Why is Nairobi mythologized as the crossroads of the heart of [moyo wa] Afrika? The answer is as simple as the riddle of the sphinx; it’s  where Makmende was (re)born.

Check dis hadithi….hadithi? Hadithi njoo! Uongo njoo! Utamu kolea! Nipe mji?

Nilienda Abuja, Addis Ababa, Benghazi, Brooklyn, Cape town, Cairo, Dar-es-salaam, Harare, Joburg, Kampala, Kigali, Kingston, Lagos, London, Misrata, Port of Spain, Rajasthan, Tdot, Tripoli na Nairobi

Hapo Wahenga walisema “The freedom and development of the Afrikan woman are indispensable to the freedom and emancipation of the Afrikan people”
(Ahmed Sekou Toure) n
a pia,the revolution is not a one time event” (Audre Lorde)   

[There’s a story I know it’s about the earth and how] when spider webs unite they can tie up a lion. [an] Amharic proverb

As long as I been in dis other ‘Britannia’ called Turtle Island, I’ve had to rely on memories en lived experiences like these of….

the spaces between where I grew up and the city that I came back to and [ran away from again], seeking replenishment, re-learning en living vicariously thru [#hadithi ya] Bredrin and sistas in solidarity speaking truth to powah!

With dis blog doing the best it can to archive the metamorphosis of Hadithi zetu in different worlds, from the shores of Afreeka to the diaspora of righteousness

Ai also been co-creating adventures to fulfill vivid dreams harboured for learning villages sustained with a courageous love…with native super/sheroes inspired by honourable legends, working on this thing called Ubuntu…..

these ndoto [dreams] always have me, you en we, as  holistic individuals  in a matrix of pan-Afreekan villages of star youth, mamas, babas en elders doing the best we can to serve our God, ourselves and others

In another place, not here…..Makmende has not only returned, he’s revised everything we [think we] know from creation stories to the truth about Santa, the easter bunny,  AFRICOM, the tooth fairy, Mayan prophecies and the United States of Afreeka

Makmende is [like] a universal archetype ‘he believes that life, true life, is something that is stored in music. True life was kept safe in the lines of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin while you went out in the world and met the obligations required of you. Certainly he knew (though did not completely understand) that hip hop wasn’t for everyone, but for everyone he hoped there was something. The records he cherished, the rare opportunities to see a live performance, those were the marks by which he gauged his ability to love.’ (Bel Canto – 5)

Kwa hivyo, if Makmende is the food of memes then Britannia Zimeisha is the mama of Afrika, so what’s next Abscondita?

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[B is for bredrin en dadas in solidarity: our (vision) quest is to implement queer/trans youth arts collective/programs & circles for healing and self recovery in East & South Afrika in collaboration with anitafrika! dub theatre: an intersection of radical creativity, activity, and thought, human positive and moyo wa afrika: a coalition of Afrikans on the continent and in the diaspora who are committed to the reclamation of Indigenous Afrikan spiritualities, knowledge systems, economic praxis, and resources as the only viable means of addressing the colonially-induced dis-ease and dysfunction plaguing our peoples….

Lakini kwanza….]

A is for anitafrika! dub theatre: founded by artistic director d’bi.young in spring 2008 under the mentorship of visionary dub artist ahdri zhina mandiela, adt is a radical arts initiative rooted in the orplusi principles of storytelling, being developed by d’bi.young.

The 7 living/en/working principles are 

language, orality,

political context (or protext),

rhythm, urgency, sacredness, and integrity:

fundamental tools in the (re)emerging genre of bio-myth-solo-performance storytelling or ‘dubbin solo’,

according to artistic director d’bi.young.

[en between the lines: the Q_t werd is a documentary series/work in progress, charting the evolution of these principles  en reclaiming ancestral legacies……]

Through the intersection of these principles, the theatre seeks to explore and expand the relationship between the storyteller, their village(s), and transformation.

herstory

adt! is inspired by the seminal work of dubpoetry visionaries anita stewart and ahdri zhina mandiela. trained during the early to mid eighties at the jamaica school of drama (now the edna manley college of visual and performing arts), anita stewart wrote her thesis dubbin theatre: dub poetry as a theatre form on the progressive movement of dubpoetry into a theatrical realm which radically dramatized both the socio-economic tribulations of the jamaican people, as well as their potential for rebellion against their oppressors.

in her unpublished manuscript stewart identifies four major elements of the then emerging artform of dubpoetry — music, language, politics and performance — as bridges between the personal and the political and vice versa. stewart’s early documentation and analysis of dubpoetry as a working people’s socio-political movement, provide the primary lens through which adt! focuses.

in the late eighties early nineties, ahdri zhina mandiela coined and further developed the term dub theatre in reference to her own evolving work as a dub aatist. in the prelude to her dark diaspora… in dub: a dub theatre piece she defines dubtheatre as dramatized stage presentation comprised of varying performance component, including an indispensable/uniquely tailored dance language threading thru oral/choral work proliferating with endemic musical elements.

d’bi.young is a second generation dubpoet who learnt the artform from her her mother anita stewart and her mentor ahdri zhina mandiela. young is building on the foundational work of stewart and mandiela by developing dubpoetry/dubtheatre theory and practice through anitafrika! dub theatre: a launch pad of artistic training that locates itself within art for social change.

En A is for the legacies of audre lorde, that’s wassup!

Dream/songs from the moon of Beulah land I-V

I

How much love can I pour into you I said

Before it runs out of you

Like undigested spinach

Or shall i stuff you

Like a ritual goose

With whatever you think

You want of me

And for whose killing

Shall I grow you up

To leave me

To mourn

In the broken potsherds

Upon my doorstep

In silent tears of the empty morning?

But I’m not going anywhere you said

Why is there always

Another question

Beyond the last question

Answered

Out of your mouth

Another storm?

It’s happening

I said

II

Whenever I look for you the wind

Howls with danger

Beware the tree arms scream

What you are seeking

Will find you

In the night

In the fist of your dreaming

And in my mouth

The words became sabers

Cutting my boundaries

To ribbons

Of merciless light

IV.

You say I yam

Sound as a drum

But that’s very hard to be

As you covers your ears with academic parchment

Be careful

You might rip the cover

With your sharp nails

And then I will not sound at all.

To put us another way

What I come wrapped in

Should be familiar to you

As hate is

What I come wrapped in

Is close to you

As love is

Close

To death

Or your lying tongue

Surveying the countries of our mouths.

If I were drum

You would beat me

Listening for the echo

Of your own touch

Not seeking

The voice of the spirit

Inside the drum

Only the spreading out shape

Of your own hand on my skin

Cover.

If I ever really sounded

I would rupture your eardrums

Or your heart.

V.

Learning to say goodbye

Is finding a new tomorrow

On some cooler planet

Barren and unfamiliar

And guiltless.

It costs the journey

To learn

Letting go

Of the burn-out rockets

To learn  how

To light up space

With the quick fiya of refusal

Then drift gently down

To the dead surface of the moon.

Kesho……The (A, B, en C’s Of the) Q_t werd in dub video

[re/posted]scribbles from the den

When the idea was first hatched to put forward South Africa’s candidacy for the 2010 World Cup, it seemed a far-fetched dream. And when FIFA actually awarded the tournament to South Africa, it was, in the view of many, a gamble destined to fail. However, after six years of turmoil, controversy and acrimony later, South Africa is finally set for the 2010 World Cup tournament.

For the next month, (legitimate) concerns about the financial toll of the tournament on South Africa’s economy, the absence of concrete benefits for large swathes of the South African population, or about FIFA’s stifling rules will be put on the backburner as the world enjoys the beautiful game.

Dori Moreno

Dori Moreno is one of those unapologetically afflicted by ‘World Cup Fever’:

I have been waiting for the World Cup to arrive ever since the announcement was made that it would be hosted in South Africa. It’s difficult to get excited about something happening so far into the future. But now, the World Cup is upon us, and in just 2 more sleeps, South Africa will face Mexico in the kick off game of the 2010 World Cup. And South Africa has woken up and is alive with energy, passion and enthusiasm.

 ‘Today, the Bafana Bafana team took to the streets of Sandton, Johannesburg in an open top bus. South African fans came out en masse to celebrate and get a glimpse of their national team. The vibe was indescribable and when the Soweto Marimba Youth League played the national anthem, I confess to being moved to tears from the sheer emotion and energy of the event.


‘I think even the die-hard pessimists out there will struggle not to get caught up in the positive energy that will carry us all on a cloud for the next month. To everyone out there, I say, ENJOY! To all the visitors to our awesome country, feel it, live it and fall in love. It’s time for AFRICA!!!!’

Jeanette Verster’s Photography

And talking about the June 9 ‘United We Stand for Bafana Bafana’ parade organised in Sandton to encourage South Africans to show their support for their national team, Jeanette Verster publishes a colorful picture essay that vividly captures the national excitement.

Brand South Africa Blog

Brand South Africa Blog hopes that the unity and patriotism demonstrated in the run-up to the World Cup will last long after the tournament:

‘The past few months have been an incredible sight. Road works, bridges being built and the most spectacular, the giant eye which watches over all of us from the entrance to the V&A Waterfront. To say I feel proud would really be an understatement, although true. Undeniably through all of this is the tangible feeling of patriotism, excitement and unified spirit in the air.

‘Flags, Zakumi’s (official World Cup mascot), soccer jerseys everywhere makes me feel that we can unite as a country, evident in the progress made.

‘*** I love SA ***

‘The feeling I hope for South Africa is that we stay this way long past the end game is played. Everyone is watching and can see that through working together and progress, we can be pushed into another league and be part of a set of countries people all of the world would like to visit sometime in their life.

‘So, Bafana, we are behind you 150%, make us proud and do your best.

‘Visitors to South Africa, our country is beautiful, take the opportunity to visit places off the beaten track you’ll be pleasantly surprised and p.s. don’t forget to shop!’

Constitutionally Speaking

Even as the excitement builds up, there is anger just beneath the surface over a number of (FIFA-inspired?) decisions which do not benefit South Africans. One such issue is the apparent blanket ban on public gatherings in many municipalities for the duration of the World Cup. Constitutionally Speaking argues that:



‘If this is true, it would mean that parts of South Africa are now effectively functioning under a state of emergency in which the right to freedom of assembly and protest have been suspended. This would be both illegal and unconstitutional. Other reports have suggested that such orders were indeed given, but that the police are now backtracking – probably because the police have realised that they are breaking the law and that the order, in fact, constitutes a grave breach of the law and the Constitution.

‘It is a sad day indeed when the police itself become a threat to our democracy and our rights because Fifa and the government want us all to behave and shut up for the next month and to forget about our democratic rights.’

Scribbles from the Den (and betwixt en between the lines: a video diary of the ‘Q[/t]’ werd)

Scribbles from the Den takes us back 20 years to a memorable World Cup game which is now part of the football folklore and which credited to have changed the World Football Order in favor of African countries:

‘Exactly 20 years ago on June 8, 1990 at the Giuseppe Maezza Stadium in Milan, Italy, the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, “a humble team with an insignificant past” to quote the Miami Herald, defeated Argentina, the star-studded defending World Champions led by Diego Armando Maradona, in a thrilling Italia ’90 World Cup opening game that came to be known as the “Miracle of Milan”…



‘The victory over Argentina was merely the beginning of Cameroon’s Cinderella story which came to an end only after England ousted the Lions in an epic quarterfinal game that is also part of World Cup folklore. Cameroon’s brilliant run in Italia ’90 in general, and its historic win over Argentina in particular reverberated around the world and changed the Football World Order forever…

‘The aftershocks from that memorable Friday afternoon at the Giuseppe Maezza Stadium would be felt years later first with FIFA increasing the number of African teams taking part in the World Cup from two to five, then with the “browning” of European leagues which opened their doors to players from the continent and in the process unearthed African football prodigies such as “King” George Weah of Liberia, Same Eto’o of Cameroon and Didier Drogba of Cote d’Ivoire.’

Up Station Mountain Club

As the football fiesta goes on in South Africa, Charles Taku, a lead counsel at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania, wonders whether Africa has any reason to celebrate as many states turn 50:

‘Africa is sick; very sick indeed. It is safe to state that at 50, there is nothing to celebrate. Rather than celebrate, Africa should be engaged in a moment of soul searching to find out where we went wrong and to generate ideas about how to resolve the myriad problems afflicting the continent…



‘There is no gainsaying that Africa is a victim of its colonial heritage. It is also true that many African problems are self inflicted. For that reason, according to Peter Schwab, Africa is its own worst enemy.

‘As Africa enters the second half of the century, there is a compelling need for it to eschew all pretensions to celebration and to use the opportunity of the moment to search for viable solutions to its plethora of problems. Our collective failure enjoins us to do a lot of soul searching at this point of our history rather than celebrate a failed past in anticipation of a bleaker future. Africa and the black race in general need to take their destiny into their own hands once again. Time has come for all black people of this world to invoke the spirits of Marcus Garvey, George Padmore, CLR James, the Osagyefo Mwalimu and others whose mere mention of name give us the inspiration, courage and hope to start all over again, in seeking a path of glory they once laid out for us.

The time to build and improve on what they started for our collective survival in a mercilessly competitive world is now. Waiting for dictators that preside over the destiny of most of the continent at present to pave that path to glory is simply foolhardy, if not suicidal.”



Kumekucha

Kumekucha explains how he believes the ruling elite plan to rig the August Referendum for the proposed new Kenyan Constitution:

‘Folks I am afraid that I have more bad news for you concerning the new constitution most of us are yearning for. Let me start by confessing that for a person with my years of experience I was rather naïve to believe that those who own Kenya would ever allow for an electoral system that they did not have any control over. The truth is that the so called “tamper-proof” electoral roll has already been tampered with and non-existent voters introduced. And since it is NOT the same electoral roll that we will go to the general elections with, the only conclusion is that the intention is to rig the August 4th Referendum.

‘The game plan by the powerful owners of Kenya is for the NO camp to catch up with the YES majority so that the difference is around 20% or less. What will then happen is that NO will win with a very slim majority. Enough to deny most Kenyans what they are yearning for so much that they can no longer sleep too well. Those wh o have read the document and realize the sweeping changes it will bring into the country and the deadly blow it will deal to impunity.

‘What really scares me is that so far these powerful forces have been able to get things done through the NSIS and have even influenced the judiciary to make certain bizarre rulings. To me that is evidence enough that they are quite capable of going ahead with their well laid plan even as the president tires himself crisscrossing the country campaigning for a new constitution.’


BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Dibussi Tande blogs at Scribbles from the Den.

 

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

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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.

Preface: Reflections of light

…..In a revolutionary manner, black women have utilised mass media (writing, film, video, art, etc.) to offer radically different images of ourselves. These actions have been an intervention. We have also dared to move out of our “place” (that is away from the bottom of everything, the place this society often suggests we should reside). Moving ourselves from manipulatable objects to self-empowered subjects, black women have by necessity threatened the status quo……This challenge to the status quo has generated serious anti-black female backlash that combines fierce racism ( en homophobia) with antifeminism…..this backlash requires that those of us who are aware be ever vigilant in our efforts to educate one another, and all black people, for critical consciousness. Backlash, from whatever source, hurts. It retards and obstructs freedom struggle. Intense attacks help create a context of burnout and despair.  

It is crucial that black women and all our allies in struggle, especially progressive black men, seize the day and renew our commitment to black liberation and feminist struggle….

blogger’s note: I give thanks for the sistas en mamas who pour their heart and soul into practising and teaching balance, truth, justice and love.  So, in honour of African Liberation Day, these healing words are excerpts from sisters of the yam: black women and self recovery by bell hooks & Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde. Ase. Ase. Ase. Ase O…..

 In her essay (Eye to Eye), Audre Lorde urges black females to put our struggle to self actualise at the center of our daily life. She taught us,

Learning to love ourselves as black women goes beyond a simplistic insistence that “black is beautiful”. It goes beyond and deeper than the surface appreciation of black beauty, although that is certainly a good beginning.

But if the quest to reclaim ourselves and each other remains there, then we accept another superficial measurement of self, one superimposed upon the old one and almost as damaging, since it pauses at the superficial. Certainly it is no more empowering.

And it is empowerment – our strengthening in the service of ourselves and each other, in the service of our work and future – that will be the result of this pursuit

We have known, and continue to know, the rewards of struggling together to change society so that we can live in a world that affirms the dignity and presence of black womanhood. In many ways Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self Recovery is a manifestation of that joy and an expression of the awareness that we must be ever vigilant – the struggle continues…..

 

 

Introduction: Healing Darkness

Living as we do in a white supremacist capitalist partriachal context that can best exploit us when we lack a firm grounding in self and identity (knowledge of who we are and where we’re coming from), choosing “wellness” is an act of political resistance. Before many of us can effectively sustain engagement in organised resistance struggle, in black liberation movement, we need to undergo a process of self recovery that can heal individual wounds that may prevent us from functioning fully…..

It is important that black people talk to one another, that we talk with friends and allies, for the telling of our stories enables us to name our pain, our suffering and to seek healing…..

I: Seeking After Truth

We have to consciously study how to be tender with each other  until it becomes a habit because what was native has been stolen from each other, the love of black women for each other. But we can practive being gentle with each other by being gentle with that piece of ourselves that is hardest to hold, by giving more to the brave bruised girl child within each of us, by expecting a little less from her gargantuan efforts to excel. We can love her in the light as well as in the darkness, quiet her frenzy towards perfection and encourage her attentions towards fulfillment…as we arm ourselves with ourselves and each other, we can stand toe to toe inside that rigorous loving and begin to speak the IMPOSIBBLE – to one another. The first step toward genuine change. Eventually, if we speak the truth to each other, it will become unavoidable to ourselves.

Audre Lorde, “Eye to Eye: Black Women, Hatred, and Anger”

Healing takes place within us as we speak the truth of our lives….commitment to truth telling is thus the first step in any process of self recovery…telling the truth about one’s life is not simply about naming the “bad” things, exposing horrors. It is also about being able to speak openly and honestly about feelings, about a variety of experiences. It is fundamentally not about withholding information so as to exercise power over others….

hence, it must be remembered that to be open and honest in a culture of domination, a culture that relies on lying, is a courageous gesture. Within white-supremacist capitalist partriarchal culture, black people are not supposed to be “well”. This culture makes wellness a “white” luxury. To choose against that culture, to choose wellness, we must be dedicated to truth. By giving up the illusory power that comes from lying and manipulation and opting instead for the personal power and dignity that comes from being honest, black women can begin to eliminate life threatening pain from our lives

II: The Joy of Reconciliation

Healing inner wounds makes reconciliation possible. Reconciliation is one of my favourite words. Evoking our capacity to restore to harmony that which as been broken, severed, and disrupted. The very word serves as a constant reminder in my life that we can come together with those who have hurt us, with those whom we have caused pain, and experience sweet communion.

To be at peace, black women, especially those among us who have been deeply wounded and hurt, must release the bitterness we hold within us. Bitterness is like a poison. When it’s inside us, it spreads even to the parts of the self that allow us to feel joy and a spirit of celebration. Yet many of us choose to hold onto pain through the cultivation of bitterness and an unforgiving heart….when we give ourselves love and peace, we can give these gifts to others. It’s really impossible to live a life in love while hoping that harm and hurt will come to others…

Again, I think it is important that we remember that forgiveness does not mean that we cease to assertively identify wrongs, hold others to account, and demand justice…..this is the true realization of justice – that we want what is peaceful and life sustaining for all and not just for ourselves.

…..we have to forgive with our whole hearts. If we forgive in words but continue to harbour secret resentment, nothing really changes. When forgiveness happens, when there is compassion, the groundwork for reconciliation is possible. For me that is the ultimate joy: That we learn that there are no broken bonds that cannot be mended, no pain that cannot be assuaged

III Touching the Earth

…..Collective black self recovery takes place when we begin to renew our relationship to the earth, when we remember the way of our ancestors. When the earth is sacred to us, our bodies can also be sacred to us……

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

 I give thanks for yesterday http://www.nation.co.ke/magazines/-/1190/920652/-/hf43kez/-/index.html,

today, tomorrow (en next week): kwasababu it’s beginning to look more like (even) with all the (many/mis) steps backwards, with every ‘other’ determined (people) step(ping) forward (ever)….  

working for unity by teaching ourselves en others  (the practice of freedom), in a genuine commitment to (big) love  

In dis’ resistance (from the margins- na- moyo-ya the world) to (all kinds of) oppreshun,

We come (back) to our true true stories;

[like/dis’ Artist Intensive: Bio-Mythology and Creation with Bamidele Bajowa and d’bi.young anitafrika (A) This special workshop for creators explores the Yoruba pantheon and archetypes in the development of new work as a lens for approaching inter- and cross-cultural performance. Participants will explore the Yoruba symbology with Nigerian master storyteller/ drummer/babalao Bamidele Bajowa, and learn the ‘biomyth orplusi principles’ for creative interpretation and adaptation with acclaimed dubpoet/monodramatist/educator d’bi.young anitafrika. This hands-on and immersive class will look at pathways for integritous trans-cultural creation and how to approach cultural adaptation with honesty, respect, accountability and artistic ingenuity]

 [like/dis’ word! sound! powah! is the final episode of d’bi.young anitafrika’s seven-year-old biomyth trilogy. three faces of sankofa.

blood.claat is the first and benu the second. The trilogy charts the journey of three generations of afrikan-jamaican- becoming- afrikan-jamaica- canadian womben in one family: mudgu sankofa, her daughter sekesu sankofa, and sekesu’s daughter oya sankofa.

 In word! sound! powah!, the grand-daughter of mudgu negotiates her own identity to the backdrop of a mythologized revolution and the birth of dubpoetry in Jamaica]

 

 (all power to the people) fulfilling the legacies of our ancestors (en the wishes of the unborn).

 

I give thanks for bredrin en dadas in solidarity doing the best that we can to unite our people,

By any means necessary (in honour of Mama Afrika)!

 

From the book: “A Return to the Afrikan Mother Principle of Male and Female Equality”, by Oba T’shaka

“Human life on earth goes through the same spiral zigzag path of change and transformation that the cosmos follows. The movement from positive to negative, from Negro to Black; from civil rights to human rights from injustice to justice; from reform to revolution; from the lower self of “me first,” to the higher self of my family, people and humanity first; from the lower self of greed and egoism to the higher self of simplicity and selflessness; all of these transformations are part of the cosmic spiral—the Spiral of MA’AT (Truth, Justice, Balance, Wisdom, Love). The progression of consciousness, the progression of history, the progression of human character from a lower to a higher level occurs because, as we go through the cycles of life, as we learn the lessons of Maat, the lessons of the cosmos.

As we internalize these lessons, we transform our thoughts, words and actions to conform to Maat.

We ascend the spiral ladder of transformation through the cycles of life, rising to the level of perfection where the body becomes one with the soul.

From the blog: http://imperfect-black.blogspot.com/2010/05/raceandhistorycom-return-to-afrikan.html

Read more @ RaceandHistory.com

 

I give thanx for you….

dear (friend/blog) read(enspeak)ers

(asante. artists, activists en extra/ ‘ordinary’ people for sharing y/our resources).

I give thanks for papa na mama,

(wind) dada(s) en (soul) brotha (s/uns of another mama).

I pray for those who pray for not only ourselves but others, en who bless me (with their energy, love, en 2cents on balance, justice, truth and wisdom)

I give thanks for you, my love(s)…..nakupenda.

ase.ase.ase.ase…..