Julie Wangombe, 23 years old Nairobian and a student at Duke University, first discovered spoken word poetry at Slam Africa events. Today she performs for audiences globally. She is also Kenya’s President-elect, Uhuru Kenyatta’s speechwriter. She wrote his acceptance speech that he delivered on 09 March 2013, soon after being declared the winner of the presidential election. The speech has received praise from many Kenyans, who have described it as inspiring and unifying. You can read the speech here.
I saw this on The Reunion of Black Family World Wide facebook page. It is so empowering and inspiring I had to share:
Mwalimu Baruti: Gounding With My Daughters
Our story is a phenomenal record of Afrikan women. No other women have been so loved, coveted and envied for their strength and elegance.
Their lineage determined whether a man could be pharaoh. The world’s first divinities were female. The world’s first female doctor, Preshet, who was a “chief” physician, was a Kemetic woman. The world’s first ruler of an empire, Hatshepsut, was a Kemetic woman. The warrior who, even after Europeans tried to break her spirit by kidnapping, torturing and beheading her sister, relentlessly led the Angolan armies in a fight against the enslavement of Afrikans and the Portuguese onslaught for four decades, a woman so feared by her white enemies that she was called “The Black Terror, “was a queen named Nzingha. The warrior queen named Sarraounia militarily defended her people against Islamic invasion at a time when states all around her were submitting to this forced conversion and relinquishing their Afrikan spiritual traditions. Queen Candace led her troops in battle against the invading forces of Augustus Caesar. The remains of the world’s oldest human belonged to an Afrikan woman named Amargi (misnamed “Lucy”).
The list of your accomplishments on the Continent alone is endless. Many are the names and deeds we will never know but can surmise because we know Afrikan women. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that our ancestral mothers’ social position as equals with our ancestral fathers led other people’s men, afraid to lose their patriarchal privilege, to suppress and brutalize their women to keep them from aspiring to what Afrikan men accepted as normal for Afrikan women.
In being themselves, ancestral Afrikan women had no difficulty taking up arms with their men against invaders. On the Continent, they commanded armies, served as guards, spies, guerrillas, foot soldiers, archers. They became responsible for keeping the oral ourstorical record when the men were carted off to slave on plantations and mines. On the Kemetic Ocean, during the Middle Passage, they did no less. They were the eyes and ears of our revolts. They dealt with our enemy as their men did.
Enslaved or quasi-free in the western hemisphere and elsewhere, they did no less. Time and time again, they conducted enslaved Afrikans out of physical bondage. Harriet Tubman, in looking back over her life and thinking about the hundreds of Afrikans she had freed from the physical bonds of our enslavement, reflected on how she “could have freed thousands more if they only knew they were slaves.” Sojourner Truth, making the point that Afrikan women did the work that supposedly only men were capable of, refused to accept being defined down to the level of european females. Her cogent question of “Ain’t I a Woman?” still rings as a wake up call in our ears.
Standing tall alongside the likes of Ida B. Wells, Mary McLeod Bethune and Fannie Lou Hamer, they withstood insults, taunts, water hoses, dogs and bullets. They spoke truth, regardless of consequences. They more than earned the honor of being named “first teacher” and nurturer.” These various acts made them neither less than nor more like men. None of these responsibilities negated or confused their womanhood. They defined it.
You are the daughters of these incredible mothers who gave birth to humanity, to cultivation, to civilization. You are the inheritors of a legacy beyond the imagination of most. So, young sisters, you must recognize who you are in order to see and begin to fulfill your responsibility as a woman of Afrika. Only a clear understanding of ourstory, through our people’s eyes, permits this. Any other interpretation, anything less, fosters confusion.
Simply because you are being exposed to ourstory you are very privileged. And privilege carries responsibility. With it, you accept the difficult and humbling task of learning and teaching others so that your generation’s liberating mission can be fulfilled and correctly passed on to future generations. It is because of your privilege that you have an undeniable responsibility to your ancestors, those around you, and those yet to come.
There is nothing so powerful as a young sister who knows who she is, who stands proudly on the shoulders of her ancestors because she knows she is the culmination of their wisdom and spirit. Nothing is more beautiful than a woman warrior in training who has studied her own before and above all others, and interprets reality and society out of that truth first.
Happy Birthday Angela Davis!
Very interesting post and conversation. I encourage any comments to be made at original post (here).
As my feminist consciousness has developed the more I’ve become aware, both explicitly and implicitly, that there is a popular notion that feminism is un-African. Every time I write a post about feminism in an African context, I get at least one response about how feminism is this flawed, white supremacist ideology. The internet is rife with articles about this so I’m not going to pull up too many examples. Most argue along the lines that feminism is “diabolically anti-African anti-human neologism emerging out of the Eurocentric reactionary women’s movement in the 50’s”
What’s problematic about these arguments is not that people have a different opinion, as is their right, but that these critics don’t even bother to understand what African feminism is about before attacking it. Yes, there is global feminist consensus, but it is also important for African feminists to shape our own ideological home for African feminism through which we can view African women’s issues. In fact, this is very much an ongoing process and like all political work, it is nuanced. To very briefly summarize, some African feminists thinkers and activists are liberal, post-modern, eco, socialist feminists etc and some adopt a more radical approach to challenge the legitimacy of patriarchy. African feminists are concerned with the domestic imbalance and gender roles, but also about so called ‘bread and butter’ issues like poverty reduction, violence prevention and health and reproductive rights which affets African women worse than men. African feminism is just as much about the inter-connectedness of slavery, colonialism, racism and so on and how these historic realities have caused women’s oppression.
Yes, the term ‘feminism’ does not have African roots, rather, it came to the continent largely due to the African-American feminist movement. However, the concept itself is not one that western feminists exported to African women. Africa has some of the oldest civilizations and so it also has some of the oldest patriarchies. And African women have always found ways of resisting patriarchy through manipulating popular ideas of motherhood, or religion, or labour. The argument that feminism is un-African is also flawed in its romantic view of pre-colonial Africa. Even if African societies were egalitarian, which wasn’t always the case at all, most African societies, have now imported a largely western gender order, one that is patriarchal.
I find it sad that an African woman can debate Greek democracy in Accra or Freudian psychoanalysis in Harare or US capitalism in Lagos and be qualified as political, not western. But let us even mention women’s issues and someone will be quick to accuse you of neglecting our African past and being brainwashed by western values. The reality is African politics is not gender neutral and pretending that it is despite all the suffering that gender inequality causes is much more ‘un-African’ than what any one person chooses to affiliate with.
One of the most arduous struggle one can go through, is the struggle to safeguard one’s human dignity, as well as the right to safeguard the integrity of one’s own body. These go hand in hand. This struggle is more intense than the struggle for food, shelter, clothing, political rights, religious rights, civil rights, gay rights, women’s rights, etc.
This is not a matter of comparing or ranking the various struggles people are engaged in. In many cases they may intertwine. However, regardless of one’s gender, colour, ethnicity, religious or political affiliations, social status, sexual orientation, etc., when one has to engage in a war for their personal dignity and bodily integrity, you are not just battling against flesh and blood, “but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places”.
No clearer is this seen than the treatment of African women and girls… by standards set for the benefit African men! Not all African women, girls and by all African men, but specifically in the exploitation of forced marriages, the denial of education, the brutal use of rape as a weapon of war and the barbarity of female genital mutilation. I saw this documentary on Al Jazeera, “Abandon the Knife” on female circumcision in a rural communitiy of Kenya. My emotions went from astonishment, anger, sadness and empathy and others I can’t define. I commend the young women on their courageous stand to fight for their dignity, to protect their integrity, to take control of their future and to dream the impossible dream.
“Human dignity is more precious than prestige”.
Claude McKay, 1889-1948
I read a lot of commentators and there are currently 3 people I would love to meet. These are people I respect for their opinions, not that I agree with all that they believe, but I applaud them for not being slaves to the groupthink of their respective communities. I would considerate it a privilege to be able to sit with them and exchange ideas about a variety of topics. These 3 are David Brooks, a columnist with the New York Times (the most pragmatic person I regard), Professor Cornel West (the most truthful person I respect), and my current favorite, Womanist writer and poet Kola Boof (the most real writer I admire).
I love me some Kola Boof. I ordered her autobiography ”Diary of a Lost Girl” and am anticipating getting right into it. I have been reading a number of her essays at Womanist Musings and I want to share a few I found tantalizing:
The recent ban on bras and beard shaving in Somalia by Somali terrorist groups cannot go unquestioned. The reports that we have is that the warring Islamic gang of Hezb-ul Islam banned women from wearing bras. So too, men are not allowed to shave their beards except trimming their mustaches. Likewise, schools were banned from using bells. Instead, they are to clap hands to gather and alert students! What a backward move to this failed state? Why the ban? Using the said things is un-Islamic as per these terrorist groups.
With shock and dismay, I read news that men in Somali capital were given 30 days to mandatory grow beards and trim their mustaches. So too, I was shocked to learn that the same terrorist group Hezb-ul Islam ordered women not to wear bras. More so, these morose terrorists banned people from watching the just ended world cup matches in South Africa! The act they termed as madness! Whimsically, this current razzmatazz sort of fundamentalism puts Islam up a gum tree. The edict to this effect read as: “Men are ordered to grow their beards and trim their mustaches and anyone found violating this law will face consequence.”
Interestingly though, many people are querying, what’s the hidden agenda behind all this in the name of Islam that we have known for many centuries? Are those behind this brand truly educated in Islamic matters or they are just quacks seeking bread under the cover of Islam? And why other so-called Muslim nations have kept mum, while the gavel of the mad is descending down to their religion? We wonder, because for long we came to know the so-called Muslim countries for their noises whenever Islam is touched especially by the West. Are they silent simply because this time around who wrongly touched Islam is their colleague? Other hypocrisy and it‘s contrary to Islam tenets.
“There shall be no compulsion in religion: the right way is now distinct from the wrong way. Anyone who denounces the devil and believes in GOD has grasped the strongest bond; one that never breaks. GOD is Hearer, Omniscient.” (Quran, 2:256) .
Strictly speaking, religion must comply with time and be always up to date. Consenting to backward-looking type of Islam is not doing Islam good. Doing this, apart from making Islamic draconic, it makes it archaic and barbaric. It hugely undermines Islam and all those that are being this megalomania should know that in the first place.
Many still wonder, what is the logic of all this violation of human rights? What rises eyebrows is the fact that the same so-called ‘Islamic guardians’ are turning a blind eye to piracy that is becoming an anathema in the region. Who knows? Like the Taliban and Al-Qaeda that have always survived thanks to dealing in drugs, maybe even the same benefits from piracy. That’s why it has comfortably coexisted with piracy. This if anything, is but hypocrisy and cowardice. Why use religion for political gains in lieu of standing on political rostra with a solid political agenda?
Many mad so-called Islamists are making much noises that some countries must be ruled by Islamic law. But they fall short of any precedent to this effect. How many countries did prophet Mohammad leave behind that were ruled by the Quran as they want to rule us now? The answer is convincingly simple and clear. None!
We have heard a lot of noises of people condemning some European countries for banning the burka. But we have nary heard any condemning this neo-nihilism hidden behind Islam. Many so-called Muslim countries are not happy with the move to ban burka. But the same are comfortable with their resistance for churches to be built in their countries! If they can force western women to wear veils when they visit their countries simply because their culture wants that, what is wrong for the West to force them to wear as per western culture when they visit, or live in western countries?
Somali terrorists are lucky. Thanks to being wanted, they don’t travel abroad. Had they, it’d make more sense for one to order them to shave their beards and see how it feels to be forced to do something you don’t like.
The other day I heard somebody saying that the cross is the symbol of curse. Therefore whatever resembles it is un-Islamic. But when I told him to urge his Islamic academicans to burn the use of aeroplanes, he saw how stupid his contention was and thus retracted. It time to engage all those that think they can bring a new brand of Islam today. Western countries should treat the same whoever treats them with contempt.
Hither comes the leeway of negotiating human rights with all so-called Muslim countries that are abusing them. No culture is better than another save in the eyes of the beholders. Arabic culture is good for Arabs and the likes just like the western one is to the westerners and the likes. Human rights are as paramount equal like a human himself. No human is better than another. We all are equal before God and law. Quran says: “O mankind! We created you from a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know and honor each other (not that you should despise one another). Indeed the most honorable of you in the sight of God is the most righteous.” (Quran, 49:13)
Today Arab countries, which in essence call themselves Islamic countries, wonder how western countries can allow prostitution, the same way western country view polygamy that’s legal in Islam.
Going back to the ban in Somalia, is this brand of nugatory-Islam, Islamic or barbaric and type of sheer maniac? Isn’t it a cult? Is this Islam or barbarism?