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Blogs We Are Reading – Meet Kakenya Ntaiya & Social Justice: Not Just Another Term for “Diversity”

By Zamyia Tarrant, Resident Teacher

The blog Social Justice: Not Just Another Term for “Diversity” by Paul C. Gorski; from the website, the ACPA Commission for Social Justice Education, is an enlightening article about the opinions and thoughts of Paul C. Gorski on language and action connected to the social justice movement. In particular, the terms diversity and multiculturalism used to hold value and meaning that went hand in hand with the actions that spoke truth to what those words represented within the social justice work. Paul C. Gorski is an educator, activist, creative writer, and scholar whose life’s work is about social justice. In agreeing with Paul, there seems to be a double edge sword in regards to the advancement of awareness and acknowledgement of the social justice movement in the 21st century. More of our society recognizes that systems of oppression and injustice need to change. However, the other side to that coin lies within capitalizing on the same movement that is trying to deflect the institutionalization of diversity and social justice causes. In agreeing with Paul, I see more and more higher institutions selling car stickers and merchandise that represents the social justice movement and yet I see no real cause and effect from the sells themselves. Such as, donating part of the proceedings to creating programs within schools that are immersive within the social justice cause. Or partnerships with local businesses with educational institutions to create a coalition of active participants. 

Language can be translucent, one word can hold different meanings at different times. Paul has recognized that and has witnessed the words “diversity”, “inclusion” and “equality” appropriated systematically within institutions, as he says “sprinkle them with glitter and feign the appearance of institutional change, the same way so many people use Safe Space stickers.” I believe there needs to be more done than just buying for the cause. That can be a good start and then the continuation of becoming aware and recognizing the changes that need to be accomplished through actual action. I see signs, posters, and t-shirts that recognize the change that needs to happen but then where does it go from there? Lastly, Paul concludes with a self-reflection on how he, as an active contributor for social change, can continue to raise awareness and at the same time, back those same objections with actions that reflect on the belief of making an actual change within the social justice movement. I myself, am beginning my journey for social change that first recognizes the work that needs to be done and finding the courage to make my convictions into reality. 

After reading the blog; “Meet Kakenya Ntaiya, who worked with her elders to found a school for girls in her Maasai village” written by Kate Torgovnick May from TEDtalks, had me thinking about how our world is constantly changing and evolving to express new ways of being while at the same time challenging the status quo. The blog focuses on a woman from Kenya named Kakenya Ntaiya who challenged the status quo within her village about the traditional roles for women. Such as get married and have children before the age of 12.  Instead, she had a dream to become a teacher and open a school in her village for other girls to have the opportunity to continue their education and see where their interests take them. However, before Kakenya could continue her education in a college in America, she still had to go through the traditional ceremony of womanhood in her village. It was a painful procedure that had her heal for several weeks, and afterwards, she was able to attend Randolph Macon College in America. After attending graduate school, Kakenya had the opportunity to open her own school in her village named The Kakenya School of Excellence. Where girls from the village could attend and gain a good education for their future.  

In the schooling realm there are a lot of different avenues to get an education, however there is not enough access to that education. Especially, within the specific context of cultures and regions around the world. This blog featured a region within Africa that has limited access to education and even more so within the female population. In Africa, women have a considerable amount of responsibility that they have to uphold, otherwise there would be serious consequences and or disgrace. Education is then pushed away to the side and girls become women at a fast pace. For Kakenya to open a school within her Maasai village shows how powerful her belief is about the importance of education is for everyone, including girls. Education has the power to change lives and even change ideas within traditional cultures. Passions can fuel change and progress and Kakenya showed that to be true.