Updated: May 16, 2021
Dear Africana Woman,
Listen I feel like this last week has been a month. Sooooo much has happened. On the 2 July, 2020 Goodwin Yorum Mumba breathed his last earthly breath. He was popularly known as GY and to me he was Grandpa GY. My earliest memory of him was a huge party to celebrate his release from prison. Yup he was a gee. You see Zambia was a one state party for 19 years, which basically translates to a dictatorship. In 1980 a group of citizens decided enough was enough and plotted a coup. They were not successful. They were captured, thrown in prison, charged with treason and put on death row. The resistance included Goodwin Y. Mumba, Muncie Sikatana, Brigadier Godfrey Miyanda, Patrick Mukandawire, Lt. Gen. Christopher Tembo, Edward Shamwana, Pierce Annfield and Deogratias Symba. In 1990 a multi party state law was finally passed in Zambia and in 1991 multi-party elections were held for the first time. After spending 10 years in prison, the ‘Coup Plotters’ were pardoned by the president (who had them arrested in the first place) in a last minute bid for popularity in the pending elections.
I remember visiting him when I was still young and in his study was a wall to wall, floor to ceiling library of books. I thought I was in heaven. I would spend hours in there reading. I guess he really was passionate about knowledge. His home was smack dab in the capital city and yet when you walked out to the back it was like stepping into a farm far away from the city. There was an orchard and vegetable garden, that really spoke to his connection with nature. He was a towering fellow with a presence that exuded a silent confidence. His eyes would dart around the room as he took in his surroundings and the happenings around him. Maybe his keen observance was born of necessity from his time in prison or it was always a part of his intellect. I’ll never know.
I am actually sitting here crying for the first time after hearing he had transitioned. He had been sick for a while, so his passing was not a shock. I am ashamed to say I did not go visit him when he was sick because my selfish desire was to preserve the memory I had of him as the strong hero. Yet I am crying because I took his life and many others that have gone before him for granted. Imagine all I could have learned at his feet had I taken the time to listen and learn. At the burial service what became starkly apparent is how full a life he had. Somehow when we think of our parents we are so arrogant to think that as their children they live their lives solely for us. Yet there are people who knew Grandpa GY from the time he was a child and in school. He was a scholar, a friend, a lover, a brother, a business man, a diplomat, a father, a mentor and so much more. He was not perfect, in fact, he was flawed, yet aren’t we all. In his 82 years here on earth he touched so many people’s lives. He was a man who believed in his country and felt convicted to fight for our liberties that I so freely enjoy today, regardless of the threat to his own life. Imagine if I had taken the time to tap into his wisdom of a life well lived. But I did not. Fortunately, he had the foresight to leave us all a gift in his memoire called The 1980 Coup: Tribulations of the One-Party State in Zambia. In fact, couple years ago he gifted me his book and signed it for me.
Incidently, Grandpa GY’s sister Beatrice Chisengalumbwe, my maternal grandmother was also part of the resistance. Soon after the arrests of the masterminds of the coup, the government continued to round up other conspirators. As a result she fled to Zimbabwe and sought political asylum. Uncle Bob took her in and she was hidden in safe houses, the first of which was a sangoma’s residence. When I was born my mother took me to Zimbabwe so as Mama Bea, as we fondly called her, could meet me. Apparently, I cried the whole night non stop. You know they say babies are more atuned to spirits. I am convinced I must have seen something disturbing. Anyway, to think of all that our grandparents could have experienced in these times, either in incarceration or exile. To have to be separated from family and not quite sure if they would ever be able to walk in Zambia freely again. What pain and anguish that would have been. It takes a certain grit to get through such an ordeal.
As we gathered to mourn him, it was funny to listen to my cousins talk about characteristics that we all exhibit in our independent lives. We talked about how at work we go into meetings literally telling ourselves not to say anything and just keep quiet. But somehow, when we hear something that does not sit well with our spirit, the resistance rises up and we end up speaking up; speaking up for injustices, not fearful of the leadership or the consequences. Is it something that is in our DNA or was it internalised from watching our parents and grandparents? I don’t know. What I am sure of is that when you look at me, I come as one, but I stand as 10,000. I am the Legacy of Legends.
I have to run soon, but I must say this to you. Take time to sit down and have conversations with your elders. You would be surprised of the stories that have to tell. The knowledge they have amassed and the wisdom acquired is your inheritance. Even the mistakes and flaws will be a lesson of which pitfalls to avoid. Do share interesting stories of your elders, I would love to learn more about you. I think you would too. To the Mumba clan, forget not where we come from and who we are. Pass down our inheritance to the next generations. May we make our ancestors proud. I love you guys. may we continue this journey to KNOW our Roots, and Grow our Purpose. My desire is always for you to love yourself flaws n all and attract the life that you deserve. Till we meet again.
P.S. I interrupted your regularly scheduled programming to bring to you this special message. Next week we will go back to our program on discussions about generational wealth.