Do you ever think of a woman when you hear the word “warrior”? We usually think of those great men of history, such as Martin Luther King, Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela, Chiekh Anta Diop, or the great kings and princes of ancient Egypt, or even the Mau Mau or Zulu or Black Panthers. But does a woman ever come to your mind?

Whether or not you answered yes to the above question, let’s consider now a great black woman warrior. Not so much a black queen as we understand that designation, because generally speaking, the term is slightly watered down. But a true warrior woman! Does she exist? Yes she does. Well what does she look like? What makes her a warrior? How does she behave? Is she similar to a male warrior? She’s fierce, focused, intelligent, brave and determined. She’s similar to warrior men in that she’s strategic, she knows how to best her opponents. But in other aspects she’s different, because she has to use her intelligence being that she doesnt have the physical strength to battle, generally speaking. She’s usually fighting against men in power for things that would truly benefit all but the men dont see it as such, yet. Yet she is no less valorous.  

Wangari Maathai is just such a warrior woman. She was born in Kenya and her parents are farmers. They followed a traditional life and were hard workers. She was taught at her mother’s knee to love and respect nature. Wangari was a keenly intelligent and inquisitive child and excelled in school. She was taught by Catholic nuns, and her brilliance shone through. Upon the completion of her schooling, she was chosen by Pan Africanist Tom Mboya to be a part of an education program he initiated along with then Senator John F Kennedy. The best and brightest Kenyan students were chosen and sent to America for college educations.

Barack Obama Senior, was also among this brilliant group of Kenyan students who started their American college careers in the Fall of 1960. 

Wangari Maathai landed in America in the midst of the Civil Rights movement and was deeply affected by the fight being waged by African Americans at that time. She was also shocked at her ignorance of what was truly going on in North America concerning the civil rights of black people. A seed for political protest was sown in her heart. She completed her education and left America and headed back home to Kenya with both a Bachelor’s of Arts and Masters Degree in Anatomy. 

She returned to Kenya and earned a PhD in Anatomy at the University of Nairobi and remained on the faculty to reach the level of Assistant Professor, and Chair of Veterinary Medicine. Her climb up the ladder of success showed her the inequality of women at the University and she started to campaign for woman’s rights in that setting.

At this time Wangari met and married politician Mwangi Mathai, who was another of the brilliant students of Tom Mboya’s education program. They married and had three children. Mwangi Mathai was a politician and campaigned to gain a seat in the Parliament which he won. His campaign was based on jobs for the people of Kenya to stem the tide of rising unemployement.

 End of part 1.