Tag Archives: women

About A Married Man

“I want to ask you a question.” I smiled up at him.

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“Okay.” He smiled back.

“You have to promise to answer the question honestly.”

“Okay.”

“Are you married?”

“Yes.”

My smile faded.

He remained seemingly unaffected. “So now what?”

“What do you mean?” I struggled.

“Well you asked me that question and I answered it. What now? There must have been a reason you asked. Why did you ask?”

“I feel like you’ve been flirting with me.”

“I have been flirting with you.”

“That’s not okay, you’re married—”

“I know it’s wrong but I want to flirt with you, I’m choosing to do it.”

I was visibly disappointed.

“I still want to read your stories.”

I walked away.

I hadn’t even noticed him but he did everything right. He spoke to me just enough that I’d know he was there but not so much that he seemed overeager. He waited a few days to introduce himself and ask me about my name—its meaning and origin. He waited a few more days to ask me out and didn’t appear discouraged when I said I wanted to get to know him a little better before meeting him outside the gym. He disclosed a little information at a time about his interests and accomplishments to combat my apprehension. He read one of my short stories and actually understood it. He also gave me his work email address. He did not press me for my phone number even after we’d exchanged several emails. He suggested activities that I could explore but didn’t angle for an invitation to any of them. It was all compliments, eye contact, watching and connecting. I didn’t want him to say yes, but I wouldn’t have asked if I thought the answer was no. To my surprise, it did hurt me. Sharing a story for so many who write—it’s intimate. It’s like taking everything off so the voice of every stretch mark and curve can speak unencumbered by the penances of indecency.

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I know a few prolific cheaters and in some way they’ve all informed my view of sex. When I was going through puberty it was biology and a means to procreate. A definition bereft of colour. Now, I picture it like messy, greasy paint spilling over the lines or poorly managing to stay within them. It doesn’t really start anywhere specific, it just isn’t until it is. I’m still abstinent and I have to admit that I never really think about sex in the context of the other. In my mind it’s always about me, about something I want to feel. I want the pleasure that cannot hurt me. On most days knowing this is enough to keep me sound but when I’m self destructive, I realise how dangerously impressionable I am. So I hide or I demean me to save someone else the trouble. Or maybe because I’m the evil I know.

It has been suggested, “…women’s bodies are sites of patriarchal power and are spaces where men are at their most oppressive, and women are most oppressed”. I believe this to be true in the case of reproductive health where women are often denied agency over their own bodies. However, I cannot escape its applicability in the context of this post. Archaic express and implied policies and practices cite and impress upon women a responsibility to supply pleasure even if it is to their detriment. For instance, several countries did not and some still do not recognize marital rape as a crime. Don’t even get me started on female genital mutilation; they were worried about a woman straying and responded by absconding with her satisfaction. I have a very distant relative that was brutalized beyond recognition and murdered this year by a physically abusive man she left upon discovering he had multiple wives. Seeing him one last time cost her her life. She couldn’t live anymore because he couldn’t live knowing she breathed and it wasn’t for him. That’s the world we live in now. She says no and he kills her.

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I found his wife on Instagram, it’s what prompted me to ask. She doesn’t post any pictures of him or them and I wonder if this is more about him than her. She seems better than decent and I think she might love Jesus. I love Jesus. She’s a white foreigner and there’s also a child. It scares me that our ever-evolving patriarchy makes it increasingly difficult for women to not hurt other women. I don’t have a covenant with her. He does. I don’t owe her anything. He does. Yet he waited for me to ask. I had to pay attention or I’d have missed it. I could have been the other woman, the one he calls when his daughter is asleep and his wife is rummaging through the fridge for a late night snack to accompany the movie she’ll fall asleep to in his arms. I could have been the one he writes love letters to to feel young again. I could have been the one that causes him to shuffle uncomfortably at the dining table every time a notification sounds on his phone. Or maybe the reason it’s on silent half the time. But my mother didn’t raise that woman. So my conscience couldn’t rest with uncertainty. I asked and now I know. Now I am bound by a duty of care to a woman I have made no promises to before God because I have a married best friend, because I want my sisters’ to have good marriages and because I want my person to be mine.

I think I’m more vulnerable with black men. I think I always have been and that too scares me. I’m unmistakably attracted to them, I have a desire to learn how to love them right and when I picture giving myself to someone, they’re black hands that touch me and black lips that taste me—he doesn’t need to be naturalized, he’s at home in me and dying for ourselves is dying for each other.

There’s this meme in circulation that reads, “When you love another Black person, you have to love each other through 500 years of broken promises, pain, and oppression. When we say Black love, it’s not just about some Black people being in love; it’s the most revolutionary thing you can do”. Imagine that. The resilience of our community, the struggle that we are born into and sustained by—imagine the euphoria of a love that insists on its time. Why wouldn’t I want it? More importantly, why wouldn’t I want it with a black man that wants it with just me? As a father, you could be the man your daughter hopes to marry or the familiar sadness she acquiesces to. So I ask this man, don’t you want her to be joyful and confident? Doesn’t she deserve laughter and genuine, constant, irrevocable love? If so, how will she fare when you tell her her mother was not worthy by entertaining another woman?

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I don’t hate him for being married to someone who isn’t black. I despise that he expected me to be okay with settling for the parts of him that he feels he doesn’t owe her. Whatever bits of his person he’s reclaiming over a decade later to carelessly share with someone who will help him recognise himself. My coarse hair and his, my scars and his blemishes, the blood and bone that has fed and shaped us—death buried in the ground, mouth to root inflating blades of grass and trees with air saved from the days of life. Our shadows have long been allies…then he bid on the sun. He sought to own the light we rely on. Would he kill me? Will he kill me?

I love being a black woman. I love being a woman! I love my skin, I love my mind and my body. So hear me when I say with or without a black man, I am black love.

Because I choose it.

Because one day, it’ll choose me.

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I wanna go home.

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International Women’s Day

“The women of my grandmother’s generation in my home town trained their daughters for womanhood. They taught them to give respect and to demand respect. They taught their daughters how to churn butter; how to use elbow grease. They taught their daughters to respect the strength of their bodies, to lift boulders and how to kill a hog; what to do for colic, how to break a fever and how to make a poultice, patchwork quilts, plait hair and how to hum and sing. They taught their daughters to take care, to take charge and to take responsibility. They would not tolerate a “lazy heifer” or a “gal with her head in the clouds.” Their daughters had to learn how to get their lessons, how to survive, how to be strong. The women of my grandmother’s generation were the glue that held family and the community together. They were the backbone of the church. And of the school. They regarded outside institutions with dislike and distrust. They were determined that their children should survive and they were committed to a better future.

I think about my sisters in the movement. I remember the days when, draped in African garb, we rejected our foremothers and ourselves as castrators. We did penance for robbing the brother of his manhood, as if we were the oppressor. I remember the days of the Panther Party when we were “moderately liberated.” When we were allowed to wear pants and expected to pick up the gun. The days when we gave doe-eyed looks to our leaders. The days when we worked like dogs and struggled desperately for the respect which they struggled desperately not to give us. I remember the black history classes that did mention women and the posters of our “leaders” where women were conspicuously absent We visited our sisters who bore the complete responsibility of the children while the Brotha was doing his thing. Or had moved on to bigger and better things.” – Assata Shakur

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“DSC_5153” by Trishhhh 

I don’t believe that men will liberate women from patriarchal institution any more than I believe the wealthy will save the poor, or the capitalist will marry the communist. I believe a woman’s best shot at a decent life has at some point rested in the calloused hands of a woman before her. The excerpt above is from a piece of writing by Assata Shakur, a civil rights activist who was a member of the Black Liberation Movement and Black Panther Party in the 1960s. Here she so aptly revisits a narrative known to many a black woman. We have seen our mother’s cook for their communities, singlehandedly raise their children, support their husband’s and neglect themselves in favor of duty. The black woman has known sacrifice, abandonment and struggle. We have been rejected by the world, endured denigration of our aesthetic and abilities- an article in Psychology Today went as far as to declare that black women are objectively less attractive than other races of women. Worse still, several other polls and studies do not vie from this conclusion. This being one of the more trivial examples of how we are viewed in this world. However, there will be no greater adversary we face than ourselves.

When we look more specifically at women in developing countries, we cannot ignore the injustices subjected to those who can ill-afford what should be basic human rights. Sexual and reproductive rights, for instance, have been referred to by some feminist theories as the site at which men are most oppressive and women most oppressed. Our bodies have literally been turned into consumer goods for sale to the highest bidder; be it private healthcare agencies, corporations or marketing firms. It is so ironic that somehow the only people who are demonized for the sale of women’s bodies are women. The way we dress cannot be too provocative though we cannot be too prudent. We cannot express our sexuality or admit to a desire for, or enjoyment of sexual encounters at the risk of being called promiscuous hoes. Perhaps worse still, women are known to endorse the demoralization of other women.

Let’s not forget that Maya Angelou was a prostitute. Billie Holiday was a heroin addict. Leymah Gbowee was an alcoholic. And yet here we have a writer, a singer and a nobel peace prize laureate that we openly and excitedly celebrate for their contributions to literature, music and peace. What have they taught us? That we have no business telling women who they are. Too many have shown up, transgressions in hand and holes in the soles of their feet ready and willing to redefine their narrative against the script written by patriarchs.

We have so much work to do. This world is cursed with indiscretion. In some countries, there is forced sterilisation for HIV positive women and restrictive abortion laws for women confronting unwanted pregnancies. The same work as male counterparts for unequal pay. Underrepresentation of women in governance. Misrepresentation of women in industry. International Women’s Day. A day some of us show appreciation for our mother’s, their mother’s, our siblings, aunties and daughter’s. We acknowledge the women we love who have contributed to our growth as individuals and the one’s this world has elected to remember. But we cannot forget to praise those who are different, who broaden the scope of our travels. Those prostitutes who will write, those alcoholics who will organize and those singers who will drive our anthems of egalitarianism! There are no hoes, no bitches-only flavors of awesome dressed how they please.

“The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.” -Dante Alighieri

The celebration of women on this day, at present, seems to be no more than another opportunity to acknowledge that women exist. That we were all expelled from some woman’s womb. That too many of us are still silently acquiescing to our own gender-specific, sexist roles. It is as though we have forgotten that there was a time women were not allowed to vote. Women were not allowed to study. Women were not allowed to work. Men legally had to give their wives permission to undergo tubal ligations. Women could not legally own property. This did not change because men decided women deserved better. It changed because women decided they deserved better.

Tell me, have we stopped deserving better?

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Prom Dresses and American Presidential Elections

de·feat

verb

Win a victory over someone in a battle or other contest; overcome or beat.

 

Defeat is tricky. When I was younger, I remember being told things like:

“Quitters never win.”

“When you get knocked down, dust yourself off, get back up and try again.”

“Don’t give up because it’s too hard. Nothing good ever comes easy.”

“Hard work pays off.”

“Focus on the work and the rewards will follow.”

But then I also remember hearing a lot of the following too:

“That’s life.”

“Maybe this wasn’t for you.”

“Life’s a bitch.”

“That’s how the cookie crumbles.”

The contradiction stunned me. I was expected to aspire to and work hard for the things that I wanted, but if hard work proved insufficient I was expected to adopt a less palatable resolve. Reach for the sun, I suppose, with the hope that you might just touch a cloud. The result of this week’s American presidential election brought these words back to the forefront of my mind. Hard work and reward. Inadequacy and resolve.

Few of us live in a world where we set the rules. Often we are born into an existence where our lineage, citizenship, appearance, race, ethnicity, physical capability and/or academic prowess pre-determine our worth and opportunity. Silver spoons for the wealthy, vouchers for the poor and hope for the in-betweeners. We are not expected to succeed if we do not show signs of exceptional ability or can’t afford to subsidize our shortcomings, and so we are expected to ‘only aspire’ to a higher standard without any of the extra help. ‘Do the best you can, don’t give up’, when in fact we have already been written off. This made me wonder, did Hillary Clinton enter a race she was never really in to begin with. After all, she is very well educated, seemingly smart and has a resume boasting experience in the political realm- yet she still lost. She spoke against rhetoric that undoubtedly demoralized women; demeaned ethnic minorities; denied rights and freedoms; and depreciated the value of environmental science. Yet she lost. However flawed or less amiable she may be, of the two leading candidates, she still spoke the language of progress. Yet she lost. She worked hard and against the odds became the democratic nominee, yet she lost.

“I first ran for Congress in 1999, and I got beat. I just got whooped. I had been in the state legislature for a long time, I was in the minority party, I wasn’t getting a lot done, and I was away from my family and putting a lot of strain on Michelle. Then for me to run and lose that bad, I was thinking maybe this isn’t what I was cut out to do. I was forty years old, and I’d invested a lot of time and effort into something that didn’t seem to be working. But the thing that got me through that moment, and any other time that I’ve felt stuck, is to remind myself that it’s about the work. Because if you’re worrying about yourself—if you’re thinking: ‘Am I succeeding? Am I in the right position? Am I being appreciated?’ – then you’re going to end up feeling frustrated and stuck. But if you can keep it about the work, you’ll always have a path. There’s always something to be done.” –Barack Obama

It’s hard to believe the world we live in sometimes. The fact that Americans vote, essentially on behalf of the world. A few hours after months of campaigning- and then a single moment when one concedes. And her concession- our new resolve. Four years of governance bought and paid for by a single moment. And maybe the ground won’t start shaking and maybe the sun won’t fall from the sky. Religion will perhaps continue to be for the religious, rebellion for the recalcitrant, and criminality, ostensibly, for the morally malnourished. But that’s really it- maybes and perhaps. The struggle to keep it about the work and less about the individual.

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Above is my old high school prom dress. My mother, being very sentimental, has held on to it all these years and recently dug it up and gave it to me. The night I wore it I wanted to feel beautiful, but I did not want that to be the extent of my significance as a living being. I did not want to be defined by a dress, or a date, or a dance. I just wanted to experience another cliché moment in time that was bought and paid for by a four year sentence in what was termed the pink prison (my old high school’s nickname). I don’t care so much for the dress now. It was not meant to be perfect forever. In fact, it doesn’t even really fit me anymore as evidenced by the positioning of my hands (I was just over a size 2 back then and now I’m a 0). I grew up but it did not grow with me.

I hope this election does not mean the end of growth and progress these next four years for America and her allies. Dresses can quite easily be discarded; human beings, not so much.

 

 

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I wouldn’t be a Gen Y kid if I didn’t make a breakup video!

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Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man

“Don’t be afraid to lose him, because if a man truly loves you, he’s not going anywhere.” – Steve Harvey

These past few months I’ve been writing a lot about heartbreak. You see I got my heart broken by someone I loved deeply and somehow unloving him has been the biggest challenge I’ve faced in my personal life lately. He is the 2nd man I have dated but the 1st I have ever been in love with, so understandably there will be scarring on my heart that will take some time to clear.

I’ve never been the kind of girl that NEEDS to be in a relationship; I don’t feel a sense of emptiness when I’m not dating and there is nothing I despise more than serial dating. Which is coincidentally what he has gone and done. This I have to say is what really broke my heart. Now I get it, men and women are different. Some men heal by moving on to the next one and some women (me included) heal by dealing with the hurt, grieving the loss and making peace with what can be no more. Knowledge of this doesn’t take away the pain any faster, so I did what I thought I would NEVER do- I read “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man”. A relationship book– oh the shame!act like a lady

I found a lot of it more applicable to older women (I’m in my early twenties), who have had children and past marriages, but what I found helpful was how direct Steve Harvey was in explaining the actions of men and the simplicity that is the male mind. The best advice I took however is what I have chosen to quote above. I wouldn’t go as far as to say he didn’t love me, but I understand that my fear of letting him go will hurt ONLY me. Clearly he has moved on, he is with someone he could possibly grow to love much more than what he could me, and rather than be chewed up by my bitterness, I have to accept that this is a choice he has made. That said, I personally cannot serial date in effort to move on because it just isn’t how I’m wired. I believe people who do so end up carrying baggage from one relationship to the next; which I fear is what played a role, however minor, in the demise of ours. Furthermore, I’ve always believed that if I give my heart away too many times, by the time the right one comes along he will only get what’s left of me, not all I would want to give.

I guess what I am trying to say is, tears and a broken heart mean I actually cared, so I refuse to be ashamed of them or try to bandage them up in something new and shallow. However, time will heal these wounds. Until then I get to focus on being the best possible version me that I can be because I know that the right man will be deserving of nothing less.

I can definitely say having read the book that I do feel a stronger sense of acceptance. It’s over. He’s moved on. I’m single.

And you know what, I think this is ok.

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The African Woman in Me

Often as African women, it seems as though the world expects us to make apologies for our dark skin and coarse hair. We’re not modelled to suit the look of what society idolises as the ideal/beautiful woman. In Africa, what is perhaps more saddening, is how the system seems to turn a blind eye to the ill treatment of women; we are often targets of unprovoked degradation and abuse. I read a quote this week that made me so proud to be an African woman and thought it was worth sharing:

“African women in general need to know that it’s OK for them to be the way they are – to see the way they are as a strength, and to be liberated from fear and from silence.” -Wangari Maathai

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My body is not a dumpsite for your ejaculate!

An Indian minister said this week “rape is a social crime; sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s wrong”. This mentality that seems to be especially prominent in the developing world is at the detriment of many women who have been raped and have not or will not see justice done because some law enforcers and authoritative figures, like the minister (above), refuse to see women as human beings; equally deserving of security and justice. But rape is just one issue among many where women have not been able to rely on the promise of justice and security. At what point do we say- enough?

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Kenya: 50 Years on and not a whole lot to be proud of.

“The law helps the vigilant before those who sleep on their rights.”

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As we mark the 50th year of Kenya’s independence, let us take stock of how we celebrated our “supposed” freedom this year. 50 years hence, have we justified our forefathers fight for liberty? Have we made them proud?

With regard to Children
In June it was reported that a teacher in Thika punished a student by making him drink a cocktail of his classmates saliva. Traditionally in Africa, cultural norms have been the underlying reason for the unquestioned respect of adults and authoritative figures alike, but how can we not see this incident as anything but an asinine, abuse of power. Is it not reason enough to revise these norms, which in the case of the above mentioned student, could serve to be detrimental to his health? Is it not contradictory that a learning institution responsible for the nurturing of young minds, is instead breaching the rights of the vulnerable? If this teacher goes unpunished, is it safe to assume that children are totally void of constitutional rights because they must remain obedient?

With regard to Women
On the 26th of June, it was reported that a 16 year-old girl was brutally gang-raped by six men, on her way home from her grandfather’s funeral. Following the attack the men discarded her in a deep pit-latrine which she managed to climb out of and call for help. After reporting the incident to the local authorities and even identifying her attackers, the officers proceeded to arrest the men, who suffered a once-off punishment of manual labour; this involved cutting grass in the police compound after which they were released. As a young woman, I find it incomprehensible that there could be a worse insult than to know an issue as serious as rape could be addressed with such mockery, as to equate the weight of court ordered justice to that of a callous officer/s poor judgement. If we discount the fact that the young lady already had a reason to grieve, and if we ignore the traumatic experience she miraculously survived; can we really pretend not to see the tragic weakness on the part of our legal system where a woman’s worth is ostensibly equal to that of a gardeners basic chores? Months later, justice has not been done but over a million signatures from people all over the world have called for the law to intervene. However, we must ask ourselves, why does it take international media coverage for something to be done about a problem in our backyard? Are we not our sister’s keeper?

With regard to Leadership
On the 6th of September it is alleged that Nairobi Governor, Dr Evans Kidero, slapped Nairobi Women Representative, Rachael Shebesh. Several videos showing the incident regarding this claim appear on YouTube, in which dialogue can be heard in accordance with what Shebesh has stated took place- though the Governor has denied the allegations. Having watched the encounter on YouTube, I do support the claim that Shebesh was assaulted and for whatever reason this event took place, it is my belief that we cannot afford to condone violence in any capacity. When the people who are supposed to represent our views fail to do so adequately, it is questionable whether we can count on them to uphold what we as a nation should be unwilling to compromise. If we do not protect our societal values and ethics, how can we prove their existence? I am not dismissing the fact the Kidero may have been provoked, I simply ask what qualifies as leadership in a country where a government official would respond in such a primitive and unprofessional manner? What is the role of leadership in Kenya if not the example we should live by?

With regard to Security
On the 21st of September, a group of unidentified gunmen attacked Westgate Shopping Mall, killing approximately 72 people and injuring many more. The attack lasted four days and is allegedly the doing of Al Shabaab terrorists, displeased with Kenya’s military presence in Somalia. While the heartbreak and trauma that these terrorists have caused is unspeakable, perhaps what is most disheartening is watching a video of our own police officers looting where civilian blood has been spilled, and bodies lay sprawled out on the ground. As they looked and witnessed the loss of life, what possessed them to think it was okay to pick and chose their moments of heroism, disassociating themselves from their vows to protect and serve, ignoring the temptations of greed and undue advantage? If the ones we trust to protect us only do so when they think they are being watched, can we trust them to come to our aid in a time of helplessness? Can we preach security when we have reason to doubt our own?

With regard to the Election
Perhaps the most important of reflections must be that of our presidential election which took place in March. This year the international community, as well as Kenya, waited with bated breath for the results of the presidential election. The constant reminders of the devastating 2007 post election violence promoted a welcomed effort at tolerance among neighbors and members of different ethnic groups. Now, months after the nation has chosen a head of state, the imminent ICC trial is looming over our heads, stalking our movements, crippling our ability to address the growing challenges we face in this country. The law stipulates that one is innocent until proven guilty and given the importance of the law, allow me to quote a well known officer of the court. Nelson Mandela stated the following at the Rivonia Trial: “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” I have introduced this quote in order to pose a question. Is not the foundation of a great leader the selflessness in which he acts? While I respect the choice that Kenyans made in electing our current leaders, I cannot help but wonder whether true admiration would come from one who waits to clear his name before throwing his hat in the ring; knowing full well the plausible implications that one’s absence could have on their beloved country if said person is found guilty of a crime?

Kenya, 50 years later we have a lot to atone for. What is written above has not begun to touch on the vast amount of problems that currently plague us. I have not addressed the torturous scenes of mob justice that make it okay for a desperate pick-pocket to be beaten mercilessly without the luxury of legal representation in a fair trial. I have failed to detail the greed that has potential to rob the people of Turkana of an opportunity to benefit from the newly discovered oil, in what has been a region previously and unfairly ignored. Where does one search for the reasoning behind the stealing of babies for sale on the black market, or the armed robbery of hard working citizens on unsafe, unreliable forms of transportation? How do we begin to outline the blatant disregard for the law that leads to fatal accidents and a growing culture of bribery?

My point is, Kenya is broken. We seem to have lost our sense of humanity. We seem to be oblivious to the need for accountability. Have we become so complacent or so desperate to fit into this corrupt system, that to a foreigner, we might appear mere savages masked as men? If you disagree with what I have said, I respect that it is your prerogative to do so. But this Kenya is not one I am interested in inheriting and it is one, which as it stands, I am embarrassed to call home. I refuse to find comfortability in its brokeness, and if destiny has it that our sole claim to fame be our great runners, then I should only wish my Nike’s could carry me far enough to a time in the future when Kenya is as it should be. I don’t believe the reality we are living is the dream our heroes died to fulfill. Our Kenya is our responsibility and if we do not progress the work that was done 50 years ago to set us free, we will regress into something regrettable.
We will become the monster we saw in the colonialist.

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