“What happened to Diasporadical, man?”
I was sitting on the edge of my barstool, hat pulled all the way down, watching the ice swimming neat circles in my nearly empty whiskey tumbler from behind a cloud of smoke, blatantly ignoring the question.
I always give the same answer to that question. Something about how busy all the writers have gotten and how life has gotten ahead of us in such a way that we struggle to find time to give humorous analyses of cultural shortcomings of Kenyans. And this is true. We have grown up and each of thus has responsibilities that supersede blogging and bills that tweets can’t pay.
But honestly, it just got too serious here.
I started blogging in 2004. When I was a little over 15, a few years earlier, I began to live alone in Nairobi and for as much as I proudly pumped my pubescent chest about it to schoolmates, I secretly hated my extended family for not taking me in and the rest of the world for thinking that that was remotely acceptable. But I kept all that inside until I found the internet and decided I needed a place to scream and know a few thousand people could hear my angst and not judge me for it.
By 2005, thousands of miles away, I’d found a bit of perfect balance between a personal blog and something that served a greater purpose. A stage from which I was not afraid of interacting with people from. It lay in writing about something I loved: music, the culture it birthed and the effect it had on me. It not only kept me positive, it also kept me inspired to talk about what I felt without having to directly talk about it. For a while there, it was therapy staying up late to write about a song that haunted me when my best friend passed away on her birthday, or the one that soothed the pain of never being home.
It was like I had found the silversmith that hides the lining in the clouds.
And then that blog became popular. Too popular. And too profitable to just kill off, so eventually I just left it and parted ways with the group of writers that had become my family. I swore to never do that again; start a project and have people believe in whims I thought were passing and said that if I ever did anything like that again, it would not be for me. It’d be for the readers. My mentor at the time warned me not to get too involved and I should’ve really heeded his warning.
Diasporadical was born many years later when I got back to Kenya. It sprung forth the day I was talking to misterNV and I realized what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be part of the group that gave Kenyans a voice.
The media would bend over and use their gaped assholes, hollowed bodies and open mouths as loud speakers for whichever politician caused the gape to begin with. The people never spoke back with a unified voice offline. Online, they did though. In small quadrants (remember KOT in 2009/2010? Good times…) there was such cohesion and clarity that I wished those guys would all be seen talking somewhere and people could listen in.
The initial idea of DR was to spark that conversation. To say “Hey, f*ck those guys for stealing our taxes!” and see if the people joined behind us like “Yeah, those guys should go to Hell and get gang mauled by Hell baboons”..or perhaps, maybe, a more positive message sometimes.
The idea was to write as the audience and keep it random. So it turned into personal chronicles and silly little stories about wanting to become a plus sized stripper, reflections on studying abroad and everything in between.
This changed the day our views got over 1,000 per day and somebody commented “Diasporadical is my favorite relationship blog.” I went into the “DR office” (some bar where we all happened to be or something) and told Nittz and NV that we would not have this turn into a relationship blog. I didn’t know why that flared me up so much, but I didn’t want it. And so we slowly steered away from the personal and more towards general observation and social commentary, with the exception of Atypical Tuesday and some of 3CB’s finer introspections.
It had to become a blog that could grow to work for you. And so we made it that way. Because we really do genuinely care and practice what we preach. So we got involved with a few charitable efforts. Some small. Some not so small.
The biggest by far was a life we tried to save at the end of 2012. For those who’ve asked, we succeeded. And I think I may have thanked most of you individually for the part you played in raising that much money for a kid you didn’t know. You are all life savers and rockstars.
But what followed was unbelievable for me. Fraud accusations, allegations of theft, people blaming me for the death of their loved ones who could’ve also used the money, including one lady who caused so much drama that the head of a media house called to say he/she would never work with us again; as individuals or a blog. I was shaken but what crushed me was the kid whom we tried to help telling me thanks and then asking us to take down the blog because readers had bullied him into depression.
You know what that feels like?
Fighting for people that tell you to stop fighting for them once the fight is won? And then blame you for all the casualties. I could see it going wrong and didn’t know where the brakes were. So everytime I got an email for someone asking for prayers or accusing us of being masons or…whatever, my pen went flaccid and dry and the energy behind iCon died.
I felt like I could do no right.
Every move I made as part of DR had to be measured and weighed, and then measured and weighed again. Apparently, having half a million readers meant freedom of speech was gone. I couldn’t mention a politician’s name without getting a threat, I couldn’t crack a joke without offending someone, I couldn’t go to certain places without having to greet people I’d just seen talking shit about my colleagues on Twitter. And apparently it’s not socially correct to punch certain loudmouth big wigs in the throat, and yet one of them had the nerve to ask me as I was 3/4 way through a fairly pricey whiskey:
“What happened to Diasporadical, man?”
I looked him dead in the eyes and walked away and told the barman he was the one paying the bill.
When I got back to the office(yes, I drink during work hours) I saw a comment on my personal blog. Paraphrased, it said “I know this is iCon. I know because I’d read your writing me when I was lowest. You kept me company and cheered me up and now I feel like you won’t talk to me anymore. I miss you.”
Then I thought, you know what? I miss you too, random person.
And there’s nothing wrong with having a personal flair to the blog at all. Because we’re people, damn it. And we can’t keep acting like DR is an institution. Read the disclaimer, it’s not.
I want to go back to writing about bowel movements and hefty strippers without having to worry about backlash and criticisms. I want to go back to talking about barbershop topics and whatever the Hell is on our minds. This isn’t a for-profit venture. If it makes money, awesome, if it doesn’t at least it makes us happy. As writers and readers. And as a writer, you readers make me happy. And inspire me. So hats off to you all and thanks for the support to the few hundred that still pop in everyday and the 107 emails I’ve received since we slowed down writing (yes, I counted). I’ll try and do my best and I hope this will inspire the crew to join in too.
So dear readers, dear fellow writers, past present and future, Hi,again. Hope you have fun here. I’ll be one of your hosts. Juices are still being served at the bar in the back and the Crysanthemum tea went bad so don’t drink it. You don’t have to leave your shoes at the door if you’re wearing clean socks but please leave your prejudices on the coat rack.
Make yourselves at home and let’s talk about stuff like we used to.