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She packed her bags, quit her job in law enforcement and moved to Mexico after George Floyd’s death

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Demetria Brown knew the exact moment she decided she’d had it.

She’d just watched a video of George Floyd pinned under an officer’s knee, saying he couldn’t breathe as he begged for his life. She sobbed as she played it over and over.
On June 1, a week after Floyd’s death, she quit her job as a detention officer for the Los Angeles County Probation Department. In the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic, she sold her house, stuffed her belongings into 13 duffel bags and relocated to Puerto Vallarta on Mexico’s Pacific coast.
Brown, 42, is one of many African Americans leaving the United States permanently for many reasons, including racism and fear of police brutality. Her flight landed in her new hometown on June 25, a month to the day Floyd died.
“Watching that video — my heart broke and sank all at the same time,” Brown says. “That video served as my final confirmation that I was doing the best thing for my life by departing the United States of America permanently.”

It’s a phenomenon dubbed ‘Blaxit’

African Americans have been moving from the United States for years — a phenomenon dubbed “Blaxit” that’s getting renewed attention as the nation confronts its history of racism after Floyd’s death.
While there are no official statistics on how many have left the country, Black people have turned to social media to get insight from those who’ve relocated, especially to African and Caribbean nations, where some say they feel safer as part of a majority.
For Brown, following her heart and living without fear of racism meant moving to the resort town 1,200 miles from the city she’d worked as a detention officer since 2004.
She visited Mexico several times before she decided to relocate to the nation the State Department says is home to 1.5 million US citizens. That number includes US-born children who’ve returned with their Mexican parents, American retirees and digital nomads.
She calls the move the best decision she’s ever made. While Mexico is not perfect and has its own problems, she says, she’s never encountered any racism in the tourist destination made famous by the 1960s film, “The Night of the Iguana.”
“They value me as a person. My complexion feels like added value to me here and I am not afraid of the police. Can you imagine saying that?” Brown says. “I walk by police with guns in Puerto Vallarta, they smile and wave. No fear.”
She found the disparities in the US justice system exhausting
Leaving a criminal justice system frequently vilified for its treatment of minorities has been a major relief, Brown says.
African Americans make up only 13% of the US population but a majority of innocent defendants wrongfully convicted of crimes and later exonerated, according to a 2017 report from the National Registry of Exonerations. Black people are also more likely to be pulled over by police and 12 times more likely to be wrongly convicted of drug crimes than White people, according to the report compiled by three universities.
“As a detention officer, I would see kids of color being charged differently,” Brown says. “White kids would come in for crazy crimes and get off with no time and Black and Mexican kids would come in for something as simple as stealing a pack of meat and get camp time.”
While she was passionate about her career and loved her unit’s commitment to making a difference, she called the disparities exhausting.
“I saw so much bad but we did so much good,” she says. ” Despite my effort and love, I understood I someday soon couldn’t do this much longer.”
Demetria Brown received letters from the girls she worked with as a detention officer.

Still, the decision to uproot was difficult

Brown’s desire to join the criminal justice system was rooted in family trauma.
Her father was imprisoned at the California Department of Corrections most of her life. She used that experience to make a difference in her job by building relationships with the young women under her professional care and keeping up with them long after her role was over.
“I worked in the criminal justice system to prove I wasn’t like my father. I didn’t want to be a statistic. I wanted to help in ways I thought I could,” she says. “I worked with youth and approached them with love and fairness. I had so many letters, drawings and words of thanks and that made me happy. They were my reward.”
Her father was released from prison in May last year and she slowly started a journey to free herself from the criminal justice system that had imprisoned him. She visited new places — Iceland, South Africa, India and Mexico — and found a kind of acceptance she’s never experienced before, she says.
“I started traveling to see the good in the world to escape all the bad I saw at work,” she says.
For months, she flirted with the idea of a move and even visited Mexican embassies in the US to seek details on permanent residency. Then Floyd’s video emerged, and her plan to move shifted into overdrive.
But even with the urgency, it was a heart-wrenching decision. She recorded a video of herself driving to work the day she quit, wondering out loud whether she was making the right decision. She drove past a group of protesters demanding justice for Floyd and broke down.
“The protesters are my heroes. They have their foot on the necks of true justice … and they’re penetrating more deeply than anyone thought they could. They just may kill injustice,” she says.
After she quit her job and hugged her coworkers goodbye, a sense of relief washed over her.
“I walked away from my job with my … freedom of time, peace but more importantly my sanity,” she says. “Racism is something I was forced to process daily both personally and professionally.”
She’s taken up a new life as a life coach
Brown spends her days swimming in the turquoise waters, using her fledgling “Spanglish” to explore her new community and working on her business as a travel blogger and a life coach.
She recently got approved for permanent residency in Mexico, but she’s not planning to give up her American citizenship.
In the US, she has an adult son who lives in Arizona and a 16-year-old daughter who’s in Southern California with her ex-husband but plans to join her after her schooling.
“My soul is happy. My spirit is singing. My eyes are bright and I’m excited about living,” she says. “My transition into adapting to Mexico and its culture has been completely transformative in a positive way. I feel the love and respect for me here.”
Puerto Vallarta's beach in Jalisco state

Some countries rolled out the welcome mat for Black expatriates

As outrage has grown over police killings in the US, some nations have rolled out the welcome mat for African Americans who want to escape the turmoil.
And some celebrities are embracing their African ties. Grammy Award-winning American rapper, Ludacris, kicked off this year with dual citizenship from Gabon, his wife’s home country.
And last year, British actor Idris Elba accepted citizenship from his father’s native Sierra Leone.
Ghana granted citizenship to more than 120 African Americans and Caribbeans last year. The nation’s tourism minister held an event marking Floyd’s death in June, and used it as an opportunity to urge Black people to seek refuge there.
Ghana made 126 African-Americans and Caribbeans its citizens as part of Year of Return celebrations.

The West African nation has also launched a program called the Year of Return, which provides African American visitors a path to citizenship.
Under the campaign, Ghana has seen an influx of African Americans, four centuries since the first African slaves stepped on American soil.
“You do not have to stay where you are not wanted forever. You have a choice, and Africa is waiting for you,” said Barbara Oteng Gyasi, Ghana’s tourism minister.
“We continue to open our arms and invite all our brothers and sisters home. Ghana is your home. Africa is your home.”
Brown initially considered moving to an African nation, including South Africa.
However, after visiting both countries, she says, Mexico felt more like home.
By CNN

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Health

Kenyans in US grapple with Covid-19 woes

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His conspicuous Kenyan name, Kariuki, is what gave him out and attracted the attention of a handful of compatriots working at the Philadelphia international airport.

Recently, staff at the airport woke up to news that scores of homeless people had been rounded up by the airport police and the Philadelphia Parking Authority. Among them was Kariuki (first name withheld for privacy reasons), a Days later, the Nation located Mr Kariuki in a shelter for homeless people on Island Avenue in South Philadelphia.

Mr Kariuki, originally from Nakuru County in Kenya’s Rift Valley, came to the US as an undergrad student at Temple university in Philadelphia five years ago.

“My mom, a hawker in Nakuru, raised the initial $10,000 for my tuition and that could only last me a semester and a half. Fortunately, I got a part-time job at the library in college but I still had to work at a local grocery store in the evenings and play drums for my church on Sundays where I was paid $100 every Sunday. Things were okay until Covid-19,” said Mr Kariuki.

A combination of photos of counsellor and clinical consultant Abel Oriri, who is based in Cleveland, Ohio; Geoffrey Chepkwony, who died in August in Texas, US; and David Bulindah, a clinical counsellor based in Seattle, Washington.

When, towards the end of March, the state of Pennsylvania shut down everything including education institutions, hotels and shops — and restricted movement, his world came tumbling down.

“My roommate, in whose name our apartment was registered cancelled the lease and returned to Memphis, Tennessee to his family. For almost three months, I lived in my car. It was hard to find food. The nights were cold. I started developing regular panic attacks that left me feeling like I was going crazy!” he said.

So bad were the panic attacks that police found him at the busy intersection between Island Avenue and Lindberg shouting at motorists and trying to stop them.

“I cannot remember doing this,” he says, although he describes himself at the time as “stressed, depressed and contemplating suicide”.

Psychiatric help

One day, he woke up in some psychiatric facility in West Chester and was told he had been there for three weeks.

“I was totally confused, and heavily sedated. I had nowhere to go but at least I knew I had to leave that place,” he says

Mr Kariuki finally went to the airport because one of his classmates was working at an eatery that had remained open. His friend would occasionally give him a fresh meal and, at least at the airport, he’d enjoy heating during spring and cold air in summer. That was where the authorities found him and other homeless people who they took to shelters.

Mr Kariuki’s story is unfortunately now just one of the many familiar stories of Kenyans living abroad — made worse by the pandemic.

“It’s of course true to say that Covid-19 has led to a significant increase and demand for mental health intervention due to anxiety and depression. In fact, recent research indicates that more than 53 per cent of adults in the US have reported that their mental health had negatively been impacted directly,” said Kenyan-born counsellor and clinical consultant, Abel Oriri based in Cleveland, Ohio.

Recently, Kenyans in Houston, Texas, were shocked by the death of Geoffrey Chepkwony, who is thought to have committed suicide after his body was found on the streets. He was said to have been struggling with mental health problems. The Kenyan community in the US, led by those in Texas, has been raising the money needed to ship his remains home following a passionate appeal from his mother in Kenya.

Another high-profile case is that of the first Kenyan-born National Football League player, Daniel Adongo, who later fell from grace. His worrying state was depicted in a video clip widely shared online. His family later said they had sought help for him. Coronavirus seems to have exacerbated social and health issues like homelessness, depression and domestic violence, among others.

Support groups

Mr Oriri, who is also a pastor, says most of his clients now describe feelings of depression, anxiety, worry, stress, loneliness, poor appetite, suicidal thoughts and isolation.

“Many report difficulties sleeping, eating, increased alcohol consumption and substance use. Worsening chronic conditions from worry, depression, and stress over Covid-19.

The anger management and domestic violence groups that I have been providing for more than 20 years have surged one hundred percent in enrollment since the pandemic began,” he said in a recent interview.

David Bulindah, a Kenyan Pastoral and Clinical Counsellor based in Seattle, Washington, said the usually structured life of Kenyans in the US was recently disrupted without warning by the coronavirus.

“Most people could not leave their job and or could not go to their second job. For someone who had been enjoying consistent income to suddenly lose all that, stress, anxiety and depression thus kicks in”. he said.

Mr. Bulindah says that the Kenyan community will only deal with these issues if it opens up and discusses mental health and homelessness candidly without pre-judging those affected.

“People should know that it’s okay to lose a job and it’s okay to experience mental health problems. Those affected should not isolate themselves rather, reach out for help,” he said.

By nation.co.ke

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Picture photoshopped to show as if prostitutes are demonstrating in support of Ruto

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A photo purporting to show sex workers holding a banner thanking Deputy President William Ruto for supporting their trade has been shared thousands of times on social networking platforms.

It has been posted herehere and here among other places alongside a claim the Kenya Sex Workers Association has endorsed William Ruto’s 2022 candidature for the presidency.

This claim is false; the photo has been doctored to include some of the writings on the banner.

A combined Google reverse image and keyword search by the Standard Digital Fact Check desk found that the original image was first posted on December 17, 2015. Activists in Kisumu were agitating for an end to violence against sex workers.

On the original image, the banner had the words ‘Stop killing sex workers. They are human. Save us from our saviours only rights can stop the wrongs (sic)’. These were replaced with ‘Asante Ruto for supporting our hustle. Wewe tutakupea free!’ in the manipulated image.

The original image taken on December 17, 2015 during the International day to end violence against sex workers. [Courtesy]

Kenya Sex Workers Association – a lobby pushing for the rights of sex workers – has also denied that the doctored image was from them or any of their member organisations.

It confirmed that the original image was from a past demonstration.

“We want to reiterate our position as a national movement that we do not engage neither endorse any political party, candidate or person,” it said on Facebook.

“We wish to call on the relevant authorities to investigate the source of these images which have been used to malign certain individuals,” it added.

-standardmedia.co.ke

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Dennis Onsarigo in mourning

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Former KTN investigative Journalist Dennis Onsarigo is mourning the sudden demise of his father.

Onsarigo, who works as the Director of Communication in Taita Taveta County, shared the sad news via a tweet on his official Twitter account that enjoys a following over 641K followers.

“I just lost my dad” announced Dennis Onsarigo.

Despite, sharing the sad news to the public, Onsarigo did not reveal the cause of his father’s death.

Dennis Onsarigo Dad

Condolences message form KOT

Following the announcement, Kenyans On Twitter (KOT) joined conversation sending in their condolences messages to Onsarigo and his family.

Martin Wachira @Martowachira “@Donsarigo Polse sana . May God comfort and give you and your family strength during this difficult time”

The Chief ‘Pole sana Denis. May God give you and your family strength during this difficult time”

Julie Gichuru ‘@Donsarigo Poleni sana Dennis. My deepest condolences. Wishing you all strength during this difficult time. May he rest in peace Folded handsFolded handsFolded hands”.

Kirigo Ng’arua ‘@Donsarigo Deepest condolences to you and your family. Poleni”

John-Allan Namu “@Donsarigo Pole Sana Dennis. May God rest his soul in peace”

Leon Lidigu “@Donsarigo Pole sana big bro”

Sophia Wanuna “@Donsarigo Pole sana ndugu … upholding you & your family in prayer”

Akisa Wandera “@Donsarigo Oh noooCrying faceCrying face I’m so sorry Dennis”

Gladys Gachanja “@Donsarigo My condolences Dennis….poleni sana”

Dennis Itumbi, HSC “@Donsarigo Pole sana. God rest Dad in eternity. I pray for comfort and peace to you and Family”

Millicent Omanga “@Donsarigo Pole sana brother”

By pulse live.co.ke

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