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Loving being a Kenyan!

August 5, 2010
Parliament of Kenya Building
Image by Jorge Lascar via Flickr

I’m euphoric!  It feels like Life starts afresh today.  We have hit the reset button and we get to start again with new rules for the game.  The new constitution is not perfect but its good.  Its certainly much better than what we’ve lived under.

Not to mention how Kenya has now set the global standard in the use of mobile technology in running elections!

But in my euphoric celebration I remember Muthoni Wanyeki’s words of cautious optimism:

“The impulse of those who have worked so hard for this, through
several generations, will be to celebrate.
But only for a moment. Because, to realize the potential of a Yes
vote, we are all going to have to take a deep breath
and dive in again. Against the political and economic interests that
have always thwarted change.
And don’t imagine those interests are sleeping on the job – they are
always (always!) ahead of us all.”

And being in Kenya in the last few weeks I have seen first hand the ways in which political and economic interests are poised to appropriate the 84 pieces of legislation needed to bring this new constitution into effect.  Oh, yeah, the current Parliament only passed 4 pieces of legislation last year.  One wonders how they are going to manage to pass 84 of them in 18 months!!

But I think we’re allowed to celebrate for a day and I couldn’t agree more with Martin Kimani’s piece pointing out the many ways Kenyans continue to vote YES for our country.

It is optimistic celebration I share a poem by Shailja Patel, one of Kenya’s best poets and a friend:


For all it cost. For all we’ve lost. For all who persisted, decade upon decade, in the face of every defeat. For the invisible heroes of four generations, who brought it to fruition. For those taken by the struggle.  For the dead, displaced, dispossessed, raped, whose blood and suffering have watered this moment. If  victory means anything, it must mean the beginning of restitution.

brightness of joy how it

drips off our fingers
pools in our navels
gulps up the sun

thirst of our joy how it
swallows the highways
matatus and weaverbirds
rocket our ribs

tidal of joy how it
carries this country

anthems that surf

the green dazzle of trees

gentle of joy how it
melts out of garbage heaps
laps at the flex

of ten million walking legs

unhinges the pincers
of history’s heartbreaks
kisses them into the wind

here comes shadow here
comes shadow welcome
shadow sit with joy

i could cup all anger this moment
in the quiet of my joy
i could fold the world’s dementia
in the quiet of my joy
i could still the planet’s sirens
in the quiet

in the quiet
in the quiet of my…….

come to us like a thunderstorm
enter us like rain
sweep through us like a monsoon wind
then seed in us like flame
wake in us like an untold story
cry in us like a lone survivor
rip through us like a parturition
claw your way out of our bodies

pour and swallow what it takes
(and it takes everything)
surge and carry what it takes
(and it takes everything)
cup and cradle what it takes
every moment every breath
nothing less than everything
is what it takes
to dream

Shailja Patel, 2010. All Rights Reserved
Shailja Patel’s book, Migritude, comes out from Kaya Press in October 2010

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