All the members of the Prometheus delegation to Nairobi and Kisumu met up tonight at the home of the inimitable Jay Sand, to report to a small but engaged crowd on our Kenya trip. It was difficult to string together the experiences we had, how we felt about them, and to draw conclusions. So we didn’t do that. Instead we talked pretty stream of consciousness, but by sitting together, and by including new voices and interested parties in the conversation, we were able to draw some conclusions. As long as drawing conclusions doesn’t mean that we are wrapping up our experiences in a tight bow and putting them in a drawer, I am okay with that.
I talked about Safi and Faridah (Faridah in background to left, Safi with the mic), two of the women I felt closest two during my time in Nairobi, at the convergence space for the IMC, south of the city in the tree-lined, gated Karen suburb. Both of these women are mothers, living in Kampala, Uganda. They took over three weeks to come to Nairobi. They both learned a huge amount and taught so much more. Tonight I tried to think about and speak about -why- they came to Nairobi. I don’t have a big answer to that but the confusion around it felt pretty real.
The Uganda delegation to the Independent Media Center convergence in Nairobi consisted of a tight group of folks, all of whom were youth organizers with a group in Kampala called Mission for Youth Rights. I was never clear how they found out about the convergence in Nairobi, but I am very glad to have met them and to have learned from them during the weeks we were together.
Were Safi, Farida, and their allies and friends there to build a larger African Independent Media Center network? Were they there to learn technical skills and resources, and to practice teaching them? Both? What personal goals did they bring? I remember Safi pushing hard for us to make certificates proving that everyone had been there, and I couldn’t understand who would sign them. It wouldn’t be the Prometheus organizers, so I made slots for everyone at the event to sign them, including (and especially) Kennedy and John, local Kenya IMC founders who contributed to our gathering by handling a ton of the food logistics, and by lending incredible insight in our meetings, discussions, and private conversations.
It’s an issue of resources, for sure, and we started to talk about that tonight. When tools like computers, minidisc recorders, transmitter kits, internet access, soldering irons, even electrical power, are scarce, you can’t necessarily depend on the solidarity that comes by working with these tools to well up in the same way. Different kinds of solidarity — perhaps more mindful ones — come with direct conversations about why people come together to work, and conversations about what work is possible without ready access to technical tools.
The thinkings on Kenya tonight are matched by a nice article in the Philadelphia Weekly , accompanied by amazing photos by Prometheus volunteer and ally JJ Tiziou. I’m pretty happy with the article and grateful to George for sharing the stories of the trip and the Kenyan and other African colleagues we met with the world, but I regret not pushing to get more voices from our travellers in the article. Also, while Suad did a ton of work with the transmitter, many many other folks (like Andy) taught many other skills. A really cool technically minded guy named Job did a lot of work on that transmitter as well. I was just taken aback with Suad’s thirst for learning, her incredible skill on the transmitter (most of her solder joints were really clean and workable rather than broken) and also with her passion for radio as an appropriate and necessary technology for the community where she’s from, in Somalia. I hope we can work more with her someday…