Friday, September 09, 2005

A Gay Kenyan Dies in Toronto...

Onyango Oloo Goes After a Trash-Talking Homophobe in Southern Ontario...

A very well known member of the Kenyan community in the Greater Toronto Area passed on recently. Peter Curtis Kamau was a fixture at Madaraka and Jamhuri Day celebrations; he was an avid patron of any Kenyan business- for example the legendary Wham's Cafe( run by the much adored Sandra Wanjiku) that was the Kenyan hangout place in the mid to late nineties from its location at Coxwell and Danforth in the east end of the city nicknamed Hogtown.

So full of life was he and so eager to maintain contact with his fellow Kenyans that literally the first words out of Kamau's mouth after his Mambo Vipis was always:

"Do you still have my phone number?"

Peter Curtis Kamau also did not particularly hide the fact that he was a homosexual man.

This summer his mom and his siblings who live in the UK came over to Canada to visit. I am told that it was a wonderful time- Kamau took his family to the Metropolitan Church which is a well-known institution that caters to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community in Canada's financial capital.

When he passed, I paused from rushing online to post an appreciation.

I did this for several reasons.

Number One was to take the cue from his family and his immediate network of supportive friends; I had intended to travel to Toronto from Montreal to attend the August 30th memorial at the same funeral home on Dufferin and Eglinton where we had bid goodbye to the late Githirwa wa Muhoro in 1994- circumstances prevented me from doing so.

A second reason and very germane to the first one above was also to ensure that I did not give the wrong impression that I was Kamau's best friend and somehow appropriate the grief of his passing. It would have been totally dishonest and fraudulent to shed copious made up tears attesting to a degree of amity and intimacy that never existed between Kamau and I. True, I had known Kamau since 1989 when he used to work at the Sheraton. I remember an excited phone call from him after midnight one weekday: "Oloo, do you want to take Biwott out? He is here at the Sheraton and I am making his bed!" Of course I persuaded Kamau to postpone that dastardly assassination plot to eliminate Ouko's alleged killer. True, Kamau had introduced me to several Kenyans and friends of Kenya from the GTA region; whenever we met- whether it was at the Latvian Hall on Bathurst and College; St. Christopher's House on Dundas and Ossington; the Party Centre on Church and Queen; the Macedonian Hall just east of Parliament and Dundas or the famed Wham's Cafe on Coxwell and Danforth or the annual open air Afro Fest musical festival behind Queen's Park for these Kenyan and African celebrations (or whenever people like Mzwakhe Mbuli, Baaba Maal, Oumou Sangare, Arlus Mabele, Papa Wemba, Mombasa Roots or Kanda Bongoman were in town) we chatted avidly about anything and everything- mutual friends, Kenyan politics you name it.

But I did recognize and respect the fact that Kamau had his own demi-monde- the community of gays, lesbians, bisexual and other transgendered people from the African, Caribbean and wider Ontario society. We respected the boundaries. Since he never asked me who I was boinking at the moment, I never saw it in my place to inquire about his sexual orientation and private life. Like I said, I would be LYING if I said that I was part of Kamau's support system.

That is why when he passed, I demurred from making any detailed comment beyond my one line mkono wa tanzia that I posted, together with several other Kenyans who knew Kamau, at the kco-l discussion forum. Like a few other people who also knew Kamau, we thought it was best to take a back seat and have Kamau, who was cremated after his badly decomposed body was recovered from his apartment, have a dignified funeral coordinated by his mother and the people who had stood by him, through thick and thin as he weathered the hurricanes and tsunamis of homophobia unleashed by several members of the Kenyan community in Ontario.

By and large, however, the Kenyan community in Ontario did honour and respect this aspect and one must thank those Kenyans like Joyce Misoi, David Ngang'a, Eunice Magira and several others who not only condoled with his family, but helped to organize the prayers for the late Kamau.

I thought that this spirit of respect, appreciation and honouring of the unique life experiences of Peter Curtis Kamau would punctuate the consensus of reactions to the passing of such an indelible part of the Toronto Kenyan scene. Some of us-especially given our traditional biases when it comes to burials and what not- cannot quite fathom yet that the very much alive and kicking Kamau that some of us ran into just a few months ago has now been transformed to ashes sitting in an urn somewhere...How I wish that matters had remained there. That would have been such a triumph for a sense of community, a recognition of our rich diversity and benchmark for other African communities.

Alas, perhaps we have not reached there yet- that plateau where individuals are judged, not by the way they spell their last names, the place of worship they go (or don't go to) the presence or absence of a wedding band; the presence or absence of biological offspring; the presence or absence of a SUV in the driveway or the way one swings on the full range of the sexual orientation spectrum. To answer the perennial question of kids trapped in family vehicles- We Are Not There Yet.

What has caused me to break my self-imposed vow of respectful silence on the passing of Peter Curtis Kamau?

In a nutshell, one SLIMY COWARDLY attack by a so called "friend" of the late Kamau posted surreptiously in one of the most notorious snakepits of Kenyan cyberspace- a known hangout for gossips, tribalists, trash talkers and what have you. Now, mind you, many of the people on that forum are very serious, patriotic and decent human beings. It is just that one or two miscreants have hijacked that once robust forum and reduced it to the Go to Place for anyone- especially a Kenyan in Canada or the United States who is TOO SCARED to lie about and/or trash someone in their own real names.

What am I talking about?

Well, it is this PIECE OF JUNK AND BUNK below:

RIP, Kamau

From: nyumba - Sat, Sep 03, 4:09 PM

I normally don't write down phone numbers. I instead have some sort of a slot where I stick all small papers, cards, corners cut off newspapers, match boxes, tissue and everything else, that people write their phone numbers on for me. Today I was looking there for one number for my friend who I have not talked to for weeks and I did finally find it. I am going to call him later after I do my groceries. But I also found another number written on a business card belonging to a Tanzanian aqcuintance from three years ago. On this card, in what was once a blank blank corner, is a number scribbled in ink. There are times I knew this number by head but it has been eight months since I called it, so I had sort of forgetten it. If I call this number just once i will be able to rememorize it but, that will not happen. The person on the other end of this phone will not answer. So unless I want in future to buy honey from the Tanzanian businessman in future, this card is now out of use. The week after Christmas last year he shut me out of his life. What I learn now, he must have shut many of his friends out of his life gradually. If this wasn't the case he wouldn't have laid in his bed dead for five days not have a single person knock on his door or call him and find his mail box full and not go over to check on him. In his happier days, Kamau was a very social person. His apartemt was a social club and he welcomed everybody with gusto, more so if you walked in carrying a six pack and above, the more the better. But Kamau had a special relationship with alcohol, almost impossible for me to understand. He did not drink to relax and stay relaxed over a period of time like the normal people, no Kamau liked his drink to knock him out. If the drink failed to do that he would take his prescription medication (secretly, he thought) on top of the drink and go to bed and sleep for hours, sometimes full days and a part of the following night.
When his onetime roommate and I did not know how much trouble he was in, we used to crack jokes and ask each other to go check on him. Then you would open the bedroom door and see him turn and say he is okey. But as his depression got worse, so did his mood swings. I guess the prescription did not work, mostly because it was abused. Yet he always had this grand schemes, go back to school, sell his property in Kenya and buy a house here. He even talked of driving his gay-lifestyle underground and get a wife and maybe some children. But even as he talked almost always about these things, he did not make any effort to change the direction his life was taking. On New Years eve we talked alot him, his friend Simba and I. I had gone over with a six, Simba came in with a bottle of wine. I think I cooked fish and Kamau later complained that I did not clean it properly. He made ugali and as usual underestimated our appetites and so had to go back in the kitchen and make some more. Later it was Kamau who wanted all of us to go clubbing. He wanted so badly to go out. When I was hesitant and complained about the cold winter night, he went over to the door where I had left my boots and brought over for me to wear. I wanted badly not to go because, Kamau had no money, Simba was nasty if he drank above a certain limit and I hated the local clubs. We all finally called a cab and left the apartment but once downstairs, I knew I did not want to to a club. Simba changed his mind too and we dispersed the cab. I said I was going home and walked down the path to the subway stop. Kamau was left standing outside and that was the last time I saw him.Simba went over to urinate at the bottom of a tree and then he caught up with me. He complained about how Kamau, always insisted on going out though he almost never had no money. Because I did not know the depth of their relationship, Simba is gay too, I did not reply but to my self, I knew that already. I do not make new year resolutions but I had chosen at that moment to cool down my friendship with Kamau, at least for while. Kamau must have sensed this because he was supersensitive and he refused to answer my phones after that.
This week his mother mother came over from Kenya and his sister too. His remains were cremated and they will take the ashes back with them to burry in Kenya. Saves a lot of money if you ask me.

Here is the SOURCE for those who may think that I am making this up.

There are several things to point out about the so called "nyumba":

1. She is a Kenyan woman who lives in Toronto.
2. She can and does access the same kco-l forum where Kenyans in that province chose as the place to express their sympathy, solidarity and support for the late Peter Curtis Kamau.
3. She consciously opted to go to a public forum and post her ODIOUS and HATEFUL, homophobic comments about Kamau ANONYMOUSLY on a forum where she knew she could escape taking responsibility and remaining accountable for those hurtful remarks.
4. She literally waited until Kamau was DEAD before going public with her vile talk- knowing that Kamau would not be around to respond in person.
5. She decided that it was OK to tell the world that Kamau was gay, was an alcoholic, abused prescription medication, was depressed, broke and what have you.
6. She claims to be a "friend" who used to hangout with an openly gay man and yet what permeates her so called "appreciation" of Kamau is nothing but VIRULENT HOMOPHOBIA, demented spite and truly meanspirited GOSSIP.

Before I say anything further, here are my first TEN WORDS for "nyumba":

SHAME ON YOU FOR THAT SLIMY POST-HUMOUS HATCHET JOB.

Unlike you "nyumba" I will NOT expose your true name and any other biographical information that members of the Kenyan community may have dug up about you in the days following your unhinged rant.

I do have some questions for you and you can answer them in whichever forum you deem fit:

1. Are you, "nyumba" a CLOSETED LESBIAN yourself? Frequently the most rabid homophobes are members of the queer community in deep denial about their sexual orientation. From your own account above, you seem to have been an intimate member of Kamau's immediate circle- visiting him frequently, hanging out, going to clubs etc. Is it possible that your homophobic cowardly spittle-bomb is a preemptive strike lest members of the community "associate" you with Kamau's gay lifestyle? Is that what you are afraid of? If that is the case, then that is truly sad. Some of us- yes I am talking about Onyango Oloo and dozens of other gay positive heterosexual men and women have not been spared the homophobic gossip about our sexual orientation simply because we refuse to join those hateful and ignorant mobs who would shun or even lynch someone simply because that person was gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered.

2. What sins did Kamau commit against your person to trigger those truly HATEFUL comments? I mean, let us just quote this section for instance: "...But as his depression got worse, so did his mood swings. I guess the prescription did not work, mostly because it was abused. Yet he always had this grand schemes, go back to school, sell his property in Kenya and buy a house here. He even talked of driving his gay-lifestyle underground and get a wife and maybe some children. But even as he talked almost always about these things, he did not make any effort to change the direction his life was taking..." I mean who are you to judge Kamau? How well did you know Kamau? Were you aware that he was a licenced pilot who studied and passed his exams in Toronto? Were you aware that he was a Straight As student at Nairobi School? Were you aware that he went out of his way to HIDE his upper-middle class family background and his prominent Kenyan connections because he was a very modest man? Are you referring to the same Kamau who always used to entertain other Kenyans with his own money as someone who barely had any money? Are you referring to the same Kamau who, as far as I can recall was ALWAYS employed as being some kind of a lazy hobo? What kind of a friend you are if you are not aware that Kamau traveled to Kenya sometimes two or three times in the same year? Are you the one who bought his ticket? If Kamau had come out to his own mother and his own sister, why are you peddling this falsehood that he wanted to allegedly, drive his "gay lifestyle undergound"??? Is that what YOU are trying to do- drive your lesbian lifestyle underground and maybe get a husband and some kids?

3. So freaking WHAT if Peter Curtis Kamau was a homosexual Kenyan man? What harm did he ever do to you "nyumba"? Did he ever come on to you? Did he try to sleep with your father, your brother, your uncle or your boyfriend?

4. Where is your backbone "nyumba"?Why did you not post those same comments on the kco-l forum in your own name so that members of the Kenyan community in Ontario would challenge your spiteful untruths? Are you happy dancing on the ashes of the late Kamau? Are you getting a kick out of kicking someone who was kicked around a lot by the homophobes of Toronto?

5. Have you considered the possibility that Kamau's drinking and his depression were DIRECTLY LINKED to the homophobia coming from bigots and nutbars like you, "nyumba"? What if Kenyans had accepted Kamau the way he was- as a very intelligent, very hardworking, very humurous, very generous, very modest and very gay Kenyan man? Do you think that would have stemmed the flow of six packs and higher that you chortle about? Do you think that would have saved him a small fortune in prescription drugs?

6. Were you secretly envious and jealous of Kamau for the way he lived his life? Is that why you waited until he was cremated before you sneaked off to rcbowen to post your absolutely trashy, completely gossipy and incredibly hateful and certifiably insane and inane comments?

7. Is this how you want your so called "friends" to remember you- Wait until you are gone and then start stomping on your remains?

"nyumba" you know I am a very open person who says things directly, PUBLICLY and more importantly, IN MY OWN NAME:

What you did to Peter Curtis Kamau will come back to haunt you one day. Karma is the name of the mbwa that will sooner or later come back to bite you in the derriere...

You know what Kamau once told me:

"Oloo, you would be surprised at how many of the people you know live this life that I live. In public, of course, they hate homosexuals with a passion. I do not want to expose them, but I am always amused when I hear their homophobia."


Enuff Sed.

Onyango Oloo
Montreal
***********************************************************************************
"nyumba" Responds:

Answering Oloo

From: nyumba - Fri, Sep 09, 4:57 PM

1. She is a Kenyan woman who lives in Toronto.

True that

2. She can and does access the same kco-l forum where Kenyans in that province chose as the place to express their sympathy, solidarity and support for the late Peter Curtis Kamau.

I am not a member of kco-l by design. I don't need solidarity with kco-l members. I mourned my friend in a special way in my heart. There are many times like during Christmas period last year when it was just me and Kamau looking out the window watching snow falling. Ignorant people in Toronto, especially women even whispered Kamau and I were dating because they saw us together so often. They would call me wanting to go clubs and parties and I would say no. Later they would see me there with Kamau and I would rub it it in by dancing only with him. The illiterate among them saw me as a loser who resulted to hanging with gay people. Except for Nganga who was Kamau's roommate until last year, I have never seen any of the Kenyans Oloo mentioned visit Kamau or even call him when I was at his apartment


3. She consciously opted to go to a public forum and post her ODIOUS and HATEFUL, homophobic comments about Kamau ANONYMOUSLY on a forum where she knew she could escape taking responsibility and remaining accountable for those hurtful remarks.

Kamau was homosexual. I did not hide that fact. If he was alive today, he would tell me to marry him and get a baby with with him and I would tell him, "Kamau you are a fag!" and he would laugh hard as he did many times before. He knew I accepted his homosexuality 100%.

4. She literally waited until Kamau was DEAD before going public with her vile talk- knowing that Kamau would not be around to respond in person.

The article was about Kamau's death. I could not have written it when he was alive. Period.

5. She decided that it was OK to tell the world that Kamau was gay, was an alcoholic, abused prescription medication, was depressed, broke and what have you.

Kamau was not closetted. It would have been bad if I said he was straight. I do not sugarcoat things, if you are Oloo and saw Kamau once a while in a party or afrofest, you would not know he had any alcohol problems and was on any kind of medication. But Oloo has lived in Montreal for a couple of years now and I am sure he has never seen Kamau in his environment. Kamau had not worked in Sheration for more than seven years before his death and had not worked at all for the last three that I knew him. Infact for a very long time, he did not leave his apartment at all, and many who knew him closely had started to doubt if he was ever going back to the vibrant person he was before. Of course Oloo would not know such things. I exactly know what I said and it is the truth. When I talked with Kamau's mother over the phone last year, she said she did not want Kamau in Kenya even for holidays because he was always drunk when he went home. His mother and siblings knew he had alcohol problems, maybe better than me.


6. She claims to be a "friend" who used to hangout with an openly gay man and yet what permeates her so called "appreciation" of Kamau is nothing but VIRULENT HOMOPHOBIA, demented spite and truly meanspirited GOSSIP.

There is not even one part of my article that shows I am homophobic. As a matter of fact, when some of Kamau friends were encouraging him to "become" straight and get married to appease the society, it was me encouraging him to be who he was. I actually introduced him to watching Queer Eye and when George Michael came on Oprah I called him from a pay phone and reminded him to watch. I have been to the Pride parades in the last two years, and I am homophobic?????




4 comments:

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Indian diaspora said...

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We will of course credit you appropriately in the picture credits.

Please let me know if you can meet our request, or if I can clarify anything.Hope to hear from you soon.

Thank you.

Regards,
Wajihah Hamid

Encyclopedia of the Indian Diaspora
South Asian Studies Programme,
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences,
3 Arts Link AS 3-02-06
National University of Singapore
Singapore 117569
Tel: + 65 68745415
Fax: + 65 67770616
sasv4@nus.edu.sg

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