On the night of August 11th, the silence of the Kenyan night was pierced.
In some hoods, the screams were of joy.
In some hoods, the screams were of anguish.
In some hoods the ratatat was from gunfire.
In some hoods, the ratatat was from fireworks.
Less than a week later, all through the day and the night, the silence is now pierced once more by calls to Move On. Except this time we aren’t even being asked to Accept. Just to Move On. It no longer matters whether we accept it or not, the wails of loved ones who were killed, must be smothered by the ka-ching ching of coins pouring into this Kenya rising of ours.
But to expect the nation to just Move On, is like chopping off an athlete’s knees and expecting them to get back into the race. Make no mistake. Whether you acknowledge it or not, we are broken. And if you only notice it every 5 years when Kenya holds its breath, you may well be cushioned by a bubble of privilege. But the fact that we are so terrified of each other speaks volumes. And no matter how much paint we slather over the cracks in our nation, aesthetics alone will not fix it.
Yet, we also can’t exist in a state of paralysis. We must exhale, pick ourselves up and figure out what next. What does Moving On look like if we were to refuse for it to be a return to the status quo and business as usual?
Of one thing I am certain.
It has to begin with caring.
It must start with giving a shit.
If you don’t care about the fact that we are broken, this is not the post for you. And if in order to care, you need a list of all the ways in which we are broken, and how this affects your daily life, this is also not that post. And if you don’t care because the people that were killed do not look like people you call your own, this is most certainly, definitely, definitively not the post for you.
BUT if like me, you are trying to figure out what you can do, at this time, when we are reeling as a nation, when it is easy to feel helpless and paralysed, I present to you, 1O ways to care better, or at least a few things that I think you can do. And #5 will really blow your mind.
1.) Feel all the things you need to feel
Outrage. Grief. Anxiety. Fear. Anger. Love. Hope. All of them. If you aren’t ‘springing’ out of this in the way others around you are, that’s not abnormal. We have experienced deep trauma. And truthfully sometimes we are a people that are impatient with and intolerant of emotions that make others uncomfortable. But remember your feelings are valid.
2.) Bear witness
Our history makes us and we make our history. It is important to call it by its name and acknowledge what happened. It will be the only springboard from which we can truly be able to move on. Record, document and amplify the voices of those who are doing this work. Do this with honesty and integrity. Refuse to allow this part of our story to be erased or smudged out by a single narrative, like so much of what has happened before.
3.) Help in the ways you can
You know that elections stockpile you have sitting at home? Now is the time to use it. The wonderful people at www.rescuebnb.com are collecting contributions of all sorts to help the families whose lives have been affected and torn apart these last several days. You can support with money, in kind, your time, your skills. Get in touch with them and ask how.
4.) Practice care
Especially with your words, and I don’t mean be careful. I mean practice the act of care. Ask yourself what does that look like for you? It begins with not denying the lived experiences of others. Just because it isn’t your reality doesn’t mean that it isn’t someone else’s reality. Think about what you can do, every day, in your own life, that makes caring a doing word, something that is grounded in action.
5.) Blow your mind
The action of blowing evokes a sense of movement, of expansion, of effort expended to change the nature of something. In the same way, it is important to educate yourself about the historical context of what has led us to this point. It is essential to understand the nuances and read different perspectives. None of this will have been taught to you at school, so you must go and find this information. Google is your friend. I have been exploring the www.theelephant.info and finding it very useful. Books are also invaluable. Feel free to drop links that are useful in the comments section below.
6.) Stand in the gap
The best example of this I can find is what Juliani was doing online those nights when people, terrified of the gunshots around them, didn’t know where to turn. He heard their calls and connected them to assistance. Or ResqueBnB who are working tirelessly to support the communities affected. You can connect people with organizations that need their skills. You can connect people that need help with places they can find it. You can be a bridge, connecting the dots to show people different perspectives and ways of thinking. You can prevent things from falling into the deep dark crevice, by simply standing with your arms outstretched and your feet rooted in your truth.
7.) Share beauty
This, my friends is my tool for survival. When the world feels ugly, sharing beauty becomes an act of revolt. It may feel indulgent or frivolous, but especially at a time like now, it is essential to shine light when the darkness threatens to overwhelm. So share the things that may lift the spirits and stir the souls of the ones who may need it, even if it is just for one moment in their day. My little piece of beauty that I share with you today is this, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQuWH0xbypo
Prompted by Keguro Macharia, I discovered how powerful it is to imagine. To do the work of imagination. And it is work. Keguro offered me a new framework to think about this. So ask yourself what does the Kenya you wish to live in look like? Now go one step further. Paint a picture of it. Try and articulate the very specific and practical things that make up this Kenya. Get clarity around what this Kenya looks like, how it behaves, what it feels like to live there. Now, you have something to work towards, as opposed to running away from what you don’t want. Isn’t that so much more inspiring?
9.) Tie your lesso
We have a lot of work to do. Now is not the time for apathy or complacency. Ask yourself, what are the specific things that you can do help move towards this Kenya of your imagining. For the politics to change, we cannot afford to be divorced from it. From the county level spiralling outwards, get involved. Participate. Engage with those whose vision and values you believe in. Hold those elected into office accountable. From now. Don’t wait for another 5 years.
10.) Don’t let go of hope
Never forget that what you do makes a difference. Even what you don’t do makes a difference. We are all, every single one of us, interconnected and intertwined. It may not feel like it at times, but the actions you take have an impact, sometimes in immeasurable ways. So my friends, do not go gentle into that good night. And do not lose hope, for it is the only shard of light that can help guide us out of the darkness.
If you have any other ideas of what we can do, now, at this point in time, in the Kenya we are in, please do drop them in the comments below. Any comments that go against the spirit of this post will be deleted. Chanyado is not a democracy.
Thank you to all the wonderful people on twitter, who are too many to list, but through sharing their thinking online, have helped me think through this.
photo credit: BONA LUMO <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/143828298@N08/36578576486″>There is Always Light</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>