Wangari Maathai and Her Canopy of Hope

Wangari (Muta) Maathai was born in 1940 in Kenya. In her Kikuyu culture women were storytellers and all humans had right to shelter and space. Like her grandmother-namesake she was known to be industrious and organized.

By the time she was born the native drink–millet porridge–had been replaced by the tea of the British colonialists. Her father was a mechanic and driver for a British settler and was tall and strong. He didn’t need a jack to change a tire on a car. The family cultivated a small farm a with soil so lush you could “almost feel the life it had.”  At the urging of her brother, she was sent to a Catholic school where she was first in her class. She enjoyed her schooling but in retrospect recognized that it served to undermine her own culture.

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