The Trials and Tribulations of Mumbi Agwanda (The Talon’s Talent 2nd Place Winner)

Hi. My name is Mumbi Agwanda. I’m 8 years old, and I just got a diary for my early Christmas
gift. I think it’s stupid, but I have to write in this every time I feel sad. Hopefully I won’t have to
open this for very long. Sincerely, 8-year-old Mumbi.

Today I went to my Sophie’s New Year’s Eve party. Her parents invited mine, and I got to stay
up until 12am without getting in trouble! When I first walked into the kids’ room, all Sophies
friends from church and girl scouts were there. There was Charlie, Jenna, Ava, Derek, and a
couple of other kids but I forgot their names. When they asked me what my name was, I replied

“Mumbi, what’s yours?”

A heard a couple of people chuckle and call me names. Sometimes I wish my name was Taylor
or Hannah or Maddy. Maybe it would make role call a little less embarrassing and meeting new
friends a little less hard. I hope I don’t have to open this book again for a while. Sincerely,

Today was the first day back to school from Christmas Break. For an activity, Mrs. Ive asked us
to share what we ate for holiday dinner. I told the truth, chapati (flatbread), pilau (seasoned rice),
sukuma (spinach), mandazi (fried dough), and kachumbari (tomato salad). The whole class
laughed at what I said and asked why the food I ate had weird names. That’s what I’ve eaten my
whole life, and I don’t even know how to explain it in English. I asked Baba (dad) and he told
me to ignore them and that they just “don’t understand our culture.” I don’t even know what
culture means really. I hope I don’t have to open this for long. Sincerely, 9-year-old Mumbi.

I just got back from the 5th Grade Spring Fling. This must be the worst night of my life. The
whole week all the boys were asking my friends to dance with them on tiny papers at recess. I
never got a letter. During recess on Wednesday, Me and Samantha had a master plan to get
Carson to ask me. Samantha would get Carson on the slide and tell him to ask me, while I hid
under and listened. When she tried, Carson shouted,

“Ew no, Mumbi looks dirty”

I’m still so confused on what he meant by that, but I cried until Mrs. Grant blew the whistle for
us to go inside. Tonight, I had hopes that someone would at least ask me to dance when the one
slow song came on. No one did, so I just hung around the gym walls until it was over. I hope I
don’t open this again for long. Sincerely, 10-year-old Mumbi

Today was the first day of sixth grade! It wasn’t all bad, but when I walked into the homeroom, I
was the only black person in the class. I didn’t feel too out of place though, some friends from
elementary school were there. Just nerves is all, I hope middle school isn’t as bad as the movies.
I sure hope I don’t open this again for long. Sincerely, 13-year-old Mumbi.

I’m writing this while crying in my room. People are so mean sometimes. Today, we were doing
group work in Mrs. Beck’s classroom and Gavin called me a word I’ve only heard in songs Baba
tells me not to listen too. A word only said to slaves in storybooks, A word that makes me feel
bad. I asked to go to the bathroom & cried until the period ended. When I told Mama (mom)
about it, she told me that it’s going to happen a lot in my life, & I should prepare to cry about
how I look many times after today. According to Mama, I’ll have to open this book again very
soon. Sincerely, Mumbi.

Today was supposed to be a great day. After begging Mama for months, I got my hair pressed at
the salon yesterday. I really wanted to have hair like my classmates. Mama said that because it
was cold, I could get it done if I took care of it. I walked out of the salon with my hair flowing in
the wind and blowing in my face. I could even take a brush and comb through it! That was a
first! But when I went to school today, everything seemed odd. I got SO many compliments
about my new hair. Sophie even told me,

“Your hair looks so much better straightened; you should wear it like that more often!”

I know she meant it as a compliment, but no one ever compliments my hair when it’s natural, or
even in my summer box braids. I know that my hair today was pretty, but I wish people thought
my natural hair was pretty too.

Today was the first day of eighth grade. Because I’ve done so well in school, I get to take high
school classes this year. Baba was so proud of me, and I was proud of me too. But when I
walked in, I was the only black person in the class. That’s normal for me, so I just sat down like
everyone else. But when the teacher started taking role call, she asked me a peculiar question.

“Hun, are you sure you’re in the correct class?”

Yes. I was. I’m only 14, but I know when someone is saying a racially directed comment, and
I’m pissed that she only said it to me. I hope I don’t have to open this for at least 2 weeks.
Sincerely, Mumbi.


I started high school. I loved it, they have a volleyball team, and the campus is so big it makes
me feel like I’m in college. I can’t wait for college. I heard that people are so much more
inclusive over there. But today, I don’t love it. I hate it. After volleyball, I was waiting for Baba
to come get me. The basketball players were walking in to play around in the gym. One of them
called my name and yelled,

“Your dark self needs to lose some weight”

My heart dropped into my Nike sweatpants. I’ve always felt insecure about my body, but people
rarely commented on it. Mama said it’s just how people from Kenya are built, and there was
nothing I could do about it. I know it’s probably genetics, but I just wish I was as skinny as
everyone else. Just a little bit off the thighs, smaller arms, and narrower shoulders. That’s all I
want. I remember being at the 7th grade swim day and praying a genie would come ask me for
three wishes I wanted to be granted. Sorry for the starving children, wars, and sick people of the
world, but to be completely honest, I’m only 14 and the most important thing to me is how boys
perceive me. Can’t blame me, right? Should’ve asked Ghandi instead. I’m here for four more
years, so expect many more entries. See you soon, Mumbi.