Remember Joe Black? He Says “Thank You.”


Joe Munuve was that wonder-boy from the slum of Kitui who got expelled from school because he refused to attend church. Then he wrote me an email, hosted him here days later with that unbelievably well written piece. Well, things happened to him after that, great things. He’s back in school now courtesy of someone who read his story here and decided to sponsor him. That person has since begged anonymity. I called Joe up a few days ago (through his headmaster’s cellphone) requesting him to allow him to use the school’s computer to write a note to you, as per his request. This boy is still amazing.

It’s about 7:20 pm and prep’s just started. Nobody’s reading, though. We were at some school for a debating session but from the stories flying about, you’d think we had gone for a jam session. Parents, that’s where your kids go to every Sunday afternoon. The room stinks of hormones and lies. Its open season for imagination. Teenage imagination, the most sensational of them all.

Kevo is telling everyone how he had some girl give him a lap dance. It’s all I can do not to burst out laughing. I was seated behind the guy and his, ummh, what’s the word? Woman of the day. I won’t describe her. Suffice to say that she wouldn’t beat the ‘jamaneni serikali saidia’ lady in a beauty contest.

It was impossible not to eavesdrop on their conversation. The girl is his neighbor at ocha and she was giving him all the details about their miraa plantation. Through out the whole session, they kept on conversing in rapid Meru and when the music came on and Kev tentatively asked her to dance, she started, ‘Aihhh… mimi sinjui kumbanju !’ I had no idea he was being given lap dances in his head.

The rest of them, the ones whose imaginations aint slick are slumped on their lockers, dead asleep. It could be fatigue or they are overfed with chapattis. Yep, we eat chapattis here, and there’s no white porridge in the morning. Fancy that. It’s an ultra modern school with all the facilities that even the staff quarters back at my former school couldn’t dream of. Showers, flash toilets, computers, the works.

Almost everyone comes from Nairobi and you can bet your bottom dollar I didn’t score any points by saying that I was from K-town and laughingly correcting them that the ‘K’ didn’t stand for Kisumu or Kiambu but Kitui. The looks they gave me you’d think I’d said I was from Sarajevo. It didn’t help matters either that besides witchcraft and dog eating, my people have added refusal to take polio vaccine to their list of absurdities.

Had many questions to answer afterward. Some genuine, a few absurd and others outright stupid.” How many days does it take to travel to Nairobi? Do you guys also drink dog milk or do you rear them strictly for meat? I heard that charms and amulets are sold in the market alongside vegetables, is it true? It didn’t end there. During the lessons when there’s mention of FGM or drought, all eyes immediately turn toward me. It was annoying at first but I’ve gotten used to it now.

The guy next to me is singing Chris Brown’s “loyal” and I smile involuntarily. A year ago in a prep like this the song being sung would have been’ kitunguu ni mukangile ‘by Vyusya Ungu or something as demented. Having come from a rural public school where everyone has names like ‘Mbakuli’ and ‘Mulavai’, this place makes a nice change I daresay.

It’s a private school-private spells money. Private cars, private jets, private parts. Most of them are moneyed or rather their parents are. The rich kid syndrome is so heavy in the air you can grasp it.

For the first time in my life, I’m faced with solitude not imposed upon me by choice but situation and I now understand class-consciousness. In my former school, I was some sort of authority when it came to sophistication and stuff. Here, I’m an authority on country life, the ocha kid. Don’t get me wrong, the guys are great and there’s no discrimination but there’s the sense of “un-belonging” and its eating at me.

After I was expelled from my former school, I was on the verge of giving education the finger and finding another key to success

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and I could have, mind you, had it not been for the ‘Meet Joe Black‘ piece that Biko ran on this blog, rather the old one, it jolted me awake. Everyone was telling me to stick my ass in school and them comments made me realize that if I were to send education to hell, it would take me with it. We were tied to each other.

That got me scared and with my tail in between my legs, I went to my former principal and begged him to take me back. His words were clear. He told me in no uncertain terms that he couldn’t admit me even to save himself from piles. Not that I’m that bad, he just stereotyped me after he learned where I lived and embarked on a mission to kick me out. When he got me into the cross hairs, there was no way I could wiggle out.

The only other viable option was joining a day school a stone throw away from home since gramps couldn’t pay the admission fee required to join a boarding school but it also brought with it a host of problems. Since its inception, nobody’s ever got above C+ in that school. It’s in Majengo and to put up a school in Majengo is akin to putting up a church in Mecca. Even if I completed the fourth form and got me the C+, what then? The college fees would still be impossible to pay.

I was in a limbo, stuck in the bog of indecision and hopelessness. I knew I had to complete my studies and go to campus. That was the only ticket out the ghetto, it’s always been. The only question was how. It was a question whose answer I didn’t have. I was in this state of despair when the call came. The one that changed my life. Someone wanted to take me back to school, all expenses paid. They had my story in this very blog and were extending a helping hand.

We all hear of miracles and divine intervention but it takes one to know one. I can’t capture the feeling in words, as I would like to. I was lost for words, like really dumbstruck. It isn’t often that I lack something to say but then there are things I’ve never imagined happening. I didn’t want to believe it but it was true. Someone was giving me a second chance. I cried for the first time since class three. For real, them tears welled up in my eyes and rolled down my cheeks. To date, I don’t think they understand the enormity of the impact that single action had on my life. It was the answer to my one prayer.

Rejunevated, I began school hunting. My discipline record wasn’t all that good and the principal had said as much in the leaving certificate so it wasn’t that easy to get a school. Also, it didn’t make it any easier either that I wanted to join fourth form and most schools had already registered. These, however, were small obstacles and I wasn’t about to let them bar my way. After a frantic search I ended up at Mackenzie Education Centre and that’s where I am as I pen this.

Looking around I realize I have a lot to be thankful for. If there’s one thing I’ve learned is not to take anything for granted. It’s nothing short of a miracle that I’m here. When I wake up at three and find am the only one, I don’t take it as a cue to go back to bed. Rather, I see it as an incentive to wake up earlier and bury myself in books. These other guys have a right to sleep all the way till noon if they wanted to. They earned it. They are here legitimately so to speak. As for me, I’m an intruder, a foreigner and I’ll be damned if I slip into their nonchalance and forget even for a second where I’m coming from.

I have a new outlook toward life. I’m no longer the uncaring bastard out against the world. I used to be loud mouthed, talking down anyone who crossed my path and hating on people who had had life hand them grapes complete with the wine presser. I used to feel like I couldn’t be what I wanted to be because I wasn’t born into it. I’m no longer that angry kid. I’ve learned to be patient and humble; I’ve learned to take life as I come, live it one second at time.

Positivity has begun flowing into my life. My bro, who after finishing the fourth form just lay about, has found himself a sponsor and is now in campus. My other bro is done with drugs and has landed a job in Qatar. It’s all piecing together.

To get to where I am, I’m indebted to a lot of people: God, my sponsor, my family, Bikozulu and lastly to you who’s reading this and even though it hardly covers the depth of my gratitude let me just say it. Thank you.


[Photo credit: Grammarchic]

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  1. Wow! This is the best read ever! God bless u Biko and specifically the Sponsor who gave life to this boy. To Joe Black, never give up and all the best in your endeavors!

  2. It’s to say the least, humbling to read this piece. Circumstances do not make a man. It’s how you react that really determines who you are. This piece voices out that you are a great man in the making. Keep up the positivity and do not let anything stand on your way to greatness… All the best in everything you do!

  3. Oh Joe Black, you’ll go places. Reading this has brought tears to my eyes.. I wish you the best. The potential is there, I can read it between the lines. You’ll make a great scribe, or lawyer, or whatever you choose to do

  4. Joe boy, what a transformation! You just taught me a great lesson..and the way you write, you way ahead of yourself. Good for you. Happy for you n your brothers!

  5. I loved this boy then, love him even more now. This is a moving read. However good or bad a situation is, it’s bound to change. The direction of change is completely up to choice. Baraka Tele!

  6. Ok, good job young man. Keep doing that which you are good at and for sure more respect and honor will meet you in this journey of life. Ahuuu!!

  7. What an Inspiring story ,thank you for sharing. God bless Biko, the sponsor and Joe!!

    Proud to be part of high school…or it’s Uni now?

  8. Joe, you write with a very calm composed tone. You going places kiddo, don’t quit, let it never cross your mind to..Big up!

  9. I shed a tear reading this. The cry baby in me wouldn’t let it go.Your going to do great things Joe Black.

  10. All the best to this boy! His writing is unparalleled given his age… To a level of embarrassment given my age. You are destined for greater things!

  11. Wow! A big thank you and God bless you to the sponsor. You have changed the world. To you, Joe Black, not even the sky is your limit!

  12. Great read,so happy for you Joe. Bury yourself deep in those books boy,it pays off eventually.

  13. Yes Joe the black! the best of them magnificent days are visible now but never forget where it all began-you owe that to yourself, your sponsor, and the gang- we reading your life as much as the blog!

  14. Whatever you believe in Joe, pursue it to it’s highest canyons irrespective of stereotypes! It’s amazing how you inject humour in such an emotional piece of mastery. To the sponsor, Abundant Life!

  15. Despite the circumstances i bet you’re the first guest writer to make a reappearance on this blog,so congratulations….Your new outlook toward life is also reflected in your writing,you have toned down your diatribes.

  16. Thats so good to hear…i was expecting a funny update about your mum
    who “had moved to the coast” if i remember the other post well.
    your story,its amazing how a tiny change in the angle of the golf swing
    can have such a huge result in the right direction.You even curse less.
    You are going places bro.
    And thank you Biko for what you did for Joe Black.

  17. Wow! Joe, I hope the headmaster allows you to use his computer more often! I’m waiting to read from you again….in this blog or another…wherever. Keep holding it up.

  18. …i can feel the wind changing in munuve’s life, i know how it feels when someones ‘small’ action changes an entire persons life environment, its like the theoretical butterfly effect, the phenomenon whereby a minute localized change in a complex system can have large effects … my advice, make hay while the sun shines

  19. Joe,I can feel the change in attitude and outlook.You sure are headed in the right direction.To the anonymous sponsor,may your cup always be full.You are a true reminder that we need to take action to make things better rather than sit with the “Tunaomba serikali Mentality”

  20. I can feel you are going places Joe Black. keep on writing irrespective of which path you choose. Many thanks to the sponsor and to Biko too for extending his hand to you when you were down

  21. You’re such an awesome writer! Hope you take it up seriously when you’re done with school 🙂 Ion, all the best in your final year, and never lose this spirit that you’ve got. It ill take you to places you never knew you could go.

  22. Tell them brother..A diamond in a rough right there.Standing ovation even though im sitted.say hi to Mr.Mackenzie my former Principal…

  23. Biko, if you ever wake up and feel like your work doesn’t add up to anything-as we all do every once in a while- read this post. It’s reason enough to keep being awesome. Oh so happy for the young man. God bless Mr. Sponsor guy.

  24. Biko, if only I could get you a date with Toni Braxton, thank you for giving this gem a platform to shine. Thank you Mr. sponsor for changing this young man’s life.

  25. It is cases like these that convince me that there are still good kind people out here,Joe take this opportunity and be the best that you can be.And never forget where you came from.

  26. so glad you are back in school. such talent in writing. you are one of my favorite guest writters…am so stealing the” stinks of hormones and lies” quote. hilarious!!

  27. Isn’t this just the best thing to ever happen to someone’s life?????? May God richly bless the sponsors of this family and Biko for sharing Joe to us.

    To Joe….indeed “Kitunguu ni mukangile” – that cracked me up. Life is what you make it. Lay your bed and enjoy it later. ALL THE BEST!

  28. so wonderful to know that Joe got a sponsor….i really like the positivity flowing through him. Keep up the good work Joe… May God bless you Biko and the sponsor too!!!!

  29. Joe Black, Congratulations… and that’s a great pen name.Seem like some teacher really gave you the basics on creative writing.However, your natural talent just pops out.Keep it up.Yes, bad circumstances shouldn’t tie you down.Waiting to read from you soon.Biko, host him more and get a media house to have him as in intern.Sponsor, be blessed.

  30. Its determination like that, determination you can grasp ….. that gives me hope for my countrymen. Go get ’em Joe.

  31. Well written piece, I dare say…. “I have a new outlook toward life. I’m no longer the uncaring bastard out against the world. I used to be loud mouthed, talking down anyone who crossed my path and hating on people who had had life hand them grapes complete with the wine presser.”… . Kudos, Kudos!!

  32. Well written piece, I dare say…. “I have a new outlook toward life. I’m no longer the uncaring bastard out against the world. I used to be loud mouthed, talking down anyone who crossed my path and hating on people who had had life hand them grapes complete with the wine presser.”… . Kudos, Kudos!!

  33. such a Masterpiece Joe black..And that school..mackenzie educational center i know it very well.thumbs up the sponsor and biko

  34. good story. Thank you for posting, I have been complaining about the inability for most Kenyan’s to write in English..Joe Black, this piece tells me there is hope.

  35. Joe Black!!!
    So nice to read from you again. May God direct your every path. I am glad you saw the light. Don’t ever give up!

  36. This is a fantastic piece .Definitely talent to take over from the old guards of writing . Very fresh , insightful, and honest . I believe this piece made many of us re- evaluate our lives and know that we have a lot to be thankful for

  37. Stories like this make me believe that ‘kweli Mungu yuko’ 🙂 Go you Joe Black! Thank you Biko & Sponsor

  38. Wooow Joe Black! I am so happy for you and may God continue to shine his light on your path. You are going places kid
    To the sponsor and Biko, may God bless you!

  39. Joe Black,I feel your story.Look,someone sponsored me too.To them rich college.So waking up at three and finding myself alone in the hall to study was daily routine.I didn’t give in to them rich kids indifference to education.I was in that college on borrowed ticket.To echo you,they had earned it,I hadn’t.Study little brother like your life depends on it…well it does.

    It’s like I’m reading the story of my life in this write up.And your writing skills are in one word,Galvanizing.

    I made my sponsor proud,I made myself proud,I made God ( I hope so Dear God ) proud of me.

    All the best kid brother.I am out of the ghetto through books.I’m working my behind out to take my siblings out too.I hope to God I’ll manage.

    Have you ever felt an urge to talk to someone?yes.that’s me talking to you Joe.

    There’s a beautiful grassland beyond this mountain.I won’t promise you I have made it in life but heck,I’m trying Joe.I am.

    To the anonymous sponsor,you don’t have an idea what you’ve planted in this awesome soul.You’ve redeemed yourself of your sins ha ha. Lighten up!Joe,Other numerous sponsored kids and myself are grateful to you and your big ,enormous heart! 🙂 🙂

    Another Sponsored Kid