In the lead-up to the 2022 US midterm elections, one name popped up on the Pennsylvania State political stage; Malcolm Kenyatta and raised eyebrows thousands of miles away in Kenya.
Malcolm’s prominent surname, especially in Kenya where it is mostly used by members of former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s family, has sparked curiosity among Kenyans who are used to “producing” leaders on a global scale from Barack Obama in the US to Rishi Sunak in the UK.
However, Kenyatta is not a new face in US politics. The 32-year-old has served as a Pennsylvania State Representative for the 181st district since 2019.
In this year’s midterms, he was supporting the Democrat nominee for the Senate, John Fetterman after losing to him in the U.S. Senate Primaries in May.
So does the man have any links to Kenya or the former president for that matter?
For starters, the State representative got the name Kenyatta from his grandfather, Muhammad Kenyatta, who changed his name from Donald Brooks Jackson in the early 70s in honour of his heroes; Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam, and Jomo Kenyatta, the first president of Kenya.
Muhammad Kenyatta was a professor and civil rights activist who died in 1988 due to ill health.
His grandson, Malcom, was born in Philadelphia to the late Kelly Kenyatta and the late Malcolm J. Kenyatta in 1990.
An openly gay man and vocal LGBTQ+ rights activist, Kenyatta was one of 20 electors selected by the Pennsylvania Democratic Party to vote in the Electoral College for Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris in the 2020 United States presidential election.
Kenyatta holds a bachelor’s degree in strategic communication from Temple University and a master’s in public communication from Drexel University.
He is also a poet and in 2008, he co-founded a poetry collective called Babel, which has won the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational twice.
However, Kenyatta has no Kenyan roots, neither is he related to the Kenyatta family.