A Letter To The Hummingbird We Can All Learn From
“A tree has roots in the soil yet reaches to the sky. It tells us that in order to aspire we need to be grounded and that no matter how high we go it is from our roots that we draw sustenance. It is a reminder to all of us who have had success that we cannot forget where we came from. It signifies that no matter how powerful we become in government or how many awards we receive, our power and strength and our ability to reach our goals depend on the people, those whose work remain unseen, who are the soil out of which we grow, the shoulders on which we stand” ― Wangari Maathai
In a perfect world the beauty of the environment would shine true. The deep green leaves would sway against the rugged bark of the trees. The winds would whisper mad with passion. You gave us this glimpse of beauty. As time has progressed, I’ve began to see the world in a new light, with roots. Every map you find the waters dance along the page like the deep roots beneath a trees soil. In a way the world is run by roots, roots so deep seeded that sometimes we can’t even find them.
I found it captivating that someone could find beauty and restoration in a world I grew to hate. Knowing your truth gave me hope that maybe someday the people of my home country could see the potential this world has with just a dash of hard work. So, many people have become engrossed with social media, romance, irrelevant societal issues, and sadly themselves.
Since you’ve been gone so many environmental tragedies have scattered this Earth. A poisonous monster called global warming still creeps inside the crevices of this world. Australia’s forest went aflame leaving many animals dead or without shelter. Antartica has neared a roaring temperature of 70 degrees. Even more plastic riddles the sea and leaves its beautiful creatures in a debilitating state. Deforestation continues to fester. To make it short and sweet the world is burned by madness.
I remember when I began to read about your personal life. I watched your documentary Taking Root as well. I learned so much about you. You grew up in such a different manner than I had. You seemed so strong. You went to the stream to get water for your mother and I had only a few steps to trudge down that led to a sink that I had definitely taken for granted. From such a young age your innocence showed your ability to find beauty through nature. You dug deep into the stream and tried to make the frog eggs your jewels. It made me chuckle but your innocence introduced you to the nature you would later vow to save. It sparked a light in you that birthed such a powerful movement.
Your life growing up turned you into one of the most powerful women I know. It was wonderful to learn that though you received no education until age eight you were the first Eastern African American woman to receive a PhD from, the University College of Nairobi which pushed you to have a strong role in the ecofeminist movement.
Apart from your studies in Africa you’ve had a vast education stretching from the University of Nairobi to the Benedictine College in Kansas with many different schools in addition to these. These schools taught you things that pushed you to become the first woman to receive the Nobel Peace prize in 2011.
You took your vast education and birthed the Green Belt Movement. Never in a million years did I think anyone could give life to this world in the way that you have. The Green Belt Movement started with you but turned into a comprehensive execution fixating on development of the community, environmental protection, and so much more. The trees did much more than give life and resources to this world. They acted as a vantage point to defeat poverty, embrace justice for the lifeless soil, and birth independence in so many women who were taught to blindly obey. This movement changed so many things.
In your time as founder of GBM over 50 million trees were planted because of your amazing determination to make this world something different. You gave women the chance to better themselves by training well over 30,000 of them in bee-keeping, forestry, and many other trades that not only benefited their land but in turn their spirit. Your dedication to this movement was absolutely breathtaking. I can’t name one living soul that I look up to more.
You along with the women you taught to love this Earth challenged deforestation as well as soil erosion. These women who felt they had so much to do as wives and mothers learned of their independence while they helped to protect the forest.
The persecution you faced shattered my heart. Not only had Kenyan officials attacked your movement, throwing you behind bars but your very own husband divorced you for your self-sufficient efforts. It killed me to know that while other people tried to silence you, the father of your children essentially joined forces with them.
The very reason I aim to be like you is the mere fact that no matter what it took or who walked away you always maintained what you believed in. Your husband had you jailed for six months simply because you would not let him control you. Though this would have broken the strongest person you persevered and continued to do beautiful work for women, men, and trees a like.
Though many threatened you with assassination not a single one succeeded. You lived a beautiful, fulfilling, and imperative life. Unfortunately, on September, 25, 2011 Ovarian cancer stole you from the world. Many trees were planted in your memory and many people have sought to keep your legacy alive. The Green Belt Movement is still in full affect and I am proud to announce that I, myself will be planting a tree this summer.
While your body is no longer entangled in this Earth, you have made extraordinary progress. I am happy to spread the beauty of your legacy. I am a hummingbird that will forever dance along the branches of your tree. You have given me hope.
Please take some time to look at the Green Belt Movement's website. There are loads of information and resources that will for sure leave you with some thoughtful questions. Rest beautifully Wangari. Let's keep her legacy alive!