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The man’s voice boomed out from the tiny TV screen on the shelf above the bar in Kenya where racks of bottles and glasses sat protected behind thick metal bars. His speech was as strong and unyielding as those cold steel bars, the voice resonant, deep, and powerful, like a rich promise of hope.
In the crowd behind the tall, copper-skinned man who was speaking, I could see a bunch of mostly white people—mzungus as we call them in Kenya—smiling and cheering ecstatically, and waving blue placards with the man’s name on them, or red ones emblazoned with the slogan Stand for Change.
This was the voice of a man who in the winter of 2008 had the promise of becoming the next U.S. president. But more than that, perhaps, this was the voice of a man who might truly make history by becoming the first black president of America. But to Kenyans like us, this was first and foremost the voice of a man who was Africa’s lost son, for as far as we were concerned, he was half-Kenyan and hailed from one of the foremost tribes in our country—the Luo.
Unlike every other black Kenyan in that bar, I had a unique and special reason for listening to those words. For the man delivering this extraordinarily rousing speech was my half brother, a brother by blood, but one that I had barely known.
From the wild cheering of the crowd, and his repeated appeals to them personally—“You said… You heard… You called…”—I felt as if the people of America knew this man far better than I, and felt a more personal connection to him, and yet he and I shared the same father. We had lived two separate lives, a world apart, yet in a sense we were joined forever by birth. And that was the strangest thing of all for me; that was both the closeness and the gulf between us.
I glanced around the sparse bar, with its plain and yellowing walls. A bare concrete balcony looked out over the noisy, chaotic streets of the ghetto. Old men and young clustered around the chipped Formica tabletops, gazing at that screen and listening with something like rapture. Not a soul in that bar cared much for Kenyan politics, which seemed forever mired in corruption. But in this man—in their lost African son—Kenyans saw their own promise of hope and change that might somehow shine a light into the dark heart of Africa.
Hope. He used that word a lot, did my big brother in America. Yet for so many years hope had been an alien concept to me. During my darkest, lost years the very concept of hope had been closed to me. It was only relatively recently that I had learned again what it meant to know and to feel the true spirit of hope.
After living a life of relative privilege, I had crashed and burned in my teens, and I had lost all hope. I had migrated from the plush Nairobi suburbs to a life with the city’s street kids, and from there I had been sucked into the wild chaos of the ghetto. I had lost myself in drink and drugs, and I had become a gun-toting gangster, caught in a life of violence and crime.
At the mention of our country the crowd in the bar jumped to its feet, cheering wildly. What would the drinkers think, I wondered, were they to realize that Barack Obama’s half brother sat in their very midst—George Obama, an unremarkable resident of the Huruma slum.
While he was striving to become president of the United States, I was a slum-dwelling ex-prisoner and ex-gangster. And with each day that my big brother’s fame and status grew, I knew deep within myself that my anonymity couldn’t last. In a day, a week, a month, whatever, someone would inevitably make the connection—we shared the same father, but had different mothers—and venture into the closed and dangerous world of the slums to track me down.
Sure enough, the journalists and reporters came into my ghetto homeland in droves. Having my long-lost brother win the American presidency would prove both a blessing and a curse.
Not even he could erase the darkness and the shame in my past. Only I might do that, by helping build for the people of my slum homeland a better and a brighter future. And one step at a time I reckoned we were getting there.
© 2010 George Obama and Damien Lewis
Chapter 1 The Beginning 1
Chapter 2 The Last Son 13
Chapter 3 Our Father 23
Chapter 4 Mudfish Madness 35
Chapter 5 For Jennifer 47
Chapter 6 In the Shadow of Mount Kenya 61
Chapter 7 The Drinking Den 75
Chapter 8 No Second Chance 87
Chapter 9 The Gulf Between Us 99
Chapter 10 Dagoretti High 111
Chapter 11 Crash and Burn 125
Chapter 12 They Call Me the Mamba 135
Chapter 13 In the Ghetto 149
Chapter 14 The Hood 165
Chapter 15 Gangland 175
Chapter 16 Imprisoned 191
Chapter 17 Absolute Zero 205
Chapter 18 Survivor 221
Chapter 19 The Awakening 235
Chapter 20 From the Streets 247
Chapter 21 The Brotherhood 259
Chapter 22 Barack, My Brother 269
Chapter 23 Slaying the Shame 279
Posted February 20, 2010