0.0 Baada ya Dhiki Faraja....
katrina is sweeping away a terrible summer of hurricanes and death
labour day monday is taking a sneak preview at the soon to be dead season
someone's grandma is rotting away in an anonymous watery grave
a crying child is yet to find out that daddy is not coming back
thousands have lost even the little that they did not have
seven months after the asian tsunami, the american hurricane
has written another harsh documentary indicting those
who have been urinating and defecating on their global mother
the sea of brown and black faces left behind offer a harsh reminder
of the enduring chainless slavery that has anchored the poor in squalid neighbourhoods
there are those who see in the deaths and flooding
the looting and the desolation
there are those who see in the rampage and the carnage
there are those who see in these terrible misdeeds
a fulfillment of a much whispered about
so the manabii of siku ya kiama
so the prophets of the end times
and the profiteers of misery
chortle with crackling palms
seeing a macabre vindication
in the tales of devastation
after decades of isolation
dismissed as quacks and kooks
the prophets step forward warning their fearful new recruits
to give in to their superstitions and suppositions
after all, they are told they can survive doomsday
until the day after heaven is reestablished
my people, my people listen to my mumble:
the end is not nigh
the beginning is still around the corner
only a fool will commit suicide because it rained until midnight last night
only a fool is unaware that
even the severest thunderstorm cannot last a season
lives have been washed away
limbs broken, skulls cracked, ribs smashed
faces configured,life savings buried
homes crumbled, families torn asunder
somehow out of those ruins
millions of southern survivors are
tottering uncertainly towards the fall
wondering what they were doing exactly when
katrina knocked them off their feet
fathers are wailing for their daughters
mothers are sobbing for their sons
ex-lovers are realizing they still loved their former partners
siblings are marveling at their foolish rivalry
co-workers are sheepish about the petty office politics
in the face of the bigger calamity
enbracing them all in a vice tight grip
new orleans, baton rouge, mobile
louisiana, alabama and all those delta and bayou regions
have a choice forced on them by harsh nature
can they go back to the tattered last weeks of the hurricane
or stroll into next week reflecting over the future
katrina has stripped america bare
taken off the facade of universal affluence
washed off the mascara of braggadocio
to reveal the thousands of african faces
left stranded by the galloping amerepublican dream
there is an africa in america
there is a latin america in gringo's america
there is an asia in the usa
there is a third world in the first world
if you want to find southern villages
go to the northern cities
like my friend kris of colombo said ages ago
the only minority is the bourgeoisie
what shall we as humankind do with all this hurting
what shall we as humankind do with all this negativity
should we all join millenarian cults and move into survivalist tents
should we look for our twenty first century ark halves
throughout human existence humankind
has embraced the life/death/life cycle
decay is a preview of regeneration
out of the rotting fruit
new seedlings often germinate
the hurricanes may have whipped slapped the
wretched of the earth in the southern usa
but remember that biblical saying
about the ultimate inheritors of the earth....
hope and optimism is what has kept humankind going
and so let us look beyond the stormy night
to a calm morning soon....
1.0. Kenyans in Southern USA Rally To Overcome Devastation of Katrina
A few minutes ago, I heard the flushing sounds of a sudden downpour rushing past our third floor office windows here at University and Pine in the so called McGill(Student) Ghetto of Montreal. The downpour has already stopped and for me is a marker of how far removed I am from understanding what millions of Americans in the southern nether regions of that country are going through at this very minute.
There has been loss of life, destruction of property, looting, political controversies, the inevitable finger pointing.
Katrina has been vicious. Potentially it could turn out to be nature's 9/11 in terms of severity of impact according to some one who just put together this 411/611 thumbnail sketch of Katrina as it happens.
What has struck me however are not the dispatches of yahoo pulling off AFP photos from their site after they stirred up racial tensions with their differing captions with people snagged by cameras totting home consumer items obviously not belonging to them.
What moved me were the stories Kenyans who live in that part of North America have been posting on the various online forums.
Here for instance is a Kenyan sister who lives in the vicinity of New Orleans posting on mashada:
brickhse Wed Aug-31-05 04:37 PM (Mashada Member since Jul 24th 2003 )
1113 posts, 26 votes, 38 points
#70265, "Hurricane Katrina"
Just remember there are desplaced Kenyans in there too- I never thought i could live to see American refugees. Pray for the rest of us.
And over at the ever so raucous Kenya Talk Papa F from Baton Rouge in Lousiana was giving this plaintive update:
VERY URGENT UPDATE!!!From: Papa F - Fri, Sep 02, 12:56 PM
We are organizing help.
The major players are..
Kenya Christian Fellowship from Birmingham, Alabama
The Kenyan Embassy in Washington DC.
WE are organizing a co-ordinated effort.
We have established and can now say that we can account
for 95% of the Kenyans from New Orleans.
We seek contact for those in Houston, Dallas, and Missisipi.
I will give you updates later. Bwana Balozi is being
updated on the situation.
Only to be brutally derailed by a resident sadistic cave dwelling cyberurchin on that forum, a sick, unhinged waif who has been known to celebrate when a fellow netter's mom had a life threatening crash in Kenya and a thirty something Kenyan resident was gunned down in cold blood in one of main metropolises of Texas:
Wacha wewe..A real helper..
From: haha - Fri, Sep 02, 1:08 PM
This kind of mean-spirited mind set can only emanate from someone so drained of any sense of inner worth as to derive their pleasure chortling at the latest incident of human tragedy...
From Montreal, I have little to add to what I said to brickhse earlier on the Mashada forum:
#70335, "to brickhse and other compatriots entangled by katrina"
Fri Sep-02-05 08:58 AMby Onyango Oloo :
to all the sisters and brothers in the maelstrom, our thoughts are with you hoping you continue making it through katrina and the man made turmoils that follow in its wake. it seems like human history is going through a chapter of tsunamis, tornados, hurricanes, floods-both of the natural and social variety and with the natural meshing into the social and vice versa. at times like this is when we are reminded of what makes us human- our ability to empathize, to reach out, to extend a hand of friendship, of support.
to brickhse, papa f, hieroglyphics and all those kenyans in that part of the world we say to you- you and your southern communities inspire us with your resolve, even as sensation seeking headlines focus on the selfish looters and scavengers feasting on human misery.
Katrina has exposed New Orleans as a Third World City in a First World Country, demonstrating the adage that there is surely a South in the North, just as there is a North in the South...
Anita Roddick, one of the many wonderful writers tha we have linked to the KDP blog is outraged by what is happening in New Orleans as you can see from this September 2, 2005 dispatch.
Over at Counter Punch, Jordan Flaherty has just filed this September 3 report, and it is not even September 3rd in Montreal yet; Brian Newbury gives us another angle on how mainstream media has been covering African-Americans in New Orleans during this tragedy; the two main editors of the news letter- Cockburn and St. Clair look at the aftermath of Katrina;while Alan Farago asks one of the most pertinent questions:
What are the hurricanes trying to tell contemporary humankind?
And NO! the answer is NOT some unhinged madness about repenting now because the end is nigh for crying out loud!
Here is a take from Havana, Cuba.
Michael Parenti explains how capitalism killed New Orleans.
Celine Dion takes swipe at Iraq war; donates $1m to Katrina victims
An emotional Celine Dion seemed to take a swipe at the U.S. policy in Iraq during an interview Saturday on CNN's Larry King Live.
During the interview, the Quebec-born singer broke down in tears as she talked about the need for the Bush administration to concentrate on those suffering at home.
"How come it's so easy to send planes in another country, to kill everyone in a second, to destroy lives," at a time when Americans need to serve their own country, she said. "We need to serve our country, and be there right now to rescue the rest of the people. We need the cash, we need the blood, we need the support, right now we need the prayers."
Dion, speaking from Las Vegas, said she's been finding it devastating. "I'm not thinking with my head, I'm talking with my heart," she said.
She, and the partners of her Las Vegas show, A New Day, have pledged $1 million US to aid the disaster victims. But, she says, the victims don't yet need money. "Eventually, they will need that money - in three months, in six months, they will need that money. Right now, they're praying for water."
Watch Celine Dion's appearance on Larry King Live Saturday night. Runs 6.36
REITERATES MEDICAL CARE OFFER TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE IN HIS REMARKS DURING THE CUBAN TV ROUND TABLE MEETING, HELD ON SEPTEMBER 2, 2005.
"Our country is ready to send, in the small hours of the morning, 100 clinicians and specialists in Comprehensive General Medicine, who at dawn tomorrow, Saturday, could be in Houston International Airport, Texas, the closest to the region struck by the tragedy, in order to be transferred by air, sea or river to the isolated shelters, facilities and neighborhoods in the city of New Orleans, where the population and families that require emergency medical care or first aid are.
"These Cuban personnel would be carrying backpacks with 24 kilograms of medications, known to be essential in such situations to save lives, as well as basic diagnosis kits. They would be prepared to work alone or in groups of two or more, depending on the circumstances, for as long as necessary.
"Likewise, Cuba is ready to send via Houston, or any other airport of your choosing, 500 additional specialists in Comprehensive General Medicine, with the same equipment, who could be at their destination point by noon or by the afternoon of tomorrow, Saturday, September 3.
"A third group of 500 specialists in Comprehensive General Medicine could be arriving in the morning of Sunday, September 4. Thus, the 1100 such medical doctors, with the resources described tantamount to 26.4 tons of medications and diagnosis kits, would be caring for the neediest persons in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.
"These medical doctors have the necessary international experience and elementary knowledge of the English language that would allow them to communicate with the patients.
"We stand ready waiting for the US authorities’ response. "
Havana, September 2, 2005
Here is a very pissed off Mayor of New Orleans during a recent radio interview:
Ray Nagin is a Republican turned Democrat with a very interesting resume....
Mayor to feds: 'Get off your asses'
Transcript of radio interview with New Orleans' Nagin
Friday, September 2, 2005; Posted: 2:59 p.m. EDT (18:59 GMT)
The following is a transcript of WWL correspondent Garland Robinette's interview with Nagin on Thursday night. Robinette asked the mayor about his conversation with President Bush:
NAGIN: I told him we had an incredible crisis here and that his flying over in Air Force One does not do it justice. And that I have been all around this city, and I am very frustrated because we are not able to marshal resources and we're outmanned in just about every respect.
You know the reason why the looters got out of control? Because we had most of our resources saving people, thousands of people that were stuck in attics, man, old ladies. ... You pull off the doggone ventilator vent and you look down there and they're standing in there in water up to their freaking necks.
And they don't have a clue what's going on down here. They flew down here one time two days after the doggone event was over with TV cameras, AP reporters, all kind of goddamn -- excuse my French everybody in America, but I am pissed.
WWL: Did you say to the president of the United States, "I need the military in here"?
NAGIN: I said, "I need everything."
Now, I will tell you this -- and I give the president some credit on this -- he sent one John Wayne dude down here that can get some stuff done, and his name is [Lt.] Gen. [Russel] Honore.
And he came off the doggone chopper, and he started cussing and people started moving. And he's getting some stuff done.
They ought to give that guy -- if they don't want to give it to me, give him full authority to get the job done, and we can save some people.
WWL: What do you need right now to get control of this situation?
NAGIN: I need reinforcements, I need troops, man. I need 500 buses, man. We ain't talking about -- you know, one of the briefings we had, they were talking about getting public school bus drivers to come down here and bus people out here.
I'm like, "You got to be kidding me. This is a national disaster. Get every doggone Greyhound bus line in the country and get their asses moving to New Orleans."
That's -- they're thinking small, man. And this is a major, major, major deal. And I can't emphasize it enough, man. This is crazy.
I've got 15,000 to 20,000 people over at the convention center. It's bursting at the seams. The poor people in Plaquemines Parish. ... We don't have anything, and we're sharing with our brothers in Plaquemines Parish.
It's awful down here, man.
WWL: Do you believe that the president is seeing this, holding a news conference on it but can't do anything until [Louisiana Gov.] Kathleen Blanco requested him to do it? And do you know whether or not she has made that request?
NAGIN: I have no idea what they're doing. But I will tell you this: You know, God is looking down on all this, and if they are not doing everything in their power to save people, they are going to pay the price. Because every day that we delay, people are dying and they're dying by the hundreds, I'm willing to bet you.
We're getting reports and calls that are breaking my heart, from people saying, "I've been in my attic. I can't take it anymore. The water is up to my neck. I don't think I can hold out." And that's happening as we speak.
You know what really upsets me, Garland? We told everybody the importance of the 17th Street Canal issue. We said, "Please, please take care of this. We don't care what you do. Figure it out."
WWL: Who'd you say that to?
NAGIN: Everybody: the governor, Homeland Security, FEMA. You name it, we said it.
And they allowed that pumping station next to Pumping Station 6 to go under water. Our sewage and water board people ... stayed there and endangered their lives.
And what happened when that pumping station went down, the water started flowing again in the city, and it starting getting to levels that probably killed more people.
In addition to that, we had water flowing through the pipes in the city. That's a power station over there.
So there's no water flowing anywhere on the east bank of Orleans Parish. So our critical water supply was destroyed because of lack of action.
WWL: Why couldn't they drop the 3,000-pound sandbags or the containers that they were talking about earlier? Was it an engineering feat that just couldn't be done?
NAGIN: They said it was some pulleys that they had to manufacture. But, you know, in a state of emergency, man, you are creative, you figure out ways to get stuff done.
Then they told me that they went overnight, and they built 17 concrete structures and they had the pulleys on them and they were going to drop them.
I flew over that thing yesterday, and it's in the same shape that it was after the storm hit. There is nothing happening. And they're feeding the public a line of bull and they're spinning, and people are dying down here.
WWL: If some of the public called and they're right, that there's a law that the president, that the federal government can't do anything without local or state requests, would you request martial law?
NAGIN: I've already called for martial law in the city of New Orleans. We did that a few days ago.
WWL: Did the governor do that, too?
NAGIN: I don't know. I don't think so.
But we called for martial law when we realized that the looting was getting out of control. And we redirected all of our police officers back to patrolling the streets. They were dead-tired from saving people, but they worked all night because we thought this thing was going to blow wide open last night. And so we redirected all of our resources, and we hold it under check.
I'm not sure if we can do that another night with the current resources.
And I am telling you right now: They're showing all these reports of people looting and doing all that weird stuff, and they are doing that, but people are desperate and they're trying to find food and water, the majority of them.
Now you got some knuckleheads out there, and they are taking advantage of this lawless -- this situation where, you know, we can't really control it, and they're doing some awful, awful things. But that's a small majority of the people. Most people are looking to try and survive.
And one of the things people -- nobody's talked about this. Drugs flowed in and out of New Orleans and the surrounding metropolitan area so freely it was scary to me, and that's why we were having the escalation in murders. People don't want to talk about this, but I'm going to talk about it.
You have drug addicts that are now walking around this city looking for a fix, and that's the reason why they were breaking in hospitals and drugstores. They're looking for something to take the edge off of their jones, if you will.
And right now, they don't have anything to take the edge off. And they've probably found guns. So what you're seeing is drug-starving crazy addicts, drug addicts, that are wrecking havoc. And we don't have the manpower to adequately deal with it. We can only target certain sections of the city and form a perimeter around them and hope to God that we're not overrun.
WWL: Well, you and I must be in the minority. Because apparently there's a section of our citizenry out there that thinks because of a law that says the federal government can't come in unless requested by the proper people, that everything that's going on to this point has been done as good as it can possibly be.
WWL: I know you don't feel that way.
NAGIN: Well, did the tsunami victims request? Did it go through a formal process to request?
You know, did the Iraqi people request that we go in there? Did they ask us to go in there? What is more important?
And I'll tell you, man, I'm probably going get in a whole bunch of trouble. I'm probably going to get in so much trouble it ain't even funny. You probably won't even want to deal with me after this interview is over.
WWL: You and I will be in the funny place together.
NAGIN: But we authorized $8 billion to go to Iraq lickety-quick. After 9/11, we gave the president unprecedented powers lickety-quick to take care of New York and other places.
Now, you mean to tell me that a place where most of your oil is coming through, a place that is so unique when you mention New Orleans anywhere around the world, everybody's eyes light up -- you mean to tell me that a place where you probably have thousands of people that have died and thousands more that are dying every day, that we can't figure out a way to authorize the resources that we need? Come on, man.
You know, I'm not one of those drug addicts. I am thinking very clearly.
And I don't know whose problem it is. I don't know whether it's the governor's problem. I don't know whether it's the president's problem, but somebody needs to get their ass on a plane and sit down, the two of them, and figure this out right now.
WWL: What can we do here?
NAGIN: Keep talking about it.
WWL: We'll do that. What else can we do?
NAGIN: Organize people to write letters and make calls to their congressmen, to the president, to the governor. Flood their doggone offices with requests to do something. This is ridiculous.
I don't want to see anybody do anymore goddamn press conferences. Put a moratorium on press conferences. Don't do another press conference until the resources are in this city. And then come down to this city and stand with us when there are military trucks and troops that we can't even count.
Don't tell me 40,000 people are coming here. They're not here. It's too doggone late. Now get off your asses and do something, and let's fix the biggest goddamn crisis in the history of this country.
WWL: I'll say it right now, you're the only politician that's called and called for arms like this. And if -- whatever it takes, the governor, president -- whatever law precedent it takes, whatever it takes, I bet that the people listening to you are on your side.
NAGIN: Well, I hope so, Garland. I am just -- I'm at the point now where it don't matter. People are dying. They don't have homes. They don't have jobs. The city of New Orleans will never be the same in this time.
WWL: We're both pretty speechless here.
NAGIN: Yeah, I don't know what to say. I got to go.
WWL: OK. Keep in touch. Keep in touch.
"I hate the way they portray us in the media. You see a black family and they say we are looting, you see a white family and they say they are looking for food. And, you know, its been five days because most of the people ARE black ... We already realize a lot of the people that could help are at war right now, fighting another way. And now they've given them permission to go down and shoot us. George Bush doesn't care about black people."
But it is not all gloom and doom. Let us end this section with this positive story from the Final Call website:
| Prime time telethon to benefit hurricane Katrina victims |
By Saeed Shabazz
Updated Sep 1, 2005, 11:35 pm
- Hurricane Katrina: Is Looting a Question of Skin Color? (BlackElectorate.com, 09-01-2005)
Debra Lee, president and CEO of BETsaid the press conference was called to announce that a telethon will be held from 7:30pm-10pm on September 9, after a special benefit episode of "106 & Park" and the BET Top 10 Live show. Ms. Lee said that celebrities from across musical and entertainment genres will be involved as performers, hosts, presenters and guests. Ms. Lee added that telethon viewers can call designated toll-free phone numbers to make financial pledges to the Red Cross relief efforts.
For information to help the Nation of Islam's coordinated efforts in assisting hurricane victims from the New Orleans area, please call Southwest Regional Headquarters in Houston, Texas at: 713-741-2747. Atlanta, Georgia (Southern Region Headquarters) hotline: 404-629-0172.
Click for today's WBAI broadcast with Baton Rouge Minister Andrew Muhammad and Nation of Islam Southwest Regional Rep. Minister Robert Muhammad in Houston
National Urban League president and CEO, Marc Morial, also a former New Orleans, Louisiana mayor, said the telethon will be an effort to focus the eyes, hearts and minds of the viewers of BET and the nation on the need to contribute money for food, for water and for shelter for the thousands of evacuees. "We now have our own citizens who are refugees in their own country," Mr. Morial stressed.
Russell Simmons said that there will be a lot of artists coming forth to participate in the telethon. "I just got off the phone with 'Puffy' (Sean Combs) and Jay-Z, and they have assured me that they are on-board with the telethon to help make it a success," Mr. Simmons said. It was announced that Stevie Wonder has asked to be a part of the telethon.
Other artists who have shown interest in participating in the telethon are comedian Chris Rock, trumpeter Winton Marsalis, a New Orleans native and rappers Master P and Juvenile, also New Orleans natives. "If we do not help the millions of people in Mississippi, Alabama and New Orleans this country will be destroyed," Chris Rock emphasized.
"Can't nobody tell you about New Orleans the way I can," Master P said. He said there were a lot of great people in New Orleans, and right now they are hurting.
For information to help the Nation of Islam's coordinated efforts in assisting hurricane victims from the New Orleans area, please call Southwest Regional Headquarters in Houston, Texas at: 713-741-2747. Atlanta, Georgia (Southern Region Headquarters) hotline: 404-629-0172.
We specifically need more of the following items that can be sent to the address below:
- Non-perishable food
- Personal hygiene items
Muhammad Mosque No. 45
4443 Old Spanish Trail, Houston TX 77021
2.0. Somebody Was Born a Few Days Ago....
Subject: on your 44th
Date: Fri, September 2, 2005 2:06 am
you turned forty four the other day
yes,there you were, you went to bed and you turned
this way and you turned that way
you turned this way and you turned that way
one night one or two days ago
you tossed, and you turned,
you tossed, and you turned forty four the other day
just like, that.
you turned forty four the other day
giving yourself forty four more reasons
in that forty fourth season
one, one hopes that is just
one of a series of seasons
in an almost never ending long session
the season, the long session nicknamed
your engaging and ever fascinating maisha
your heart stopping but intriguing life lived well so far
yes, you turned forty four the other day
and gave yourself the rationale
the access code, the password
filled with so much zest, panache, gusto
vim, vigour, motisha na morale
to hug yourself forty four more times,
forty four more reasons to
pat yourself gently on the back forty four more times
forty four more reasons to breathe slow and easy forty four more times
forty four more reasons to glide waftingly across your living room
marveling at the miracle of survival in an age where to live past thirty nine
is suddenly becoming unheard of as we watch friends expire from previously
unhead scythe bearing ghoulish emaciated djinnis
forty four more reasons to smile from ear to ear forty four more times
forty four more reasons to smile from year to year
you turned forty four the other day
giving me forty four more excuses
to blow, no,scratch that-
to eblow,should i say electroblow
make that cyberblow you, virtually convey to you
forty four more long distance virtual kisses
presaging the real forty four more
slow and wet real and actual munchie smooches
planted leisurely and lovingly
and passionately up close and sensually personal
slow soft and gentle caresses that inspire spine tingling goose-bumps
and ambulance summoning shortages of scarce bedroom air supply
except that it wont be an emergency
when we tangle in our gentle reunion dance
as we both play yearning doctors
to each other's years of unquenchable longing that we can
barely distinguish from freaky lust,certainly no wanderlust...
remember when we were both half this old
and twice this bold
remember when we half this wise
and twice this rash
a quarter century's river's contents have flowed past us
the sky has emptied itself
of twenty five years worth
of twenty five thousand birds
flying past our respective travails and our respective triumphs-
you buried your father, your brother and your sister
i buried my mother, my father, my brothers and my sister
turmoil and anguish, success and setbacks
growth and stalling..
was it that long ago when we stumbled into each other
in that mombasa doctor's office
clutching our urine samples to clear our path to nairobi university campus
was it that long ago that we shyly and eagerly conversed
as we traversed at the box and ccu at taifa hall and towards st.paul chapel
never once acknowledging to each other
that we were oh- so, so so in love with each other
was it that long ago that we were shaking and bobbing
to ray parker's still in the groove and whooping along
to the whispers beat going on
even as we celebrated with kool and his gang
the gap band teaching us
how to do the double dutch
teddy pendergrasss doing his lovely tko
millie jackson swooning in someone's
loving arms while roberta flack was wisftully
pining for a lover
killing her softly with a ballad
earth wind and some fire
taking us on a tour of boogie wonderland
and a diamond named neil talking of a september morn
and marvelling at the commodores and their brickhouse
cameo doing their word up candified star turn
diana ross coming up
sister sledge celebrity family
chic demanding your love
the pointer sisters pointing out shy guys
but insisting fervently on slow hands
and gloria gaynor surviving even as donna summer
sang paens to bad girls doing their hot stuff
and rod stewart shaking his skanky scottish ass boasting of his sex appeal
those days we were otherwise coupled
by people we did not even know back then
were ephemeral throw away trysts that we mistook for the real shebang
today, for both of us
our teen sons would pierce us with
befuddled stares were we to ply them with nostalgic cud
about kasongo wa kanema, kasule mopepe lovy longomba
pele odindia bibiley dibuba moreno ayo mabe franco
luambo makiadi mpongo love tshala muana leta mbulu
mbaraka mwinshehe, awino lawi or kakai kilonzo
when we wax wistfully about kudura and zuberi
mzee ojwang and mama kayai mzee tamaa bin tamaa
and wariahe bin wariahe mzee pembe na mama tofi
do they have any idea
do they know about the thrill of sneaking into someone's yard
as an eight year old and harvesting their zambarao
do they know about the restless anticipation of going to
the walk in free kenyan film corporation screenings
which were punctuated by rotting eggs splattering the backs
of the front row outdoor grass sitters...
happy birthday to you
i am glad you are my mshikaji na mchumba...
if i could i would
sing you lennon's classic, woman...
i know we are both suckers
for that in between territory
that blurs the boundaries
of urban country and soft rock
so naturaly we adore
that is why i want to veer off with her blue bayou..
3.o. Bigging Up Conjestina Achieng': Kenya's First Lady of the Ring
Let me admit something up front to deal with obvious biases: I almost dislocated one of my spinal discs in my excited gallop to the computer to do this section AFTER I learned that Conjestina not only kicks ass big time in competitive boxing- she is also Nyar Gem. Thanks to those ever so resourceful journalists in Nairobi- and here I have to thank TWO women reprorters-one with the Kenya Times and one with the Standard- I found out that she is from Umiru which is one of those mier not that far, far from my own pacho Luanda, Dudi.
In fact let us let these two Kenyan women journalists introduce Conjestina.
Let us start with Lucy Anaya doing a piece in the March 1, 2005 of the Kenya Times:
Kenya’s Sensational Female Boxer
By Lucy Anaya
After more than two years on the blazing trail, 27-year-old Conjestina Achieng', Kenya's most sensational female professional boxer, remains unbeaten, fearless and undeterred.
Not once has she been knocked out or lost to an opponent, and now she is raring to reap greater exploits in her boxing career. “Ever since I started boxing, no opponent has ever knocked me out. I have won all my fights and that is why I declare myself a winner forever,” she says confidently.
"No pain, no gain.” These were her words in a recent interview whereby the life, times and other side of the first African woman to hold a world boxing title in professional boxing was revealed.
She is also ranked second in the world in the middleweight categories by the female professional boxing organisations.
Her latest title is the Women International Boxing Federation (WIBF) belt she won last year when she knocked out Uganda’s Fiona Tugume in Nairobi. She also holds other belts recognised by renowned female boxing bodies. In boxing, unlike other sports, the winners are awarded belts and not trophies or medals.
Conjestina has surprised many by venturing into a sport mostly identified with men. Asked why she decided to join boxing, she first pauses, laughs and cracks a joke saying: “But it is a sport like any other and I don’t complain. How do you look at it?"
Clad in sports shoes, a black T-shirt and a heavy blue jeans trouser, the boxer who often spots a cocky hairstyle, exudes confidence and gait, leaving little room for imagination. By her looks she exudes menacing masculine characteristics even in speech that scares even men.
And as if to prove a point, she is always in the company of two men, George Ouma, her driver and Jared Orwa, her photographer.
On first contact her voice and face tend to give the impression that the boxer is mean and a no nonsense character, but after some chat, one is bound to be disarmed with the easy charm and smile that envelope her face—when a joke is cracked.
The serious face masks a simple, polite and shy woman who cannot look one straight in the eye, and who like most of us is inclined to smile and laugh when amused.
Conjestina is a boxer in a class of her own, who as aforementioned, prefers to be alone or in male company. This, she says, has been her character since childhood. From childhood she eschewed the company of female friends she claims were bad company, which she felt cold ruin her character.
“I enjoy boxing in the company of male boxers. We train and share ideas. I do not entertain any group of friends that are going to mislead me and ruin my future. Naturally, I don’t operate under a group’s influence. I respect my title and maintain my morals.”
Being unemployed, Achieng relies on boxing to pay for her rented room in Nairobi's Mathare North estate— a hard and unpredictable life indeed.
“I earn a living the hard way. When I look at other boxers like Mike Tyson, Laila Ali (the daughter of legendary boxer Muhamad Ali) just to mention a few, my soul bleeds. They are rich and the kind of life they lead is not comparable to ours. But us we lead a dogs life.”
Despite her much-hyped success, she has to struggle to lay food on the table and meet her basic needs. “Things don’t fall on a silver plate. Every individual has to reap where he or she has sown and I am no exception,” she says.
“ Many people think I’m rich but I am not. In Kenya, boxing is not well paying as people may think. I don’t have a permanent salary and I’m only paid when there is a fight and if I have won,” she discloses, shrugging her shoulders—with a tired and pensive look that turns into a smile of hope.
“Boxing is hard and should be treated with the seriousness it deserves. One has to be committed and train hard. This is the worst stage, although it makes the body fit. Good boxing is accompanied by a well balanced diet,” she says, adding that it has not been easy for her to live by this regime.
“I have a son and younger sisters who are still in school, and all of them depend on me. My aging parents can no longer afford to cater for these people and I’m left in charge,” she adds.
She laments that female boxing is not recognised in Kenya and boxers who work so hard to bring home titles and fame to the country die poor without recognition. “I would wish to do many things, but I suffer financial constraints. As we speak right now, I don’t even have a manager. In most cases, I cannot afford to buy personal necessities and pay my house rent. I have to rely on friends to assist me.”
But still, there are some few friends who have recognised her exploits.
“When I won the world WIBF title, Sherry Bailey (wife of a renowned Kenya rally driver, Paul Bailey), is the only friend who acknowledged my feat. She threw for me a small for me party, a thing which I appreciated very much. No other individual has appreciated my efforts in boxing.”
Her daily schedule remains tight. Her day starts at 5.30 am. “This is when I wake up and do what we call road work. I run for 15 kilometres and at 8.30 am, I resume my normal training till midday.” Afterwards she relaxes in the house to recoup.
Asked how she spends her leisure time, the boxer is prompt to answer: “I’m normally busy from Monday to Saturday. The little time I have is spent at a neighbouring school assisting the children through their assignments and marking their books.” She is not paid for these services. She does it for free because of her love for humanity and passion for children.
“I love children and feel I should assist them time and again. The owner of the school, Jean Ikenga has been of great support to me, as she sometimes pays my house rent and I also feel I should sacrifice a bit for her.”
In school, Conjestina excelled in arts and crafts —skills which she still pursues.
“ I like drawing and painting most. Some of my artistic work are displayed at Upendo Nursery (in Mathare North). This is mostly what I do at this school,” she says, adding that her aim is to nurture young and aspiring artists.
And what are her ambitions in boxing? She aspires to hold the world title currently held by Laila Ali of USA.
“I am training hard and hopes to face her in the ring. She does not sound a threat to me and I long to fight her. I will decide on whether to continue boxing or stop only after I snatch that title from her.”
At the moment, she is training to meet an opponent from Germany on March 26, this year. So far, the only foreign fight has seen her visit Tanzania. Most of her fights have been held in Kenya. In June this year, the boxer plans to visit Germany for another title fight she reckons will be " the fight of the year."
The boxer has been able to pull crowds of fans worldwide—both young and old, male and female, but mostly young girls who admire and wish to emulate her.
Her father who happens to be her greatest supporter and fan, has stood by her. Whenever there is a fight he strives to hire a matatu to ferry fans from her native Siaya District to Nairobi to cheer her on by the ringside.
“This encourages me and makes me struggle achieve more.”
Ironically, her mother is so scared and can not watch live boxing.
Asked about how she feels when the fans carry and applauds her after knocking out an opponent, she retorts: “I am overjoyed especially when the media follow me up and down. It is the greatest moment in my life.”
The boxer is the fifth born in a family of ten. According to her, their's is a middle class family. Her father, Clement Adalo, is a retired medical officer and pensioner. Her mother, Getrude Auma, is a small-scale businesswoman also actively involved in the Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organisation.
She believes she inherited her skills in boxing from her maternal uncles, who she says were boxers. Her elder brother, Joseph Kusimba, is himself an ex-boxer who now runs a boxing club in Mathare 4A area of Nairobi, where he trains upcoming boxers.
Conjestina is a mother to nine-year-old boy called Chartone Otieno, a Standard Three pupil at Township Primary School in Yala, Siaya District. Asked if she wishes her son to take after her boxing exploits, she says: “I don’t understand him. He is too polite and qualifies to become pastor."
But she is all the same hopeful that he will take after her, because of his love for sports, especially boxing.
Conjestina avoids talking about her son's father, however much she is pressed. Instead she states that she takes care of the boy single-handedly.
Any plans for marriage? “I don’t think I will get married because I don’t want to be stressed and curtailed in my career. My profession is so much involving, as such I have no time to settle for marriage.”
Her passion for sports started at an early age 9, when she was a Class Four pupil at St. Jesus Primary School in Yala, Siaya District. “I loved ball games and also took part in short races.”
Her childhood ambition was to become a world-renowned athlete.
She fully exploited her sports talent when she joined Ng'iya Girls High School in Siaya District, where she completed fourth form in 1992.
Born in rural Umiru village of Yala location in Siaya District, Conjestina spent daily life between school and her father's farm. “I also liked agriculture as a subject in school. Perhaps this is why I developed a liking for cultivating and planting crops.”
And who inspired her to start boxing? “My elder brother Kusimba has been my source of inspiration. Being a boxer, he trained and nurtured me, taking me away from playing football to boxing.”
She narrates how she ventured into playing football before switching to boxing, upon completion of her fourth form.
“In 1993 I joined Makongeni Football Youth Club (in Nairobi) where I played till 1999. I had to quit because there was no pay to live on,” she explains, adding that she had to rely on her brother for financial assistance —yet she was craving for financial independence.
“I later trained in boxing for one month, before I was able to face my opponent in the amateur ranks. As an amateur, I once technically knocked out a Ugandan opponent, Sharon Akinyi.”
After seven amateur bouts, Conjestina opted to turn professional.
As a professional, she has been able to win a number of titles and knocked out various opponents, among them Kenya’s Naomi Wanjiku, and lately Uganda’s Tugume.
Her greatest challenge, however, remains ability to finance her training, to maintain a well-balanced diet and meet other related necessities. In this respect, she appeals to well-wishes and the government to recognize and assist talented boxers.
“I wish to do more than I have achieved, given adequate financial and material support. As you can see, I am not even settled and cannot even plan for anything because I lack money.”
All the same, Conjestina has no regrets for taking up boxing—the sport she loves most.
And her word for aspiring female boxers is to believe in themselves and work hard.
“I wish to encourage young girls aspiring to become good boxers to strive for the best and not to give up. The first step in boxing is self-discipline. One has to be also morally upright and maintain personal integrity.”
“Boxing I believe is a calling, and one should fully sacrifice to succeed in the sport,” are her last words.
The magazine spread from the April 23rd, 2005 edition of the Standard.
Conjestina Achieng' is NOT just bragging. She is all over the internet, featured in a lot of boxing specific websites. The picture below is from the Women International Boxing Federation site:
Here is something from www.boxrec.com;
the following one is from www.britishboxing.net;
check out the first of a series of rankings; here is another site ranking her among the best in the world.
Right now there is an AFP ( yes, that is the FRENCH press agency) that has been picked up by a daily newspaper in Pakistan, another publication in Turkey; two websites in South Africa and Arab Times.
Of course since our own Nairobi-based papers rely on their own reporters ( most of the time) they did not carry it and therefore in a twist of irony, one of the break-through international exposures of Kenya's First Lady of the Ring may have been completely missed out by most Kenyans.
Not if the Kenya Democracy Project is still alive and kicking.
We are try to boost the excellent work being done by Kenya's hard- working journalists by recycling, publicizing and highlighting what would have otherwise fallen through the cracks. And let us not forget that it was Kenyan, spefically, female, journalists who first showcased Conjestina's devastating ndondi talents.
Here is the AFP story:
Kenya’s Star Female Boxer Wants a Shot at Ali’s Daughter
NAIROBI: She is known as “hands of stone” and trains relentlessly every day, brushing off fatigue as she lifts weights, jumps rope and spars with a single-minded purpose: to take on and beat legendary boxer Muhammad Ali’s daughter.
This is Conjestina Achieng, Kenya’s 27-year-old African women’s middleweight boxing champion, a lady pugilist resolute in her determination to knock out Laila Ali, progeny of “The Greatest,” at any cost, any time, any place, anywhere. “I want to destroy her career,” she says, sweat pouring off her 5 feet 10 inches body and chiseled face at the upmarket gym on the outskirts of Nairobi where she works out.
Fresh from defending her International Boxing Federation of Africa (IBFA) and Womens International Boxing Federation (WIBF) middleweight titles against Tanzanian Monica Mwakasanga last weekend, Achieng sounds like Ali’s brash father in the prime of his career. “I have the confidence and I believe that no woman can step in the ring with me and beat me,” she told AFP in an interview. But Achieng’s target is clear, with few potential opponents in her sights other than Laila Ali, the women’s world triple crown super middleweight champion whose storied boxing career has been boosted by the legacy of her famous father.
“I can beat her any time, anywhere and even before her own fans so that I can show her we also have the best boxers in Africa,” she says after a four-hour training session that has been her daily routine since her boxing debut in 2001. In her first fight, Achieng knocked out fellow Kenyan Naomi Wanjiku in the fifth of a six-round fight and has amassed a record of 11 wins, six by KO, and one loss. She is set to defend her WIBF title in November in western Kenya but her opponent has not been identified yet. Ali, meanwhile, is undefeated with knock-outs accounting for 18 of her 20 wins, a record that Achieng appears unfazed by.
Aware of the weight class difference between her and Ali, Achieng is undeterred, saying she is ready to move up the super middleweight division if Ali won’t come down. What she wants now is a response from Ali’s camp. “It is up to her to pick up the gauntlet and accept my request,” the raven-haired fighter says as yells and grunts bounce off the walls and high ceilings of the Java Fitness Center. Her promoter Caleb Kuya, a Danish-based Kenyan, is equally confident but says Conjestina needs at least three more fights under her belt before she faces Ali, especially as she has boxed professionally only once outside her native country. “I believe ‘hands of stone’ can beat Laila,” he told AFP in a telephone interview.
4.0. Shame on You, Ochillo Ayako and Your Boss, the Serikali of Kenya!
You know when I was browsing through Conjestina Achieng's story I became livid with indignation.
If there are people who can be credited with putting Kenya on the world map, it is our athletes. Everyone has heard of Kipchoge Keino, Ben Jipcho, Mike Boit, Henry Rono, Catherine Ndereba, Tecla Loroupe, Lorna Kiplagat- and those are just the track and field stars- have not mentioned the cricket and soccer talents and of course, our under rated boxers.
To imagine that the Conjestina Achiengs of the world triumph despite the stony indifference of successive Kenyan governments is more galling when you hear from these athletes directly how the sports administrators and politicians rush to cash in as soon as the athlete has made it to the big league. A few years ago I was speaking in Toronto to a certain semi-professional Kenyan marathon runner who was born in Nyeri District( if my memory holds up) and was at that time based somewhere in Albany, New York State. He explained to me that many Kenyan long- distance runners have simply taken control of ther own careers after years of being exploited- especially by one or two very high profile members of the Kenya 3 As who always insisted on accompanying athletes as their "managers" on outings abroad. Long before the Shaheen defection, I learned from this remarkably disciplined compatriot ( waking before dawn to run for miles; not drinking, fornicating or pigging out on junk food) how so many of Kenya's young athletes from the Rift Valley have become fabulously wealthy by Kenyan standards once they decided to turn official government neglect on its head by going the independent route.
In Conjestina Achieng's case there is a blatant sexist angle to it. Can you imagine that the second top ranked middleweight boxer in the world STARVING and JOBLESS, struggling to raise a son on her own while the Kenya government uses the fame brought by its sportswomen and sportsmen to market Kenya as a tourist destination and what not?
Something must be done about ALL Kenyan athletes- boxers, footballers, runners, cricket players, judokas, karatekas who are being frustrated the way Conjestina Achieng is. I was talking to my mshikaji about three hours ago about this. One of her nephews is among the best martial arts athletes in the country. For a couple of years this young man actually quit the sport he was excelling in to play football because his own coach was frustrating him those sides of Pwani. The good news is that juzi walimtafuta na wakambemeleza to get back on the national side. He is currently representing Kenya somewhere.
But can you see what I am talking about? I mean it is all fine and dandy for President Kibaki to exhort Kenyan athletes not to defect. But tell me, what INCENTIVES are being offered for them to show up for their country? How many people, especially hard working athletes, can survive on fresh oxygen alone?
There will be more Shaheens making a beeline for Qatar, Bahrain, Denmark, England, Canada, Germany, the USA and wherever their talents can be COMPENSATED and REMUNERATED on a regular basis.
What is even more ridiculous is to see the phenomenon where the Shaheens, who are still definitely INTENSELY PATRIOTIC KENYANS despite their paper citizenships elsewhere being maligned and banished from coming to Kenya where they are reinvesting and infusing the coffers of this nation with much sought after foreign exchange buganas. This NARC Government is out to lunch on many things and sports is one of its WORST performance areas. Please do not let me get started on the the whole FIFA kerfuffle.
The Kenyan government has NO EXCUSE. They cannot try that sorry ass excuse of being just another Third World country with few resources to support its sports program. Canada, one of the richest countries in the world- has an even WORSE track record of supporting its sports women and sports men, so it is NOT about the chums aisey.
There is a simple fact:
Serikali yetu DOES NOT VALUE KENYAN ATHLETES PERIOD AND LET ME ADD A FULLSTOP and EXCLAMATION MARK AFTER THAT!
Let me tell you about a small Caribbean country with only 11 million people facing severe economic hardships, isolated for decades because of the deliberate ideological vindictiveness of the most powerful nation of earth- and how this katiny, kasmall, kalittle country is a GIANT in Boxing, Track and Field, Baseball, Basket Ball, Volley Ball and a whole range of other sports. And they dominate simultaneously in men and women's categories- for example basketball and volleyball.
And not to rub it in too much- they are also among the leading producers of fine singers and musicians and they export their doctors in hundreds of countries around the world( including Kenya) where they treat sick and poor people for free.
Did I say that this kasmall country has practically eradicated the HIV/AIDS pandemic from its population( not that there are no new infections, but that they have thwarted the growth of the syndrome within their borders).
They even had time to lend a helping hand in kicking the butts of some racist killer goons at Cuito Cuanavale in 1987, assisting directly in bringing down the edifice of apartheid.
Still STUMPED yaani, you cannot even GUESS which country I am raving about?
Let me spell it for you slowly:
C is for Castro as in the ndugus Fidel and Raul;
U is for Unbwogable, Unflappable, Undefeated as in 46 Years of Socialist Revolution Under the nose of Uncle Sam;
B is for world beating boxers like Teofilo Stevenson, Felix Savon and many many more
A is for athletes, artists and patriotic attitude
CUBA is for all of the above.
You wanna know something about Cuba and her boxing prowess?
Let me take you to AUSTRALIA where you find the following story filed around the time of the Athens Olympics.
Here is a link to a PDF file of a somewhat scholarly treatment of the Role of Sports in Cuba's Domestic and International Policy.
Here is a news dispatch from the Cuban News Agency about access to physical fitness and sports facilities for citizens of that nation.
Would President Kibaki have done something similar to this, if it had happened in Kenya?
We can yak until all the ng'ombes come back to the kraal but that still will not help Conjestina Achieng' to be the best boxer she could be- not wondering about where her next meal is going to come from.
I think anyone reading this piece who is upset as I am should perhaps consider doing the following:
. Writing, emailing, faxing or calling Minister Ochillo Ayacko and DENOUNCING the shoddy treatment the Kenyan government extends to Kenyan athletes; ask the minister to IMMEDIATELY sponsor Conjestina Achieng' by providing her with 100% of all the money she needs to make it to become the UNDISPUTED world Middle Weight boxing champion- although there is that ka small detail of KNOCKING OUT (? ai! YAWA! I am from Gem and I adore Conjestina to death, but even I hesitate to dream this big) Laila Ali first.
2. Contacting Wundanyi MP Mwandawiro Mghanga in his capacity as the Interim Chair of the Kenya- Cuba Frienship Society and asking him to approach the Government of Cuba in a bid to have Conjestina Achieng' go and train in Cuba and enjoy that country's superior and free facilities as she gears up for a global debut;
3. Calling the Kenya High Commission to Canada in Ottawa, Ontario
(613-563-1773) and asking to speak to my good buddy Mr Peter Nicholas Rateng' Oginga Ogego in his capacity as the Kenyan ambassador to Havana and politely requesting him to utilize his access to both governments to ensure that Ms. Conjestina Achieng' is lifted from penury to sponsorship.
4. Seeking out Conjestina Achieng' and offering concrete support. A congratulatory email would be nice; a dispatch of at least $100 from any Kenyan abroad reading this sent directly to Conjestina would come in real handy.
5. Forming an international fan club for Conjestina Achieng' and sticking by come rain or high water, whether she knocks everybody out or is stopped abruptly by Laila binti Ali.
I loved your enthusiastic comments on Conjestina Achieng' - and I still grieve about the loss of Katini Nzau-Ombaka.
Russian documents now ackowledge what many military anlaysts knew all along; the Cubans and Angolans got were severly beaten at Cuito Cuanavale. Losing over 4,000 dead and hundreds of tanks and vehicles to only 31 SADF and operational control of the area isn't what anyone but the Cuban propaganda machine would call a victory. Thankfully the war was too costly for both the racist South African regime and the Cubans forcing both to the table and withdrawal from Angola.
My sister in law Dr. Katini-Ombaka wife of the late Hon. Oki Ooko Ombaka of Gem (Ulumbi) passed away last Tuesday after an unfortunate illness in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with her children by her side. There are many Kenyans in this part of the U.S and I know I can indulge in your caring spirit for assistance in this time of grief to transport her remains to be buried in Gem.
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