Author, poet, and scholar Mukoma Wa Ngugi gave a keynote address on the complicated relationship between Africans and African Americans. The keynote was given at the St Paul University, Limuru on February 7, 2019.
St Paul University is one of the universities marking “Black History Month” usually celebrated in the US every February. St Paul’s University is an institution that was started on July 28th, 1903, when the Rev. H.K. Binns laid the foundation stone of St. Paul’s Divinity School at Frere Town, Mombasa. It became the theological college that would teach many of the region’s leading religious minds until 2007 when it would get its university charter. Today the college doesn’t teach just religion but has a whole lot of academic courses.
The afternoon kicked off with remarks from St Paul’s University staff including an introduction of the Keynote Speaker Mukoma Wa Ngugi by St Paul University Communication Studies Head of Department and Lecturer Dr John Obwavo Ndavula.
Mukoma Wa Ngugi is famous for his work as the author of three works of fiction in Nairobi Heat (our review), Black Star Nairobi (our review), and Mrs Shaw (our review); two poetry collections Logotherapy and Hurling Words at Consciousness; and nonfiction in The Rise of the African Novel: Politics of Language, Identity, and Ownership and Conversing with Africa: Politics of Change. He has also written in many publications in Kenya and abroad.
In the lecture, Mukoma would muse over experiences that Africans and African Americans have shared over the last few generations on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. He weaved through many of the names from both the US and from Africa that have been integral to the discussion like Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey, Malcolm X, Pio Gama Pinto, Kwame Nkrumah, W.E.B Dubois, and more. It wasn’t just famous individuals from the past that featured in the lecture. He shared his own experiences as an African in the United States introducing the audience to “foreigner privilege” that people like he enjoyed in the northern American country. He also spoke about moving around different African countries like South Africa and his main focus in Ghana.
Mukoma sought to know how many in the audience knew that Malcolm X on his Africa tour also gave an address to the Kenyan parliament and met many leaders at the time including President Jomo Kenyatta, Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, and Pio Gama Pinto. Only one person knew about this. Malcolm X and Pio Gama Pinto were incidentally assassinated within days of one another. X would be slaughtered on February 21, 1965 while Pinto would be murdered four days later on February 25.
He also gave us some juicy gossip. It turns out that at one point Kenya’s first PhD holder and later minister Julius Gikonyo Kiano was once dating Coretta Scott; she went on to become Coretta Scott King then wife and later widow of Martin Luther King Jr. Kiano would marry another African American called Ernestine before she was deported for being “disloyal and disaffected towards Kenya.”
What would emerge from his lecture and the following Q & A session was while there have been conflicts between Africans and African Americans, there has been solidarity between the two peoples with many working together. He admitted that African Americans had done a lot more for their brethren and sisteren on the continent than we know about. He would ask that we be kinder to one another and try and get to understand each other. Africans should do their best to know not just the hip hop culture but also the very tough struggle they go through in the United States.
You can listen to the whole speech on the following link.