Essays, poems and Stories of an African-American

Saturday, 12 March 2016

The Great Pacific garbage patch: Courtesy of Avaaz!

Great Pacific garbage Patch.  Source:Avaaz

A shocking new study says that by 2050 there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish. 

What we're doing to our planet is just obscene. It might shake our faith in humanity. But then you hear about Terry, Christina, and Chris -- 3 friends who read about the plastic problem and the Great Pacific garbage patch -- a vast semi-dissolved island of waste twice the size of France. 

They were disgusted, and invented a simple solution -- the SeaVax, a solar-powered ship that can suck up to 22 million kgs of plastic a year! Just a small number of these ships could clean up the entire Pacific garbage patch in just 10 years!! 

It's a beautiful example of people rising to a great challenge of our time. But it's just begun, and it needs our help. The first SeaVax model has been built, but needs funding to scale it up to the awesome task of the world's greatest clean-up. For just the price of a meal or a cup of coffee, we can turn this story from one of obscenity to inspiration. Pitch in to help make the SeaVax dream a reality, and scale-up other ambitious projects to rid our oceans of plastic: 

In December, I visited a remote island off the coast of Vietnam and Cambodia. It was stunning. But then a wind blew in, and for the next two days, the ocean was covered in garbage, from candy wrappers to styrofoam. It was obscene, apocalyptic. 

The discomfort such pollution causes us humans is nothing next to the damage it’s doing to our precious oceanic ecosystems. Dolphins, whales, fish, every living thing is affected -- particularly as the plastic degrades into tinier pieces that clog airways, mouths, and gills. 

The SeaVax is a big vision, a solar-powered, self-driving ship that sucks up plastic but has special sensors to protect marine life. And it’s big ideas like this and others like it that we need. If we scale them up, we can help them get traction and show even greater results -- and then our community can push governments to take action to take these ideas to scale. 

The Avaaz movement is uniquely able to help here - there's no larger global community able to crowdfund. It's on us to help these inventors' dream become a reality, to help other great projects find the light of day, and to give the entire world hope. For the price of an average meal out, you can help clean up 170,000 pieces of plastic! -- click to pitch in: 

Of course, in addition to cleaning up our oceans, we have to stop dumping so much waste into them. Starting with these funds, our community could:
  • Work with projects to reduce the flow of plastics into the ocean in the worst-polluting countries;
  • Identify other ambitious ideas focused on clean-up of the garbage patches using new technologies;
  • Organise community and beach clean-ups to stop plastic from finding its way to the ocean;
  • Push governments to limit or ban plastic -- like San Francisco recently did with plastic water bottles.
Avaaz has campaigned for and won some of the largest ocean preserves in history, in the Chagos islands of the Indian Ocean, and in the American Pacific. We've also worked to ban plastic bags in some cities. Let's make the inspiring story of the SeaVax the beginning of a wave of global people power to reach a comprehensive solution to this scourge of our oceans. Out of our disgust at the Pacific garbage patch, let’s help an inspiring new world of commitment and love for our oceans be born. 

With hope and gratitude for this amazing community,
Ricken and the whole Avaaz team. 


Solar-powered vacuum could suck up 24,000 tons of ocean plastic every year (Eco Watch) 

By 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans, study says (Washington Post) 

SeaVax - Robotic Vacuum Ship 

Plastic oceans: What do we know? (BBC) 

Full scale of plastic in the world's oceans revealed for first time (The Guardian) 

Psalm 50

A psalm of Asaph.

The Mighty One, God, the Lord,
    speaks and summons the earth
    from the rising of the sun to where it sets.
From Zion, perfect in beauty,
    God shines forth.
Our God comes
    and will not be silent;
a fire devours before him,
    and around him a tempest rages.
He summons the heavens above,
    and the earth, that he may judge his people:
“Gather to me this consecrated people,
    who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”
And the heavens proclaim his righteousness,
    for he is a God of justice.[a][b]
“Listen, my people, and I will speak;
    I will testify against you, Israel:
    I am God, your God.
I bring no charges against you concerning your sacrifices
    or concerning your burnt offerings, which are ever before me.
I have no need of a bull from your stall
    or of goats from your pens,
10 for every animal of the forest is mine,
    and the cattle on a thousand hills.
11 I know every bird in the mountains,
    and the insects in the fields are mine.
12 If I were hungry I would not tell you,
    for the world is mine, and all that is in it.
13 Do I eat the flesh of bulls
    or drink the blood of goats?
14 “Sacrifice thank offerings to God,
    fulfill your vows to the Most High,
15 and call on me in the day of trouble;
    I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”
16 But to the wicked person, God says:
“What right have you to recite my laws
    or take my covenant on your lips?
17 You hate my instruction
    and cast my words behind you.
18 When you see a thief, you join with him;
    you throw in your lot with adulterers.
19 You use your mouth for evil
    and harness your tongue to deceit.
20 You sit and testify against your brother
    and slander your own mother’s son.
21 When you did these things and I kept silent,
    you thought I was exactly[c] like you.
But I now arraign you
    and set my accusations before you.
22 “Consider this, you who forget God,
    or I will tear you to pieces, with no one to rescue you:
23 Those who sacrifice thank offerings honor me,
    and to the blameless[d] I will show my salvation.

Friday, 11 March 2016

A Toast to USA!

           My time in USA, has been a time of self-discovery. I intend to have fun in this country. But not too much. I came to America to be part of a larger family and contribute to it as well. My sense of things was: engage myself in a re-education program; process and at the same time rebrand myself as a skilled bio-scientist. I knew then and I still know it is possible. Not so much because I had someone tell me but because I had read about what makes America what it is. Am originally from Uganda. Yes, the Uganda known for 10 things: Zika Forest; Source of the Nile; a small country with over 20 fresh water lakes; Luzira artefact that goes back in time; small nation with over 50 ethnicities; a state with a kingdom nation within its borders; pearl of Africa visited by Ted Roosevelt and Churchill; African martyrs; a country that showed political will combined with science helps drive back the ravages of HIV; and the country with a unique bio-eco-diversity.

American Flag. Source: Google Images

          I came to the US when President Obama was the sitting president. I remember the earlier days of a black Senator who was vying for presidency in US. It was the continuous breaking news in Africa.  I also remember when he made it to presidency. The euphoria that abounded in the communities I managed to travel to was almost palpable. Mosques, Churches, prayer spaces and traditional shrines filled up with faithfuls. I had been to Kisumu in Kenya as well as Nakuru and Nairobi and there the words delivered with pride were "our own was to become an American president."  I also recall how it helped keep a patient of mine resilient. This patient eventually recuperated. Part of the reason was the mental contentment, my patient had,  due to the ascendancy to the US Presidency by President Obama. I was 200 miles away from Kampala the City of Uganda, nursing a bedridden person when the news broke! It was a time that is still vivid up to now. A black president in America! My mind became a reel on which the following scenarios played out: the combination medications and nutritious foods that the US funding provided; the fact that the patient was adhering to all treatment requirements; and the fact that the patient prayed for Obama's presidency worked together to enable him heal. Today, this person is a post-test club leader in Uganda (the term "long sur-hiv-vivers" is yet to catch on in that small country in Africa). I reflected on the fact that a policy adopted by the US and other developed countries enabled ARVs to be present in Uganda. I might not have met this patient nor would I have become a healthcare provider. I chose to work in the sub-urban and rural areas until I left Uganda. I read about George Bernard Shaw's saying about active life. It rings true in my life. "Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself." I owe this to my work among people living with HIV in Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan, Congo, Tanzania and other countries. Whether as a healthcare provider or a trainer. But, I also knew that the policy of providing facilitation by US and other countries made this possible.

Ugandan Flag. Source: Africaspeak
          When I came over here, I stayed in Washington DC next to the Catholic University of America and a National Shrine. I used to take solitary walks and ventured onto trains and buses whose destinations were so new to my ears. I got lost 80% of the time. I sought the help of the transport supervisors and police officers. At first this was with dread. But, all the officers turned out to be friendly and civil. I became street wise and that is when I went window shopping. My alimentary/culinary knowledge  was average then (fortunately). At least I knew my poisons from the meats. I managed to order a la carte or otherwise. But, I mostly fed at home. I later left DC for LA and that added to my troubles at first. The sheer size of the boulevards and the city meant I had more re-learning to do. I had to recalibrate my navigation system. Fortunately, while I was there my host who had been in LA for over 20 years showed me the ropes willingly. In order for me to work on my documentation and schooling, I shifted to Massachusetts. I later had to take a train from Boston to come and live in San Francisco. I still make visits to Boston, LA and other American cities. I enjoy the travel. It broadens and one gets to see the stuff that makes US interesting.
          I have had an opportunity to study at different American education institutes and also trained in an education-to-work 18 weeks program. I have given some of my time to do volunteer services from: serving foods, sorting clothes, community clean up, safety volunteer at different parades to enlisting as a member of different community organizations. I volunteer at a very big hospital. I admire the belief in systems that make one be a more productive member of society. I admire the values and principles at the different work places. I have seen a manager uphold a principle of fairness; I have seen a beneficiary demand equality and opportunity. I have seen what I thought remains in books turn out to be real. It is true that if one applied themselves,  worked harder and played by the rules, one can make it. This is no matter what the circumstances of one's birth. I live in a very nice neighborhood in San Francisco, I have very friendly neighbors, a train and bus comes by my neighborhood, the parks are big and the air is clear. My house overlooks the Pacific Ocean. At night, I am able to see almost the entire bay gelded in sparkles of lamps. I grew up in a Kampala suburb to a father who was the government vehicle inspector until Amin realized he had better people to replace him. Someone tipped off my father that he was to be taken to the notorious State Research Bureau.  He had to leave Uganda for two years during Amin's regime. But, a large family and working mothers saw us through those hard times until it was safe for him to return. He used the two years away from Uganda, to do a Master's degree in Engineering.  For the few years, I have lived here I have no fear of eviction or regimes that will come and point me out because I happen not to be of the clan of a ruling president. I am sure if I apply myself, the country will support me in this project. It is already doing so indeed. I am guaranteed by this country that am safe at home now.
          I chose to skill myself in the public health areas. It is so eye-opening, capacity building and uplifting. I found out a long time ago, I can also be useful as a medical comprehensivist. The US has very good training for such a medical specialty. Eventually, I may become a family medicine practitioner. But, that is in the future. Right now, I have seen how I can contribute however slight to such fields like:mental health care; well mother and child; nutrition; infectious diseases; gerontology; report writing; research to inform policy; medicine; human rights; poetry; Global health; and Computer science. I can be able to say I am at school, at work and I have a home. I have a store where I purchase all the foods that my body requires. I now shop like all other Americans do. Man! I love it. I have eight particular shopping malls I like frequenting.  I do the elliptical and treadmill once a week. I see my primary care provider when necessary. Obama cares! That is the better world I live in now. I have the opportunity to make my life better. Every morning, I wake up and tell myself that I  believe in myself. That I stand up for myself. I now know myself better, I have accepted responsibility to myself. I have also learnt to see this in others. I see a commitment to make a better life. I wake up earlier and see commuting automobiles, through my window, in a long line on a highway leading into San Francisco. I see the same vehicles going out at night and so on for days on end. 
          I see so many cars parked in the yards or parking areas every evening as I return home. Owners are assured that they will turn the ignition on the following morning to go to a destination of choice. The belief that there will be someone waiting to greet one at home, or that there will be a job to go to or a school to attend and that anyone can say prayers in their tongues. The fact that in this country when one believes enough, they can move mountains is what I admire most about the US. I intend to be part of a team that will help find the HIV Cure and that is possible.

Black Lives Matter Is Not Racist

SUMMARY: In this write up, we construct the ways the statement "black lives matter" has been applied in the public domain and how it is a byline as people explore opportunities of mobility.

I was walking down this street, in a city where I had gone to check on a friend who was said to be either missing or hospitalized. My bus was held like many other vehicles in a slow traffic. Ahead of us was a group of people in a parade, they were silent, they were orderly but were waving placards on which were the words: "Black Lives Matter." Earlier on, I had seen these three words on various wall faces. I wondered what to make of this. I also wondered about other events and experiences that prompted such galvanizing statements. History provides us with a long list of such events. Some of which brought wars, genocides, slavery, trafficking and forms of colonization that used codes and laws whose making the colonized never participated in and which codes and laws allowed repatriation of colony resources without contracts of pay back. I come from a culture in Africa that teaches "Obuntu" as a call for people to contribute to their society, engage in practices that promote tolerance and rather than take the path of war, one is encouraged to seek paths that strengthen community togetherness. Obuntu is "seeing dignity in everyone." Else where on the same continent there is a similar philosophy called: "Ubuntu." Note that the first has letter 'o' and the second starts with letter 'U.' Ubuntu is "humanity towards others." black lives matter is “to love and desire freedom and justice for ourselves as a necessary prerequisite for wanting the same for others,” (Alicia Garza).

"Black Lives Matter" are title cased words expressed in quotes.  It is also not uncommon to find those  same words without quotes. These three words are a declaration, statement of belief, a commitment, a rallying call for redress and a message of self determination and an item on the social agenda of US and the entire world.

As a declaration, they have the power to draw attention as well as cast spells of revolutions much as the words "We The People..." or the Seneca Declaration do. Unlike The Declaration of Independence (1776) and The Seneca Falls Declaration Of Sentiments (1848), "Black Lives Matter" may not be followed by the classic prose and structure but it is a sentiment that adds to those declarations.  Black Lives Matter is not racist. It is indeed a declaration whose Philadelphia or Seneca is the heart that questions abuses and wrongs. 

Black Lives Matter is not racist.
 It is indeed a declaration whose Philadelphia or Seneca is the heart that questions abuses and wrongs.

"Orange is the new black" made a box office record sale, it drew masses. Black lives matter draws our attention to what has been taken for granted all along. When an average person hits the streets of any city in America, how likely is it that they will pursue life, enjoy liberty and happiness without interference or being reminded of a criminality of their presence whether real or perceived? Black lives matter calls on all to be responsible to each other. Black lives matter is a yield sign on the thoroughfare called society. The black person or any other person should be aware of other users. It is a practical statement much like the one from the Abrahamic culture that goes: "Do Unto Others What You Want Done Unto You."  Black lives matter is a statement showing that neighborhood tranquility is possible. If the word racist should be replaced by 'voicist' or racism by 'voicism' this is the right time to do it. Black lives matter has ushered in a new term called voicism. Black lives matter is not racist but voicist. A John The Baptist crying out to you and me.

"The phrase “black lives matter” was born in July of 2013, in a Facebook post by Alicia Garza, called “a love letter to black people.” The post was intended as an affirmation for a community distraught over George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting death of seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin, in Sanford, Florida. Garza, is the special-projects director in the Oakland office of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, which represents twenty thousand caregivers and housekeepers, and lobbies for labor legislation on their behalf," (

Alicia Garza, a labor organizer in Oakland. Source: New York Times. 

Black lives matter is a commitment to rule of law and action that addresses racial and gender inequalities. It commits all of us to the civic responsibility towards one another; commonly used utilities; and a fair distribution of social services; and their ensured fair usage and delivery. It calls for conscientiousness and less of destructive tendencies whether we are being monitored or not. Black lives matter commits all of us to respect one another and property. Black lives matter, puts into perspective a caucasian saying: "What is good for the goose, is good for the gander."

Black lives matter is both a revelation and a rallying call for redress such as in the relations between races. It calls for all of us to embrace diversity and not condone abuses. Whether at intra-racial or inter-racial levels. Black lives matter is an operational statement putting Obuntu or Ubuntu into practice. It is another way of saying: "We are in this together." It again calls for redress in the social services sectors from one end of education, employment, through health to the other end of retirement. Black lives matter is a rallying call for redress in the relations between races and law enforcement interactions: consider processes such as being approached, forced to move, cited, searched, property taken, incarceration, probation and parole. Who have the benefit of due diligence and who feel that enforcement is brutal when it comes to them? How can our law enforcement officers continue their worthy services, be seen to be professional, be fair in applying the enforcement, ensure accountability, be seen to be humans and be motivated to keep law and order ? 

Black lives matter is a message of self determination. It rallies all of us to take turns at being responsible citizens and in the process, our expectations should not be abused. Black lives matter is a corrective procedure that brings into focus social issues that our eyes, and therefore our hands (institutions), may have missed as we rush through this Babylon of life. It calls for accommodation or handling issues with an attention to detail and a promise to complete tasks at hand. It enables us to appreciate the diversity of our lives made up of all these ingredients: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, black, indigo, violet and in-betweens. It does not call for special treatment but rather an awareness that society has diverse needs. Black lives matter calls on all of us to correct the structural mechanisms through which any group of people is assumed to deserve relegation. Black lives matter is the equivalent of a passage in Matthew 5:23-26: 23 Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your offering there at the altar and go. First make peace with your brother or sister, and then come and present your offering. 25 Come to terms quickly [at the earliest opportunity] with your opponent at law while you are with him or her on the way [to court], so that your opponent does not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you are thrown into prison. 26 I assure you and most solemnly say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid the last cent."

Lastly…….black lives matter is a message that goes back into the past. It talks to a chief or king or queen in pre-colonial Africa to atone for the blacks he or she allowed to be stolen from a chiefdom or kingdom only to be sold into slavery; it encourages owning this history and ensuring it does not happen ever; it calls for all sides who were involved to stop pretending they were doing it in the name of a Divinity or circumstances; it calls for not explaining away wrongs like poverty; it asks others not to be dismissive;  it calls for end to domestic violence; it stays a raised arm about to batter another person; it encourages children-parent guidance and dialogue; it asks for children to respect their parents; it tells a caregiver not to abuse a senior; it calls for equity; it gives strength to an executive to talk to his employees to embrace black or white or orange, or any shade of the skin; it inventories the wrongs and rights of colonization; it reconciles itself to the million spotlights of class, race, gender and sexuality as social issues, it cautions pejorative designation for blacks, it questions the trade in human beings in the past and presently; it calls for broad plans to empower all communities economically; it calls for political correctness in resource use; it calls for ensuring dignity of females and marginalized communities; it calls for end to conflicts and wars; it brings ethics in medical or biological experiments; it calls for conservation of the environment; it calls for considering the causes of climatic change and necessary redress; it calls for promotion of a science that regenerates soils; it calls for same due diligence to be applied to all who want to travel across borders. Martin Luther King said it resonantly: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." Let us go back to the drawing board. Black lives matter and is an item on the social agenda of US and the entire world.

Facebook CEO brainstorming ground rules with employees on the use of Menlo Park space. Source

Thursday, 10 March 2016


One day, you willed yourself into my mother's body,
like an extremely abusive vigorous husband,
there you stayed impaled and wreaked all form of havoc,
your ejaculation produced many of yourself in my mother,
your unwelcome multifaceted progeny,
wriggled and formed destructive zygotes
you debased the birth temple,
your pregnancy showed,
both inward and outward,
it became the shame, the blame,
like that of an eloped unwed one,
oh! The words that were hurled at my mother,
my mother's back stocked curses and mocks,
oh! How we, her children, became outcasts,
laughter became suspicious,
we walked cautiously by the paths,
like toddlers learning to walk,
our bodies stopped growing,
you stripped my mother of dignity,
you threw my mother down,
a mother who was so loving,
that love remained in our hearts,
it is eternally nourishing us,
you will never win.

On the subject of love!

A very nice coupe gleamed in the light of the morning sun. The green lawn, the rash of winds in the trees as well as a quiet scene only broken by the chirps of birds gave a serene picture of tranquility. I wondered if love is like this. If so, it would be a big word that if left unpacked leads to bumbling attempts at loving by many among the humans.

That very nice car gleaming in the sun, needs a driver and a full tank to be driven around. On that list add, knowledge of driving, understanding of road signs, keeping to one's lane, following a speed limit and an undying desire to be sane and keep sane even while other road users are hooting and raging about a slow traffic.

Love is purposeful; love respects;  love does not ridicule; love looks with a human eye but does not put down others; love is a continuous recreation of events of happiness. Yes, love drains, love is work, love is effort, love is action, love reconciles, love can sit down but in sitting down it rusts. Love is always on the move. Love is both a motivation and an achievement.

A friend of mine who is a doctor of psychology writes and gives talks on motivation. He talks of the seven selves of motivation. These are: autonomy; competence; achievement; identity; integrity; coherence; and potentiality.

This same doctor talks of the six pillars of achievement and these are: purpose; commitment; analytical; persistence; creativity; and accountability.

So, love is both a reflection and caution and like they say: forewarned is forearmed. Approach love with the above action words in mind. As a lover you will remain true to whoever or whatever you truly love.