Shailja Patel. patterned sari border
 About/Press KitWorkMigritudeBlogNews/AwardsCalendar ShopContact Shailja
decorative pattern

Be a part of Migritude's journey.
No contribution is too small - or too large. $2 buys coffee for a volunteer. $15 rents a rehearsal studio for an hour. $100 covers 2 hours of lighting / tech / set design. $500 helps fly Shailja to international festivals!!

You can also make a tax-deductible donation by check. Please email for details.

Monday, August 13, 2007

what I did for my birthday

Took part in the historic, first-ever, petition of Kenya's parliament by Kenyans, to protest:

1) the unconstitutional Media Bill passed by parliament, now awaiting presidential consent, which would force journalists to disclose all their sources of information.

2) the corrupt, immoral, illegal "gratuity" payment , amounting to 1.4 billion Kenyan shillings, which Kenyan legislators want to award themselves when they leave office at the end of their electoral term this year.

Last week civil society activists tried to present this petition to parliament. They were harassed, beaten, tear-gassed, arrested illegally, and almost killed in a car crash involving the police vehicle they were forced into. One of the petitioners, Ann Njogu, founder of Kenya's Centre for Rights, Education and Awareness of Women, was slapped, kicked, punched, and dragged down a steep flight of stairs by the police. Charity Ngilu, Minister of Health, stormed the police station to rescue her, and drove her to a hospital for treatment. The next day, Ngilu was ordered to report to CID headquarters, and detained without cause for 24 hours.

So I was - to put it mildly - petrified. But there's a point where you can't NOT show up - and still face yourself in the mirror.

And I was SO glad I did. The march was peaceful. Miraculously, mind-blowingly, heart-liftingly, peaceful. The Kenyan police actually respected the law. They let Kenyan citizens exercise their constitutionally protected right to petition their parliament. A Member of Parliament (and ODM-K presidential candidate Joseph Nyagah) accepted the petition from us to take to parliament.

I'm still finding the words to describe the experience - and it's impact on me. I've protested injustice and war on the streets of England, of America. I never believed I could do it in Kenya, without detention, injury, or worse.

Interesting side-note: I was the only brown i.e. South Asian, Kenyan in the march. The reactions ranged from assumption - that I must be a journalist with an international agency, rather than a Kenyan - to tremendous warmth and appreciation from the organizers and activists. They said:

Bring your people to the next march. Tell them they need to be here, this country is for all of us.

The photos here were taken by Daudi Were, leading Kenyan blogger. See the full set on his Flickr.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Shailja Patel. patterned sari border
©Shailja Patel