Skibereen,Strange fruit, Sunsets by Marvel

It is usually with apprehension that one starts a journey into the past. Not me, I was excited, exhilarated,eager. Smiling and waving. Happily and heartily. It has been a while, a very long time. That me is a memory.

I tried to walk past the dark places, dark as night, casting shadows to the edge. Vast as the Sahara, cold..and dark as Siberia. I have learnt from the Tuaregs and the Dolgans, there is happiness in dark places. Better described as gratefulness, thankfulness.

Photo credit: Peter Prokosch (http://www.grida.no/resources/2617)

While watching the ITV drama, Victoria, I came across a largely untold story about the The Irish Potato famine. Queen Victoria is portrayed as a conflicted monarch whose powers are subject to the Constitution. Whereas her convictions are that the English should send aid to Ireland, the House of Parliament thinks otherwise, thus her conflict. She cannot just sit and watch helplessly doing nothing. Even if she were just a mother, she would do something, the helpless cries of her starving baby would overwhelm her nonchalance.

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me.
Isaiah 49:15‭-‬16 NKJV

In one scene, one of the ministers uses the Malthusian theory as his philosophy and basis for not sending aid. It was nature’s way of checking the wanton and wayward ways of the Irish. Victoria is horrified and mortified. Leave us! Eventually aid is sent but it is too late, many have died including the Rector whose letters brought the suffering of many to light. Skibereen is a painful memory for those who survive the long journey to America, and for those who don’t, their suffering is a monument. Years later, a lady named Clara Barton, the first President of the American Red Cross, convinces the POTUS to add relief to victims of calamity to the Red Cross Mission. The Red cross flag becomes a symbol, a beacon of hope for not only the wounded but for all in need. Bob Geldorf and Bono, Irishmen choose to bypass intellectual arguments and do the humane, feed the hungry.

Jim Crow Laws. The lynching of a section of society who, overtime through a series of laws, became property. It was not enough to be forcefully removed from their homes and families, to travel across oceans in very inhumane conditions. It was not enough to strip them of language and any vestige of dignity and call them slave. They became property, were owned like any beast of burden. They were not a people. This was not enough. They created postcards, a keepsake. A Jewish teacher, Abel Meeropol in the Bronx came across came across a picture of a twin hanging and wrote the song. The song Strange fruit sang by Billie Holiday a melancholic rendition of the irony of the times we live in.

Southern trees bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees

Marvel has delighted our sense of adventure. Erik Killmonger listened to his father describe the Wakanda sunsets and his dying wish is to see one. Having lived neither Wakandan nor American, his life is inconsequential. He spent his life as a killing machine, waiting for his sunset in Wakanda. His body is scarred with marks for each kill. With each kill, Wakanda is closer. In Wakanda, after sowing seeds of discord, he has the platform to launch his ambitions. But the killing doesn’t stop. His ambition to repay the world for the suffering of the black people and alleviate their pain fades with the sunset. A sunset, he watches with his cousin, T’Challa. After the sunset, T’Challa opens a science center for Shuri in the same apartment block that Erik was raised. His first pledge in the battle for quality life.

Thanos begins killing half the population on all planets, so that those alive can live a better life. This because he witnesses devastation of his beloved planet. As he goes around collecting infinity stones to complete his snap of a finger mission, the Marvel team allies and foes show up in Wakanda to protect the last stone. He trip traps all over our galaxy singing his chorus, Half of the Lives must be sacrificed so that other half can have a better life. Thanos calls it mercy. He sacrifices Gamora for a stone so we are convinced about his beliefs. Well, I thought the keepers of the soul stone would reject her but Thanos gets the stone. We crawl on sans Gamora, soul-less. His wish- to enjoy the sunset, which Dr Strange predicts he will get in 14 Million variations, is fulfilled. He sits down to enjoy it, as Marvel heroes fade away with our hopes. After the sunset….

We are built for relationship, purpose and creativity. The notion that we may or indeed can find purpose in wasting is skewed. It matters not whether we find ourselves with a semblance of perfection after wasting away, all of creation carries innate evidence that the best version of ourselves is found in building bridges, new connections and harmony. The best investment of our lives is the application of our creativity to eliminate discordance. All other pursuits are vanity.

Hear ye, Hear ye, Thanos.

My prerogative

To be Ugandan. To be justly rewarded for my labour. To use my gifts for the benefit of my country. To live. To love. To laugh.

My prerogative to be Ugandan.

Everybody’s talking about the speech, to be more precise, the President’s labour day speech. While listening to all the divergent views, I couldn’t help but wonder if the real question, we are grappling with is not, Am I Ugandan?

What does a Ugandan look like? What does a Ugandan talk like? Like me? Like you? Like Who?Should we have certain core attributes that go beyond a document to define Ugandaness? I should think so. And while, we are at it, I know that taking a low paying job is not one of the attributes. I know this because it is not.

Ugandans love the hustle. I learnt how to drive while working in an office in Katwe, this meant that I had to go through Queensway everyday, in the period before traffic lights were working. A time where even traffic police men never treaded in that area. It was a dog eat dog ride! Highway code? The one whose bumper is ahead is the code. The hustle was real. Suffice it to say, I learnt about right of way when I moved to an office on Kampala road. Grid locks. Tight fits. Quick slips. Scratches & T cuts. Bumpers and rivets.

Then the lights were installed. Applause. Applause. Sanity on the Queensway. Lanes. Straight lines. Cramped but organized. Predictability.

Fast forward to last week, same route with working lights. The dogs are still there, eating you up, if you so much as blink! The one whose bumper is ahead is the light. Follow the car in front of you. You will be fine.

So maybe, all learner drivers just exaggerate. Let us try to catch a taxi to Mukono. A tout calls you, ‘sweetie’, ‘honeypie’, carries your bags and settles you in a taxi. He even pauses to reassure you that the taxi will get you to Mukono in the shortest time possible. You relax. Then people start getting out of the taxi, the conductor comes sends a few missives their way and slams the door. A fight ensues. A few more passengers are coaxed to the door, the now calm conductor opens and they enter. It fills up, off on your merry way. You fly off, home gets closer. Then comes Bweyogerere, everyone comes off in Bweyogerere. The conductor says you should come off as well and get onto another waiting taxi. He does this while looking away from you, usually counting change for another conductor. You are right to be confused. He cannot be talking to you. So we are absolutely clear, Bweyogerere is not Mukono. Dumbfounded. You pay him or you decide you shall let him know in no uncertain terms, this is a breach of contract. In fact, he shall hear from your lawyers! Harangue him, crucify him, the message is clear, this taxi will not be taking you to Mukono. To save the readers time, neither will the next taxi. In order to get to Mukono, you hustle.

For us, we don’t know those things, we stay in the city. Where everything is orderly. Rightttt. Nooo, not right. You decide to go shopping in the market for fresh produce, let us go to Nakasero market. Centre of town.Early morning, there is parking. It is jammed. A parking guide kindly directs you to an open space. He offers to carry your shopping as well. You step out of your car and splat! Right into tomato debris! Another shopping assistant arrives, this time waving buvera.

You: ‘Weren’t buvera banned?’

Shopping assistant: ‘Nedda nyabo, but we also have a kicupu for you.’

You select one assistant and proceed to shop. You push through the crowds while careful to jump over the potatoes, herbs, tomatoes on the road, the pineapples, bananas on the pavement. You are pushed aside by porters shouting fasi fasi. The haggling traders. the trucks backing up. The bodas zooming past you. Your assistant calmly packs and carries. No load is too heavy. You weave your way back to the car. You tip your assistant, I don’t know who his employer is. And slowly realize, as you back up that your kind parking tout disappeared and so did your side mirror.

Ugandans love nice things. Is it trendy? Is it fashionable? Is it nice? It is available in Uganda. It is not in the shops, I have a friend who ships goods on a weekly basis, you just order online. I am going to Dubai in two weeks. I have a friend in China even as we speak. My neighbour is in Jo’burg on holiday. You shall have it next week. It is worth the hustle.

Ugandans love to party, oba that word is too much. Some words have no literal translation into English. Let us work with party. There will always be food and drinks and lots of people, usually uninvited at any event. Even the service providers join in the party, sometimes they make speeches. O Uganda, may God uphold thee!

And how could I forget, they love to pray. Every meeting, any meeting, even lunch, let us pray. Agenda item number one, let us pray. Are you happy? Let us pray. Are you sick? We go for this fellowship. Do you need a visa? Pastor so and so, helped my friend get a visa.

Ugandans are friendly. Everyone is my friend, I just got introduced to you 5 mins ago. Come and meet my friend. Sometimes, you end up related because you have mutual relations. Your cousin’s aunt’s neighbour of that place where they lived when they were young, yes, that one, they live near me! Eh…vigourous handshaking, exchange of phone numbers. BFFs.

Because of the hustle, the numerous friends, events rarely start on time. To start on time, include this in your program. It is important that everyone is friends before the event starts. Everyone has time to recover from the hustle, polish the muddy shoes, realign the tie or scarf. Touch up the makeup. And lastly, but not least, to tell anyone who cares to listen all about your hustle; the one to get to the event, the one to get the right outfit for the event. This has been well received at national level, the guest of honor always arrives when everyone is friends.

Low pay is detrimental to being Ugandan. Then again, it is only my opinion. In the grand scheme of things like freedom, liberty and justice for all, what is low pay.