For Pio II

To Pio

From an observer

Early 1965

The day will seem a normal one. Your baby will be in the backseat, you in the front, and your murderer(s) will be somewhere near you.  

I do not know what they will be thinking in the seconds before you get in the car and move towards your main gate. I do not know. Will they be wondering if the shot will be precise? Will they be wondering if they are doing the right thing? Will their minds be blank, silent, soundless? Will their minds be buzzing with activity they cannot quite describe, pin down? Will all sound maybe cease in the seconds before the act, and will it resume in the seconds after? Will there be something very mundane said, just before you die? Will someone be asking about the price of sukuma wiki, or will another be looking for milk, bread? What will stop when you die, Pio? What will stop?

There will be twenty three witnesses, when they are trying to figure out what happened to you – but will there be truth? Is there ever truth, Pio? Do you know where we are to go to meet, greet, touch it?

Those conversations you had with Malcolm X, Pio. Do you feel the greatness of living in a time when words carry warfare, when words carry welfare, when words carry peace in a way that they rarely ever do, rarely ever will? Do you feel the greatness of living in a time when your thoughts, articulated, change the course of nations, change the story of a people, hold injustice by its neck and in a calm, measured way, let it know that no more of it will be accepted?

When a person’s words scare another so much, when a person’s words ring in another’s ear so much that this other person seeks the silence of a life, one must lean closer to see what words, exactly, were not to be heard. One must lean closer to see where the tale hangs.

In days when we let the ruler be god, I was happy to hear that you shouted at one of these in the corridors of Parliament. I smiled at the taste of your audacity.

You show me how important it is to speak, Pio. Gandhi spoke, and you heard. You spoke, and I am trying to hear. Sometimes one’s speech is necessary for another’s freedom, or even only another’s thought. I hope that we may know when to speak.

When I think of Kiburi House, a building that sits unpretentious on Kirinyaga Road, the first building bought by our people, and what you will have said in there, what others will have said in there, I look up in admiration at the spaces we have to gather in, the spaces in which we can think. Kiburi House will carry our pride, our defiance. I can hear the buzz of the labour movements and the discussions of the Kenya African Union, smell the food people eat in there, the nyama choma that will carry us into our tomorrows, and I am in awe.

From an observer to you, Sir, rest well. 

Rest well in your last, because, Pio, you have spoken.

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