Think of the single worst story from your life—a moment, an event, a time period when you had a lapse of judgment. Think of a season of your life when you felt like a shadow of yourself. Think of a weakness, flaw, or insecurity. Now imagine being defined by that one single story. Imagine other people interacting with you, talking to you, and perceiving your completeness based on the nature of that single story.
I can think of my own moments of weakness, seasons of insecurity, and times when my actions were not based in my truth. While they are part my story, part of the completeness of me, they do not define the sum of my parts.
“The single story creates stereotypes and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story... It is impossible to properly engage with a place or a person without engaging with all of the stories of that place and that person. The consequence of the single story is this: it robs people of their dignity.” –Chimanda Ngozio Adichie
Pause now and re-read the quote, please.
What a gift and a lesson for all of us—a lesson of humility, of grace, of building relationships, and of understanding the completeness of people and of culture. This quote is pulled from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk on the danger of a single story. In the talk, she explains how stereotypes and a “single story” prevent us from fully understanding other people and cultures.
My dear friend Selam Adugna sent me the link to this TED talk. Selam is a gender and education activist from Ethiopia. Belmont was graced by her presence and her story during the International Day of the Girl campaign last October. We have talked a few times since I received funding for my trip to Kenya. She has been helping me “balance the story” of Africa and of East Africa specifically. She is right in that the media shapes our view and perspective of life in other parts of the world. After checking CNN’s website’s Africa page and reading Kenya’s daily news everyday for the past six months, it is easy to be consumed in the terror of the world. However, the story unrest and poverty is not the single story of Kenya or of Africa.
As my life cannot be represented by a single story, as your life cannot be represented by a single story, Kenya certainly cannot be understood properly without exploring its many stories. I leave for Muhuru Bay exactly one week from today. My greatest hope is to share the many stories of Muhuru Bay, Kenya—in hopes of “balancing the story” of this community. My greatest hope is to properly engage with this country and with its culture. My greatest hope is to learn.