My name is Brian O. Koyoo. The O in my name stands for Okinyi which means my first breath was taken early one morning. Despite the O in my name, my mother didn’t go into labour in a boat while fishing in the muddy waters of Lake Victoria. I need a translator when talking to my octogenarian grandmother due to the fact that it takes me forever to translate sentences into my ‘native’ language. I do not plan on marrying multiple women like my ‘ancestors’ or to inherit my brother’s widow. I can tell the difference between ‘ s’ and ‘sh’.
Despite this I am luo. Born into a culture that I appreciate with all its short comings and eccentricities. In some aspects I’m told I am the quintessential luo with my knack for grammatical flourish and an ego to match. My ID points out that I was born in the heart of Nairobi’s Dagoretti Division which I’m told means I have forsaken my lineage. My ID should apparently point out where I come from. Since my father was born in Kasipul Kabondo I am from there despite the fact that I have been bred in the alleys of Eastlands and haven’t been there since his death.
My friends bridge political, social and economic divides. The only thing they have in common is most of them are smart people. Individuals who are able to think for themselves. This would be the generation that would free us from the shackles that our parents placed on us. Never once was I told not to play with that kid or the other because of their ethnic heritage. In fact my dating history has shown an affinity to resist the familiar. Looking around though, I see this promise dying. The dream is being betrayed.
This is not about politics. I do not wake up to have breakfast with the Prime Minister or have a game of tennis with James Orengo during the weekends. Believe it or not, Dennis Oliech isn’t my friend on facebook and I am not in any way related to Barrack Obama. Don’t get me wrong, being luo brings me ridiculous joy especially when I’m trying to piece together sentences to figure out if my mum is dissing me. When I speak I do so as an individual. A luo yes. But a very specific and particular luo. This isn’t an apology for my heritage.
So this goes out to the members of my generation. If this time around you are still blinded by the myopic views of the old guard then this is your wake up call. I am luo. Not better than you. And by no means inferior. So let’s get past this. My point? My arguments and opinions are not informed by some deep rooted need to have luos rule the world. Pinky promise. So now can we move past this and replace every single bit that says luo with Kenyan? It’s not going to change any time soon.