Mother Earth's Hummingbird
You know, we cannot speak about black excellence without mentioning the first African woman to win a Nobel Prize? “I think you should have started these stories of yours with that lady given as very few Africans have won those. She must have exuded greatness indeed.” May said. Of course, she did May, we are talking about Wangari Maathai, a woman born in April 1940, who was shaking tables that most Africans were afraid to even look at.” Grandma replied.
Wangari Maathai was one of the first girls to go to school and in 1960, she got a scholarship to study at a university in the United States. By 1971, she had become the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in East and Central Africa. I'm telling you, we should have known Wangari was a woman born before her time when the then Kenyan president, Arap Moi, referred to her as a mad woman and a divorcee only because she was protesting the privatization of Karura forest in 1998. They were destroying forests to build skyscrapers and when she protested, was mocked, ridiculed, and attacked. Wangari, and other women of the Green Belt Movement that she had founded in 1977 for the conservation of nature, stood against armed forces trying to convince them that destroying the forest for urbanization was not as good an idea as it seemed.
As she said, “African women, in general, need to know that it's OK for them to be the way they are - to see the way they are as a strength, and to be liberated from fear and from silence. ” This movement planted over thirty million trees across Kenya. It not only met the basic needs of rural women such as firewood, but it also got women to stand up for their rights. “Okay back up a little grandma, no lies in these stories how does planting a tree accord one their rights?” Ada inquired suspiciously. “Patience my child I cannot light the fire without quenching it. I’ll have to give you a detailed account on this one.” Grandma replied. Can you believe, in 1992, Wangari, with the Green belt movement, organized a harmless strike in Uhuru Park to press the government to release political prisoners!!! They were attacked by police but continued to protest for eleven months planting trees and in the end, the government relented and released the prisoners. Probably why Ruth Wangari Thungu said about Maathai, “Wangari has given me the strength to know that if I fight for something I can make it happen. Either I do it or I die.”
You probably now can see why she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 making her the first African woman to receive one. And you know earlier that year in April, she was also awarded the Petra Kelly Prize by the Heinrich Böll Foundation. Indeed, she was a hummingbird “ She never did anything to please, she never did anything because she wanted to be popular. She did everything she did because she always felt it was the right thing to do. That was a constant in her life, ” Wanjira Mathai about her mother, Wangai Maathai. While we are on the subject of climate activists, I'll tell you about another hummingbird, Uganda ’s Vanessa Nakate. And I hope to God you’ll at least stop littering my compound!!!!