10:37:00 PM

Talking to the students at Kimathi University
Over the weekend I had the privilege to visit Nyeri county. I say privilege because Friday which was the 55th commemoration of freedom fighter, Dedan Kimathi, saw me step foot at a learning institution built in his honor, Kimathi University. I had not been to Nyeri before and the most contact I had had with it was through the great people it has produced, its true what they saw,people make a place, how are the places and spaces you occupy? People from Nyeri include our current president, Hon Mwai Kibaki who in union with other politicians saw the 24 year rule by former president Moi come to an end, another person from Nyeri who earned my respect and admiration way before the world got her bearing and took notice is Wangari Maathai, the only human filed under persistence in my dictionary, whenever I think about her or hear her name, I always see a head with half the braids pulled out, she is a living testimony of sticking by what you believe. Last but not least is the true warrior, one that you never read about in History books, the Field Marshall, one who was more of deed than speech, Dedan W. Kimathi.

Walking on the paths that these three may have walked on during early mornings and late evenings as they went on their affairs, I couldn't help but feel blessed, blessed by the fact that I can travel through plains and valleys in this land that I call my country, blessed because despite being of a completely different ethnic group I could take nostalgic pictures as a way to preserve and interact with those that were and those to come, blessed because as a poet and ambassador for mental health, I have a ticket to educate, inform and entertain youth around the country and just as the heroes and heroines give them a chance to stand up and be counted.

Evening with the youth, Morning with the elderly and reigning
Friday evening was a talent day to mark the commemoration while Saturday was a free mental health camp. I liked loads of aspects about this event and also disliked some which I will brush by before I get to the thumbs up stuff. Worldwide it is Black History Month, I know Paa ya Paa has something juicy lined up but how much history about our country do we really know? Besides the Kapenguria Six, who most crammed to pass some History paper, who else do we know. During my getting poetic poetry workshop in Jan, we had a discussion about the National Policy on Culture and Heritage which houses the Arts and it was an embarrassing surprise as to how little we know about our heroes and heroines who according to the policy should be honored, good the country has Mashujaa day but thats all it is, a day. My two cents, we dont need speeches but the mobile cinemas moving round with people of old who are many more than Mzee Kenyatta throwing a Nduguzanguni phrase as he waves his whisker, am talking about losing our culture which is beyond the sisal skirts and animal skins, it is in not being able to sing our very own National Anthem but quoting I have a dream word for word, I would like to see a roadshow with Githuku, the same one who defaced former President Moi's monument, singing and reciting his precious piece about Kenya's heroines from Wangu to Mekatilili. Someone told me once that if I got with it, I would be swimming in money, I say am with it, it is my way and though money might take me there am there my way because I define my there(read that again and again). 

There was music, poetry and narrations and though only one act was dedicated to the man of the day, I believe in their own way, the rest were in tune with the theme; giving back to the community. I got to introduce the mental health awareness campaign, One mind, lend your voice and do a couple of piece leaning towards mental health and other everyday occurrences.

Saturday saw me and the crew go to a primary school that the University had identified as a suitable location for a medical camp. I was pleased to see that they had a room for mental health and had it stocked with drugs just like all other rooms catering for different ailments. Caritas Nyeri, the organization that oversees mental health issues and community mental health services was at the camp and it saw a number of people stream in for check-ups which was very commendable. I had a chance to practice my Kiswahili and class 2 Kikuyu educating the people on mental health and the importance of being mentally sound as social and physical health go hand in hand with the former.The assistant PS for Medical Services was among the invited guests and I was subsequently invited to say a word or two. I wasnt' gifted with on the spot word making but I did a pretty good job by talking about the youth led campaign and our main agenda which is to see a Mental Health policy passed, create awareness about mental illnesses, reduce stigma among other activities. The assistant PS was pleased by the initiative and assured us that the policy was being aligned with the new constitution which was good to hear but not good enough.

I left Nyeri feeling as Kenyan as a Kenyan should feel, proud of their land, heritage and culture, even though my neighbors for we are all Kenyans when all is said and done. I felt good to have gone for a University outreach outside Nairobi and see life, compare notes and draw personal conclusions about areas away and beyond. I left Nyeri thinking like Pres. Kibaki that if I have to make it to reduce the stigma faced by people with mental illness, I have to join hands with people I like and those I don't really like but are fighting for human rights, dignity and respect. I left Nyeri with braids hanging from my head like Wangari Maathai knowing that without pain there is no gain, so on days like yesterday and today when I have an irritating headache and my body feels borrowed, I get up and fight, I get up and share, I get up and testify and I will keep getting up until the day I can't get up. I left Nyeri with the heart and head of Dedan Kimathi who you will not read about in History books, he whose famous picture is that of captivity, locked in chains while sick in bed, that is everyday life for most of us, sick or in health, rich or poor, we are locked up in chains of someone's dream and ambition, we are locked up in views and single stories, mindsets that are more retrogressive than progressive, the same ones that remove instead of add, that kill instead of give birth, that break instead of make.

Although I was in ill- health, I left Nyeri healed for all it takes is emancipation of the mind, for none but ourselves can heal our minds. I left Nyeri redeemed and this is my freedom song, whats yours?

Pictures of the visit

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