I am a Maasai and am proud of it. I am proud of my culture and heritage. I am proud of my stupidity, chauvinism and pride. I am proud of my illiteracy, my low level of thought and my lowly life. It is with all this that you identify me as more of wildlife rather than a human being. It is with all this that you erect your poisonous fences that hinder my development. It is through all this said upon me that your children grow with the mentality that I am stupid. These demeaning quotes are meant to put me down but as a strong boulder I stand. I am compared to cows and manyattas. I am compared to the forest and wildlife. I am labeled as low thinking and backward in development, but quick questionL, Why am I the biggest brand? Why do you feel proud and unique in my attire while you speak ill of me? Don’t you represent me in wearing my attire? Someone called themselves urban so that they can call me rural. Someone called themselves developed so that the name undeveloped fell on me. Someone, just a random person decided to call themselves literate so that the name illiterate was stamped on me. Upon saying my tribe, you exclaim in bewilderment and immediately I become natural scenery or a rare gem. We have no pronouns; we are regarded as “hizi” and “zile”. We have lost track of time, electricity and roads cannot be developed in our homestead. You enslave us, our warriors dance for the tourists and what do they get? Less than 2% of what the tourists pay. Our old mothers sew amazing beads and their conditions are deplorable. Our homesteads are tourist attractions and MOST of all, How many organizations pilfer funds in the name of saving us? How many NGOs are just but corrupt groups with the name of helping our community. Yes, am a Maasai. I went to the city but I did not change my identity or name, I am from a poor Maasai extended family. Some are well up, some are extremely poor and some are drug addicts but all in all I gladly recognize them as my brothers. Despite all that is said on me, I choose to love. I am the most peaceful community, I choose to respect those who don’t respect me. I choose to love those who say ill of me. I choose to escape the poisonous fences and stick to my culture. If we wore shukas, I preserve that, if we kept domestic animals, I still preserve that. I have decided to shun away from violence and hate speech. Respect any Maasai you see. Treat them as people. Show them love and care just as you would show a brother because that is exactly what they do to you and because you have no idea what it feels to be seen as a lowly being in the society. I am and will always be, a proud Maasai and also proud of my people. No matter he or she is a janitor, a watchman, a butcherman or a herdsman. God placed me there. I am a Maasai and it is our time to be proud of ourselves"
By Saitoti Kaloi, Kenya In-Country Partner with Emayanata