i’ve been looking for inspiration in 

(my/people’s) daily efforts en successes in surviving en thriving…

recently, I have been mostly tired from the energy spent to re/build community, yet the anger has been washed away with rains en powerful winds, en I have planted many seeds, but I’m just going to take a minute, coz times ah here,to do the real digging, so my hours are wild, en I’ve shed alot (of tears),  the confusion has gone, yet my state has become a contradiction in so many ways…..

because right now if you ask me, I just don’t know….I don’t know what will happen, I really don’t know what is best, I know what I DON’T  want, en I know what I do seek, en I can tell you this, now that I’ve given up any delusions to martyrdom or unrealistic visions, I’m just going the way of love…..it’s a feat, that we have struggled with in all our lifetimes, that has transformed every story I tell myself en others about what is good en true……

en I promise to live true to myself, en my ancestors, en the future generations……..I will never give up my dreams…. 

somehow where I yam feels wilder, en as the moons have gone, the anxiety has multiplied like diasporic afrikan butterflies over the failures, yet the hope has grown with the years of different equations used to work at the problems not solved, like what if? en, what do these dreams mean? en why am I giving less when I know I need more? en are our ways en times really better, when there are so many more just barely managing to make means?

what does freedom really look like?…. 

the hope has grown too, that with every coming undone, there is an almost simultaneous rebirth….

the bigger point is…..

 I give thanks for my communities/families, my hoods,

for the angels en devils on earth,

I give thanks for yester/years, today en tomorrow

I promise to  give back what I owe,

en work for what is ours….

and love myself unconditionally……..

so here’s one of the stories I collected that I give back to you, dear reader, the truth about stories is……they are ours to do with as we please. I took this one as one of those daily reminders of the realities at hand…….

I  submit to you, dear reader,  ann njogu’s speech, given in Washington DC on 8th March, 2010….a speech given in Washington, D.C, by one of those mad talented afrikan womyn representing for my home….(East) Afrika.

 

“I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master.

I want the full menu of human rights”
 

Desmond Tutu

 

 

The U.S Secretary of State, Hilary  Rodham Clinton, 

The 1st Lady of The United States of America, Michelle Obama,

Ambassador  Melanne  Verveer,

Fellow recipients of the IWOC  Awards 2010,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen;

All protocols observed.

It is a great honor and humbling experience to be here to receive this award tonight. Great because this is a distinguished award that is dedicated to honoring women who have made a contribution globally and humbling because I am only aware that without the many women with whom I have had the privilege to work with at the grassroots in Kenya, it would not have been possible to celebrate anything much less for me to be here with you tonight. It is for this reason that I want to dedicate the award to all those women  in Kenya who have simply refused to give up the hope for a better Kenya.

I am talking about the woman from the urban shanties who has to wake up at 4.00am every morning to walk 20 miles to and 20 miles back from the market to fetch groceries to come back and sell the whole day to make a dollar; the woman who has to take care of her 7 children all alone or the one who has to fend for her 10 kids with her jobless and abusive husband all living in a one room shanty house;

To the rural poor who has to till tired ground to eke out a living to sustain a clan; to take her little daughter to school and avoid early marriage in the hope of breaking the vicious cycle of poverty and abuse;

To the young girl who has to brave taunts from classmates to attend schools even when her dress is messed up by her menses because she cannot afford the benefit of modern hygiene such as sanitary pads which are no novelty in the developed world;

I am talking about the woman in the Kenyan urban shanties and rural poor who has  to endure the terror of local chiefs and the extortion and abuse of local police every single waking day just to get along with their lives; women who pay tax to maintain these government officials but have no voice to control them or hold them to account because their MPs are too busy stealing from them or plotting on the next electoral violence to care. These are the women I work with every single day.

But I am also talking about the middle class woman who is starting to ask hard questions about our social and economic inequalities; the young executive who has started discarding the notion that the public space is male space; or that it is only bad girls that venture into politics;

I am also talking about the Kenyan Youth, who  have understood that the present and future of Kenya belongs to them. And that  to  believe otherwise would be to continually play to the  plan of the political elite who have pigeonholed them to an exploited and  manipulated  falsehood that they can only exist to serve the whims and narrow political interests of the politician. A youth who have understood that their  unemployment, exclusion, poverty and dire needs are not by default but by design of this political class.

For we  know that unless a new breed of leaders committed to a new kind of ethics and values that celebrate merit, excellence, service and accountability take over leadership, or unless ,by the unlikely , divine intervention those currently in power are transformed, my generation’s sad story will be the story of my daughter’s generation. And the generations after.

It is a combination of this fear and the inspiration I see in the eyes of mama mboga as she works through the day in the dusty shanty towns in Nairobi or as she toils away in the sun baked earth of Machakos that gives me the drive to keep going inspite of the unrelenting repression of government and police brutality. One of the great paradoxes of my country is that we have a government elected “democratically”  but which is habitually undemocratic;  a creature of movements such as ours but which has shown bad manners in dealing with those who seek to hold it against its promises.

Kenya’s story is part of the sad African story. But in that story a new story is evolving, the story of a people who are determined to make a clean break from the terrible legacy of unaccountable leadership and predatory governments; a story of people who are increasingly rejecting ethnic and political patronage in favor of democratic and accountable government; a story of people who are seeking transformation and not sedation through welfare; and it is a story of people who know that in Africa, we’ve got all the wealth we need to raise the continent from grinding poverty, disease and a sense of pervasive hopelessness into a prosperous land. A land from which no young woman or man will want to escape from to be an economic refugee in Europe, the US or anywhere else because it will be a land of opportunity.

It is with this breed of Kenyans and Africans that I identify myself and my work with. It may be the Pioneers for Change,  The C5, the Women and Youth Alliance, Bunge la Mwananchi, G10, KPTJ, among other progressive movements ,  but they are all united by one thing; to make sure that the transition in Kenya is substantive and not a vacuous formality.  I  have dedicated my time and energy at the Centre for Rights Education and Awareness(CREAW)  and the Africa Community Development Media (ACDM)  to make my contribution towards this great goal. I and my generation feel greatly privileged to be a point in our history where we can make a historic contribution.

In this we are greatly motivated by the achievements of the US, the South East Asian Tigers and the economies of Latin America.

This last Friday, 5th march- 2010, I celebrated my 45th birthday  away from  home . However in the midst of celebrating this personal landmark, two grim realities hit me right in the middle of my eyes. First, back home, my colleagues held  a memorial service in remembrance of two of our fallen  human rights defenders ; GPO Oulu and Oscar Kingara  both  executed in cold blood on the same day  last year ( – 5th march 2009- ) by state police in broad daylight right outside the University of Nairobi because of their dedication to bring to an end state sponsored terror.   Student protests were met with a further execution of one of the students. Todate state “investigations” have revealed nothing. It has joined the long list of unresolved politically motivated murders in Kenya. Such is the perilous reality of human rights defenders and the Kenyan public in my country today. The second reality was that my country’s life expectancy has fallen to 44 years. I am therefore lucky to be alive today!

Our Country Kenya

Kenya is indeed a  beautiful, great and profound   country situated in East Africa with a population of  approximately  40 m Kenyans  . Ever since we produced and exported  the incumbent President of the biggest super power in the world- President Barack Obama,  our claim to greatness  was vindicated! .  Yes, We have a track record not just for  producing  and exporting Presidents , but  it is in our country that you find such great names  like Wangari Maathai- the environmentalist,  our amazing   athletes, the very hard working   people, the vibrant civil society,  rolling mountains and scenery, singing birds, great weather, wonderful  natural resources and indeed  some of the best tourists destinations in the world!  Kenya has the potential to not only feed her people but be the bread basket of the whole continent of Africa- While it can have enough for everyone,  poor leadership and governance, corruption, impunity and lack of accountability have  determined that there is  not enough for a few greedy  men and women.

The high levels of inequality have determined that over 70% of the country’s resources are in the hands of a less than 10% of the population while  the last 10 % of the population own less than 1% of the country’s resources. It is a country where women  provide over 70% of the total labor in the agricultural sector and yet, own less than 5 %  of the country’s  land. It is a country where  over 47 % of the country’s population  live below the poverty line earning less than a dollar a day, with 70% of those extremely poor being women.  It is a country where  the  women and youth make the majority of populace and yet remain at the peripherals of decision making- a country that has   89% of its population  below  45 years   and yet this majority remain marginalized and  excluded in governance, decision making et al. It is a country that has been seeking reforms  of its key institutions of governance including the constitution  but where the said reforms have remained a mirage  due to state capture of the said instruments of reform.  This  enduring legacy has created  and fertilized a culture of  impunity, abuse and disregard to state institutions of governance, lack of accountability and a culture that disregards international norms and  standards of governance and human rights protection.  The political system of  first by the post , winner takes it all makes  elections a life and death matter always in favor of a small very powerful clique of   the political class.  Many other institutions like the cabinet, parliament, judiciary, police force, military  including media and religious institutions have come under  total and stifling elite capture. The outcome of this elite capture is a fractured  political and social system  , absence of  transparency and accountability, mismanagement of state institutions and impunity that have  eroded the national fabric resulting in serious  tensions-  Not surprising therefore that between Dec 2007 and  March 2008, Kenya faced its worst political and governance crisis yet and almost degenerated to a  state of total breakdown of law and order.

The question of police  brutality and complicity in perpetrating crime in general and violence against human rights defenders in particular is one of the biggest challenge within the existing Coalition government. The atrocities of the police are well documented; by the state human rights agency KNCHR,  UN Rapporteur  on Extra judicial killings; the government appointed Commission into Post Election Violence (CIPEV) which recommended a complete overhaul of the police force. earlier on at the conclusion of the Investigations into the Post election  Violence by the popularly  as the Waki Commission ( CIPEV)  – sadly,  and instead of implementing the recommendations,  the President responded by rewarding the then Commissioner of Police with a new appointment and a promotion for officers implicated in sexual assault and violence against peaceful Kenyan protestors.

The story of GPO Oulo and Oscar Kingara is the  story of so many other human rights defenders in Kenya and  in countries where there is no respect for human life, rule of law, democracy and   accountability. It is the story of so many other human rights defenders  who have paid and continue to pay heavy  prices for exercising their fundamental and constitutional rights.  When human rights activists in Kenya like in other countries like  Zimbabwe,   have sought  accountability from the powers that be,  the response of the authorities has been an escalating intransigence and violence, the violence of police dogs, tear gas, “disappearings”, exile, and even death.  Like  Bishop Desmond Tutu said at the height of  apartheid, “ We who advocate peace are becoming an irrelevance when we speak peace. The government speaks rubber bullets, live bullets, tear gas, police dogs, detention, and death”.

It is for this reason that while I humbly accept this award,   I dedicate it to all the human rights defenders in Kenya. They are the true champions and heroes of our struggle for change. They continue to put their lives in harm’s way because they are convinced that a different and better Kenya is possible. A different and better Africa is possible and a different and better world is possible.  Many of them like Oulu and Oscar have paid the ultimate price.

I also dedicate this award to my amazing  A-team and staff at CREAW, ACDM, Para-legal’s,  community educators and community news gatherers- without whom ,  my work would be impossible. This award is your award for all your hard work, dedication and commitment!

I finally dedicate this award to my children Stephanie and Ted-  who tearfully  plead with me not to go out onto the street for fear that they might never see their mother  alive  again but who also stoically understand why I do the work that I do. They too like other Kenyans, are tired of being divided along tribal and other imaginary lines, tired of running into ideological vacuums  and partisan roadblocks, tired of appeals to our worst instincts and greatest fears.

It is too late to stop this movement. Change must come!

We hear the voice of the people of the United States of America urging us on. We hear the voices of the people of Europe urging us on. We hear the voices of the peoples of the world urging us on; We see the changes taking place all over the world; We see nations rising from poverty and underdevelopment and creating economic miracles and we ask why not in Kenya? Why not in Africa?

We see undemocratic Nations being replaced by democracies and we ask why not in Africa? We  see millions being hauled out of early death with benefit of modern medicine and we ask why not in Africa? We read about the immense wealth in the belly of the continent and the endless miseries of the people living above the grounds and again we ask why in Africa?

Like Kennedy, I belong to those who believe in the power of a dream. Like him we dream of things that are yet to be and  we ask why not?

I understand that it is my duty and that of my generation to replace the present despair with a new hope in the continent of Africa; it is my duty to resist oppression and plant the flag of freedom in every homestead; it is my duty to challenge the massive inequalities that exist in my society and those of all other African states; it is my duty to stand up to grand corruption; to challenge police brutality and complicity in crime; it is my duty to prevent the recurrence of the post election violence in Kenya in the next general election; it is my solemn duty to prevent more and  more children from the violence and violations that continue to be visited upon our people; it is my duty because where leaders cease being role models and sources of inspiration, we must turn inwards and look for that inspiration from within ourselves. And we must stand firm in our place in the queue and never drop the ball; it is our duty to pick up the challenge that has rung from DC and across the World, that time is now for a new generation of leaders to emerge and to take the onerous task of completing the change begun 20 years ago to democratize, bring prosperity to our nations and to protect the rights and freedoms of every person in my country and in my continent. It is a call I am willing to accept even if I were alone. For didn’t Rosa Parks shows us right here in the USA the amazing power of a solitary soul committed to end injustice?

A great Kenya  for all is possible –

for the dignity of (Wo)man and the destiny of democracy.

We want  our Country Back!

Thank you all!

The annual International Women of Courage Award, started in March 2007 by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, recognizes women around the globe who have shown exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for women’s rights and advancement.

The other recipients of the award are: Janseela Majid (Sri Lanka), Shukria Asil (Afghanistan), Col. Shafiqa Quraishi (Afghanistan), Androula Henriques (Cyprus), Sonia Pierre (Dominican Republic), Shadi Sadr (Iran), Dr. Lee Ae-ran (Republic of Korea), Sister Marie Claude Naddaf (Syria), and Jestina Mukoko (Zimbabwe). 

i first read this piece, by binyavanga wainaina, last year. africa (2)

the intricate layers of over standing, satire en distancing oneself from hegemonic thought,

struck deep……

 

I had to listen to it a few more times to hear the silence(d)…

talking back through the margins of post-modernism.

 

no one can tell our stories,

but ourselves, that is true!

 

call out: hadithi? hadithi?

response: hadithi!

 

the modern afrikan…..

It’s morning already,

But I still can’t see the waxing moon or the star(s),

Don’t feel the dawn,

But I feel her spirit….

 

it’s morning,

change in the wind, dun come already…

So I’m working hard (for my freedom),

Writing hungrily into the next day….

(i am like that) hungry/chick

 

I don’t wonder (about), so much as,

Embrace….

 

 my destiny,

 and desire

 to be free.

 

So I do what I please,

mould joy from what I have.

 

Truth is,

There’s alot to give thanks for,

 

yet, my dreams speak of pause (ing/the present),

 and looking back….

 

I remember the monstas that broke hir (ancient/temple) walls.

Every night,  I get chased by the same monstas, wearing different masks,

But always, that blue beard.

 

This symbolism is of the chosen ones….

the sacred ones….

Spun from the looms of the sistas of fate……

Fetched from the deep (of the) hidden one,

The one who has many (magical) names.

 

This is what this story is about,

 m is for khensu.

moon-god(des)s.

 

riddle me this,

riddle me that,

tell me an ancient creashun story

 

tell me a love story.

of the divine union.

the love that the Queen of (the) Sheba(ns) and Solomon shared,

(en) of their son.

 

of the empress and her king,

en the night she slept in his palace….

 

Tell me a true/r version of the eve story…

I want all the excised details.

Of her endurance in my features,

And the improvised twist in the tale,

 

I want every kink that you come across,

Da kink,

That I can embrace into livity,

That I may restore to it’s fullness.

 

Loving every part of me,

En him,

En s/he,

En her.

 

This (kinda) poetry is simple,

It’s about me en my love(s),

My chosen kin,

En soulmate(s)….

 

Somewhere along the way,

I found everything I was looking for.

 

Even though they kept asking me to stop asking so many questions,

Even though they questioned my sanity,

Even though they tried to stop me from going on my travels.

 

Even though I was scared,

Even though I was once complacent and silent,

No mas!

 

I know different,

I feel,

I think, (different/ly)

I live, (en know that I yam not alone in charting brighter possibilities)

Therefore I must  (com/passionately)

EXIST.

 

Our

Truth

(is)

In my memory,

 

For I is a long memoried wom(b)an.

 

I re/member

The (magical) names,

recited in the (saite recension of the)

 book of the dead….

 

(somma) dem were

 

Khnemu.nehep.

Khnemu.khenti.taui..

Anqet.amen-ra.

Nut.na-ari-k.

Kasaika, arethi-kasathi-ka.

Amen-naiu-anka-entek-share.

Thekshare.amen.rerethi.

Nasaqe-bubu.

Thanasa.

 

Hidden is thy name, letasashaka. Your name is bai-re-qai.

Your name is marqatha. Your name is rerei.

 

Your name is sharsha-thakatha…

 

Grant that I may have peace in the tuat.

 

[parabola treatment: this narrative is more than a poetic exposition into myth or the symbolism of language. It is more than a literary attempt at reclaiming identity through foreign paradigms….it is about what the words say they are….you do the English……find the meanings of the names that have been listed….reading is never a passive exercise…and I am not prepared to feed you the answers, i’m hungry for them myself….en so I work to over stand situations and shift paradigms.

To guide you along the way, because that is really my self-appointed role in this hadithi, allow me to explain the purpose of this narrative, look at me as the messenger…so don’t come shooting me out…these are not my words

….i have travelled to distant lands, resettled (at) home en yearn for more…..

I have yet to travel through all the regions that the nile passes through….have yet to go back to (my true true) home….have yet to find my resting place….but still I know the paths to follow….I can show you the source….and the mountains of the moon….some of my kin still worhip close to the sacred lake….though many were forced from those ancient sites, centuries ago…..the evidence is in the sotries.

So who better to show you some of the sign posts, than this Afrikan daughta, the one who was always lookign for something (more)…..

i’ll take the best of deconstructive strategies birthed in queer theory…..apply a foucauldian and perverse presentism framework to this whole piece of fiction….

because that is what this really is, fictive genealogies,

mapped from my lived experiences and my afrikan herstorical readings…..

I’ll take all these facts and tell you the story I think I read….

 

This is about resistance morphing into the fruits of our sacrifices…

this is teaching community….a pedagogy of home….

revolushunary politics in praxis…..this is what you want it to be.

 

This not my story, do with it as you will….

As a guide, who’s marking my own sign posts,  I can tell you that it is important to pay attention to the series of classes and distinctions between the different forms and names of amen-ra…en noe that in this rendition, the names of amen- ra are not Egyptian, they appear to indicate a Nubian origin…en yet according to contemporary Egyptology, the worship of amen-ra was introduced into Nubia by its Egyptian conquerors early in the XIIth dynasty.

As a guide, i can only ask you to pay attention to the signs.

Either way I’ll (try to) tell you our (true/afrikan) stories. parabola end.]

 

This is a classic world story,

Like the one about how the world floats on the back of a turtle,

True, dis story,

I read it from another story teller,

A king…

He wrote, the truth about stories…

 

Don’t believe me?

Find out for yourself….

 

But this story is not about the turtles,

It is about the mother who laid that egg…

The creatrix….of many names,

En many faces….

 

Like the goddess mut.

The great lady of ashert,

The lady of heaven,

The queen of the god/desse/s.

Mut who giveth birth but was herself not born of any.

 

Great lady of heavens.

Lady of the life of two lands,

Lady of the house of ptah,

Queen of the two lands,

 

 

[parabola treatment: one of the great temples of mut was built at thebes by amen-hetep III, about 1450B.C.

IT WAS APPROACHED FROM THE TEMPLE OF AMEN-RA BY AN AVENUE OF SPHINXES;

THE SOUTHERN HALF BUILDING OVERLOOK A CIRCULAR LAKE ON WHICH

THE SACRED PROCESSION OF BOATS TOOK PLACE, AND AT INTERVALS,

BOTH INSIDE AND OUTSIDE THE OUTER WALL OF THE TEMPLE ENCLOSURE WERE PLACED STATUES OF THE GODDESS MUT, IN THE FORM OF SEKHET, IN BLACK BASALT.

Another famous sanctuary of Mut was situated in the city of Pa-Khen-Amen(e)t. This city was also called “Thebes of the North, or the CITY OF THE NORTH,

To distinguish it from Thebes, the great city of Amen which is always referred to as the “City”…..a perverse presentism strategy would view this piece with an analogy of new York city…and it’s status as the big apple and the historical location of THE statue of LIBERTY……

If 2 books could speak to each other, then gender trouble would speak with how Europe underveloped africa, and we would come up with the answer in our questionings…..why it’s the goddess blindfolded ofcourse….the ultimate conquest of nature are our civilisations and language….

the answer lies in reclaiming our past, and coming to terms with our present. Parabola end.]

 

there is another story i know about a goddess, called hapi…

 

who came in peace to (re) make Egypt,

the hidden one,

 

the waterer of the fields that Ra had created

the friend of bread and of TCHAB

 

lord of fish,

 

creator of barley,

 

who makes the temples endure,

for millions of years…..

 

the memory is in our skin(mask)s.

the truth is (in) our present state.