Monday, November 24, 2008

My Brown Baby, THE Space For Moms

I've been following MyBrownBaby for a few months now and I absolutely love the joint! Founder and Editor Denene Millner has a terrific sense of humor and has created a warm, inviting place where moms share wonderful tidbits about motherhood. And, from time to time she runs fabulous contests such as the one I am broadcasting here today.

This week, the give-away is a solid set of four incredible autographed books penned and illustrated by the prolific husband and wife duo, Andrea and Brian Pinkney.

One winner will receive Boycott Blues: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation; Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince & His Orchestra; Peggony Po: A Whale Of a Tale, and; Mim’s Christmas Jam.

Hebu (just) imagine?!

Don't delay, the contest ends at 11:59 pm EST on November 30, 2008, and with the holidays coming up, these will make wonderful gifts. Visit MyBrownBaby, enter the contest and tell them MamaShujaa sent you.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Africa is Not a Country

Just recently, I took my son and his best buddy to watch Madagascar Escape 2 Africa. It seems there are quite a number of folks in America who think Africa is a country. Gloria, the curvaceous hippo is in contention with Sarah Palin for the Mama Shujaa 2008 Seriously Uninformed Character Award.

Picture this scene: Moto Moto, the massive watering-hole womanizer swaggers over to Gloria as she lounges on a cool rock somewhere in Africa, sipping a Martini. L.U.V. is on his mind and with a name like Moto Moto you’d expect more than the thought-terminating platitudes that issue from his bulbous lips. You learn very quickly that he is all mass, no substance.

Miss Thing on the other hand has got it going on. She knows the meaning of his name: Moto Moto means Hot Hot in “African!” Uh, Africa is not a country, Missy. It is a vast continent made up of 53 countries with an estimated 2000 languages spoken.
DreamWorks and its writers should take note. Going forward, we want far more inspiring and relevant material when portraying Africa. It turns out that there are elementary schools that have whole lesson plans on teaching about Africa. I can’t wait for our school district to follow suit, but I am not holding my breath. As parents, we work every day to shatter stereotypes and educate our children about the truth of their heritage.

Overall, the movie was enjoyably animated and the boys (10 and 11) said they liked it; although, I wondered about their coughing bouts during the Gloria – Moto Moto scenes. Enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Just Want To Say Asante Sana. Thank You.

Paa Ya Paa Creative Arts Center is located in Nairobi, Kenya. Paa Ya Paa is a Kiswahili phrase which means “the antelope rises,” a symbol of new creative adventures, a place where ideas flourish and flow freely.

This is where we get the Utu I speak about in my From Kenya With Love post. Enjoy the video and

  • Asante kina Baba na Mama
  • Asante Familia
  • Asante Mungu
Copyright © Hana Njau-Okolo 2008. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

This Is Not My Africa

Map Source: AP

13 Year Old Somali Girl Stoned To Death

A thirteen year old girl was stoned to death before one thousand spectators in a stadium in the southern port of Kismayo, Somalia.

On October 27, 2008 Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow was stoned to death by members of Al-Shabab. What did Aisha do? In breach of Islamic law, she had committed adultery.

The truth is that Aisha was gang-raped by three men. When Aisha attempted to report this to the Al-Shabab, they accused her of adultery, and detained her. None of the three accused men were arrested.

It all began in August 2008 when Aisha traveled from a refugee camp in Northern Kenya to Kimayo, and was held there against her will by the militants. As the days went by, she grew distressed and it was reported that she became emotional, or mentally unstable.

Initial reports stated that Aisha was 23 years old, but her father confirmed to Amnesty International that her actual age was 13. Under Islamic law, convicting a girl of 13 for adultery is illegal. However, the Al-Shabab insisted that based on her physical appearance, she was 23 years of age. See: Amnesty International.

According to an anonymous informant, BBC news reports that Aisha begged for her life saying "Don't kill me, don't kill me!" A few minutes later, more than 50 men pelted her with stones until she died.

It was reported that inside the packed stadium, Al-Shabab members opened fire when some of the witnesses to the killing attempted to save her life. A bystander, a young boy was shot dead in the confusion. It was reported that an Al-Shabab spokesperson later apologized for the death of the child, and said the militia member would be punished.

Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow. May Her Soul Rest In Perfect Peace.

This is Not My Africa
By Hana Njau-Okolo

In My Africa,
Children are treasured, not obliterated.
The community is entrusted to raise a child,
Not enlist a soldier, or a sex slave.
Children are not hunted down
For being witches or wizards,
Then sold into servitude, or killed.
Politicians are charged
With educating the continent,
Not suppressing a populace.

This is not my Africa.

The Africa that harbors
Power hungry warlords,
Dictators and presidents for life.
The one that ignores
Human rights atrocities,
Famine and disease
Because foreign interests,
And their government-driven
Projects are more important,
Or their private sector wants
A source for raw materials.
The Africa that continues to ignore the
Un-educated masses.

This is not my Africa

Copyright © Hana Njau-Okolo 2008. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Essential Utensils

Thanksgiving is right around the corner. This year I’m tweaking our traditional menu. I’m thinking about cooking roasted Turducken, a partially de-boned turkey stuffed with a de-boned duck, which itself is stuffed with a small de-boned chicken. That sounds like GOODNESS to me!

I am going to roll up my sleeves and learn how to de-bone and stuff poultry because I love the decadent, excessive act of slicing into a layered multi-bird roast and devouring it. Mmpphh! Oh, and my side dishes will include jollof rice, chapatis and dengu - African dishes that I can prepare with eyes wide shut.

You see, as is customary in many African cultures my Shangazi (paternal Aunt), taught me how to cook when I was a pubescent teen. For that I am truly thankful. I do feel a little cheated though because some of my sisters from Uganda received extra training. In the Baganda and Basoga cultures, the Ssenga (paternal Aunt), delivered skills for the kitchen as well as the bedroom.

Using utensils such as the pestle (read: erect phallus) and mortar (read: pounding) the Ssenga taught her nieces how to keep sweet herbs and spices simmering in the kitchen, and the fire burning in the bedroom. She taught them how to cook African style.

In this coming of age ritual, when the pubescent nieces were finished with their lessons in the kitchen, the Ssenga would gather them and they would “visit the bush” together. First she would instruct them on their monthly cycle and the practice of good hygiene. Then, they would assemble some local herbs, grind them, squeeze the juice onto their labia minora and pull the lips while reciting the words “no pain, no gain.”

The girls would routinely stretch their labia minora, those tiny inner lips of the vajayjay, until they peeped out of the labia majora like the forked tongue of a snake. The ultimate goal was for the nieces to grow up with an elongated pair of minor lips to enhance sexual pleasure upon marriage. This tradition of sexual initiation persists even today in Uganda.

The initiation for our daughters here in the U.S. consists of a visit to the pediatrician, a clinical discussion about tell-tale signs that your little girl is blossoming, a stop at the nearest book store for an age-appropriate book, and then hopefully, a talk with mom about the birds and the bees.

I do feel blessed though because my Ugandan sisters constantly share mouth-watering recipes with me. Endless stories such as:

Foreplay begins right after dinner. A husband thanks his wife for a meal by holding her on his lap, for example. He massages her entire body asking tender questions like,

“What happened to the road that used to be here?”

“It is waiting for you,” the wife responds.

The back and forth exchange progresses in this way until the husband reaches the “well-tendered garden.” At which point, he checks to make sure it is okay to “open the door” (labia minora); and then he proceeds to thank her profusely for “toiling for him.”

Now, we know that Africa is a varied and diverse continent consisting of 53 countries. There are frontiers at our disposal for insight and discovery of the contours of Africa’s erotic landscape.

My only gripe is that Kenya shares a border with Uganda; they are two of the three countries that comprise the East African community. One would think that there would be a concerted effort to transfer knowledge, engage in cross-cultural exchanges, or some such endeavor, for goodness sake? Like most of my African sisters, I was well into adulthood when I discovered some of these delightful secrets. Better late than never!

So this Thanksgiving, along with the oral bliss to be enjoyed with the Turducken, let’s bone up on some of the eroticism of Africa. We’ll keep it popping in the kitchen this year!


Mama Shujaa

Copyright © Hana Njau-Okolo 2008. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Barometric Pressure

On this post-election Sunday I’m mulling over two interesting occurrences of social contact that materialized on Friday. Help me angaza; shed some light here as the historical magnitude of this election sinks in.

The day began like it was going to be a horrible, no good, very bad day. I developed a headache very early in the morning. It was slow in its emergence and persistent in its pounding. Sharon, a co-worker diagnosed it as a barometric pressure headache. According to meteorologists there was a storm on the way and sensitive folks like me are usually affected. I was inclined to trust her diagnosis as she is an experienced migraine sufferer. So I took two of the strongest stuff in the office, Back & Muscle Relief tablets.

It was close to mid-morning when the buoyant, good-looking Caucasian office services guy stopped by on a routine mail drop-off and pick-up.

“T. G. I. F!” He said cheerfully, pausing at my cubicle. Thankfully, the throbbing at my temples had somewhat subsided.

“Yes, I am ready for some R & R this weekend,” I managed feebly.

“Yeah, I’m ready to sleep in this weekend. It seems that everyone is tired this week. My girlfriend already called to warn me that she wants to sleep in tomorrow. Usually, I’m an early bird and when I wake up, I like to cuddle up to her in the mornings, but I can never touch her in the mornings. She is always tired lately. I can’t touch her.”

“Get them when you can, the cuddles.” I offered, stunned that he’d chosen to share the private bedroom details.

“Hope you have a good day,” he nodded merrily and continued on his rounds.

Now, what was that all about? What was his name again? Did I detect an untoward deference in his demeanor that is perhaps seeded in this new dawn in America? Is it what compelled him to reflexively obey his instinct that I was to be trusted, loved, respected, deferred to?

The day wore on as did the headache. On the way home I decided to make a quick stop at the grocers to pick up a couple favorite items for the weekend.

There were two cashiers in the store. One was a Caucasian lady who looked like she was in her late forties. She greeted me with a huge grin when I walked in. Her oversize white Barack Obama T-shirt caught my attention. I smiled back.

When I was ready to check out, she was attending to another customer. So the other cashier, a Hispanic gentleman took care of me. He asked me if I found everything I needed in the store, and then:

“Debit or Credit?”

“Credit,” I responded.

“I…Yes We Can.” He began, I thought.

“Excuse me?” I asked cautiously.

“I saw Yes Man.” He repeated, “with Jim Carey, it was uplifting. It was VERY uplifting.” He continued, waving both his thumbs in an upward motion.

“Oh, I have not been to the movies in a while. When did it come out?”

Truth be told, I was disappointed with his clarification. I wished instead that he’d embarked on another Yes We Can, Everything Is Possible Now, It Is A New Era type pronouncement. But I appreciated that he treated me like we were old friends because he chose to share personal thoughts about a movie that meant a lot to him.

As I walked to the car I wondered about the smiles, the uber-friendliness and the uplifting feelings floating around. Was I projecting so much joy to the world now that America had received their new leader? And now hearts are repeating the sounding joy?

Is Barack Obametric Pressure behind the blossoming of this new environment?

Whatever’s clever!

Mama Shujaa.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

From Kenya With Love

Barack Obama’s win is good for my Kenyan soul. This morning, my husband said he noticed that there was more ounce in my bounce. I too was surprised at how refreshed I felt, considering I'd clocked a mere three hours of sleep after a momentous 2008 election night.

Just as fresh on my mind this morning, is that last night I was quite okay with our oldest daughter's emotional comment that she was finally proud to call herself an American.

Aside from a momentary tinge of guilt that we had probably succeeded in robbing her and her siblings of an allegiance to the American flag (more on that later), I felt more strongly the overwhelmingly redeeming quality of Barack Obama’s victory.

At last, the distortions that have made up the fabric of American socio-cultural relations would exist no more. Finally, the suffocating guilt that bleeds into relationships and chokes them into premature death would be eradicated as time went by.

Indeed, our children can now brandish their U.S. passports, because Americans pledged to walk with Obama, they knocked on doors for Obama, they voted for and with Obama, and have promised to fundamentally change the country.

Back to the heritage and allegiance issue. For years, I’ve been fine with our children pledging allegiance to the flag of the United States of America in school and such. They were born here after all. In addition, I’ve trusted that as immigrant parents from Kenya and Nigeria respectively, my husband and I have distilled the essence of all that is special in our heritage and poured it into their souls.

In our household we constantly raise questions like:

Do you know what Utu (Kiswahili) is? Then we engage in long and historical explanations.

It’s the embodiment of you. It captures where you come from, where your parents come from, your intangible source of strength. The God in you. Your Chi (Ibo).

We remind them that they come straight from a line of African freedom fighters, pioneers, trailblazers, educators and this heritage is not to be diluted by their birthplace, America. And then, during summer vacations, we have sent them to Africa to spend time with their grandparents, to see for themselves where mom and dad come from.

Have we succeeded in instilling a veritable sense of Utu in them? Life has yet to truly test our beautiful ones, a daughter (23 years of age) and two sons (18 and 10 years of age). But, so far, so good.

Barack Obama’s win is good for the continent of Africa.

Kenyan politics and their style of governance will benefit greatly if they are willing to learn from this victory.

Consider this.

Forty-five years ago Mwai Kibaki of Kenya was a member of the newly independent Kenya Cabinet and John F. Kennedy was running for President of the United States of America. Obama was two years old.

Forty-five years later, President Mwai Kibaki is the joint leader of Kenya’s coalition government and Barack Obama holds the post that John F. Kennedy was running for then.

In forty-five years, the United States has had the following presidents: Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George Bush Sr. and George W. Bush.

In Kenya, the same old boys who are as old as dirt are holding onto power and trying to tell Kenyans they can create and execute development models that work! They need to cultivate a new generation of community organizers who care about the nation.

Then, there are my hating Kenyan friends, immigrants, now citizens of the USA who swore to me that they would not, could not, vote for Barack Obama because his father was of the Luo tribe. What possessed them to inject hateful Kenyan tribalism at this moment in history?

It's just galling, but I'll tackle that topic next time.

For now, Cheers! On the occasion of the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States.

From a Kenyan with Love,

Mama Shujaa.

Copyright © Hana Njau-Okolo 2008. All Rights Reserved.