Danai Gurira Pens a Moving Essay About Wangari Maathai’s Impact on Her Life

The award-winning playwright, actress, and producer reflects on the significance of Africa's first female Nobel Prize Winner


Seven years  after she passed away, internationally acclaimed Kenyan environmental political activist and Nobel laureate continues to inspire. The latest #LoveOurGirls newsletter,which celebrates the heroic Wangari Maathai, proves just that, featuring several elements reflecting on the late Nobelist ‘ legacy.

Danaia who’s also the Artistic Director of  tweeted:

Below is her moving essay:

“I remember the first time I heard of her vividly. It was 2004 and I was home in Zimbabwe on vacation. It was all over the news: the first African woman had won the Nobel Peace Prize. She was from Kenya, an environmentalist with a Ph.D. who had fought for democracy at great personal cost during the years of Daniel Arap Moi. Her name was Wangari Maathai. I remember that feeling you get when you realize much more is possible in this world than you ever fathomed. After hearing of her considerable list of accomplishments, of her courage, that feeling, a pride swelled in my chest. It’s a feeling that tells you that you can do more than you thought possible because of what she had done. She empowered me. Her voice, her passion, her integrity, her leadership.

I remember watching a documentary about her, she had been beaten for standing up to the government. She stood right where she was and kept speaking out. She kept making her points, kept her cause burning. With blood streaming down her face. I remember watching that and being floored by what real heroism looks like. How this is who we should see on the news every night, who we should study in school. This type of life, this type of legacy.

Over the next few months I’d like to continue focusing on women Heros, women we should celebrate more, whose names we should know, whose lives may serve to deeply inspire and encourage others out there to step into their purpose boldly, to enact change, to exercise courage. Like Wangari. She is one of my Heros, one I never got to meet, her life cut short in 2011. I had the honor, however, to meet her daughter some years ago. Wanjira chairs the Wangari Maathai foundation. Wangari lives on, in so many ways, and it is an honor to celebrate her here. Wanjira shares with us this month, the work and legacy her mother left behind. A legacy that empowers us all.​”

Article by Danai Gurira from LOVE OUR GIRLS first published on LOGPLEDGE.ORG, copyright © 2018 by Danai Gurira. Used by permission of LOG PLEDGE. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission  from the blogger.