Don’t be sad for Malian people and the circumstance in Mali at this time. Mali is here and will remain here. Don’t cry yet–for you are the hope and the hope is the root and the root is the strongest part of anything. So don’t cry, for you are to be the one that cries last. Turn around to witness the task that is well done. Recognize we have been blessed by your positive human spirit and never ending friendship that you have given us. We are grateful for the empathy of other countries. If you feel angry, drop the anger and sadness and recognize all the great things you have done through Ko-Falen over the last 15 years. One village — 2 classrooms of 30 students — is now 7 villages — 18 classrooms with 1700 students. Some are going to high school; others are going to college. At the Ko-Falen Center, our tutoring program gives hope to the kids of artisans and gardeners that otherwise would not have had the chance of an education. We help sustain a group of young scouts that are taking leadership roles of their own.
My mother once said, “Never close your eyes because of one bad incident, as you may miss seeing all the good things around you.” Make sure you also appreciate yourselves for the 15 Families Program that ended up helping 20 families for food and medical expenses. You have no idea how blessed and grateful everyone here feels about that. I am already a believer of human inspiration and yet this is the most positive one.
There was a night that I did not really sleep, thinking about how respectfully people responded when Ronna and I called for help for my fellow Malians. I had desert tea with friends and my brother Madou. We chatted all afternoon into the night. I am sure all the caffeine did not help me.
Here is what I felt that night. The head of my bed faces a window open to the neighborhood’s little creek. Already at 6 pm the frogs begin croaking; by 10 pm crickets and other insects join in creating the sound of harmony. Then a donkey brays to announce 12 am to the dogs, so they can begin barking. By 1 am, an occasional rooster pitches in with their “Kokoriko” until 2:40 am. The donkey brays again and soon after, the night is filled with harmonious chanting. The donkey brays again around 4:30 am — the same time I can hear the mosque calling and the noise fades into a different type of noise. Faithful rousing to perform ablutions before prayer. Crying sounds of babies, and their mothers comforting them; then occasional passers by holding conversations, their sandals crunching small grains of red sand. Dawn comes. By 6 am I hear the pumping sounds at the well, and cars passing by. By 7 am you can see women walking to the market with their little girls holding onto their pagna skirts, youngsters trying to keep up. School girls walking in groups, with littler sisters crying to their older sibling to wait for them! And the boys come along, looking up at the height of my mango trees, hoping one mango will fall. But the mangoes have not yet ripened so I say, “Hey, don’t even think about it!” The Boys will turn their faces toward me, respectfully greeting, “Ini sogoma, Tonton Wague.” I respond, “Good morning,” back to them as they continue their walk around the corner, kicking up the dust of the dirt streets. Then I realize at this time that Mali is still here and well. I renew my world citizenship and say “No matter where you are in the world, hearing these sounds of nature and babies and watching children just as they have always been, gives me a great deal of hope.”
So the greatness of Mali and Malian people are still here and hopefully you will witness this when you come one day. If you are the hope for someone, you are the spiritual guidance. In Mali the djelibaw/griots/oral historians often sing, “When you are the hope to others, do not start crying, no matter how difficult things seem: simply because you are the root that holds everything together. This makes you the strongest part of the event. So your time to cry is after all of the others.”
I structured this writing from the words I hear from my elders, and if I might have used them wrongly, may their souls forgive me, because I am just Malian.
May love be our tying vines,
Baba Wagué Diakité