Michael

Extraodinaire Extraodinaire

1000 and counting…

To be African is to be ‘illegal’. Even in Africa.

-          MsNyambura

What happens when we make people illegal? What is it to determine a certain space of humanity exists outside the law and, thus, must be dealt with outside the law? I keep thinking about the term “illegal immmigrants” and the dehumanization that it brings about. As if somehow there is a space where we can move people and do to them as we will.

We.

There’s another word that does a lot of damage.  Another word that takes, creates, segregates and decides who is human and who isn’t. I’ve written about this before. In thought begets thought, I wrote:

Forget the fact that most of the Kenyan born Somalis, Indians etc have been here for generations. Forget the fact that most other tribes didn’t even originate here. Forget the fact that, if you go for back, we all moved into this land at some point. We assume that, in according other communities the right to exist we are doing them a favour. We aren’t. We’re being human.

The words “Muslim” and “terrorist” are not synonyms.

Still, the police invade Eastleigh and drag off a thousand people.

I tried counting to a thousand when I was in primary school. I could never get past 120. There was always something more pressing to do.

One… two… three… four… soccer ball

One… two… three… four… story book.

A thousand was the unreachable number, it was unimaginable in its magnitude.

One thousand people were arrested and thrown into a cage.

In ‘Something Else, Not Violence’ Keguro Macharia writes :

“…because I come to Eastleigh—and Somalis via Eastleigh—through the culture-bridging practices demonstrated by my father’s practice, practices that made palpable the ethics of care, emphasizing collectivity-making as a desire for others to thrive, I am struggling to understand how Eastleigh—and Somalis via Eastleigh—has become available for genocidal imaginations.”

I’m worried about how the words ‘terrorist,’ ‘immigrant,’ ‘Somali’ ‘security’ and ‘peace’ open up the imaginations of many to death. Words continue to grow and attach meaning too themselves. Words continue to move, breath and stick in places where they do not need to be stuck.

I remain with three words “one thousand people.”

I begin to count.

Five Kenyans Walk Into a Bar

i

“Men will be free to marry as many women as they please.”

-          Daily Nation

Men, married, will now be free to collect more wives.

Or, like clothes, men can keep collecting as they please.

Maybe, being pleased, a man can marry as many wives as he chooses.

Choice, being only available to some areas in society, allows for others to be denied their agency.

The room swallows me whole.

ii

“ every little, two-bit Somali has a big dream – to blow us up, knock down our buildings and slaughter our children.”

-          Daily Nation

The human being is composed of tiny particles, known as bits. The real measure of how human one can, or cannot be is on the bit-scale.

A two bit human being cannot exist.

A two bit Somali is worse.

Or perhaps, when identity becomes an insult.

Woman.

Somali

Gay

Feminist

Black

(why do we have to be proud to be?)

Get them out of here.

iii

All we are trying to do is find a way to navigate

but the compass needle

can’t see the difference

between them

and us.

iv

“A Ugandan man was burnt alive by an angry mob for allegedly being gay.”

-          IB Times

We have chosen to survive

(or, when existence becomes a radical political act)

V

Still looking for ways to speak.

#FindMeALanguage

When We Fail

“Are you gay?”

The question is spat out with a venom that I can’t dare imagine. The “no” finds its way out of my mouth way too quickly. My mind has accounted for the dynamic of this fully male testosterone filled environment faster than my leftist self could stage defiance. Even my net clause “and even if I was all of you buggers are too ugly,” seems weak. Like a trying of sorts, like a cry for exclusion within my inclusion.

 I am seeing the world again.

I am seeing my straight male-ness allow me to navigate through worlds with a certain confidence. I’m seeing the person who has to answer yes. I’m holding places, and thoughts, in one light.  And it isn’t looking pretty.

I rank sentences. One of the most beautiful sentences I heard last year was a friend describing her relationship with her grandmother. She said “we lack the tools to navigate each other’s’ worlds.” I think about this situation, I find myself without the tools to navigate this situation. Life has moved on. The new guys are being asked to introduce themselves. Part of the introduction must include whether or not they have sisters. One guy has three sisters. The crowd goes wild.

I lack the tools to navigate this situation.

Eventually I begin to feel smaller, hypocritical, dumber. I begin to hate myself for my fear. I begin to wish that I had said something.

Silence is wrong. I have said this before.

But what happens when you don’t have the strength. Another friend reminds me that we must pick our battles. She says “Otherwise, we burn out, lead joyless lives, die young.” She said this about something else. I try to apply it to my situation.

I fail.

I promise myself that next time I will speak. It is a feeble promise, one said with the knowledge it will be broken. It becomes easier to put my politics aside in some situations. It becomes harder to live with myself. It becomes impossible to live with others. One thing rings true – it hurts.

later that night

i held an atlas in my lap

ran my fingers across the whole world

and whispered

where does it hurt?

it answered

everywhere

everywhere

everywhere.

-          Warsan Shire

Finding Meaning

 …to be disposable means we can never be casual about our ongoing vulnerability

-          Keguro Macharia

This word disposable has refused to leave me. In a washroom at a mall a man blows his nose with a paper towel and throws it in the bin. My mind tells me that disposability is exactly like that. Bodies that can be used for whatever purpose and then tossed without any further thought.

5 suspected gangsters were shot dead.

Law Calvin and HobbesTo be suspected of a crime is worse than to actually commit the crime. To be suspected of a petty crime condemns one to death. It is your duty, as a citizen, not to act in a matter that is suspect. I begin to think about what the penal code that is actually followed looks like:

(Sec 16) Theft – the taking, without consent, goods or monies from an individual of up to 100 million shillings.

(Sec 76) Impunity – wrong. Punishable by death, or jail for life. Everybody in government has impunity*

*exceptions will be made for everybody in government

(Sec 53) Rape – wrong. Punishable by death an afternoon spent cutting grass. The evidence necessary in such cases will not fall short of a million signatures globally.*

*even that is subject to scrutiny by the courts.

(Sec 39) Extra Judicial Killings – (repealed by CS Ole Lenku Sept 14 2013 )

Pop  quiz:

When your struggle against oppression is oppressive what do you do?

Even when people are fighting against the government I have problems agreeing with them. I think of the cleaners who have to clean the streets after some of the public protests. The cleaners who, very much, are the people who protest claim to speak for. I wonder who they prefer. The politician, who gives them handouts, or the protestor who wastes valuable resources (e.g tissue paper).

What are we doing?

I’m still looking at the paper towel in the bin. I want to ask it what it feels like to be disposable. I want to ask it how one goes on after being discarded. I want to know how it sits through the hours of waiting in the dispenser. I will it to answer my questions. As if, somewhere in that overfilled dustbin lies the meaning of life. Is it living, or waiting to die?

We Need to Talk

 And those who do not know their history, are bound to repeat it.

-          Saul Williams, ,said the shotgun to the head.

In order to move forward, I decide to go back. I bury myself in archives of blogs, reading posts from months ago. Reading posts from years ago. The present always seems urgent.

(a wild Berlant appears,

Berlant: where does the present begin?

Me: Now, now, now, now, now, now, now).

Everything has been urgent. Now, is always moving, always changing.

I find a letter written in 2011 by Kenyan writers against the invasion of Somalia. A part of it reads:

All of us are paying already for this bout of blood-thirst. We will go on paying, for many years to come. We will pay with our taxes, our un-built schools and hospitals, our unpaid teachers, our still-jobless youth, our rapidly deteriorating security situation, our shattered relationship with our neighbours.

The now, from 2011, ties in with the now from last year. How far back does history go?fiction history

Talking is an act. This is one of the things that I refuse to be moved on. Speaking out against something is an act. I’m tired of being asked when I will stop writing and start acting. I wonder why I must stop one to do the other. I wonder why one is considered as not being part of the other. I’m tired of the differentiation between “real” and “false” activism.

Talking is an act. The comments section of any mainstream media paper will prove me right. The number of comments there that do work of silencing, reaching and ostracizing. If talking is such a useless thing, I wonder, then why does everyone want me to stop doing it?

action savage chickens“Talking is, perhaps, one of the most profound acts possible,” I tweet. Stories create and change the world. Countries, nationalities and borders are all fictions. Abstract stories that have changed how we view one another, started wars, killed women, children and men, redistributed wealth, ostracized families and deconstructed our identity. The stories we tell. The stories we not tell. These stories are power.

There are no black women in my history books. And, if you go back far enough, the black men disappear as well.  I’m reminded that the mythical time when Europe was all white is just that, a myth.  The idea that bodies can, and will, be erased bothers me. I leaf through invisible, a collection of stories from queer Kenyans. There are no queer Kenyans in my history books.

A friend receives threats because he talks about being gay. “We don’t care that you’re gay, just shut up about it.”

Talking is, and always will be, an act.

There will be black women in the books they write about my present. There will be queer people in the books they write about my present. There will be trans* people in the books they write about my present. There will be brown people in the books they write about my present. These people will exist because we talk. These people will exist because we won’t stop talking.