I started Letters at an impossible time, which means the kind of time in which everything felt possible. That year, I had picked up Nora Zeale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. A book that carried within it an indomitable declaration: “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” If 2015 had been the year in which I learned to ask questions (or at least the right ones, finally), 2016 was the year that dared to answer them.
On that night, the trees had been perfectly green with envy as he and I jostled beneath them in a mad race to unvarnished truth. A rare thing to find. The sort of thing that makes you confuse fogged-over bays with romance as numbers fall off hidden clocks and tumble somewhere beyond your reach. He was the Black Man I wanted to love, with that God-given confidence men everywhere receive as their birthright, the world caressing soft whispers in their ear, “It’s a man’s world.”
When a three-judge bench of Kenya’s High Court delivered its decision to uphold the criminalisation of same sex relations in the country in May, the Court referenced a 2003 decision from Botswana’s Court of Appeal. Foreign jurisprudence has long been used by courts when hearing matters previously unadjudicated in their jurisdictions. In fact, both sides of Kenya’s decriminalisation petition cited the 2003 Botswana decision in their submissions.
This article originally appeared on Africa Portal
Much is made of the framing of constitutions, their intents, and ambitions. Equally as important is how they are brought to life. It is for this reason that courts throughout Africa are becoming a place of intrigue, as countries test their new democracies. In Kenya and Botswana, two similar cases that sought to decriminalise same sex conduct recently appeared before their respective courts with very powerful, yet vastly different outcomes.
This article originally appeared on Africa Portal
The work of being a writer means being called upon wherever words—in their neatness and finiteness—are needed to fill infinite spaces and describe the indescribable. This includes funerals. And so, I have penned eulogies to be read by friends, daughters, in-laws, and cousins as they mourned fathers and sons (always fathers and sons) at somber funerals. Sometimes I got to hear my words spoken as I sat amidst anguished pews in churches. More often than not, I did not.
When I had reclaimed enough of my body to realize that it was mine to do with as I pleased—consensually, painfully, delicately, brazenly—I returned. Coming back to find my Sasha Fierce on those nights I wanted to disinter the long legs gifted to me as the tallest in my family. Repatriating on those hot summer days when I liked to watch the curve of my bosom rise on the beauty mark atop my heart, and their untrained eyes hover above my heart.
On the eve of my 31st, attempting to calm the fears consuming me, I sat down to write myself a guide to getting old(er) that came with five truths or satyas if I am to borrow from Sanskrit.
How the dead can seem so alive, she had pondered as she moved from room to room and conversation to conversation. Eventually, she had stopped moving. For days on end. The dark of her eyelids transforming into the darkness outside her window. That is when they had come—her friends—and pulled her out of the mud that seemed to be drowning her. The mud that was sucking her under as her arms sat helpless at her side. How easily the body can be swayed by the soul.
I read Eleanor Roosevelt's love letters this morning. Well, at least snippets of them. Wife to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eleanor was a reformist and champion for women's equality in her role as first lady—and the longest serving American first lady. Known for her public persona, her personal life has been a topic of much discussion since the discovery of a batch of her letters nearly four decades ago and the resulting publication of the book, Empty Without You.
There are cities I cannot write about. Cities so full that you cannot hold them in your mouth or hands—spilling over onto sidewalks and tarmac, reaching into the recesses of your blood memories for something you once knew. But how do you remember a thing you’ve never seen? A city you’ve never met? Perhaps it’s the city’s stunning geography or its dizzying history but something stops you before you can put pen to paper that says, “wait, you do not understand… yet.”
He speaks not to me, not to her, but is sound in his resolution. Her, being Angelica, the fierce Honduran American sitting beside me on the beach. Hours earlier, she had driven us to this strip of island on Florida's West Coast so we could stare at the blue. And Ana Maria Island is all blue. A seven-plus mile long expanse of land and sand strewn into the Gulf of Mexico to remind you, yes you, that you are living your best life. It is generous.
On February 8th, 2016, MarShawn killed himself on the steps of the Ohio State Capitol. He was 23, a Black Lives Matter Organizer, and a promising leader who said heaven wasn't worth waiting for if it meant living in hell. In one of his last tweets, he posted, "If we don't don't have to live through hell just to get to heaven. I'ma stay right here."
Nights are the hardest. Drenched with anxiety over yet another night to be spent tossing and turning. A nightly routine predicated on the nagging fear of watching the clock yawn into the night, numbers falling off to be replaced by even more menacing ones. My heart beats faster. Unsure if I am more afraid of suddenly been caught awake in what are the sleeping hours or the fear that there is still much to be done.
Perhaps too quiet of a night for that big of a moon and this little of a girl to find each other. But resistance is futile, the moon has summoned you, feet leading you to that place where earth and water collide and the moon comes out to watch over them; stilling the ocean so the earth can kiss it just so.
So you want to seduce her, you tell me? And you know that for a girl like her, flowers just won’t do. At least no ordinary dozen of roses, or those stargazer lilies mama used to love so much we’d have to pick them up on our way home from church every Sunday. No. A girl like her likes flowers like her; broody, awkward, strange.
When they had laid in bed that first morning, the light catching them both with nothing to hide, Jamal had marveled at the smooth skin that hugged her breasts and curved her belly, unwinding itself in the limbs she wrapped around him. He had written the song then and though he varied its tune, the lyrics always remained the same.
sing a black girl's song
bring her out
to know herself
to know you
but sing her rhythms
carin/ struggle/ hard times
sing her song of life
Sometime in the last two years, I lost myself. Like the spin cycle on a washer, I couldn’t hold onto anything stable that defined me. In 2004, I had arrived in the U.S., a fresh faced teenager and now I was nearing 30 in the midst of America’s reckoning with its systemic racism and my own grapple with identity as a Black Kenyan immigrant. The trauma of living in a Black body in America was becoming too much. Meanwhile, I had never felt more Black, yet significantly less Kenyan and less African—an unsettling thing when these are the things meant to define you.
Being woman is double consciousness like Du Bois could never have imagined. For after woman, you are still many other things, but ‘woman’ remains the most inescapable of those.
In our younger days, she had brought us spices and gold of the most exotic kind from China, India, Persia and beyond. Sealing them in boats carved out of trees older than us and wrapping them in bows set as sails. All along the coast—from North to South— we had sat at the turret of our windows awaiting the gifts she gingerly teased into her embrace as she carried them from her mouth to her womb.
You ask how I am and how Nairobi is. As if to inquire what it is doing at any given moment. Or perhaps what its dreams and aspirations are; the books it is reading, who its friends are now, and most importantly who is sleeping in its bed.
Write till your mind empties. Until you are moved, angered, stupefied, mystified. Until there is nothing to do but read it all and discover yourself and everyone else around you in your words. Then, write again.
It is August 2011 and you are in love with someone who loves you not for who you are but for who they think you could be.
On our way home, we drive past the never ending Kibera slums, speeding down the shiny, new Southern Bypass—a gift from our new Chinese friends that had come with some unintended consequences (but such is the price of development). I am forced to look away as the minutes go by and the shanties do not. Later, when I sit down with two former high school friends and they tell me about the Kibera tours handed out to eager tourists, I cringe even further. A city teeming with new housing while housing one of the largest slums in Africa.
(TW) There are many of us who have learned to forget to remember. To speak with mouths closed, burying the resurrections of the past.
Only when the space feels safe, and rarely even so, do we reveal the hideousness that lies behind our eyes in those darkest of rooms. We have been called liars, drunk, careless, told that we were in the wrong place at the wrong time, or more often that it was our fault (or at least partially so). In our official records (where they exist) we are often nameless victims, our identities concealed from roving eyes.
When the water comes to find you, you must not be afraid. It will seek you and appear to engulf you as it carves continental shapes into your edges. You may cry out in surprise as you did when they dipped you into the water at your baptismal and made you afraid of the water then, of what was to come. But the water is the only thing that binds us all—connecting you to me and bridging the distance between continents.
Home is 12 years ago
12 years of living
Home is never enough.
I didn't mean to fall in love with her that afternoon, but the way she danced in the light, romancing passersby with her charm, it was impossible to look away.
a non-specific, non-definitive list of the things you will forget and remember when you "go home"