I salute what David Kobia is trying to do with I HAVE NO TRIBE. He has catalysed a useful discussion, especially in the wake of what I hear the Mashada forums had deteriorated to.
To be Kenyan at this time and in this place is to go over your raison d’etre with a fine-tooth comb: to search your soul, deeply. We have been forced to revisit our presumptive identities, to unpack who we always thought we were, to grope for definition(s).
I for one have been unearthing childhood memories and dusting them off in an attempt to isolate the spaces that shaped me into this person that I have become.
And there have been interesting (sometimes heated) discussions about the place of socialization, values and ideas in the current crisis and about the nuanced standoff between individualistic and collective cultures as witnessed between certain ethnic communities in Kenya today. I have given as much as I have taken in these debates. There’s still much to give and as much to take.
Today, I acknowledge that I belong to a specific ethnic community and that that belonging speaks to where I come from in vital ways that I will not disregard.
I AM NOT MY TRIBE.
At the top of my voice, defiantly, and somewhat breathlessly, to the tune of India Arie’s I Am Not My Hair, I am singing:
I Am Not My Tribe,
I Am Not This Name,
I Am Not Your Expectations, No.
This has become my mantra.
My ethnicity speaks to me and to you about where I have come from, not to who I am nor where I am going.
And I will not allow it to dictate my choices and my affiliations nor to set my limits for me of who I am and what I hold to be true.
I have said before, if we are to forge a Kenyan nationhood, we have to find a new way of being. We cannot pass on this fractured nation to the next generation. We’ve battered and grievously assaulted what we’re meant to be holding in trust for our children and it is unconscionable to pass it on until we have restored it and set it on a path to where it ought to be going.
And one of the most painful things that we must face up to, to a large extent, is that this is a journey that the generation before us will be neither able nor willing to take with us.
In many ways, we will have to let go of our ‘parents’ in order to take hold of the future for our ‘children’.
We were raised to hold our elders in the highest esteem, to listen to them when they spoke, to consider their words carefully, to trust their judgment. But, we cannot do so when they insist on speaking the divisions of the past as we strive to forge the bonds of tomorrow.
We must find the strength, the courage and the vision to say: “Mum, Dad, _____, _______, you know I love you to the edge of madness, but, enough.”
We are the ones who must find common stories of nationhood to coalesce around. This is our moment, and we must seize it or be swallowed up in it.
For a Christian leader's take, see Pastor M's post on the subject.