Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A response to crazyfinger

I thought you made a really good comment to my last post and it gave me a really good place to jump off from so i'm posting my response to your comment as a new post. Again thanks for your questions. They definately stimulated my thinking.

I hear what you’re saying and I do believe when you say you’re coming from a supportive and Kind place.

Here’s where I’m coming from with my frustration:
I’ve seen many a ‘development’ project go horribly horribly awry owing to the backgrounds of the people that made decisions to implement it and the people hired to implement it.

It becomes about me when I and my family pay dearly, often with our lives for projects driven entirely by outsiders who haven’t the foggiest idea about what is happening on the ground. ‘Professionals’ who approach Africa’s problem with incredibly slanted and biased misconceptions. That’s when it becomes about me.

You’re not the first to espouse the “wait your turn, you’re still young and you’ll get your chance to change things when you’re older”
Its not what you said but its what I get out of you telling me that the movers and shakers started where I am now. Actually, Bill Gates started off in a different city and class situation. Gender, Race, Class and position within the global matrix still shape who has access to power and who becomes a mover and shaker….. To tell me and others like me that if we’re good and wait our turn at the policy-making table we will get a go at it is a lie that is not supported by the historical record.

What I’m saying is that its important to actively create space at the table for people like me and my friends while we are young. Young Black women from the third world who do have ideas about how the problems of their home country can be tackled. Before we get jaded and cynical. There is so much we could do with this energy and it makes no sense to frustrate us into diverting our energies into other pursuits. I think of other things I could do with my life other than Akili Dada. Jobs that would pay me impossible amounts of money to make sure that African’s come out more screwed than before. I could use my background and training to negotiate loans to African countries at horrible rates and conditions. It would certainly pay… And a lot too.

But that’s not what is driving me. I actually am still naïve enough to think that I can make a difference. That naivete and energy should be captured and its impact maginified. At least I’m hanging on to the last idea that my time and energy have value. Something that so many other African women give up on so early.

And I was thinking also, even though it’s a thin line, this blog is more about me sharing my personal experiences and less about Akili Dada. At least it’s a line that I’m working to make thicker and the distinctions more clear. Akili Dada the organization is more than just me, there is a whole board behind it. This blog is all me. So I’m the one that’s hysterical and self-concious. And I think the situation the continent is in calls for some hysteria and self-conciousness!!!


Crazyfinger said...


Thank you for the thoughtful and a no-nonsense discussion. At first when my eyes read that there's an entire post with my name on it, my heart skipped a beat with nervousness. I was positively frazzled that what I said was hurtful to you. But that was not the case. Phew! :-)

"Gender, Race, Class and position within the global matrix still shape who has access to power and who becomes a mover and shaker….."

I think the same way. Nevertheless - stepping back a bit to get a bigger picture - I get the feeling that there is an essential difference between the way I think these problems ought to approached and what I see reflected in your thinking. I don't believe these are differences based solely on opinions, but rather on my own personal experiences.

First, we should really think hard about what that phrase, "professionals," coming together for the purpose of "policy-making at the table," means. I think I know what you mean. If your thinking about this phrase is as I suspect it is, then I am already shaking my head saying, "no, no, NO!"

Who are these people for whose beckon and call you are awaiting, fuming that they should call you earlier rather than later? Are these men and women an exclusive club exclusively authorized to cure developmental ailments of the country? Were they awarded a patented monopoly on solving people's problems? Why should anyone look up to them while the people in need are down below? They are not like telecom service providers in U.S. with blanket ownership to airwaves which rightfully belong to people, are they? So why are you thinking that you need their mediation to do what you do?

If it is bureaucrats that you refer to, then I am afraid it is already a lost cause (may be I am hysterical here). In general, when I hear a phrase like "policy-making at the table," I hear the rumblings of a power play. Years and years of living in a country beset with bureaucracy crippled by corruption sharpens one's instincts to spot lazyness and my instincts tell me that wherever we see such bureaucracy, there is a fertile breeding ground for power play. I do not believe things get done fast enough in such an environment. Not only that, but it seems to me that when it comes to the matters of policy decisions of "development" that we are talking about here, it is precisely within the four walls of such rooms that such "gender, race, class and position biases" thrive and thrive well.

Are they politicians then? A little better in my opinion. As someone said, we can't take politics out of a politician. But we sure can get some things done. But I am not sure if we are willing to pay the cost. We ordinary men and women keep complaining about the rotten politics and all, but it seems to me that the power to mediate the proposing and disposing the (change of) conduct becoming of proper citizenry and the privilege to set the policy really emerges only within the midst of the mess and mud of people's baser emotions.

I can't help but think that the degree to which any "non-profit" effort makes itself heavily dependent on these two categories of people, this non-profit effort fails. Worst part of that failure is that it is a slooooooooow process of failure. The only alternative we have is to go the route of a "for-profit" entrepreneurial enterprise. Lord, I've written up too much already...So for now I'll leave with one or two links that I found on the web that might interest you...

http://www.kenyanpundit.com/ (lots of good links in the sidebar)



Isaac said...


Dear Wanjiru,

It has been a while since we’ve heard from you on this blog, but I know that you are doing well and that Akili Dada is progressing. It has been such a treat to be able to watch you form this organization, even though I know a little bit of how hard it has been. Nothing worth doing is easy, they say, and it is true, I believe. I can only hope that I have done everything possible to show you that I support your goal and efforts.

I’ve come very close to finishing all of the Star Trek seasons. Still a bit left, but maybe next time you are in Kenya. I am constantly amazed at the social commentary that these episodes make. Did I tell you about the androgynous race that the Enterprise encounters? I may have… It was clearly a commentary about homosexuals, and considering the time frame of the Episode (made in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s), it was doubly interesting. Those of the androgynous race who “leaned” toward being one sex or another were seen as outcasts, weird, and sick. When they were exposed (most of them lived secret lives), they were subjected to “psycotectic treatment” which made them see the error of their ways.

Then yesterday the Enterprise visited a planet where the inhabitants had so polluted their atmosphere that they had to install numerous active filtration systems and ionizing doohickeys that cleaned the pollution. “How could any species let their planet become so polluted?” one of the Enterprise crewmembers asked. Indeed.

And my personal favorite, the Enterprise encounters a pair of scientists who say that warp travel has been destroying the subspace continuity of the universe. Nobody on the Enterprise believed them, because warp travel had been used for centuries and no one saw any negative aspects of it. But the scientists were ultimately proven correct, and all of Starfleet was faced with the realization that their mode of transportation – their very livelihood – had been slowly destroying the universe. How many times do we invent something, only to find out many decades later about that something’s negative cumulative effect on something else?

Very interesting, I would say. Oh by the way – did you know that Starfleet Academy, where all of the Capt. Picards etc. are trained, is in San Francisco?

I saw Barack Obama give a speech in a Selma Alabama church. Just a few blocks away, Hillary Clinton gave a speech in another church that followed Obama’s. Both were very interesting. Both tied themselves to the Civil Rights Movement and Selma in particular. How, you might ask, did a Kenyan-American and a white woman do this? It was fascinating, especially since one criticism of Obama is that he never went though the Civil Rights struggle. He said that he came to school in America because of a scholarship program set up to bring African kids to America. This was done because the US was afraid that the rest of the world would see what was happening in the South (beatings, riots, lynching, etc.) during the Civil Rights struggle and decide that Communism was better – i.e., they would take the side of the Communists. So he was a child of the struggle in Selma. And Hillary? Well, of course, she’s a woman, and women are minorities too, right? And the struggle for racial rights helped empower the women’s movement. So she, too, is a child of the struggle that happened in Selma. Brilliantly delivered on both of their parts – I can’t do it justice here. I think it’s a little presumptuous on their part, trying to claim some part of the struggle that was fought by other people. Don’t they have their own struggles that they can talk about? It felt that, in trying to honor the people in the churches who had been arrested, beaten, etc. by saying that they were tied to that struggle, they actually did the opposite. I didn’t get a sense of honor or gratitude, but of “me-too” that is self-defeating. Talk about your own struggles! Say thank you to the folks who led the cause, honor and praise their success, and then move on! But then, what do I know of politics?

Well, it’s getting late and I should get some rest so that my sickness gets better. I hope that you write again in the next day or two…

I can’t wait to see you soon!