Is This World Real?

Since I was a little boy my dream was to be an instrument for change. I knew that I was following a complicated path in life. I started carrying a heavy load the day that I was born. They tell me I used to cry when my mother often left me for ten hours without milk, as she went searching for food.   There was rarely milk for me at all, as my mother didn’t eat well and she felt dizzy, as she too was hungry.

My Aunt Benta always tells me how I got used to hunger, until I did not cry anymore.  My mom stopped me from breastfeeding at an early age (two months) and I was introduced to hard food—and I would often spend days without more than water to fill my stomach.

This struggle forced me to be a homeless kid at the age of 8. At that age I knew how to survive. I was introduced to a world where it really is the survival of the fittest.  It is a cycle that is not easy to break, or to even imagine breaking.  That was my world, and is still the world of millions of people on this planet. I tell you, enjoy and celebrate if that’s not your world, as for most that is just how life is.

I am often still not convinced that I am living in a world in which I don’t need to walk for long distances in search of water. I no longer have to fight with my mom about the water that I want to use for my weekly bath. I no longer have to stop eating and leave the remaining food for my little brother Hillary, who might go hungry if I feed myself well. I no longer have to worry about what I’ll eat tomorrow.  I no longer worry that I might not survive the year, or that I’ll spend the night in the police cell—not because I am a criminal but because I met a policeman who asked for a bribe and I had nothing in my pocket to offer.  I still have a hard time believing that I’m living in a world where I can decide to be a doctor, or a lawyer, or do I want with my life.  I always knew that I would be wasted potential—one of the millions of people with ideas and talent forced to forever rot and remain in the slums.

Sometimes I think I am living in heaven and this is life after death. How can it be that a poor kid who went to an informal school in one of the largest slums in African can officially share a panel with an American President?  President Bill Clinton was one of my first heroes, but I never dreamed that as a slum boy I would even be in the same room with him.  I’m still pinching my body to make sure that this is real. If this is real, then there is hope for the millions of people who spend their lives hopelessly, not knowing what they will eat tomorrow.  Another world is possible if we dream positively, as I dreamed, and will continue to dream. If this world is real, then I will share the opportunities that I have been lucky enough to find.

I want to see the women in my community taking charge of their education and that of their children. I want to offer my life so that women and girls have equal access to a future.  I decided to focus on women because I saw it first hand.  Men, women, and children—for the world to change we must all be united by a collective solidarity.  I cannot sit by while men, who dominate the community, rape a six-year-old girl. I could not say silent when I see my mom abused by the man she loves—she was kicked and often he even threatened her life, and the worst part is that she always forgave him.  I will never forget the abuse I saw my sisters endure because they are women, and how they got pregnant at the age of sixteen.  I will raise my voice for the women in my community when I remember my friend Mary who was denied a factory job and any economic opportunities because she is was a woman. Mary had to turn to prostitution not for money, but for food.

However I also can’t blame my fellow men, as I know that the issue is the lack of resources and disempowerment of the community as a whole—men included.  This is why from my own experience as a man in Kibera I saw the need to create an incentive structure to place value on women by providing men and the entire community with services.  This is why in our model we have The Kibera School for Girls and we also offer social services for men like a library, toilets, health center, water, and education.

I can’t do all this alone.  I have come this far with the help of the amazing and supportive people in my life. Jessica Posner shines in my life, and I am always touched by how she gives to my community without judging them. She is my fellow commander on this war for equality for all, despite gender barriers. We are not alone in this movement.  Great advisors and mentors also support us.  However, most importantly, we have the grassroots support that is sweeping across the United States to the heart of the Kibera slums.

Journeying With My Empress: The Lioness

My journey has been full of joy,sadness, laughter and pain but I keep on moving-on with life. In this journey, my dreams have come true and coming true everyday. I wake up each morning with new achievements and dreams day. I man feel blessed and just wanna be humbled, observing and getting wiser as that is the secret of peacefulness. This blog is another celebration as it has hit thousands of viewers and hundreds each-day. It is being read by the intellectuals, ghetto youths and all sorts of people as I want to share and uplift the souls. It’s a tool of spreading hope, love and ways of learning as we keep on with the journey in our life. If we can’t decide what to read, then the system will decide for us what to read. Each time you set your eye on the television and magazines you see what they want you to see. Whats makes me uncomfortable is the way they want to shape our minds and life style. They say, “If you can’t be slim, you are ugly.” I wonder how do they define beautifulness? Why can’t they remind us on doing body and mind fitness for healthy life. We need to be continuousness and open minded to see past the naked eye.

I man feel blessed to have a strong Lioness the Empress by my side. Jessica a wise and thoughtful person who is also ready to face any challenge in life. Together we create a powerful battalion that is unshakable. I man is just a man, and without the Empress, I could not have been where I am. Always good to have someone who understands you better, someone who cannot judge, and someone who focused beyond material world. Jessica is a gift to my community in Kibera and all stake holders of Shining Hope for Communities. She knew how much I love Kibera and she supported my dreams and not uprooting a man from his community, instead she rooted the man in his community. She draws me nearer and closer to my culture,spiritual life and happiness that outshines joyousness. I can’t describe how I view her as I don’t see any blackness, whiteness, greenness or redness. But I see love in her, I see peace and positive energy.

I’m also thankful for my friends, mentors and SHOFCO Wesleyan for being there for me all the time. Recently, I made great friendship with people of Austin, and also having time with my Echoing Green family which has been so supportive. I believe we can all make a change in different ways. We all have talents that can be used in a good way to uplift humanity. We can’t wait for the system to tell us what to do. Gandhi once said, “Change is within,” and therefore  We are march forward and backward never!

Peace,

K

 

We are our own enemy

Most of the time people blame their down fall on the plight of their enemies. I realize that the term enemies are always on the spotlight whoever things go wrong in our lives. Whereby on my perspective there is no enemies, rather friends or friends who are jealous of our success. And its not fair to label our ex-friends as enemies. Now I wonder who are our enemies, or are we our own enemy?

Is it possible for someone you don’t know to be jealous of you and always eager for your down fall? It’s not possible, as people who don’t know you well will never be labeled as an enemy.  However sometimes we ourselves fall into patterns that prevent our success. We make excuses, we say “tomorrow,” or we fail to ascribe responsibility to ourselves.

I personally, have no enemies but few friends who became jealous of me, just because of misunderstanding. But, I honestly always try to reach out to them. I reach out to them because it’s a matter of misunderstanding.

I have been painfully attacked emotionally by the people I thought were my friends. I shared every bit of my life with them but later on they turned their back on me. But I have to learn their motives, their motives were  to give me stress and make sure am not productive with my life. I learned a lesson, that they were once my friends, they were once close by my side.  Of course it’s painful when your friend turns against you. We only need to prove to them one point, and the point is “We don’t care” as we shall keep on marching forward with our lives as if nothing has happened.  I have learned that people can be meaningful friends at one point in time, and then that point ends.  We have both learned from each other, but there a time to move on with peace.

The only way to make a jealous person happy is by stressing your self as that what they really want from you. They want to make your life hard. But I have also found a solution on how to cherish the love we get from our loved ones. I have been uplifted emotionally by people I perceived as friends. I have been meeting new people in my life who I admire. I have great friends in my life, I am not alone as my friends are always at the door step of my heart.

Why waste time with people who are just eying for our down fall and yet we have friends who wants to see prosperity attached to our lives. My dream is not to harm anyone, but see good and happiness to humanity.

Lets enjoy life and do away with people who are just thinking with the mentality that always sees the bad.  Let’s surround ourselves with people who see the good in us and in the world.

Kennedy.

My Time In Kibera– Kenya

I’m always energized by the people I meet on the ground. I had a great time in Kenya as a reminder of the value of life. I saw how people work hard in life, they wake up early in the morning to meet the rising sun. They are not lazy as many perceive but always working hard on a hot sun but earning little to survive.

I had time to meet the people, listened to their advice and make my own conclusion. It was funny to know that I still retain my nick name of Kibera Mayor. I had many questions to answer, as the questions were challenging. An elderly woman who have known me since I was little boy wanted to know why I don’t have a baby. She asked me that question in front of the audience as people wanted to know the reason. I was told that my age-mates are all having three to six children, and yet am more successful  yet not even a single kid. I didn’t want to blame anyone who had children but I had to defend myself . I replied, “mama, I’m still studying and look how many children am taking care of?.” they all burst into laughing.

Despite all the challenging questions, I had a great time. They inspired me all the time. I was surprised with the setting of the Clinic that now offer heath service to over 60 patients per day. I was touched to see  such kind of facility in Kibera. The people showed how much they love the Clinic, and they kept saying, that they owned that Clinic. They assured me that  our doctors and nurses are good as they respect privacy of the locals. They love them because they don’t speak much English but the local language so they connect. But I was also warned that if my health staff are not respectful, they will just be fired because the Health Center is owned by the Locals. I am happy to know to know that my community feel the ownership.They were impressed also with the idea that the Clinic is named after my fellow student who passed away. Although, they have never met Johanna Justin but they feel her presence and love in Kibera. They want to Johanna’s family to come and celebrate the life with them in Kibera. Johanna’s dream has come true as many life has been saved through the Clinic named after her. An elder said that, “The Clinic is successful because Johanna is happy with what is happening.”  Latter, after the meeting at the Clinic , i had to head to the party that was taking place out side the Community Center that is hosting Marcus Garvey Library and Knowledge Center plus the community hall.

We had big party that more than 4000 people attended with local music on the air. I’m humbled to be accepted by the community even though am one of them but am grateful for being accepted.

I thank the Almighty force and the presence of my great friends who have supported me since I started the journey of giving back to my community. I’m at peace even though am freezing here in America cold. I feel warm when I realize what I’ve done to my community. I’m doing for good heart and i have no intention of political office. Though politics is not the only solution for combating poverty and illiteracy, we can’t ignore the roles that it plays. I will work very closely with the Kenyan Politicians as I believe that Government too has a role to play on the development of any society. But Black Kennedy is not a political material nor ambitious. I’m so happy to play the role of a humanitarian work.

I have receive lots of support but I might not write an email to the individuals who are supporting me. I hope they know how I do pray for them and wishing them the best. I have a long list of people who are supporting us and every morning I wish them long life. If they are thinking and supporting the less-privileged and therefore they need to live long. We are all born with the purpose of making our world better. Few are taking that responsibility while the majority are running away from it. But you can’t run away from the truth and that’s why the runners never find peace. I know the secret of peace: Make a difference = Peace. I am at peace with my life, everyone morning I want life so that other people can live.

I appreciate the gift of free air, and that the same air is free for both rich and the poor. If nature doesn’t discriminate, why do I? If you go against nature, you’ll just be denied peace.

Lets continue walking together in this journey. Shining Hope is open for more volunteers with a mission. There will be  a summer program institute coming this summer.

Black Kennedy

My World Aids Day in Memory of Aunt Atieno

The week have been quite rough, undertaking my driving school classes on the top of my academic schedule. I will not complain as my life is much better compared to my busy schedule in Kibera of carrying heavy rocks in the construction site.

Today Wednesday, I man woke up a dog-tired in the rainy and unpleasant day. I understand why the Americans are known to be cold and introvert. I man was cold and hiding in my room doing homework. I know its a dangerous trend as it makes me run away from life and transforms to personal life-style.

Even though the day was unpleasant, I man had to give a talk in the nearby health center where there was a World Aids Day event. This was a request from amazing group of students from Wesleyan University by the name ASHA. I went to give a talk to inspire my Middletown community but the Irony, is that I man was transformed inspired by them. I listened to talks from the mouth of the individuals who are infected and they taught me a lot. There experience was moving and their hope shined across the room. The event went well and the people felt inspired and I called a call of action. We need to do something, we don’t need to celebrate all the time but do things that can make our children celebrate tomorrow. I man don’t celebrate much as I want my children to celebrate and not eat from the garbage as I did.

Today, I had to reflect and meditate about my World Aids Day. I didn’t celebrate because I had nothing to celebrate but I went to the world of thought. When I was little stubborn baby boy, there was a young lady by the name Atieno. Atieno was my younger aunt who loves us as little kids. My mom could go out to search for food , while Atieno would remain in the house to make sure we were fine.  The young woman never went to school, there was no coins that could educate her as we lived a desperate life. My dream was to get a job in a factory as unskilled labor when I grew up and make sure Atieno lives a better life in the ghetto. The sad part was that Atieno passed away when I was only 15. She died from TB and all connected with Aids. A poor woman was infected and the sad naked fact was that she even traded her body so that we may have food. I will not blame Atieno as she did what anyone could have done if they were in our situation. Furthermore, Atieno is my hero, she is always proud of me. I feel her when the earth is quite and the wind is blowing while my eyes facing the shining stars in the sky. I feel her whispering, “Okwanjo, I can’t believe you are in American University with wazungu(whites). The word Okwanjo means a sportsman who is brilliant and brave. Atieno used to call me Okwanjo as I liked to play soccer and make my soccer ball from dumped papers and strings. When I was little, Atieno could take me for a walk and we met white tourists taking pictures of little boy Kennedy and as they laughed at us. This is why Atieno thought that white people are powerful and courageous.  I bet Atieno will laugh and can’t believe am getting education in a white man country.

My World Aids Day was in respect and memory of my aunt Atieno. She died when ARVs were expensive, she died while can’t have enough meal as food was a secondary commodity for us. Aunt Atieno left love in my heart. I know she will be happy to know that we have started a school for girls in Kibera and we also run a health center to in conjunction with community health workers so that Atieno case will never  happen again.

Ladies and gentlemen, lets not make this day to be a World Aids Day, but rather personalized it to be “My World Aids Day.”  Go out there and give love, hugs, inspirational talks to the people who are being discriminated— that will be much better than sitting in your room waiting for President Obama remarks on American government committing itself to wipe Aids out of Africa.  As we celebrate this day, I as a luo who is sharing the same ethnic community with President Obama’s dad. I hereby request his government to do more on HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa. George W. Bush will remain African number one hero and fighter of HIV/AIDS epidemic. We are still buying time with president Obama, lets see what will happen as he is still cleaning other messes. In the mean time ask yourself what have you done on your world Aids day?

 

 

Blame Game: A dangerous Game

I say often, time wasted will never be recovered and we can’t be productive in our daily life if we keep on blaming each other. I better not blame anyone even if they are the main cause of my suffering in any situation of life. The blame game is a disease and a narrow road that leads to the grave. We better stay away from that disease. Furthermore, the majority of successful people that I’ve come across rarely complains and there complainers are more likely to be unsuccessful.

My life in Kibera slums have been my best experiencing years in my life. It was a sad life and I don’t wanna lie that poor people want to be poor. They are living in poverty situation as there is no other option but to tight their belts on their bellies. Kibera slums has been the best place that I got the a higher diploma of life and on how to relate with the world. I took classes such as “never worry about my body” as long as I can take care of my body. I took many classes in Kibera since I was born until I reached 23 when I graduated and got accepted for another education at Wesleyan University.

I took classes in Kibera about nutrition and how we can survive without enough food and to have food is to be lucky and without food is a normal life. Classes in Kibera cannot be compared to the classes that I undertake at Wesleyan University. Our professor in Kibera was so tough and never joked with anyone, here at Wesleyan my professors are fun to be around. And I had only one professor in Kibera University, compared to the professors that I have here at Wesleyan. I never forgot anything that I learnt from my tough professor in Kibera. I know my readers are eager for me to disclose the name of my professor, but they will be surprised as my ex professor is a famous man.

My professor is known as Prof. Life. The man has taught me a lot and I do appreciate but I’m not ready to be in that class again. I’ll share what I’ve learned from my professor and one of them as the title says, “Blame Game.” I used to live in blame game for a while and I know how it can be destructive and a waste of time.

I used to complain and blame people on my poverty,suffering, lack of better education and hunger. I complained about my government, other corrupted NGO’s that does nothing in Kibera. The more I kept on complaining, the more I suffered more and more. I had to say enough is enough and no more wasting time.

I asked myself, what can I do to change the situation or how can I be part of the change? I started working with young people and we founded SHOFCO as a tool of change. Young people could come together,share their struggles and give hope to each other and we all created a movement that now has a wing at Wesleyan university and its growing in different universities. The idea behind this, is that we never wasted our time in complaining.

We also have to admit that, we can’t be right all the time. I always want to see the world or configure the situations on other peoples eye. We must accept to be challenged in life and we too can hurt others without knowing. If you are always right..right, then my friend you are always wrong and wrong. Comes a time whereby we should listen to other people and interrogate why they feel the way they feel. I say this because if you were in their situation, I bet you could have reacted the same way. So why are you shutting your door and complaining? Most of the time, I’m always ready to be a loser in an argument that can create tension or fight. I know if I win, I lose and if I lose– I win, thats secret arithmetic  of the blame game.

Stay ahead of the game and concentrate with the important things in your life.  We better use our energies on the things that we care about. Our enemies will always make us feel terrible so that we can’t think ahead but we shall not be intimidated as we shall always try to think positively. Life is full with joy but its always hidden and its our duty to find it within ourselves. You can only be a blessing to the world if you feel blessed and admire whom you are.

Let all together think positively by writing down things that we have done in this world that has made other people happy or improved life of others. You better read them everyday of your life when you feel down. Never allow others to define whom you are.

Peace!

Black Kennedy

 

Juggling between Two world

We all know life is a game. You can win or lose, you can learn and be good at it and therefore there is no failing. This is why I say if you fail you win and if you win you win. In this game we usually have two players: the fools and the wise. The fools fail and fail, but the wise fails and learn. Failing for a wise man is an experience and preparation for the battle ahead.

I am is juggling between two world. They are totally different world but I have to learn how to survive. In one world there is dictatorship and they expect you to behave and live as they do or as they command. They are trying through all means as they want me to forget my roots. I don’t  wanna live like them, and thats the problem, because to survive you must be like them. I man have to be-careful as am fighting the “mental slavery.”

The other world is a world of poverty. In that society I lived without hope and therefore it was not a perfect world. It was a world whereby to have basic needs was a dream that was difficult to achieve. I come to conclude that there is no better world. How can I survive if the whole world is screwed-up?

In order to survive. I have created my own world and I therefore find it much better than before. It took me much time to realize that we can all create our world. I man invented a formula of living a happy life in a happy world. The world is I, and I can determine the person I want to be. I have to think positively each an everyday. I have to take a break from the world of fame and media manipulation and take time by myself.

We are screwed-up because we allowed the system to screw us up. But at this time, if we all know the power that we have to create another world, then we can all have a peaceful world. I man is not perfect but its my duty to live a positive life. Sometimes I get into face book so much, and I say, “this is not how I wanna lead my life?” That question will demand an answer from my heart, which is either yes or no. We all make a choice of the world we want to live. We need to ask ourself if we are doing right thing at the right moment?  I value the word “choice” so much. It guides my life and protects me from much troubles. I know if I want to pass my exams, then I need to do one thing. I need to make a “choice” to study hard! We need to make only one choice and we are totally different people.

Now am passing through a moment whereby am the executive director of my organization. I have become a busy man as I need to study, fundraising and give talks at different Universities across America. Professors are inviting me to discuss with their students about my article that appeared on the New York times “Slumdog Tourism.” They all need my time, I need time for myself too.Sometimes I ended up cancelling lunch and coffee meetings with the people that I love. I don’t wanna live like that. So I asked myself, what can I do?  The answer was make a choice! So I made a choice of writing everything down and using my planner and therefore now I can have time for my loved ones and  for my work out exercise. Now am leading a life in a different world that I created. What saved my life was to make a single choice.

If you are passing through hard time in your life, you feel mixed up or your friends are turning against you. I wanna tell you that you need to find one thing and decide to make a choice that will change your life. When relationships are turning sour and no trust anymore– just take a breath and as you might just need to make a choice that will save your relationship. The main idea is to make the right choice, it  be lack of communication that has been affecting your relationship. Those who are searching for life partners for many years without any progress– should ask themselves what choice should they make? Don’t blame anyone or even yourself, you just need to make a choice. Some people have some weired characters that might not be appealing to others. Its better to find the root cause of the problem than having excuses and blames. The worse character to have while dating, is to pretend to know too much and not listening to your partner. Who doesn’t want to be listened at? Even my five years old brother wants attention. Better give your partner attention as its the detergent that cleans the human heart and reflects love.

I hope my readers are going to make  choices in life that will lead them to a better world.

You can follow me on twitter and face book for me for updates on inspirational and uplifting writings.

Black Kennedy!

https://twitter.com/#!/KennedyOdede

http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=620341715

 

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