I Gots This

Enveloped by bureaucratic
rope.
The only exercisable strength is
hope.
Your best case scenario?
That I give up…

  Nope.

I gots this.

This life doesn’t act like,
it was made to be fair
But if I live it with
any less flare
than a teenage dare
Then who’ll say,
I was here?

So,

I gats this.

The oil you use to grease your
blade,
will grease the slide to your
self dug grave,
if my honesty is to blame
for your ceaseless hate,
I can safely say
I gots this.

And though entitlement tinges
the rose tinted rims of your glasses.
I tried to be nice
You skipped classes,
On putting anyone else first.

So despite how terrifying
it can be, to run with the herd,
caring about others is an integral
portion of team work.

Also, it’s an occupational hazard
for a dirty cop to become a
perk.
And yes, my English is heavily
influenced by American junk.
But I will ‘a’ my ‘o’s if
it means

I Gats This.

The Letter By The Bed Says

I can find another smile to dive in.
I don’t need to just survive,
I should be thriving.

I’ve got so much to give,
and you name it ‘too much’.
You were there, to catch my flying kisses,
To partner in our flying gymnastics.
My too much is now static.
And, you’re chilled out, like that’s
how its supposed to be.

Well, I don’t feel like being
less, anymore.
I’m not perfect.
and neither are you.
But I don’t see the point, if we
don’t make make each other more.

So, Once Upon A Time, I may have called you
Home
But you left me in an empty cage.
Chained down while you roamed.
I’d never felt
So
Alone.

It may just be time for me
To be
All of my “Too much”

On my own.

 

Watch live performance.

 

 

And This, Today, I Swear To Be True.

Time, in its infinity,
Found the space for us
            To Face,
Each others Smiles,
To see each others truths.
 
In it we, finitely,
   entwine each others roots.
So, we met.
And birthed the clarity, that we
   could make a nest.
In which to stick our sticks
   together, and
Split our bets.

And that,
   Today,
I swear to be
            True.

Life, and its participants
may choose, as they choose,
And ultimately,
            I choose you.

You are proof, that we,
can work together, a testimony
            of sorts,

Like the fact that clay
   can make pot,
   with daylight,
is a blessing
            of sorts,
and on the days the sun
wont flinch, above
            cloudy brinks,
   We will light
each others way
no matter, what who thinks.
We will have laughter,
Our across the room winks,
Or more like knowing
glances, will paint a frame
   around reality.
            Meaning;
You, are what is real to me,
   and I to you.

And, that, Today,
            I swear
   To be
            True.

As a daughter, as a mother,
As a father, as a son,
We’ll outreach our hands,
in search of each others,
And
reach back, when
   the time comes.
What I’m saying is,
   I’d like to spend,
the rest of my life, with You.

And this,
            Today,
   I swear
            to be true.

Why I Would Not Wear A Mini In Town

I have to start by saying, I am not at my most comfortable in crowds. Even group discussions make me a little nervous. High levels of attentions from strangers scare me deeply.

It is not once or twice that I have heard calls on the street, that are more aggression than admiration. Men who I walk past from whome I have to put my head down and walk fast. That is behaviour that is not only brought on by dress. It is simply brought on by the fact that you are a woman, who that man thinks is attractive on that day. All you would have to do is your hair and wear heels.

Then come the videos.

In the first one I watched, the brutality inflicted on her nudity was a jaw cracking, back handed slap to the parts of me the see beauty in feminine sexuality. My heart pounded in my mouth, and my hands and knees, clenched tight, shook. I was very pregnant at the time, and even my baby became uncharacteristically still, usually play full and kicking at that time of the day. To know, that that act was possible, and in plain view of other human beings has broken me in ways that I’m yet to learn how to express. I am still triple checking what I wear when I get dressed.
There are multiple cultures of influence here.
Just to be clear, it is not, the illusion of decency or hypocritical morals that stop me from wearing a mini in town.
It is the threat of violence and intrusion,
It is fear.

I chose not to find out the gender of my baby until birth. It is stories like these that made my first reaction to finding out she was a girl; fear. In fact, during the height of the #MyDressMyChoice debate, the same fear made me actually pray that I would have a son. This world is too often unkind to little girls. I still pray for her everyday, and she is a driving force behind me wanting us to talk about these issues. I hope the world is a little safer, even just a little… for her, and for her daughters’ daughters and sons. I wrote most of this article at the time the topic was trending, with her in my tummy.

The Moral Argument

Dressing is a an aspect of culture, it expresses loyalties to a place or manner of thinking. Ultimately, the “wrong” dress, is any dress that symbolises a subscription to an alternate facet of culture. A far removed example of this, is the way that high school kids get bullied for having ‘shady’ shoes.

My great grandmother told me the story of removing her hangi  she told me the pain wasn’t that bad, that she couldn’t have them, or she wouldn’t have been able to stay in church or school. She had to cut open the inner sides of the traditional piercings and sew them together, so that she could continue learning and worshiping at the missionary church. It was there that she got, and learned how to use  diapers. She reads and writes fluently in Kikuyu, and still has all her teeth. Also, I’ve seen pictures of my Cucus in minis. Culture is dynamic.

Kenyan culture picks and chooses aspects of western, eastern and local cultures. The idea of long skirts is taken from Victorian culture, not African culture, and the idea of many wives from the later.
To dwell on the notion that a woman is dressed in the “wrong way” when outnumbered and overpowered, is to suggest that to outnumber and over power is less “wrong”.

I do agree to some extent, that there is a place and time for different attires. I know, that some people are more closed minded than others, and its not exactly fun to be the focus of perverted oglers. There are, so many less depraved options for dealing with disagreements on this topic though. If sexual assault is to be the new form of cultural expression, the only logical result is the oppression of women, as Women’s forms are much easier suited to receiving pain, than to inflicting it. We are made as receptacles, with the exception of the giving of life.

So while we dress these perverts as justified, we should not rush to put angelic Colobus skin wings, on them. To suggest that those men were championing African culture, is to suggest that African men are completely devoid of self control or moral compass. What a shameful lie!

The Punishment And The Crime

Her arms were being stretched apart by two different people at opposite ends, her right leg, equally tug of roped so that her restrained position, was the stuff of nightmares or sadist porn. Its from this position, completely defenceless, that she was being kicked, slapped and hit. Even the strongest man would be powerless in this stance, but they chose this as the means to “punish” someone with a fraction of their strength. Even thieves are not restrained in that way for their beatings.

Speaking of which, we may be overlooking a crime we would normally not. The victims are left relieved not just of their attire, also of their purse/bag, phone and anything she may have stashed in her bra for emergencies; they are robbed of EVERYTHING. This outnumbering tactic is used in other robberies. Men are picked up off the ground, relieved of their shoes and pocket contents in urban streets as well.

Aside from being straight out of the misogynists hand book, the phrase “she asked for it” is a means of defence. It allows us to sit back in well upholstered chairs, away from the idea that it could happen to anyone we know or us, because ‘we know how to avoid it’, and do. Like the response, “was your window open?” As the primary response to “My phone was stolen in town.” We would rather avoid the problem than face it.

The purpose of punishment is to discourage the idea from becoming action, because there is direct consequence. Victims extent of nudity, is determined by where she is. If you put the same levels of exposure on a cat walk, in 1824 or in Gypsys where there is security, she is safe. The problem is not one of dress, it is one of security.
It is that in the places where these things happen, there is no security. There is not enough threat of punishment for the crimes, so it’s worth a try.

These women are left dressed thickly in the dusty shoe prints of the kicks they receive. Wouldn’t a shuka be a more appropriate solution to someone who is underdressed? These men, are the self appointed plaintive, lawyer, judge, jury and executioner, who sentence passers by to violent, sadistic sexual objectification. That is the kind of man, you pray is never one of your robbers, if you have a daughter in your house. I can only imagine, the person who commits unspeakable things in broad daylight and on film, would jump to heinous in the cover of night. My resolution, is that, that is the kind of man, we need off our streets. What they have shown us is a preview, they are testing waters. The next steps, of higher brutality and depravity are waiting only for us not to react to the first.

The focal point of the social media debate was one based more on the moralities of fashion, than the actions of these, sexually deviant criminals. While we sit behind our computer screens, hitting like buttons and sharing their breathless screams, the men who defiled them, have one hand in their boxers, and one hand on a drink, as they relive their public wet dream. Robert Alai, though he keeps us up to date on current affairs… seems to have a fascination with dildos, that he seems to think are a good way to address any social issues that are sexually oppressive to women. I understand that the existence of dildos can be a little emasculating, and my sympathies go out to him for that unfortunate fact. However, the effect of a person whose opinions are generally respected championing the rights of perverts are much more detrimental than comical.

Pick a team.

I don’t mean the closed minded kind, like men against women. I mean, who do we protect? Conservative fashion choices? Sadistic men? If your daughter or sister, makes an erroneous fashion choice, will you support the above punishment then?

Ultimately, a communities loudest objections, are things most likely to be changed. So, if you are spending 90% of your time analysing and critiquing the actions of the victim, then that is who you are telling to change. The past victims may not be in your communication range, but the women who are in your range are receiving this message:

“If you don’t want to be stripped don’t dress, or behave in certain ways. You are responsible for your own safety, so if you put yourself in dangerous situations, you are asking for it.”

Everyone has rights to their own opinions, so if that is actually what you want to say, go right ahead. I however, think the above objections are saying  something else too. Namely:

“I would never want myself, anyone near and dear, or anyone at all to go through that. The crime in question is one of a nature so overpowering, that I’m left looking for ways to reclaim ownership of my sense of safety and boundaries of power. “

I’ve mentioned already, that if the same out numbering was inflicted in a man, he would also be defenceless. The numbers in the mobs are extremely intimidating to any one lone passerby, and they are being violent and aggressive. So, in these street scenes, the answer to “where are the good men?” Is that like us, they are scared. Rightfully so.

Scare tactics work. Although ‘Anything you can do, we can do better’ is a fun sing along for a little girl, as a back bone principle of feminism, it is small minded. Oppression can not be overcome by oppression. We have to remember that in the long run, working as a team is the most strategically feasible target. So, are you on the team of the defenceless? Or is it more important to hide behind your own fear based moral high ground?

What can we do?

For starters, we can start questioning the perpetrators actions more than we do the victims. From there the rest is: anything you can. Do anything you can to stop these guys, even if that means sharing #MyDressMyChoice messages when you think some people make atrocious wardrobe decisions.

In Search Of Womanhood (II)

As the word ‘teen’faded from the name of my age,
I started to listen to more advice
from people not my age mates.

Started to understand,
That there can be quiet,
rebellions in rage.

Started to understand, that
Boys will be boys, doesn’t always mean
Men will be Men, in this age.

Started to wrap my mind around,
the fragile ways, we
as Kenyan Women, allow ourselves
in slivers,
To be African.
So, we have to tie dreadlocks right back,
Retouch roots every week,
Hide the curls at every turn,
As much as we can,
Have to prove in every way,
That we are not shady,
Not backwards.

That’s how successfully
colonised we are.

Even when we go out,
Don’t let your a**
Actually quake.
You can rotate,
But African Americans held a conference
that dictates;
That your behind is not actually entitled
to palpitate,
unless, you’re a hoe,
or a video vixen.

To be a Kenyan Woman of substance,
You must frown upon twerking,
And label it, too western.

That’s how successfully
colonised we are,
And yet,
We own that beauty,
Much more than
The stars we are under.

Me, Beautiful?

Beautiful is in the curves,

the lines, that spell my name,

On a good day.

 

Is in the corners of the lips that

fall, even though they know

not to speak all.

 

Is in the eyes that face the

sun, and cameras’ flash,

Without flinching, without

blinking out the resilience

that allows for bravity.

 

Beauty is in aknowledging

the ugly.

In knowing that even that

can not define me.

In loving , Only

for the sake of love.

 

Beauty is in the puffy eyed

deep exhale of breath that

states, that the cry is over.

 

Beauty is the island of

space, in which I find

my peace of mind.

Stagger my pace.

And find the grace,

To pose,

Expose myself, as an existant entity.

A victorious refrain from lifes general vulnerabilities.

 

Because it’s only for moments

that we can break from this

race.

 

Beautiful is framed honestly.

Even when I don’t know it,

Beautiful is me.

 

Growing Up. Part 2. Hair and Love

Acceptance, and especially self acceptance can be hard to come by. More often than not, people will point out things that differentiate you from them. As you get older, it becomes easier to stand by your own principles and decisions. The full list of ways that I feel blessed to have grown up is:

1. Conversation

2. Patience

3. Hair

4. Love

5. Poetry

This is a continuation of the last uploaded post. Here are two more ways in which, I’m happy to be a grown up.

Hair

Like most girls, life hands me many circumstances where people feel obligated to tell me about my hair. Over the years, there have been statements which have been repeated over and over again, such that, when someone begins the statement/question I often feel like I can finish it for them.

  • “It’s so long
  • Why did you cut it!?
  • It’s so soft
  • This soft hair can’t shika braids
  • This soft hair can’t shika dreads
  • Haiya! What have you done to your hair! The way you had nice hair!
  • Kama ningepewa hii nwele…
  • Kama ningepewa hii nwele singe…
  • Wa! Enyewe hii nwele ni chache
  • Kumbe hii nwele nikidogo hivyo
  • If I had your hair…”

When I was in Year eight, the boys in my class put some money together to buy me a comb. It was yellow plastic, and came with a note that said something like:

PLEASE! Use this. You need it!‘ Scribbled messily across the corner of a torn exercise book page.

Its one of those things about how children can be cruel. My hair, was of course taken care of. I lived, at the time, in a house full of women that would never have let me go to school without first combing and styling my hair neatly. There were in fact, four generations of us, me being the youngest. There was my Mum, her Mum (my Cucu, who I call Mummy) and her Mum (my Maitu or great grandmother) and of course me.

The trouble with my hair, is that it has its own ideas about what it wants to do.

In early high school, I would try as much as possible, to style it in the ‘cool’ styles that my classmates had. My Mum never let me relax my hair, thankfully, as I now know, it would in fact have fallen out. The trouble was, what looked like a fringe in the mirror in the morning when wet, became a fuzzy erect crest by 10:00 am. Even if I wasn’t trying to have a fringe, the breakage in my hairline (caused by other ‘cool’ hairstyles like braids and flat ironing), would become something like a hallow, by latest lunch time, be lopsidedly standing around my forehead as though attempting to escape entirely.

When I was sixteen I began twisting my hair. Undoing and re-twisting, until I had a full head of locks. I didn’t need to go and sit under driers, my hair took to locking as though that’s what it was made for. I did them myself, although my front locks were slim and my back locks were thick, I loved my locks, and can happily say, that for the entire time, I never once had to visit a salon.

After two years however, I dearly missed the feeling of a brush or comb on my scalp. I had finished my IB diploma, knew that I would soon have to start work. I chose to take out my locks. My hair has allot of static, so I found, inside the thicker locks I had managed to collect allot of lint (blanketi). I wondered if that would contribute to weight in any way. I resolved, that I was going to do slimmer dreads, if I was to dread my hair again. Its a tricky balance though, because I prefer to do my own hair, the slimmer the dreads, the more time that will take.

Today, I do believe I’ve found a fun balance. My hair is partly shaved, partly sister locked and partially natural and short. I don’t think I would ever have had the guts to do this when I was younger. The age I am at, my principles on the fluidity of culture  allow me to be able to make unusual choices about my hair and know that I can stand by those decisions. I gave up on trying to look like other people, which is the most enormous weight off my shoulders. I love the fact that I finally know how it feels to have my hair really really short (Amazing!). I love my handful of of locks, that I can put pendants in and hear them jingle instead of earings. I can still put a brush through the rest of it.

I wasn’t born knowing what I wanted to do with my hair nor would I have had the guts to do anything I wanted to, just a few years back. So, thirty here I come, I love being a big girl!

Love

My first love, was in kindergarten. He was six months younger than me. To my classmates, that was an unacceptable age gap. He didn’t seem to mind, but there was another girl who liked him, and was an acceptable six months younger than him. In the end, peer pressure won the day, and she wound up being his girlfriend. This role, entailed holding hands, and eating break together.

I have always been prone to crushes. My teenage years featured the greatest quantity of love poems to date.

I have never had particularly good hand or foot to eye coordination. When I was eight, none of the girls wanted me on their hopscotch team. I would only be allowed to play, in the single player rounds of the game and even then, I served soley as the object of ridicule.

After many attempts to fit in with the girls, I conceded and would instead play ‘catch and catch’ with the boys. As a result, they stopped thinking of me as a girl. My great crush of that age was called Naheem. He had hair that fell around his face and reached his ears like Aaron Carter (I thought). He had a girlfriend though, and she was the prettiest girl in the school. I knew I didn’t stand a chance, and was a peace with that fact. To my mind, he was the cutest boy, and so it only made sense that he should be with the prettiest girl. For the sake of this blog, lets call her Cathy.

One day, in the corridor on the way to art class, Cathy stopped me to say, “Raya, I know you like Naheem and I just wanted to tell you that I don’t care. You can have him.”

Her declaration startled me. No one else was supposed to know. I had only told one person, my best friend. The trouble was, my best friend, had another best friend, who happened to be the biggest gossip in the class. I really didn’t know what to say to her, I hadn’t wanted them to break up, nor did I think I would stand a chance anyway. Eloquence often deserts me, just  when I need it the most.

At break time, Naheem walked up to me, his fists were folded into tiny balls. He accused me of intentionally making Cathy break up with him. He then proceeded to punch me in the face and give me my very first (and thankfully, only ever) black eye.

I remember crying profusely in the toilet. I remember vividly a revolting lump of red achari in the corner of the cement cubicle. I love achari, its always been one of my favorite things, but that tiny heap, would never have enticed me to put it in my mouth. The irony dawned on me some years later.

I wasn’t crying because of the pain in my eye, which would continue to tear until the next day. I was a tom boy, so a week would not have passed without me having some kind of injury, I was used to physical pain. I cried because I thought of Naheem as a friend and was heart broken that he could think so lowly of me.

Love takes many forms. I have often reprimanded myself for forgiving too easily and trusting too fast. Many a time, in my life, I’ve thrown emotional caution to the wind in the name of love.

Growing up has taught me two vital things about love. One is, it is a good idea to keep your eyes open. To love what is there, and not what you think could be. Two, is that it is OK to be a loving person. Loving truly, comes with giving truly, and that giving is a gift in itself.

I love the acceptance that comes with love.