As Al-Shabaab terror group reigned havoc in a harrowing attack that has since slain the lives of 15 people, wounding 20 others in Mogadishu’s Nasa Hablod Hotel, Chile spruced up to play Argentina in the Copa América Final at MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey. That Saturday evening found us at Pawa 254; a chilly Nairobi. A city everyone walking in the cold needed a hug from whoever. Africa was still buzzing with the news of Equatorial Guinea President, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, having promoted his son, Teodorin Nguema Obiang, to the position of Vice President.
Thirty minutes past 1700hrs, Ruth Kisaka and Kasichana Mumba had already started the audience into conversation. With their inquisitive modus operandi, three to four to five audience members were getting onto some fire in response. Types of journalism. What would you do if you woke and found yourself as a newsman? Are journalists safe in Africa? How can our media outlets be free from government interference?
The theatre was hitting its fill by 5:45pm. We had to bring in more seats but still ran out of space so some people had to stand. Poet Spontaneous warmed the stage as the evening’s first performer – a soulful guitar accompanying her musical poetry. We sure needed some warmth. The beautiful faces that amassed the hall gave colour to the air. Smiles, wonder, chuckles and claps blazed as soon as young Poets of Tomorrow; all below 7 years old, left the podium. This was a big day.
Everything came to a standstill when Jeff Koinange entered site. A large grin on his face as he took the isle ascertained the charismatic broadcaster was just as thrilled to see us as we were to see him. Two steps behind, celebrated Social Media pundit, Christian Mandela alias Xtian Dela, followed. The two sat adjacently at the side front.
Our auxiliary social media manager, Daniel Nyacharo, tweeted from Molo as the session’s hashtag #JournalismInAfrica clouted second in the Kenyan trending topics on Twitter. 2016 Kenya Poetry Slam finalist, Mumbi Macharia, was in her first attendance, watching the 59th Slam Queen, Faith Shikkiey, slaying it on stage with her weighty piece.
Jeff Koinange wowed us with his first words, reciting the divine lines of Desiderata; the 1927 prose poem penned by American writer Max Ehrmann. A taste of aesthetic pleasure. He spoke fluidly. His deep voice is after all real. What followed were narrations in memories of the experiences he had covering horrifying stories with CNN in Africa. Recounts from DRC, Rwanda, Niger, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
He went deeper, digging into the importance of our sound youthfulness while urging us to stay put in order not to burn down our country out of the hate perpetrated by careless politicians, because really, we do not have anywhere to run when things go south. He delivered this message so passionately and poignantly it stung and stuck! We wished the Pangani Six and the rest of the 40 million Kenyan population were in the building to listen. Much more stood out; his acknowledgement and love for his mother for making him the man he is today, his call for young people to have more appetite for change, his unplanned journey of journalism from scratch to his current height, and his potent sense of humour.
Kenyatta University Television news anchor, Ankey Ombat, and photojournalist & poet, James ‘Lamebrain’ Gikonyo, each won themselves a copy of Mr. Koinange’s Through My African Eyes. @MbuguaGracia took home a Fatuma’s Voice branded mug for being the most active Twitter user on the day’s hashtag physically present in the session. It was also her first time attending.
The energetic and ever dazzling trio of Wahenga Wenyeji BAND did not fail to impress. Four year old poet, Christopher Juma; vocalist Esther Adoyo, 8, their leader and father, Musa, performed a stirring number that kindled the audience and just after, 13 year old, Elizabeth Otieno, crooned her soft rendition of John Legend’s All Of Me. Former Pumwani Boys’ High School Captain, Class of 2007, Moses Odhiambo (Moseso), took us to heaven; his mighty hands and a mouth full of air voicing that saxophone like an angel sent with the Good News. Acouslyk had the honour of finishing the meeting for us with two plucked pieces from his guitar just before Program Coordinator Eric Onyango closed business. Snacks, photos and networking ensued, marking one of the finest Fatuma’s Voice outings’ end.
We are here. We have things to say. We are changing narratives and we are standing to be counted. We are speaking for Fatuma. Do join us for our 3rd anniversary celebrations on 9th July 2016. We have beautiful things in store. The event will be free of charge.
“This session has changed my attitude towards Jeff.” – Venna Odhiambo, Script Writer
“The story of Jeff Koinange is so inspiring. The guy is brilliant.” – Henry Kamundi, Lecturer Tangaza College
“I think I will study media and the law in my fourth year at the university.” – Cynthia Nyongesa, Writer & World Bank Kenya, Blog For Development Competition Finalist
“That risking lives to get media content is a reality doesn’t excuse journalists for failing to tame their inadequacies.” – Lemukol Ng’asike, Writer & Architect