When I was selected to be an Aspen Institute New Voices Fellow back in late December 2016, I knew that I was entering another level of favour and opportunity but I really had know idea what it would look like. When I stepped into Johannesburg the on 19th of February, the first impressive human being that I met was an entomologist/geneticist who works at Oxford University. She had brilliance and a beautiful inheritance and so she was the full package to me. She was Kenyan and speaking to her as a fellow New Voices Fellow-- I realised that I shared several spaces with her: expat living in the UK, malaria researcher, and African citizen. The latter is something that I am, yet I had not fully occupied my entire life. This is because its difficult to define yourself as something without continuously experiencing that thing.
During our one-week training, the experiences of, mostly , Africans across social class, religious background, and most pertinent: across social causes, totally engulfed and... accepted me! The first day of the conference was all about leadership... Our host Akaya Windwood, president of Rockwood Leadership Institute, used her perfected peaceful presence and thoughtfully crafted questions to make all us, Fellows and the Aspen Institute staff and Mentors alike, reflected on those in our lives who made the space for us to be where we were. We also had to think of those that we had influenced and how our presence had affected their lives-- this of course made me weep like a baby as I thought of my siblings, and in particular my younger brother. Throughout that first day we inspired ourselves and each other as we shared what we were doing and why we were doing it. We broke into groups and created a vision statement for the world. We listened and adhered to strict rules not to interrupt or to ask questions. We simply responded with a 'Thank you'. It was an incredible experience which continued throughout the subsequent days.
It is not often you sit in a room of World Changers. People who have achieved the top heights of their careers. People who risk their lives for their cause, their communities, their calling. I was enriched and emboldened during those five days. I am humbled to be part of this and so blessed that people from a different part of the earth could sit down and say: We want to create a space and provide a platform to hear African, Indian, Nepalese, and voices of the "other" (e.g. non-white male, non-American or European, and non-exclusively wealthy). We want them to have sentences in the history books...heck, even chapters!
I am inspired to pay if forward. And I will. But first, let me publish my first Op-Ed!
To learn more about the New Voices Fellowship, please visit: Aspen New Voices
I am in the 2017 class.