the name Kitosh was eventually substituted with Bukusu in the mid 1950s.
A replica of a Bukusu hut at the Sarova White Sands Hotel in Mombasa, Kenya.

Traditional life
The Bukusu lived in fortified villages, and did not have a structure of central authority. The highest authority was the village headman, called Omukasa, who was usually elected by the men of the village. There were also healers and prophets who acquired great status because of their knowledge of tribal tradition, medicines, and religion. Elijah Masinde, a resistance leader and traditional medicineman, was revered as a healer in the early 1980s.

Family
Bukusu family structure was traditionally modelled on the generic Luhya family structure. Families were usually polygamous, with the first wife accorded a special status among her co-wives……….
Children inherited the clan of their father, and were not allowed to marry spouses from either their own clan, or their mother’s clan. The first son of the first wife was usually the main heir to his father, and he had a special name denoting this status: Simakulu.

At birth, children were usually named after grandparents or famous people, or after the weather. Male and female names were different: male names frequently began with ‘W’, while female names usually began with ‘N’. Thus, for example, a boy born during a famine would be named ‘Wanjala’, while a girl would be named ‘Nanjala’. Both names share the same root word, ‘njala’, from ‘eNjala’, the Bukusu word for hunger.

Initiation
The Bukusu practised (and still practise) male circumcision. It is thought that they adopted the practice from contact with the Kalenjin at Mount Elgon. Others argue, however, that the presence of the practice in the other Luhya tribes indicates an earlier adoption, before the Bukusu settled at Mount Elgon. In ceremonies that were spaced about two years apart, young boys of a particular age (usually about 15 years of age) would, on getting the go-ahead from their parents, invite relatives and friends to their initiation.

The initiation was a public event, witnessed by all. Going through the operation without showing any sign of pain was (and still is) thought to be an indicator of bravery. Once circumcised, an initiate became a member of an age-group. There are twelve age-groups, forming a cyclical system, with each age-group lasting for 8 years. Once the last age-group has been reached, the first is restarted, and so on. For example, the “Bachuma” age-group lasted from 1980 to 1986: every Bukusu circumcised within this period (that is, in 1980, 1982, 1984, and 1986) belongs to that age-group. In 1988, the “Basawe” age group began, and lasted until 1994.

Female circumcision was widely practiced among the Bukusu, until government campaigns put an end to the practice in the 1980s. However, some clans still continue the practice in secret. [depending on where you look at it from, it could also be that the practice died a few generations ago]

This is especially the case around Mount Elgon, where the neighbouring Kalenjin tribes also practice a form of female circumcision. [fafanua.]

Although circumcision was universal among the Bukusu, the form of the ceremony varied according to the clan. In particular, the festivities and ceremonies accompanying the final stage of initiation, when the now-healed initiates came out of seclusion to rejoin their families as ‘men’, were specific to clans, and have been handed down largely intact to the present day.

Marriage
Young men got married at about the age of 18-20, while girls got married at about the age of 16. There were two types of first-time marriage: arranged marriages and enforced eloping. If a young man came from a well-to-do family, he would ask his sisters to find a girl for him to marry. The ability of a potential wife to cook well, bear children and work in the fields were the main attractions in a girl. Once a girl was identified, an emissary was sent to her parents to ask for her hand. The girl had no say whatsoever in the whole matter: bride price would be discussed, and then once it was paid she would be sent off to live with her new husband. This form of marriage is still common in traditional households today.

In some cases, however, the young man would be from a poor family and could not afford to pay the likely bride-price. Traditional society allowed such young men to abduct the girls they intended to marry. (The girl had to present an opportunity to be ‘abducted’, so her cooperation was essential!) The couple would then leave their home to live with a far-off relative for a while, until the young man acquired enough wealth to pay the original bride price, as well as a fine, to the parents of the girl. This practice has since died out.

The Bukusu highly approve of intermarriages between themselves and BaMasaaba. This is because they have quite a number of similarities in their codes of conduct, marriage customs, circumcision traditions and even folklore. Among the most famous of Bukusu marriage customs is the immense respect accorded one’s in-laws. A lady, for example, treats her father-in-law with a lot of deference and respect, and they are not allowed to make physical contact in any way. The same is true of a man and his mother-in-law……

Cattle were very important: they were the main means of exchange, alongside cowrie shells (chisimbi). Most values, from the beauty of a girl to the price of a field of land, were expressed in terms of head of cattle. Possessing cattle wealth and prosperous agriculture, the Bukusu were sometimes not only admired but also envied by neighboring communities.

Occasionally intermarriages used to take place between them and the other communities. It was common practice for Kalenjin neighbors to give Bukusu their sons to look after their herds of cattle. In times of famine, which are said to have been frequent amongst their Kalenjin neighbors, the latter used to even sell their children to Bukusu. Bukusu also used to send their own young boys to grow up with Kalenjin or Maasai families, in some cases for espionage purposes.

Death
Being sedentary pastoralists, they had time to care for their sick and bury their dead. A sick person was looked after till he recuperated or died. When a person died, he was buried in a grave with a warrior’s weapons if he was an elder. Several functions were performed during and after the funeral ceremony. Ordinarily, burial pits ranged from 3-4 feet in depth, much shallower than today’s. Sometimes wild animals like hyenas exhumed corpses from graves and ate them. Should such an incident occur, people looked for the presumed skull of the desecrated body, and when they found it, they hung it in a leafy tree.

When the family of the deceased migrated, they brewed beer (kamalwa ke khuukhalanga) for the ceremony of transferring the skull with them to the new home or settlement. An old woman was entrusted with the responsibility of conveying the skull to the new site. Burial of the dead was thus, to say the least, ingrained in the Bukusu traditions.

Economic activities
Bukusu accounts indicate that both agricultural and pastoral economies have been practiced by the tribe for as long can be remembered. This is authenticated by the vast amount of knowledge they have about farming practices, rich pastoral vocabulary and the broad variety of legends connected with pastoral life. Today, they farm mainly maize for subsistence and sugar cane as a cash crop in the Bungoma area, as well as wheat in the Kitale area. Cattle and sheep are universally kept, cattle mainly for milk, and sheep for meat and ceremonial functions (when a sheep usually has to be offered to elders for sacrifice). Larger or polygamous families will usually have a team of oxen for ploughing and hauliage within the home. Chicken, a traditional delicacy, are nowadays reared on small to medium scales for commercial egg production.

Politics
The Bukusu currently form one of the main support bases of the governing coalition in Kenya, through the Ford-Kenya political party. Previously, they were mainly associated with opposition to the Kalenjin-dominated reign of former President Daniel Arap Moi.

Notable Personalities
Among the more notable Bukusu personalities past and present:

Maina wa Nalukale, a seer who was reputed to have foretold the coming of the British colonialists
Elijah Masinde, resistance and religious leader
Michael Wamalwa Kijana, former vice president of Kenya
Masinde Muliro, former minister and opposition leader
Musikari Kombo, current leader of Ford Kenya

References
Ayot, Henry Okello (1977) History Texts of the Lake Region of East Africa. Nairobi, Kenya: Kenya Literature Bureau.
Barker, Eric E. (1975) The Short History of Nyanza. Nairobi, Kenya: East African Literature Bureau.
Makila, F. E. (1978) An Outline History of Babukusu of Western Kenya. Nairobi, Kenya: Kenya Literature Bureau.
Were, Gideon S. (1967) A History of the Abaluyia of Western Kenya: c. 1500-1930. Nairobi, Kenya: East African Publishing House.

© The Wikipedia

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Elija Masinde (also spelt Elijah Masinde) was a traditional leader of the Bukusu people of western Kenya.

Early life
Born around 1910 – 1912 in Bungoma district, Masinde started out as a footballer, going on to play for Kenya against Uganda in 1930. By the early 1940s, he had risen to the rank of a junior elder within his community in Kimilili area, and became increasingly anti-colonial. In 1944, he led a number of localised defiance campaigns against the colonial authorities, and was imprisoned as a result.

Dini Ya Musambwa
While in jail, Masinde claimed to have been given divine interpretation of the Old Testament of the Bible, and proclaimed that a “Black Jesus” would come to liberate the people of Kenya from colonial oppression. When he was released, he formed a sect called “Dini Ya Musambwa” (Bukusu for “following of spirit[s] of the ancestors”), and gained huge followings in western Kenya.

Detention, old age, and death
Upon Kenya’s independence, Masinde was detained by the government of Jomo Kenyatta for almost 15 years. He had been accused of formenting religious hatred. He was released by the government of Daniel Arap Moi in 1978, and lived quietly in his native Kimilili area until his death in 1987.

It is reported that, before his death, Masinde pointed out to his family the spot where he wanted to be buried – he wanted a huge sycamore tree uprooted to make way for his grave. The family decided to bury him elsewhere, though, but were thwarted when a spot they chose for his grave turned out to be a hidden grave. They took this to be an omen and proceeded to bury him in the spot where the sycamore tree had been.

References
*Makila, F. E. (1978) An Outline History of Babukusu of Western Kenya. Nairobi, Kenya: Kenya Literature Bureau.
*Alembi, Ezekiel. (2000) Elijah Masinde: Rebel with a cause”. Nairobi, Kenya: Sasa Sema Publications Ltd.
http://experts.about.com/e/e/el/Elija_Masinde.htm

 

BLOGGER’S NOTE:

this post is a(nother) preview of the Q/t werd: a (real/raw en) mystic, organic, us-people driven caravan of  pan-afrikan myths, legends en our (kinda) super/s/heroes….we’re celebrating and (re) mapping the intersections of our diversity with werd! Sound! (en di) Powah! (of love)

These are some stories we know, that (not only) I heard (en read) many times before, from many different (kinda) folks,

you can do anything that you want with these hadithi, share them with others, cry about it, get angry or forget it, but don’t say you’d have lived your life differently if only you’d heard this story, now you know….

[We warn you, we have not only just begun! 😉 ]

http://www.kenyaimagine.com/Social-Issues/Literature-Blood-and-Doves.htmlLiterature, Blood and Doves
Wednesday, 26 March 2008
 As the media went into a frenzy celebrating the ‘5th Anniversary of the Iraq War’, my friend Jackie via chat asked why they were saying this like it was a happy event, like a wedding anniversary or something.We quickly came to the Kenyan situation and said next year we shall probably have our first Anniversary frenzy celebrating the post Election violence that was ethnically motivated and marked our descent into hell. Some people will actually be celebrating killing of others like it is a happy Birthday celebration. My friend aptly summarized it – “it will be warm and syrupy and Julie Gichuru will preside over the televised version on a talk show.”

But what lessons does it teach us, we practitioners and consumers of literature? It teaches us that from the roots, the development, and the eruption of the violence, literature (like other Kenyan institutions) was misused to fuel the ethnic violence. (‘Literature’ is here used loosely to mean the written, the spoken, and – as recently redefined by technology – the blogged, the SMSd, the graffitied, the rapped, the sung, the videoed.)  Literature in all the variety of its forms was abused to propagate negative tribalism and ethnocentric hatred of others, as well as misused by its practitioners, (lecturers, students, readers, editors of literary columns and internet bloggers,) to mis-interpret what are otherwise noble folktales, as well as to disparage fellow literary icons simply because they were from the ‘other tribe’. There was also the noble opposite, especially in the aftermath of the outbreak of violence, when writers and practitioners of literature used literary works and personalities in an attempt to address the violence, hatred and propaganda being bandied about by agents of ethnic hatred hiding under the veil of democracy.

The process of slanting the ideological and thematic strands in stories for political expediency was similar to the Nazi effort of the early 1930’s when the NSDAP sponsored the research and publication of folklore that had Nordic-Germanic symbols and themes of German supremacy, which they then used to galvanize the peasantry, and the population at large, in the belief that they were a pure master race. Alfred Rosenberg’s Kulturgemeinde issued in its two main journals, Kunst and Volc and Volskum and Heimadt, folktales with that intent. German Literature professors, especially in folklore, were pressured to align their research findings with the National Socialist Weltanschauung. An innocent story like Little Red Riding Hood, in the Grimm brothers’ Children and Household Tales (1812), was, for instance, turned by the propagandists of the Third Reich into a symbol of the German people, saved from the evil Jewish wolf. In this way, Adolf Hitler spread his hate against Jews, homosexuals, clergymen, gypsies, mentally challenged people, and all those not of (what was thought to be) pure German blood. In Rwanda, hate publications, stories and folktales were similarly mis-interpreted to propagate Hutu and Tutsi animosity.

Likewise in Kenya, from smoky rural huts to the Kenyan web. In one of the hate mails that circulated in the Rift Valley and on the internet, a section of the Nandi invoked the legend of Koitalel Arap Samoei, a brave son of the Nandi community, and one of the great freedom-fighters, who valiantly led the (unfortunately, seldom credited) longest resistance against the British colonialists, until he was tricked and killed by Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen, after which the community divided once again. His heroism is one of the defining hallmarks of Kenyan nationhood: he proudly and honourably resisted imperialism and the oppression of a people by another. On the internet, as on the ground, however, the exploits of Koitalel were used to inspire the Nandi to rise up against the Gikuyu who had ‘occupied their land’; the Gikuyu it was alleged, were latter-day imperialists. It claimed the re-birth of Koitalel through Hon. Ruto, who shares the name Samoei name with him, urging the community to rally behind the reborn Orkoiyot. The brothers of the Nandi were urged to raise arms against the Gikuyu, ostensibly because whereas Kibaki was a Gikuyu and unreachable, they could get to his tribemates. The rest is history.

Similarly, a section of the Gikuyu, since the sunset years of the Moi regime, have rallied round the myth of Mugo wa Kibiru, a great soothsayer in Gikuyu land, who visioned the coming of the white man and urged his people to prepare to oppose the raider. The Gikuyus also invoked another legend, Dedan Kimathi Waciuri, widely seen as a symbol of the courageous struggle for Independence. With these two, united by the clandestine religio-socio-political Mau Mau movement that led the anti-British rebellion in Gikuyuland, a few young men claimed visitation by Mugo wa Kibiru, in which they were exhorted to lead the community against oppression by the Moi regime and his Kalenjin tribemates.

In the guise of returning Gikuyus to their pure cultural practices, the group widened and grew, eventually morphing into the well-organized Mungiki gang. When it was clear, according to the 2007 polls, that Mwai Kibaki was trailing Raila Odinga, and that, even among Gikuyu peasants, he was not a favourite due to the perceived favouring of his elitist moneyed friends, elements within the Gikuyu hireachy invoked tribal unity using the image of Dedan Kimathi: ‘we fought for Kenya’s Independence while they lazed around the lake’, there is no way ‘we the circumcised can be led by the uncircumcised’, it was said. Loose talk of ‘Kenya is ours’ was heard.

From Kenyatta’s speeches, where he is supposed to have told told MPs opposing his seemingly tribalistic governance that “My people drink milk in the morning, your people in the afternoon” to imply that former had a right to the cream of Kenya’s resources, such proverbs, and metaphors were used to spite other communities. Modern metaphors were dragged into the fray, equating the murderous mission with Christian evangelism. In an interview with Dennis Itumbi of AfricaNews, posted on kalenjin.net, a Mungiki leader (who studied at Kangaru and Mangu high schools, did a BA in Philosophy with a bias in (Religious) logic at the University of Nairobi and a Masters Degree at St. Paul’s Theological College in Limuru specializing in African Theology), a Mr Mathenge aka Mnyama, says Mungiki is “political and religious. Look when Jesus came on earth he said he was the King of the Jews. That is political. Then he said he has come to restore salvation. That is religious and that is our mission. You don’t even need to ask that question. Remember the recent meeting in Michuki’s office. Why were these politicians meeting?”  The rest is history.

Among the Luhya, particularly the Bukusu, one of their freedom fighters and legendary icons, Elijah Masinde, was invoked. The Bukusus, in an apparent bid to make them ignore the dangling of one of their own, Musikari Kombo, by Kibaki as a possible future president once Kibaki had served his full term, were reminded of a prophecy uttered by Elijah Masinde to the effect that ‘The throne would only come to Bukusu land through the path of the lake’ i.e., only Raila, being from the Lake region, had the duty to serve as Kenya’s president and pave the path to a Luhya once he retired, a fact hammered in by Raila’s choice of Mudavadi, a Luhya, as his running mate. What followed was major battle, with the differing political groups trying to outdo each other in the ‘best interpretation of the Elijah Masinde prophecy’, a resuscitation of Bukusu folktales urging caution against the Barwa (Nandi enemies), the Mango myth of Circumcision as well as Maina Wa Nalukale’s tales of Bukusu supremacy over the Luhya nation. It all culminated in a tussle of comic proportions when each group visited the grave of the legend to pay homage, donating blankets and other goodies in efforts to appease his spirit and counter the other groups appeasing efforts as a sacrilageous soiling of his name. All this for a man who, until last year, was largely forgotten in Kenya’s history outside Bukusuland.

Instead of literary scholars laying bare the selfish manipulations of these folktales and icons for political gain, they jumped onto the bandwagon, dropping their PhD  degrees and pamphlets of scholarly research to prove the rightness of whichever group they supported. Professors of literature attacked each other’s credibility on the basis of their tribe of origin. A major casualty, of course, was all those amazing works that were being done on the Mau Mau history. Suddenly, Mau Mau was collateral damage in the war for and against Kibaki. It was no good talking about it in serious forums. It was just a Gikuyu peasant war that had nothing to do with Kenyan History. No, it was the best example of we Gikuyu fighting the white man and now you want to say we can’t rule this land we shed blood for, so please write it and garnish it with sentiments of how grateful Kenya has to be to our tribe. Literary critics led the interpretation of literary works to discredit opposing tribes. An example is one review that was an unfortunate attack on an 80-year old peasant man who had slaved for over 28 years handwriting his memoirs about his life in detention, Kizuizini (Detention life), a Swahili book which I personally edited and researched at the National Archives to verify its credibility. (I am not Gikuyu so had no tribal allegiance). Despite it being a rich source of information about our history, one self-appointed ‘leading’ critic termed it ‘fiction’ saying that since the old man had a line which he said ‘we fought the white man because he had taken our land, and we wanted it back since it was given to us from the days of Gikuyu and Mumbi, our forefathers’ and since he later goes on to regret that ‘what we had fought for in Kenya, we never really got it, since those who supported the colonialists went on to grab land while many were left landless’. A noble book was dismissed as Gikuyu propaganda without proper consideration, simply because it was written by a Gikuyu; truly a case of a book caught in a war not of its own making.

It was also fashionable to dismiss Ngugi Wa Thiong’o as just another beneficiary of Gikuyu elevation. Years ago, when I was still a young brain, easily influenced by his egalitarian Marxism, a post-graduate student of high repute in the Institution I was at lashed out at Ngugi during a Black American Month symposium, stating that he was to blame for inventing the Mungiki Sect through The River Between; it had propagated the return of certain Gikuyu customs. I wrote a bitter defence in The Standard’s Literary Forum, arguing that those who founded Mungiki probably hadn’t even read the novel, and anyone who had read the novel could see that nowhere did it advocate beheading of people as a Gikuyu cultural norm. The defence sparked a barrage of hate replies and counter-replies which degenerated into tribal name-calling, after which the editor slammed shut the debate. Fast forward: Ngugi returned to Kenya after his self imposed exile; many read it as the beginning of a wider scheme of Gikuyu glorification, forgetting the return of Ali Mazrui and other fire-brands who had been demonized by the Moi Government. When the unfortunate attack on Ngugi and his wife happened, numerous emails circulated celebrating the fact with sneers of ‘The Gikuyu hyenas, look how they even eat one of their own.’ When the post-election violence broke in December, Ngugi’s remarks that some scenarios were similar to what he had written in his block-buster novel, The Wizard of The Crow , were angrily sneered at. It did not help when Ngugi wrote a pre-lection commentary concerning his impression of Kibaki, based on the three occasions they had met. The first rejoinder to that article was an attack on Ngugi claiming that he had proven that he did not think any president fit to lead Kenya unless he were Gikuyu. That article was circulated largely to discredit Ngugi as a Gikuyu apologist.

Even the new generation of writers were not averse to attacking each other on tribal bases. Some publishing houses were accused of being slanted towards publishing people from their owner’s tribal region and neglecting others in total disregard of the merit of their works. Whether that is true or not is debatable, but what is true is that the perceptions  that such and such a publishing house publishes only such and such tribes were there.

Literature had squarely entered the fray of tribalism, becoming as divided as all the other institutions which had been looked upon to deliver us from this evil: The Kenya Electoral Commission, the Judiciary, The Press, and the Church. You read or misread literature and, especially folklore, according to your tribal spectacles.

There was intense rejuvenation of folk tales that portrayed the Kalenjin and the Nandi as fit only to herd cattle. The famous story in which a cow was given to a Luo, a Gikuyu and a Kalenjin, did its rounds. The Gikuyu, it is claimed, zero grazed it, pampered it by planting and cutting napier grass for it, and it gave the best quantity of milk (to say Kibaki’s economic boon). The Kalenjin grazed it all over the land till he eroded the soil, and the cow gave a meager quantity of milk (a comment on the 24 years of Moi rule and the harsh economic times in his sunset years). The Luo, it was said, was too lazy to graze a cow day in and day out, so let it wander as he sat in his hut, knowing that whenever he needed food, he could walk to the lake, fish, eat, sleep and then go fish again when he felt hungry. This, you can guess, was spread by Gikuyu people. It was countered with numerous stories in print and oral narratives of stories with the motif of Gikuyu as genetically disposed towards thievery, and when the election dispute arose, the cry was ‘kill all the Gikuyu since they are nothing but thieves’.

Not to be outdone, the Gikuyu, particularly the Ameru, re-ignited myths of their migration to the Mt. Kenya region from Axum in Ethiopia, with links to the Queen of Sheba; thus they claimed to be one of the lost tribes of Israel. The more educated linked the Meru, particularly the Athuci, to this claim of Jewish descent. In bars, it was said that the Biblical Eden was located in the land divided by a flowing river (the Chania in this case); and that Mt. Kenya was the seat of God, who had bestowed Kibaki with the power to lead as only the Gikuyu could reign over the rest of the country.  You could not galvanise a people around their pride as the pure more strongly than this. Unless you are Hitler of course.

The folklore taught to the circumcised among the Bantu and especially among the Gikuyu were brought to the fore, encouraging distrust of other tribes as lazy. Numerous moderate Gikuyus, on trying to caution their hardliner friends about the irregularities marring the elections were taunted: ‘are you not circumcised? So why fear antagonizing a kihii (the uncircumcised)?” In the post election violence, Gikuyu youth hunted down Luos in Kibera, and Naivasha, forcefully circumcising them before either beating them or killing them. Reports from Independent bodies delving into the root causes of the violence have documented the same from the Nandi community: young circumcised youths were taught folklore during their cultural lessons, slanted to provoke them into attacking the Gikuyu in the Rift Valley, now that they were warriors. In turn, stories, proverbs and writings have cropped up which encourage what I can term the ‘Jewinisation’ of the Gikuyu: a feeling of persecution and ‘we are the hated because of being entrepreneurs’ which,  surprisingly, is getting encouragement from the learned and wealthy of the community. From hawkers to middle class homes, the Gikuyu feel besieged, and believe that they are being witch-hunted for working hard and prospering. With the Gospel of prosperity taught in evangelical churches, they have sought refuge in Christian stories of those persecuted by jealous people, and hence found solace by conceiving of themselves as an unfairly-persecuted minority, like the Jews. It resonates with the teaching of the bible; some religious people go further and rely on the Biblical hatred between the Jews and the Gentiles to justify hating the other tribe. Several blogs hosted by Gikuyu attest to this, one of the most prominent being one titled ‘Who are the Gikuyu? The Jews of Kenya‘. In Rwandesque terms, Kenyan communities claimed supremacy over others using their communal narratives, and urging the decimation of others as weeds, stains, and other negative terms. Proverbs were given tribal meanings to otherise. Communities were labeled madoadoa, stains that needed to be removed, in avenues as public as FM stations.

But fortunately most people decided to use literature in its various forms to propagate peace and provoke a re-evaluation of the whole Kenyan conflict, as well as what avenues there were to address the animosity that was fast claiming lives. The Concerned Kenyan Writers email group brought together arguably the best Kenyan writers in a dialogue of sorts, which quickly grew into a major forum for international media and literary people looking for a more authentic, alternative source of information that wasn’t censored by the commercial factors that hampered the mainstream media. Writers like Binyavanga Wainaina, Yvonne Awuor, Billy Kahora, Stanley Gazemba, Muthoni Garland, Rasnah Warah, Parselelo Kantai and others wrote fiction and non fiction articles that they posted on the site and were circulated worldwide. International writers played their part in narrating the Kenyan experience, mostly because it resonated with their own countries. Gappah Pettinah from Zimbabwe, Uganda’s Doreen Baingana and Kalundi Serrumaga are notable examples.

In December, before election day, Story Moja, a literary body in Nairobi, organized Kenya’s first Reading Festival; a story-telling competition was held. Most of the narratives referred to the General election that was around the corner, warning against the dire consequences of tribal politics as if prophesying the violence to come. The winning narrative, almost uncannily, was about kitchen tools that engaged in animosity and fought each other in their quest for supremacy, leading to a blaze in the kitchen. It ended with a plea for Kenyans not to be like the kitchen tools. But apparently some didn’t heed it. On the theatre scene, plays like Lwanda Magere which ‘pimped’ the legend of Lwanda Magere – the invincible Luo warrior who was invincible until he leaked the secret to a girl that only spearing his shadow could hurt him – were done with a modern political angle and toured the countryside. Youth from the Dandora slums organized by Patrick Shomba made a short film titled Ghetto President and aired it there.

After the violence erupted, writers gathered at the Sunday Salon to read stories of hope and love; all the admission money collected was donated to the Kenya Red Cross to buy food and clothing for the internally displaced. Similarly, a play was shown at the National Theater the proceeds of which were donated to charity. Many more events took place countrywide.

Despite the fact that literature was used to spread hate, it is not to be blamed. It is those who misused it who are to blame, in the same way that those who used the positive power of literature to ease the conflict are to be praised. One does not ban all water bodies simply because someone drowned in a river. With special reference to folktales, it is not that they are forms for hatred, but rather that people misused them.

At the end of World War II, Allied commanders banned the publication of the Grimm tales in Germany in the belief that they had contributed to Nazi savagery. Some even called for the banning of folktales and similar literary styles, but reason eventually prevailed: it was not the tales, but the manipulators who were the problem.  It is a fact that most of the folktales and narratives in our communities extolled peace and understanding. Even those that were slanted and mis-interpreted by the warmongers to spread hate are about the virtues of Koitalel Arap Samoei, Dedan Kimathi, and Lwanda Magere, who actually had virtues we all need to emulate: prominently, self-sacrifice for the communal good. Our folktales did not advocate killing of innocent women and children, and they did not advocate killing innocent people in a room set ablaze for the sake of revenge. But like everything at this insane moment in our country, truth was lost.  Literature, like a gun, depends on the hands it is in.

________________________________________

Simiyu Barasa is a film maker (Toto Millionaire), and a member of the Concerned Kenyan Writers collective.

Feminism: (as) a transformational politic  

“We live in a world of crisis – a world governed by politics of domination, one in which the belief in a notion of superior and inferior, and its concomitant ideology – that the superior should rule over the inferior – effects the lives of all people everywhere, whether poor or privileged, literate or illiterate.

Systematic dehumanization, worldwide famine, ecological devastation, industrial contamination, and the possibility of nuclear destruction are realities which remind us daily that we are in crisis…..

Feminism, as liberation struggle, must exist apart from and as a part of the larger struggle to eradicate domination in all its forms….the separation of grassroots ways of sharing feminist thinking across kitchen(table)s from the sphere where much of that thinking is generated [read institutionalised], the academy, undermines feminist movement.

It would further feminist movement if new feminist thinking could be once again shared in small group contexts, integrating critical analysis  with discussion of personal experience(s).

 It would be useful to promote anew the small group setting as an arena of education for critical consciousness, so that women, men (& trans folk) might come together in neighbourhoods and communities to discuss feminist concerns….It is in this commitment to feminist principles in our words and deeds that the hope of a feminist revolution lies.

Working collectively to confront difference, to expand our awareness of sex (gender), race and class as interlocking systems of domination, of the ways we reinforce and perpetuate these structures, is the context in which we learn the true meaning of solidarity.

It is this work that must be the foundation of feminist movement…..

True politicization – coming to critical consciousness – is a difficult “trying” process, one that demands that we give up set ways of thinking and being, that we shift our paradigms, that we open ourselves to the unknown, the unfamiliar.

Undergoing this process, we learn what it means to struggle and in this effort we experience the dignity and integrity of being that comes with revolutionary change.

If we do not change our consciousness, we cannot change our actions or demand change from others.

Our renewed commitment to a rigorous process of education for critical consciousness will determine the shape and direction of future feminist movement……

 

Feminist focus on men: a comment

…now we can acknowledge that the reconstruction and transformation of male behaviour, of masculinity is a necessary and essential part of feminist revolution. Yet critical awareness of the necessity for such work has not led to the production of a significant body of feminist scholarship that fully addresses these issues. Much of the small body of work on men has been done by men…..

(yet) just as love relationships between females and males are a space where feminist struggle to make a context for dialogue can take place, feminist teaching and scholarship can also and must necessarily be a space for dialogue….it is in that space that we can engage in constructive confrontation and critique…..

[Youtube= http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gmvx8suFr3M&NR=1%5D

Blogger’s note: these teachings are symbolic of the great work that has been done and that is still ahead of us in healing not only ourselves, but the world, and in liberating not only ourselves, and ALL Afrikans, but ALL people. The bigger point of sharing teachings that have transformed not just me, but many others is simple: to reconnect, relocate and rebuild (our) communities with (big) love en more bredrin en dadas in solidarity….afrika moja!

Writing autobiography

The longing to tell one’s story and the process of telling is symbolically a gesture of longing to recover the past in such a way that one experiences both a sense of reunion and a sense of release…..

To G…., who is she: on using a pseudonym

Bell hooks is a name that comes from my family. It is the name of my great-grandmother on my mother’s side…claiming this name was a way to link my voice to an ancestral legacy of woman speaking – of woman power.

[between the lines: molisa nyakale is also a name that comes from my family. It is the name of my great-great-great-grandmother on my father’s side, and a mark-er of my true true home….claiming this name was also a way to link my voice to an ancestral legacy of wom(b)an speaking]

When I first used this name with poetry, no one ever questioned this use of a pseudonym, perhaps because the realm of imaginative writing is deemed more private than social….after years of being told that I said the wrong things, of being punished, I had to struggle to find my own voice, to feel that I could speak without being punished…

in using the pseudonym, I consciously sought to make a separation between ideas and identity so that I could be open to challenge and change.

Though by no means a solution to this problem, a pseudonym certainly creates a distance between the published work and the author….longing to shift attention away from personality, from self to ideas, informed my use of a pseudonym…the point of the pseudonym was not to mask, to hide my identity but rather to shift the focus, to make it less relevant

Excerpts from Talking Balk: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black

In honour of the legacy of tajudeen abdul raheem (en many many ancestors who dedicated their lives to the liberation of all afrikan peoples)

this post is dedicated to bredrin and dadas in solidarity…nakupenda. bless those who work for truth, justice, reconciliation & peace.

 ase.ase.

 

Afrika moja! Afrika huru!

Ase. o.

.

I give thanks for El Hajj Malik El Shabazz (aka. Malcolm X), for (t)his birth (to)day, en for tomorrow, for the fruits of the work that not only (baba) Malcolm but so many other of our ancestors have done in liberating themselves en ‘other’ (people)s…

 

I give thanks for African Liberation Day (on May 25th), which is (depending on one’s ‘politics’) the biggest holiday of the year for (all) Afrikans, or more like, should be…. afrika moja!

Dis’  litany of love (en survival)  is embodied in ‘our’ symbols of resistance and the struggle of ‘everyday’, it explores the ‘other’ pieces of (where we) coming OUT from and embraces those ‘intersections’ in our diversity that (should) remind us we are all (from) one (Mama Afrika)….

so I give thanks for the work that the warriors of Blackness Yes! & Blockorama do to maintain positive & safe spaces for queer & trans folk of Afrikan descent, and for the folks who continue to do what they can to transform  not only themselves, but our communities for betta….

Like (in) dis’ litany of  pan-Afrikan realities sent out a moon ago, from (some of) the ones we’ve been looking for…ase.

April 19, 2010,

Dear Pride Toronto,

Thank you all for attending the community meeting on Tuesday, April 13, 2010 to discuss the proposed move of Blockorama. At this meeting you were able to see the passion our community feels for Blockorama. Our communities came out Tuesday to support Blockorama because it is created by and for community, with a deep sense of ownership by the community. We would also like to thank you for your letter, dated April 15, 2010.

Since 1998 Blockorama has been a party at Pride where black queer and trans folks, their allies, supporters and people who love them came together to say no to homophobia in black communities and no to racism in LGBTQ communities. To say Blackness Yes at Pride – loud and proud. Pride Toronto’s inability to lead on racism in the LGBTQ communities and homophobia in black communities sends a strong signal to black queer and trans communities and their allies everywhere.

We have built Blockorama out of love, through sweat and toiling. For 12 years, we have claimed space, resisted erasure, found community, shared memories, built bridges, embraced sexuality, and found home. Blockorama is not just a party or a stage at Pride. It is a meeting place for black queer and trans people across North America- Blockorama is the largest space of its kind at any Pride festival on the continent.

Black queer and trans communities have been central to the diversity of Pride. At the same time Pride Toronto as an organization has continually marginalized those communities. It is indeed those communities that enable Pride to be the celebration of sexual life and freedoms that we all cherish. Pride Toronto’s inability to recognize its own constituencies is not only sad and disappointing it is indeed politically naïve and damaging to the still necessary struggles around sexual freedom in our city, province and country.

It has been incredibly frustrating to have our concerns regarding the space for Blockorama at Pride be not taken seriously by the arts and entertainment manager at Pride. It is very unfortunate that communication seems to be an issue for Pride Toronto, and that so much institutional memory has been lost through the many transitions that Pride has gone through over the last 2 years. We are glad to have begun a conversation about how to rebuild our connections with Pride Toronto.

Based on the feedback we have received from our communities following Tuesday’s meeting and what was offered through your letter, we are prepared to accept the following:

1. A full stage and infrastructure in George Hislop Parkette on Sunday July 4, 2010. This infrastructure will include power, insurance, tents, tables/chairs, toilets,
garbage removal, insurance, permits and fees, security, tech costs and labour.

We assume that the other site requests previously made available to us (pizza and water for volunteers, barricades to which we secure our banners, etc) will, although not mentioned in your letter, still be made available to us.

2. A reciprocal commitment from Blackness Yes and Pride Toronto to respond to emails with 48 hours of receiving them and to check in with each other (by phone or email) at least twice per week from now until the end of the 2010 Pride Week Festival.

3. We agree to your request for programming information to be provided to Pride Toronto no later than April 21st. In fact, we had already submitted this programming information before receipt of your letter.

4. We agree to the request for information for the Pride Guide to be submitted no later than April 21st.

We will provide you with:

o A 100 word intro blurb;
o Two 50 word blurbs for artists’ spotlights;
o Any photos associated with those artists in high resolution (300 dpi);
o A 100 word blurb about Blackness Yes and a relevant photo.

5. We are committed to and have always adhered to Pride Toronto deadlines for
information on Site Logistics, Tech, Press etc. We request that any changes to deadlines be given to us in a timely fashion to avoid any delay in information sharing.

6. We are happy to re-join the coordinators committee for Pride. We will send 2 delegates from Blackness Yes to each programming committee meeting as often as is manageable. We recognize that although some other programmers may be paid for their time, we are a volunteer-based committee. We welcome the opportunity to become reengaged with pride committee activities!

We are not able to accept the following offers at this time:

1. It will not be necessary for you to provide us with a Stage Manager for the weekend. We have a Blackness Yes member who will advance the show with the artists and ensure that the stage operates in a timely fashion.

2. We accept your offer to fund the previously agreed upon budget of $5000 for the Sunday stage. We also request that as in previous years, Pride Toronto cover the travel and hospitality fees of artists from out of town who are appearing on the Blockorama stage.

We feel that it is unfortunate that Pride chose to cancel stage-based programming in George Hislop without any consultation with the programmers who program that space. We understand that this decision has resulted in the re-allocation of the funding for this stage to other parts of the festival, thus now requiring Pride to find an “additional” $20,000 to create the stage in George Hislop. With proper consultation and collaboration, we could have worked together to both keep the needed funds for Blocko in the budget, and helped to save costs overall.

Your offer to program 2 full days in George Hislop Parkette is unfortunately not possible. This is not a viable offer as you have specified that you do not plan to cover any artist’s fees for Saturday programming. Although we welcome the opportunity to develop 2 days of programming, we cannot do so without money to develop this programming, and the suggestion that we do so is surprising. We welcome the opportunity to discuss options for 2 days of programming with adequate budget in the future.

Pride Toronto should not consider running programming for which local artists are not paid for their time. One of the wonderful things about the festival is that it engages artists and helps support the development of artistic practice in Toronto by paying artists to perform. Blackness Yes cannot consider developing any programming that would result in artists not being paid for their time and efforts.


We would like to request the following:

1. We request funding to rent a temporary floor for in front of the stage – something that can be used on the grass to facilitate dancing, to provide a less slippery and muddy experience for participants, and to deal with the regular rain flooding and seeping that we experience each year in George Hislop Parkette.

2. We thank you for the opportunity to commit to the George Hislop space for both the 2010 and 2011 festivals. However we can only commit to 2010 at this time. We would like to set a date to begin working together shortly after Pride 2010 to find a more suitable long-term home for Blockorama.

3. We note that in 2002, Pride’s entertainment budget was $31,040; and the Blockorama stage received $2500 or 8% of overall entertainment budget. This year, Pride’s entertainment budget is has increased to $335,027, yet Blockorama is received only $5000 or roughly about 1.4%. We would like to know why the proportional allotment for our stage is shrinking despite increased money in the entertainment budget?

4. We support the use of the stage on Saturday by other community groups and we encourage one of the 4 paid programming staff at Pride to outreach to some of the communities currently not represented at Pride to help program the stage. We feel strongly that artists fees should be paid for any artists that play on Saturday’s stage.

We are concerned about the steady removal of community involvement from the structure of Pride Toronto over the past 2 years. As an independent committee programming a stage at Pride, we recognize how far Pride has to go to ensuring that it’s programming is reflective of the diversity of Toronto. We encourage and support all community groups currently marginalized by Pride Toronto, and/or the larger LGBTTI2QQ set of communities in Toronto.

There are many other communities that should also have Pride Toronto’s full commitment and engagement to develop relevant programming at the festival (First Nations and Indigenous people, LGBTTI2QQ people who are Deaf and those with Disabilities, and many many others) and we encourage Pride to connect with and engage these communities. We are disappointed that this year has seen communities pitted against each other – competing for stage space and funding at Pride.

It is also very unfortunate that Pride has distanced itself from so many of the communities that helped build the LGBTTI2QQ activist movement. Racialized queer and trans people, many of whom were street-involved, working class and poor started both the Stonewall and Compton Cafeteria riots that kick-started the “gay liberation movement” in North America. It is on the backs of racialized and working class queer and trans people that mainstream queer organizations like Pride Toronto have been built.

Yet for many of these same people, Pride is now an inaccessible space, one that is not representative of them in any way, shape or form. Many of these revolutionaries that began the riots would not be able to afford the beer gardens (or this year’s Prism main stage party) that have become the cornerstones of the Pride festival.

We wonder if they would be banned from the parade for carrying posters that make people uncomfortable- posters calling for an end to targeted policing of Trans people, calling to an end to systemic racism and homophobia, and demanding the right to sexual freedom and the right to self-identified gender expression. These words of resistance have consistently made certain people uncomfortable, but they have been crucial to the struggle for liberation and self determination of LGBTTI2QQ people.

Blackness Yes is committed to creating a space by and for Black/African Diasporic queer and trans people and all of their allies and supporters at Pride. Blockorama will always remain a political space for resistance and celebration, and we stand in solidarity with so many other groups that have been left out or forcibly excluded from Pride. We will also work to produce a Blockorama that returns to its roots. A Blocko organized by and for a supportive community that has been dancing, laughing, loving and eating at Blocko now for over more than a decade.

Thank you,

Blackness Yes!
Blockorama Coordinating Committee

Tessa C. Duplessis
Mykell Hall
Nigel Holbrook
Abdi Osman
Nik Redman
Syrus M. Ware
Kyisha Williams
Akhaji Zakiya