I have been blessed to have spent time with Professor Maathai on several occassions in my life. As I share in my reflections, I feel my heart race as joyful memories of her graceous presence, her life-changing smile, and her wisest of words vetted by her actions to remain 'Unbowed' and to live in 'Uhuru'.
Today, the world lost a friend, for Wangari was a friend to all. And a friend especially to me. And I know just how blessed I have been for the time I shared with her. Time I have always treasured. Time that I will carry with me forever.
Several years ago I reviewed 'Unbowed', Wangari's autobiography. I am sharing this below, as it says everything I can possibly say. And as many of my friends know, for many years I have suggested to everyone to read 'Unbowed'. In her lessons, you will change your life.
Without question, Wangari changed mine. "Uhuru!"
A TRIBUTE TO WANGARI
Unbowed by Wangari Maathai
Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai is truly one of the most important voices of our time. This dynamic and indefatigable Kikuyu woman of Kenya has illuminated rays of light through the dark clouds of Kenya, and so Africa.
Standing in the face of oppression and unbearable adversity she faced when Kenya was not a land of freedom, but a state of oppression and discord, it was Wangari's resilient voice, her never-ending effort to stand strong in the winds of injustice, and her ceaseless love of mankind that has in many ways begun the great changes toward democracy and freedom for all individuals not just in Kenya, but in Africa.
As the Cold War has, as Professor Maathai clearly and carefully points out, changed the dynamics of government in Africa, the reader becomes aware, in a different way than what is typically presented in the press, of the many issues involved with the challenges that the world faces through the daily experiences of those who seek `Freedom'.
Clearly, as the world becomes closer and more connected, the issues that continue in Africa are critical issues that we, as a progressive society, must not simply acknowledge, but do something about. Acting on what is right . . . standing up for your beliefs . . . standing down oppression and hatred . . . and nurturing Mother Earth as she continues to nurture and provide for all, are themes this visionary African woman - who is the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize - shares with the world in her brilliantly written life story. Readers across the world - men and women of all colors and creeds and beliefs will tap into the determination of this extraordinary activist who has taught so many about how love of each other can grow through respecting and nurturing the land we live on.
But there is so much more to `Unbowed': Uhuru Park - Freedom Park - is more than a rolling green field in the middle of busy Nairobi, it is more than a starting point for this wonderful woman's love affair with the world, and it is so much more than a gathering point where the notion of planting trees . . . the seeds of The Green Belt Movement occurred.
As Professor Maathai has shown through her own life, `Uhuru' is not Free! `Unbowed' is the story of a magnificent and courageous leader who stood up for the oppressed, including the woman of Kenya, and provided hope for better tomorrows by demonstrating that if a person possesses a will to make change, change can and will occur.
`Unbowed' is a most remarkable memoir . . . and Professor Wangari Maathai is an ingenious woman of dignity the world continues to learn from. Listen: no matter where you are from, this book will positively change your life.