Does “heritage” as defined simply mean where one or a group of people come from? Is it ones culture? Is it elements of what shapes ones culture?…what does “heritage” mean to you?…
Does “heritage” as defined simply mean where one or a group of people come from? Is it ones culture? Is it elements of what shapes ones culture?…what does “heritage” mean to you?…
“The kind of Africa we need today is … an Africa where the young people want to stay, not a place they want to move away from” new African Head of the African Development Bank…Akinwumi Adesina
This is a call that I echo, as a young person that returned home from my studies in Australia, I hold myself responsible to build an Africa that all the young people will want to stay in. I worked in Dubai on a project, but my mind was always focused on coming back to the Motherland to “till the land’ and build an Africa we can all be proud of. Through immersing myself in several African studies and engaging scholars in this arena, I am continuously learning and understanding what our continent needs.
Surely, as a young African professional, there must be a legacy that we can leave in our generation…Our liberation leaders, the Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Sam Nujoma of Namibia, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Kwame Nkurumah of Ghana to mention a few have played their part in Africa’s liberation.
This is a call to all young people to follow the examples of leadership of Jerry Rawlings, Ex- President of Ghana, a leader who’s philosophy was that we can all make a difference, the prosperity of our African countries, lies in us all rolling up our sleeves. A retired civil servant, Doris Addy is quoted saying that one of the legacies of Jerry Rawlings was the ability to As the President, Rawlings did not mind getting his hands dirty by working and therefore people admired him and saw him as a role model. “I remember in one of the pictures I saw him cleaning the gutters and people were standing next to him wondering how a man of his caliber would do such.”
This is the call that I am making to all young Africans including myself and those African brothers and sisters in the diaspora that are flying the African flag high. Let us be servant leaders for our continent. Let us roll up our sleeves and determine what is needed for our generation to make Agenda 2063 a reality and see our continent thrive. Let us immerse ourselves in our history and UNITE and solve the challenges of our time. This cannot be left to anyone else, we are all responsible for making our continent the best that it can be.
I speak to myself as much as I speak to every young person that is reading this post in encouraging our elders to engage with our generation in defining what our continent needs to enable each and every one of us to do our part in making it the Africa we want to see. There is an African proverb that says “If you think you are too small to make a difference…you have not spent a night with a mosquito.’ As we begin to find our consciousness as Africans and work towards liberating not only ourselves but others, we will realise the African dream in our lifetime is a possibility…a prosperous continent in our lifetime…We can all make a difference by engaging in Afro-centric dialogues that lead to actions… A guest Blog Post By:
“Freedom? You’re asking me about freedom? You’re asking me about freedom? I’ll be honest with you. I know a whole more about what freedom isn’t than about what it is, because I’ve never been free.” – Assata Shakur
As I pen this article, I am overwhelmed with emotion and trepidation at the thought of change. It’s hard to think that all that has been familiar to me these past five years will be but a marker in my life’s timeline. You see – this is my last day with my current employer. When I first entered the doors; bright eyed, with the wind in my sails and the glint in my eye, I could not hold the sheer excitement of the genesis of my career as a budding attorney. I did not know it then, but this adventure would yield significant moments of introspection as the impactful words of my former jurisprudence lecturer and the man who delivered the commencement speech at my law degree graduation (Professor Firoz Cachalia) rang in my ear – “an LLB is a tool for social justice”.
“We, the People of South Africa, declare for all our country and the world to know that our country will never be prosperous or free until all our people live in brotherhood and enjoy equal rights and opportunities.” – These famous words are immortalised in the opening paragraph of the Freedom Charter of 1955. As that statement imbued my mind, the unanswered cries from 1955 burnt a cold thought. In this moment, I had to take into account my privilege in having the ability to reflect on moments in my career, to make life decisions based on what I have, who I am and where I am – a freedom not afforded to many South Africans today.
So, what is this elusive thing called freedom? Following her dramatic escape from a prison, having been convicted of a crime she could not have committed – Assata Shakur sought to explain a concept she had never experienced:
“I can only share my vision with you of the future, about what freedom is. The way I see it, freedom is– is the right to grow, is the right to Blossom. Freedom is the right to be yourself, to be who you are, to be who you wanna be, to do what you wanna do”
As elementary as Assata’s words may seem, it is a wretched reality knowing that not all seeds bloom. For seeds to grow, they require the appropriate biological conditions, however, such conditions must be sustainable.
As I continue to reflect and enjoy the freedom within my grasp, I am fortunate that my upbringing provided me with an understanding of the disturbing impact of South Africa’s racist apartheid laws on mine, the lives of those around me as well as the greater South African community. Thinking back to my childhood, the law represented something which sought to divide and discriminate. No greater symbol brought about the possibility of the liberties set out in the Freedom Charter than Nelson Mandela’s raised fist outside of Victor Verster prison in 1990. This catalyst of change and improved life for all South Africans was well articulated in Hip Hop Panstula’s (“HHP”) song Harambe when he stated:
“Never been called a kaffir before / Can’t imagine seeing 10 cops and dogs charging through my front door / Can’t say what teargas smells like / Can’t even imagine what a rubber bullet on your back felt like / Can’t imagine holding guns in my palms / Can’t imagine ke go bona carrying Hector Peterson in your arms”
The changing tide bore beauty like the rose that grew from concrete. With scratched petals and a crooked stem, these freedoms to be enjoyed by all South Africans seemed to prove natures laws wrong.
Unfortunately, HHP’s world has not been realised by all South Africans since Madiba raised his hand. The fight for many other freedoms such as the right to decent healthcare (the Esidimeni patients), the right to fair labour practices (the Marikana miners), the right to decent housing (Grootboom) and the right to receive an education (Fees Must Fall) has been met with brutal actions HHP thought he would not see in his lifetime.
So here I am – my experience has led me to a place where I know that I have a continuing responsibility to transform the world around me and to further the ongoing struggle for social justice. My country is still a long way from becoming a just society which upholds the spirit and purport of the Freedom Charter and our beloved Constitution. As I transition from one phase of my life to another, I should not fear, but relish the opportunity to learn new ways of wielding this tool that I am fortunate to have. What must remain consistent and resolute is the pursuit of social justice and freedoms denied to fellow South Africans. A wise man called James Baldwin once said:
“Words like ‘freedom’, ‘justice’ and ‘democracy’ are not common concepts; on the contrary, they are rare. People are not born knowing what these are. It takes enormous, and above all, individual effort to arrive at the respect for other people that these words imply.”
By Lebo Phaladi
Lebo is a qualified attorney who has been practicing competition / anti-trust law over the last 5 years. He is passionate about helping people and advocating for fair and equal rights. Lebo is an avid knowledge seeker and has a deep love for God, hip-hop and film. More importantly Lebo loves the African continent and its people and hopes to make positive sustainable changes with his contributions to society.
In 2016, living in the city in a generally progressive country and having been raised in a loving home, I get to enjoy the privilege (or basic human right) of being free from the insane idea that my worth as a human being lies in my ability to cook, clean, bear children, or by fulfilling any other rigidly defined gender role called “my duty” in the social constructs of patriarchy, as a woman. However so many of my male counterparts are still “locked up” and dying inside, chained to the idea that their worth lies in their ability to be the dominant and strong “provider” at all times etc. While I get to decide who and how I want to be as an individual, without my asserted sexuality being questioned or doubted, my male counterparts still live under the constant pressure to perform according to archaic and rigidly defined gender roles.
I have been patiently observing the debate in the last couple of weeks over racist outbursts of European South Africans that had many people, mostly African South Africans, expressing outrage and collectively naming and shaming the racists. I couldn’t help but notice that, while the naming and shaming of individuals yielded results, not enough emphasis has been put on the causes of racism and specifically in the case of South Africa, why after 22 years of ‘independence’, European South Africans still feel so confident to denigrate their fellow African countrymen, in a country where they are a minority. I was glad when I read EFF leader Julius Malema’s opinion piece titled Why do white people despise blacks, in which he dissected the reasons behind the continued existence of a superiority complex among European South Africans, manifested in their verbal attacks towards African people, and more seriously through the racist system that has been in place for several centuries with manifestly no effort to undo it, despite the Rainbow Nation slogan chanted since 1994.
Contrary to what many commentators often say, racism does not need to be defined, as all of us, perpetrators (even as they bask in ‘white’ privilege) and victims of racism, know its meaning and the many forms through which racism is manifested. Trying to project a lack of understanding of racism or even attempts to question the victim’s understanding of what racism means to them is simply disingenuous. As somebody pointed out on Twitter, racism is the cultural, economic and systematic subjugation of one race by another, and until proven otherwise, Africans have never done this to any other race. In other words, racism is about power, and reaction to racism cannot be racism.
With all of that said, how can racism be dealt with beyond naming and shaming the overt racists?
1. Criminalise racism
Racism is still legal in this country because legality is a matter of power, not justice, and we must remember that slavery, colonialism and apartheid were all legal. Unlike African-Americans in the USA, African South Africans have political power with a majority in parliament and can easily legislate and criminalise racism. We must go beyond crimen injuria and legislate against racism, specifically in the case of South Africa, much as anti-Semitism and holocaust denialism are criminalised in Europe. The consequences must be serious and severe, not community service, fine or suspended sentence. The racists in South Africa must face consequences similar to those faced by holocaust denialists and anti-Semitists in Europe, or even the terrorist-apologists, as those that try to ‘justify’ terrorism are referred to in France and other western countries. The consequence of racism cannot be having to make an apology, as we know the perpetrators are often not sincere, and are part of a system that continually breeds racism due to lack of consequences. The Apartheid flag must be criminalised.
2. Take back our spaces
There are no-go areas in South Africa, where the oppressors and occupiers seemingly did not receive the 1994 memo that ended Apartheid. In some of these places, not just racism, but actual Apartheid is practised, and this in just unacceptable in 2016’s South Africa. This can be undone through a combination of land reform (resettling and empowering Africans in these areas) and the introduction of new stringent anti-racism laws to be vigorously enforced. Building prisons in these areas for those convicted of racism will certainly create more employment opportunities.
3. Decolonise existing institutions
Through legislation and strict enforcement, existing institutions must be transformed. Not by simply setting employment equity targets and some BEE shareholding, but by addressing structural issues. Some examples are: the curriculum at schools and universities where the approach is excessively Eurocentric as a legacy of colonisation and Apartheid; changing the South African Reserve Bank’s official mandate from inflation targeting to low unemployment and economic growth; influencing the language and admission policies of schools and universities; pushing change at various corporates, including banks and companies such as television production companies that continue to perpetuate the African as a second class citizen by reserving prime channels for ‘white’ content, to the point where secondary channels have to be created for African content, with smaller budgets, even if they are more profitable. Such television production companies continue to play a non-reconciliatory role, perpetuating divisions along racial lines and at the very best encouraging assimilation as opposed to integration, instead of making efforts to bridge the racial divide and bring South Africans together.
4. Develop strong African institutions
Bigger efforts must be directed at developing strong and leading African institutions in business (financial services, education, retail, manufacturing, real estate and others), art, literature, education, etc. that will offer Africans pride and act as a counter balance to existing ‘white’ institutions. These will ensure that ‘black’ people facing institutional racism can “vote with their feet”. Such a situation will force institutional racism to be addressed within the broader ‘white’ community as it is generally silently endorsed widely within the community. If we say European South Africans are generally racist, I am sure most among them that work for African-owned institutions are generally less racist than those that do not, because racism is about power and respect.
5. Decolonise the African mind
Steve Biko said the most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed. To truly restore our dignity as Africans, we must emancipate ourselves from mental slavery, as Bob Marley sang. Africans must urgently seek and understand the true African history (which did not start with the arrival of the occupier), promote a new curriculum at schools and universities that reflect this rich history, develop and embrace African culture, and put an end to the herd mentality of always rushing to the latest trend from the west as this reinforces their power and belief that they and their ways are better/superior. Shifting the economic and cultural power from its current holder will change the dynamics in favour of the ‘black’ majority; this can be achieved by systematically encouraging and empowering African artists through more initiatives like Cassper Nyovest Fill Up The Dome Concert and more like him and not only in music. This way, we can be the writers, directors, producers, and actors of our own stories, making our own news to influence a positive, inspiring and aspirational African perspective. We must shift our world view. Buy ‘black’.
It is clear that the solution to restoring African dignity and pride must be holistic, and it is the combined effects of the various interventions that will eventually result in Africans not being racially abused, at least not in Africa. All issues discussed above can be further developed and expanded on, and I agree with Andile Mngxitama that Africans must engage, among themselves, in serious debate about how to free ourselves. To provoke some of us even more, we must definitely stop doing ‘white’ weddings…elsewhere people just do weddings…we do spend money promoting European culture by buying so much into Eurocentric weddings (just so the bride can wear a boring white dress), and by so doing, reinforcing the racists and occupiers’ superiority complex. Let’s take our destiny into our own hands. [MM]
Thabo Mahlangu is an investment banking professional based in Johannesburg and a passionate pan Africanist. Thabo is relatively well travelled across Africa where he feels at home, which has helped him develop a better sense of what it truly means to be African. A curious mind and critical thinker, Thabo is not afraid to ask difficult questions and challenge the status quo.
A group of women sit in a bar, lamenting the ills and dangers of manoeuvring within the modern world. Mentions of cat calling, cheating and unknown children abound. Further down the bar a man overhears this conversation and, his man-sense tingling, steps in. ‘Ladies, the thing is that not all men are…’
With that one phrase, the man seeks to erase the experiences that the women have had in the last ten plus years, mentally archiving and documenting every grab in the street, suspicious late night phone call and creepy ‘I could give it to you good’ comment.
The argument behind the #NotAllMen notion is understandable.
One cannot tar everyone with the same brush. We are all individuals, thus to make rash judgements about people based on one’s own experiences is problematic. However, one must look at the rules rather than the exceptions and the general rule is that, to some extent, this behaviour is allowed.
We live in a world where women are drugged in public places, where they visit male family members and are later found dead under the bed, where they are more likely to be sexually assaulted by someone they know or physically abused by an intimate partner than a stranger.
#NotAllMen is the same as going #NotAllDinosaurs at Jurassic Park, it does not make the dinosaurs that will kill you any less scary or real. Even if one was to argue that ‘only’ 25 per cent of men are rapists there is still a good 75 per cent out there living their T-Rex predator life. This unfortunately makes the 75 per cent moot.
It may not be #AllMen, but it is enough men to make reality pretty damn frightening.
The same logic applies to other hashtags that have latched on to the #NotAllMen debate.
One can use the phrase #NotAllHumans when it comes to rhino poaching; however there are enough poachers out there to make it a real problem. One can use the phrase #NotAllReligions but it does not deny that we live in a time of heightened religious tensions coupled with the capability to drag us all into the next Crusades no matter where we live or what we believe. This is a framework that allows the actions of a few speak to the structural reality of many. It is not isolated but systematic in nature.
These #NotAll arguments ignore the system within which these broken cogs happily function. It also manages to erase the experiences of those who are consequently crushed in the mechanics of this system. To sit and say #NotAllMen implies that we do not live in a world where 1 in 3 women shall be sexually assaulted in their life time.
In light of current events another call has arisen namely #NotAllWhite people, speaking to open expressions of racism in the country. Unfortunately to say #NotAllWhitePeople is to act like racism and the ability to be racist is not still entrenched in our systems. The fact that Penny Sparrow can be selling real estate in a predominantly black area and the fact that Chris Hart, a leading economist in a country steeped in socio-economic inequality, can say what he said shows that the ideas these ‘single incident’ racists are fed from a grander paradigm. They are not isolated ‘shocking’ incidents but part of the back room chat and back bone of society. The fact that a white person feels they can call a black person ‘a monkey’ is not one borne out of thin air, it the consequence of decades and centuries of racial inequality that functions today. A man feeling he can rape a woman on campus and then return to the exact same institution saying he was ‘confused about their interaction’ is the result of a society that tells men they are entitled to women’s bodies.
We must stop treating these societal ills like spots of flu; they are a cancer, understand that they are deep within our DNA. Unfortunately until this is well and clearly understood we shall continue to circle the drain. It is less about going #NotAll (insert grouping here) and more about going what is wrong with our society where my peers feel they can do this? Why is it that some of us (even if it is a fraction) think we can act in this way? This is the only way in which racial inequality, gender inequality and all other ills will be sorted, by figuring out what in the system makes people feel they can act this way, because these actions are not isolated.
Racist remarks are part of a racist system and rape is part of rape culture, simple as that.
The phrase may be #NotAllMen but unfortunately there are enough. The phrase may be #NotAllWhitePeople but unfortunately there are enough.
Tiffany Kagure Mugo is a Open Society Foundation Youth Fellow co-founder and curator of HOLAA! an online Pan Africanist hub that advocates for and tackles issues surrounding African female sexuality . She is a contributor to the Mail and Guardian, Thought Leader and This Is Africa amoungst other platforms writing articles on the two human conditions: sex and politics. She dabbles in media consultancy and has also written a short story or three. She enjoys being a wine bar philosopher as she ponders the existential crisis the world is going through.
First published on Mail and Guardian.
Music has the power to build community, entertain, help you unwind and introduce new lingo; Kat Kai Kol-Kes examines how one song is playing a potentially dangerous role in defacing queer people in Botswana.
It’s usually not a bad thing when a quirky radio hit single talks about something you can relate to; the key word here being ‘usually’. However, in the recent rise to fame of a song titled, Robete, performed by the snazzy new band, Sereetsi and the Natives, I have realised that queer people of Botswana might end up suffering from this chart topping tune – which chronicles a traditional family’s squabble when faced with a same-sex marriage – rather than gaining nationwide recognition.
When my neighbour – a self identifying bisexual – got his hands on the band’s debut EP titled Confessions on a Four String, it didn’t take too long for me to become very familiar with the folk jazz ensemble and this song in particular. Needless to say, the more I heard it in the wee hours of the morning and the late hours of the night the closer I listened, and the closer I listened the more obvious the problems this song poses to me as a queer, trans* identifying Motswana became.
The first of the problems comes from the very nature of the writer’s relationship to the subject matter presented. When performing the song, Sereetsi speaks from the position of a heteronormative member of the society the protagonist, Rankokomana, lives in. Just to give you a quick summary of how the story unfolds: Rankokomana goes to Johannesburg, South Africa, and returns after some years declaring his intention to marry; when the family hears this they are elated, but their joy is short-lived when they discover that he wants to bring Robete to their homestead, an act which is neither recognised nor accommodated in traditional Setswana marital rites.
Recent conversations around race politics and storytelling have generated a broadly popular movement which proposes that black people should be the ones to tell their stories. This movement is one that seeks authenticity of voice and experience. When we listen to Viola Davis’ emotional acceptance speech at the 67th Emmy Awards, her statement: “Let me tell you something, the only thing that separates women of colour from anyone else is opportunity”, acts as the hammer to the walls of male dominance and privileged whitewashing which we have seen happening across the world – not just in the United States of America. I watch videos like Cameron J Awesome’s You’re Cute For A Black Guy which looks at how black and mixed race gay men are treated by white love interests and how they in turn treat other dark(er) skinned gay men, and I realise that there are many stories which queer voices need to tell before handing them to the heteronormative voice to meddle with.
Unlike songs like Mary Lambert’s “She keeps me warm” or Frank Ocean’s “Forrest Gump” which also speak of homosexual love and attraction, this Setswana song chooses the traditional form of comedic storytelling to relay one adamant young man’s struggle against a culture and family who are inherently homophobic. Botswana inherited the anti-sodomy law – which criminalises “sexual activities against the order of nature” – along with many British colonised African states and has held onto the clause to vilify homosexuality. Though very little has been done in the way of chronicling pre-colonial occurrences of homosexuality in Botswana, scholars have motivated that such relations existed within Bantu tribes in the region. A term like ‘Robete’- a sissy/subservient man who was coupled with a heterosexual mine worker for the sole purpose of sexual relief – is one which has fallen away with the gold mining travel culture of the 20th Century when Batswana men went to seek better livelihoods in South Africa. Though ‘bo-Robete’ may not have been completely accepted by the heteronormative majority, principles of botho (humanity/compassion) and tlotlo (respect) guided the society to treat every member as a dignified equal – unless they committed crimes such as murder or theft – and so, even those known to have had same-sex sexual relations whilst at the mine weren’t ostracized.
By writing this story from his point of view, a spectator to the activity, the writer joins the heteronormative majority that is the greater population of Botswana. This is where the second problem arises. The song is really for the majority and sidelines the minority through their voices, words and opinions of them. This minority, to which I belong, is treated as an entertainment feature – much like a dancing coon or a cat meme – whose presence is noted but never interrogated by the viewer (or in this case, the listener). The song speaks of these young men’s homosexual attraction as completely impossible and in some ways self indulgent and worthy of ridicule. These opinions are then transferred to the real life Robete-alikes disregarding their constitutionally enshrined protections against discrimination.
The third problem for me comes with the overall approach to presenting the facts of the story. Though the song could be seen as provoking traditionalists to query why our contemporary Setswana culture refuses to let two men wed, Sereetsi pre-emptively derails this argument by using heteronormative language to refer to Rankokomana’s partner. The term ‘segametsi’ in Setswana is used to refer to a bride. The term alludes to the bride as a gourd, a water carrier, therefore giving her attributes of sustaining the community she is brought into by way of domestic labour and child rearing – these are emasculating features in Setswana culture. In the first stanza, Robete is described as having a slender waist – something which is traditionally praised as it then shows off the broad derrière of a woman – but in this case it’s used as a setup to a punch line which ridicules Rankokomana’s misguided attraction. There are also subtle references to the couple’s sexual practice which surprisingly hit the sex-positive mark, but these sink beneath the blanket mockery of the ‘only gay in the village’ – to reference Daffyd Thomas from Little Britain.
My fourth issue with the song comes with the fact that homosexuality in Botswana is framed as being influenced by external forces. By way of Robete being brought to this traditional Setswana family from Johannesburg, this reinforces that Rankokomana was coerced into homosexuality by these foreign forces. He couldn’t have possibly been a homosexual before he left Botswana.
The fifth, and final, issue arises from the fact that before the song’s release I, a trans identifying woman, was used to hearing people hurl slurs like “bona le-gay lele” (look at that gay) or “di-gay tsa Gaborone ke tseo!” (there go the gays of Gaborone!) and, though I have never been comfortable with this form of verbal abuse, I knew there would be nothing done beyond that. However, since the release of the song, not only have I been referred to numerous times as ‘Robete’ – a micro-aggression in itself – but I have also been physically attacked and told it’s people like me who have caused Botswana’s drought. I am not blaming the writer for instigating homophobic/transphobic attacks on people, but I do believe that with the song’s popularity many people’s bearings on where they stand in the ‘homosexuality in Botswana’ debate have been shaken and some furies roused.
This is where I’d blame the comedic approach. In as much as humour can be used to offset discomfort, I believe that there is very little discomfort being offset with this song’s popularity. I’ve seen people playing it from their cars, their apartments, in their offices and even singing it at random occasions; I have also heard radio jockeys praising the song – yet they too approach it from a comedic stance and so push the widespread notion that same-sex sexual attraction is to be derided in Botswana. By ridiculing the subject at the heart of the song, Sereetsi allows listeners to apply this mentality to anyone they may recognise as being the same as Robete and Rankokomane – who somehow maintains his cultural privilege and mainstream masculinity by being the one to marry rather than being married.
Admittedly, I can’t expect those who listen to this song to apply the same form of reading as I have, and so I do not hold Sereetsi or his audience at fault. I, personally, think the song is a great movement toward the imagining of new contemporary musical expressions based in folklore and our cultural heritage. However, bright side or not, I also can’t simply overlook the fact that queer identities (which are painstakingly being uncovered) are now at risk of erasure and renaming according to a popular song – which is showing the staying power of the Macarena.
Who knows, maybe I’m wrong; maybe the term ‘Robete’ might fade again tomorrow but, as ‘tjoma’ and ‘bae’ have proven, in Botswana some words don’t need popular culture to fuel their widespread usage be it as historical weight and contemporary relevance. Perhaps things will change. Perhaps this marks the awakening of Batswana to more people like Robete. Perhaps my attackers were just having a bad day and thought me easy pickings. I don’t know, but I can definitely say that I know that this song is redefining the course for LGBTQI persons, activists and advocates in Botswana; yet we don’t know where this road leads.
Kat Kai Kol-Kes is a 2016 Queen’s Young Leader, 2015 CACE Africa Writivism Fellow, 2013/14 ‘Best of Botswana’ Performing artist, a pioneering transgender ARTivist, writer, and theatre producer. She is a WITS Graduate; sings and writes for her band – Chasing Jaykb; founded Queer Shorts Showcase Festival, and hosts the “Queer Me Out” podcast on Niche radio. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Blade, Huffington Post, AfroPUNK.com, the Kalahari Review and EliteDaily.com. She authored a collection of poetry concerning queer livelihoods titled “…on about the same old things” (UK. 2016).
Viola Davis Acceptance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=685jYZGcFh8
You’re Cute for a Black Guy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnTWOjQ4bcQ
Mary Lambert, “She Keeps Me Warm”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhqH-r7Xj0E
Frank Ocean “Forrest Gump”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNgkxa61eJQ
Daffyd Thomas (Little Britain): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrlzaBNgz-M
On Friday 13 November 2015, unknown assailants attacked multiple venues throughout Paris, killing over 100 people in what is now known to be a terrorist attack. As news spread all over the world the hashtag #prayforparis/#prayersforparis started trending on Twitter and Facebook. Shortly after this Facebook released a new profile picture feature which allows users to superimpose the French flag as a watermark onto their profile pictures. Millions of users across the world showed their support of Paris and France in general by adapting their profile pictures. However, some users questioned the validity of this feature and why Facebook has not provided the same functionality as a means to display solidarity in relation to other terrorist attacks in the rest of the world. I am one of these users. I took to Facebook to air out my thoughts after debating this with friends the day after the attacks.
My Facebook status reads:
“So I’ve been burning to say this since yesterday but feared the crucifixion by social media but thanks to a few brave souls I’m going to say it loud and clear…I’m so shocked at the number of people on my timeline who have changed their profile pics to the French flag, while I take nothing (away) from the tragic events I think charity begins at home. Be cognizant of the western media coverage of western tragedies vs the rest of the world. #prayforafrica #prayforsyria #prayforbeirut #prayfortheworld #openyoureyes”
The impetus of my frustration stems mainly from my African friends who changed their profile pictures. To put it plainly, I was in disbelief. Where was the outrage and show of solidarity during the numerous attacks in Nigeria, Kenya, Lebanon and Syria? It seems to me that there is an inherent grief bias, we allocate our grief on the basis of how much media coverage that particular story garners. It is a well-known fact that large media outlets cover terrorist attacks in the west more widely and with more fervor than similar attacks that occur in the rest of the world, however I did not think sitting here in South Africa that a large number of my friends (mostly based in Africa) would jump on the Facebook profile picture bandwagon. While my comments may seem extreme and border on rhetoric, I endeavor to remain unbiased. A few themes emerged from the comments that friends posted in response to my status, one in particular has made me pause and think. Two of my friends posited that although the objections to the profile picture change has its merits, it seems as if that it is only now with the Paris attacks that people remember the Beirut attacks the day before or any other terrorist attacks in the “third world”. How ironic. We are all guilty of grief bias, the closer it is to home, the more media coverage it gets, the more likely we are to wear our hearts on our Facebook sleeves. I’ll be the first to say, guilty. I did not take to social media in protest of the attacks in Beirut, I did not take to social media in protest of the Syrian situation, starvation in North Korea, terrorism in Nigeria etc etc. I didn’t because while I empathise, I am desensitised and it took the reaction of millions to the Paris attacks to realise my own grief bias.
So what is the solution, do we protest for all or protest for none? Is it even possible to protest for all? Can we change the world? So many questions and I have no answers. There’s a constant aching in my heart for the plight of my fellow Africans, this is one of my main motivations to form Mbewu Movement to try make a small change. What I’ve now realized is that I have to live the change on all the platforms available to me. Thank you to those that have allowed me this moment of introspection, we all need it every now and then. The joy I take out of the social media reactions (both for and against and indifferent of the Facebook profile update) is that at least there is reaction and it is strongly against ANY acts of terrorism. There is some semblance of humanity after all.
The UN Women 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign, began last week Wednesday on 25 November 2015. The Campaign will continue until 10 December 2015, Human Rights Day.
According to UN Women, “16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign is a time to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls around the world. The international campaign originated from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute coordinated by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership in 1991″ (1)
The Stats are chilling…
Mbewu Movement supports this Campaign and cause not only over the 16 days, but ALWAYS. We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, with Africa, with the world and call upon you all; male and female, young and old to raise awareness and galvanize action to eliminate violence against women.
The world will be wearing orange over the Campaign period, and posting pictures with the tag #orangetheworld. Get involved!