Find Me Unafraid

 

 

 

Find Me Unafraid is a protest anthem cloaked in a love song. Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner, an impoverished black African activist and a privileged white American college student, turn a working relationship into a romance during her semester abroad. But theirs is not a fleeting tryst: Their bond becomes the foundation for a wide-ranging economic empowerment enterprise, Shining Home for Communities. First, violence forces Odede to flee Kenya, and the couple winds up switching places: He’s at Wesleyan, confused by the decadence of workout gyms, and she’s in Kibera, running the school for girls that they have built together. This is problematic territory, but the authors go beyond “love conquers all” platitudes to reveal the ravages of colonialism, the gross inequities of global capitalism, the violence of racial and sexual hatred, and in spite of all, the possibilities and imperative for community-based, well-funded solutions – rooted in basic human understanding.

Odede and Posner are both adept and likable storytellers who are acutely aware of the clichés of cultural tourism and missionary zeal. They take turns telling the story of their courtship and collaboration. Together, they render human and even heroic efforts to bring education, water, medicine, capital, dignity, and hope to the desperately oppressed slum of Kibera. If Africa tends to be rendered in the problematic clichés of celebrity noblesse oblige – the passive victim awaiting our rescue – this book provides a remedy on the most intimate of levels. It also deals honestly with the cultural and political pitfalls of a story about a privileged outsider arriving in a poverty-stricken foreign land. Between them, Kennedy and Jessica know when to allow the other time to speak, and appropriately it is Kennedy’s story that is at the center of the book.

- Evelyn McDonnell
2016 finalist judge

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Excerpts from the book

“I wanted to believe that there was something out there, something greater than my poverty and my suffering, but every day seemed harder than the one before. … I knew that somewhere in this, there was a choice – I just didn’t know what it was.”

“’Shining Hope for Communities is a powerful name because it’s not only in Kibera where we will provide hope. We are going to shine in other slums too. Let’s start with Kibera, but I believe in the future we’re going to go beyond Kibera to shine hope everywhere. Eventually the world will see the light that was lit in a ghetto house tonight.”

“As he turns off the lights, I feel the crushing weight of the responsibility he carries. I think of what it means to be a teenager in America, necessarily pushing boundaries, making expected mistakes. Here there is no margin for error: a mistake, no matter how insignificant, dashes any small hopes to break the cycle of poverty. Here in Kibera the world is relentless and unforgiving.”


2016 Nonfiction Runners-Up

Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner
Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner

(Click photo to see acceptance speech at awards dinner.)

Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner
Find Me Unafraid

 

“We are deeply honored to be named recipients of a prize that recognizes the power of the written word to create peace in a world that desperately needs it. Our book, Find Me Unafraid, tells the deeply personal story of struggle, triumph, and of recognition that there is more that connects and binds us, no matter how great our differences, than keeps us apart. Our story shows that through the power of love, the world might know peace, and we are thrilled to be recognized in this way.”

— Jessica Posner and Kennedy Odede                        

Kennedy Odede is one of Africa’s best-known community organizers and social entrepreneurs. He was raised in Kibera, the largest urban slum in Africa, where he experienced the devastating realities of life in extreme poverty and started the Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) movement. Driven by the innovation and entrepreneurial spirits of the people of Kibera, SHOFCO became the largest grassroots organization in the slum.

Jessica Posner is the co-founder and COO of Shining Hope for Communities. She is a nationally recognized social entrepreneur and activist. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa with honors in African-American Studies from Wesleyan University. She won the 2010 Do Something Award and was named “America’s top-world changer 25 and under” live on VH1. Jess also received the prestigious Echoing Green Fellowship. Jess speaks Swahili and Luo. She splits her time between Nairobi and New York City.

 

 
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