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Posts tagged: wangarimaathai

How Do You Say Heroine

Wangari Maathai spells Heroine, a perfect example of how a person looked beyond the imperfections of being herself, and indulged in the ceramic art of creating change. Heroines are quoted and requoted - their words galvanizing the next generation of agonized movement-makers.

Late Sunday night this news reached me, that this giant of a lady, this fearless protester, this one who led and others watched agape, that she has rested. She never knew peace, not a single day of it. She was beaten regularly to advanced age and stood up to the tallest office in the land to win Nairobi its only green space. Her fame abroad was not nearly matched by official recognition at home, but ordinary Kenyans, starved for public figures they could emulate increased in admiration for her. Her simple attire, a kitenge and razor sharp wit were often underestimated, and her activism jeered at in public by those who wanted her dreams deferred. 

Its early Monday morning now, and the eyes that first saw the news have refused to close. Even as the rest of the world hurries past in a city that does not sleep, I stand still in time and remember all the things she meant to me. I never knew her, she never spoke my name, but I, like many others who looked to her, saw the indomitable, the imitable, the endearing lioness-ness she called being “unbowed”. She often told the story of being the hummingbird in the forest, the one who was able to do something when things seemed hard. The hard things Mama Greenbelt, you made them mere bumps on the road and flew over. 

It is reported that she passed on from complications of ovarian cancer. I cannot imagine her last months of pain. I hope she knew that she never walked alone, that the way she captured our heart and our drive never stopped. I hope she felt the many thanks whispered whenever something good happened because of her work. It is a celebration for her life, and I am so glad for her giving. Because of her, the work we will do makes us daily grow into that hummingbird.

There are no words Mama, there are no words. Your sons and daughters we wish them comfort. Your Kenya was the original vision. Your spunk, your Nobel and the Movement will never be forgotten. How do we measure a heroine? Is it in the bylines, and articles, is it in the mirror for what we do? Is it in years lived? Is it in cups of tea shared with the mamas Wangari loved so much? Because of your example, we will never stop counting the people you moved in life and now in death. 

Rest in Power.