Category Archives: Activism

Kenya’s Creative Fire: A Conversation with Rachel Gichinga of Kuweni Serious

Art is politics; and, it’s the weapon Kuweni Serious uses to, as they say, “fight the evil forces of apathy,” they saw plaguing Kenyan youth in the aftermath of the country’s 2007 elections. Kuweni Serious is a cultural activist organization based in Nairobi, Kenya. Their team includes three creative minds committed to raising political consciousness among Kenyan youth, encouraging them to be active participants in the political process. Rachel Gichinga, Jim Chuchu (of the music group Just a Band) and Mbithi Masya work incollaboration with Just a Band, Ghetto Radio, NiSisi! and Roma Media to create and share creative works that capture our imaginations and inspire us to think critically about unjust political practices and proposed alternatives.

We had the great pleasure of speaking with Rachel Gichinga about Kuweni Serious. She discusses Kenya’s turbulent 2007 elections, which led the team to develop this project. Rachel also shares her thoughts on Kuweni Serious’ creative approach, Kenya’s future in relation to all of Africa and the stake people of African descent abroad have in realizing their vision for Kenya.

Can you tell us where the name Kuweni Serious comes from?

“Kuweni Serious” means “let’s get serious”. The Kiswahili word “Kuweni” employs both the collective and the imperative, and this is the sentiment that we’re trying to capture and relay. We felt that it was important to get young Kenyans thinking and talking about their country’s political development, and, hopefully beginning to act as well. One of our favourite contributors, Njoki Ngumi, put it best in her interview when she said, “We are not as powerless as we think we are.” Kuweni Serious aims at letting primarily members of our generation know exactly that.

All of us have a creative background and work in the arts, so it just made sense to use that format as it is one which we understand well, and one that we think our peers relate to with comparative ease as well.

Kuweni Serious has been very involved in mobilizing people to vote in the 2010 Constitution referendum.  Why was the new constitution so important?  Now that the new constitution has passed, what new opportunities and challenges do you think lie ahead for Kenya’s youth?

Let me provide a bit of context for this first. Kuweni Serious was borne out of the aftermath of the 2007 presidential election. We noticed that we and our peers spent that terrible period online, on Facebook, passing on information and opinions about what had happened/was happening. People were angry, scared, hurt, apathetic—the full gamut of emotions. The common thread there was that people from this particular background (young, educated, with some level of exposure to the world, folks who know what good governance should look like and are therefore particularly put-off by the fact that this is so absent in the Kenyan context) either genuinely cared about the country and wanted to do something but had no idea about how to get involved; or viewed the problem as too overwhelming and too detached from their common reality, and were, therefore, apathetic.

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Living Unchained is a Journey

Guest post by Felicia Montgomery

Felicia Montgomery dedicates her life to connecting communities through creative communications as a non-profit fundraising and communications expert, social entrepreneur and multi-media producer. She resides in Washington, DC and blogs, tweets, and speaks on issues ranging from philanthropy and social business to race and human rights. Contact her or follow her musings at http://twiter.com/4socialgood or http://www.linkedin.com/in/feliciamontgomery.

When I learned of Live Unchained and its focus on women of African descent, I think the image was rather literal in my head. Since the end of slavery, we have been living in a sense, unchained.

Yet, I thought it was rather interesting to explore that thought, that question of “are we truly living unchained?” If so, how are we achieving that? What factors inhibit our ability to live unchained? And, what sparks the desire for some to go down a different path that varies from the strict social construct of the black woman living in the Americas.

I’m proud that there are projects like Live Unchained that seek to provide a spotlight on so many black women living in the nexus of creativity, activism, entrepreneurship, technology and communications. I definitely put myself in that category.

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A Distinctive Path: A conversation with Raquel Wilson

Live Unchained had the pleasure of asking Raquel Wilson about her many projects and thoughts on activism, culture, and art. Raquel puts her many creative talents and knowledge into projects that enhance peoples lives and the world around us. She is a remarkable voice in art and activism, we are pleased to share her thoughts here.

You’re described as an: “artist activist culturalist.” What do these terms mean to you? Is there anything else you would include to describe what you’re work and beliefs are about?

The first two are literal.  I am an artist — I’m a graphic designer, I am a painter and I curate art and photography shows.  I am an activist — I use my voice and talents to inform and speak out about injustices around the globe.

Culturalist is a mash up of two words — culture and anthropologist. I am an anthropologist that studies the language and traditions of people of the world, a cultural anthropologist.  I think we could all learn more about tolerance by just studying another language or culture.

You’ve mentioned: “It is important to me that the playing field is equal for everyone – regardless of gender, race, religion, culture or class.” Was there a particular event, or series of events, that helped you come to this understanding?  Why is this important to you?

Being a woman of color I have had to endure everything from having racial slurs and lit cigarettes thrown at me as a child to overt discrimination in the workplace as an adult.  My experiences have made me aware of the injustices that many have had to brave due to culture, class, sexual orientation, religion and so much more.  Based on my history alone, I think it would make me a hypocrite not to support civil and human rights for everyone.

Do you think “activist” and “artist” are terms women should be more comfortable with embracing?

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The Haiti I love, the Haiti I hope for

Haiti has captured the attention of the United States in this extreme moment of grief and loss.  Weeks since the initial event, assistance to organizations and efforts for Haitian relief have begun to decrease.  As Haiti is still recovering, we must keep our Haitian family in our thoughts and prayers. If you do not know who you would like to contribute to, we recommend Yéle.

For Haiti we feel saddened, but not defeated.  We know that hope in times like this is not naïve, but bold.  A nation founded by enslaved African revolutionaries, boldness is literally, what Haiti was built on.

In this entry, two friends of Haitian descent, Mirline Labissiere and Johann Richard share their reflections on the earthquake, media representations of Haiti and their heritage.

Mirline Labissiere

January 12, 2010 I sat there watching CNN not fully digesting the “Breaking News” that Haiti had just experienced a 7.0 earthquake. Thirty minutes Continue reading

This is a MOVEMENT: Alicia Anabel Santos on Afro-Latinos, The Untaught Story

The documentary film series Afro-Latinos, The Untaught Story, developed by the independent production company, Creador Pictures, brings to light the history, culture and contemporary challenges facing blacks in Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean.

Here is the English trailer…

…and here is the Spanish trailer.

This is a MOVEMENT: Alicia Anabel Santos on Afro-Latinos, The Untaught Story

Clearly, the team recognized that such an ambitious and important project could only be complimented by an incredible website. www.afrolatinos.tv (designed by Magdalena Medio) is the perfect blend of style and substance. There you can learn countries in Latin America and the Caribbean that received enslaved Africans and from where in Africa they came. Each country the crew visited or plans to visit includes a historical and cultural overview of the African populations there. Also, you can share facts or stories with the team for a given country. The viewer will also get a sense of the creators’ personal commitment to the project; There are several hours of very intimate and personal reflections and conversations throughout the filming process.

I am honored to have had the opportunity to speak with Alicia Anabel Santos, one of the series co-creators about the project. Alicia explains that this project represents not only a tribute to African ancestors and their descendants currently living in Latin America and the Caribbean, but a movement.

How did you become involved with the Afro-Latinos project? How did the idea for the prThis is a MOVEMENT: Alicia Anabel Santos on Afro-Latinos, The Untaught Storyoject come about?

I became involved in the Afro-Latinos documentary after writing an article published in Urban Latino magazine entitled, “Two Cultures Marching to One Drum,” which honors the contributions of Africans in both the Black and Latino community, our shared history, and define what it means to be Afro-Latino—aiming to unite these two communities. Renzo and I were both on a journey of self-discovery searching for the answers to very specific questions– Why have Latinos rejected their African ancestry? Why are we denying our African roots?” Renzo invited me to join him on this investigation to learn more about Afro-Latinos throughout Latin America. Continue reading