Longer than your average

Even your friendly under-the-rock dweller has seen a few of the #FeesMustFall tweets and has an idea of the demands of SA students. A tweet from Ndinda reminded me today of the place of history in protests; the way the past, the present and the future meet every so often to fortify.

Once in a (long, thankfully) while, I post something personal on the internets. This is one of those moments. Not so much the feels as a minor explainer about the way I feel about politics and history.

My parents had me quite young and in a sense, I grew up with them. When this happens, your parent is learning lessons, navigating life, with you by their side. So it was that in the 90s, my father left our little home to go to Kamukunji, to take part in the Saba Saba protests. So it was that our household, led by a woman because her partner was in school, almost saw the chance of a brighter future taken away because that partner had been visited by state functionaries. His crime: writing and editing an incendiary magazine at his college, chumming about with Wafula Buke and the lot.

For many years, before I understood how women can be eliminated from the narratives of the revolution, I considered my father the revolutionary . My mother, well, she was Mummy. Bread and broth on a Saturday morning, love, the one who spoke my first language. Not a revolutionary. Yes, the student of history (one of the only 2 As I scored in KCSE) thought that being lobbed with teargas was the measure.

Women hold the planet up, women sustain the revolution. For this reason, I am terribly excited about the fact that the protests are being led by young women. Listen, my maternal grandmother was a news junkie (I know where that comes from) and when Nelson Mandela was released and went on to spurn Winnie, she reminded my mother who it was of the two of them that had kept the struggle alive; who it was that had continued to risk their life.

Women have been written out of revolutions for so long, it’s refreshing to see them front and centre now. African women, black women, outspoken women who will not be silenced like their mothers, their grandmothers, their aunties. Women like my grandmother who, over 10 years after Kenya gained independence, still had no photo ID that was just hers. Women like my mother, who had to be issued a passport on a man’s file, my father’s.

I have been paying attention to history for a while; what option do I have with a family like mine? And yet, I absorbed the falsehoods that are wrapped up in a product created by the oppressor. What I know is that 12 years of studying History in Kenya had me believing that Jomo Kenyatta was a hero, that the land question was answered when the White Men left power, that the oppression of the Black person ended when the White Men left, that the face of freedom and progress is a man’s. These women stand the real risk of being erased, being forgotten, and the girls of the future believing what I too believed for so long; women are not revolutionaries.

Teach your children these truths: the Mau Mau had women among their ranks, say the names of the women who fought oppressors (Mekatilili wa Menza, Wangari Maathai, Winnie Madikizela Mandela), teach them that women fuel the revolution, they feed it, they strengthen it, they instruct it, they lead it. Teach them what the revolution looks like.

And to my mother: Thank you for keeping my father and I alive with food, love and support during those years. Thank you for telling me the stories of the women in our family who fought against the forces that tried to keep us down, thank you for keeping my grandmother’s memory alive these 20 years. Thank you for doing the valuable, unappreciated, undervalued work that is care. Thank you for those stories about the past that are really glimpses of the past, history primers. Thank you for saying the names of those people and those places that this country would rather forget. May I never again forget.

Asante, asante, asante.

Note: I have undertaken to write a post a day for a year. I’m collating all the posts (spanning 3 blogs) using the hashtag #CuminWrites366. If you have questions,compliments, or want to find out where the bodies are hidden, the address is kenyanwithattitude@gmail.com


This is my bit for the planet

This post is part of Blog Action Day; thousands of bloggers writing about Climate change on the same day. 8,221 blogs & counting…

For more information on Blog Action Day, visit blogactionday.org or watch this video

I went to school in a cold part of Kenya [high school, that is]. Lowest recorded temperature in my time there: 10 Celsius. In the past: 4 Celsius. My mum grew up in a cold part of Kenya, frost and all that. There are kids growing up there now who wouldn’t know frost if it was thrown in their faces…and it wouldn’t be because there’s none of it to throw…

Climate change, global warming…it is personal. It isn’t some random concept sold by Al Gore & Co. It’s not an East/West thing…a liberal/conservative debate. Do liberals inhabit a parallel universe? Do Europeans and Africans inhabit separate worlds? Is the suffering of one not that of many? For me, as a citizen of a developing country, the effects of climate change are real, serious, and sometimes fatal.

Malaria zones, according to WHO infromation, have expanded over time. Areas where malaria was unheard of now have malaria stories. As a child, I almost died of malaria because the assumption among GPs was that Nairobi & its environs were not malaria zones. And this was the 90s…and I hadn’t been in a ‘conventional’ malaria zone like the area round Lake Victoria or our bit of the Indian Ocean  coast. The world is getting warmer, and mosquitoes are having a ball…while the world’s children die from a disease that has been eliminated in some parts of the world…

I remember, once when I was 10, having an embarassing episode that was caused by my refusal to throw trash out of the window as my school bus drove through a wildlife-filled area. They’d eat it & be sick, I argued… I repeat, 10. Not 20 like I am now. The power to make a difference begins with us. With each & every one of us. Age or socio-economic position are neither here nor there. Information, though, is of supreme importance. Because my parents had encouraged me to read and made me aware of the delicate balance that is the planet Earth, I was able to stand up for my beliefs even as people looked at me like I was a psycho child. To believe, to be firm in action, one needs to be thoroughly informed. If you & I make a choice to be green, to drive less, to consume plastics less,[or not at all]…we’ll be halfway there.

And yes, I am one to speak… I have planted trees, put aside my 1988 hatchback because it doesn’t rank up there with eco-friendly to walk [try it, it helps you discover the place you live in so much better & makes you fit 🙂 ], re-used… Yet I need to do more. Lobby my MP (Member of Parliament) to make restrictions on use of swampland & other areas of importance to bio-diversity into law; question all the government agencies nt living up to their mandate; harness my Rotaract Club to make a difference in terms of sensitizing people about climate change & its effects on us (young people, Kenyans, the inhabitants of this planet)…kiss my boyfriend goodbye earlier so I don’t have to take a cab home [yes, X, it affects you too 😀 ]

I’m proud of the people in my corner of the world…we’ve found the courage to tell the politicians who hived off our water catchment areas that we will take them back…& there’s nothing they can do about it other than hem, haw, & be assured of the end of their careers. We have had to make painful decisions…kicking fellow citizens out of swamps & forests because we need to reclaim our land. Yet we have also done amazingly crazy things….like burning forests because the government is evicting the burners. Now we are seeing a drought like none we have seen before…and rains due to El Nino.

Climate change…global warming…it’s about you & I. About the children who may learn of some animals only from books because our carelessness & selfishness will have eliminated them…it’s about birth control because large populations make us take up more land [with the associated destruction] It’s about being daring, going outside your comfort zone to make a difference. Sensitizing yourself & your community, lobbying your leaders [taking up leadership positions, even] about the effects of global warming.

Reversing the adverse effects of climate change requires the effort of each & every one of us. It is possible. I wish you & I the best in our quest to make the world a better place.

***COP15 United Nations Climate Change Conference Copenhagen 2009… A chance for nations, and especially the US, to make a stand for the Earth***

Sunny’s back!

That’s me, Sunny 🙂

The last post gave ‘a break from the usual’ a whole new meaning….

OK…where do I begin?

I have acquired an obsession. Last time I used that word was in relation to a boy. Who constantly proclaims his love for me (gave me the best birthday gift this year *love you, hun, wherever you are*) and, it turns out, is gay. But he’ll always be something special…. Anyway, my latest obsession is ciggies….. I know…unhealthy, but I have moments where I am frustrated and all I can think about is this urge I have to smoke. Odd….considering the last time I smoked, I was 6…sneaking a puff of one of my uncles’ cigarette butts. I suck on a lollipop and end up holding the stick like a ciggie. My mum the psychologist links it to the fact that I barely breastfed. But that is conjecture, really… So I’ve been focusing my thoughts on that Benson & Hedges stick I shall have each week when school resumes (oh, my summer holiday…) which will be the holder of each week’s frustrations. I shall smoke when my roommate next semester goes to church… Told my brother about it and he was pretty intrigued… sad…

My summer holiday has been spent re-discovering myself, my causes, and figuring out my feelings for X… I have found out that the 6 children I once dreamt of having are just that… a dream. Remember the move? Well, it was to the bundu (love that word) ie the rural areas…in this case, western Kenya. Where women get so many children their bodies get tired of it all…and children go without shoes because they are too many for their parents to buy enough pairs. My mum jokes that our village is where hers was in the 70’s…birth control-wise.

Have taught at the local primary school…enlightening. Made me really count my blessings…parents who care for me and helped me learn to read and write. I could read at 3…some of the kids I taught this last term (Kenya has 3 terms…appropriately called 1st, 2nd & 3rd term… You have to love Kenya) can’t read at 7/8. Sad… I was brought up with a keen awareness of human rights (Proud Amnesty International international member) and this… this inability to read, reproductive health issues….. They gnaw at me…

Now I’m at the townhouse….searching for documents that I’ve looked for n times before… OK, Bruce… what do you do? And making dinner. Hot, spicy, veggy…and the baby liked it 🙂 The townhouse…so close to the post office. I went there today to post a letter to X. Oh, X, he makes me happy with the way he’s re-ignited my love for snail mail. Och, X, wherever you are 🙂 🙂 🙂

People are falling in love. That is to say W and myself. Oh, W…I’m so happy for him. And he’s had progress…I on the other hand really have to wait for October ie. the end of my summer holiday…to see my boyfriend… W sees his every week and misses him everyday. Me? I’ve imposed an injuction on saying ‘I miss you’ on Facebook messages. It makes the feeling too keen. So I’m not saying it, or listening to those long distance love etc songs/blogs/you get my drift…

X… is so interesting. That’s putting it lightly. I found a link to a fresh blog of his…long story which I shall not tell here… He fell in love, it turns out…and got arrested with the girl he loved (at the time of the entry)… Now, I happen to have been arested with him…and to have gotten a declaration of like from him (yes, like…not love) but that entry? It made me happy in a strange way. Part *aww, I love you too; babe* and part *say it to me, hun* OK, so now it’s strange…the happiness. But it goes to prove I should give X a chance; because I have less need to be pessimistic…or positively, I have more causes for happiness…

Oh, W, you’ve influenced me far too much. Look at me going all lovey dovey…

To wrap it up, here’s my back to school list:

1.Ciggies…/2.Storage stuff for when I move into my college hall (I’m green so I’m getting crafts baskets instead of plastic ones…)/3.Materials for a vision board…/4.Ball pens (have been using fountain pens…can’t take it any more…)…/

5.highly anticipated…seeing X again 🙂 …such clean fun 😉