Will you finally celebrate Wangari Maathai?

She will always be the woman of steel who had balls for fifty men! Just when Kenya was experiencing the first cases of breaking democratic virginity in 1989, she was the only living being who stood up against former dictatorial president Moi when he wanted to sanction the building of a sixty-two-storey skyscraper on Uhuru park. Now one of the few famed recreational parks in African cities, I can bet you ninety five percent of those couples stealing afternoon kisses and hugs to themselves on the park’s green grass and boats floating over the litu-lake in the midst of Nairobi’s madness probably have no idea that if it wasn’t for Prof Wangari, all that land would now be sat on by a building of bustling business.

You have heard it before, that there is nothing like the wrath of a scorned woman. In 1992, she led women in a graphic protest, stripping to show the government of Kenya how desperate the mothers were to have their sons jailed as political prisoners released. These are the kind of things that made the former president tag her as ‘crazy.’ In 1993, the prisoners including renown Kenyan activist Koigi wa Wamwere, were finally released.

That ‘crazy’ Prof was also on a trailblazing mission to free the Kenyan environment of selfish land-grabbing individuals. Like the persistence of global warming, she was on the path to a permanently allow for environment conservation and the planting of trees. Watch the documentary, ‘Kikulacho,’ you will be more astounded than sad at the staggering percentages of Kenyan land that has been grabbed. Guess what? Kenya is still battling with the evil curse of land grabbing but this woman did her part in the fight. She founded Africa’s Green Belt Movement in 1977 which has since planted million of trees and dedicated it’s work to environmental conservation.

A feminist, environmentalist and in addition she was also a politician who served as a member of parliament representing Tetu constituency between the periods of 2002-2007. She is also a pioneer as she paved way for the rest of us ‘females’ having been the first East African woman to receive a Ph.D., when she was granted a doctorate of Anatomy.

The professor was also the first African woman to be awarded with the 2004 Peace Noble Laureate for her environmental work, that sort of brought controversy to how peace and environment is co-related. If your memory hasn’t failed you, you must remember the 1992 Molo clashes that were aggravated by misappropriation and loose granting of title deeds. In the words of one of her wise quotes, “If you destroy nature, nature will destroy you.”

Forget about Fareed’s rude awakening, my sister took the crown this morning,”Rosey! Wangari Maathai is dead, just got the news from my Facebook!” In a mix of sadness and confusion we ran to the remote to peruse through local TV stations. KBC had a lady discussing ‘World Tourism day’, when is that anyway? KTN had a presenter stuttering all through interviewing two guests on the topic of ‘Home schooling,’ interesting topic but couldn’t it wait? Citizen had Jimmy Gathu announcing to the audience that the Power breakfast was still waiting to host Ferdinand Waititu who was stuck in traffic on his way to their studios. Why do I want to see the SI-unit of running battles on my TV on the morning that honourable Wangari has passed away? It was until around 9.45 AM when K24 ran a repeat of an interview Jeff had done with Prof Wangari earlier on Capital Talk. NTV then started showing re-runs of all the stories they had done of her in the past. They didn’t have a guest in the studio so they brought in Ageyo, the genius to shed some light on the life and times of Prof Wangari. Exactly what I would have done to the programming if I was the editor in chief. Same way if I had the power I would want to watch the sky’s horizon every morning from the Eifel tower. But hey, I am just Rosey.

While the local TV stations gave scanty information on the events that led to Prof’s departure, CNN and BBC world had a mini-feature on her. The internet was bursting crazy with international news on Prof Wangari. My sister and I got more of the information from twitter where she (Prof Maathai) was already an international TT.

All the TV stations in Kenya should have been running clips of her life and times in between their morning schedule with a sense of habitual behaviours of morning audiences. On any morning, a normal individual would first check the news via their Facebook and Twitter, then go to the TV. What good is the latter if half of the things it’s showing are of no national importance to Kenya, in this case the loss of Prof? The president’s condolence came in the afternoon, really?

It’s an issue of precedence. All I can say is that only fools fail to celebrate their hero in their native, dead or alive. I stop to rant. I hope that Prof Wangari is granted  a state funeral. As the world at large mourns the loss of a noble peace laureate, can we at least all come together as Kenyans? Lets celebrate the life of a mother, a woman of steel, scholar, environmentalist, activist, not just by chilling at Uhuru Park but can each of us plant a tree in her  honour?

BONUS: One of the best documentaries I ever watched will remain to be, ‘For Our Land,’ made by the amazing kenyan filmmakers Wanuri Kahiu and Judy Kibinge. It is a detailed account of the struggles and triumphs of Prof Wangari. The documentary cashes in the power of talking heads, Prof herself opens up in front of the camera. Her closest alliances also talk a lot about her,  shedding a lot of light behind her driving force for the love of nature. Can all local stations get it and broadcast it now?

Yet to read her book, ‘Unbowed.’ Here is a link to some of the quotes from the book and  a chance to join other Kenya’s in a mission to honour her soon…. \’A Kenyan Girl\’s BLOG

You lost in the battle with cancer but Prof Wangari Maathai,  I salute you. Your will and the work of your hands will be remembered much longer after Uhuru Park. Rest In Peace.

Inside Chocolate City …

The year I celebrated my 10th birthday must be the perfect connotation to “bitter sweet”. It also has to be the most memorable in the twenty-two years I have lived. Contrary to the usual disregard for the day I was born, for the first time mother brought me a gift. It was a brown little edible thing that looked like mud. She said that it was chocolate, and that it was intended for only special occasions. My taste buds marveled at its massive sweetness though that didn’t last as long as my status elevation among the village kids. All the little rascals from our slum area wanted to have a piece. I tried to hide the little left in one of my gumboots but hours later it had all melted and gone to waste. It was one of those terribly hot afternoons. I was naive then, didn’t even know about the relationship between chocolate and heat. Mother’s gesture really made me feel special as the other ‘blessed’ children I used to see on Mama Shiku’s little black and white Great-Wall television while passing by her kiosk. I hardly ever saw the complete Cadbury’s chocolate TV advertisements as Mama Shiku would always chase kids anytime they came near her ugly banda.(structure) ”Tokeni hapo ama mtu mmoja ataenda nyumbani akilia!,” she would always put out a warning prior to unleashing the wrath of her multi-purpose broom on us!

That same year, mama started suffering from severe chest problems. She kept on blaming the crack on the wall near the door that supposedly let in the cruel cold wind. The landlord had promised to have it fixed probably since the day I was born as that conspicuous hole was one of the first things I reckon to have hit my eyes as a toddler. After a week in a hospital in the big city, we were sent word that she passed on from an ailment called Pneumonia. I was sad, even sadder that I never got a chance to go visit her during her admission. I wanted to see how a real hospital would look like. Dad on the other hand was a chain smoker. “That nasty habit took his lungs,” said the expressionless man who was filling in for the clinic assistant. That’s the day my Dad never came out of the dilapidated local clinic walking.

I still smell tobacco around me. It’s no longer suffocating me; rather it gives me a vivid remembrance of my father. I feel like my parents demise was the work of the devil. The neighbours said that my father was bewitched. The village witchdoctor said that the gods needed to be appeased. My dad’s siblings blamed it on my mother saying that she was never the right choice for a wife. Everything happened too fast. One day we were a family happily bundled up in a minute shanty in Kibera. The next day my sister Njeri and I were left orphans sitting on the thin mattress on the floor. We were angry at the world’s ill fate but looking back, we were hungrier than anything! Mother wasn’t going to come back home with Kahorora, the stray vegetable that flourished near the sewer busts. It was the cheapest meal and ironically the sweetest when thrown in a boiling pot of mashed potatoes.

After our parent’s unprecedented departure, our four-walled shanty was suddenly grandiose. It felt bigger but not necessarily better. If anything, I was bitter at my evil aunt Koi who left the man she was living with down the lane to apparently come take care of us. For years, rumours that she was being battered severally by that man constantly flew around just as often as the common flying –toilets of Kibera. Down here, there are no systems whatsoever. The sewers are broken and the few available toilets are literally full of shit! We recycle plastic papers though not like the factories. We simply use them to help ourselves then thrown them up the air hoping that they will fly away as far as possible. People get away with crime just as easy as stealing a mandazi from Mama Oti’s open air frying pan by the road. Irrespective of your shanty’s padlock size, your door is prone to being broken into. Tribe is not a token of appreciation, you either live with your people or risk the tribal and brutal hands of the enemies.

Many times Mum had begged her sister to leave the unnecessary trouble of living with a man who made a pittance of money from chan’gaa (an illicit drink) brewing. Mummy had asked Aunt Koi to come squat with us but she never took up the offer. I thought she moved in faster after the loss out of her empathy for Njeri and I but ironically, she was coming to make us her slaves! Aunty only carried with her, a sack of dirty clothes which she forced us to wash on that same day despite the fact that it had been raining cats and dogs outside. It took the clothes about two days to dry out on the dirty picket fence by the nearby swamp that borders Kibera and the civilized Lang’ata estate. I used to day-dream staring at the other side of the swamp infested by mosquitoes wishing that one day I would get into the six storey apartments just to see if the world looked any different from up there.

After Njeri left for Mombasa to live with our uncle Ken, the shanty was suddenly the only thing I had left. I spent hours and days staring at the same old newspapers haphazardly stuck on the wall. At the far corner was the only family picture we took on the day that Muniu, the slum photographer was giving every family a free sample to his new Polaroid camera that a tourist from Tokyo had given him as a souvenir. Sometimes I am hoping that the newspaper writings would change but just like the reality of my parents gone, they never do. I got tired of tossing and turning in the cold nights waiting on Aunty to come home with food. Instead she would come home with different men almost every night, their similarity being the dead stench of vomit and cheap alcohol. She would kick me out of the shanty to get her desired space. Crying silently outside I would hear her crying inside in the pitiful pleasure of the moment,”mungu wangu, woi gai fafa, woi hapo tu …” What a dirty woman she was!

I got dirty myself, as I started doing vibaruas (odd jobs) at the age of seventeen. That way, i was poor but not too much to sleep hungry. Omosh Kinde, a childhood friend introduced me to Mzee Kasri. Mzee was renown as Kibera’s jack of all trades. He owned about a hundred mkokoteni’s (hand-carts), quite a number of shanties for rent and the famous Arusha Dishes, the slum’s famous eating joint that served the best Swahili dishes. Kasri would spend an entire day traversing through the depths of the slum ensuring that all his businesses ran smoothly. His diligence was to envy, it still remains a mystery how  he manages to keep his Islamic dress as white as snow. Mzee is the one who bailed me out of custody when i was held at the Lang’ata police station following an ugly dispute between Aunty and I. One morning I woke up feeling all grown up. In a bid to stand on my own, I asked her to leave and never come back. Instead, she dared to insult my dead parents, “Siendi! Na wewe utakufa na mdudu kama wazazi wako!”  … I am just sorry that I put my hands on a woman and especially my aunt but I am not sorry that this is who I’ve become.

It’s been raining heavily of late. Sometimes I just sit by my little window and ignore my solitude as I stare at the rain’s beautiful dancing motion. It ironically wrecks Kibera even further leaving everything covered in the reddish-brown messy mud! That always make me think about my first chocolate experience. I once read a newspaper headline that referred to Kibera as Africa’s largest and worst slum settlement. What a contrast because to me, this is the city of chocolate 🙂  Forget about what you heard, I am yet to tell you of all the real tales …

To be continued …

Still Livin’ – Jahaziel (Mixtape Review)

Hip hop gospel rapper, Jahaziel hails from UK. I previously heard of him in a song collaboration with Daniel Bedingfield. Somehow thanks to someone, I ended up in possession of his killer mixtape titled, The Still Livin’ Mixtape, released on May 2011. Its content is rich and alive owing to the diversity 17 tracks; 14 out of them conspicuous collaborations with various artists including Mali Music.

If you dig Hip hop, lyrical punches and funk, this mixtape is perfect for you irrespective of whether you believe in the word or not. It’s message has been uniquely packaged in songs about ordinary stories and life’s challenges intertwined in prayer and praise to God. Jahaziel embraces his Jamaican roots when he throws in ‘Deliver me’, a reggae song smack in the middle of head-bopping Hip hop. Be not deceived’ is a song emphasising on the need to be wary of the world’s dangerous pleasures like greed, lust and money for, ”What a man sows he will reap, the same way he will eat what he grows,” raps Jahaziel.

The remix to ‘Come home’ sounds as fresh as a track off Lupe Fiasco’s Lasers. The song is a tale of a man sliding from his faith. In spite of his dark life he discovers that there is still a mansion for him next to where the Lord lives. Lost in his spiritual poverty, he asks God how that could have been possible, and He answers, “Christ paid your mortgage”. TOO DEEP!

Jahaziel’s British accent sipping through the songs is sexy! (Not too sure if that description is fit for this kind of post 🙂 Anyhoo, I loved all the verses in ‘Regenerated’ – a monster collabo! “I can set it off with the obvious line and say that I’ve been transformed something like Optimus prime but far from this rhyme is my gospel design to give God the optimum shine…”  SWEET!

The consistency of the lyrical semantics of the mixtape will blow your mind! I am unable to review all the tracks because I am both spoilt for choice and overwhelmed by Jahaziel’s litu-message of vote of thanks in the mixtape–poetic, poignant and plain inspirational. I copied an except of it, word for word and pasted it below. His words are so beautiful leaving me with nothing to say other than, Il faut partager!

Thank You

I’ll keep it short and sweet

Thanks goes first, foremost and utmost to Almighty God – you already know – without whom life would be lifeless. Thank you for showing me more love than I could ever understand let alone reciprocate, in sending your Son to suffer my sinners death and give me His righteous life for eternity.

Thank you to Nadine my wife and Azaliah my daughter – having both a queen and a princess truly makes me feel like a king! I love you both dearly and may I never be a better rapper than I am a Christian husband and father.

 BONUS: The mixtape comes after his debut album, “Ready to Live”, which I am yet to get my hands and ears on as I wait on the release of his sophomore album. Feels like I began to know him from the middle going in and outwards. No matter your style, I am recommending this mixtape. Click The Interview of Jahaziel by snowdroponline.com

4 Kinds Of Men or Is It Puppies?

People wonder why a nice kawaida girl would be single. It’s simply because of some of the men who are out there busy spoiling the broth for the good ones. Think about it, these men are as cute as puppies. They are adorable at the first instance but after several days and dates they start pooping everywhere and making a nuisance of themselves. This makes you wonder if you should still keep them and if the puppy will eventually grow into a dog- the good kind 🙂

1. Mr. I can’t be your friend if I can’t date you.

This man wants to be in a relationship with you, you like him, even appreciate him and his honesty but unfortunately he just doesn’t cut it for you. However, you still want him to be in your life as he would make a good friend. He must be the guy who came up with the notion that men and women can’t be friends as he is settling for all or nothing.

  • This isn’t right, just because you can’t be with someone doesn’t mean they aren’t good for you. Not dating them isn’t a pass to push them out of your life as both of you lose out on a lot. Every individual has unique qualities that you will never get to experience if you aren’t in each other’s lives.

2. Mr. I don’t want to date you & I don’t want to be your friend, I just want the benefits.

You like this man for so many reasons. However, he wants nothing but to drop his hands in the cookie jar. As his mischievous game progresses, so does your confusion in trying to decipher his mixed signals. The fact is he will never change as you both want different things, you see the babies, he sees the ladies! He always has a woman on his arm and he genuinely likes them all for different reasons. He might not even know it but he is the serial-dater!

  • Either you settle for his stray ways or ship out as this man only wants one thing … If you stay in this too long, you will end up feeling used and because of his “kigeugeu” ways, sadly your relationship will never take off.

3. Mr. I know I can’t date you but I will take anything from you.

This is the nice guy. He treats you like a queen, he is a gentleman, you always have a great time together. There is just one small thing (and not his “nene”); no fizzle! He knows that you don’t feel the same as he does for you but your presence as his friend is his constant sign and hope that one day you will be his woman. He works around your schedule, if you want to talk, he will give you an ear. If you need to cry, he will give you a shoulder, if you want to go out, he will be your date even chaperone, but for you, that’s it! Deep down you believe that one day when you don’t want to die alone, all factors remaining constant he will still be there for you.

  • This is a situation that most girls are in and they tend to exploit the dude or vice versa. Partly because they are probably with Mr. I don’t want to date you & I don’t want to be your friend, I just want the benefits. And we all know how that goes. Other times, the ladies just can’t see that the guy REALLY likes them, it’s hard to see through them because these guys will feign anything, even friendship just so they never disclose their feelings in fear of losing you. This guy would rather have you as a friend than ever having to pressure you into a relationship.
  • But word of caution , take time to assess your feelings lest one day you will wake up and find that this person is gone. Remember one man’s trash is another’s treasure.

4. Mr. I know I am the shit but I won’t commit

This guy is strange. He has everything seemingly going on for him, handsome, good job, sociable, charming and he’s got game (and we are not talking about Basketball 🙂  He is not kidding when he says that he has feelings for you, only they are not going anywhere past him proclaiming so. You want to start something serious as you have seen a good thing but unbeknownst to you, he is the eternal bachelor!

  • You can tell that there is a step missing in your relationship’s advancement. The more you push the agenda, the more he pulls away. Once you realize that this guy likes you but not enough to change his principles, the bitterness starts to settle in because you had invested emotionally. This is the moment to walk away with your dignity intact.
  • This is the only scenario where the stupid breakup line “It’s not you, it’s me” actually applies. Believe it, it wasn’t you, it was him and it’s his loss. Keep your head up as it wasn’t all in vain, he was a good man who just couldn’t settle down now find another one who will.

Parting Shot

Do you remember the puppy analogy? Ask any dog-person, breeding them to maturity is always a task. Similarly, relationships are difficult and complex. They take time, patience and sometimes they just don’t work out! Be keen as these types of guys will definitely come your way, at the end of the day make a decision that is right for you. So which one of the above are you? Whichever the case, treat your partner right!

Post co- written by  Wanjeri