Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Beautiful Game

Our children give us plenty to brag about. As immigrant parents from Kenya and Nigeria, we trust that we have distilled the essence of all that is special in our heritage and poured it into their souls. In our household we have always raised questions like: Do you know what Utu is?

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

We have taught them that their birthplace, America, must not dilute their heritage. I addressed this in my very first post here.

Our beautiful ones. A compassionate young lady, a college graduate currently employed as she anticipates graduate school. A handsome hard-working freshman in college. And our kitindamimba [last born], a bright, athletic fourth-grader, who loves the beautiful game.

As you can see, he demonstrates incredible pace and skill in this video (he was only 5 here). His father says that this one of the special things he has passed on to him. Labda?? [Maybe]

The beautiful game. I don't think there is a sport with more zealous fans!

Beginning today, the footballing world will be consumed by the South Africa 2010 World Cup and African Cup of Nations 2010 qualifiers. Nigeria and Kenya are in Group B, with Mozambique and Tunisia. You can watch the Africa qualifying matches LIVE online beginning today, March 28, here

Today, Kenya takes on Tunisia in Nairobi.

Let's Go Harambee Stars!

Tomorrow, the boastful Super Eagles of Nigeria travel to Maputo to take on Mozambique.

On July 6, Nigeria will host Kenya. On that day, our household will be divided for the first time, because if Kenya dares to draw against Nigeria, my husband will not speak to me. Petty, right?

My guess is that because our oldest two do not like losing, they will support Nigeria from the get-go. Our kitindamimba will be sensitive and support Kenya with Mama. When reality sets in, I'm okay if he switches his allegiance to Nigeria - the overpaid braggarts.

At the end of the day, I hope my Harambee Stars will do what they must, to make it to South Africa. That will be a major accomplishment. If not, I'll be okay with Angola 2010, because the truth is that for Kenya, Angola is the target (African Cup of Nations 2010) and South Africa is the dream.

Oleeee! Ole! Ole! Ole!
Champions! Champions!

Oleee! Ole! Ole! Ole!
Africa, Africa!

Mama Shujaa.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Last night we congregated in our kitchen nook for some tea after dinner. Two families - Gambian and Nigerian/Kenyan and Celestial Seasonings Peppermint. (I have run out of Ketepa).

We, young Africans who have abandoned the poor circumstances of homes in Banjul, Nairobi and Lagos; young Africans who have abandoned the deserts and the countrysides. We who have undertaken journeys in response to availability of opportunity. In our scatterings, we escape the challenge to truly uplift Africa to heights and depths previously unknown. We, young African birds who have built easy, comfortable nests of hay in the Diaspora.

Last night during tea, we joked, we laughed, we prayed. We determined what was required. A return to the motherland to face her realities, lest we remain birds that can never land on the ground.

Next time we will congregate in their kitchen nook, share cups of sweet attaya and brainstorm on our plans, compromises and sacrifices, because that is what it will take.

Wiki njema! [have a good week]

Mama Shujaa

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Powerful Noise

Last Thursday, I went with two lady friends to view the documentary, A Powerful Noise, an engaging recounting of the lives of three women who overcome hardship to effect change in their communities.

Bui Hanh is an HIV-infected widow who starts a self-help group that provides prevention information, support, counseling and health care to HIV/AIDS sufferers in Vietnam. I was surprised to learn that Vietnam has an extremely high rate of HIV infection due to the large numbers of men who use intravenous drugs. In one of the scenes, Bui visits a coal mine to distribute condoms. I found it odd that she had to warn the men “Do not wash. Use only once.” Could this too explain the high infection rate?

Jacqueline Dembele fights forced labor and the exploitation of girls who work in the city of Bamako, Mali. She started an organization that provides the girls with a basic education, teaches them how to become seamstresses, and places them in safe jobs. In a male-dominated society where young girls are sought after for marriage and other sexual fantasies, Jacqueline maintains her focus and dignity in a culture that is somewhat dismissive of women’s issues. She believes that “being poor is not an illness.”

Nada Markovic is also a widow and a mother of three, who survives the three year war in Bosnia. Her women’s association helps ease conflict between Serbs and Bosniaks. Under her leadership, the group is reconstructing communities and helping families support themselves through agricultural cooperatives. The remarkable thing about her is that even though the war was a conflict between two ethnic groups, her organization does not discriminate, a testament to her humanity.

A characteristic that all three women share is persistence. They don’t take no for an answer. They find ways to get around local governments, to fight the social stigma around HIV/AIDS and work to change perceptions about the importance of girls’ education.

My friends and I felt that the documentary was powerful. I wondered quite a bit about the title of the film: A Powerful Noise. According to Webster’s Dictionary, the definition of noise is “sound that is loud, disagreeable, unwanted” or “a loud, confused clamor or commotion.”

Perhaps the producers chose this title because historically, women have been considered to be somewhat irrelevant, brushed aside as inconsequential noisemakers.

Bui, Jacqueline and Nada demonstrate their incredible power as they become the glue that holds their communities together. Powerful irritants, they get noticed, they change lives, they empower girls and women. They are handling societal woes that most politicians would rather shove under the rug.

All three women are saving lives and preventing others from going down the wrong path; they are laying the foundation for the future; they are healing wounds from the past. All are paving the way for a better tomorrow.


Mama Shujaa

International Women's Day (March 8, 2009)

Vigelegele!! [ululations]

Today is International Women's Day 2009. It is a day that celebrates the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. In countries like China, Russia, Vietnam and Bulgaria it is a national holiday.

It is true that the new millennium has witnessed a significant change in society's thoughts about women's equality and emancipation. There are more women in the boardroom, greater equality in legislative rights, and an increased number of women role models in every day life.

It is also true that women are still not paid equally as their male counterparts, women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women's education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men. Progress has been made; we do have female astronauts and prime ministers, school girls are welcomed into university, women can work and have a family, women have real choices.

Today is a celebration of positives and a reminder that raising awareness is our responsibility.

It begins with you. It begins with me. It begins with us.

At the heart of A Powerful Noise (the documentary I watched on March 5th), is the message that we each have the power to create change in our communities and beyond. I will share more about other valuable lessons I learned from the film later today - two posts on this special International Women's Day.

Vigelegele!!! [ululations]

Mama Shujaa

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Salaam nyingi,

I intended to post this earlier today/this week, but the day/the week, has run away from me; yaani speedy. I want to let you know that I am attending CARE's One Night Event - A Powerful Noise, tonight.

It is a documentary that takes you inside the lives of three women to witness their daily challenges and their significant victories over poverty and oppression. Hanh is an HIV-positive widow in Vietnam. Nada, a survivor of the Bosnian war. And Jacqueline works the slums of Bamako, Mali. Three very different lives. Three vastly different worlds. But they share something in common: Power. These women are each overcoming gender barriers to rise up and claim a voice in their societies. Through their empowerment and ability to empower others, Hanh, Nada and Jacqueline are sparking remarkable changes. Fighting AIDS. Rebuilding communities. Educating girls.

Join us:

I'll be back to discuss the film.


Mama Shujaa.