Category Archives: Social Justice

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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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

Developing Freedom: Interview with Jemila Abdulai

We recently added the following sentences to the ABOUT section of our website:

“For women to Live Unchained, they must be allowed to simply, live. For many black women across the globe, this basic entitlement is threatened on a daily basis.”

We thought it was important to acknowledge that although the intended scope of the project is vast, we recognize that so too are the challenges facing women of African descent. The resources and perseverance needed to bring about basic opportunities for women of African descent, their communities and family members is bigger than any one movement or publication–especially our own.

We were so honored and happy to connect with and learn from Jemila Abdulai, an International Development Correspondent based in Washington D.C., who believes that free women are important to Africa’s economic and political growth.

Born in Nigeria, and raised in Ghana, Jemila developed a keen interest in the history and current policies that continue to shape African development initiatives. Fluent in English and French, she also keeps her ear to the ground concerning Francophone countries, such as Senegal, where she traveled with the African Women’s Millenium Initiative (AWOMI). Jemila believes in the power of information sharing and discusses many of her experiences and ideas on her blog: www.circumspecte.com.

In this interview Jemila shares how she became involved in the African Women’s Millenium Initiative (AWOMI) in Senegal (as well as how you can travel and help with AWOMI), her interest in international development and her vision of empowered women and Africa at it’s strongest.

Can you tell us about your background?  Where are you from?  Where have you been?

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