Author: Mueni Ngugi

“I’m going to stand up, take my people with me

Together we are going to a brand new home

Far across the river

Can you hear freedom calling

Calling me to answer

Gonna keep on keepin’ on

I can feel it in my bones.”- Cynthia Erivo

The other day, I listened as my husband told the children the story of Joseph, how his brothers hated him for the favor his father showed him and how they plotted to and finally managed to throw him in a bottomless pit (we needed to define bottomless J).
Then, he got excited (like, seriously excited) as he told them how God was amazing because so many times in Scriptures the stories are so similar to events that have happened in our lifetime… yaani, its uncanny. That, just as Joseph had been sold into a life of slavery by his very own brothers, so had many Africans – by their fellow Africans. He asked one of the children if they would ever sell their siblings and they vehemently refused with a look of utter disgust at the idea! God, I pray and hope they always feel this much disgust and repugnance at the thought of injustice!

The story of slavery continued, and now having been given the context of a well-known Bible story, the kids were regaled with the more sordid details of what transpired. There were long treks for many of those who were captured, lasting days and to the point where their feet would get blisters or worse, and all this while, many were chained together and one mistake would lead to punishment or death (some dark concepts for the kids to hear, but damn, this world keeps getting darker by the day, naivety is no longer safe.)

They saw pictures of the ‘slave holding cells’ and were taught how the slave holding cells were dark dungeons from which there was no escape or return to the life you once knew. He showed them pictures of The Door of No Return and likened this to the bottomless pit Joseph was thrown in – there was only one way in and the only way out is into slavery or death. From this pit, those who survived were pulled out only to travel through the seas where many didn’t make it. Then when they got to wherever they were going, the Americas or England, they would be sold in markets, like produce.

It was so dark for me, sitting there, listening and thinking to myself that some day, long ago, someone’s child was stolen, tortured and then sold for a paltry sum to go and work the rest of their days on someone’s plantation, enriching someone else; and someone’s daughter was sold in order to breed more slaves; and someone else’s child was just disposed of because they (a human being with the misfortune of having dark skin) wasn’t strong enough to do much. They just weren’t valuable to anyone for anything.

These lessons though!

So, when you hear my daughter belting out Bob Marley’s “Buffalo Soldier” in the Church compound, during car-park fellowship (because this actually happened), kindly don’t come and tell me that I need to tell her to stop singing and perhaps teach her more acceptable music, just don’t. Because I will teach them a wide array of songs that speak truth; they will learn the stories and history that may not have made it into their textbooks, that tell the stories of those who have gone before them so that they make sure that “humanity never again perpetuates such injustice,’ and I will teach them to not be afraid of speaking out, of having tough conversations and of standing for something that they believe in. So help me God.

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  1. Harriet Were November 24, 2019 at 19:04 - Reply

    Very avid lessons for the young ones especially those overly sheltered from the cruel realities of life. I took my son and his little friends to the mau mau caves at paradise lost and told them the story of our freedom fighters .Their young minds were dispelled of romantic notions of adventure when forced to hideout in the dark caves for months on end! Aluta continua!

  2. Grace November 24, 2019 at 22:01 - Reply

    Our spaces are becoming more multiethnic and its very important to have conversations of what happened in the past that has affected the relationships between different color groups.

  3. Nadine Bowers Du Toit November 25, 2019 at 05:00 - Reply

    Love this! As a parent – this is a great example of how we can talk about social justice through the biblical text with our kids.

  4. Carol K November 25, 2019 at 05:29 - Reply

    👏👏We must raise these little ones right, teaching them the truth and teaching them to fearlessly stand for the truth.

  5. Cecilia Maina November 25, 2019 at 15:03 - Reply

    Mantra should be: different colours one people different colours nice people.
    #Bob Marley

  6. Freedom Ikuri November 25, 2019 at 18:39 - Reply

    The black man soldiers on. Even centuries after enslavement Africans still fight for basic freedoms. I agree with the author that kids need to be told the truth of the world. History has so many lessons that we- the generation of today, are so keen on forgetting.

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