Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Continental Scars

Continuing on my trend of highlighting music that speaks to the challenges facing Africa and speaks truth to power, today I thought of profiling a new track that has been shared with me by one of Kenya's foremost pioneer producer of conscious music particularly of the hiphop genre, the one and only Tedd Josiah. Now you might remember Tedd from the early days of the legendary Kalamashaka and Hardstone. He has now produced new music by an artist who goes by the name of Hustla Jay MauMau. Here is my favourite track from Hustla Jay aptly titled "Continental Scars" Take a listen and reflect on his deep words:

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Friday Poetry: Tupac Shakur-And 2Morrow

Tupac Amaru Shakur remains a public figure that did, and still does, split public opinion significantly. His music has influenced the growth of black culture in general as well as the phenomenal growth of hiphop music worldwide. While he is more well known for his music filled with deep lyrical content and sometimes violence-laden symbolism, his deep interest in poetry remains largely unknown to many, including his fans. Unbeknownst to many, Tupac was deeply into poetry and wrote many poems touching on a wide variety of issues ranging from social justice, black identity, love and general black consciousness. Despite his masochistic posturing in some of his songs, poetry allowed Tupac to bring out his other side as well captured in this poem titled "And I Still Love You" which appears in his book 'The Rose that Grew From Concrete.'

I don't have everything
as a matter of fact I don't have anything
except a dream of a better day
and you 2 help me find my way
Being a man I am sure 2 make mistakes
but 2 keep u I would do all it takes
and if it meant my love was really true
I'd gladly die and watch over u
I wish u knew how much I cared
u'd see my love is true by the life we'd share
Even if u changed your mind and said our love was thru
I'd want 2 die continuously cry and still I'd love u.

 Reading his poems, I always get the feeling that it allowed him to deal with the many challenges that he was facing at such a young age.Indeed in his poem 'I cry' poetry becomes his friend and confidant:

I find it difficult to carry on.
If I had an ear to confiding,
I would cry among my treasured friend.

His passion for social justice  is also well brought about in most of his poems. My all-time favourite is "And 2Morrow" which I have reproduced below:

Today is filled with anger
fueled with hidden hate
scared of being outcast
afraid of common fate

Today is built on tragedies
which no one wants 2 face
nightmares 2 humanities
and morally disgraced

Tonight is filled with rage
violence in the air
children bred with ruthlessness
because no one at home cares

Tonight I lay my head down
but the pressure never stops
knawing at my sanity
content when I am dropped

But 2morrow I c change
a chance 2 build a new
Built on spirit intent of Heart
and ideals
based on truth

and tomorrow I wake with second wind
and strong because of pride
2 know I fought with all my heart 2 keep my
dream alive
© Tupac Shakur

Friday Poetry: Maya Angelou's Conceit

Woke up in a poetic mood..not writing just re-reading my favourite poetry from different awesome poets...loving my ‪#‎FridayPoetry‬  This short poem by one of my all-time favourite poet: Maya Angelou always gets my poetic juices kicking...Without further ado here is "Conceit"


Give me your hand

Make room for me
to lead and follow
beyond this rage of poetry.

Let others have
the privacy of
touching words
and love of loss
of love.
For me
Give me your hand.

Maya Angelou

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Kenyan Roulette

Sharing this post from Gathara's World as it resonates well with some reflections I have been having recently particularly in the aftermath of the March elections and in the wake of the Westgate attack and the subsequent blundering of our security forces. Without further ado, read on:

The Kenyan Roulette
Once, when I was young boy, one of my numerous uncles, a policeman by trade, came calling. He had with him a rifle and he set it down in the corner of the room. I couldn’t take my eyes of it as he and my dad chatted away. Its presence in the room was both terrifying and comforting. Terrifying because of what it could do. Comforting because, at least in my imagination, it would be doing it on my behalf, wielded by people on my side against those who would do me harm.

As I have grown older and hopefully wiser, I have come to see that the state’s capacity for violence is rarely comforting, that the state rarely wields its violence on my behalf. Rarely does it carry guns into homes to protect the people within. Neither is it a source of comfort to encounter them in the streets.

Though we like to tout ourselves as exceptional, as an island of peace, Kenya is actually a very violent place, where the language of violence is routinely used to mediate relationships, between parents and their children, teachers and their students, the men and their women, the rich and the poor, the state and its subjects Security and peace seem to have become the passwords to a system of exclusion that means at any time any of us could be at the receiving end even as we declare we have peace and security. On the receiving end, in fact, to preserve peace and security.

Violence has become normalized, acceptable, desirable even. It has become a way to build the nation by constantly defining ourselves in terms of opposition to one another. Kenyanness is constantly recreated  by acts of violence. Thus it becomes the height of patriotism to call for a war with Uganda over a tiny piece of rock in Lake Victoria. And unpatriotic to question the actions of the government in Somalia or in a shopping mall in Nairobi.

In the aftermath of the Westgate attacks, Kenya will again be redefined by the violence we will mete out against those we have othered. Today it is the Muslims, the refugees, the Somalis, and the Somalians. There will be little outrage when doors in Eastleigh are kicked down and people in Garissa are hauled away and some village in Somalia is leveled the name of fighting terrorism. Just as when it’s the turn of civil society activists and ICC witnesses to be threatened or hunted down in the name of preserving a tenuous peace. Before them, the Kikuyu, the Luo, the the Kalenjin the Oromo, the Sabaots, the Pokot, the Turkana, the Whites, the Indians. Everyone gets their turn on the Kenyan Roulette.

In this Republic of Fear, there is little need for justice, or values, or rights. Only someone on whom to focus our ferocity, and with whose body and dignity to establish our claim to togetherness. We constantly terrorize and dehumanize. It is a place where the victims of that violence are told to accept and move on. Where cops laugh at women reporting rape. Where a senior public official can tell the hundreds of thousands displaced by the 2007/8 post-election violence that they came out “way ahead” and face no opprobrium. It is a place where we fight, not to end oppression, but for our turn to be the oppressors, our turn to eat.

The republic is defined by the very violence we say we want to end but yet celebrate. Where the fear, adorned in the language of civility, is what unites. Where we are one because, not despite, our terror of one another. A place where reconciliation becomes a euphemism for “until next time.” A place where economic growth need not generate good jobs nor end poverty, where the purveyors of violence take what they want, when they want. Where we dare not question official truths lest we are ourselved othered.

I suppose we are not unique. It is in the nature of states to be violent. They are after all the product of exclusion. Parceling out the world according to arbitrary imaginary lines drawn on maps by men of power can only create communities where the state is allowed to decide who is a human being and who is not and where we can legitimately have otherwise obscene arguments over who deserves dignity and who doesn’t. Where humanity is accessed and indeed defined by things like citizenship and passports and IDs, the state gets to certify your very existence and can declare you a non-person.

The malevolent power, represented by the menacing presence of that gun in the corner of the room, can only offer a temporary comfort, an illusory safety, a false peace. True comfort will only come with true community, when we embrace our humanity and refuse to be defined by the logic of the state, by the logic of othering, the logic of fear. When we are one with all, not just with those who look like us or speak like us or believe what we do. Otherwise, we'll just have to take our chances on the roulette.

Friday, October 4, 2013

We are NOT ONE


I refuse to suck up to this fake sense of Kenyan patriotism.
I grew up reading books on Kenyan history and singing to the tunes of patriotic songs that were constantly propagated by the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation. I went to school in a single party state when there was no difference between government and political parties. I was taught history that was cooked by the curriculum developers to deliberately make me become patriotic to the country Kenya.
At school, I was taught to sing the national anthem as well as recite the national pledge, which at the time, was coined to end up with pledging loyalty and allegiance to the president of Kenya. I was taught that Kenyatta was the Kenyan Jesus. I was taught how to sing for the president, and bow my head in respect.
In church, I was taught to obey and not question authority. I was taught to take it as-it-is, accept and move on, not to follow my emotions, and not to question. I was taught that I deserve nothing but grace. I was taught to pray with my eyes closed. I was taught to be silent in the face of injustice, by simply praying for bad people doing bad things – that they may be forgiven and go scot-free.
In reality, we are divided as the branches of this tree. Whereas we come from the same roots, we have made branches that ensure that we do not converge as we fight for sunlight and air.
Then I was brought to Nairobi, where I met pastors who steal from their congregation, in daylight. I met employers who sucked the last drop of energy from their employees, and gave them 2,000 shillings for end of year bonus. I met friends who made me believe “am looking out for you” while they meant “I am looking out for myself through you”.
Sadly, mid life clarity has taught me that – education, religion and a large part of Kenyan socialization is a well orchestrated ploy to manufacture a deeply complacent but very functional citizen, a hard working but extremely hopeful citizen – one that pays immense tax but does not question the government on how it uses it, one that should be easily duped by fellow citizens that calamity and disaster brings out “the best in us”.
And so, with time, I have come to make thread of Kenyan patriotism. It is inspired by disaster and calamity.  We are happy to have calamity bring us together. It’s the only language we understand. It looks like a language that could finally unite Africa. It looks like a language that Africa can speak together. We seem to often get united by grief.
That said, I decide that I wont suck up to the fake sense of Kenyan patriotism that is currently being shared around. We are one? No we are not. WE ARE NOT ONE. We are not! We are not one. Let me remind all of us that, it is the season of pretending to be ONE. It has happened before and now it is here, fresh with lilies, graphics, hysteria, poetry and related paraphernalia.
In 1998 bombing of the US Embassy in Nairobi, We suddenly were ONE. I forget much of  “We are or We are not ONE” events that happened between 1998 and 2008, but came elections in 2008, then we were NOT ONE all of a sudden. Came the Kikuyu + Kalenjin + Luo post election violence in 2008, and then we were ONE, immediately condemning attacks by our own terrorists.
When it came to taking suspected criminals to the International Criminal Court, We were not ONE, all of a sudden. Came hunger and starvation in Northern Kenya in 2011, and then Kenyans for Kenya campaign made us believe that were ONE again. Came elections in 2013, and then we were NOT ONE again. Came terrorist attack on 2013, and then we are ONE again, all of a sudden? wtf?
We are pretending to be one, and many of us are utilizing the limelight to gain political “I do good, I do well, I am also human” mileage for future prospects.  Kenya is a cunning economy. We are NOT ONE, we are selfish individuals who sing at the pulpit when the song is nice to our ears, but we turn ruthless, aggressive, malicious and viciously greedy when the curtain closes on us.
Then I saw this list of these names and I wondered – how are we one? MichaelGichangi, head of National Intelligence Service; Julius Karangi, head of Kenya Defence Force; Ndegwa Muhoro, head of Kenya’s Criminal Investigations; Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, THE head of Kenya. This list sounds like a public university graduation ceremony. …..Aketck, Akoth, Atieno, Atika…. Are we one? No we are not.
We are not one when police wielding guns and black radios continue to throw me out of the road so that a More Important Person (MIP) get a privileged pass. We are not one when priests and pastors continue stealing and fucking their own congregation. We are not one when the first agenda on the list of Kenyan leaders is to add more salary, even before beginning to work. No we are not one.
We are not one when Indians continue oppressing their African workers in the export processing zones and the manufacturing industries.  We are not one when we do nothing to bridge the capitalism divide that continues to deepen in this country. We are not one until thieves stop raiding my village with guns.
We are not one when development organizations continue to spend almost half of the development grants traveling to Africa in the name of “safety & security, Africa travel, hardship allowance, and close monitoring of projects”. We are not one when development partners keep creating self-existence development cartels that distribute money, jobs and favors to friends, so they too may come, live and enjoy Africa.
Consciously and conspicuously, we are ONE against this mzungu (white person) court because it is targeting the Kalenjin and Kikuyu communities in Kenya and Africa at large. This is finally, Africa United, we are TRULY ONE. We are ONE in Africa, and now we see on the news, every often, another African president joining in frustrating the mzungu court and condemning how this mzungu court is undertaking the criminal proceedings on Africans. When Africans kill their own, we are ONE in accepting, forgetting and moving on.
I wont suck up to this WE ARE ONE facade. I often sign off greetings with “ONE Love”. What does ONE mean? One love to me means, unity, equality, peace, justice and fairness. It is a deep understanding and interpretation of “ubuntuism” a philosophy that I never learnt in any class, but one that I came to embrace.  It is about “human kindness”, which is far from what we see, hear, speak and feel today. We are NOT ONE until UBUNTU.
I wish all of us calmness as we go to bury our dead.  Life continues, it has a way of going on. I too lost a young friend to a different type of terrorism – terrorism of life. He took his own life. I knew he was carrying around a tough weight behind his back, one that he did not choose to hurl onto himself. He put on a brave fight for the days we talked. But at the end of it, terror attacked, and his walls caved in. We are Not One when young people choose to catalyze their departure from earth.
ONE Love and WiBO Life, Life Without Borders!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Racism in 21st Century Kenya: Revisiting the ArtCaffe Issue

 I decided to post on the issue of racial mis-treatment of dark-skinned Kenyans at the upmarket coffee joint, ArtCaffe, following a Facebook post by my friend, Happy, which I have reposted here:
Status Update
By Happy Iam
This tirade against Art Caffe/Tribe Hotel/Stanley Hotel/Hilton Hotel by largely middle-class Nairobians makes me want to jump up and down screaming; however for very different reasons from why the majority are jumping up and down screaming. This tirade is yet another reminder of how largely unexamined race and racism remains in the imagination of most middle-class Nairobians. When the racist individual who refuses to jump to our service as fast as to the service of a white person interrupts the pursuit of our leisurely activities, we mobilise on facebook and twitter demanding boycotts and apologies from these institutions.

Yet, when we sit around our chama meetings drooling over our beautiful lighter skinned friends, or pondering about the way to go to “cha-mbele” or modeling our lives after the fictional white characters we see on tv, no-one is demanding a boycott of any kind. When we find ourselves apologising for our African ways inadvertently (most of the time), we sit comfortably and swallow the next humiliation thrown our way.

We are silent when we dream about "soft straight easy to manage" hair, we are silent when we continue to insist that western education/medicine/teaching/democracy/development is superior to all things African. We are silent when we refuse to speak of our African "dialects" that are dying as we struggle to learn yet another Western language. We are silent when we believe the narrative that our ancestors were "less than" since they didn’t write down our history. And then use that same excuse to justify why we do not know our history. We are silent about the insidious, soul-killing, ugly racism we see so often that we are now blind to it.

Yes, members of staff at Art Caffe/Tribe Hotel/Stanley Hotel/Hilton Hotel/”insert name of just about any entity in the Nairobi hospitality industry here” act in a racist manner. And it sucks. However, could we enrich this conversation about race and racism in Nairobi to deal with how we continue to ignore race and racism in our daily lives as middle-class Nairobians? (And don't get me started on the class issues at play here...)
This post engaged my mind for awhile as I lay pondering the many difficult issues that it raised. I therefore decided to share her interesting perspective by which I absolutely agree with and also share my thoughts on the same. The post took me back to the psycho-analytic characterization of the "Man' (in this case the "black wo/man) in Fratz Fanon's Black Skin, White Mask..where he pointedly notes that despite the external desire to be independent and to connect with his/her cultural roots, "the black man wants to be white, the white man slaves to reach a human level." 

I have always found it intriguing how we can be so angry/indignant about the most visible forms of racism (such as the Artcaffe issue) but be very comfortable/acquiescent to the overt forms of racially-defined cultural and social domination such as the ones that Happy ably illustrated. Why is it so easy for us as Africans to still sit by and not take offense (and often play a facilitative active role) as our cultures, knowledge systems and ways of being are ridiculed, demonized, declared inferior and irrational, and, in some cases, eliminated? Where is the anger? 

Why has it become normal for parents to say 'I don't want my kid to have an accent?' yet all we mean is I want my kid not to have an African accent but to have an American/English accent? Why have we allowed such mental enslavement; such an overbearing inferiority complex to become so internalised/epidermalised? The yoke of colonialism and its attendant subjugation of the African is so well-displayed in the way the 'Kenyan elite/middle/upper class" lives or dreams of living..Black consciousness and our dignity has been thrown out of the window and we believe ourselves to have attained equality with the other races-until we are reminded of 'our place'-as the ArtCaffe episodes illustrates! Until we confront our own role in the entrenchment of racism and its attendant neo-colonialism in our Kenyan and African societies, then it shall be "Not Yet Uhuru."

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Uganda: Human Rights Activism using Music (Dr. Hilderman-Dembe Lyange)

Uganda has for the last decade or so been going through quite interesting times particularly as the human rights movement and the opposition has tried to push for the respect of the people's civil and political rights particularly right to association, expression and to participate freely in political affairs.(Perhaps I should note that this is not a universal assessment but is dependent on whatever side of the political divide you lie on and that the motives for some of people involved in this people's protest might not be altruistic but may be actors in the wider neo-colonial plot of the West.) What has been surprising, in my assessment, is the relative lack of involvement in this process by the Ugandan music fraternity. As Phil Ochs notes, "
"One good song with a message can bring a point more deeply to more people than a thousand rallies."
Joe Hill also notes:
“A never read more than once, but a song is learned by heart and repeated over and over”
Thats why when a friend send me a link to a protest song from a prominent Uganda musician, Dr, Hilderman, I couldn't resist the urge to post it here. The song is done in a mixture of Luganda, Kiswahili and English perhaps to ensure that as many people can be reached by its strong message. The song is called 'Dembe Lyange" by Dr. Hilderman. My favourite lyrics in the song are:
"Kitu muhimu maishani ni uhuru wangu. Ninyime pesa lakini nipe uhuru wangu. Kitu nilizaliwa nacho ni kitu silipii." " (The most precious thing in my life is my freedom. Deny me money but respect my freedom and rights-the only valuable thing I don't pay for)."
One can only hope that this music will encourage and reinvigorate the people of Uganda to continue their struggle to expand the democratic space and realisation of their social, economic and cultural rights. But for now, all I can say is kudos to Dr. Hilderman for being brave enough to give a voice to the voiceless and downtrodden in the Ugandan society unlike many musicians who are only interested in doing 'lollipop' commercial music that further erodes the political consciousness of the people.
As Martin Luther King said, ""The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." Ama kweli, msanii ni kioo cha jamii!! I strongly believe that as long as injustice exists, we will need protest music!

I finish with this quote from Cesar Chavez:
"Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. We have seen the future, and the future is ours."
--Cesar Chavez

 Here is Dr. Hilderman's  Dembe Lwange. Cheers to more revolutionary protest music in Afrika!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

#Occupy Parliament: We Shall not Give Up

For all those who stood up today to continue the protracted struggle against the Kenyan kleptocracy, ably manifested by the wanton greed of the MPigs, I salute you all..You might have, at some point, felt too small, too weak, too scared to stand up against the show of might of the state but yet you stood your ground, as teargas was thrown at you, as tears welled your eyes! Some might criticize your actions-ohh too graphic, why did you do this to pigs blah blah-but all they are seeking is an excuse for their inaction, for watching idly while the country is being torn even further apart..similar criticisms where leveled at others who came before us-Mekatilili, Mau Mau, the '7 bearded sisters', Wangari Maathai, bunge la mwananchi, Oscar etc. But guess what, their actions might not have made sense to many then but the country is better (and will be even better) because of their then 'crazy' actions..We shall not give up, just as they did not, it is our country!! 

If she did this, who are we to give in to fear, intimidation, criticism, ridicule?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Marcus Garvey Vision of a Unified Afrika

While in jail in Atlanta, the honorable Marcus Garvey (Peace be upon him), wrote a poem that put forth his vision of a unified Africa.

Hail! United States of Africa-free!
Hail! Motherland most bright, divinely fair!
State in perfect sisterhood united,
Born of truth; mighty thou shalt ever be.

Hail! Sweet land of our father's noble kin!
Let joy within thy bounds be ever known;
Friend of the wandering poor, and helpless, thou,
Light to all, such as freedom's reigns within.

From Liberia's peaceful western coast
To the foaming Cape at the southern end,
There's but one law and sentiment sublime,
One flag, and its emblem of which we boast.

The Nigeria's are all united now,
Sierra Leone and the Gold Coast, too.
Gambia, Senegal, not divided,
But in one union happily bow.

The treason of the centuries is dead,
All alien whites are forever gone;
The glad home of Sheba is once more free,
As o'er the world the black n-tan raised his head.

Bechuanaland, a State with Kenya,
Members of the Federal Union grand,
Send their greetings to sister Zanzibar,
And so does laughing Tanganyika.

Over in Grand Mother Mozambique,
The pretty Union Flag floats in the air,
She is sister to good Somaliland,
Smiling with the children of Dahomey.

Three lusty cheers for old Basutoland,
Timbuctoo, Tunis and Algeria,
Uganda, Kamerun, all together
Are in the Union with Nyasaland.

We waited long for fiery Morocco,
Now with Guinea and Togo she has come,
All free and equal in the sisterhood,
Like Swazi, Zululand and the Congo.

There is no state left out of the Union-
The East, West, North, South, including Central,
Are in the nation, strong forever,
Over blacks in glorious dominion.

Country of the brave black man's liberty;
State of greater nationhood thou hast won,
A new life for the race is just begun.

Sourced From the Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Kenya: Captive of Past Sins

Re-reading "Cut Off My Tongue" by Sitawa Namwalie..reminds me of the many issues we have swept under the carpet of "peace" we have responded to the calls from within our 'separate enclaves to internalise and mythologise the language of tribe"..we have returned to our "experience of tribe/sharp acid on the tongue/clanging metallic noises/a rising tide of bile/a watchful expectation of ugliness rearing its head/reaching out to grab cake for itself/eating quickly/greedily"..we have resorting to type, this is the state of most Kenyans: "Tribe makes me act secretly/I read the newspapers/watch behind the news/scan the streets/count the members of the..council/on and on  I tally the  numbers my tribe emerges/In my mind I add up all mounting disadvantage/to store in my prized basket of grievance/I am expert at computation: 12.25% of my tribe in the cabinet/I am no longer conscious of what I do/You see, I am victim/innocent/but for the tribal design of others/The truth is revealed in broiling ethnic conclaves.../I bring my hush-hush bliss to the fore/the bliss of playing victim/to bemoan with relish my miserly pickings/condemn with glee the crumbs i feed on/while others hog the national cake." 

Meanwhile the all-important issue of IDPs; of justice has been conveniently forgotten..but the eye sore remains..of the white, torn tents; of the "carcass of the house that stands still/sentinel to a rage set free/windows gouged out/blinded to keep secrets of terror alive/hollow doors open wide/tribute to Africa's tribal scream.." The call has been made: 'Move On" and yes we have moved on, the unspoken betrayal notwithstanding, draping the tatters of shame over our shame; shame of the 'sacrilege that has been perpetrated here; blood debts accumulated: All those lives, all those homes devastated, lost to the stasis of grief and pain; rage unleashed to cumulate and fester in the exile of the soul..As Dr. Wambui Mwangi notes, "We have silenced and covered over these transgressions against each other, perhaps believing that sleeping dogs should be let lie. The problem with sleeping dogs is that they invariably wake up and bite." 

How long shall this marriage of silence last? How long shall we continue being a country where "people have become ghost-like and spectral to others; where we treat our Others as if there were already ghosts. Yet we still seem them; Our Ghost ourselves." How long shall we deny our history; allow the demonising of those who fought for the liberties we now enjoy including the 'evil society"? How long shall we clothe ourselves in the false cloth of pervasive notions of sovereignty as we soil the glorious past of Pan-Africanism for selfish gains? 

We are captives of our past demons; Time to 'uncut' our tongues; break the silence; remember our brotherhood; our sisterhood; our Kenyanhood; Time to remember that there are only 'tribes' in Kenya: the haves and have-nots; the bourgeoisie and the holloi-polloi; time to speak for your tribe; time to reveal the 'traitors' as Boniface Mwangi did and defend the pride, heritage and splendor of our Lovely Nation; time to fight the greedy MPigs; time to fight the entrenchment of kleptocracy/impunity in Kenya..because at the end of the day-very few gain from our ethnic divisions; we all suffer (me, you and those others you call 'them')..Let's pay heed to "the voices of our ghosts..speaking through Sitawa Namwalie's pen that will not be so easily silenced."

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Death of the Innocents

A child laughs; another cries;
The wife giggles; whimpers;
The man looks around himself and stands up;
He stretches his hands, searching his pockets, turning them up;
No cigarettes, again!
He sighs
He gives his wife a slight peck on the cheek:
Coming back, darling; won’t be long,gotta pee,
He lies,
The only thing that works in marriage.

Off he goes; a hooded cap on his head;
“The School of Hard Knocks” its front reads,
Seeing him, a crooked smile would indeed appear;
Indeed, he has been knocked over many times by life
But still he remains defiantly hopeful:
Things will get better; the Audacity of hope.

He rounds the corner; hands pocketed,
Eyes scanning every object,every picket;
Watching for danger; in the dark heavy night,
A night pregnant with dread and danger;
For this is no man’s land,
The land of Mother earths’ rejects,
Like foetuses thrown away by their mothers; unwanted,
The Land of the scum, the filth;
where danger lies lurking everywhere,
So he knows, here, any minute, may be your minute!
Seeing no one, he continues on, Heavily breathing; in relief.

On the other side,
Two men in blue; seat huddled on their cold, old car,
Each lies immersed deeply in thought,
Thoughts of their own troubles,
Their own fears; the risks of their job.
one nursing an hangover;another a querulous wife;
The radio starts, suddenly,
Crackling to life:
Red alert, reports, armed robbery,
The suspect: A tall man in a hooded cap,
The Search begins.

The hooded man grits his teeth,
The cold breeze piercing his black skin,
His tall frame bearing it all; defiantly,
He swears to himself, as he does everyday:
This habit, I must stop it: Quit smoking!
Only if I could get out of this hellhole!

He crookedly smiles as he sees the small, mabati shop,
The Coke side of life! Bamba 50 hapa!
The enticing charms of the prostitute: capitalism!
Displaying her wares;
His hope renewed; he quickens his steps,
His lungs near-bursting; the addiction; the overpowering desire.
Only sure route to another,
The death of the innocents.

The police car slowly negotiates the bend,
The driver exasperated; damn these potholes!
Like hunting lions, eyes sweep the area,
Suddenly they light up: Look Our Man!
Oh yes, our man! Tall man in hooded cap!
They exit their car, Commando-style,
Feet hit the road: arms drawn.

As the hooded man turns around from the kiosk,
Unison voices meet him: Hands up!
Uncomprehending, he shields his eyes,
The harsh glare of the flashlight blinding him; monentarily,
As he tries to put the packet into his pocket
One boy in blue shouts; watch out!
He is drawing a gun!
He tries to explain:
It is not a gun; only a packet of cigarettes
Do they hear him?
Hot pellets hit him,
On the hand, on the chest, on the head,
Oh God the pain!

As he slowly falls,
The cold ground, arms outstretched meeting him,
Only one thought remains on his mind,
Now delirious with pain:
Why did I have to die?
Only if I had stopped smoking,
I would not have died like this,
Just because of a cigarette packet!
But he knows,
He would have died; some other time;
Cigarettes or not; innocently!
The School of Hard Knocks to the end!
The death of the innocents.

By: Felix Kyalo Kiteng’e,



life4rehearsal said...
That totally blew me away.
You really do have a talent for poetry, felix, u do. And i sincerely think you should write that book i've been talking about. have your poems in a hard copy even if just for your self n your generations. but you're totally lying on a goldmine, wake up my dear and start mining!!!!!!!!!!
3:44 AM

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Black Skin: White Vultures

She stands proudly,
Neck craned, exposed,
To the greedy beaks,
Vultures hover,
Black dogs nestle over,
protecting the vultures,
As they devour her skin
Glistening oily, black,
The vultures: They are back.

Her intellect questioned,
Her rich heritage dissected, disemboweled,
Doubts of her prowess broad-casted,
Black Continent Rising!
The White/yellow Vultures,
Have stolen her future,
Her babies kidnapped,
Mentally, trapped,
They have learned to hate,
their black kin,
Despise their black skin,
They have cut off their black tongue,
Now they talk no more,
Minds occupied;
oh! the trappings of capitalism
They watch but do they really see,
The vultures,
As they devour her skin
Glistening oily, black,
The vultures: They are back.

Still she stands strong,
Neck Craned, proudly,
Watching stealthily,
Urged on by the sounds of her past heroes-
Mekatilili, Samoei, Kimathi-
Out goes the war cry,
Africa Shall be Free! Uhuru! Wiyathi!!
The tom tom drums, the war cries of old,
Time has come;
Time to protect the motherland;
No more; Never again!!

© Felix Kyalo, 2013

A re-enactment of the MajiMaji Rebellion in Tanzania in the Maji Maji Heroes Celebrations 2013

Friday, February 15, 2013

Africa Kills Her Sun

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Patience: Revisiting the Pan-African identity, essence through Music

As pan-Africanists, we constantly and without wavering, have to counter the western depiction of Africa as historically culturally, politically and economically barren. Many Western writers have failed to acknowledge the great civilizations that existed in Africa before the 'discovery' of the continent by the whites and indeed the contribution of our great continent to development of arts and sciences. Fortunately, Africans both within and without the continent have worked for years to deconstruct these myths, propaganda and lies beginning from David Walker's Appeal in 1829 and W.E.B. Du Bois' The World and Africa. One approach that has been used in this respect is by use of music. I came across this track by one of the foremost conscious hip hop musicians, Nas, and Damian Marley, called "Patience" that wonderfully captures this message of the African essence and existence prior to the "Western Invasion and Exploitation" I do hope you will enjoy the song and its tracks here-below:

Patience Lyrics: Nas & Damian Marley

Here we are
here we are

This one right here is for the people

Sabali, Sabali, Sabali, yonkontê
Sabali, Sabali, Sabali, kiye
Ni kêra môgô
Sabali, Sabali, Sabali, yonkontê
Sabali, Sabali, Sabali, kagni
Ni kêra môgô

Ay yo D. Lets go all the way on this one.

Some of the smartest dummies
Can’t read the language of Egyptian mummies
An’ a fly go a moon
And can’t find food for the starving tummies
Pay no mind to the youths
Cause it’s not like the future depends on it
But save the animals in the zoo
Cause the chimpanzee dem a make big money
This is how the media pillages
On the TV the picture is
Savages in villages
And the scientist still can’t explain the pyramids, huh
Evangelists making a living on the videos of ribs of the little kids
Stereotyping the image of the images
And this is what the image is
You buy a khaki pants
And all of a sudden you say a Indiana Jones
An’ a thief out gold and thief out the scrolls and even the buried bones
Some of the worst paparazzis I’ve ever seen and I ever known
Put the worst on display so the world can see
And that’s all they will ever show
So the ones in the west
Will never move east
And feel like they could be at home
Dem get tricked by the beast
But a where dem ago flee when the monster is fully grown?
Solomonic linage whe dem still can’t defeat and them coulda never clone
My spiritual DNA that print in my soul and I will forever Own Lord
Yeah, Sabali. Thats patience. That’s what the old folks told me…
Discovering the World before this World. A World buried in time.
Uncover with rhymes. It gets no realer.

[Damian Marley: Verse 2]
Huh, we born not knowing, are we born knowing all?
We growing wiser, are we just growing tall?
Can you read thoughts? can you read palms?
Huh, can you predict the future? can you see storms, coming?
The Earth was flat if you went too far you would fall off
Now the Earth is round if the shape change again everybody woulda start laugh
The average man can’t prove of most of the things that he chooses to speak of
And still won’t research and find out the root of the truth that you seek of
Scholars teach in Universities and claim that they’re smart and cunning
Tell them find a cure when we sneeze and that’s when their nose start running
And the rich get stitched up, when we get cut
Man a heal dem broken bones in the bush with the wed mud
Can you read signs? can you read stars?
Can you make peace? can you fight war?
Can you milk cows, even though you drive cars? huh
Can you survive, Against All Odds, Now?


It’s crazy when you feed people the truth you don’t know how they’re gonna react. You’re scared of wrong doers, people that just ignorant, You’re scared of the truth, be patient for now.

[Nas: Verse 3]
Who wrote the Bible? Who wrote the Qur’an?
And was it a lightning storm
That gave birth to the Earth
And then dinosaurs were born? damn
Who made up words? who made up numbers?
And what kind of spell is mankind under?
Everything on the planet we preserve and can it
Microwaved it and try it
No matter what we’ll survive it
What’s hue? what’s man? what’s human?
Anything along the land we consuming
Eatin’, deletin’, ruin
Trying to get paper
Gotta have land, gotta have acres
So I can sit back like Jack Nicholson
Watch n-ggas play the game like the lakers
In a world full of 52 fakers
Gypsies, seances, mystical prayers
You superstitious? throw salt over your shoulders
Make a wish for the day cuz
Like somebody got a doll of me
Stickin’ needles in my arteries
But I can’t feel it
Sometimes it’s like ‘pardon me, but I got a real big spirit’
I’m fearless…. I’m fearless
Don’t you try and grab hold of my soul
It’s like a military soldier since seven years old
I held real dead bodies in my arms
Felt their body turn cold, oh
Why we born in the first place
If this is how we gotta go?

This goes to all the wisdom and knowledge seekers of the World. Sabali, Patience, yeah.

Lyrics courtesy of Distant Relatives.