Night Terrors

My family, is huge,
There are so many husbands and even more wives.
My dad had to build us a whole neighborhood,
Because of his family’s size.
We kids, are too many to count, though we’ve tried.
But before we finish counting, more kids have been born,
more kids have died.

There are times, when a hand full of us would go out,
just to shop, or to school, and bullets ended their lives,
but for the most part, our terrors, are more likely a job from inside.
You see, our family is too big to get on. And our names too easily divide.
Those named on dads side, start with W, and those named after mums, have their own letters.
From my mum, the boys are O and the girls are A, So they call my mum Mama O
Then there’s Mama L, Mama S, Mama K, and Mama M.
A long time ago, before our Mamas were born, all the families fought in a war.
They fought together, but when it was over, Dads family got the most.
And so, out of inequalities, a feud was started,
between those who did, and didn’t share in the spoils.

Our night terrors are nasty. Once, Mama, my mama had twins, named from dads side,
And they went over to our cousins to spend the night. They were only five.
In the night, our cousins did unspeakable things to little Winnie, on the floor by her bed side.
Then burnt both Winnie and William, in their room. They said the room had no use after they had spent the night.
Nine years ago, was the worst, all our houses became smoke
and blood, until, we were all told not to speak of it.
But in the night, these memories haunt, lips sealed, we see each other different.

The other day, we found toy tires, burning in the hall way.
Yes, we managed to walk around them. But the smoke, did well to remind
that burning and bleeding, are things that run in our family.
We are much more in danger, from within.
Than outside.

It Continues

This world fills airwaves
With angry sounds about
Ancestor slaves.
Hushshshes, the
Stories of modern day
Babies, girls, boys, immigrants
Whose dreams aren’t worth the
Price of a hearse.

Promises of modeling, nursing,
Teaching, citizen-ship in
Lands of dreams. Europe
Or the Middle East.
Running from sparse opportunities,
And oppressive regimes
From Kenya , Russia, The Philippines,
North Korea, into arms
Much more dangerous than
Immigration offices.

Drugged, beaten, Raped,
Nameless slaves,
With no one to tell their story.
With no Maya Angelou to cry
Out for pride or victory.
#BlackLivesMatter seems
Too reactionary, because the
Silencing of today’s Black slaves
is the true life story.

They are not all Black,
They are all voiceless.
Forced into quiet by the
constant present threat of
violence.

The most depressing bit,
Is that it would not be possible
If
It were not surrounded by neighbours
Who condone.
Allow.
It
to continue.

But, That’s Not What They Were Fighting For

The day Maitú snuck out,
to slit her ears,
to wear hangi,
I am sure she didn’t envisage
the day, when girls are stripped
      on streets.
When she, went back and
undid the deed,
I am sure, she did not see,
live video feeds,
Of legs apart on back seats,
with a voice
calling for a bottle.
There are those of us, who never had the chance
to meet grandmas,
who with their husbands names,
hidden under their teeth,
passed on violently, and loyally
at the hands of oppressors.

This what we have here,
This #Mollis era,
     This is not
What they were fighting
     for.

The Patience For Inspiration/ Will You Judge?

Eight years.

That’s how long it took me to be able to write honestly, and transparently about the day I was date raped. Eight years of, contemplation, denial, self hate and shame. Even today, I hesitate before addressing this topic. Here’s why.

The root of inspiration.

In general, date rape, is the one of the most controversial topics within the overall topic of rape. It is the form that is most easily silenced by phrases like; she asked for it, or alijipeleka. The morality of victim is always called into question. I think my story, can easily be summed up as ‘alijipeleka’, and that thought alone is a foreboding, silencing one. I often feel that I don’t have the right to even call it rape. So, in order to rid myself of the duty of judgment, in the interests of explaining why I had to to employ eight years of patience, before writing on it, I will allow you, my reader to be the judge.

It could easily have been summed up as statutory rape, but I lied about my age. I had just turned sixteen, but I told him, I had just turned eighteen. I had a terrible crush on him, and there is nothing a little girl wants more, than to be a big girl. Besides, to my mind, I might as well have been eighteen, I considered myself (and had been told by many adults that I was) very mature for my age.

He had asked me to be his girlfriend, and I had said yes. He was twenty three, and was my neighbor. I was not in the habit of keeping the company of grown men, but my romantic mind had summed up our meeting to fate, destiny. Less than a week into the relationship, I gave myself a reality check. I thought about the world we live in and realized, that he was most likely accustomed to having sex. I was saving my virginity for marriage, so I noted the disconnect and set out to break off the relationship.

I explained, that I was sure that he was used to having sex, and that I did not want to hold him back from what would normally be a part or his lifestyle, but that I was not at all ready for that.

“So this is not going to work out. I really like you, but I don’t want to be your girlfriend anymore. Lets just be friends.”

His response surprised me. ” I can’t believe you think that way about me. That I’m just going out with you for sex.” I hadn’t thought of him that way anyway, so I listened on. ” I would never want you to do anything you don’t want to do. So that’s not even an issue. I like you for who you are, not because I want to have sex with you.”

I had already made up my mind, so I was not easily persuaded otherwise, but he insisted and repeated these things so many times, and to my disbelief, actually cried at the affront of what he considered an accusation and the idea of loosing me as a girlfriend.

“I would never, never force you to do something you don’t want to do.” The memory of those words and the expression of disbelief on his face are imprinted on my minds eye, as though still, all these years later he is still trying to convince me.

I repeatedly said, “I’m not ready to have sex.”

The next day, we decided, we would ‘hang out’, listen to music, and talk. The next day, I did something extremely uncharacteristic of myself. I lied to my Mum, about where I was going.

We met up, listened to music, and I became comfortable again in his company. Bob Marleys ‘Is This Love’ was the song that reminded me of him. We were alone with each other, in his room. We kissed, and began a series of actions, that were inappropriate for my age at the time, but I had believed what he said the night before. I allowed myself to trust him. I allowed myself to trust too far. By the time I realized, that I didn’t have full control of the situation, he was on top of me, and I was naked.

I shouted NO, and pushed, but he was heavier than I could push off, and had appeared to become completely deaf. To this day, I’m not entirely convinced that he knew I resisted. I was not hit, strangled or otherwise injured. I became enveloped with a disbelief that made me step out of my body, away from myself. Once the first moments passed, I gave in. I even reciprocated, because, I believed, that all my worth, as a virgin, was gone. I had lost a part of my identity that all my years of schooling and Sabbath school had taught me was my most valuable asset.

I spent weeks afterwards crying at any alone moment I could find. The very next day, I wrote a poem about rape victims in war. In it, I described the theft of self worth that I was actually experiencing.

We had a conversation much later, within which I told him my real age, and he confessed that he knew I was lying about my age.

I could not write directly what had happened, not until eight years later. I would write about it in triple deep metaphors, through personas that were not me. I could not describe what had happened without hating myself completely. Not until Virginity.

The healing that came with, finally describing my experience was profound. In the healing that had to have taken place before it, reading writing that was on similar topics, had helped me work through. The night before that piece finally came out of my pen, I had watched a spoken word performance by Nemesis (Man Njoro), on the topic of date rape. That was the final stroke of acceptance that it took for me to be able to record the experience.

The cause of the inspiration.

That’s the reason why I decided to share it with the world. In case there is anyone who has been through a similar experience and does not have the courage to put it to words. Admitting what happened is an important step in that healing process.

Though, I still have fears associated with discussing this topic openly, I have mentally faced them and prepared myself. Facing them seems like the only way that my experience can serve any purpose; breaking the silence. I know, for example, that one of the reactions this story will inspire, is one that blames my parents. It shouldn’t be. I was neither too sheltered to realise consequences nor given too much freedom so as not to be protected. The alibi I used on the day was a neighbor, two gates away from mine, who I had known since age five. I was, save for that exception, a very responsible teenager, and had truly earned the trust that I was given.

Had my situation been a singular one, I would keep it to myself to my grave. It is not.  Teenage pregnancies are at a very high level in Kenya, and the fathers of those pregnancies are rarely below legal age. The truth is, our ‘team fisi’ culture is granting adult men the prerogative to bed underage girls, and our victim shaming culture is allowing them to do it repeatedly, without ever having to face any repercussions. Surely adults should be held responsible for their actions?

The patience for inspiration.

As an artist, you must sometimes fully digest the issues you address with your work.  The idealistic part of me prays that there will be a day when no really means no. The practical part of me knows, we are far from that day. However, the more we remain silenced by shame, the longer it will take for mind sets to change.

Although it may have taken more than ten years (and the birth of my daughter) for me to attack this issue head on, that may be the time this topic needed, for me to be able to address it appropriately. Though I have had to overcome certain fears to write this, it is still a kind of fear that drives the writing. The fear that this kind of thing will continue to happen… even to my grand daughters, to my great grand daughters….

 

So, my hope, is that this is the beginning of a conversation, not the end of one. Little girls will always want to be big girls, and to be treated like grown ups, in my opinion, that leaves it up to the actual grown ups to act like responsible adults, not take advantage. I could be wrong. I believe another big part of the problem, is that we teach our sons and male peers, that their manhood can be measured by their ability to bed women. This is a part of a larger scale, objectification of men, and the objectification of male sexuality that is seldom discussed.

Please share any thoughts you have, with me, with each other, on this comment thread, on facebook, on twitter, on your couch. If you see an alternate solution, share, if you see another part of the problem, share.  I hope, that we will have different fears for our great grand daughters… not the same ones that have been there since the times of Tamar.

To Silence

So, as silence sings her lullaby’s,
Silence steals her bed at night.
Silence teaches how to smile without
her eyes.
Her alibi, is silence.

So as silence scrubs clean panties,
Evidence.
Silence names girl six
as its’ abandoner.
Girl six is now a prisoner of
repeated testimony, public shame
a shameful story,
Is her namer, as whistle blower.
Had she chose silence, the number would climb further,
Maybe reaching sixteen?
Higher?

So, silence is consent given,
As saying yes, would make any her
a heathen.
In our ideology of morality,
Silence is the right answer.

I will question all this silence!
If it names me slut, I will not wither,
As the punishment of slander shrivels
in comparison to my fear
That this could happen to my
baby, or my sister.

So,
Silence! You are not my master!
Silence! You are not my Mister!
You have not given any gold or silver
To my ring finger!
Nor would I accept it!