sucking stones

A few years ago, I suggested to my friend Christina Sharpe that we should plan something on visual culture and black hunger. By visual culture, I really meant film and television, mostly mainstream film and TV. Whatever we did would build on the idea that mainstream film and TV in the U.S. is always a bad diet for black audiences, always a site of malnutrition.

That is one metaphor.
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When I first read The Black Aesthetic, edited by Addison Gayle, I was struck by the term “zero image.” It described, I think, not only the absence of images of black people in mainstream representation, but also the negating effect of the representations that existed. The particular and peculiar ways on-screen blackness could be annihilating, trapping one in a repertoire of sounds and movements, fashions and flavors.

From the space of Kenyan TV—and I always return to my childhood—it was the chasm between Dallas and Good Times, Dynasty and Sanford and Son, Hart to Hart and The Jeffersons. A chasm of who owned what, who worked for whom, who could move through the world how. It was also the affective work of these shows: we learned to laugh at black cultural production, to see it framed through humor, even when it dealt with serious questions (Good Times was exemplary, as it dealt with child abuse and community accountability). We might have imitated JJ, but we wanted JR’s power.

As middle class children in Kenya, children of professionals who’d worked their way from nothing, U.S. TV was entertainment—it did not accord with anything to which we aspired, or were taught to value. The Ewings were oil barons. The Evanses were not white collar. The Harts were millionaire amateur detectives. The Jeffersons were middle class, but not of the professional class. In a sense, these shows were as fantastic as The Incredible Hulk and Six Million Dollar Man.

They offered zero images. From Nairobi, the line between what was on TV, foreign—in strange accents—and our lives seemed unbridgeable. Too, while none of us thought of England as “the motherland,” many of our parents had sung “God Save the Queen.” The U.S. was a kind of fantasy, not as close as England. At least, not until later.

But the U.S. offered what England did not: programs with black protagonists. As far as I can recall, the only black person I saw on the few English programs available was on Mind Your Language, a midly offensive show about immigrants to the U.K., based on the fiction that racial and ethnic diversity was welcomed in the U.K., and, more, that it was recent.

Perhaps Mind Your Language cut too close to the bone: it offered a picture of us as migrants, as lacking the linguistic and social fluencies that we assumed we already had.

With U.S. programs, we saw people who looked like us, but didn’t sound like us.

Little in our cultural landscapes taught us how to forge affiliations.

And those who sounded like us on Kenyan television, on shows like Vioja Mahakamani and Vitimbi, didn’t inhabit the lives to which we were told to aspire. Perhaps that “we” is doing too much work.

Swahili TV programming occupied the same broad genre as U.S. TV: comedy and farce. Just as sisal-clad dancers were expected to perform for Kenya’s leaders, TV’s lower middle class and poor characters were expected to entertain the TV-owning middle class and elite. Identification was difficult.
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I don’t think I’m trying to map my growing up Kenya onto the Clark experiments. As vernaculars, the Clark experiments are associated with goodness and beauty. The white doll is good or better, pretty or beautiful. Now, I wonder whether the doll experiments are also about pleasure: that whiteness owns pleasure, that the black children in the experiments wanted the pleasure they associated with whiteness.
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It’s really not until I went to the U.S. that I discovered shows featuring working class and poor whites, shows contemporaneous with Good Times and Sanford and Son, shows that never appeared on Kenyan TV.
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I’m being dishonest.
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A cultural studies framework prioritizes mass culture as the site of a particular kind of classed making. Those anchored securely in the middle class, as I was, might participate in or consume mass culture, but it’s not the dominant scene of self-fashioning, not the dominant reservoir. Surrounded by professionals who looked like me, who had stories about how to be/come a professional, the world of mass culture might have shaped my possibilities, but it did not, it could not, limit them. And, in fact, given that TV started at 4 or 5 pm, was state owned, and featured a lot of state propaganda, I quickly learned to distrust its influence.

(this cannot be the long essay that needs to be written about culture work in the Kenyan 80s—about the state’s grasp on “culture,” about the limited forms of dissent culture, about how we used other spaces as sanctuaries, as spaces where we could breathe—that also needs to be written)

Mass culture was not the place I looked to find myself—but this was a class bubble. And, also, not living in a majority-white culture. Which is to say, while a Kenyan cultural studies might look to frames developed in the U.K. and the U.S., it must also account for the difference race makes. Of course, we were not exempt from white supremacy, as our ads for skin lightening products and ads for soap featuring all white characters proved—Victoria Principal used Lux—Roxena and Lifebuoy were used by black people—and it wasn’t until much later that we saw black people using Imperial Leather.

Hunger.

I grew up on a diet of My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music and Dr. Zhivago and John Wayne. These were the films I memorized. The flavors that taught me what film should look like, sound like, who should be in it.

Was there a moment of shock when new(er) U.S. media began to move into Kenya? When I saw films with majority black actors (not many) or with black actors in lead roles? Not really. I had always taken for granted that black people were leaders. That black people were the main characters of any and all dramas. This was the privilege of growing up in Kenya.
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A different hunger quickly emerged when I moved to the U.S. Cut off from the familiarity of black faces, black leaders, black decision makers, black professionals—I did not take a single class with a black faculty member at my university. The English department did not have one.

At first, I did not know I was starving.

Being away from home was an adventure. So many new flavors to taste. So many new ways of being to experience. And I was young enough to abuse my body without caring.

My geo-histories expanded: I made friends from Singapore and India, Lesotho and Nigeria, Puerto Rico and St. Thomas, Canada and Belgium. My world was more international among the small group of international students I embraced. Still, my classes were taught by white professors, people who, far from being cosmopolitan, often had the narrow provincialisms of those who’ve never left the U.S., those who’ve never had to think about and with spaces other than the U.S.

I was starving.

My body knew before my mind.

After gorging myself on what was widely available, I turned, deliberately, to what was available, but not widely so: black authors. In class after class, I would ask: “I know we haven’t studied this in class, but can I write on it?” I needed to learn how to hear black voices. I needed to learn how to understand my hungers—how to live with malnutrition.

Like many other black students before me—and still—I lived in different educational worlds: there was what I read in class and what I had to read on my own. This double labor is taxing—and it drains whatever nutrition supplements might provide. Supplements are not meals—they can’t be. But we use them to try to ward off the devastation that happens without them.

I could not, as an undergraduate, read African literature. The category would not make sense to me until 2005. And I needed to translate the black writers I was reading—to grasp the worlds they described, to follow their rhythms, to dance awkwardly to sorrow songs I learned to hear, sorrow songs I learned to sing. Starving.

And I wondered—I still wonder—what it means to grow up so ill fed, what it produces as expectation, as nutrition, as possibility.

One might argue that it produces an uncritical relation to black cultural production—all black cultural production feeds something, in some way. Hence, Tyler Perry. This, I think, is not strictly accurate. Which is to say, the nutritive value of, say, Tyler Perry, extends beyond what might be considered “good taste” or even “excellent nutrition.” (I’m not sure the metaphor is holding.)

There is a nutritive value to a room full of black bodies watching a film together, enjoying a film together, that extends beyond the content of the film. Cultural production and consumption both feed in different ways. This is why Scandal’s twitter stream is so very important. It feeds. It affirms. It says, “we are here assembled together, we are those who assemble together, in this moment, at this time, to be a we-together.”

I gorged on Girlfriends, relishing the (un)varieties of blackness on display. I was a fan of Moesha, 227, Martin, Living Single, In Living Color. They fed something. They offered forms of nutrition, even amidst the glut of mainstream annihilation.

Hunger manifests in many ways: one finds oneself sucking on stones. Chewing bitter leaves. Trying to squeeze water from cactus leaves. Abundance is rare. And even what ostensibly feeds can be so often adulterated, poisoned, made less enjoyable, less nutritious.

One tried to hoard what feeds the best, to pass it on to others who will need it—to “make generations.” Often, there is so little to pass on. We hoard precious grains. Offering little tastes to those who need to know more is possible.

Every so often, there is an event. A film that feeds. A film on which we can gorge. And we do. We gather as those who are gathered—a formulation I take from Wambui Mwangi—to learn who we can be as the gathered and the gatherers. We feed and carry what we can in precious little bags, to pass on to friends and strangers, to store in story and memory, song and dance, to pass on.

And, sometimes, we suck on stones.
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I do not know how to talk about film and TV, about the technical aspects, the language of light and depth, position and angle. About props and extras, directors and producers. I’m mystified by the simplest descriptions of such things.

I do not know how to move from these technical aspects to hunger—how to find nutrition or discuss nutrition or confess that I am starving.

How does one confess that one is starving? Would I even recognize good nutrition if it were offered? One learns to distrust one’s tastes, fed on a diet of annihilating flavors that one learns to love.

How does one confess one cannot trust one’s tastes? That one does not know how to find nutrition? That one has become accustomed to sucking on stones?

Pregnant women will, sometimes, eat various soils or suck on stones. It is said that this is their body telling them that it is not receiving enough nutrition.

freedom: from, to, with

I might not love freedom at all
–Blanche Taylor Dickinson

 

I am not sure where to start. Or how. A part of me says the desire for freedom must be so self-evident, so beyond questioning, but then I am arrested by Blanche Taylor Dickinson. Thomas Holt teaches me that modern freedom acquires its meaning only because slavery exists—our modern notions of freedom mean, in a very particular sense—freedom from enslavement. Freedom from slavery. For this to make sense, we need the rich understandings of slavery created by many thinkers: slavery as thing-making; slavery as ungendering; slavery as mass entertainment; slavery as labor; slavery as sexual violence; slavery as producing profit; slaves as fungible; slavery as natal alienation; slavery as social death; slavery as the foundation of racial capitalism; slavery as foundational to modernity; slavery as foundational to the world we now inhabit, as practice and metaphor; slavery as foundational to the modern nation-state; slavery as foundational to modern governmentality.

Kenya’s solicitor general said freedom from enslavement was an absolute freedom that could not be questioned or taken away. We need more robust thinking about what freedom from enslavement is. We need more robust thinking about enslavement as practice, as world-making, as person-obliterating, as self-destroying, as community-destroying, as possibility-unmaking. We need more robust thinking about the worlds that slavery makes, about the lives that slavery destroys, about the afterlives of slavery, so we can understand the possibilities of claiming this “absolute freedom.”
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Nina Simone sings, “I wish I knew how it would feel to be free.” Audre Lorde writes, “If we win / there is no telling.” Adrienne Rich writes,

freedom is daily, prose-bound, routine
remembering. Putting together, inch by inch
the starry worlds.

Shailja Patel writes, “Give this pain to no one else.”

Women pursuing freedom dreams.
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Turning to Audre Lorde, I remember

Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.

And

As they become known to and accepted by us, our feelings and the honest exploration of them become sanctuaries and spawning grounds for the most radical and daring of ideas. They become a safe-house for that difference so necessary to change and the conceptualization of any meaningful action.

And

we must constantly encourage ourselves and each other to attempt the heretical actions that our dreams imply, and so many of our old ideas disparage

And

it is our dreams that point the way to freedom

Robin Kelley teaches me,

In the poetics of struggle and lived experience, in the utterances of ordinary folk, in the cultural products of social movements, in the reflections of activists, we discover the many different cognitive maps of the future, of the world not yet born.

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Hata sielewi nianze wapi. (Kimya.) Unasikia Juma . . . . Hebu tuanze . . . . Ninahisi nini nataka kusema, lakini akili haiupi ulimi maneno yanayoeleza kuhisi kwangu au feelings zangu. Na akili vile vile pengine haifahamu tatizo hili, lakini ninahisi. Kwa mfano, toka tumepata uhuru, sisi Waafrika hapa, imekuwa kama tumeingia . . . ehe, mfano mzuri . . . imekuwa kama tumeingia katika . . . katika jahazi moja zuri sana, na jina letu limeandikwa. Lakini . . . nahodha . . . nahodha nani?—Ebrahim N. Hussein, Mashetani
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Subha Wijesiriwardena writing on the recent Sri Lankan election:

So you see, democracy is not just a system, a structure; it is also a feeling. It is a feeling within each one of us; a desire to be led, a desire to be led by the things we believe in and the people we see those things in. It is a desire to stand up, to feel powerful in our own way, to wield that power in the face of despair and frustration. It is a feeling that inspires other feelings; it gives us courage, it gives us hope.

This resonates

I was tired of how terrible it felt to belong to Sri Lanka. I was devastated to find myself feeling like I wanted to leave, and never go back. I am angry at how they took that from me, from us all – the right to enjoy that feeling of citizenship, the ability to embrace the place to which you belong, to live in it freely, to love it freely. I am angry at how impossible it became to enjoy Sri Lanka – how, every time, I felt joy or experienced beauty, I was immediately overcome by the feeling that I was doing something terribly unjust. I was tired – as you should have been – of having become so deeply complicit in all the awfulness. I was tired that we found ourselves living in a nation where we had no choice but to be complicit. No matter what we did – every road we took, every time we shopped for groceries – we were complicit.

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We feel unfreedom. No matter what state rhetorics might proclaim about the “freedoms we enjoy,” we feel unfreedom. It makes us whisper. It makes us swagger. It makes us laugh too loudly. It makes us cry hysterically. It makes us break out in hives. It makes us beat each other. It destroys households. It intensifies violence against the vulnerable. It makes us corporate. It makes us defend “brands” over freedom. It makes freedom unthinkable. It stifles dreams. It produces empty cultural gestures. It kills the courage to dream. It kills the courage to imagine differently. It produces empty aesthetics. It unsees the violence of neoliberalism.

We survive in a haze of lies and narcotics.

If we survive.
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Kenya is in a state of unfreedom. Freedom has become impossible to say, to imagine, to think, to pursue.
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Our most public minds fiddle with little nudges here and there. Refusing to name our unfreedom. Profiting from our unfreedom. Protecting class and kin affiliation—“I know that person, that person is a good person.” Protecting formal documents and institutions—we have “the most progressive constitution in Africa.” And still the violence continues and intensifies. And still the unfreedom intensifies.
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We need dreams that point the way to freedom. We need to imagine that life can be lived differently, that Kenya can be a sharable space. Against the politics of patronage and sycophancy, the politics that make death and spread dying, against the politics of fear and intimidation, we need different visions, better visions.
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Elizabeth Povinelli taught me to question the word “freedom.” She argues that we need to think about embedding before/as/instead of thinking of “freedom.”

A freedom-seeking imagination can envision a sharable world—a world where we are with each other in a range of configurations. Embedding can happen in and with freedom. We can share freely.

A sharable Kenya is possible.

Imagine it.

Dream it.

Pursue it.

this feels familiar . . .

Across a range of Kenyan spaces, one hears worries about “losing gains” and “returning to the Moi era.” Silence has started to fall, especially in areas where necessary fluencies had never been acquired. Feelings trained under repressive regimes are reactivated. Now, we act as we have been trained to act: lie low like an envelope.

Untraining did not happen.

Two elements concern me: the narrative of “gains” obscures the very real ethno-patriarchal and elite-making forces that have guided Kenya in the post-Moi era, forces that have more deeply entrenched the idea that only the well connected can and should lead. Second, many Kenyans lack the necessary tools and frameworks to understand, engage, and critique power.

The post-Kenyatta and post-Moi eras were supposed to be post-patronage eras. Regional, ethno-patriarchal “mafias” would lose influence and, in their place, more radically diverse coalitions would be embraced, or would be possible. This has not happened.

Those groups classified as vulnerable in the TJRC Report—minorities, indigenous people, persons with disabilities, persons living with HIV/AIDS, refugees, prisoners, the poor, women and children—remain vulnerable. Somalis, long a target of state repression and worse, continue to be targeted, treated as “un-Kenyan,” and, worse, as unhuman.

A post-Kenyatta and post-Moi world would have changed the status of groups labeled as vulnerable: measures to move past patronage economies, measures to break down the elite/vulnerable distinctions, measures to create strong coalitions that reduce vulnerability. This did not happen.

Instead, the strongly ethno-patriarchal nature of Kenyan politics has intensified: we are now in a Baba v. Baba economy.

While we have strong cohorts of women representatives at the national and county levels, these women never feature—or are never featured by the mainstream press—as active, engaged, important, or transformative.

CORD v. Jubilee is a Baba v. Baba affair. The principals of both coalitions are men. And while, every so often, a woman will peek through or be seen in the background, rarely, if ever, do women feature as key decision makers. Rarely, if ever, are we called on to rally behind women. Rarely, if ever, are we asked to see women’s labor as world building and world sustaining.

A recent broadcast featured Rachel Ruto, the deputy president’s wife. She has been traveling across the country teaching women how to “grow” themselves: to improve their crop yields, diversify production methods, and build better lives. She spoke of seeing women who, having learned how to “grow” themselves, could now speak in public, afford better clothes, afford cars, dream of different, more possible futures.

Friends and I have been thinking about women’s work: about growth and sustainability, about making and sharing, about enabling dreams and facilitating ambitions. About what this labor, enacted across numerous small groups across the country, teaches us about how to live together. About the politics of this labor. About how to make this labor visible and political, a foundation for what it means to live together.

Kenya continues to lose as long as we refuse to learn from and emulate women’s practices of world building and world sustaining.
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Here is Antonio Gramsci on the intellectual:

Every social group, coming into existence on the original terrain of an essential function in the world of economic production, creates together with itself, organically, one or more strata of intellectuals which give it homogeneity and an awareness of its own function not only in the economic but also in the social and political fields. The capitalist entrepreneur creates alongside himself the industrial technician, the specialist in political economy, the organisers of a new culture, of a new legal system, etc.

And

One of the most important characteristics of any group that is developing towards dominance is its struggle to assimilate and to conquer “ideologically” the traditional intellectuals, but this assimilation and conquest is made quicker and more efficacious the more the group in question succeeds in simultaneously elaborating its own organic intellectuals.

I have been puzzling over the idea that Kenya is anti-intellectual. Increasingly, I am unconvinced by this claim. Now, I am more interested in trying to figure out what kinds of intellectuals populate Kenyan spaces. Gramsci’s notion of the “organic intellectual,” one who emerges with and justifies the dominant order has been very useful.

Across Kenyan spaces, one encounters many organic intellectuals willing to defend the state’s actions: Dr. Martin Kimani, in the New York Times, defending Kenya against the ICC; Professor Githu Muigai, on TV, defending the state’s right to limit freedoms; solicitor general Njee Muturi, on TV, defending the state’s right to limit freedoms. Moses Kuria, Ngunjiri Wambugu, Mutahi Ngunyi, Dennis Itumbi, all willing to defend the state’s actions. To see these men—and many others—as organic intellectuals—is to recognize that their role is not only to justify the dominant order, but to circulate those justifications in a range of technical and common vernaculars, harvested from political science, anthropology, sociology, economics, rumor, gossip, and religion.

That is: we must see how the state uses economic datasets in conjunction with rumor and gossip and religious discourse. We must see how each of these amplify each other.

Simply: the work of the organic intellectual from the dominant order is to justify the dominant order. Sometimes, this justification entails a wholesale, unquestioning defense of the dominant order. Sometimes, this defense entails saying that, for instance, “the president has bad advisors.” Sometimes, this defense entails saying that damaging institutional frameworks and structures are sound, but they simply need better administrators. Much-needed structural critique is, thus, impossible.

Simultaneously, we must figure out what freedom-pursuing intellectual work looks like. It must be work that prioritizes human life over development indexes. It must be work that speaks about people before numbers. It must be work that diminishes vulnerability. It must be work capable of institutional and structural critique—work that knows how to work with policy, but pursues freedom.

My sense is that freedom-seeking work has been superseded by policy-making work, that details have crowded out goals.

Nudge economies have taken over Radical economies.

Nudge economies can too easily become complicit in dominant orders—because their focus is never structural, can never see or take on the whole picture. Kenya is full of nudge economies. We need radical economies.

We need radical economies and movements and knowledges that will impede and, if possible, undo our docile bodies. We need radical critiques that name and work against fear, intimidation, and silencing. We need robust intellectual work that names and works against the state’s repressive strategies.

While we will need the vulgar and the obscene, the insults and the jokes, we also need strong, compelling arguments, richly detailed, grounded in the best thinking available, anchored in freedom-seeking imaginations.

Thinking that looks to histories of liberation—from Haiti to Zimbabwe, from Sojourner Truth to Thomas Sankara. Thinking that looks to radical imaginations—from Ida B. Wells to Wangari Maathai, from Nina Simone to Miriam Makeba. Thinking that navigates what it can and undoes what it must.

Our survival is at stake.

a benediction

We

who gather
one by one, into some and many, driven and afraid, to be and build, sustained by promises we learn to make

We

who tremble
undoing word by word, step by step, world by world, all that keeps us impossible

We

who gather
astounded by who we discover ourselves to be

We

who remember
spilling libations for the many thousands gone

We

who gather
fragments from barely there winds, snatches of song-making, truth-telling, love-sharing, building with wisps and filaments

We

who pursue
freedom dreams

We gather

fragments

“We have our shoes on. We’re not dead”
*
“Ni Ngai”
I nod.

“Ni Ngai”
I nod.

“Ni Ngai”
I nod.
*
“say something”

“if you’re alive, say something”

“say something”
*
“My friend, she’s telepathic. She felt . . . something . She called right after the accident. She felt . . . something.”

Books and films describe attachment as a filament—when something happens to those you’re attached to, you’re supposed to feel . . . something.

What if you don’t?

What if you can’t?
*
“Ni Ngai.”
I nod.

“Nituhoye.”
I walk away.

I will not question belief.
I will not sit through its rituals.
*
“we are dying”

“we are dying”

“we have died”

“we have died”
*
“Ni Ngai”
*
“I’m scratching. That’s a good sign. It means blood is flowing. I’m scratching”

Fuzzy about what to do, I develop sympathy symptoms, random symptoms: rashes, hiccups, night fevers, random stomach ailments. Little things that will not stop the work of care.

My body has always processed emotion through sickness. Doctors tell me there’s nothing physically wrong. Reading Freud was necessary.

This is not about me.
*
“Show them the pictures.”

I lift the phone, find the gallery, show yet another visitor the pictures.

“You see? This is where they had to cut me out.”
*
“we are dying”

“we are dying”

“we are dying”

“we have deaded”

Most accurately, the Kikuyu translates as, “we have deaded,” not “we have died.”
*
“We have our shoes on. We are not yet dead.”
*
An anecdote:

The police officer handling the file pulled it out and pushed it to the side. He wandered in and out of the office, pretended it was anywhere but next to him. I said, “officer, you see I am an old woman. Won’t you complete the report for me?”

He continued to putter.

I said, “officer, now it’s getting to lunch time, and we’re getting hungry.”

He continued to putter.

I pulled three tropical sweets from my bag. I took one, offered him one, and then said the other would be for someone else.

“After this, we can have lunch together.”

He completed the report.
*
“the lorry was coming—I drove for a gap—it slid off the car—I was pinned to the side of the car”

“these drugs, they have morphine—I don’t want to get addicted”
*
“Ni Ngai”
*
Saran Wrap: to keep bandages from getting wet. I wrap it round my mother’s arm. The work of repair.
*
“I hadn’t told other people. They will be told. They will come to visit.”

We stock up on milk, baking happens, much tea is made.
*
A story for the holidays: “Ni Ngai.”

A story with illustrations. A story with a present-here narrator. A story that is not the story it could have been.
*
“Ni Ngai”
*

story as repair
writing as repair
busywork as repair
serving tea as repair
story as repair

*
“You just keep baking,” my mother tells me

Security Amendments: simple facts

The constitution is the supreme law of the land.

259. (1) This Constitution shall be interpreted in a manner that—
(a) promotes its purposes, values and principles;
(b) advances the rule of law, and the human rights and fundamental freedoms in the Bill of Rights;
(c) permits the development of the law; and
(d) contributes to good governance.
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Changes to the constitution under the guise of changes to security laws are unconstitutional. The constitution is very clear about how it may be changed.

255. (1) A proposed amendment to this Constitution shall be enacted in accordance with Article 256 or 257, and approved in accordance with clause (2) by a referendum, if the amendment relates to any of the following matters—
(a) the supremacy of this Constitution;
(b) the territory of Kenya;
(c) the sovereignty of the people;
(d) the national values and principles of governance mentioned in Article 10 (2) (a) to (d).
(e) the Bill of Rights;
(f) the term of office of the president;
(g) the independence of the Judiciary and the commissions and independent offices to which Chapter Fifteen applies.
(h) the functions of Parliament;
(i) the objects, principles and structure of devolved government;
or
(j) the provisions of this Chapter.

(2) A proposed amendment shall be approved by a referendum under clause (1) if—
(a) at least twenty per cent of the registered voters in each of at least half of the counties vote in the referendum; and
(b) the amendment is supported by a simple majority of the citizens voting in the referendum.

(3) An amendment to this Constitution that does not relate to a matter mentioned in clause (1) shall be enacted either—
(a) by Parliament, in accordance with Article 256; or
(b) by the people and Parliament, in accordance with Article 257.

256. (1) A Bill to amend this Constitution—
(a) may be introduced in either House of Parliament;
(b) may not address any other matter apart from consequential amendments to legislation arising from the Bill;
(c) shall not be called for second reading in either House within ninety days after the first reading of the Bill in that House; and
(d) shall have been passed by Parliament when each House of Parliament has passed the Bill, in both its second and thirdreadings, by not less than two-thirds of all the members of that House.

(2) Parliament shall publicise any Bill to amend this Constitution, and facilitate public discussion about the Bill.

(3) After Parliament passes a Bill to amend this Constitution, the Speakers of the two Houses of Parliament shall jointly submit to the President—
(a) the Bill, for assent and publication; and
(b) a certificate that the Bill has been passed by Parliament in accordance with this Article.

(4) Subject to clause (5), the President shall assent to the Bill and cause it to be published within thirty days after the Bill is enacted by Parliament.

(5) If a Bill to amend this Constitution proposes an amendment relating to a matter mentioned in Article 255 (1)—
(a) the President shall, before assenting to the Bill, request the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to conduct, within ninety days, a national referendum for approval of the Bill; and
(b) within thirty days after the chairperson of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has certified to the President that the Bill has been approved in accordance with Article 255 (2), the President shall assent to the Bill and cause it to be published.

257. (1) An amendment to this Constitution may be proposed by a popular initiative signed by at least one million registered voters.

(2) A popular initiative for an amendment to this Constitution may be in the form of a general suggestion or a formulated draft Bill.

(3) If a popular initiative is in the form of a general suggestion, the promoters of that popular initiative shall formulate it into a draft Bill.

(4) The promoters of a popular initiative shall deliver the draft Bill and the supporting signatures to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, which shall verify that the initiative is supported by at least one million registered voters.

(5) If the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission is satisfied that the initiative meets the requirement of this Article, the Commission shall submit the draft Bill to each county assembly for consideration within three months after the date it was submitted by the Commission.

(6) If a county assembly approves the draft Bill within three months after the date it was submitted by the Commission, the speaker of the county assembly shall deliver a copy of the draft Bill jointly to the Speakers of the two Houses of Parliament, with a certificate that the county assembly has approved it.

(7) If a draft Bill has been approved by a majority of the county assemblies, it shall be introduced in Parliament without delay.

(8) A Bill under this Article is passed by Parliament if supported by a majority of the members of each House.

(9) If Parliament passes the Bill, it shall be submitted to the President for assent in accordance with Articles 256 (4) and (5).

(10) If either House of Parliament fails to pass the Bill, or the Bill relates to a matter mentioned in 255 (1), the proposed amendment shall be submitted to the people in a referendum under clause (10).
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This is not my language. This is the language of the constitution. This matters.
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258. (1) Every person has the right to institute court proceedings, claiming that this Constitution has been contravened, or is threatened with contravention.

(2) In addition to a person acting in their own interest, court proceedings under clause (1) may be instituted by—
(a) a person acting on behalf of another person who cannot act in their own name;
(b) a person acting as a member of, or in the interest of, a group or class of persons;
(c) a person acting in the public interest; or
(d) an association acting in the interest of one or more of its members.
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We are in fractured times.

The Media is (must be singular) upset about those portions of the Security Bill Amendments that affect it. Other organizations are similarly upset about those portions of the Amendments that affect them.

Where is the global vision?

A global vision must resist the impulse to say “Kenya is bigger than any single person.” This approach refuses to value each human life, each individual, each person resident in or attached to Kenya.

The abstraction cannot take the place of the bodied enfleshments.

What vision of Kenya can place the value of each and every life resident here and attached to here at its center? That’s the vision worth pursuing.

Kenya should never “be bigger than,” because Kenya is precisely the value placed on each and every person within its borders and attached to it in some way.
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Who speaks for the refugees whose worth as humans is being devalued?

Who speaks for the arrested, whose rights to a proper process are being taken away by legalized, indefinite detention?

Who speaks for due process when the process of acquiring evidence can no longer be challenged?

Who speaks against the class war instantiated by multiplying fines by factors of 10 and 100?

Who speaks about the illegal, unconstitutional laws being conferred on the presidency?

Who speaks for the right to privacy?
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I am not hopeful.

Because the many who stood by as #kasaraniconcentrationcamp happened, the many who were silent, will remain silent. And, anyway, that ship has sailed. Little alarm was raised as Somalis were profiled, disaggregated, made to demonstrate loyalty to Kenya, and still abused.

The silence—it is here. Already, we are whispering, because the president’s honor and dignity cannot be assailed. A tweet is actionable.

This is fear.

This is intimidation.

This is the taking away of freedom.

It is wrong. It is bad. It is evil.

A Clarification

Kenya’s solicitor general lied.

Here’s what the constitution says about rights and freedoms:

19. (1) The Bill of Rights is an integral part of Kenya’s democratic state and is the framework for social, economic and cultural policies.

(2) The purpose of recognising and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms is to preserve the dignity of individuals and communities and to promote social justice and the realisation of the potential of all human beings.

(3) The rights and fundamental freedoms in the Bill of Rights—

(a) belong to each individual and are not granted by the State;

(b) do not exclude other rights and fundamental freedoms not in the Bill of Rights, but recognised or conferred by law, except to the extent that they are inconsistent with this Chapter; and

(c) are subject only to the limitations contemplated in this Constitution.
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I’m not a lawyer, but I’ve been studying language for a very long time. No bill in parliament can supersede the constitution. None. None at all. Any unconstitutional law is unconstitutional.

The state DOES NOT GRANT RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS. Repeat after me: THE STATE DOES NOT GRANT RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS. The constitution, which founds the state, explicitly states this.

It is explicit. There. Check your constitution.

Refuse the state’s fuckery. Refuse the fuckery of the media who will not bother to check the constitutions they claim to have.