September 1st 2017, sometime after 11am.
The world spins around me ever so slightly. I seem to have hiccupped out of sync with the rotation of the earth. Beside me are a bottle of cold water and a cup of hot coffee. I attempt to pour balance back into my body. My mother turned 60 the day before. We sang old 70’s songs, danced till our limbs ached, laughed till our cheeks ached, loved till our hearts ached. For a few hours we escaped into a simple joy. But I pay the price for it now as I gingerly try to navigate out of the grogginess that coats my brain.
I sit in front of the TV watching red robed bodies preparing to speak. Cupping my heart tenderly, I whisper to it in hushed tones, run my fingers over old cracks and remind it that it can heal from this too. This, being the anticipated disappointment from our Supreme Court echoing foreign sentiments that the flawed elections were good enough for us Africans. I steel myself to cushion hope’s fall.
Then it happens. Not all at once. It is gradual. Words. More words. Solemn statements
“The greatness of any nation lies in its fidelity to the constitution, adherence to the rule of law and above all respect to God.”
And even as we wait for the ‘but’, a ripple begins undulating over the skin of the country. Murmurs of astonishment. My brain tries to inform me we are watching history being made, but my mind asks, what is happening? Is it happening? Could it really be happening?
Then it happens.
‘Invalid. Null. Void.’
Three guilty words that flip a switch in Kenya’s consciousness.
I think about how far we have come.
And in that moment, I can’t breathe. I walk around and around the table. Around and around the table. My brain struggles to catch up with my heart. I don’t know what to do with this feeling. This unapologetic euphoria. This possibility. This……eventually I collapse on the floor in a weeping heap. It feels like an appropriate reaction for a watershed moment, to shed water, like the bursting of a dam when enough pressure is applied by enough people who refuse to tire of trying.
I remember seeing this feeling once in my friend’s eyes. Watching him recall when hope was birthed into his being. The year was 2002. Uhuru Park. The dismissal of a dictator. The thing that for many decades didn’t feel possible, became possible. One million people physically connected by a shared feeling of possibility. Not a single pocket was picked. He chuckled when he told me this. It was a different Kenya. Of course, we all know how that went, but I think about how important moments like this are, when we discover what is possible for us.
The ruling showed us that it is possible for systems to work the way they are supposed to. It is possible to demand it and to expect it. It is possible for us to refuse to accept that we deserve any less. This, the extra-ordinary, can one day become the ordinary. I get intoxicated about the possibility of all our systems working. Not so that we can show the world or set an example for Africa, but for us, everyday, here. To make Kenya more livable in every way for each and every one of us.
September 11th 2017 sometime after 11am.
A yellow plumed bird taps away at the window. She is insistent as if trying to send a morse code message. She twists her body into different positions, angling her beak this way and that way to transmit different sounds through the window. I watch her and wonder what she is trying to tell me.
I think about September 1st. I remember the urgency I felt then of trying to capture that feeling of possibility, knowing that if I didn’t give it shape then, it may dissolve when despair returned. I was right. It has already begun to fade. So I look back at what I wrote on Facebook in that moment to remind myself.
“Artists….you are needed now. Capture this. Show what it means to the people of a nation. Record it. Document it. Archive it.
Because they may try to take it away from us, change the narrative, smudge away its significance, make us feel like it isn’t important so that we forget that it is possible for us to demand and expect better.
But we need to remember what possible feels like.
So writers, write…write this feeling down for when we get tired and need to remember what hope tastes like…write this into the tapestry of our history. That we were this too.
Musicians sing it…sing this feeling for us. Let it be an anthem of this moment.
Beatboxers, create new sounds for this new feeling.
Poets give us language for this thing our spirits are experiencing.
Painters, let your brush show us what this new possible looks like.
Dancers, show us…show us with your bodies what this feeeeels like.
DJs create a playlist for our times…this time…a time that many of us thought we’d never see in our lifetimes.
Parents, talk to your children about this. Help them understand why this is so significant. Where we have come from. What it means for them. Let them too taste the joy.
Capture this feeling of possibility because we will need it again.”
And we do. We need it again.
All around us Kenyans are showing us our systems are broken. That it is breaking us as a people. The nurses try to tell us. The girls in burning schools show us. The man who publicly proclaims he will rape a woman shows it to us. As does the politician who threatens to take scissors to another man’s genitals.
I think about how every day we are numbed, bribed, intimidated, coerced, silenced, dismissed into believing that we should just accept broken systems.
Yet just 11 days ago, we saw for ourselves that we do not need to accept and move on. That we deserve better. That we must continue trying. That it matters. That we matter. That it is possible.
It is essential to summon up that feeling of possibility again so that we can use it to fight for all our systems to work. In this moment, I go deep into myself and pull it out, that feeling of possibility. I snapshot it. Because if the last 10 days are any indication of the future, we are going to need to tap into that feeling to survive. So harness it. Nurture it. Keep it alive, this feeling of possibility.
photo credit: Lion_Towers <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/125308583@N05/14553531346″>Don’t Stop…</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>