By Lena Anyuolo
Music as a form of art has been used as a progressive tool for educating and organizing the oppressed masses. Reggae music has played a crucial role in educating the people towards self-emancipation, progressive organizing and a collective awakening to end neo-colonialism and imperialism. ‘Watoto Wanasay’ will be a segment of the reggae session that will allow children in the community to be seen and heard as critical members of the community.
The first session of the ‘Reggae Mtaani’ series was held on 14th November 2020 at Al-Jazeera, Kiamaiko. The host centre was the Kiamaiko Community Justice Centre. Reggae Mtaani is a community organizing tool that aims at bringing community members towards collective reflection and collective action against marginalisation. The organizing principles are self-emancipation, resistance, restoration, redemption, liberation and celebration.
The thematic topics discussed during the session at Aljazeera were forced evictions and land injustices, gender based violence, extrajudicial executions, constitutionalism, social justice, the language of our music and ecological justice. It was also a celebration of our history where we paid homage to freedom fighters, using this collective memory of the struggle to reflect on where we have come from and the task of our generation to realise ‘Ndoto za Mau Mau’ (the dreams of Mau Mau).
Under the segment ‘Watoto Wanasay’, we tackled children’s rights and gave children in the community a chance to have the mic to give their opinion on the positive changes needed in the community.
Reggae Mtaani also celebrated the unsung heroes in the community such as garbage collectors, community health workers, human rights activists and the women who run the coffee and jaba bases in Kiamaiko, which are valued as communal meeting spaces for relaxation, organising and psychosocial healing.
Reggae Mtaani deconstructed the negative stereotype often used to criminalize the youth using the narrative that falsely equates jabaration, reggae music and youth bases with ‘illegal activity.’ It showed the community that a congregation where reggae music is played does not have to be a funeral or a night club, but a space where our collective consciousness is raised for self emancipation, restoration, resistance, redemption and celebration.
Reggae Mtaani was conceptualized and brought to life through the collective effort of members of Social Justice Centres. The activity at Aljazeera was coordinated by: MSJC- Antony ‘Kanare’ Muoki, Kinuthia Mwangi, Lena Anyuolo; DJ Talanta: ‘The one hand DJ’ was the main deejay for the event; Githurai and Ghetto radio – Edgar ‘Liberator’ Ogutu who MC’d the event and provided key information on the logistics and structure of the day; comrades from Kiamaiko Social Justice Centre who provided the chairs and hosted the activity; Al Jazeera Group and Voice of Kiamaiko provided the venue, event marshals, and co-hosted the activity; the broader Social Justice Network in Mathare provided the sound system; and EBTI Sacco provided transportation for the equipment.
A notable success of the activity is that it was not funded, relying wholly on available resources from individuals, groups in the community and the social justice centres.
Besides members of the Kiamaiko community, the following social justice centres were also represented by their members – Kiamaiko, Ruaraka, Mathare, Ghetto Foundation, Kayole, Komarock, Githurai, Dandora and Kamukunji.
Reggae Mtaani will be a series of weekly reggae sessions held every Sunday in different ghettos in Nairobi. The sessions will be hosted by the various social justice centres within Nairobi’s informal settlements.
The next vibration will be hosted by the Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC).
To all our comrades, men an women actively engaged in the struggle, we say this: “Continue Organizing. ORGANIZE. ORGANIZE. ORGANIZE!” AMANDLA!
See pictures from the first session below: