January 18th, 2009 | Uncategorized

Kenyan heritage

By Jessica Letchford

NEW HAVEN, 11:50 p.m. — With all of the excitement and patriotism surrounding the inauguration events in the U.S., it’s easy to forget about the rest of the world. But, in fact, the events leading up to and concluding in the inauguration of America’s first black president have a significant impact not only on Americans, but on everyone else too.

This is particularly true for Kenyans, given Obama’s heritage. After spending three weeks in Kenya over winter break, I can say firsthand that Kenya is extremely proud and excited about Obama’s victory. T-shirts, kangas (pieces of printed cloth used as skirts), and countless other trinkets with Obama’s face on them are everywhere.If the souvenirs aren’t enough, the creation of a government holiday on November 6, two days after Obama won, definitely expresses Kenya’s enthusiasm for Obama.  But some Kenyans, including Murefu Barasa FES ’09, one of about a dozen Kenyan graduate students here at Yale, view Obama’s victory and its implications for Kenya more pragmatically.

After attending the HBO “We are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial” concert in DC tonight, which featured performances by Beyonce, Bon Jovi, John Legend, U2, Usher, and others, Barasa was reminded of the stark contrast between American and Kenyan politics.

“This whole experience, from the primaries to election night and now this, leaves me with mixed feelings,” Barasa wrote in an e-mail message. “On the one hand it is inspiring – a reminder that no distance is too great; while on the other, sobering  - a realization of how far we have to walk as Kenyans to get our national act together.”

In the fall of 2007, when statistics were last available, there were 12 Kenyan undergraduates and 13 gradate students at Yale.