A note from James Coburn on Edwin Chiloba:
Gone too soon
Life is not a four letter word. Neither is a tear, love, or the gift of the late Edwin Chiloba. His fashion design and precious spark of life resonated with a celebratory tone for humanity. Chiloba is gone too soon.
On January 6, police found the rising Kenyan fashion designer, model and LGBTQ activist, Edwin Chiloba, 25, smothered to death. His body had been placed in a metal box and dumped on a Kenyan road near the town of Eldoret.
News of his death was met with international outrage and lament. Five people were arrested including Jackton Odhiambo, his roommate and alleged boyfriend.
Chiloba’s friends have described him as kind. Tributes describe him as an “iconic fashion designer.”
“There are so many things I’d want to remember him for; the night outs, the smile that won my heart or even the fashion he so well presented but I remember more is the love,” said Chiloba’s friend, Julius Muriithi of Nairobi, who knew him well.
Hundreds of people mourned Chiloba as he was buried on the grounds of his family’s home in Sergoit village, Keiyo North, Elgeyo Marakwet.
Requiem for Edwin Chiloba Some whom he loved banished him for years. Do they think of him now with tears? Petals spread before smashed to ground. For hideous reason his body was found. Yes, his body was found in a metal box, dumped like trash on a Kenyan road by a sick mind to implode. He was born the son of LGBTQ mirth. He found a family by fashioning earth. I didn’t know him. I hope his hope will come true, for human beings to live and let live with all to view the life of innocence he knew that did no harm. No need for anger or snare of alarm. News of your murder exposes a great divide on a planet imploding in hateful pride. Young boys grow to men to be cast out alone by indifference tossing stone. From wingless birds pecking at air, what does love have to bear? The wind will come and grass shall bend, until violence makes amend. I didn’t know you and yet your story, I did. Your voice meant something despite fear. Your rainbow colors arch far and near. There’s a conversation in my head about cruelty toward the dead. But when I search, official words bring nothing new, while waiting for justice to come in view. Chiloba, love had found beauty in you. “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
James Coburn bio: I cannot separate the definition of my art from the 4-year-old boy picking a purple wildflower. Soft petals touched my nose beneath the summer sun that unfolded them.
The remnant prairie field beside my boyhood home was met by cross timbers canopy of oak over a shallow stretch of Deep Fork Creek. I was curious. Raindrops seeped into creek flowing to a river, and the river an ocean.
Now that I approach my 68th year, I face my morality with a sense of continuum as time distills moments filtered by that small flower known as Wine Cup.
I was a child of desegregation when waves of white flight swept families into suburbs and away from my home beside the field. I learned through the years that bigotry is based on lies.
My eyes became the lens of a Nikon camera as I documented the lives of the dispossessed, the plight of the homeless in New York City, Boston, and Oklahoma City. I loved New York City but returned to Oklahoma City to be near my mother who had survived her first battle with breast cancer a few years earlier.
So, I began my nearly 35-year career at The Edmond Sun. The newspaper was shuttered in 2020 during the C0VID pandemic. However, I remain a regular contributor to Oklahoma’s Nursing Times having wrote more than 2,000 profiles about the nursing profession.
Credits include twice winning the Associated Press Sweepstakes Award, and being inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame.
Poetry writing includes anthologies celebrating the life of Woody Guthrie. In 2016, ten of poems against terrorism and to save the Sunderbans (wetlands) were published in “Onnyodhara” (The Alternative Way) Eid-special issue festival edition in association with “Anushilon” (The Culture & Literature Society) the National Literary Organization of Bangladesh. Poems have appeared in Dragon Poetry Review, Oklahoma Poetry Society, Tuck magazine, Brave Voices poetry journal, Time of the Poet Republic, and the 2021 international anthology, Poetry for Ukraine, published by The Poet, among others.
The 2021 poem, Silenced Cries, was part of the University of Central Oklahoma’s commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa, Okla. massacre of more than 300 black innocents who had lived in the (Black Wall Street) Greenwood district of Tulsa.
Books include Metaphors of the Rainbow, a collaboration with Zimbabwe poet, Mbizo Chirasha; and being an Oklahoma Book Award finalist for Words of Rain.
A few words about James Coburn and Edwin Chiloba, provided by John Echem.
James Coburn, the Oklahoman literary big name and a seasoned poet, is studied for his
inconsolable voice and empathy for the mistreated. His meditation on the ennui and
cheerlessness of life, vouchsafe his corner, in a system with many-sided emotional makeups.
In the poetic output, ” Requiem for Edwin Chiloba “, a depressing mood or feeling is intensified for Edwin Kiprotich Chiloba, the Kenyan gay rights activist, fashion designer, and model who was found dead in a metal box on 6 January 2023.
The poet sustains a dolorous mood and shames man’s inhumanity to man. In other words, human ecology has become a scare to humankind as a consequence of intolerable bigotries that are choking the world systems. Dogmatic revulsion by social sects and their irreconcilable social values has made man a snare to fellow man. It is on this ground that the poet fears for mankind, the risk of social conjugation, such as the homicide of Edwin Kiprotich Chiloba, as a consequence of his social value.
The lexical and figurative choices deployed in this output are of a unique category that poses a challenge to writers of threnody as they engage the mental faculties with an ineluctable grasp. The olfactory, thermal, optical, and auditory capabilities are persuasively summoned in the most introspective power for the assessment of the horrendous homicide of Edwin Chiloba.
In conclusion, the poet’s allusion to the pietistic words of the Messiah on the rood; dispenses his virtue as a man of peace.
“Father forgive them, for
They do know not what
They do “
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