Poem In Memory of Wangari Maathai - S. Thomasita Homan

Published: Monday, November 14, 2011

Wangari Muta Maathai
A tribute to Wangari Muta Maathai, Nairobi, Kenya, who died September 25, 2011, at the age of 71

You came so far, Wangari, for your education:
Your biology degree here, from our college,
then to Pittsburgh, to Nairobi, and your Ph.D.

But that was just the beginning.

Just the beginning of what it means to plant.

And here by our BC library today, we plant one maple tree.

Trees so much a part of you when first you arrived—
Trees, so much a part of learning
As trees move to pulp to paper to books.

We wonder what we plant when we plant trees.
As you wondered, Wangari, when in 1977 you founded
the Green Belt Movement in Kenya.


Now, 45 million trees later, she and we and the world
find she has planted trees and more
she has planted cooperation and freedom
and peace and responsibility and faith
and armloads of compassion that reach world-wide
and challenge us to do the same.

And here by our library today, we plant one maple tree.

But this is just our beginning.
Just the beginning of what it means to plant.


Wangari’s children, Waweru, Wanjira, and Muta at the family funeral Friday
planted one tree: an Olea Africana tree
in Uhuru Park, where Wangari had been beaten
and tear-gassed for facing injustices.
Some years before her Nobel Peace Award.

Why the Olea Africana tree? Perhaps because, like Wangari, this tree:
grows tall
can tolerate a wide variety of environments
is resistant to frost, drought, and wind, and is
a “many-branched” tree, that likes “full sun.”


You have full sun, Wangari.

“May the trees of the woods clap their hands in full joy” (Ps 96:12).

Sister Thomasita Homan, OSB
Emeritus Professor of English at Benedictine College
Longtime friend to Wangari Maathai