ONE DAY … Once, when I was very little I fell from a tree, flat on my stomach. I can still recall that sickening interval before breath came back into my body. I have been sitting behind my computer screen for 4 hours now. I should be working, having it together, thanking God for my job, evaluating the position of young women in the coming elections in my country (Kenya) and putting it in simple and clear writing for the youth to understand. I should be typing and editing and deleting and starting all over again. I should be producing something, doing what the organization requires me to do. I should be working. But I’m not. I’m seated behind my computer and as the screen stares back at me, I can’t help but feel the same way I did back then; breathless, numb, nauseated.
A great deal of my work is done on Twitter so I spend a lot of time there. And there’s everything going on in the world right now and where else to hear all about it than from the little blue birdy that is Twitter. From the racist Pepsi, Nivea and PSP ads, to the Kenyan journey to the polls that is documented every single day in form of hash tags, to the South African havoc President Zuma is causing – there’s a lot going on and most of it is not kind or easy to deal with especially if it directly resonates with you.
When a corporate goes all out to take advantage of the suffering of the minority, when they imply that only a soda and a white privileged girl can eradicate police brutality, when senior influential citizens of a country running for an elective seat repeat mistakes that were quite recently paid for by blood and death of younger citizens, when the President of a country that has gone through fire and come out shining bright as gold, tries to run it like a colony – breathless, numb, nauseated. It’s like falling off a tree, flat on your stomach. Africa is the unicorn of continents. We are magic. No country is like another, no culture is like another – not even our native languages are similar. Yes we were colonized, but that only made us speak European languages in clusters.
Deep down we are different, we are exotic, we are indigenous, we are special – we are magic. We are unicorns. The minerals, the wildlife, the smell of our soil, the feel of our air, the texture of our hair – it all depicts how mysterious we are. Someone took all these things that make us different and they turned them around and they made them a reason for us to see each other and ourselves differently. The color of my skin should be black because I have a stronger melanin pigment. The sun is always literally above my head and my skin should be able to protect me from melting beneath it. No, today I am black because I am dumber? Backward? Born and raised in a developing, underprivileged continent? Or maybe even less of a person than the people with a lighter skin tone? If a black person and a white person walked into an office reception in any African country there is always a natural instinct to give one of them priority for obvious reasons.
But what could be worse than your own being so hungry for power that they would participate in a crossfire that could easily have all of you killed in the middle? What did all the founding fathers of this continent suffer and die for if many years later we would still accept, accommodate and entertain bad behavior; dictatorship, discrimination, intimidation, extra-judicial and social injustices, tribalism – even racism. What was the point of fighting for freedom if the ones they were fighting for did not want to be free? How did we get here? How did we reach a point where it’s so hard for us, Africans, to be happy or content at home or in any other continent? It still feels like it did when I fell off that tree, flat on my stomach.
by Kanana Ntiritu, Nairobi, Kenya