#ISayYesToUs! All Of Us! #KisumuStandUp!
[Video and transcript of the raw speech delivered by Zawadi Nyong’o, CEO of 7th Sense Communications and owner of ZeroByZawadi, at Prof. Anyang’ Nyong’o’s Kisumu Gubernatorial Fundraising Dinner held on March 23rd, 2017, at the Intercontinental Hotel, in Nairobi.]
I never imagined I would be standing here doing this. I have run away from politics all my life. Yes, I’m a social justice activist, a feminist, and a digital media strategist who uses the power of social media for change. All of this is political, but I remember being angry with my father all through adolescence because I felt that he sacrificed too much for Kenya. School plays, sports days, family dinners, you name it. I was angry with Kenya too for taking so many years of his life. It wasn’t until I was an adult, pursuing my own life purpose for global transformation and the uplifting of humanity, that I realized that his commitment to the country, was a demonstration of his love for me too: for the family, for our children, and our grandchildren. I had always admired and respected him, even through my rebellion, but for the first time I understood how much I was cut from the same cloth – the cloth my grandmother wove. See, my grandmother is the matriarch of the Nyong’o family, and the most hardworking woman I know. She has not spoken a word since October when she suffered a stroke, and yet even with her frail 97-year-old body, her spirit is still so strong.
My grandmother was a trader when no other women of her time were. Her trade educated all her children – boys and girls equally. When my father was leaving for college, she handed him a bag of money to start him off; money she made because she was a smart entrepreneur. During harvest season she would buy grain, dry and store it. Then when the harvest was low, and food was hard to come by, people would come buy food from her, from villages near and far. So people who say Luos are not smart business people or entrepreneurs need to talk to my grandmother. She was a strategic planner and a visionary, and she didn’t stop working until recently. Even now, I believe she is still working through the family at a spiritual level. Maybe she’s just waiting to see my father through his campaign so that she is assured that her people will be taken care of. Not just her family, but the thousands of people she has worked all her life to mentor, educate, and inspire.
We are here tonight for one reason only – we believe in the candidate Anyang’ Nyong’o, and want to do whatever it takes to get him in. For me, it’s selfish. I want my father to retire from politics after this. He has put in so many years. It is stressful work and we see the impact it has on him. We do not want his cancer to recur. But I see that he is not yet done with his fight for the people. There is work to be done and he is doing it.
My father asked me months ago to help with his social media strategy. I was hesitant. I don’t like the energy of politics. LIke millions of Kenyans, I too am traumatized – even more so sometimes because it is so close to home. I remember my first trauma. I was a toddler. We lived in Woodley Estate, in Nairobi, and my father came home after he had been missing for several days. He had been arrested and beaten thoroughly for his multi-party democracy activism. He had been shaved so that he could get stitches for his wounds. My daddy without hair! Can you imagine Anyang’ Nyong’o without hair? I didn’t recognize him. I knew something terrible had happened. I was scared and I cried.
There were many other times in my life that I cried for, or about my father. But the time I will never forget was when I cried for Kenya. My heart bled for Kenya. I am one of the most sensitive people I know – just ask anyone in my family. It is a weakness and a strength. A strength because it is my source of compassion for others – the fuel for my activism. But when post-election violence broke out in 2007, that was a pain I never imagined possible to feel. I had never felt so powerless, confused, and desperate. And seeing what was happening across the country nearly destroyed me. What happened in Kisumu was beyond words. It took me into a deep depression – one that I am still healing from in many ways.
What of the millions of other Kenyans who were traumatized? Who is healing their wounds? Who is ensuring that we approach this next election differently? We cannot afford to just go from trauma to trauma. These issues are real and in Kisumu the youth there are amongst some of the most disheartened, disempowered, and disenfranchised in the country. Young people with Master’s degrees who have turned to crime because they have no jobs and no sense of hope. I could go on and on.
The point is this – the work needs to be done and we can’t wait any longer. Across the nation we must shift mindsets and change the way we elect our leaders. Campaigns cost money and that is why we are here today. Candidates who are monied give handouts. Anyang’ Nyong’o is said to be stingy, mean, and unreasonable. He won’t budge on his integrity. Isn’t that the kind of leader we need? He has a lot to offer the people of Kisumu, but he needs to be able to get his message to them. That requires a lot of people and financial power.
This is where I come in. I understand the power of social media as a tool for movement building, storytelling, inspiration, and galvanizing people to take action. I will never forget how fulfilling it felt to help raise over 7 million Kenya shillings ($70,000 plus) for a total stranger in just 3 days. Thousands of Kenyans came together to raise money for Emmanuel Otieno, a.k.a, Jadudi in Kenya’s landmark #1MilliForJadudi campaign whose crowdfunding strategy I developed. Can you imagine if Kenyans were inspired enough to use crowdfunding to mobilize resources for the leaders they believed in, instead of seeing campaign season as their “time to eat”? And for those taking handouts, I almost want to say, “Ok, take them and eat, but still vote for the right leaders. Or even contribute that money to support the campaign of your choice.” But that lacks integrity and I doubt Anyang’ Nyong’o would support such a strategy.
Anyway, we have a choice today to approach this election differently – as individuals and as a collective. We have a choice to SAY YES to all Kenyans and what is good for us as a nation. It will take a lot, but you being here tonight is a critical step. Use your voice and platforms wherever you are – whatsapp, twitter, Facebook, your chama, church, kinyozi, salon, private club, or wherever. Engage in and support conversations that matter. Follow and join this conversation online with @AnyangNyongo on Twitter and Facebook via #KisumuStandUp and #TichTire. Trust me, I’ve been in this social media game for over 7 years now, and every contribution makes a difference. It’s not about the number of followers you have. The people who kept the #1MilliForJadudi conversation trending for three days straight were his University Of Nairobi friends who didn’t sleep because they wanted to help save their friend’s life. I’m not saying you shouldn’t sleep – just understand that your engagement is incredibly valuable.
Social media help elect both Obama and Trump. Social media can build or destroy. Trust me, I have been the victim of many attacks online. And if you absolutely understand the power and value of social media as a tool for communication, but still aren’t interested in participating, you can support the campaign by investing financial resources towards Anyang’ Nyong’o’s communications strategy.
I honestly can’t believe I have thrown myself into this, but something deep is driving me to do it, and in less than a week, 7th Sense Communications has consolidated an incredible team of consultants and partner companies (follow @TeamNyongo2017 for updates) who want to help make this happen, and are giving as much of their precious time as they can. Many have already been supporting Anyang’ Nyong’o’s communications, including media influencer and top Kenyan comedian Felix Odiwuor a.k.a Jalang’o, but now we need a focused and coordinated strategy that will impact not just dialogue in Kisumu, but across the nation. That is why I am doing this – because I believe in us as Kenyans and our individual power to bring change. It is a major sacrifice because I was on a different path, but I am starting to see how my own spiritual path can be enhanced by the lessons I am already learning through the challenges of this experience. I would rather be designing and selling ZeroByZawadi kanga yoga bags, build my social enterprise, and work toward my dream of building a wellness centre on acres of land surrounded by nature in Kisumu or somewhere in Kenya. But here I am. So I have brought my yoga bags with me and part of the proceeds from the sales will go towards the campaign, so please buy them.
Thank you so much for honoring this invitation. Please don’t let it end here. We need to walk together till the end. “Tich Tire” The Work Is Being Done. Prof. Anyang’ Nyong’o is ready to work with and for you. Are you ready to work with him?
God bless you all and God bless Kenya.
[For more info & to sign up to support the campaign, see www.anyangnyongo.com]
#ISayYesToUs. All Of Us! #KisumuStandUp!
[For more pictures and updates from the event, check out the candidate’s official Facebook Page. More video footage of all the main speeches delivered at Anyang’ Nyong’o’s March 23rd, 2017 campaign dinner will be available on @AnyangNyongo’s youtube channel soon.]