The unexpected scope of this cultural and artistic exchange hits me with waves of feelings that are so intense that I hear myself exhaling loudly. I pause and breathe because the enormity shatters my ability to breathe rationally. This week has made it difficult for me to breathe.
This exchange between Kenyatta University and the University of Cincinnati, between students in two programs from two countries on two continents with similar aims and missions is resonating beyond the shores of my imagination. I hear and feel the whispers of support from a world made nasty.
I hear from my family and my relatives and friends, strong support shining from the sturdy shores of Lake Erie, in Buffalo, New York. I hear from former students; my 29 years of teaching means that I hear from students from Williamsville East High School in Buffalo, and from three decades of students from the College-Conservatory of Music, from CCM. I hear from Kenyan students, from those who gave me purpose in Harambee Hall at Kenyatta University. I hear from unexpected places, and feel support from those I never suspected knew of this venture. Buckeyes, peanut butter and chocolate confections specific to Ohio, are driven from New Jersey as a gift to our guests by a former student’s father. An alumnus from 1999 appears this morning while we wait for the elevator from the parking garage and gets his photo taken with the Kenyans and the Dean of the College a few minutes later. Everyone wants to meet the Kenyans. I have created a celebrity culture for them, and I am proud to share them with everyone. I want everyone to know that this happened. This is real.
See? Do you really see this?
I hope my hope is valid. I hear myself saying “five years from now”, and “ten years from now’ when speaking with Christine, Austin, Eric, Muriithi, Jean, and Babu, willing the future to give these artists and this exchange ripples of unknown meaning. I have challenged my Kenyan students to do the same for me in their futures-to-be; I want them to be so successful and so happy and so appreciated that their artistic lives have import, have meaning, and they will fly me from America to Kenya so that I can be at the premieres of their next great project. Ten years from now.
I hope they are always this happy.