This post is written in conjunction with the “Becoming a Public Scholar-Activist” course and is directed by Monica A. Coleman.
Maathai prided herself on being single-minded. She accomplished a lot in her life because of her single-mindedness. She had a great repugnance for injustice. She also had a strong sense of community and leadership. Those values run through her whole book. Maathai wanted to protect mankind from what she saw as falsehoods and injustice.
The author also had a passion for nature. Her passion comes from her early years where the environment was nuanced. For example, a fig tree was not a widget, but instead called “a tree of God.” Through African story telling she learned the value of nature. This made her socially consciences of the environment. Maathai saw the good in the environment; she saw that it could be something enjoyed. In this sense, she was a pioneer.
Maathai also had the foresight to see that ignoring the environment would have drastic consequences on the Kenyan community. Instead of filing a report and calling it a day, Maathai made activism her vocation. She worked until she thought justice was restored. This was true for her entire life. She also had to navigate her very public life with her personal life as an activist. In Unbowed we get a glimpse into both.
We also see what Dorothy Day called her “great loneliness.” As a devout Roman Catholic, Maathai believed in giving without receiving. The lifestyle of an activist is a calling. This means you have a certain hunger for Justice and Truth. Maathai had that and it lead to a feeling of emptiness inside of her. Her job was never done, but rewarding little by little through giving. Unbowed gives us a glimpse into her calling into loneliness. We track her from her colonial roots to her crescendo political victory. Maathai was a true cross bearer. Her book reads like a passion. Read how a big woman from a small, Kenyan tribe came to America, learned the American way only to return and save her homeland. Read Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Muta Maathai’s Unbowed: A Memoir today.
This blog is by Alex Sieber. I am a graduate student at Claremont Lincoln University. My research interests are in Religion and Social Change. Here is a link to my blog Eastern Religions & Social Change: http://alexdsieber.tumblr.com.