‘’Pan-Africanists say ‘the pen is mightier than the sword.’ My father may not have been a military man, but he fought, he fought with his pen, he fought with his words. He fought against injustice, oppression, bigotry, colonialism, and even though his life was taken by an act of terrorism, the forces he fought against his whole life have been unable to silence his voice.

He and other great national heroes, whether literary or military, live on in the works they left behind, the monuments to freedom, the people and nations they inspired.’’ - Afetsi Awoonor

Saturday 21 September, 2013 was going to be an exciting day for Prof. Kofi Awoonor and his son Afetsi as they began their maiden trip to Nairobi. He had just finished conducting a masterclass at the Storymoja Festival when he was invited be a Ghanaian friend living in Nairobi for coffee. They headed to the Westgate mall which is just a few minutes away from the festival venue at Nairobi National Museum. As they were laughing and catching up, distaster struck! The mall was under siege. Al Shabaab terrorists had gained access to the mall carrying assault rifles and grenades and launched an attack on civilians which lasted several days. As they tried to hide and find a way out of the mall, the gunmen opened fire on them and while Kofi Awoonor’s son Afetsi managed to escape with a bullet in his arm, his father, however, didn’t make it out of the mall alive.

At the time of his death, Prof. Kofi Awoonor was one of Africa’s biggest literary influences. An avid reader of various forms of literature since he was little, this contributed greatly to him growing up to be one of the greatest African poets and authors that ever lived. His powerful stories do not just entertain and transport the reader to other worlds, but also to speak about the ills of society and stimulate thinking and action towards creating a better world.

‘’Libraries act as a space where each of us can consult books to aid us on our hero’s journey.’’ - Tony Caligula

In life, the late Professor was celebrated for using his platform to speak against injustice, oppression, bigotry and colonialism, and his voice was very loud across Africa and the world at large. Even in death, that voice refuses to be silenced and his words still effect change and inspire millions across the world.

He was very committed to empowering the next generation of African heroes through promoting literacy and creative writing among children and the youth. In honor of his memory, we carry on the great work by celebrating every year of his life. A project dubbed ‘’78 hero libraries’’ was launched during an event to mark his 4th anniversary on 21st September, 2017. These libraries will be started in 78 disadvantaged schools in Kenya and Ghana in a span of one year (Oct 2017- sept 2018). The inaugural hero library was launched on Mashujaa(heroes) Day on 20th October 2017 at Lower Kabete Primary School.

We will kick start the project with four symbolic libraries. They are a recollection of Prof’s last moments. His maiden trip to Kenya in 2013 was coordinated and facilitated by the Ghanaian High Commission, which is why we chose Muthaiga Primary School, located 12km away from the Commission’s offices. The school has a population of 1,143 pupils. He spent the night at the Westhouse Hotel, 7km away from Lower Kabete Primary School which has a population of 955 pupils. Prof. Kofi Awoonor taught his last masterclass at the National Museum, making the choice of Dr. Ribiero Parklands School, which is 3km away with 852 pupils very easy. His last moments on earth were spent at the Westgate Mall, just 4km from City Primary School, with a population of 621 pupils.

The surest way of keeping Prof’s memory alive is by nurturing a generation of literary lovers. This great narrative needs continuity and the thousands of children who will benefit from these libraries will tell, retell, imagine and even reimagine many stories. Children need spaces where they can be free to express themselves and stories are powerful discovery tools to the unlimited possibilities in this world. Please lend your voice, skills and finances in support of this project. Make your donation HERE.

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