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