Written By: Edward Ramjuse
Welcome to Kenya the hub of many tourist attractions. The country is famous for its tourist attraction. Here we meet George Barasa known by many as Joji Baro. The self-proclaimed drag queen in the busy hub city of Nairobi in Kenya. Being gay in an African community is not easy, when many youths who come out face rejection and discrimination from friends and family. Homosexuals in Kenya face a lot of challenges such as discrimination, but these has never deterred them from fighting for their rights. The LGBT community doesn’t have a say in the country. Anytime they hold demonstrations their pleas are not heard, they have no one to defend them.
Well Joji Baro’s story isn’t any different. The society judges homosexuals harshly, and this makes them feel out of place.
He was forced to drop out of secondary school due to a heavy revolt against his sexual orientation. Joji was the subject of much controversy when he was unfortunately outed by Kenyan newspapers in 2011 after having a relationship with a priest
Joji came out of the closet in 2013 prompting his parents and family members decision to disown him. Joji Barasa was born in Nairobi, raised in Bungoma before settling down in Nairobi’s Embakasi area.
Joji has gone through many instances of depression. In 2015 the singer revealed that he had not taken a single pill for a whole month and was feeling more alive than ever. Joji Baro had stopped taking his ARV medication. In his status, Baro reveals that he no longer sees the need to keep prolonging his life yet he continues to suffer more. This was through a post he made on his social media accounts. The singer attempted to end his life in November, 2015.Baro wanted to kill himself on November 26 but later withdrew the threat on grounds that suicide was a short-term solution to a long term problem.
One incident Joji was attacked by his neighbors who went ahead to attract an angry mob, because they did not want to live with a gay man in their neighborhood. Joji narrated to the media,
“I was lashed, caned, kicked, slapped, punched, beaten and am that. I have bruises all over my body….as if that was not enough; some said I should be burned and that they don’t want gays in their neighborhood.
One of then landed a hockey stick on the back of my neck and I fell down.
It is from there that I was mobbed like a thief.I was then locked in a dirty empty room where I was undressed to find out whether am a man or a woman,…I was then tortured more.
And tortured and tortured. They seized my phone gadgets and my house key and did everything with my house.For three hours locked in isolation similar to solitary just within the Tel Aviv estate managed Bethsamwel Investment Limited in Embakasi. I was then released to go back to my house, pack my things, and leave. Leave to nowhere.”
Despite all these downs in his life, Joji got very impressive support from the LGBTQ community and his fans and was able to rise up and release a hit song, which gives a narration of his life. He is an activist who currently works at a LGBT+ homeless shelter and is a Kenyan correspondent for Kuchu Times.
Joji Barasa is a renowned gospel artist in Kenya. Joji has also worked with other artists including Noti Flow who is a sexy lesbian rapper in Kenya. The two teamed up with a group of other homosexuals and what they did left many mouths wide open. Art Attack also another famous artist in the LGBTQ community took part in the making and recording of the Kenyan version of Same Love. The team released a hit song that talks about the struggles of a homosexual couple in Kenya. The song was titled Same Love just like the original song released by MacLemore. But what really stole the show about the song was that much like the original song by MacLemore, it promoted same sex relationships and starring in the video were some popular artists and openly gay figures in Kenyan and across Africa. The song is a tribute to Joji Baro, the first ever gospel homosexual singer to come out of the closet. Joji Baro has been through a lot and from the song; one can easily tell that his life as a homosexual in Kenya has not been that easy.
Sadly enough the song was banned in Kenya from airing and the public advised not to share it. In their press statement Kenya Films Classification Board (KFCB) said that the ban was due to some sexually graphic scenes in the video as well as lyrics that support same sex relationships in the country.Both Noti and Joji took issue with the harsh decision as it landed a heavy blow in their cause. And so they took to social media and shared their grief with their fans.
“WTF??? The Kenyan Government has banned our song ‘Same Love’, a collaborative effort between me and rapper Art Attack. The Government has also ordered the Kenyan Media NOT to distribute the song anywhere and asked Kenyans to avoid sharing or distributing the song on social media. Wow! What the hell? This is a simple song that celebrates SAME SEX rights and that acknowledges the rights of Gays and Lesbians.
According Joji Baro, music and poetry go hand in hand. He is still working on his music but recently took a break from recording music and has shifted his focus to being a performing artist. He is also involved in production and music videos. Most of the content Joji Baro is working on at the moment is more visual, Joji has come to realize that his target audience are more receptive to videos and pictures. This has challenged him to change his approach from audio to video to create more of an impact.