from sweeney to kibera

Nijalon met Daniel roughly five minutes after we stepped off the bus at Langata High School our first day in Nairobi. It took approximately 3.5 seconds before these two boys realized they just met their international counterpart.

A bit of a backstory: Daniel is one of the kids in the video Candice made for her students at Reagan High. In this video, Daniel says, "please...come to Kibera. We love you." Essentially, he is one of the biggest catalysts in us even being in Kenya this summer. So it wasn't surprising when we got to the high school, Ni'd immediately went on a mission to find one of the kids who sent them a message.

He spotted Daniel right off the bat.

I heard some noise and noticed a group of students gathered in a circle. I walked over to see what was going on and found Daniel & Ni'd taking turns freestyling with the other students providing the beats. There was an instantaneous bond between these two - Daniel quickly taking on the nickname of "Young Ni'd" (he even painted this on the back of his shirt).

Over the next couple of days, their connection strengthened. You couldn't find one without the other.

And then the plot thickened.

Across the street, there just happened to be a recording studio. And during the week we were at Langata, there just happened to be an opening for Daniel and Ni'd to record a track they were working on together.

So they went. They recorded a track. In Kenya.

Some of the leaders and I happened to be walking around the day they were recording. We knew they were at the studio - but we didn't know where it was - we weren't even looking for it. But as we were walking around, we happened to hear some music...and what sounded like Nijalon & Daniel's voices. Following our ears, we found them finishing up the track. Candice asked if we would be able to listen to it, and Ni'd responded, "yeah. If you don't cry."


The studio manager hit play and the music started. Immediately chills coursed down my arms - it seemed as though the significance of this moment wasn't lost on my emotions. Both Ni'd and Daniel moved to the beat - mouthing the words as they smiled with pride at their creativity. I twisted my lip and fought back tears.

It didn't last long, though.

There's a line in the song where Nijalon says, "from ATX to Kenya, Sweeney to Kibera." As soon as I heard this hook, I lost it. The weight of these words instantly hit me and I had to walk outside in order to get myself under control.

Sweeney Circle is where Nijalon lives. Or as he likes to call it, "the 2-3." He owns this. And this line didn't hit me because I thought Ni'd would never make it to Kibera (even though he got his passport in the mail two days before we left). This line didn't hit me because of the similarities between Sweeney & Kibera.

What hit me was the absolute sovereignty of God.

The fact that from the very moment Ni'd and Daniel were born - worlds apart - God knew they would connect and create a bond, it overwhelmed me. God knew this. He placed the dream of going to Africa in Ni'd when he was young. He placed the desire in Daniel to ask anyone and everyone to come and see - come and visit Kibera. He prompted Nijalon's mama to write him a letter from jail telling him he was a leader and had a purpose. He prompted Daniel to desire an education so he's at school every day - he knows (and believes) that education is the key to making him a better person and in turn, helping those in Kibera.

In an interview before we left, Nijalon spoke of how this trip would prove "how good things can come out of bad situations. The light will shine in the dark. It don't have to be what you expect - but this isn't what you expect so good things can come out of here."

Kibera is a bad situation. 1.5 million people in a square mile. Children play and eat and bathe in the midst of trash and sewage and corruption.

But good things can come out of here. Daniel is proof - and his friendship with Nijalon will no doubt be a catalyst for the light shining in the darkness.

Nijalon & Daniel's music video: Produced and Edited by Lee Rothenflue Filmed in Kibera

Posted on July 6, 2010 and filed under africa, reagan2kibera.