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Kenya Attack Victims had Big Plans for Life

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Ginton Mwachofi, the guardian of Bryson Mwakuleghwa, 21, who died in the Garissa University College attacks, poses for a photograph outside the Chiromo Funeral Parlour in Nairobi, Kenya Monday, April 6, 2015. Several mourners interviewed by The Associated Press spoke wistfully of those they lost, sometimes using the same words - humble, devout, studious and a role model - to describe youths who were trying hard to forge a career, leaving home and traveling many hours by bus to Garissa to take advantage of the education opportunities there. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Ginton Mwachofi, the guardian of Bryson Mwakuleghwa, 21, who died in the Garissa University College attacks, poses for a photograph outside the Chiromo Funeral Parlour in Nairobi, Kenya Monday, April 6, 2015. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

 

Christopher Torchia, ASSOCIATED PRESS

 
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — He was a soccer player with a fighting spirit, a talented keyboard player with “golden fingers” who was intent on succeeding in life, his guardian said. But Bryson Mwakuleghwa, a 21-year-old student at Garissa University College in Kenya, never had the chance to make his dreams happen.

Mwakuleghwa was among 148 people who were killed in an attack by Islamic militants Thursday on the college in Garissa, near the border with Somalia, where the al-Shabab extremist group is based. On Monday, relatives of the dead converged on a funeral parlor in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, for the grim task of identifying the dead. Some grieved quietly, while others emerged from viewing bodies of lost family members in physical distress, wailing as Red Cross officials escorted and even carried them to tents for counseling.

Several mourners interviewed by The Associated Press outside the Chiromo Funeral Parlour of the University of Nairobi spoke wistfully of those they lost, sometimes using the same words — humble, devout, studious and a role model — to describe youths who were trying hard to forge a career, leaving home and traveling many hours by bus to Garissa to take advantage of the education opportunities there.

“I knew Bryson as a young man who grew up in the church” and performed in its choir, said his guardian, Ginton Mwachofi.

The young man’s death hit hard in Taita-Taveta, the coastal county where he grew up, Mwachofi said.

“It was a big blow for the people of Taita-Taveta because we don’t have enough people studying in university,” said the guardian, who also coached the youth in soccer. “They can’t believe that Bryson is no more.”

Mwakuleghwa, who was studying education, was a stoic who rarely revealed whether he was happy or sad, hungry or thirsty, Mwachofi said.

Four gunmen died in Thursday’s attack after security forces entered the campus to stop the slaughter of the students. Survivors said the gunmen targeted Christians and said they would spare Muslims and women, though there were numerous accounts of indiscriminate shooting.

Virginia Simiyu, who was 24 years old when she died in the attack, was a long-distance runner on her high school team, a leader of a Christian group at the Garissa college and was “born to be nice,” said her aunt, Phyllis Wabuke. Simiyu, a student of “human resource management,” was also a role model to her three younger siblings and promised her mother that she would help lift the family out of poverty once she got a job, Wabuke said.

“‘Mama, I’ll build you a house,'” Wabuke quoted Simiyu as telling her mother. According to Wabuke, Simiyu’s mother had hopes for her oldest child, saying: “‘If this one makes it, my life will be different.'”

Now Simiyu’s mother is “broken down” with grief and “is not in a state of mind that would recognize anything now,” Wabuke said. The mother is sometimes tied down with ropes to control her hysteria and is being counseled by professional helpers, she said.

Another 21-year-old victim, Romana Chelagat Sambu, was studying commerce at the Garissa college and “had a vision of finishing her education,” said her uncle, David Tomno Ngetich. Sambu was focused, could endure hardship and was good at “talking to people” about responsibility and the Christian faith, he said.

The last time Ngetich saw his niece was several months ago in Nairobi before she headed to Garissa to resume her studies. He recalled that his wife noticed his niece was wearing nice sandals and asked her to bring back a pair on her return from Garissa.

Despite periodic shrieks from weeping, collapsing family members, the scene outside the funeral home was relatively calm as people waited their turn to enter the building or sat quietly outside on plastic chairs.

“If there is anybody amongst us who has not gone through the identification, kindly come,” a voice said over a loudspeaker. The pungent smell of the bodies wafted in the breeze around the building and some people wore surgical masks to ward off the odor.

A sign on the building said: “Body Reception. Embalming Laboratory. Cold Storage Room.”

Mwachofi last saw Bryson, the young pianist with “golden fingers,” at Christmas.

The guardian recalled: “He promised that he would succeed, that he would do anything possible to succeed in life.”
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Bay Area

Sept. 11, 2001, 20 years later: ‘Remembrance’ held aboard the USS Hornet Sea, Space & Air Museum

The USS Hornet Sea, Space & Air Museum, moored at the City of Alameda, hosted a “Remembrance” ceremony of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, on board the ship on the 20th anniversary, Sept. 11, 2021.

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U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard, 23rd Marine Regiment: Sgt. Tristan Garivay, Sgt. Michael Her, Cpl. Adrian Chavez and Cpl. Quentavious Leeks. Photo by Russell Moore, USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum, Community Events & Outreach

Quintin Jones, Colonel, USMC, Commanding Officer, 23rd Marine Regiment. Photo by Russell Moore, USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum, Community Events & Outreach

The USS Hornet Sea, Space & Air Museum, moored at the City of Alameda, hosted a “Remembrance” ceremony of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, on board the ship on the 20th anniversary, Sept. 11, 2021.

The ceremony recognized the impact and consequences of the series of airline hijackings and suicide attacks committed on 2001 by 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Queda against targets in New York City and Wash., D.C. Nearly 3,000 people died that day and 6,000 were injured.  This was the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil in U.S. history. 

The ceremony aboard the USS Hornet began with the presentation of the colors by the U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard, 23rd Marine Regiment. (Pictured above.)

Leon Watkins, co-founder of The Walking Ghosts of Black History, was the Master of Ceremonies. He spoke about the extensive death and destruction which triggered the enormous U.S. effort to combat terrorism.

Daniel Costin, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, spoke of the lasting impact of 9/11 terrorists attack on first responders. He recounted incidents where first responders rushed into the scenes of the attacks, many at the sacrifice of their own lives. More than 400 police officers and firefighters were killed that day: 343 members of the New York City Fire Department and 71 members of their law enforcement agencies.

Quintin Jones, Colonel, USMC, commanding officer of the 23rd Marine Regiment, spoke about the recovery efforts at the Pentagon following the terrorists’ attack where 125 people perished. He reflected on the actions of three first responders who recovered the U.S. Marine Corps flag from the commandant of the Marine Corps’ office at the Pentagon. This flag was still standing after the attack. It was a symbol of America’s resolve.

At the end of the formal presentations, the Marine Corps Wreath Bearers went to the fantail of the Hornet. After the playing of ‘Taps,’ they tossed a wreath into the San Francisco Bay to give final honors.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Community

Many in Black Communities are Choosing Vaccination 

Inequities in health outcomes have always been with us. COVID-19 morbidity and mortality rates among African Americans rival or exceed those in heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses. Blacks sit atop most bad lists and at the bottom of most good lists. 

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Vaccination/Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock

The trail of illness and death left amid the spread of COVID-19 in Black and African American communities should come as no surprise.

Inequities in health outcomes have always been with us. COVID-19 morbidity and mortality rates among African Americans rival or exceed those in heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses. Blacks sit atop most bad lists and at the bottom of most good lists.

COVID-19 vaccinations offer us an opportunity to better balance the scale.

Unfortunately, even with widely available testing, highly effective vaccines, and extraordinary efforts by health departments to educate and encourage people of color to get vaccinated, many Black Californians remain skeptical.

We can only hope that the FDA’s full regulatory approval of the Pfizer vaccine on August 23 for those 16 and up convinces more to get the vaccine.  It’s worth noting that emergency-use authorization also remains in place for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots, as well as Pfizer’s for 12- to 15-year-olds – and that all of these vaccines are safe and effective in protecting against COVID-19 and its highly contagious variants.

Eddie Fairchild and Steph Sanders were skeptical about the COVID-19 vaccine but came to understand why vaccination benefits our entire community.

Fairchild, a Sacramento insurance agent, said he knew of research that found Black and white people are often treated differently for the same health conditions leading to poorer health outcomes.

“I was hesitant,” he said. “I was going to wait and see how it panned out with everyone else.

But when a Black friend in the health care field told him he’d opted to get vaccinated, Fairchild asked him why.

“He said, ‘Risk-reward, and the risk is death.’ At that point I didn’t have to ask him what the reward was.”

With a finance degree and a belief that numbers don’t lie, Fairchild looked at the data. He learned that until 2020 the average number of Americans who died each year was about 2.6 million, but in 2020 that figure was 3.4 million. There was only one possible explanation for the death rate surge, he said.

“COVID is absolutely real,” he said, adding that three of his cousins died from the virus. “Taking all that into consideration, I decided that it’s risky to engage in the world and not be vaccinated. It made sense for me to get it.”

Racial gaps in vaccination have thankfully narrowed in recent weeks. But as of September 1, while Black people account for 6% of the state’s population, they account for 6.6% of COVID-19 deaths, which is 11% higher than the statewide rate, according to state department of public health data. Only about 55% of Black people in California have had at least one dose of the vaccine.

Reasons for the discrepancies run the gamut, from conspiracy theories like Black people are getting a less effective vaccine than whites or that the vaccine will eventually be deadly, to challenges in health care access. 

Mostly, it’s based on a lack of trust in medical and scientific institutions, which have a long history of racism and mistreating Black people.

So even when it comes to good things like vaccines, which are scientifically proven to be good for the community, it always comes back to trust.

Sanders, a Vallejo school principal, was hesitant because of the Tuskegee syphilis studies in which Black men who had the disease were intentionally not treated with penicillin. And he was dubious that an effective vaccine could be developed so quickly. 

In fact, the science and technology enabling development of the COVID-19 vaccines was in development for a more than decade before the virus emerged in 2020. The FDA authorized three vaccines for emergency use after they underwent a rigorous process and were proven through trials to be safe and effective at preventing severe COVID-19, hospitalization, and death.

He decided to get vaccinated when his school board decided last spring to bring students back into classrooms.

Today, he’s a fervent vaccine advocate. He holds “lunch and learn” forums for educators, encouraging vaccination.

“I’m a leader and people are relying on my knowledge,” he said. “I tell them, ‘Don’t make this about you, but about the people you love and care about. It’s about protecting them.’”

There is still a long way to go before Blacks achieve true health equity, but vaccination against a virus that is taking a terrible toll on our communities is a critical step in the right direction.

 

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Community

Humanitarian Organization in Vallejo Supports Developing Countries with Access to Water and Education

Founded in 2007, Water and Education International (WEI), devotes its time and resources to providing water and education to villages in developing countries like Haiti.

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Water and Education International Logo, Photo courtesy of Organization’s website.

Founded in 2007, Water and Education International (WEI), devotes its time and resources to providing water and education to villages in developing countries like Haiti. 

Based out of Vallejo, this global humanitarian organization rallies together volunteers to provide food, medical aid, and spiritual knowledge to communities in need. These projects include water well and shower installment, wall repair, and education expansion, development and improvement for schools in communities of Haiti. 

For the past 12 years WEI has made 20 volunteer trips to communities in Haiti, completed two projects that include construction of a water cistern and a toilet, and provided over 425 scholarships for these communities.

To support their mission of combating poverty by providing education and water to underdeveloped communities, WEI partners with indigenous organizations and asks for the help of people like you and businesses alike.

Moreover, they have begun numerous projects that benefit the overall health and education of themselves as well. WEI was founded by Ricky Nutt and is now under the direction of  President and CEO Renee Box.

For more information on programs and services, ways to donate, or how to get involved, you can contact their direct line at (707) 649-4154, e-mail them at info@weihumanitarian.org, or visit their website. For frequent updates, you may also follow their Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

All information directly sourced from https://weihumanitarian.org/

The Vallejo Post’s coverage of local news in Solano County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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