By Prudence Minayo
“Failure is only the opportunity to begin once again, this time more intelligently,” goes a popular quote by Henry Ford
This saying has proven true for Mercy Atis, a young Kenyan woman whose dream to pursue a life abroad went downhill-and fast-yet upon returning back to Kenya she refused to give up. Many in her shoes would recoil from society or give up completely, but not her. The many blows that life has handed her have only emboldened her. She says that not giving up is something that she strongly believes in.
Mercy Atis is her artist name derived from her real name, Marceline Atieno.
As a young child, she suffered a polio attack that left her paralyzed, hence, she would be taken to school on a wheelbarrow as there were no wheelchairs. She managed to hold the top three position in class with her favorite subjects being Mathematics and English. The teachers loved her as she would perform well despite her condition.
Later, she joined Ng’iya Girls High School before getting a chance to join Baraton University of East Africa in Eldoret.
Mercy was born in Siaya county and she went to school in the same county. Her father was a teacher who would speak to them in English, hence they were competent in the language. She lost her mother while she was in her third year of high school and her father years later while she was still in the United States of America. She also lost her brother, who was a student of Theology, while she was at Baraton University.
After being deported back to the country, she says her elder sister and brother were very supportive of her.
The jovial woman is also a single mother of two children aged 3-years-old and 1-year-old.
Life in America
After losing her brother, a friend of the brother who was living in the US said he wanted to help. She accepted the idea and was willing to go to the United States even if it was just to work as a house help. The friend then sent her scholarship papers for a school in the US and she was accepted after application. She did not have money to apply for a Visa or to buy a plane ticket. Luckily, she was able to meet some amazing people who helped her get the visa and an SDA church pastor and congregation who contributed to buy her a plane ticket.
The then young lady with optimistic views about the future landed in the US (this was in 2005) and managed to find her way to the school. She got there, was given a hostel but for the next eight months did not attend school. Instead, they were given magazines to sell to people as a way of helping them raise money to get through school.
Mercy met another lady who eventually helped her get to nursing school. She qualified as a nursing assistant but could not pursue further studies due to lack of school fees. She worked for a while as a nursing assistant before quitting to pursue her dream of becoming a musician. Hence, she ended up in California.
While in California, she was homeless and ended up living in a shelter. Things took a turn for the worst when her father died and a video of the funeral proceedings was sent to her. Instead of giving it to her, the shelter workers opened it and began watching even after seeing her. According to her, they started laughing and even locked her out of the room. She banged and shouted in the hope they would open the door to no avail. To get their attention, she lit a piece of rag which prompted them to open the door and put out the fire. In her own words, the rag just burnt for a few minutes and she was arrested for unlawfully starting a fire. The charges were later amplified to arson which resulted in her being imprisoned for 5 years.
Life in prison was not easy as she got a lot of racist comments including calling her a monkey. When she answered back, she was severely beaten. In 2014, she was deported to Kenya wearing a bloody hospital gown which was open at the back.
Mercy Atis loved singing from a young age. She would sing in the SDA church choir and later in the Ng’iya Girls’ choir.
She recently released the song I Don’t Wanna Know. The video was released on Facebook and YouTube. It attracted a lot of negative comments with people telling her she does not know how to sing. They criticized everything from her body, clothes and even make up. The comments were so hateful with everyone judging her until she got to share her story in an interview. She further revealed that she has done a whole album and 5 music videos this year.
A song by Mercy Atis ‘I dont wanna know’ Video courtesy of Youtube
When she landed back in Kenya a few years ago, she took on menial jobs and later went to Malindi to do the same. She also operates a salon and sells hoods and t-shirts.
The artist was also arrested last year in relation to running an adult site. She cannot delve into this because it is a court case but says it was a set up by fake friends.