Those Who Hold Up Half Our Skies

As today, May 25th marks Africa Day, I’ve seen many posts about the heroes of this continent. As is often the case, the names that were mentioned were predominantly, if not all, male. It reminded me of being at the 8th Pan-African Congress in Accra in 2015 and feeling the same way – this sinking feeling that half the stories are not being told.

Below are my thoughts and reflections from that day, which unfortunately are still relevant.

Where are those who hold up half our skies?!
Often forgotten, without whom the sky would’ve fallen?

All morning, we heard the high-level dignitaries pay tribute to pan-Africanists. I didn’t hear one female name being mentioned. Is it that we have done nothing for this movement? Is it that our contributions are meaningless? Or is that we are invisible? That we have been removed, or were never included in the collective memory and public imagery of Pan-Africanism? For those who would ask me who those women are, the list is  by no means exhaustive, but here are a select few that I would like to acknowledge and pay tribute to:
Amy Garvey
Winnie Mandela
Graca Machel
Amina Mama
Ama Ata Aidoo
Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie
Miriam Makeba
Angelique Kidjo
Maya Angelou
Mable Dove Danquah
Taytu Betul
Adelaide Caseley-Hayford
Bibi Titi Mohamed
Fatoumatta Toure
Funmilyao Ransome Kuti
Gambo Sawaba
Muthoni Likimani
Thenjiwe Mtintso
Djamila Bouhired
Taytu Betul
Wangari Maathai
Charlotte Maxeke
Albertina Sisulu
Audley Queen Mother Moore
Louise Thompson Patterson
Thyra Edwards
Bonita Williams
Williana Burroughs
Sallye Bell Davis
Grace P. Campbell
Charlene Mitchell
Rahima Moosa
Emma Mashinini
Ruth First
Lillian Ngoyi
Sophie Williams

And countless others – often forgotten, who mobilized for Africa’s liberation, challenged
enslavement and colonization in defiance of imperialist, patriarchal culture and for a complete liberation of Africans – fighting multiple forms of oppression, domination and exploitation.

Interconnected Struggles
As Samora Machel and Thomas Sankara remind us:

Revolution & Women's Liberation
None of us are free until we are all free. This is in line with the emancipatory nature of the pan-Africanist vision. We must not buy into a hierarchy of oppressions, but rather collectively fight the multiple forms and systems of oppression and exploitation that keep us subjugated. Systems such as patriarchy which ensure women and girls are dispossessed and under siege every day, that ensure they are unsafe in their homes, streets, schools and places of work. How do we convey to them that their lives, and their dreams matter to us? That we will be their dream keepers, as Langston Hughes proposed, and will wrap their dreams and heart melodies in blue-cloud cloth and protect them from the too-rough fingers of the world?

We must recognize that ‘the struggle for Africa’s liberation and development is also a struggle for women’s liberation, gender equality and gender justice.’ Until we realize the interconnectedness and inseparability of our various struggles for justice; including gender, economic, environmental and ecological, and social justice; our movements will remain fragmented and our progress as a people will be stifled.

If we thought the task ahead of us unsurmountable, Malcolm X reminds us: “Power in defense of freedom is greater than power on behalf of tyranny and oppression, because power, real power, comes from our conviction which produces action, uncompromising action.”

Toni Morrison, in reference to another system of oppression; racism also warns us of distractions that will derail us: “The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you from explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language, so you spend 20 years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly, so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of that is
necessary. There will always be one more thing.”

Let us not get distracted.

Compassion – where is the love?

A comrade reminded me that at the heart of Pan-Africanism is love, a compassion for humanity – the ‘sympathetic apprehension of another’s suffering as intolerable’. Perhaps Che said it best when he said:

“At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality.”

Similarly, Malcolm X summed up his ethos towards the end of his life: “I have had enough of someone else’s propaganda. I am for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I am a human being, and as such, I am for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.”

May this be our politics – one in which love for one another, for humanity, for the continent, for the movement, for the earth and its inhabitants trumps our love for power, prestige and privilege.

A luta continua.

Sources and for further reading:
Pan-Africanism & the Women’s Movement (African Women’s Journal, Issue VI)
Feminism & Pan-Africanism (Feminist Africa Journal)

Happiness-Quotable Quotes

1. Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself – George Bernard Shaw.

2. Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover – Mark Twain.

3. Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant – Robert Louis Stevenson.

4. We don’t see things the way they are. We see them the way WE are – Talmud.

5. I have found that if you love life, life will love you back – Arthur Rubinstein.

6. The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be – Marcel Pagnol.

7. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step – Lao Tzu.

8. Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive – Howard Thurman.

9. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

10. Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like – Will Rogers.

11. I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been – Wayne Gretzky.

12. Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional – Anony-mouse.

13. Every man dies. Not every man really lives – William Ross Wallace.

14. Life isn’t a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, latte in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming ‘Woohoo WHAT A RIDE’!

15. There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle – Albert Einstein.

16. Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security – John Allen Paulos.

17. You are not in this world to live up to other people’s expectations, nor should you feel the world must live up to yours – F Perl.

18. How you do one thing, is how you do everything. Be aware.

19. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing – Helen Keller.

20. Life is not about kissing a**, it’s about kicking a**!

Mad [Wo]men

banksy - keep your coins

“You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness.
In this case, it comes from nonconformity,
the courage to turn your back on the old formulas,
the courage to invent the future.

It took the mad [wo]men of yesterday for us to be able to act with clarity today.
I want to be one of those madmen.
We must dare to invest in the future.”
-Thomas Sankara

And I want to be one of those mad women.

Chronicles of OK


One exceptional man who goes by OK kept cracking up me and my good friend in the streets of NYC – wanted to share some of his wise words with you….

“In a relationship, you must open the door.
If it doesn’t work, you get out!”

“If there was love in marriage, I would buy her that.”

“That’s the beauty of the African touch.
You won’t get anyone else taking you around.
They’d rather just give you a map!”

“Don’t worry too much about my theories.
They exist. They have been tried and tested.”

“I haven’t yet mastered your name.”

“I’m wearing a serious face.”

“I want uncolonized food!”

“If you’re not Kenyan or Ethiopian, you must not cross the road when a car is approaching!”

“At some point I wanted to open my mouth.
I couldn’t because of the cold.”

“I’ll be looking at them and wondering,
Are they dancing to the same tune?”

X + 48

X + 48

“I have had enough of someone else’s propaganda
I’m for truth
No matter who speaks it
I’m for justice
No matter who it is for or against
I’m a human being and as such-
I’m for whatever and whoever will benefit humanity as a whole”

It’s been 48 years since Malcolm X was assassinated,
but he lives on in more ways than one.


True Love…

“Those who love you are not fooled by mistakes you have made
or dark images you hold about yourself.
They remember your beauty when you feel ugly;
your wholeness when you are broken;
your innocence when you feel guilty;
and your purpose when you are confused.”


All in a Day

All in a day
March 8, 2012

“He was our hero, if only he had a message!”
-of an 83 year old man who we thought would be a great advocate against VAW/G (violence against women and girls). When asked about the topic, he went off topic.


“How do you know my name?” It’s the second time this guy calls me by my name, and I have no idea where I know him from. Or do I?

“I’m just psychic. Give me your palm, and I’ll tell you something about yourself.”
I readily give him my hand, preparing to be taken aback by him disclosing something few people knew about me.


I burst out laughing. He’s a fake & a phony! Fempact means nothing to me. FEMNET on the other hand is where I work.

“Your lines are blurry” he protests.

I look down at my palm and see very clear lines in every which direction.


“He can be gotten.” In response to my questions about the whereabouts of a man


“Can I pay my bills now?”
“No, it’s better you pay in the morning before you leave.”
“What if I simply leave without settling my bills?!”
“Oh, not to worry. We know people, who know people, who know people —-(wait for it) at the airport!”
“I see….there’s no negotiating that one then. Especially them being at the airport and all…”


He extends his hand towards her. “Hallelujah.”

Perhaps confuzzled, she remains silent.

“Hallelujah.” He insists, his hand still extended, in anticipation of hers.

“Amen!” she says, as she returns the handshake.

I laugh out loud. I try to explain, between bursts of laughter that Hallelujah is in fact his name, not a religious cry!

“Where do you work?” He asks, trying to brush it off, as though this hasn’t happened countless times before.

“Equality Now.”

“What about later?”

She pauses, hesitant, trying to find a suitable response.

Satisfied, he walks away.

I’m almost rolling on the floor laughing, but I remind myself this is hardly the appropriate time or place. After all, we are in the lobbies of the AU Summit. ROFLing wouldn’t look too good for corridor diplomacy that is to follow…

For laughs…In the words of …

For laughs…In the words of …


Nebila:“It takes a real man to admit his faults..”
Festus:“Well, if that’s what it means to be a man, I’m not interested!”

The problem with women these days, they don’t know what they want. And the ones that do, well we don’t want them

You’re never wrong, only incorrect sometimes

May the goodness of GOD run you over, blessings overwhelm you, and favor be your currency

Nairobi is small, but a little big

She is like a nanny but there are no children

There’s a saying in Kiswahili that goes something like, “You only have one tooth, why do you need to brush?” Even if you have one tooth, though, you still need to brush!

With friends like Nebila, who needs enemies?

You should be here in the car when no one is…this is where I shut up, for fear of being misquoted.
Nebila: Or is it for fear of being quoted?

Well, you’re not supposed to have it if you haven’t ordered for it…
-Speaking of finding worms in food, after some reflection and insistence that worms are healthy

Are you saying I should buy you pockets?
-Responding to my argument that unlike him, I don’t carry my phone around in my pocket, and thus can’t be expected to pick up all the time.

Stop pouring cold water on my stories


I don’t give a single quarter of a hoot!


Common sense is not so common


Do you want gunshot?
-meaning to ask Nebila if she wanted shotgun


She didn’t even call to bother

Pieces & bits

I love how the light has to try to get on
-In Zanzibar as the fluorescent lights flicker…

I can’t wear their shoes-they don’t fit! We don’t have the same style…! -In reference to people who ask others to empathize with Israel as it bombards Gaza

“We have no money?!” We can’t do that to our brothers and sisters in Africa-they’ve heard it enough!
-In ref to the applicants on the continent for our AAA conference

Gum? I don’t get it. Why chew something you can’t swallow?


I don’t trust muffins…I don’t understand them-they can’t decide, are they cake or are they bread?

Mami wata: it’s demonic and Glenda needs to remember that she is African!

When I go back to Lagos, Lagos won’t be big enough for the two of us!
-referring to her baby’s daddy


Agi: I think I’m going crazy (speaking about life)
Cass: “At least you’re going somewhere”

Let’s workshop this bad boy!

I need to consult my planet of loneliness
-in reference to Lonely Planet

Agi:“How are you going to buy it?” (asking her about a professional camera)
Cass: “With money!”

I’m going home to reevaluate!
-In Zanzibar, in regards to her plans later that day..

Michelle: How do you get your hands on these films (asking about obtaining African Films)
Cass: “I put my hand in my pocket first….!”

Nebila: “You’ve been to Madagascar?”
Cass: “I’ve been online”

My cell baby went to sleep
-Cass’ way of saying her battery died..!


Y’all just wanna learn!!
-speaking of some of us taking on challenging courses…


I don’t carry much money around with me, only enough to pay if I step on someone’s tomatoes


When I chew chat, I have the world in my pocket. In the past hour of chewing chat, I’ve already built two buildings in Nairobi.


I don’t think they’re real-I just believe in them!
-referring to his belief in aliens


It was tight!
-in response to questions about how the bunji jump was, but in reference not to the jump, but to the rope around her legs

All in A Day! (March 15, 2009) when we went to Merkato, LA for dinner…

Agi: “Ada, can you hear me?!” (Is on the phone with Ada, having a hard time communicating)
Ada: “First things first, are you AT&T?!”
Agi: “Yea, yea…”
Ada: “Ok, I can hear you now!”

Agi: “Nebu, that’s a spot for loading.” (We’re looking for a spot to park in lil Ethio..)
Nebu: “But it’s Sunday.”
Agi: “What does that mean?”
Nebu: “Well-who loads on a Sunday?”
Agi: “Who loads, she says!”
Ada: “Trust me, even though God rested on Sunday, the parking people don’t!”

Agi: “Ada, you got your eyes closed!” (Just took a picture of all of us)
Ada: “I was going for the dreamy look…”
Wala: “Instead, you went for the sleepy look!”

Ada: “Ah, who got the camera?”
The rest of us: “Agi!”
Ada: “No, no, no…Agi doesn’t have facebook…she needs to get with the program!!”


There’s too much month at the end of the money
-A common saying among people who are broke before the month ends

Don’t lose your temper…nobody needs it!

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