In the past two weeks, protests have erupted around the world – and here too, in Kenya – demanding an end to anti-black racism and police brutality. It has been difficult watching the backlash to what, in my mind, is an uncontroversial demand – that Black Lives Matter – in the form of police beatings and harassment, teargas and heavy-handed tactics. But the events of the past fortnight have left me hopeful that global consciousness is shifting, even in a small way, towards a more just and equitable world. At the very least, some conversations are now being taken seriously in a way that wasn’t the case even a short while ago.
I’m reminded of Toni Morrison’s words on the artist’s role in troubled times. This is precisely the time we get to work, she said in the searing 2015 essay No Place for Self-Pity, No Room for Fear. “We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal. I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom. Like art.”
So let’s get to work even in these chaotic times. Write that paragraph, take that photograph, create in whatever way you do, even if it seems too emotional and messy to be putting anything down at this time. Even thinking is work, so engage your mind and work through those ideas. Don’t shut down or check out. Our voice is needed, as Nanjala Nyabola reminds us often, the archive needs us in it.
I leave you with the comforting exhortation that Baraza member Laura Ekumbo shares with us often. It makes me stop and take a moment to appreciate that I’m alive, I have breath. Why don’t you do the same?
Yours in solidarity,
Curator at Baraza Media Lab