Most girls want someone to call daddy; to be the truest reason he continues to find God in her mother’s eyes, to be the fruit born of immeasurable love. He will set the tone for all men in her life. If he is a great man, all other men will fall short of greatness. If his desires control him and result in reprehensible conduct, he becomes the standard of her expectation. If he is absent altogether, she will look for his presence in her own reflection. But the power such a man wields over the vulnerable babe must be earned by his unconditional love. It must be bought in his promise to always protect her; paid for by his toil and commitment to provide for her, until such a time as she can do so independently; granted by his oath to put her before himself and all others, ripping feathers from his own back to strengthen her wings, so she can fly high above the stars. She must become the breath he takes before the beat.
I believe my father’s first love is Africa. He believes that: “East Africa will be a single, viable federation one day”. Days after that, he believes that all fifty four States will finally begin to covet unity and make it the goal. He believes that Kenya can change. That people born of the soil can be free. His soul is bound to the life of the continent; his heart beating in time with hers, his convictions owned almost entirely by his desire to see her soar- to see her win.
I moved to Kenya to ride the wave of my father’s love for this place. I wanted to fall as deeply and as passionately for this part of earth as he has, to better understand his motivations. So I could see as he does. I wanted to find in the soil my own direction and celebrate a path constructed for me by my heritage. I wanted to taste the blood of slaves in the fruit raised from the ground where their bodies lie, and marry the struggle they left me to inherit. I wanted to hear revolution on the streets and record the evolution of black- a new unshakable freedom.
Something else my father is taken by…jazz. I grew up on soft jazz, African jazz, African house, soul music and R&B. Like my father I fell in love with jazz and even harder for soul. As a teenager he played the trombone and harmonica, so I wanted to play the sax. I wanted to play it to make him proud and to give him something to celebrate in me. Pretty soon though, I learned to play it for myself. I would come home after a day of school, put a jazz CD into the sound system and blast it with the blinds drawn; playing along wherever I could make out the notes by ear. It was how I talked myself off the ledge- how I convinced myself to let another day meet me at the door. Just play, and hear something louder and more palatable than reality.
I thought moving to Kenya would be as easy as listening to jazz. I had already mimicked my father’s taste in music; surely I could mimic his affections. As easily as he persuaded me to learn about Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah and Dedan Kimathi, so easily could he teach me to love the land I am meant to call home. But Kenya is not like playing the sax. It is not the comfort I come home to at the end of a hard day that anaesthetizes my mind and soul to ease the pain. It is the poison that makes every move hard. I can’t be creative here, I can’t live creativity here. I have found foreign in home- an alien to my father’s love. Richard Wright to Ghana.
It was Jamhuri Day (Kenya’s Independence Day) on the 12th of December. But we are not free and I’m tired of hearing of a potential that not enough people seemingly want to realize. Sadly, I can’t be bought any longer by my father’s beliefs.
This is not my home. I’m not convinced this is where I’m supposed to be if I can’t be the version of me worthy of life.
We all have to know when to walk away.