Friday, January 24, 2014

Binyavanga Wainaina- My Hero

I don't know why so often on the African continent the crap rises to the surface. We hear about all of the crap and the lovely, beautiful cream of this fascinating dynamic continent is covered over. We hear about the wars and the sickness and the famine. But we don't hear about the fantastic innovation, the "I'll make a plan" mentality, we don't hear about the beauty and the kindness and the happy everyday lives most of us live here. The hate screams and love seems to cower away in the corner waiting for space to pass.

Lately the hate is spewing. The new horrible, hateful law in Nigeria against gay people is getting plenty of air play. Everywhere I look there is someone pulling out a Bible or a Koran and using it for their launch against love. It is so soul-crushing. I fear for people in Nigeria. I fear for the lives that will undoubtedly be lost and destroyed because the state has decided to renege on its bargain to protect the most vulnerable.

But out of all of this, the most wonderful rainbow has emerged. The fantastic writer and philosopher (in my book anyway) Binyavanga Wainaina has stepped forward and said- "I can no longer be silent".

On the 19th of January, his 43rd birthday, he published at various sites around the internet the so-called  missing chapter from his incredible memoir, One Day I Will Write About This PlaceI am a homosexual, Mum appeared at Africa is a Country as well as Kwani? and Chimurenga Chronic. It is a beautiful piece of writing, but in the current context of what is going on, it is a brave piece as well.

After this, he published at YouTube a series of powerful videos called We Must Free Our Imagination which talk a bit about his decision to come out in a public way, but more about the basic problems of the continent that lead to such Draconian laws in the first place. He speaks about the fear of imagination instilled in the middle class of the continent and how that is stopping all indigenous progress as we bend and break trying to follow the West.

It may seem all doom and gloom, but that's because you don't know this man. If Africa ever needed a PR man, Binyavanga Wainaina is the perfect guy for the job.  In a review I wrote of his memoir, I said his book read like a beautiful, messy love letter to the continent. He adores every dirty, grimy corner of this place. And this is why he is willing to fight for it.This is why he is willing to put his self in the firing line.

It is so inspiring and empowering to me to see Binyavanga step forward. So often we feel these problems are insurmountable walls that only presidents and other people in leadership positions can solve. But they are failing. Will we wait for ever? Will we wait until everything is lost?

Heroes don't wait. They act. Can a single person really make a difference? I think Binyavanga's brave steps have already shown that yes, yes they can.

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