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Archive for February 18th, 2012

Kenyan entrepreneur and the Whitney memorabilia

Posted by Administrator on February 18, 2012

I have remarked here before how strange people can get after a famous person dies. These thoughts came back to me last weekend with Whitney Elizabeth Houston’s death. Suddenly she was everyone’s favourite. The Twitter-sphere was alive with the tweets of “mourners” many of whom, as is their wont, were shedding crocodile tears for this former mega-star whom they had mostly dismissed as a loser after her self-admitted battle with drugs.

I must state here that though I enjoyed some of her music, I would never go as far as saying I was a devoted fan. Nevertheless, I must admit that some of her songs formed part of the soundtrack of my life and while I was not particularly shocked or broken by her death, I do feel sorry for those she has left behind including her daughter and her family, most especially her mother. It is never a good thing for a child to die before the parent.

If I was to be completely cold-blooded and examine Houston’s death from a detached and dispassionate point of view, I would say that she had reached the top of her career at the end of the 1990s with her ‘My Love is Your Love’ album and after that it was all downhill. But Houston’s career and what I thought of it is not the reason I have brought her up in this article. It was actually the reaction to the death by a businessman friend of mine in Nairobi that got me thinking about how fake we can be about death.

My friend Peter or Pitts as some call him, runs a successful fashion business in Nairobi. He imports clothes, shoes and accessories for men and sells them from his stalls in Nairobi, Ongata Rongai and most recently Nakuru. Over the last couple of years, Klad House, the name of the business, has done extremely well and Pitts has taken full advantage of modern marketing techniques and has grown his clientele through his use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

He is one of those guys who thinks on his feet and in my estimation will go far in business. In fact, if our universities and business colleges had any use for people with a practical experience of growing a business, he would be one of those people they called in every so often to give a lecture to the students and inspire them to do great things.

On hearing the news of Houston’s death, Pitts, who may or may not have been a great fan of the dead singer whose angelic voice was ravaged by drugs, immediately figured that her fans in Kenya were going to want something to remember her by. He immediately started advertising on social media saying that for Sh1,000, he would print Whitney Houston t-shirts with a message of the customer’s choice above or below the picture. Customers were guaranteed they could have their shirts within 24 hours of ordering them.

From my perch in Johannesburg, I thought that while some people might think it was tad tacky or tasteless, many fans would be delighted to have some memorabilia. Certainly businessmen in China, for example, would have no qualms in immediately producing Whitney Houston memorabilia which these very same fans would snap up and treasure.

Peter’s entrepreneurial spirit reminded me of the spirit shown by another Kenyan, Darius Msagha Mbela. In 1978 when Kenya’s first President Jomo Kenyatta went to meet his ancestors, most of Kenya went into mourning. While it was not as showy as the “grief” shown by North Koreans recently when their “Great Leader” died, it was still quite a big deal.

Mbela had been PS at the Information ministry at the time but was perhaps more widely known for his involvement with the magnificent St Stephen’s Church choir. If my memory serves me right, Kenyatta had not even been buried yet, when St Stephen’s, which was the Muungano National Choir of its day, released an album of choral music about Kenyatta and sold hundreds of thousands of albums.

I don’t remember anyone complaining about that. Earlier still, When JM Kariuki was murdered in 1975 musicians Daniel ‘DK’ Kamau and Joseph Kamaru both came out with songs about JM and nobody then cried about making money off the dead. So why now did people take offence at my friend Peter’s initiative? When did we suddenly become so self-righteous and so anti-capitalists? Or was it just that someone else had caught us napping?

Source: http://www.the-star.co.ke/weekend/g-spot-/63147-kenyan-entrepreneur-and-the-whitney-memorabilia


Posted in Analysis and Opinion | 1 Comment »

Kenya drops to 123 in Fifa soccer rankings

Posted by Administrator on February 18, 2012

Harambee Stars have been inactive for the past two months after missing out on the African Cup of Nations won by Zambia a week ago. The national team returns to action on February 28 when  they face Togo in a 2013 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.

Stars  opponents, Togo went six positions up to place to 94. After winning the  African Cup of Nations for the first time against Ivory Coast on Sunday,  Zambia were the highest African climbers, breaking into the top 50 for  the first time to 43.

Other beneficiaries were Africa Cup of  Nations co-hosts Gabon who moved a place up to position 45. Africa Cup  third finishers Mali climbed 25 places up to 44.

Despite losing out in  the final, Ivory Coast climbed three places to 15 to retain their top  position in Africa. Ghana are second after a three place rise, despite a  disappointing outing at the continental showcase.

Former continental  champions Egypt and Nigeria, Senegal, Cape Verde and Niger were the five  biggest continental losers after falling to 25, 11, 25, 11 and 13  places respectively. Spain retained their top position in the world.

Source: http://www.starafrica.com/en/football/news/article/view/kenya-drops-to-123-in-fifa-soccer-rankin-218910.html

Posted in Kenya, Kenya: Sports | 1 Comment »

A Piece of Us: To Whitney and the Millions of Invisible Black Girls and Women Who Struggle with Addiction

Posted by Administrator on February 18, 2012

Gone with the angels: Whitney Houston

Gone with the angels: Whitney Houston

When Whitney Houston died this past weekend, I was shocked by the amount of grief and the wave of emotions I experienced.  In disbelief, I watched myself undergo the five stages of grief for someone I had never met and did not know intimately.  You see, I am not the type who feels personally invested in celebrities.  In fact, I abhor our increasingly celebrity obsessed culture and often wish that we would lay off the blind adulation just a tidbit.

Still, I knew that Whitney Houston’s voice and songs had always touched me in a special way.  I can vividly recall the countless times when I used her voice to get me out of a funk, to inspire me, to soothe me or to just help me be still.  I have been in love with her voice since I was a teenager and have bought any music she put out.  I did not care what people said about her.  I rooted for her at every performance and every television appearance.  I am not alone. The whole world recognized her gift.

Yet, I just was not prepared to grieve her loss the way I have.  For the first few days since her death was announced, I couldn’t hear her voice, listen to her music without bursting into tears.  I am talking about the sort of uncontrollable and ugly crying that comes from deep within.

Again, this is not like me.  If you know me, you probably know that I do not like to cry or get emotional. I get angry. I get sarcastic. However, you will rarely see me cry. Crying in this situation was even more puzzling to me.

It remained so until I had a moment of clarity and understood why Whitney’s death hit me so close to home.  It happened Tuesday morning, as I burst into tears, again, at hearing the details her death.  That morning, driving while intermittently wiping my eyes and sobbing (yes, really), it became clear to me that in mourning Whitney, I was mourning the little black girl inside of me as well as the millions of little black girls who struggle against the challenges of this world.

If you read the testimonies from the millions of Whitney Houston’s fans, you will hear a dominant narrative from many black women of my generation.  Whitney Houston represented them on some level.  She showed them that, they too, could achieve the heights to which they aspired. The fact that she was black, wore her hair short, long, curly or straight, and exuded a priceless type of confidence, just made us connect to her in a way that few others had.

For me, Whitney Houston’s image was never perfect.  I know that’s the way she was perceived for a while, but if you looked deep down you could always see a strain of stubbornness and sass that was all her own. And that sass and stubbornness is, to me, what made her relatable.  When she performed, it was clear that she was aware of her awesome power.  I loved the way her lips curled into a small smile at the end of a performance after she’d nailed a perfect note.  Go back and watch her performance at the 1991 Super Bowl, her singing the “Greatest love of all” to Muhammad Ali for his birthday, or, even her playful renditions of “I wanna dance with somebody”.  From early on, it was clear that she knew she had a gift and that she could deliver.

In a world where black girls are always getting torn apart and demeaned, I loved that image.  I knew many Whitneys growing up: girls who were just breathtakingly beautiful and charismatic.  I also witnessed many instances where the rest of the world made a point to rob these girls of their beauty and shine.  Whether it be in Haiti as a small child or in the Brooklyn housing project where I lived in my adolescence, I could smell the vultures swirling around these girls the minute they started to bloom.  In college, my heart ached every time I came home to visit and noticed one of the girls I admired so much looking beaten and dejected.

Whitney for me was a defiant image to these vultures.  Even though it was clear that she spent much of her adult life struggling against the trappings of similar, more glorified vultures, to me she still represented someone who tried to pave a way despite society’s labels, someone who was fighting and struggling against insurmountable challenges in spite of fame and fortune. For me, just like the young girls in my neighborhood, these characteristics placed her inch closer to my heart.

When she passed on, I think it gave me the permission to mourn in a way that I had not done before.  I have spent all of my life aware of the pitfalls of being a black woman in this world.  I would not change it for the world.  I love who I am.  Being a black woman, I learned very early, means that I have to work ten times harder and to be ready to fight.  And, oh, do we have to fight! We have to fight for many things, the most important being the right to be ourselves and to determine our fate.

We fight against society. We also fight against those closest to us: those whose own oppressions cause them to replicate the same against us.  We have many open wounds. Wounds that can be traced from slavery and colonization.  Wounds to which most of us cannot tend because we are so busy fighting.

I learned many lessons on how to fight watching black women negotiate their lives while I was growing up.  I have also seen many instances of this tough world overtaking the lives of black girls and women.  Each time results in an immense sense of loss and of powerlessness against which we have to exert Herculean efforts in order to be able to go on.

Whitney Houston always reminded me of our power despite it all. She reminded me of these beautiful girls with which I grew up.  With her addiction, I relived the familiar fear that came with watching vultures try to peddle drugs and other things to us.  I knew then, at 12, 13, 14, 15 years old, that I did not have a magic protection against their tricks.  The best I could do was to try to stay away.

Yet, I understood why other girls might have gotten attracted to them.  You get tired of fighting.  Sometimes, you just want to put your weapons down and forget.  That feeling (that these girls were just like me, give or take one or two options) always made me feel connected to them.  I always knew that “but for the grace of God…”

The fact is that addiction is a disease that can overpower any one at any time.  The fact that some manage to kick the habit, and some don’t, has to do with much more than will power.  Every one’s brain is different in the way they react to a potentially addictive product. So, no, I never felt special that, somehow, I avoided the pitfalls of drugs.  I always felt grateful that the Universe gave me an avenue that took me away from that direction.  That, when I got tired of fighting, the temptation was removed until I could cognitively understand that this was not the path I wanted.

This is why I am peeved at people looking down at Whitney for falling into drugs like a princess who has fallen off her throne.  For a long time, mainstream media acted like she betrayed them. So, they punished her by taunting her mistakes as often as they could.  To them she became one of the many stereotypes they associate with black women.  They treated her as such, completely ignoring the realities of addiction and never seeing her as a full person.

This is why I think I am mourning Whitney so vividly.  Her invisibility despite all of her fame and fortune mirror the lives of so many black girls and women suffering from addiction.  Her obvious struggles resonate as the types of universal struggles so many of us undergo in one shape or form. We were simply luckier than many other women in escaping the dark sides of those struggles.

Whitney, like so many girls before her, was not. With her I mourn these invisible girls and women.  With her death, I realized this week, I finally gave myself permission to mourn the little girl in me who had to learn to fight too early and did not experience the feeling of being cherished and loved as long as little girls and boys should.

In the end, Whitney’s voice, the conviction and soulful way in which she sang, gave us an enduring gift.  Like it did for my generation, her message and her voice will continue to give new generations the energy, inspiration and rejuvenation they need to keep fighting the good fight.  I am sorry that we were not deliberate in showing Whitney that we loved her while she was still with us.  Hopefully, her story and music will help create a path to healing for millions of other black girls and women. Travel well, Whitney.  You will have to fight no more.

Source: http://michelealexandre.wordpress.com/2012/02/16/a-piece-of-us-to-whitney-and-the-millions-of-invisible-black-girls-and-women-who-struggle-with-addiction/

Posted in Analysis and Opinion | 1 Comment »

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