Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Umcabango ngomhlaba nabesifazane

I realized that umhlaba mubi when a friend said "asingalwi nabelungu namhlanje" as we were meeting up. Inkinga kwakungesiwo amazwi akhe, kodwa isimo sempilo abantu abamnyama abaphila ngaphansi kwaso eNingizimu Afrika entsha. What my friend was saying is that he had enough of confronting racism each time we went out. Phela standing up to racism on a daily basis is exhausting. Ngiyakutshela wena, abelungu abezwa mshini. Uma uveza ukuthi banobandlululo ungazithola sewugcine uxolisile ngenxa yokuveza lokhu. 

Lokhu singakufanisa nabantu besifazane, ikakhulu laba ababizwa ngamafeminist. Bahlala besikhumbuza ukuthi abesifazane basacindezeleke kanjani kodwa asifuni ukubezwa, ngoba asifuni ukushintsha. I once wrote an article on how the biggest beneficiaries of virginity testing were men. In this article I tried to highlight how the justification of such practices happened within a patriarchal framing of society. Ingcindezi abantu besifazane abangaphansi kwayo emakhaya, emisebenzini, kuma-relationship abo kanye nabesilisa, emphakathini wonkana, engalweni yomthetho; yenza babenolaka. Ulaka lwabo silushaya indiva ngoba sithi banesicefe, sithi ba-emotional. Siyahluleka ukubezwa uma bekhala. We get caught up in tone-policicing that we don't hear what they are raising. Lalela, ayikho indlela enhle yokufa. Uma ubhekene nokufa wenza noma yini ukuze ukugweme. When you are dying you do anything to keep your life. The same logic can be be applied in understanding Black women's experiences and expressions in present day South Africa. 

Lokhu kusho ukuthini? 

Akufanele ukuthi siyeke ukulwa nobandlululo. The fight to do away with white supremacy must be continued vigorously. We cannot allow ourselves to internalize the inhumane behavior we receive ezandleni zabamhlophe. Lokhu kusenza siphathe abesifazane ngesihluku esifana naleso abelungu abasiphethe ngaso. Asiyeke ukudicilela phansi izinhlangano zabantu besifazane ezifana nefeminist movement, ngoba uma senza njalo, sizibuyisela emuva. Kufanele sikhumbule ukuthi uma sifuna inkululeko then we should all be black feminists.

Abantu besifazane abamnyama kufanele sibadedele kube yibona abasitshengisa indlela eya enkululekweni, njengoba benza ngama-1950s. Kufanele amaphimbo abo kube iwona alalelwayo ukuze noma ikuphi esikwenzayo okuyimizamo yenkululeko, sikwenze ngendlela ezokwenza lonke ilunga lo mphakathi lihlomule ngokulinganayo ezinhlelweni zokuletha ushintsho nentuthuko. Black women are the best people to lead the fight against racism and sexism, because they are the most affected group. We must follow their lead if we are to win this fight. Any efforts of leading society towards emancipation that does not embody the needs of Black women are counter-revolutionary.

Yebo, umhlaba mubi. Kodwa akupheli lapho. Thina esiphilayo sinenselelo ukuthi mhla sifa, sife ikhona indima noma igalelo esibenalo ekwenzeni ukuthi umhlaba ube indawo engcono.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Demystifying Race

The premise upon which differences between races of human beings are said to exist, that human beings can be classed into four or five divisions in consequence of complexion is flawed. This flaw has resulted in great confusion and has made human beings see themselves as more different than they are similar. The world has, over the centuries, adopted a definition of race based on the physical appearance of human beings. This definition has been maintained and often used to back the science of discrimination against the people of colour, with a special focus on black people. This prejudice continues to be at the core of interactions between the people of South Africa. 

In an attempt to overcome this prejudice I have sometimes thought it progressive to reject my blackness and to adopt a non-racial identity. The universal declaration of human rights has cushioned me in this pursuit while the idea of a rainbow nation has filled me with hope of unity. Through an ongoing pondering upon my blackness I have understood, sometimes with great difficulty, that there is an ideological force waging against black people the world over; and that by virtue of being born black, I am often at the receiving end. 

In South Africa it has become common practice to suggest that black people should forget the past and embrace the future as a response to their cries about the prevalence of apartheid through its legacy. As a black person, this translates into shedding one’s blackness as a means to overcome the imbalances of the past; to get over apartheid and “get with the program”. This is in stark contrast to my reality where there is no space in South Africa that I can step into without being reminded of my blackness.  While in the past my blackness made those of my kind to endure gross discrimination, my blackness continues to be a thorny issue in present day South Africa. My kind are said to be reverse racists. It is an encouraged proposal – this shedding or rejection of my blackness and instant colour blindness. It is designed to make me fit in, to be accepted in so-called ‘white’ spaces. Remarks such as “you speak so well” and “you are not like the others” are evidence that you are making progress in shedding your blackness. It is further reinforced through subliminal messages on the television that promote whiteness. 

The emergence of the black middle class is the ultimate ace in the sleeve as it rubber stamps the idea of an integrated society, perpetuated by a false understanding of race. It allows those who benefited from the past an opportunity to rid themselves of the guilt and privilege.  Furthermore, for political reasons, the use of racial categories in the process of designing policies and strategies for a non-racist society is problematic if no consideration is given to more fundamental questions about its efficiency for ongoing social analysis. This approach has shown the impact of racist practices as a factor in understanding South African society post 1994; but does not acknowledge that the majority of the people continue to be victims of apartheid’s legacy.

In an attempt to get a better sense of socio-economic interactions between blacks and whites, and simultaneously shed light on better race relations in post-apartheid South Africa, one needs to point out that the real problem in South Africa since the advent of democracy is an economic one. The African National Congress-led government has adopted an approach to race that has resulted in no revolutionary change in the economic structure of South Africa since apartheid in 1948, and in that a few blacks are now in the privileged class thereby creating the illusion of racial integration. It also needs to be said that as a consequence of apartheid, most black people are subject to poverty. This further makes complex the distinction between the economic and racial nature of the struggle between blacks and whites.

The realization that we are united in race can be a great starting point to address the economic disparities that exist between black and white. To label incidences between black and white people as racially charged is but a symptomatic treatment of the economic problem. Pretending that the new faces of government have brought about real and meaningful change in the lives of the ordinary people needs to stop because it maintains and protects white privilege.

Monday, 10 March 2014

What If My Dreams Are Different?

What if my dreams are different to yours?
What if I believe in a different cause?
What if I'm just taking a pause;
reflecting on the rule of laws enacted since '94?

What if our dreams are lost, too elaborate and without thought,
too splendid that those who fought,
are now forgotten and amount to nought?

What if all dreams are paused,
parked and shelved by a certain clause,
hindered and killed by all these laws,
preventing us from knocking on opportunity's doors?

Maybe reality is a bad dream and we can't awaken.
We're oppressed, enslaved, drugged and forever shaken,
by visions of poverty, war and the Earth shaking.
Maybe it’s not rocket science to heal those dying
from HIV, a dreadful disease that has the poor quaking.

What if my dreams are pure, and abound with love;
But those of a collective nature that inspire and nurture?
What if my hopes are not iron fists in a velvet glove;
But those of one who seeks wisdom, perhaps a soul searcher?

What if we loved each other;
Live and laugh like sister and brother?
Could we share and give without a bother;
In the same way commanded by the Heavenly Father?

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Iculo; The World's First Song

The world's first song was discordant voices inspired by a most beautiful story, a story of inspiration.

The sound appeared to be chaos to some, they had never heard anything like it in their long lives on Earth. It was as if time itself had dared to slow down and appreciate the beauty of this gift. It was powerful; and so deeply moving that those none dared scoff at this melodic sound. It ushered a silence willingly surrendered by the souls of those who were blessed to witness it. In  silence they sat, their ears unaccustomed to the strange yet soothing sounds they were hearing.

The hot afternoon sun seemed to soften its heat as the sound filtered thrugh the air, every note rattling the leaves as if tickled by a breeze. The resonance between Nature and the human voice brought tranquility as the pitch soared through the vast African skies; as if it was responding to a being far beyond the eye could see. The heavens stilled for a moment in harmony, bearing testament to this remarkable sound.

The source of this melodic sound was Mzwilili, Kintu's second daughter. Her voice seemed to bring a cool across the whole village as her voice carried to every ear, beckoning each being to pay attention. The village elders found their spirits and voices moved by a certain something from deep within them; and were soon in unison with Mzwilili as the spirit of song and dance flowed through their veins, igniting fires of unknown passion. Their bodies flexed and flowed in movements never seen before; as if a gentle wind was blowing them from all around, as if they were being caressed by the very hands of Mother Nature.

In the midst of this trance-like dance accompanied by singing inspired her voice,  Mzwilili stretched calf skin over a hollowed-out log from a lightening-struck tree not far from beyond the fields. As if she had been instructed by a power, she tightly bound the calf skin on the one end of the log which she had now cut into the size of a grown man's arm in length. She then beat gently on the calf skin, now tightly bound to the log, with her open palm in rhythms that had the villagers break into jubilation. Each beat sent a pulse of life through the limbs of the elderly and they uncontrollably found themselves breaking out into dance. The young men and women rose in a multitude of voices and chorussed together, the sound of their voices making some of the older men cry unashamedly.

Thus a new song was sung on that day; and it was called 'iculo'.

Monday, 13 January 2014

African Child

Rise, rise African child;
Rise for your time has come
To take your rightful place.

This land of your forefathers
Lies in ruin and wounded at heart.
Rise African child;
The world awaits your healing.
Can you not hear it calling or see it weeping?

Rise African child for the time is nigh,
For your light to shine for all to see.
See it illuminate the planes and chase the dark away.
Rise African child,
African child shine!

Worry not about those who set traps in your way.
They lie and hide the truth away,
Hoping and scheming to lead you astray,
Wishing and planning you would gently fade.
African child the world awaits,
Can you not see that this is your fate?

Learn African child learn
Thirst for knowledge and forever yearn
Your courage should forever stand.
Though trial and tribulation lies at hand,
Have no fear and understand.
You are a champion,
You are a star!

Of freedom

Freedom is as pleasant as the full moon on the eyes;
it flirts with our souls in beguiling smiles
Teasing and taunting our foolish minds
with its many great promises and desires.

It sets our hearts racing, pacing, craving, yearning
For a parchment of thirsts in caverns far in feeling
It is exciting and bold, it is youthful and boisterous
Some fail to understand it and label it rebellious.

Freedom is the blood that runs through our veins,
For once it stops we’ll surely have no blood in our brains;
To ponder and imagine the many twists on our many ways;
To attain it we must make sure our will prevails.

Freedom is the smile shared with a stranger;
For in that moment we know no danger
of thoughts and actions spurned by anger
Not resolved through life's struggles and banter.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Mistaken Identity

Over the years I have been trying to understand what it means to be a black person in post-apartheid South Africa. My identity is shaped by growing up amongst black people like myself. I have also spent extended periods of time with the others from the South African population groups. In all these I have learned that the black man is perceived differently by almost all the population groups. What is astounding in this lesson is that the white view of the black is the more dominant.

I have been fortunate to have had people who were conscious of the challenges that the black man is confronted with throughout out my life. I would listen to the many discussions that my parents would have with some of their visitors at our household, or when we would visit some of their friends. You see I was born at the time when the fight against apartheid was gathering its momentum; I was in grade 6 in ’94 in a school dominated by the Indian population. I had an appetite for reading material and would read my dad’s literature on the defiance campaigns and the struggle against apartheid. My mom’s trade union newsletters gave me a sense of pride as a young black boy that the black man was reclaiming his position in society. All this made me conscious of race by that age. During break time at school we would sometimes play soccer with the other boys and to form teams we would say “it’s the blacks against the Indians”.

I remember one occasion when my family and I went grocery shopping at the Hyperama. For the little boy in me this was a grand occasion because it also afforded me the chance to get a close look at white people and their habits, a chance to play games that their kids played as was shown on television. Whiteness seemed a grand life for me. Together with westernisation it continues to be portrayed wonderfully in the media. Our limited exposure to reading material meant that we paged through magazines while picture reading. We would say to each other, “the page on the left is yours and the one on the right is yours”. As we paged through the magazine we would then celebrate or lament at what the pages revealed. If your page did not have any fancy pictures with white models showcasing clothes or a certain lifestyle you would be the loser. This is not senseless blabber as you may probably think; I am trying to paint the extent to which I comprehend my blackness.

By the time I was a teenager I was attending a school that was dominantly white. In my grade 8 class we were only 4 black people in a class of 32. Contrary to what I had learned in my mom’s newsletters over the years, numbers did not matter in this new environment. One had to adopt another strategy if one was to advance change in the way blacks were treated in this school. Before you make quick conclusions, I remember only two occasions where we were referred to as kaffirs during my time at that school. In retrospect, this made the white people seem good to us. They were giving us education and Christianity; they knew these were good for us. If we refused these, we would turn out like other black people who were lazy and drunks they told us. The prospect of being lazy and a drunk did not appeal to me so we worked harder and accepted our situation. With that said, I came to know for sure where my place was in the greater scheme of things. Building solidarity seemed the next best strategy but I quickly learned that as the 4 black people in the class we saw the world around us very differently.

It is hard understanding my blackness in post-apartheid South Africa. Through my experiences of advancing the struggle against racial inequality I have come to learn of others like me who are also struggling. They are in other parts of Africa, in Asia, in the south Americas, in Scandinavian Europe, in all parts of the world. While they are not black like me I have found that they are struggling too. In their struggles I have found solidarity. In their pain I have questioned my alleged freedom; how can I be free when others are suffering from one form of oppression or the other? Even if they may not be in my immediate environment I find it hard to consider myself a free man. I find it hard to live with my fellow brothers and sisters who consider themselves free. Those who see themselves as free celebrate and claim that they have the vote; yet this vote yields no change in the status quo. The only change I see are the faces of government. It is hard to understand my blackness in relation to these group of people. It is even harder to comprehend y blackness in the midst of those who advocate that we be colour blind. In the quest to defeat racial inequality and embracing my blackness I have encountered an enemy more sinister; colour blindness.

My blackness is intertwined with the struggles for emancipation of the people of Palestine; it is rooted in the cause for justice in Yemen. My blackness is the face of poverty in India; it is in the labours on which capitalism thrives. My blackness is the cry for a better education across the world, it is echoed in the billions of youth with no jobs the world over. My blackness is drained in the blood that is throughout Africa today, it is seen in the eyes of hungry children. My blackness is suffering at a time when the world has every means to make me heal, to make me whole. My blackness is beyond skin colour. It is an identity of the poor, the forgotten citizens the world over.

My blackness has been misunderstood because many have feared it. The winds of change forever blow and they awaken my soul to a new day. My blackness is the only hope for humanity. It carries no gun and is clothed in love. My blackness is an embodiment of Ubuntu; it is the understanding that no human being should dominate another. My blackness is the protection of children from hunger and disease; it is empowerment for the women. My blackness is in restoring pride and dignity; it is in standing side by side as brothers and sisters knowing that we are all not destitute.