Seeking Home in The Age of The ‘Rona

It’s been 2 days since I officially became a college graduate. It will be another month until I can finally make the 26-hour travel back home.

Home has been a place I have been grateful to have but also the place I have been privileged to leave. From as early as 17, I have had numerous opportunities to travel outside of my Nairobi hometown to take advantage of the opportunities gifted to me both within the African continent and abroad. This mobility has become a central part of who I am, and yet, now at this crucial point where mobility seems frivolous and the world ever-so precarious,  I long for movement back home in order to be still.

On March 11, 2020, my school, Pomona College, like many other campuses across the United States decided to move classes online. In a matter of days, I witnessed my friends across the world take flight back home but decided to stay put doubting my ability to pack up close to 4 years of community and manage distance learning with a quickly approaching thesis deadline. To say that the next 2 months were challenging is an understatement but nevertheless I am grateful for health, food and housing at a time when such basic necessities are scarce for so many people in underserved communities. Through the deteriorating mental health, absurd final assignments and a never-ending tussle with my fellow organizers to support students, I persisted hoping that somehow things would begin to make sense— life could get back to normalcy and if not, I could at least participate in this new normal from the safety of home.

However, things are not changing. Here I am, it is the 20th of May and home seems fleeting. The Kenyan government, responsibly so, extended its international travel ban for 30 days on May 11th, halting my plans to travel after graduation. Given this policy, an optimistic estimate is that I could depart after June 10th, be under quarantine for another 14 days upon arrival before finally being reunited with loved ones. Looking at the rising cases, 1029 as of now, I am probably stuck in this liminal state for much longer. And while it sucks, I remain grateful for the idea of home,and that there will always be one even after all these is over.

Looking to the future, I don’t think that my days of global mobility are over. I know that the world has numerous lessons to teach me in numerous places across the world. I will however tread (fly) more cautiously  as it is predicted that pandemics are about to be a recurring feature of life in the age of climate change.This Covid-19 pandemic is a portal to many different social, political and economic alternatives. Awaiting a reopening of borders at my friend’s place with the past 4 years packed into 4 still-overweight-suitcases, I do see it also as a portal inward to appreciating the idea of home as people and not necessary a place. Amidst the uncertainty of borders, I have come to rely on the certainty of community. Here, with no way to get to the place I call home, I’m leaning on blood and chosen family and for this I am forever grateful.

The African Giant: From Burna Boy to The World

If Beyoncé wrote a love letter to Africa through “The Lion King: The Gift”, then Burna Boy just penned down the marriage vows with his recently released album, The African Giant.

Infused with African culture, Nigerian history and musical melodies, this 19 track album awakens in each of us a renewed feeling of Afro-optimism in ways you couldn’t imagine were possible before. It took me a while to jump into the Burna Boy boat but listening to his album (which I have been playing on repeat all day) I dare question, is this the new Fela? Situating his music along a lineage of African greats, his Afro-fusion sound is Sankofa in practice. Not only does he create a new sound that the world is eating up in chunks, his melodies stand on the shoulders of those who came before him and introduced Nigerian or I dare say, African music, to the world. Continue reading The African Giant: From Burna Boy to The World

Making The Glocal Localized

There is something beautiful happening in terms of the African renaissance globally.

Amongst many other reasons, the growing population of African diaspora is enabling Africa’s music, art and culture to be amplified in ways unimaginable to our parents and grandparents even merely 20 years ago. One doesn’t have to look to far with Hollywood films such as Black Panther and Beyoncé’s recently released album “The Lion King: The Gift” to show the contribution Africa is making in shaping global culture.

But what happens to a continent when we wash away its trauma to focus merely on what it can do for others rather than what has been done to it? How do we embrace the peaks we are now reaching if we cannot discuss and heal from the traumas of our past? Continue reading Making The Glocal Localized

In Search of Our Mothers Gardens: Womanist Prose by Alice Walker

I don’t know if I was looking for something in particular when I began reading this book of essays. I had previously been introduced to the creative work of Alice Walker through her book, The Color Purple but landed upon this text when attempting to curate an African feminist syllabus. Little did I know then that as the title of the book suggests, I too would find my literary mother’s garden in the intellectual work of Alice Walker. Going through each essay, I felt like I was communing with my mother,not as a girl or daughter though those two remain to be true but more so as one woman to another about what it means to live a conscientious life in 2019. Tayari Jones in the book An American Marriage perhaps best describes what happened between Zora and me, “Something shadowy and female happened between them, as mysterious and primal as witches brew.” Continue reading In Search of Our Mothers Gardens: Womanist Prose by Alice Walker

An American Marriage: A Love Letter to the Black Community

“Georgia, this is a love letter. Everything I do is a love letter addressed to you.”

There are a few books that can be best described as books you cannot put down once you start reading. Sure enough, An American Marriage fits the description. Similarly, every now and then, a book comes along that adds to the richness of the black literary canon. Tayari Jones gifts us with one of them enclosed within 300 pages of storytelling. Continue reading An American Marriage: A Love Letter to the Black Community