Friday, December 18, 2009

My Pickpockets



I stumbled out of the gates just over a year ago, my pockets full of laughter.  Until then I'd lived in a gated community, surrounded by familiar folk living happily ever after.

We were a fairy tale of characters, our lives led by the enchantment of our well-being.  Then one day, we were exposed and tempted by the taste of uncharted water.

And the spirit of those who came before, ghosts of time long past, shadows of dreams conjured up in youth, overcame us:  me, myself and I.   Among us we decided, the braver cut from the threesome.

So, I rose to the occasion, the delicate two remaining, shepherds in charge of lessons, matriarchs of refuge, and valuable sources of comfort.

And with merriment fitted for the moment and joy enough to feed hope, I stumbled out of the gate, my pockets full of laughter. 

On that date my life began in a Blog Land occupied by a colony of characters, brave and bold in this new world, foraging for nourishment.  And I have profited ever since, from the food of their minds and goodness of their hearts.

Dear readers, followers, friends old and new,

Thank You for picking the laughter from my pockets and filling my heart with gifts far greater.

May the blessings of the season fill your pockets full of splendor, and I'll be sure to stop by and relieve them of the happy sound of laughter.

Peace and Joy and Mingi Love as well!

Mama Shujaa.

Copyright © Mama Shujaa 2009. All Rights Reserved.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

All About Winning

When your son's team loses a soccer match, do not ask "What happened?" in the car on the way home.

A follow up comment like "I mean, this was not the result we were looking for, but we can live with it" does not help. Your son already knows the truth. Soccer is all about scoring goals and winning matches. And you dear disappointed mom should know better than to behave like a devastated fan. Aren’t you the team player that schlepped your boy to all his practices, games and tournaments this past month because hubby was away on business:  attending the 2010 World Cup Draw in Cape Town, rubbing shoulders with FIFA’s crème de la crème and god knows who else, does not qualify as business in my book. Right now it is hay-in-the-making.



And speaking of turning opportunity into success, your son and this knot of boys, all tied up in a cheer as they prepare to steer their team to victory, they know that it takes focus, determination and maximum effort in order to succeed.



When your striker demonstrates belief in himself as he races off with the ball, looking to make a pass or to drive it within yards of the goal, his all-star position gets the glory as well as a load of pressure.



But with composure and flair so unique, your boy rolls his sleeves, gets to work and hopes the spine of his team will hold up.



Eventually, good things happen in front of the net.


And everyone joins in the celebration.

So mom, after all is said and done and your son's team loses the match, say something like:

"Good game.  You guys could have won, with a little luck.  You played well so be proud of yourself."

Because you and I both know, teamwork is nothing new to you.  After all, in the past month, you have handled the 9-5, the household, the boys, the homework, the soccer practices and tournaments.  You even managed a decent writing schedule (more like an insomnia antidote).  You volunteered to be an alternate driver in the resuscitated vanpool, thereby reducing your reading/writing time and increasing your daily stress.  It is understandable that you could not fit in a blogpost, depriving your readers of one or two dramatic episodes of the Vanpool Diaries.  Perhaps it is just as well because you don't want to get sued by a disgruntled rider when they read about it in a bestseller one day.  Accusations such as 'she defamed me' or 'she used personal characteristics that made me recognizable and then mixed them up with other traits that were false and defamatory' will fly and punitive amounts will be awarded.

Hmm...Who knows, maybe the hay that hubby is making might actually be wheat, enough of it to make bread

Salaams of the season to you and yours!

Mama Shujaa.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Beautiful Improvisation



This improvisation reminds me of my feelings, the goosebumps that traversed the lengths of both arms when my baby brother played piano for me when I visited home and our resuscitated gallery in Nairobi, Kenya, after being gone for so long.  The energy and honesty, the way he trusted himself and his fingers as they roamed the keys, allowing me a glimpse into his inner feelings.  On that day he played melodies created on the spot, that captured so beautifully what we were all feeling.

Have a good weekend.

Mama Shujaa.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Peace Teacher

Here is my submission in the first monthly MyBrownBaby Beautiful Mind Writing Contest; this month's topic is "Peace." I've been overloaded at my 9-5 and have not had much time in the blogosphere; otherwise I'd have seen this sooner, I'd have posted the announcement earlier, you see the deadline is tomorrow. I just could not resist penning on the topic. So, here goes, a little rushed but I hope you appreciate the message.

***

Edith was a tall girl with a bosom the boys admired.  Every day, the swish of her skirt lapped around her legs and stirred more than the boys' imaginations.  Every day she allowed her jet black hair to cascade freely around her neck, framing a brown face that revealed God's mastery; everything on it perfectly structured, and eyes that suggested.

Truthfully, that was the reason the Kenya Regional Peace Corps had dispatched her to Kasari Rehabilitation Center.  Of the entire graduating class, Edith had succeeded where most had failed. Her eyes were trained weapons of behavior modification.

When she first arrived at the center, she knew she'd made the right choice.  Her home room had the required basics.  A wooden desk and chair at the front and fifteen small wooden stools scattered in a semi circle around the room.  The walls were a faded green, old and worn, like hundreds of tired and hungry boys had been thrown up against them and frisked thoroughly. This was where she conducted the group counseling sessions.

Every day, after brushing their teeth and washing their faces, the boys would trail in and prepare for what the administrators called 'prayers.' Then one by one, each boy would utter a soliloquy of peace, not a prayer.  Because, at the beginning when she had asked, they all said that God did not exist; that God would not have allowed bad things to happen to them.  So instead, Edith instructed them on a method of relating their feelings, all of their words focused on the future, not on the past.

Each boy was a veteran ex-combatant, having spent a minimum of five years in various units on the continent of Africa.  But Edith preferred to call them her child solders, it was less dehumanizing.  And most times, their spontaneous articulations revealed them to be vulnerable children.

One by one, she reintegrated the boys into the community.  Every day, she greeted them with solace, her eyes searching, penetrating the amphetamine induced haze that kept them awake for days, that had destroyed their capacity for peace, and wiped out their memories of brutal acts, hardening them.  Every day, she taught songs and skits that they performed for everyone.  She helped them feel safe, and taught them how to live among people in peace.  So that when they went to join the others later in the day, they looked forward to returning to her the next morning.

One morning, Taabu a troubled 13 year-old who had survived a bullet to the jaw and was on a waiting list for reconstructive surgery, shortened his soliloquy drastically, from the allotted two minutes to less than thirty seconds:

"The bullett in my leg pains me,
I have no peace.
I want to study hard and become a doctor, so I will give peace."

***
Mama Shujaa.






Thursday, November 5, 2009

Troubled

Image One: The lovebirds are holding hands.   She is a head taller than him, and attractive, her skin is a rich dark brown.  She has a figure that is model material, not runway thin but unique, shapely, African.  She leads the way, her pointed chin tilted slightly upwards, as if proclaiming her innocence.  Blood is smeared on her left breast.



His eyes are downcast, praying for the ground to open up, swallow him whole.  Blood is trickling down his chest, beginning right below his heart, continuing down, little rivulets meander through to the creases in his groin; the source of his agony.

In the background, a dozen men, fully clothed, young and old, on foot, and on bicycles, advance towards the naked couple. On their faces is a sprinkled mix of scorn and pleasure, like a herd of hot, hungry, hyenas hankering for leftovers.

Image Two:   A hooligan is facing the lovers, his back is to the camera and the club in his right hand is raised.  It is freshly carved, and lacks attention to detail; unfinished, as if its’ practical use is wholly contained in the jagged, barbed infliction of suffering.


We are not clear whether he is at the beginning or the end of a strike.  But barely visible behind the hooligan is the figure of the man, stooping, shielding his groin area, one hand upturned, to summon God’s mercy.

She joins in the plea, her hand upturned, her face contorted in pain; her lips drawn out pencil thin, in a grimace that makes you fear for her safety.

In the background, more men, fully clothed, on foot, and on bicycles, advance towards the naked couple. On their faces is a sprinkled mix of scorn and pleasure, like a herd of hot, hungry, hyenas hankering for leftovers.

Images Three, Eight and Nine:  We see the back view of the lovers still holding hands. Blood oozes from a variety of gashes on their backs; swollen welts, dark pockmarks here and there, all evidence of the smorgasbord of torture inflicted by the mob.  The depression of the twin dimples above each of their buttocks can easily be mistaken for scars.

In the background, fully clothed men pause in their motorcade of piki-pikis, many glancing over their shoulders, their looks urging the barefoot, naked couple to carry on with the procession through town.



Image Four, Five and Six:  A series of close-ups showing the steps leading to the couple’s public embrace. Image Five reveals a gash on the man’s scalp, the clotting blood melding tufts of his short salt and pepper hair.  His lips are pursed in a kiss as he plants one on her cheeks, in justification of the spilled blood, a forced embrace that reveals some...regret? Sweat is rolling down from his neck to his shoulder and upper arm.  He is grasping her elbow as she cradles his chin in her hand. 


Image six follows her line of thinking as she strokes his cheek, his mouth is open, the fully gray hair-line now clearly visible.  She could be his daughter.

Image Seven:  The woman clambers head first into the back of a white Toyota Corolla, followed closely behind by the man old enough to be her father.  Someone has come to their rescue.

When I received these images, I wished I had a RETURN TO SENDER option.  Then after looking at the offensive images, and giving it some thought, I thought I would lend my voice to articulate what I perceive to be the prevailing winds of our time.  Because captured in these nine sinister images are symptoms of poverty, lawlessness and a total breakdown of family values. 

The images were sent as an email FWD and included the following message (I altered them out of respect):
“This couple, a father-in-law and his daughter-in-law, were caught doing some cha-mama-na-cha-baba in Kisumu by bodaboda people.  They were beaten senseless, undressed and then made to kiss in public.  Kweli mpango wa kando una mambo!” [Translation:  Having a side piece will always cause problems].
I am not condoning adultery but in this case, the crime does not fit the punishment.  The sadistic treatment of these two ordinary people hurts my soul. Had they been “of substance’ in Kenyan society, the mob would not have violated them this way.  The stripping, beating and parading diminish not just the two, but Kenyans, Africans and humanity.

Mama Shujaa.






Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Teamwork



Photo credit

Vipi marafiki?

I've been inundated with our fifth grader's homework assignments these past few days. And truth be told, I am definitely not smarter than a fifth grader. Last night I spent two hours trying to help him finish his math homework - Problem Solving Strategies - six problems consisting of three sentence questions involving the division of decimals.

The problems were so confusing, I was convinced they were trick questions. Thank God we have a recent college graduate now living and working in NYC. I told her I would just have him ask his teacher for help at school and she said, "No, mum don't give up so easily!!"

Then his Dad came to assist and further progress was made - this was about 9:50 pm last night. After reading the questions a few times, he used a strategy of elimination and with our daughter on a conference call, the two were able to come up with the correct answer.

Wow. All this time, I've been admiring his looks, you know, his strong bow-legs. Remember, I told you about them here. His creativity, energy; not knowing that he is quite the problem solving genius. If only he was as good at balancing our check book.

Tutaonana,

Mama Shujaa.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Trespassing Prohibited

I couldn’t wait to tell Nadia. She lived on the other side of the bougainvillea lined path that separated our properties. I had not talked to her for a few days. And once or twice recently in the evenings, I caught a glimpse of her through the hedges as she walked alone towards the main road. I wondered where she was going and made a note to ask her, then decided to follow her the next time I saw her pass by and surprise her with the good news.

The opportunity presented itself easily enough, right after an early dinner that Saturday when she made her way through the path behind our house. I gave her a few minutes to get ahead and then set out after her.

It was not long before I realized that she had turned off the main road and was heading towards Sir Michael Blondell’s coffee farm. What was she doing? His was the colonial ranch to be feared, avoided. I followed stealthily behind, the double dose of excitement almost too much to bear.

It wasn’t long before I came upon her, standing near the man-made lake, a Trespassing Prohibited sign impaled on a Jacaranda tree close by.



Photo Credit

Nadia’s diminutive frame swayed slightly towards the water. Its translucent topcoat reflected the gigantic red petals blossoming on her lacy dress as it wafted umbrella-like in the light breeze, revealing a set of knock-knees precariously tilted towards the edge.

She reached behind her neck to unclasp the single hook-and-eye of her dress.

My heart’s staccato rhythm pulsed in my eardrums, thoughts colliding as I anticipated her next move. Within seconds she had slipped off her dress and her chocolate nakedness disappeared into the lake.

Except for the shallow gasps coming from my mouth, I stood transfixed, cursing my non-photographic memory.

Chocolate shaven armpits were all I could remember. Caramel pointed breasts, a flat stomach with a ring-less bellybutton, and tight thighs; body parts I barely glimpsed and yearned to see again.

Nadia mouth was open as she tilted her head back and took a deep breath, she spread her arms out to her sides like an aeroplane, looking relaxed, her whole body, the peaks of her bosom barely visible above the water.

I worried about the millions of things that lay ensconced in the lake’s murky depths as the brown, syrupy water slowly moved around her body.

Nadia's tongue caressed her lips as the beat in my ears slowed to a steady tempo, the blood circulating in my belly. Her brown eyes lingered on the lake’s surface, the fragrance of passionflowers encircling the lake rising in the air as Nadia moved towards the water’s edge.

Time stood still when she emerged from the lake. Her body’s contours shimmered like a polished diamond. Dazzled, I took it all in. The contours of her high cheekbones, shapely full lips, and perfect nose and chin, the peaks of her succulent breasts, sensuous stomach and slender thighs, left me with a drumbeat pulsing, persistent, concentrated.

(Excerpt from my book-in-progress)

Ji-enjoy! Mingi Love,

Mama Shujaa.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Balancing Life



Photo credit


This young man could very well be a college graduate or a high school graduate.

He may also not be a graduate at all.

Regardless, as the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention.

Believe it or not, this young man is a tailor.

And balanced on his head is his workstation.

Due to the inability to find employment he has resorted to fulfilling a need. In all likelihood, his place of business is somewhere in Lagos, Nigeria.

What does he do? He walks the streets looking for customers that need this or that stitched, a button here, a button there, pants hemmed, a skirt stitched. And on a good day, he may be hired to design and sew trousers, a shirt, or a dress.

He has steady customers you know; it may seem an odd career but he is fulfilling a need.

If he was in America he could have a bunch of uniformed tailors walking the street like him, or driving brand name trucks – franchised!

Mama Shujaa.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ponder Your Navel

This post is dedicated to our ex.

Have you ever had the opportunity to tell someone, "Go jump in a lake!?" It's a plus when you can tell them exactly what lake too!

For instance, Lake Magadi, back home in Kenya's Rift Valley would work perfectly because in the dry season it is 80% full of soda ash, a.k.a. washing soda. Our ex can just jump in there and be cleansed thoroughly of the senseless behaviour that has been the source of such negative energy that has caused the untimely death of our vanpool.


Photo credit

When someone sets out to kill a van, containing a load of professionals trying to get to and from work expeditiously, stress-free, while reducing traffic congestion and fuel consumption, that person needs to go jump in Lake Magadi!!


Photo credit

In Lake Magadi they can scrub the toxins off the flesh, and then maybe, just maybe, they can return to reclaim their self-ascribed "salt of the earth" status.

I don't think we'd take them back on the van though, sorry.


Photo credit

In fact, a next step would be recommended:

Climb my Mt. Kilimanjaro and at 19,000 feet above sea level, do this:

Find Your Belly Button! In that lovely thin air. Breathe faster, deeper, expose your soul to the fresh air. Perhaps the hyperventilation will assist in elevating your spirit. After all, altitude determines attitude au siyo? However, don't let the pulmonary edema set in as this would defeat the purpose of your going to the mountain-top...



Photo credit

...to ponder your navel. Your big fat, round navel. Whether an innie or an outie, that very first scar, left over from the umbilical cord joining you to your mother's placenta, is your unique fingerprint. Examine it. What happened to all that nourishment from the womb? Did society get the best of you? Trace backwards, the complicated path you have taken recently. Your motivations, the surging negative energy, the undermining, conniving, back-biting, causing havoc amongst reasonable and appreciative riders.

Ex-Primary Driver: Goodbye, Good Luck, Good Riddance To Bad Rubbish.

Kwaheri ya kuonana.

Mama Shujaa.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Teachable Moments



This old man and this old woman, they played knick knack on my drum this weekend. And with the knick knack, they paddy whacked me. So much so, I ended up without a bone! I had to settle for a measly nanosecond of an opportunity to rise up; to beat my drums the way I was taught by Mama. African-style with rhythm and flair in remembrance of Bibi's [grandma's] teachings.

This old man and this old woman, played knick knack on my drum this weekend, in Greenville, South Carolina, whose State motto incidentally, is the Latin proverb, Dum Spiro Spero, "While I breathe, I hope."

It was our first visit to the city; our kitindamimba [last born] was playing in an elite youth soccer tournament. And play well he did; he turned it on, gave his team the striker mmpphh! they needed up front, for four convincing wins and a terrific Final Championship game. Kudos to the boys for winning, through the rain!

The rain was like a dance, this weekend. It came and went, and except for the duration of one half of a match, it was sporadic enough; it rained after the matches, and during breaks, as we did some sightseeing around town.

It was on one of those breaks that I was rendered boneless. We had just deposited hubby at a free Wi-Fi location, a Barnes and Noble, so he could catch up on the English Premier League matches online; Chidi and I headed out to see some sights. It was not long before we came upon two odd-looking old geezers. There they were, off the main thoroughfare, on the corner of Woodruff Road; where the City has done its finest to display Greenville’s beauty and Southern charm. And standing facing growing traffic, consisting mostly out-of-towners (we could tell by license plates) those ancients bore all their paraphernalia.

A stroller, a baby Bjorn and a few baby dolls; they stuck out like flags of heritage. The old man and the old woman, their stance was warlike; their placards, disturbing - STOP ABORTION, NOW!!! – they shouted. The old woman advanced with her double stroller, complete with two dolls, one white, one black. The old man marched, wearing the bi-racial baby on his chest.

A car honked several times, in support, it had South Carolina license plates.

"What is abortion, mom?"

And that was when I had a measly nanosecond of an opportunity to rise up; to beat my drums the way I was taught by Mama: African-style with rhythm and flair in remembrance of Bibi's [grandma's] teachings. To educate my eleven-year-old in his first ever question to me, on the body, the matter and its environs.

What did I do? I did not dance, or drop some bones as brother man and I loved to say on the dance floor, when the beat was in sync with our senses. Instead, I skidded around the body of the matter, sucked my teeth at the old man and the old woman, wondered what in goodness sake possessed them come out on this touristy weekend and express their contentious views?!

The series of sputtering that emitted from my lips were not the nice lucid, well-orchestrated ngoma [dance] that I had heretofore envisioned. And upon our return to Barnes and Noble, I did not steer him to age-appropriate books to discuss the matter further. I was caught off guard. The teachable moment had come and gone.

Now, I’ll have to wait for that nice letter from the principal requesting permission to teach my son Health Education.

Jamani! [gosh]

Mama Shujaa.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

English as a Second Language

An English grammar session in the Nigerian House of Representatives. Listen keenly to the third politician, you might need your dictionary...:-)



Enjoy the weekend.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

2010 World Cup African Qualifiers



Lovers of soccer, fanatics, Africans in the Diaspora, there is an outlet for your pent up demand for the good game. It is crunch time, qualifier matches for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and CAF's Cup of Nations (Angola 2010), are on this weekend. And AllSoccerAfrica in partnership with Sport Five and My African Football presents the matches to you LIVE online.

Will both Cameroon and Nigeria (the giants of the African game) get kicked out of contention? Can Ghana and Ivory lock-up their spots?

Click HERE for all the action this weekend as Africa's finest do battle.

Saturday Sept 5th.


Malawi v Guinea 8.30 am EST.
Rwanda v Egypt 9.30 am EST.
Gabon v Cameroon 10.30 am EST.
Ivory Coast v Burkina-Faso 1.00 pm EST.


Sunday Sept 6th.


Mozambique v Kenya 9.00am EST.
Benin v Mali 11.00am EST.
Togo v Morocco 11.30am, EST.
Nigeria v Tunisia 12.00 noon, EST.
Ghana v Sudan 1.00pm, EST.
Algeria v Zambia 5.00pm EST.

All matches streamed live at AllSoccerAfrica....yeah! Check your local listings for kick-off updates.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Two Steps Forward, One Step Backward

I received these oldies from a friend recently. Take a look at some of Africa's matunda [fruits] of independence and the interesting headlines.

(Weekly Review, Oct. 1976)

Current President of Kenya, Mwai Kibaki, pictured above, two years before he was appointed Vice President by Daniel Arap Moi who had just taken over the Presidency, following the death of founding President, Jomo Kenyatta in August, 1978. Kibaki has over thirty-one years of experience in politics, as cabinet minister, Vice-President and then President.

(Drum Magazine, August 1986)

"Zimbabwe, along with Kenya, have become the success stories of Africa. There aren't many?" - a quote taken from the above article, click the snapshot to read in its entirety. President Robert Mugabe today at the ripe old age of 85 is still going strong after 29 years in public office, having served as Prime Minister, then President.

"Kibaki’s Challenge" and "The Men Who Must Make Peace." Here we are in 2009 and Kibaki’s challenge seems to have multiplied, while Mugabe has not made peace but is following the path of other despots.

Kibaki and Mugabe are by no means the oldest and longest-serving African leaders. See Reuters FACTBOX: Muammar Gadaffi of Libya seized power in 1969 and is still going strong. The late Omar Bongo of Gabon ruled for four decades before his passing in June this year. On August 31, His son Ali-Ben Bongo declared victory in the presidential elections. It's a long list or rulers - President Biya, at 76, has ruled for 29 years, Santos of Angola, has ruled for 30 years, Museveni of Uganda, has ruled for 23 years.

Kweli, tell me, are the matunda green, ripe, overripe, or preserved? Marmalade?

One step forward two steps backward?

Mama Shujaa.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Special Needs

My baby taught me a lesson last Sunday but one. A lesson so sweet it should be a dream summoned for sleepless nights and mundane days. When I think about the arm twisting that went on, what I promised in order for him to accompany me to the Christening’s after party - because he wanted to stay and watch Ogochukwu battle it out with aliens on the Xbox360 - I realize that kweli hindsight is 20-20 and he probably would not have given me such a hard time, had he been able to see into the future.

Since we had set out early we took the long route, driving down a windy road through lush neighborhoods with green lawns, some were large enough to graze horses and we saw a few lazily munching the balmy afternoon away. We arrived at the house promptly as was requested on the Evite - 3:00 pm, exactly fifteen minutes before the hostess and the food (thankfully some was already prepared, like the mind-blowing Jamaican Roti). Anyway, her groovy husband had graciously let us in, phoned to tell her to hurry up, that her first guests had already arrived Mon!

We made ourselves useful when she finally pulled into the driveway, offloading her truck, decorating the basement, and setting out tables and chairs for the guests. The first time he asked me what time it was, an hour had already gone by and no more guests had arrived. I could tell he was just tolerating her 7 year old son and his high pitched PSP incantations “look Chidi, I beat the level!” I busied myself with goodie bags, spreading them generously around the 19” celebratory cake, hoping he would jump in and busy himself as well. Mr. DJ was next to arrive, in his Miami Vice shirt, and a selection of Reggae beats fit for clubbing under his armpit. He proceeded to the bar, and shortly after setting up, began blasting the tracks, interrupting each one with loud repetitive comments like rewind and come down with it and rude boy! “Where is your wife and kids?” our hostess shouted at him. His response was drowned out in a smooth riddim; I wondered how many ladies he had on the side.

Thankfully, the basement began to fill up with families arriving two hours late. By then little man had resorted to sign language, every now and then, pointing to his wrist and mouthing what time are we leaving? I grabbed his arm and brightly whispered into his ear, to go outside and play in that nice back yard, that I saw two bikes out there, and didn’t Jay have a soccer ball or something, and more kids your age will come soon, I am sure. We will leave after we have something to eat, I assured him, knowing full well we had surpassed our time limit, 2 hours maximum, and one promise broken.

The boy flashed past the basement window. I barely captured his image before two other children, another boy and a girl ran past, then Jay and Chidi, with a football in his hand. Playmates his age had finally arrived, I sighed and settled back into my chair and smiled at my coworker Winnie, who was also one of the early arrivals. Her eyebrows were raised and it surprised me that they remained that way even outside of the office, away from Mr. Ken A.S.A.P. Howler, the tyrant of an attorney she supports. I had no interest in pursuing an intimate conversation as she was a big contributor to the rumor mill at work. So I just pointed to my ears and waved my hand towards the speakers. She pursed her lips and moved her head up and down, like she understood.

The five of them trooped into the basement, Chidi bringing up the rear behind the boy, whose posture immediately grabbed me. His large cream-colored cardigan covered a hunchback, but it was lopsided because he had made a mistake and buttoned the first button in the second buttonhole. He seemed to creep as he moved around the room, two incisors jutting out of his mouth, his lips stretched into an enduring smile, his neck protruding like he really wanted to get to know you. I tried not to stare. He was very fair in complexion, bordering albino, and just as short as my soon to be eleven-year-old, my kitindamimba [last born].

"He is nineteen, mom." Chidi provided me with the unsolicited information, I guess he thought I should know, he could read my mind, or he felt like sharing the surprising tidbit, not understanding his stunted growth.

"What is his name?" I asked, but he did not hear me, he'd already gone back to following the boy around the room, and they finally positioned themselves against the wall, facing the room. Other kids milled around them, one of them who squatted beneath them, bopped his head and mouthed the chorus emitting from the speakers, a love song by Pressure:

"Let me give you some love and affection
you got my attention u need no correction,
May Jah pour blessings in your direction
you got my attention what an impression…"


At first I thought it not a particularly age appropriate song for the boy who looked like he could be eleven or twelve. It was much later that I realized perhaps life and its lessons had prematurely matured the young one and that there was something beautiful and spiritual about those lyrics.

The room quickly filled with folks because the food had been served and the baby’s great grandmother was to bless the food, as soon as Mr. DJ turned the volume down, which he did reluctantly after a third request. Chidi’s full attention was directed at the boy, I was amazed at his complete rapture. He looked at him, square in the face as he talked to him. He even refused to eat, and chose to sit at the boys feet as he ate; it was like he wanted to delve into his mind, the way he focused on him.

"He is adopted." Another unsolicited tidbit came my way shortly after I started devouring my food.

"He is?" It was the response I mustered from the myriad questions floating through my head, followed by "are you sure you are not hungry?"

"Nope," and moved back to his position, without asking what time it was. The boy had got his attention and had made an impression. I worried that other parents would notice his complete and utter fascination with the boy, like the sheer force of his presence had totally eclipsed his heart. Would they label it untoward social behavior?

I waited a few minutes when we first got into the car to go home. I hoped Chidi would launch the conversation, perhaps read my mind as he had done earlier.

"That was his brother and sister," he strapped on his seatbelt and looked out the window.

"Really. Is he special needs?" sometimes I say things without thinking, I wished I had not uttered those words.

"No. He is not. He just doesn’t talk a lot. You have to talk to him to get him to talk. He is like Johnny in my class. I help him a lot, if he does not understand a question, I explain it to him and help him understand it."

I was familiar with the program called Inclusion at Chidi’s elementary school which provides special education children the opportunity to visit regular classrooms and interact with other children.

"That was fun, mom. I enjoyed talking to him, he was nice. And we played football outside."

"What’s his name?"

"Tommy. His brother was the one that was singing. He likes music. His mother was the lady in the yellow dress. They adopted him, they are nice people."

***

Back in 1968, Ayi Kwei Armah wrote The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, where the hero struggles to remain clean while everyone round him succumbs to corruption. The title (I first read it years ago in high school), came to mind when I thought about my beautyful one who has been born and his pure love; and now that mama has learned, he will not succumb to corrupted ways of thinking. He comprises the pool of future leaders who must continue with efforts to stop marginalizing children and families that are different. My kitindamimba’s instruction was so clear, it stays on my mind.

Much love,

Mama Shujaa.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Kenya Open 4 Business Dot Com



The 2nd Kenya Diaspora International Conference, Building a Knowledged-Based Economy, is just two weeks away. As a member of the organizing committee I am thrilled to once again, share our phenomenal list of speakers.

I encourage you to attend this premier conference and business networking event!

The Kenya ICT Board has identified the Digital Content Industry as the most important area of growth in the ICT sector in the creation of a viable World Class knowledge-based economy. The Board therefore has developed this strategy to capitalise on this opportunity. Come and listen to Dr. Bitange Ndemo, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information & Communications deliver the keynote address: Building a Knowledge-Based Society in Kenya.

In addition, Strathmore University-Strathmore Business School has teaching and consultancy positions. Come hear Dr. Mungai, Dean, Strathmore Business School and Dr. Marwanga, Dean, Faculty of Information Tech discuss the possibilities.

Kenya is positioning herself as the Business Process Outsourcing destination of Africa. Come listen to Matt Jackson, Consulting Partner, Global Business Consulting, Cushman & Wakefield discuss Global Location Strategy: Considerations Driving the Selection of Locations for Contact Center and Shared Service Operations.

In addition, Dr. James Wanjagi, will discuss Accelerating Economic Development in Kenya through BPO's and Online Education

Mr. Michael Joseph, CEO of Safaricom Limited a company that, according to its recent annual report had a revenue of 70.4b ($915 million) and a pre tax profit of 15.3billion ($198 million), will talk about Innovation & Customer Service: The Keys to Staying Ahead.

Visit our conference website to view the conference program and our line of phenomenal speakers.

In the meantime, Dr. Akanmu Adeboya outgoing Executive Director for the Institute for Global Initiatives at Kennesaw State University talks about Global Initiatives and the Diaspora, and our 1st Kenya Diaspora conference here.

REGISTER today! Karibuni! We look forward to hosting you in Atlanta.

Mama Shujaa.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Building a Knowledge-Based Economy In Kenya: The Role of the Diaspora




You are invited to participate in the forthcoming second Kenyan Diaspora International Conference and Investment Forum to be held in Atlanta, Georgia from August 20, 2009 through August 22, 2009. The conference is a follow-up to the first Diaspora Conference and Investment Forum held in Atlanta in March, 2007 which was a resounding success.

The theme of the conference is "Building a Knowledge-Based Economy in Kenya: The Role of the Kenyan Diaspora." The conference will include an Information Communication Technology ("ICT") mini-conference, and an Investment Forum. Running parallel to the conference component will be an Expo and Career Fair. The conference will bring together policymakers from Kenya, scholars, entrepreneurs, business leaders, the Kenyan Diaspora, and the general public.

This biennial event presents an opportunity through which multiple stakeholders can engage the Kenyan Diaspora and potential foreign investors on effective initiatives to build productive partnerships in support of Kenya’s transformation into an information and knowledge-based economy. To learn more about the event, please visit the conference website.

Featured speakers, include:

Dr. Ndemo: PS Ministry of Information & Communication, Kenya
Ms. Esther Koimett: Investment Secretary, Ministry of Finance, Kenya
Mr. Michael Joseph: CEO, Safaricom Ltd
Prof. Olive Mugenda: Vice Chancellor, Kenyatta University, Kenya
Dr. Wahome Gakuru: Director of Marketing, Advocacy and Policy, Equity Bank

The conference presents an opportunity to learn, network, and explore investment opportunities emerging in Kenya. Come and meet old friends, make new acquaintances and network with a broad spectrum of people. Don't miss this opportunity! Register today. Sponsorship opportunities are available. Take the opportunity to make your brand visible to a wide target audience before, during, and after the conference.

Hope to see you there!

Mama Shujaa.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Can you read my mind?

More importantly, do you want to read my mind? I think Facebook does, and I somewhat reluctantly, am acquiescing. I logged onto FB this evening and viola! my home page asks me what's on my mind and honest being my middle name, I say:

MJ is on my mind.

S.t.i.l.l.

I Know.

Blame It On The Boogie. :-)



Sambazaing you much love [sambaza=share]

Mama Shujaa

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

We Had Him



We Had Him by Maya Angelou

Beloveds, now we know that we know nothing,
now that our bright and shining star can slip away from our fingertips like a puff of summer wind.

Without notice, our dear love can escape our doting embrace.
Sing our songs among the stars and walk our dances across the face of the moon.

In the instant that Michael is gone, we know nothing.
No clocks can tell time. No oceans can rush our tides with the abrupt absence of our treasure.

Though we are many, each of us is achingly alone, piercingly alone.
Only when we confess our confusion can we remember that he was a gift to us and we did have him.

He came to us from the creator, trailing creativity in abundance.
Despite the anguish, his life was sheathed in mother love, family love, and survived and did more than that.

He thrived with passion and compassion, humor and style. We had him whether we know who he was or did not know, he was ours and we were his.

We had him, beautiful, delighting our eyes.
His hat, aslant over his brow, and took a pose on his toes for all of us.
And we laughed and stomped our feet for him.

We were enchanted with his passion because he held nothing. He gave us all he had been given.

Today in Tokyo, beneath the Eiffel Tower, in Ghana's Black Star Square.
In Johannesburg and Pittsburgh, in Birmingham, Alabama, and Birmingham, England
We are missing Michael.

But we do know we had him, and we are the world.


Rest In Peace, Michael Jackson

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Political Agility?

Ah, but if you have no expectations, You can never have a disappointment.
(Stephen Joshua Sondheim (1930- )

I am disappointed. It seems the politics did not stay out of this. We were contacted by the Kenya Embassy in Washington, D.C. and charged with nominating amongst us, Kenyans in the Diaspora (the US, Mexico and Columbia), ONE member of the Diaspora to participate in the July 29- Aug 2 conference in Nairobi.

The Ambassador gave us a mandate, with very little time to complete it. We volunteered hard-found time and energy to come up with a painstakingly transparent process. After numerous meetings, conference calls, and the review of writing samples, etc., we completed the process and communicated the selection of our nominee to the Embassy well within the given deadline, June 30, 2009.

After receiving no response from the Embassy, I made the phone call that would intimate that perhaps all of our hard work was for naught. Chronic Politics As Usual?! And while I'm not one to sip on the grapevine juice, news that a high ranking female staffer at the Embassy may have hand-picked the candidate weeks ago, is extremely disappointing.

At the end of the day, if we confirm that to be the case my question will be: In his efforts to portray himself as Ambassador for the Kenya Diaspora, will he have shown political agility, or just dreadful political maneuverings and for/to whose advantage?

Mama Shujaa

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Magnitude of Michael Jackson

siwezi kuamini [i can't believe it] wala sina sauti ya kuongea. Lakini nitajaribu.

I am numbed by the news. Reading Anengiyefa's post helped me this morning.

His question nudged me to express a little, to process now that he is (supposedly) gone, the impact MJ had on my life. Here's a comment I left in response to his question:

Within seven minutes of my walking through the door from work, tired and starving. Having just washed my hands in the kitchen after popping some leftovers in the microwave - I had not eaten since breakfast. My husband walks out of the master bedroom, where he'd been watching the news, leans heavily on the interior balcony railing; and in a voice choked with emotion says "...Michael has died."

I was not hungry any more. Just sad. Really really sad.

Rock With You. That is the song that does it the most for me. The one that helps me remember things my soul wants to forget. Those things that make me who I am. Those occurences, the cockles that line my heart. Rock With You revives those memories, delivers them to the forefront of my brain, because they matter.

Because "...even when the groove is dead and gone, yeah, you know that love survives, so we can rock forever..."


Michael Jackson, Rest In Peace.

And then I read Rethabile's beautiful poem, and that helped as well.

Kifo cha Michael Jackson kimenishtuwa, wala sina sauti ya kuongea.

Mama Shujaa

Friday, June 19, 2009

Our Collective Voices


I have been conducting some interesting work: selecting one candidate to represent the Kenya Diaspora at the upcoming Biennial Ambassadors/High Commissioners Conference in Nairobi, Kenya in July-August, 2009.

Just over a dozen of us were contacted by the Kenya Embassy in Washington, D.C. under three weeks ago. We were charged with nominating amongst us, Kenyans in the Diaspora (the US, Mexico and Columbia), ONE member of the Diaspora to participate in the conference. The original communique came from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nairobi.

Exciting stuff. As a vetting committee member, I've especially enjoyed discovering our talented candidates and their commitment to moving Kenya's agenda forward.



My recommendations on who will make a candidate for the role include:

- an individual who is best able to represent the aspirations and needs of the Diaspora in such a meeting;
- an individual who is able to participate effectively in the meeting;
- someone who is an active member of the community;
- someone who is engaged in organizing the Diaspora to be a collective force;
- someone with the knowledge of the realities of those in the Diaspora and also challenges and opportunities back home;

Essentially, someone who is involved in efforts to organize Kenyans in the Diaspora for the greater good of those here and those back home.

This weekend, we complete the vetting process and then begin the "grooming" of the candidate. At that point, we will tap into larger communities to develop a think tank of sorts as we develop well thought-out views, topics of interest that encompass our aspirations as a Diaspora community, to be presented by the representative. I am interested to hear from those of you in the Diaspora; and I will keep you updated on our progress.

Asanteni,

Mama Shujaa.

The Shady Taxi Driver will be continued on next post.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Summer Is Here!

Hi!

Chidi here!

I just want to let you know that I am having fun with my mom and dad.

Mom will be back soon. I helped her with this video. I hope you like it.

Bye,
C.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Vipi Sasa?

I have not had a moment to come out to my front porch to chat.

My time-management skills have definitely been put to the test these past two weeks...

- year-end school activities and season-end soccer activities for our 10 year old.

- assisting with collecting book donations for the Books For Africa Atlanta warehouse grand opening on Thursday this week.

- preparing and sending correspondence to Kenya regarding AKPA's upcoming Kenyan Diaspora Conference and Investment Forum in August this year.

- preparing for and teaching a beginner's Kiswahili class in Atlanta this past weekend.

- assisting a friend with some PR work related to Delta's inaugural direct flight from Atlanta to Nairobi, on June 2, this year.

...all the while being a mama na mke nyumbani [mother and wife at home] and holding down my 9-5.

So, late this afternoon, when I received this video clip of a young Declan Galbraith, I thought I'd stop by, share and say Vipi Sasa [what's up]?



A beautiful voice and wonderful message.

Baadaye, na have a good week!

Mama Shujaa.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Weekend Riding


I can see Diana on the 800 pound vibrator she talks about, her weekend ride.

In full regalia, no less; two-toned black and red braided leather chaps, black boots, black vest, black gloves, and a partial face helmet.

It won't surprise me or fellow vanpoolers if underneath it all, she dons a thong (Size L) with my vibrator has two wheels emblazoned on it.

Routinely now with the good weather, she’ll announce to the van,

“I’m ridin’ this weekend.”

“Ridin’ dirty?” Martha will ask, on cue. She, of course would own one with a trailer large enough to fit her bag(s).

“Come, what may,” Diana will say, “I’m getting on that beast!”

To hear her describe the anticipated rides you’d think she was ringing in the New Year every weekend…with a bang! She certainly comes back on Monday looking brand new.

I listen keenly to her prep talk simply because I’m interested in folks and their ways and means to find thrills, and freedom. She’s certainly not an oddity in Atlanta, where bikers in unison regularly take the beasts between their legs on weekend parades.

Is there something about pointing and driving the machine on the open road that conjures up Steve Miller and

Abra-abra-cadabra
I want to reach out and grab ya
Abra-abra-cadabra
Abracadabra.

You know, when you've got your hand on the throttle, and your heading straight up the road; no lopsided nonsense; just gently guiding, balancing; dipping, banking, left and right...What is it about the beast?

Hebu, tell me...

Monday, May 4, 2009

Worthy Betrayal?

Photo credit

It was tantalizing, my weekend.

Friday evening, we pull into the parking spot directly opposite his car.

“He’s already here, fellow vanpoolers.” I keep this observation to myself because there is no logical reason to boast.

Instead I blow him a kiss through the windshield. Martha and Monica (names changed to protect the horny) giggle at imagined pleasures in the offing.

Brown skin. Red and white striped shirt. Brown polka dot tie. I know those generous lips. And they are moving. His earpiece is on. Another conference call is my guess.

The three of us 'last stop' ladies disembark the van. He steps out to assist with my bags.

Handsome. Bow-legged. Clean shaven. Sweet lipped.

We watch as he carefully places my new running shoes in the trunk. Monica, in that ill-fitting dress she likes to wear on Fridays, looks like she could give him more than the current eyeful. But she has to settle for her husband, who is late. Martha steals a solid glance as she sashays herself and the work bag that would fail the size limitation gauge at any airport, to her car. I pay special attention to his pants; a charcoal gray Dolce Gabbana basic that make his gluteus maximus spell f.i.n.e.l.y. c.u.t.

I slide into the passenger seat. It feels like a cock pit in the high performance vehicle. The close confines and the steady hum of the engine provide a heady background to his smooth, deep baritone contributions on the conf. call.

My deck is giving out; the cards are stacked against me, already. How am I going to survive the next 48 hours? My well-intentioned pledge to support my Kenyan sisters in their sex boycott for political reform, now seems more than I can handle. Just the thought of not acquiescing to that which gives me pleasure for two days, let alone their seven, makes me want to give in, right there and then.

“How was your day?” he turns his attention to me, squirming in my seat.

We have made three children together and I must admit, it was and continues to be, a pleasure.

"Just fine and yours?" I manage, knowing right there and then, I will not make it. Hats off to the Kenyan women who have committed seven days of abstention for such a noble cause. I just wonder how many like me will betray the sisterhood’s cause? But what the heck, he is not a Kenyan, we are not IN Kenya and he is not a politician. Call me selfish. I'll be satisfied.

Mama Shujaa.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Our Reading Spaces


These days my favorite reading space is on my front porch, in a fading white wicker chair, tucked in the corner. I think a mama bird is building a nest in the eaves of the porch. I try not to disrupt her early morning ritual on Saturday and Sunday, when I come out to read, and to listen to all of those songbirds singing songs of sunrise.

The two gold variegated Leyland Cypress trees flanking the entryway are running out of room to grow; but they look beautiful at Christmas time. And I like the way the two giants (Kibo and Mawenzi) dwarf the space, reaching beyond limits to a world of unlimited sunshine and red clay.

As a child, one of my favorite reading spaces was under one of the three large windows in our living-cum-dining room in the home that doubled as Paa Ya Paa Art Gallery.


Imagine what it looked like before the fire...

I also thoroughly enjoyed laying outside on a blanket under one of the many Jacaranda trees. I did not visit the Nairobi Public library much back then, as my high school library housed all of the reading materials I needed. And having an author for a mother meant that my brother and I were often treated to trips to her favorite bookshop in town; to this day my favorite scent is the fresh smell of a new book!

Our reading spaces are important, and some of us have a huge variety of options to choose from. More importantly, we do not suffer from book famine. However, there are millions of children in poor rural communities all over the world, whose parents are forced to prioritize other necessities above education.

To some extent I agree with Dambisa Moyo and her provocative argument on Why Foreign Aid Is Hurting Africa "...African countries repay debt at the expense of African education and health care...," says Moyo. And we have all heard Nelson Mandela's famous quote: "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."

I have a friend who is committed to making a difference. Irene Mbari-Kirika is Founder and Executive Director of Our Reading Spaces, a non-profit organization whose primary purpose is to provide welcoming and comfortable spaces for children and adults to pursue reading activities in rural Kenya.


"I realize that time may have moved on, but for so many people the economic conditions of twenty years ago are the same." (Mbari-Kirika)

Our Reading Spaces is currently in the fundraising and construction phase for their inaugural project -- the Kairi Library/Community Center in Thika District of rural Kenya. The building will be located in the heart of Kairi village, within 400 metres of the village center and within walking distance of several area schools. It will be designed to accommodate 200 people, and will be outfitted with electrical power and sanitary facilities.

I am excited to share that Barnes & Noble nationwide has teamed up with Our Reading Spaces for a book fair fundraiser running from April 27 through May 3, 2009. Click here for the Barnes & Noble voucher for use during this time; a percentage of proceeds will be donated to Our Reading Spaces beneficiary schools in Kenya:

Thika School for The Blind Primary
Thika School for The Blind Secondary
Rachel Dep's Childrens Orphanage in Thika (34 children)
Thika General Hospital - Children's Wing
Kairi Village Mobile Library Service (circulating books among 6 schools)

In addition, if you are in the Atlanta area, there are special activities planned around the fund raiser.

Saturday May 2, 2009
Swahili Story Time - 11:00 a.m.
Kenyan Traditional Dancers - 1:30 p.m.
Barnes & Noble, BUCKHEAD
2900 Peachtree Road NE, Suite 310, Atlanta, GA 30305

Kenyan Traditional Dancers - 3:00 p.m.
Barnes & Noble, CAMP CREEK
3685 Market Place Blvd, East Point, GA 30344

Here is a wonderful opportunity to purchase a book and contribute to the promotion of literacy in rural populations of Kenya.

Asanteni sana.

Mama Shujaa

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Passages of an Immigrant's Life

Sunset in Freetown, Sierra Leone.


Sometimes

Life speaks a spontaneous language

at once personal, dynamic and formal.



Other times

Life dares to challenge it's sensitive students,

immigrants and their polite existence.



Most times

Life finds them elongated away from homelands

with the swift movement of time

a constant feature

moving them

through realms of expression

deeply involved in life

deeply involved in death.



At all times

Life speaks a natural language

rhythmically unfolding the story

of immigrants and their preoccupations

driven by an urge to live and

a will to survive aspects of their lives

they would rather forget

paths to permanent residence

defenses against permanent removal.



Then a loved one passes

far away in the homeland

in a world close to their spiritual habitations

where the traditional magic of

the village cock crow

echoes across the compound

and there’s never an end

to human drama and dance

where long, flowing fly-whisks

sweep the air and revive the spirit.



When a loved one passes

far away in the homeland

immigrants become good

shock-absorbers

learning nevermore

to take their homeland for granted.



On the morning of April 20, 2009, my best friend lost a dear relative. He died instantly in a motorcycle accident in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Uncle Bailor (pronounced Bye-lor) was her father’s younger brother, by a different mother (my friend’s grandfather had four wives). And as is customary in Islamic tradition, Uncle Bailor was buried on the same day because he passed away in the morning. May his soul rest in perfect peace. My friend will gather with extended family and friends here in a mosque in the U.S. for a prayer vigil seven days after the burial.


Uncle Bailor meant the world to her; he was the only grown-up who validated her existence as a child fighting for time in a household filled with step-mothers and step-siblings. His tall, imposing stature inspired her and her siblings to stand up straight in the compound, and sit up straight in school; he expected success from each one of them. A hardworking businessman, he worked hard to support his older brother(s) and the extended family.


My friend last talked to Uncle Bailor soon after Ramadan in 2008. In her last conversation with him, she had to convince him to accept a monetary gift she had wired him as a token of love.

He argued that in lieu of the money, he wanted to see her and her children and urged her to hurry home soon.

Mama Shujaa.

Copyright © Hana Njau-Okolo 2009. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai

As you may know, I serve as Vice-Chairperson of The Association of Kenyan Professionals in Atlanta, (AKPA).

AKPA is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote the wellbeing of its members, through the mobilization of resources here in Atlanta.

Prior to my current term, I enjoyed a two-year spell as Chairperson of the Education Committee of AKPA. The committee is charged with sourcing scholarship funds for Kenyan students, facilitating the professional growth of the students and supporting them in their transition after graduation.

I am often asked where I find the time to fulfill my duties as a mother of three, a loving wife, a full-time employee, and an active board member of a non-profit.

I respond by saying that I make the time. I watch very few hours of television; a few select programs here and there, the news, and of course important football/soccer matches. I joined a vanpool, and this provides me with two extra hours per day, during which time I read, write or rest. Simply put, I try to manipulate time to make it my ally. As a result, I have realized great joy from minimal but consistent investment of time in non-profit work.

A special moment presented itself during my tenure as Education Committee Chair. I was nominated by the board to serve as Event Committee Chair for a reception planned here in Atlanta, in honor of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Professor Wangari Maathai.

AKPA had anticipated the glorious opportunity to honor the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize and two years after her award, our moment came. We felt energized and inspired by our fellow Kenyan, a woman who has dedicated her life to development, democracy and peace. As you can imagine, we threw ourselves into planning the best event! Fortunately for us, Professor Maathai's moral authority by now, was well appreciated the world over, and most of our corporate sponsors actually vied for the opportunity to participate.
Event Committee members with Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai (5th from left). I am at the end in black and gold.


The event was very well attended. Here we see guests listening to Dr. Maathai's keynote address after enjoying refreshments.

I am excited to share with you that Professor Maathai and the Green Belt Movement she founded are the focus of an award-winning documentary film to be shown on PBS stations on Tuesday (April 14, 2009) in the United States. Click here for more information and channel listings. The feature includes interviews with Dr. Maathai and other Kenyan activists as well as archival footage from the colonial era. Below are a few clips of the film. I hope you can find the time to watch it. I will not miss it.








Baadaye basi,

Mama Shujaa.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Ultimate Betrayal


("Saving For Old Age," by my father Elimo Njau, co-founder of Paa Ya Paa Creative Arts Center in Nairobi (in the 1960s and it is still standing today).)

It does not matter whether or not we are among those who let it happen.

We are all guilty. Actors and spectators. Eye-witnesses and plunderers.

We recognize each other in our indifference, our slow poison, our greed for power.

African First Lady So-and-so, Professor of this-and-that. We profess our concern for the enterprise and culture of Africa.

Tell me, modern day Judas Iscariots, what have you done with the joy and the power of the land?

Witness, as the people of Mayotte, voted to be recolonized by France.

A vote, of no-confidence in Africa’s independent future. The death, of a sovereign nation, the despair in a continent wrought by corruption, cruelty and brutality. A harbinger of future recolonizations in Africa.

It is my prayer that Africa is liberated from the human tragedy playing out, fashioned by the hands of leaders, incapable of governing: Abacha, Bokassa, Jammeh, Kibaki, Mugabe, Museveni, to name a few.

It is my prayer that Africa heeds the warning of Mayotte and its recolonization.

It is my prayer that we charge ourselves with the duty to demand, on behalf of mankind, humane governments; to encourage the winds of change; to stop the betrayal of the people of Africa.

It is my prayer that we do this in remembrance of the bones of our ancestors.

And one day we will rise victorious, our spirits liberated to shine freely amongst the living and the dead.

Because, Africa belongs to us all!

I wish you a Happy Easter.

Mama Shujaa.

Copyright © Hana Njau-Okolo 2009. All Rights Reserved

Monday, April 6, 2009

That AMBI. Is it something special?

Come look at this face...

Come,

even closer...

Now, check the skin.

Not bad, huh?

I use AMBI skin cream,

And you are looking at skin AMBI helped beautify.

You see, AMBI helps get rid of blotches, dark spots...the works!
AMBI conditions and softens your skin too. And AMBI blends your skin into one beautiful glowing tone, all over...

That AMBI. It is something special!


Credits
Text: From Hydroquinone (skin bleaching agent) advertisement regularly aired on Kenya Television in the 1970s-80s.
Illustration: Watercolor by Hana Njau-Okolo (Feb. 2007)

Tuongee? [Thoughts?]

Kwaheri.

Mama Shujaa.

All content, images Copyright © Hana Njau-Okolo 2009. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Unending Thanks

There was another barrier that was broken on November 5, 2008; it was inspired by the momentous cultural one for the United States of America. It rode on the back of the far-reaching importance of the election of the first African-American President. And with it's embodiment of a new dawn, it urged an awakening and unleashing of uncharacteristic courage. The launch of Mama Shujaa!

Since the launch, I have redirected my focus from thinking to doing; blogging, disciplining my writing; creating a habit that will eventually bring into being, bits and pieces of my soul. What has lain dormant in the somewhat robotic existence that has obstinately guarded my immigrant life for so many years.

I am thankful for the astounding amount of dynamism in this blogosphere, a meeting point of diverse minds and collective voices. I am thankful for the generosity of spirit I have encountered. I am thankful for the inspiration.

Exceptional thanks go to everyone who has read and followed my blog from the very beginning. I am grateful, and to you I say a Big Asante Sana!

Thank you Cynthia from Oasis Writing Link for presenting me with the Best Blog Thinker Award. The award's creator, B. J. Roan, writes that:

"This award acknowledges the values that every Blogger displays in their effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values with each message they write. Awards like this have been created with the intention of promoting community among Bloggers. It’s a way to show appreciation and gratitude for work that adds value to the Web.”

I would like to pass this award to the following bloggers:

Rose-Anne at Currents Between Shores, for her intense intellectual quickies that come in handy;

Dr. Maithri at The Soaring Impulse, a gifted poet, and a selfless humanitarian who is currently in Swaziland working with HIV communities;

Denford at Denford Magora's Zimbabwe Blog, for reminding us not to give up the fight;

Shiko-Msa at Wanjiku Unlimited who constantly grants us fresh and bold interpretations of life in Kenya; and

to A Cuban In London for his deeply insightful posts.

Asante to all once again. I hope you will find time to visit these wonderful blogs.

Baadaye,

Mama Shujaa.