When Professor’s Fall..

My mother is an academic professional.

Professor

She’s one of those people with so many academic distinctions that you begin to wonder what you’re doing with your life. Especially people, like me, who are very anti-school.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying education is pointless. I’m just against the current structure of the institutions through which education is disbursed. And I have been since I was old enough to pull an Encyclopedia off a shelf by myself.

This attitude only got worse once Encarta 95 found its way into the library and the 98 edition landed in our house. By the time I was toggling between Altavista and Google, I was barely listening to teachers.

They had this syllabus that was engineered to evenly distribute a set amount of specific information to a large group of students. Booooring. Every chance I would get, I was plucking books off shelves that had nothing to do with what I was being taught. I was reading my older brother’s literature novels and – and this is not a joke – even reading dictionaries cover to cover. I actually once started writing one.

Just because class was boring.

At least at the time I thought it was. At that age, I thought fairly little of teachers. But somehow regarded professors highly because of my mother. You see, she’s the one that kept feeding me books and unleashing me into libraries. She’s the one that bought Encarta when we really couldn’t afford it. She’s the one that encouraged my random reading and let me lose in her labyrinth of books – a bookcase in the house.

Which is where I saw Mazrui’s name for the first time.

Prof Ali Mazrui

There are 2 reasons I remember his name. First, it is because it was repeated on the spines of so many books that I began to pull them out to verify whether or not I was looking at multiple copies of the same book. I was not.

The second reason is because it was the first time a book made me feel stupid. I sat down and tried to read the first book and failed. It was entirely too much to comprehend for a prepubescent iCon. So I left it alone and that was that.

Until a decade later, when I had the great fortune to head out to New York for some seminar on Islam and Terrorism. The melodic Swahili accent was strong, and the calm and steady pace with which he was addressing us grabbed my attention and didn’t let it go until it was eased to a place of greater understanding. That man summed up in a few words what the rest of the panelists would yap about for the next 2 hours.

And I can’t recall what those few words were. But I can’t forget buying two of his books, looking at my bookshelf thereafter and remembering my mother’s.

That was when I got a deep interest in Kenyan intellectuals; especially those in the US. Every other university I visited (and I traveled A LOT) I would find a professor named Odhiambo here, a lecturer named Kamau there; a Head of Department from Kisumu, and sometimes, occasionally, on the walls of fame, I’d see a name on a plaque of distinction that was distinctly Kenyan with a place of birth that made me homesick.

So many names and faces that I can barely remember, that will never be acknowledged locally.

My mother still keeps a massive collection of books, a lot of those are still fellow Kenyans. Mazrui’s tomes still stand out by their numbers and if I’m honest, like many Kenyans, I don’t think I acknowledged the man’s greatness enough.

But one thing I do acknowledge now that I didn’t when I was younger is the invaluable contribution of the scholars we neglect. I understand now why teachers wanted us to understand the basics and why professors insist on us creating original regurgitations of already existing facts. The pursuit of knowledge is not a simple journey, nor is it for the faint-hearted. It is a selfless endeavour to better your society through yourself.

Prof ali Mazrui

Which is why I was sad when the good Professor Ali Mazrui passed away. I could list his laurels and awards, accomplishments and regals in a shallow attempt to justify why you should mourn him too. I could copy paste all the amazing things that Prof. Mazrui has done and contributed to the worlds of academia, the understanding of Africa in a globalising world, or to demystify Islam in a world driven by terrorism.

But I’d rather not.

I’d rather challenge you to do two things. The first is to watch one of his interviews, read one of his articles, discover one of his books, learn more about one of his passions. The second is to share that knowledge earned with someone else.

Professors are the vessels through which so many of us attain the knowledge behind the power we aim to change the world with. When they fall, it is our duty to pass that knowledge forward and keep their legacies and sacrifices alive.

May you rest in eternal peace, Mwalimu. May your legacy live long and your family stand proud.
نَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ‎

The Man Under The Elephant

I’ve waited to write this.

The last time I went to Westgate was exactly a week before the famed attack the mall is now associated with. When I say exactly, I mean exact, down to the hour.

I was meeting up with some friends in between my trips in and out of Kenya. It was the first time I’d been to Urban Burger. It was also the first time I realised how massive Nakumatt was. For some odd reason that day, all our phones either dead or close to it. So we were moving about in a panic, trying to finish our chores so we could regroup outside and go about our plans for the day.

The next time that same group of friends regrouped was at Aga Khan Hospital, one week later, to volunteer and donate blood. We were watching the updates terrified, all thinking the same thing, none of us saying it.  Continue reading

#RaphLove: The Definition of Trespass

Tujuane
Credit: #KOT

I’m sure by now, you’ve all heard the nasty stories about this blog’s good friend Rapho aka Tuju aka Raph Lover.

The short version of it is that Ogunda(this guy who got booted from the police for somehow money laundering) found his way into Raph Lover’s house wife which led to Raph filing for divorce. Around the same time, Ogunda also started filing for divorce from his wife as well. Anyway, after a few more back and forths in court for Raph Lover and Ogunda, Ogunda was found dead one morning in Raph Lover’s house.

When asked what he thought of the situation, Raph responded by saying:

“There was an existing court order that barred him (Mr Ogunda) from going to any of my premises and it’s unfortunate his death occurred at my premises.”

That’s just gangsta. The guy that was ploughing your wife just died in your house in an obvious murder and your reaction is the legalese version of “Well, that negro shouldna been there in the first place, let alone die there.” Continue reading

Remember E-Sir: 10 Years Later

e-sir-01

This past Saturday marked the 10 year anniversary of E-Sir‘s passing.

The thought alone sinks my heart.

Anyone you ask who ever met the guy, whether in a studio, club, classroom or in their neighborhood will tell you the same things about him. His personality and charisma overflowed. The thing that struck me about about him was that he was confident without being overly cocky and had a certain clarity and determination that followed that confidence.

I was in high school when I first ran into that particular clique of guys he used to roll with. Continue reading

Wangari Maathai, Charity Ngilu, Martha Karua: Political Moments and the Legacies of ‘Mama’

“Leadership is not simply a matter of filling the top positions in a government. Nor is it a quality restricted to the ambitious, the elite, the politically gifted, or the highly educated. Indeed, not every person in a leadership position is truly a leader” – Wangari Maathai, ‘The Challenge For Africa’ (2009).

A good place to start would be the 1997 General Elections. Charity Ngilu, who was already a household name after capturing the Kitui central in Kenya’s first ever multiparty elections held in 1992, announced that she would be running for the presidency on a Social Democratic Party (SDP) ticket. “Ma saa na Ngilu”, for those who remember. We all cheered for this gallant politician who arrested our imagination when she stormed out of Mwai Kibaki’s Democratic Party (DP) and boldly struck out for the country’s top job despite a relatively short career in politics. And then, several months to the election, Wangari Maathai, too, announced that she was vying for the top job. The results? Moi won, of course. Kibaki came second, Raila, third and Ngilu managed a respectable 5th place, one notch higher than the late Martin Shikuku. As for Maathai, she came third from last in those elections with 0.07% of total votes cast.

With today’s news that Charity Ngilu will be seeking the presidency in the 2013 General Elections, one cannot help but feel that history is somewhat repeating itself. Martha Karua, the proverbial long-distance runner, launched her presidential bid a couple of years ago, and has been on the campaign trail ever since. Now Karua has company in the form of ‘Mama Rainbow’. It may be political naivete to ask, but would anyone serious about campaigning for the presidency launch a bid with only five months to the polls? Prior to her campaign announcement, wasn’t she on record that she would support Raila’s presidential ambitions? These questions may seem to you, rhetoric or a display of my ignorance, but allow me to continue.

Continue reading

“Freedom Ain’t Free” – On The Integrity Bill and Online Freedom

Before I start, R.I.P. to the many souls departed in the past few days. It’s been a difficult time for the country without having to lose so many in such a short time.
And now to the matter at hand…

Let’s talk about the impunity of our government in regards to the above issues and how we can tackle it.

Sigh.

We’ve been here before.

The best of us are sitting in our comfort zones pointing at blatant rights violations with full mouths screaming.

The rest of us don’t even know why people are screaming. Trying to figure out what’s going on, or just ignoring it all together.

For those that don’t know what the hoopla is about the Integrity Bill being “watered down” is Continue reading