(This article was originally posted here.)
At 1pm EAT Kenyans across the country, across the continent and across the globe stood and sang all three stanzas of the Kenyan National Anthem together as part of Kenya28Feb. We sang for a variety of reasons. Some sang to demonstrate patriotism, others to celebrate Kenya and Kenyans, others as a prayer for our country, others as a show of unity, to demonstrate there is more that unites us than divides us. Many of us sang for a mixture of all these reasons and others not listed here. What is important is that we stood and sang. This is the 2nd year Kenya28Feb has rallied Kenyans to sing our National Anthem collectively. I have written before on the power of the symbolic collective singing of our anthem and on some of the reasons different groups of people sang today. Today I’d like to share my thoughts on the, “What Next?” question.
Many people, supporters and those not supportive of Kenya28Feb, seem baffled by our advice to congregate, sing and disperse. No speeches, no rallies, no food drives, no estate clean ups, no tree planting, no IDP relocating, not even blood donation! “NO NOTHING? WHY? HOW? WHAT? USELESS!” Is it not important to donate blood, don’t we feel that trees are worth planting, and do we not cry out at the injustice of IDPs still in camps 4 years after they were first displaced, and who does not want to live in a clean estate? Doesn’t Kenya28Feb? Valid questions.
This blog post is written for the Kenya28Feb family, that is, all those who sang the National Anthem on Kenya28Feb. If you did not see the point of singing or if you were against the singing you probably won’t get much out of this post. If you didn’t see the point of singing this post won’t change your mind about that. If you did sing and are wondering what next, let’s talk.
So we sang our beautiful anthem for the 2nd year in a row. What do we do now? Why just disperse? Why go back to doing what we were doing?
My response to these questions starts with this observation, most Kenyans I meet are doing remarkable things! At Mavuno we call it ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Most Kenyans I know constantly give sacrificially whether it’s time/money/expertise to wonderful causes/initiatives that would die without their support. Most Kenyans I know are engaged in their communities, building clinics, paying school fees, protecting the vulnerable etc. When we suggest that you sing and then disperse to continue with your day, what we are actually saying is that you are already part of the solution! You are lifting up our families, our communities, and our society. You are engaged and YOU have figured out the solutions! Solutions that no one else may have seen. Carry on!
I live In Nairobi, Kenyans from different corners of the country, Lamu, Busia, Kakamgea, Eldoret etc all sang today. They know their communities better than I ever will, they know the solutions their community needs better than I do. Why then would I prescribe a solution for Kenyans who sang in those areas? I live in the Kilimani area of Nairobi; many who sang live in other parts of Nairobi. They know their communities better than I do, they know the solutions those communities need better than I do. Why wait for me to tell you what to do next? You are already doing it! Carry on!
There are three assumptions I am making here. The first assumption is that you spend your most productive time each day on positive actions that build up your community and in turn your society, that you are a provider of solutions to the problems in your community. Whether in tech, in media, in film, in music, in banking, in medicine, in law, in the police, in government, in emergency response, in the NGO world, in school, on campus etc wherever you are in this season of you life, I assume that you are a solutions provider. The second assumption is that you are passionate about the solutions you are working on. You believe in them. The third assumption is that you work on those solutions because they make an impact. Your solutions transform your community positively.
Why don’t we tell you to go out and plant trees? Some of you are already planting trees and those of you who aren’t have skills that are utilised elsewhere! Why don’t we organise a food drive, some of you are already Feeding Kenya. How about IDPs? Do we not feel for them? Of course we do, and many of us who sang today are already working on providing long-term solutions for our brothers and sisters in IDP camps. Carry on!
Why doesn’t Kenya28Feb leverage on its network? Well we are! Our network is you and the solutions you are working on. Our symbolic act of unity connected us! We celebrate you, and now all of us can help you to work on your solution! We won’t give you a solution, we’ll help you work on yours.
The point I am trying to make is this, a solution prescribed by someone who does not understand the context will never work as well as the solution advocated by you who does. Carry on!
Do not sit around “waiting patiently” for a magic solution, it does not exist. Do not sit around waiting for the mantle to be passed to you, YOU already have it. Do not pontificate about how Kenya28Feb has no ideas, share YOUR idea. Most of you who sang already get this. Carry on!
You also understand, unlike some of our brothers and sisters, that singing the anthem does not stop you from working on those solutions. You know the equation is not “working on solutions v singing the anthem”, the correct equation is “working on solutions + singing the anthem”. Some belch that all we do is sing three stanzas once a year then disappear, well we know what we do the rest of the year, working on those solutions! Doing what we were already doing before we took a pause to sing together.
Some suggestions: let us share what we are doing amongst our networks (which if you are reading this includes me) what you are doing? If you have gaps in your capacity the person who can fill that gap is probably closer than you imagine. Let us highlight those providing positive solutions with impact in our communities, let us encourage each other, let us work together, let us grow together, let us support each other and next year let us sing on Thursday 28th Feb 2013 to celebrate each other!
I’ll stop there because I know you have a lot of work to do. Carry on!
(If you have not found a way in which you can become a solution provider in your community, if you are struggling to find a way to impact your community positively then this conversation is for you too. Let’s start talking about your passions and we’ll find a way to get you working on a solution you are passionate about!)