When the Movement Breaks You…or does it?

Why am I posting this?

The last many months have been spent planning a conference. The conference happened. It ended. And I am finally at home. Currently watching the new episode of Sense8 sat with my husband and one of my best friends. But this is not a post about rest. It is not one about accomplishing a feat the likes of which none of us expected. It is not one about a team of 10 individuals with a lot of support from other people managed to pull off a 350 person LGBTI conference in Botswana. The biggest LGBTI conference in African history. One that was marred with threats of cancellation less than a week before the start of it. One that had an incredible amount of logistical issues due to delayed planning on our part. But a conference that happened nonetheless.

When I say that the conference was marred with threats of cancellation less than a week before the start of it, I mean that while some people were in the air on their way to Gaborone, some were planning on cancelling the event and having it moved to Kenya. While others were waiting on their flights to Botswana in Johannesburg, others were contemplating how to deal with donor funds already expended in order not to have the conference happen. But we did eventually have the Botswana government grant quite a large number of visas that were originally not expected to be granted.

When I talk of logistical issues, I am talking about the SA Express fleet being grounded and 19 people showing up to a hotel and not having a room to sleep because the hotel decided to sell the already booked rooms. This after spending hours on end traveling, exhausted, hungry and not having a place to lay their head. I am talking about strangers being told that they have to share one bed, this after being told that they will choose who to share a room with. A ROOM. I am talking about people standing in the cold without food because we did not plan for the numbers that showed up to the conference.

ALL these issues were eventually resolved.

I feel the need to say this. Not because someone is telling me to do this, but because I want to show this movement for what it is. I need to say that this movement has broken me. It has broken us. It has brought out in us the worst attributes that human beings possess. It has led us to believe that power is more important than the lived realities of the people we work for. It has led us to shun others just because they are not in the same “class” we perceive ourselves to be. It has led us not to care about the young gay man living in a slum in Accra (where incidentally the next conference is going to take place) and think about how much travel we are going to make in the next two years. It has led us not to think about the violations of the lesbian in Kibera, Nairobi (where incidentally the conference was going to be moved to) and focus on just how much influence do I have in the community.

But the conference happened.

And people loved it.

Others hated it.

Some felt that it should have been organized better. I agree. I should have been a lot more organized in making it happen.

Others felt that we should have had a better program. I agree. The Botswana government should have given us visas.

And even others felt that we should have had more people organizing the conference. I agree. Those of us who actually were working on the conference will also agree. We had very few hands.

But here is my point:

The movement breaks you.

I can remember a time when I woke up in the morning and had nothing to eat. I went to work and slaved away. I then had no lunch. I then slaved some more and at the end of the day I had no meal…well…a glass of borrowed milk and a slice of bread. That time was when I had nothing when everyone thought I had everything. That time was when I was working nights to feed my family and in school during the day to survive. And when one of us went through an incredibly invasive surgery just to fly to Botswana a few days later to look at the venue.

That is how my 31st May to 4th June were for me. That is how 31st May to 4th June was for most of my colleagues. That is when the movement breaks you. It is when you feel like you don’t want to belong to a community that you really want to work for. Not because it is paying your electricity bill, but because you are a part of the community. You are part of the change you want to see in it. You are it.

The movement breaks us. And it is painful. It hurts. It feels like you are the neglected step child. It feels like shit. But we keep trudging on. Because it is not about us. It is not about our inflamed egos. It is not about our need to feel or appear important to our communities. It is about the lives of people. PEOPLE. Individuals. Living, breathing, loving, feeling beings. It is about people. And that, THAT is what keeps me going. And I know for certain that that is what keeps my team going.

But when the movement breaks you…

You don’t want to live in it any more…

Anthony Oluoch

I am a lawyer, a brother, a son, a friend, a neighbor, a confidant, a student of life and I am Kenyan. Became a human rights activist so suddenly sometimes I ask myself if this really is something I wanted. But I have come to embrace it. I have come to realize that I like what I do. That on some level, what I do makes life easier for someone and hopefully, eventually, for myself…Probably the best way to describe me is in the words of Winston Churchill, I am a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

2 thoughts on “When the Movement Breaks You…or does it?

  • June 11, 2018 at 11:37 am

    The movement swallowed me then spit me and tried to swallow me again. I don’t remember how many times my flight tickets were cancelled, visas revoked, hotel accommodation and transport cancelled leaving me in debts yet expected me to deliver. We are in crisis where beneficiaries end up finding donors in the name of sustainability. This kind of exploitation is why we have lost human resources. As for the rest, rest because human rights defenders don’t get to have leave or holidays. While you are busy trying to change the world you forgetting that you also need to grow with the change.


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