Magavilla’s Nyerere Day reflection - A Tribute to Dr. Jane Goodall
"The spirit in me to give more than I take isn't in-born, it is the result of a seed that was planted in me many years ago and pay forward I must by planting this seed in as many people I can."
At the outset of this year I decided to make my reality matter and invited you to do the same.
For almost 7years now, I have carried around with me two symbols of my moral conviction: a kifimbo (stick) and the slogan ‘Light is for the dark’ as my long standing status. As I explain to anyone who asks, these symbols serve as a reminder of the single most critical force in the liberation of Africa and unification of Tanzanians as a people - Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere “The Light of Africa”.
I use the occasion of his official day to remember someone, quite celebrated internationally, but often forgotten in our local narrative in as much as she has been a guiding light in lifting the hopes of a generation of young Tanzanians.
A little over 3 decades ago, Mwalimu’s nation building agenda was put to a test for the first time. Mwalimu had, over his reign as President, reinforced his moral authority such that he singly informed the moral conscience of a whole nation to the extent that when his authority was challenged, the moral conscience of Tanzania as a whole challenged.
Yet, even amidst this temporal state of moral confusion, another light had shown in the darkness that threatened to undue everything Mwalimu had invested his heart and mind in. This light was none other than Dr. Jane Goodall.
Dr. Jane Goodall, who had just come out of a 3 decade stay in the Gombe reserves in Kigoma, Tanzania, where she had dedicated her life to research on primates, met with a group of young Tanzanians at her home just a few steps from the residence of the late Mwalimu Nyerere in the Mikocheni area of Dar Es Salaam to plant a seed that sprout roots and shoots, literarily, that would spread beyond even her wildest imagination.
This little gathering of young minds, which included such notables as Maria Sarungi and Dr. Sebastian Ndege, gave birth to Roots & Shoots, a youth service initiative, and paved the way for one of the most critical but humble generational movements in this country’s recent history.
By cultivating a culture of care and concern for the giver of life - Mother Nature, Dr. Jane sparked a fire that would later galvanize a whole generation of youth conscience-ness and self-awareness about the power they had to be the change they desired. This spark would later give birth to such youth activism and change movement organizations like Youth of the United Nations Association (YUNA) and Tanzania Youth Vision Association (TYVA).
I am one of those who greatly benefited from this spark. I was inspired and partook in this movement at its earlier stages with the beach cleaning adventures spearheaded by Nazar Nicholous and Mathius Michael, the dynamic duo, who also oversaw the youth driven commemorations of the United Nations at 50 back in 1995 that changed forever the role of youth in our development trajectory.
Apart from availing me lifelong comradery, the light that Dr. Jane Goodall sparked, gave me a reason to live beyond my present day anomalies (which were many) and embrace hope that the future can be better only if I do something to make it better.
She literally saved me, at a time when I had little motivation to value ‘me’, let alone inspire others. Introduced to her world by Dr. Sebastian Ndege, at the time a form two student at Azania (where I was also studying) and an energized debater and performing artist, I gained access to a platform that challenged me to direct my many talents, which included debating, public oration and acting to serving and sparking this same light of hope in other people before anything else.
Today is Mwalimu’s day, at least officially, and I see no better way to commemorate the foremost “Light of Africa”, then to honor the contribution of one of the most benevolent hearts that I have ever had a chance to come across in my lifetime.
Little known to many at the time, but I launched my first book in April 2007, the month of Mwalimu’s birth exactly 10 years after making eye contact with Mwalimu for the first and last time at his 75th birthday in 1997, for which Dr Blandina Kilama and myself, then in advance level secondary school, had co-authored and contributed an essay on Mwalimu that was part of a book of essays by youth given to Mwalimu on that day. Now, effectively two decades later, I intend to launch my second book in October (this month) 2017, the month of Mwalimu’s untimely death. Mwalimu for me will always be the “Light of Africa”, the light that shone in darkness, and my second book will be dedicated to him and the endurance of this light even after his death.
I decisively parted ways with the corporate world that shaped my public image to embrace a more reclusive behind the scenes existence to allow for the light that the likes of Dr. Jane Goodall had sparked in me years before not to dim. One thing I now know for sure is that my life was meant to serve others and inspire them to reach their potential.
Dr. Jane, an internationally celebrated author and notable speaker herself, who travels the world to spread her message of hope almost throughout the year, made time time to review my seminal literary effort, “Life and You - a guided journey through self”, while still in its draft form. Her feedback on the effort informed my conscience and is the inspiration behind my latest literary effort titled “Ubishi - Komaa na Maisha” and the messaging employed in almost all my inspirational work.
While I shamelessly and endlessly profess my admiration for the ‘heart-work’ of my idols: Martin Luther King, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jackson, it is this Angel (Dr Jane) who literally touched my life and for this I am eternally indebted and grateful; and it is because of her and these four icons, of our lifetime, that I have chosen to dedicate my life to communication with purpose and committing myself to being a voice of reason, irrespective of the circumstance or consequence.
This is my reality.
As a young child I was quite rambunctious; a far departure from the sophisticated gentleman that I have since become (why do I sense chuckles).
My unique background afforded me an interesting dilemma, where my reality made even blessings (strengths) seem like a curse (weaknesses) until the day that I discovered that I had a role to play in this.
As a young child I was blessed with the opportunity to live in the United States of America, which at times felt like a curse. However hard I tried to fit in, I was always reminded of my place at the table as the ‘African boy’ in the room. If that wasn’t bad enough, on my return home a few years on, at the not-so-tender age of 14, I found myself out of place yet again as the ‘not-so American boy’ in the room.
This formed the premise for the narrative of my life.
Things other people took or take for granted, like friendship, which at a young age often happen spontaneously, I had to understand and make work consciously. Since the prevailing reality (my circumstance) never worked in my favor, to survive through this dilemma, I found myself creating my own reality and working to make it matter, irrespective.
Often this meant changing the trajectory and devising methods to help people see life through my stand point. I learned then that the only thing greater than the moment is the meaning behind that moment. So I invested myself in finding a meaning beyond life’s current realities/ anomalies as opposed to being confined by a reality I couldn’t control or inform.
Reflecting on the power of numbers, the years 1987, 1997, 2007, 2017 have each had monumental events that have defined me. That one thing, I believe, is the reminder of the power of the ‘voice’. I think the rhythm in these numbers, albeit coincidental, is very telling that God may be trying to send me a message about my purpose:
• In 1987 I used my voice for the first time in a speech competition when I was in the 4th grade in the USA and came in at number 2; not bad in a school wide competition that also involved 5th and 6th graders. The theme of the speech I wrote and read is also quite key; it was inspired by Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream” speech that espouses hope.
• Then there is 1997 with the first ever UN Model Assembly. This was another pivotal moment in defining the use of my voice to inspire and inform a culture of hope informed by my admiration, not only for Martin Luther King, but now, more for our very own Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere .
• A decade later in 2007, I published my first and only book, which also happened to be the first secular motivational book published in Tanzania and borne out a very local and personalized context, which was not just a book but rather a manifestation of my inner truth. A truth galvanized by two pillars that saw me taking my conviction of hope for a people (Tanzanians afore most) to hope for the individual; now believing that hope should be infused not just informed. At this point I learned and embraced the idea that the ‘what’ of the message is just as important as the ‘how’ the message is delivered in getting this message through. A message learned through my long term obsession with two other cultural icons and achieved communicators - Michael Jackson & Oprah Winfrey.
• And now in 2017 it seems that it’s yet another definitive moment is underway. A moment informed by a deeper understanding of my purpose and the uniqueness that bonds all my idols - the masters keeping it real. At best: Martin Luther King, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, Oprah Whinfrey and Michael Jackson in as much as individually they achieved the highest levels of success propagating hope, they all did it by connecting people with their reality and this, I believe, now more than ever, is what really sells hope - you cannot sell hope to someone who doesn’t own their reality.
The spirit in me to give more than I take isn’t in-born, it is the result of a seed that was planted in me many years ago and pay forward I must by planting this seed in as many people I can.
As I prepare to release my next book, there is one new thing that I now know for sure (in Oprah’s voice): don’t aim to be the best, aim to be the most strategic; sometimes, in order to win, we have to be willing to lose.
About my new book:
My latest book, like my first book, “Life and You”, will reinforce a premise that I first shared through the two pillars of “Magavillaism - the art of being YOU” introduced back in 2002: 1) taking control and 2) making decisions for the long run. Unlike “Life and You”, which centered on the concept of life, this second book “UBISHI Komaa na Maisha”, composed in Swahili, takes a more practical view on how to live life. This new book aims to challenge the reader to take control of life by revisiting norms that may not be so normal and approach life’s many decisive moments with the future in mind.
Happy Nyerere Day!!!