When the Chips Fall

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What Africans are Learning from the Pursuits of Men like Dr. Martin Luther King

Hey there people! It feels like ages but I am so glad that I got an opportunity to share something on this sensitive topic. First and foremost, Happy New Year, or as we would say in my country Baraka za Mwaka Mpya Kwenu (Blessings of the new year to you all)!

As the first post on my blog, I want to set the pace for a series of thought-provoking and inspiring pieces throughout the year. This is the first of many that I hope will get the world thinking a little bit more of my voice as a member of the black-African community.

For a long time now, people of African descent have been identified every now and then as “African”; a clear example of this is seen in it’s use as an adjective to describe members of the black community who reside in the US, naming them “African Americans”. As okay as it sounds, it isn’t the full story surrounding the terminology.

African American is not necessarily a substitute for the indicator of people group. Black is the race, African is related to the continent and as such does not make an excellent substitute for the truth. Our identity is black. The question then remains, why do we escape it so?

I was privileged enough to hear from people who have had negative encounters with some people from other racial backgrounds and what they have observed is worth noting. One of the first things that they observed is that black is associated with the worst things imaginable (think about it a little bit…’black plague’, ‘black coal’, ‘black sludge’). I’m sure you get the point. It is very hard to associate oneself with that word…and what seems to happen is that these negative connotations associated with the color itself are somehow pasted onto those whose skin is labeled black or dark (note the words used). This is how Africa itself gained its identity as the ‘Dark Continent’…not a cool name.

But should we run? Martin Luther King Jr showed the African American community–no, scratch that!–the world! That race does and can never determine one’s contribution to society (content of an individual’s character supersedes the color of one’s skin). It is on this very basis that black as a color has over the years been associated with cool, hip, fun and stylish…and it is on this very basis that my fellow black people ought to realise that there is hope for our people. Not because of change of use of the word black, but because of the potential of the black community to be more (so far I feel like we have been up to a lot of “doing”). We are either getting hyped up about immediate wealth/riches or clinging to titles or forms of power.

In us uniting and working together, we can show the world what we are made of as fellow citizens of the world and coequal members of the human race. Africa is probably the richest continent but we underestimate it because we underestimate ourselves. Racial slurs and awful history has affected us negatively and it doesn’t matter whether you were born in Africa or in the West…we’ve suffered but here we are. It’s about time we own our identity as one people and stop bickering and allowing divisions of no consequence to destroy us.

We know pain, we know labor and we know intelligence. How can we let divisions reign in our midst…we are one! All other races ought to work together in like fashion and help destroy the chains that have kept us in fear.

In Jesus’ words, let us love one another…

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MUHAMMAD ALI: WHAT KENYA CAN LEARN

WHY HISTORY IS MADE BY THE UNEXPECTED, NOT JUST THE HOPEFULS

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“An unjust law is no law”

-St. Augustine

“A threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”

-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

There is a blanket of gloom that seems to have come over the world as it mourns a dear child of its own who passed away recently. Muhammad Ali; a man of his own time. He was untamed and unfettered; in the face of difficulty in the history of the African American people, he stood for something. That is a forgotten element of society today. Looking at his story as an African Christian from Nairobi, Kenya, I realize now that he embodied the meaning of being the difference that he sought to see in the world.

Declaring from the beginning, his pride in his identity as a black man at a time when many struggled with their African American identity, he paved the way for change that was never before witnessed. We now see the need for the world to have more like him. His stance is the pedestal of the world’s greatest; a title that he proudly took on for himself. Let’s take a glimpse at history, more specifically revolutionary figures who’ve fought for justice on issues regarding discrimination and injustice; Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, and now Muhammad Ali…just to name a few.

These individuals showed the world that the way to defeat oppression is by first being free, standing above their circumstances. In the way they lived, they realized that the way to solving the issues of society was by first identifying the underlying problem: injustice. It’s odd how injustice is an issue in nearly all religions. In my own, Christianity, justice/injustice is said to be the “foundation of Yahweh God’s throne”. It is because of God’s zealous desire to see justice done through offering up Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice in order to allow mankind to enjoy freedom, as it is written, “in him we live and breathe and have our being (i.e. no longer slaves)”.

Now, in my identity as a black man from Africa, more specifically Kenya–a land that is well conversant with oppression and slavery, I understand what it means to be a fourth generation youth who is now battling to find his voice in a society that is still being plagued by the issues of the past. Not only is injustice an issue, social unrest and corruption still plague Kenya like a three-headed Hydra. Each time a head is cut off, as the saying goes, two others take up their place. These issues are not issues that I blame the leadership for; they are issues that I blame the darkness that has invaded and penetrated every sphere of life in my society.

The lesson? Kenya needs individuals who need to stand proudly as one nation in diversity. For whereas we have as a people conquered one battle on paper, we are yet to conquer one battle crucial battle, the battle of our national psyche. May we realize that standing proudly as Kenyans will lead us to stand united as a people.

“We are the only people that I know of that have a prayer as a national anthem”

-Unknown