man-up

man-up

It is said
about men
that they 
have it

The balls

that fascist ruler-past
out in Brexit country
she had it they say

The balls

we hear now
that she can
our Caster Semenya

she can
man-up
and race
against men

she still 
facing a testing time
in a world insensitive 
to anything unlike

(a strong girl she is
post-Saartjie Baartman
post-apartheid’s pencil test
and virginity testing too)

man-up
they say
those folks

are they men
one and all

those folks
who run 
athletics

man-up
they say

not yet
Uhuru

(Photo Credit: Athletics Weekly)

#SADecides2019: Today I’ll be voting for the future, for the ones that will bring us closer to ourselves, to each other

Every minute I believe this. It’s what keeps me going, why I do what I do, what explains the choices I’ve made in life and perhaps those I shall yet make, what makes me who I am. The unwavering belief in the power of people to make a country, a society. To heal themselves and each other. They may get lost in the woods sometimes, sometimes for quite a while. But eventually, they find themselves. 

I’ve come to know intellectually, intimately, how broken societies are a manifestation of broken people.

Today I’ll be voting for the future. For the political formations of the future. The ones that will bring us closer to ourselves, to each other. Those that will inspire us to heal, and to lead ourselves and each other from the inside out. Those who will remind us to honour our own promises to ourselves, and to make promises to each other that we can keep. The promise to love, to value genuinely, to care deeply. Those who will not inspire us by grandstanding on highwaters waving the pennant of empty militancy to our fragile hopes. Those who will remind us that we have survived this long because we are powerful and not because political parties of so-called leaders did anything for us. Who will reconnect us fiercely to our power within, our power to, our power with.

I am sick to my core of big bombastic words and shallow philosophies of big men who perform their fragile masculinity like it’s some spectacular show we zombies must cheer at. After so many years, I’m done with this fake show. As I go out to vote, I am carrying Alice Walker’s poem in my hand, in memory of my mother, my grandmother, all the broken ones in my family, my movement homes, the people known and unknown that I believe in because they believed in me, all the womxn and the theys who are the source of my belief in our hopeful future, the ones who literally hold up the sky from falling and crushing us all. 

And of course also I carry this book to keep me company in case I find no friends in the queue to talk to, such as Xthi Nxngxmso and Mmatshilo Tumelo Motsei. I’m also carrying this book to give as a gift to a new friend I may meet in the queue and discover could use it. It’s that kind of day, maCom.

Alice, thank you for the words, sisi wam, may we find our power in our brokenness!

I WILL KEEP BROKEN THINGS
                        by Alice Walker

I will keep
broken
things:
The big clay
pot
with raised
iguanas
chasing
their
tails;
two
of their
wise
heads
sheared
off;

I will keep
broken
things:
The old
slave
market
basket
brought
to my
door
by Mississippi
a jagged
hole
gouged
in its sturdy
dark
oak
side.

I will keep
broken
things:
The memory
of
those
long
delicious
night
swims
with
you;

I will keep
broken
things:
In my house
there
remains
an
honored
shelf
on which
I will
keep
broken
things.

Their beauty
is
they
need
not
ever
be
‘fixed.’

I will keep
your
wild
free
laughter
though
it is now
missing
its
reassuring
and

graceful
hinge.

I will keep
broken
things:

Thank you
so much!

I will keep
broken
things.
I will keep
you:

pilgrim
of
sorrow.

I will keep
myself.

#SADecides2019: I am taking my weary soul to the polling station now

I am taking my weary soul to the polling station now. Present in my bones is our countries histories. I want to keep walking. Even in my moments of despair, I want to keep finding the will to walk forward. 

The past few months found me deeply immersed in a Realising a Feminist Government Campaign with many womxn and gender non-binary people. We dreamed the campaign into reality from years and years of being in conversation as feminists at different times and in different spaces. Feminists who thump our chests and stand solidly in our rage, our pain, our expansive love, our willfulness. Feminists whose patience has worn thin. Feminists who demand a governance system that smashes all forms of oppression. 

The rolling actions around the country were spaces of radical healing, deep sharing, tears… tears…., song…song…., imagining futures where even currencies look different and spaces of rest are wherever we want them to be, and it’s safe and our bellies are all full. It’s not impossible with the right intention. 

Today I am with myself – just me and my ballot paper. Tomorrow is another day we will keep mobilizing and invoking the kind of world we want, until we are in it!!!

Shayisfuba #feministgovernment #dreamingfeministfutures 

SHAYIS’FUBA! SHAPA SEFUBA!

(Image Credit: Twitter / SHAYISFUBA)

#SADecides2019: We made our mark

We made our mark. This is one of the most hotly contested elections, and the trajectory will change, and it must. 

I walked up to the voting booth feeling nervous (maybe a bit emotional even) and happy with my choice, throwing a fist in the air as an activist would, as I walked out. Lol. Even though we are so angry and just gatvol of the looting of the state, of failure of government to deliver, failure to deliver on basic services and rights, to failure of government to take gender based violence seriously, to white privilege and wealth still firmly intact, especially in Cape Town. 

There is a lot to be angry about and disillusioned about, but my vote is my voice and my power as a citizen. As long as I have right to vote, I will, even if the choices are hard. My parents and grandparents fought hard for us to have this vote and so I must exercise my right even if I don’t have much faith in the system as it stands. But rest assured WE WILL HOLD GOVT ACCOUNTABLE. 

Twenty-five years ago was the first time Black people could vote. There are many people across the world who can’t vote in their own country and will be killed for their vote. I am feeling privileged to go vote with my mum, my sister, our baby Tatum and Peter. As long as we have a vote, we have a voice and we must speak and use it. For the people who fought for this freedom and for fighting for our future generations. Be Bold. Be Brave.

(Photo Credit: Facebook / Lucinda Van Den Heever)

We see remarkable women

The team at Centre for Early Childhood Development, Cape Town

We see remarkable women

We see remarkable women
says Professor Eric Atmore 
Stellenbosch University graduate
and he who puts children first

We see remarkable women
every day working with
young children and living
the Mandela legacy

they do it for long hours
with shockingly low pay
they do it for nation building

We see remarkable women
yet they are few and far between
up the poles where politicians are
plying their trade

We see remarkable women
says Professor Eric Atmore 
revealing that less than a third
of children under 7 in South Africa
get quality pre-school learning

(only 30% of our 7 million children
under the age of 7 are in
a quality learning programme)

he tells us too that we need
a policy champion (in cabinet)
as the state does not have 
the political will capacity 
or money to support
its early childhood development programme

We see remarkable women
Now don’t you

We see remarkable women
Now what are you going to do

We see remarkable women
Now what is to be done

“Policies need proper backing, prof says” (Tatler April 11 2019)

(Photo Credit: Southern Suburbs Tatler)

Just like

Just like

Just like
a dictator-past
(apartheid-military style)
finger erect

finger erect
(a Freudian slippage)
taking the moral
high on power

previously she warned
beware the elderly
a political hack competing
foot-in-mouth with others 
in election-time

no doubt she’ll say
no journalist here was
tortured or murdered (yet)
as we’ve seen recently
out at the Saudi consulate

finger erect
it can lose you votes
you might need greatly
in the hawking season

beware little children
as you grow up
to the age of voting
and thinking first

finger erect
journalists still
under attack
be warned 

Just like

The ruling class shows its class. Renowned Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered some months ago. And, you remember “We don’t listen to old people like Tutu – Duarte”, Cape Argus April 23 2009; Jessie Duarte, then ruling party spokeswoman, putting her foot in it.

(Photo Credit: JacarandaFM)

Yet again we learn how inept at dealing with rape culture we are as a patriarchal, rapey society

So, yet again, we’re learning how inept at dealing with rape culture we are as a patriarchal, rapey society. Each time has become an opportunity to expose just how entrenched we are as reproducers of this rape culture. 

Womxn’s organisations and survivors fought for the right of survivors to be believed before we are criminalized while the rapist gets the benefit of the doubt (as is always the case and is the case with this Zizi situation). Oh and don’t ask me what it was to be at varsity on a Friday and witness our leaders (I could name some names indeed) back then already, coming for their Friday pick-ups of the fresh and fleshy beauts and no that was for no cadre political education sessions. And we all know the hand that lingers too long during the fake handshakes and the midnight knocks in your door by some envoy of some leader to check some nefarious thing in those all too important conferences with those all too important leaders. Yes, I know it and you know it!The complex dynamics of sexual relations, power and interactions on consent within such a context means the very premise of the law as it’s designed is wholly incapable of being an instrument of justice for the many survivors whose stories are a lot more “complex”, which is in fact the majority of survivors.

Whilst it helps no one to have our pain instrumentalised for extortionist or any such intentions, why is it that the default place for our response is they are extortionists?

It’s exactly because this is our default response that our suspicion, which may or may not turn out to be right, says more about us than it does about whether the accusers may in fact be extortionists. If this becomes an issue for you, in a context like South Africa where rape is a norm, that’s really just exposing your rape culture agent status. 

If justice means you pay me money for violence and trauma you’ve inflicted on me, whose bloody damn business is it to say what I want isn’t right? After witnessing how the criminal justice system ravages survivors, why would anyone with pure intentions question why a survivor may exercise her agency to protect themselves from that secondary trauma and victimization which is what this unjust system has come to symbolize? 

Who appointed you arbiter of survivors’ truth and justice! How about castigating the fact that women get raped exactly because the criminal justice system means a survivor has lost even before they enter the court’s door? The complexity of the truth of rape doesn’t fit in legal statutes, even with impeccable investigation. Why don’t you talk about who do we need to become for us to be capable of advancing justice for survivors instead? We have to reinvent ourselves to become capable of ending impunity. We have to learn a whole new way of seeing, analyzing, asking and articulating questions, a whole new set of questions, a whole new lens. And you can’t do that if you’re so caught up in your own privilege (the privilege to tell a survivor what justice they can ask for and prescribe timing for reporting and how they must feel), that’s unchecked privilege usurping the agency of the survivor. To end the culture of impunity, we need to do the hard work of changing ourselves, our lenses, and journeying to stop being agents of impunity. To those who want to do this, I’m right there, masambe Comrade! 

We’ve all made mistakes we wish we could erase, but it’s those mistakes that demand of us to be and to do different. We may not have the formula, but it won’t emerge like a pill from some rat experiment in a laboratory. It will emerge from active work we do to unlearn being agents of rape culture, intentionally and not. 

As for the rest, must be nice to have a right to appoint yourself judge and jury as it pleases. A real nice life problem!

(Photo Credit: Deutsche Welle)

This is a thank you note to South African feminist writers, doctors of the mind, heart, and soul

Writing is more than just the presence of words on a page. As much as writing is a repository of knowledge, it is also a living, breathing thing capable of healing and reconstructing. The words in a book do not merely exist in the static moment of a sentence; but they can also reshape and revitalize the lives of those who craft and read them. In a specifically South African context, writing is a dynamic revolutionary and restorative tool. Written works by South African feminists tell of the past as they breathe life into a better future. These writers are doctors in their own right; mending parts of their own lives and those within a larger collective, using their words to stitch together what has been torn open. We should regard these individuals in the same way that we do doctors; they have the capacity to save lives with the work they do, to stitch together broken pieces intricately and profoundly.

We need to look at writing as something revolutionary not just because it challenges ideas, but because it has the power to radically alter our own life and the lives of others. We need to see more spaces organized with the intention of bringing together writers and works that have the power to heal. The history of South African feminist activism speaks of efforts to rebuild and reclaim. It is critical that there are spaces within South Africa (and abroad) that support the sharing of radical and restorative texts. We should be able to call a collective of South African feminist writers a conference of medical professionals. While they may not perform surgeries or shrink tumors, their works have the power to ease mind, heart, and soul. I argue that collections of pieces such as Feminism Is: South Africans Speak Their Truth are medical journals. We need more books like these that foster healing writing and support restorative conversations between authors and readers. We need more conferences, discussions, and forums that acknowledge and actively promote the life-saving work that feminist writers do. When we move beyond just looking at physical health, we open ourselves up to an intellectual activist world rife with possibility.

Writing is a tool for both its creator and its consumer. South African feminists who retell their stories, craft feminist futures, or simply muse on what it means to be who they are may very well be healing themselves while they work. Their writing also serves to help others move past what has wounded them. Collections of South African feminist writing, voices amplified and in conversation with each other, are healing grounds for many people. These books, or medical journals as I’ll call them, serve as accessible and powerful points within a larger conversation. They lay the groundwork not only for a restored feminist South African future, but for other futures as well. It is naive to assume that writing only serves to inform others. It is also crucial to understand that feminist writing can be transformative and life-saving for anyone who interacts with it.

This is a case to shift the conversation on South African feminist writing, which should not just concern itself with the words on a page. Rather we should look at the radical potential of written pieces crafted by South African feminists. There is a great healing power in the books, poems, sentences, and words crafted by South African feminist authors. This is a sales pitch for a medical journal composed of works by South African feminists, whose works redefine both activism and healing. Most of all, this is a thank you note to them, those doctors of the mind, heart, and soul, whose works have helped me and others in the continuous process of healing. 

What happens when we start to understand doctors as not just those who help others physically? We open the door to a world where we can decolonize our minds and heal as a collective, inspired and strengthened by the lives and stories of powerful people. Moving beyond that, we begin to put more stock into the sharing of lived experience and collective healing. Giving weight and validity to South African feminist writers allows the authors and those touched by their work the opportunity to grow and shape whatever future they see fit.

(Photo Credit: BooksLive)

What are you worth (children of Valhalla Park)

What are you worth (children of Valhalla Park)

Valhalla – the palace of immortality
in Scandinavian mythology –
where rests souls of heroes slain
and there are statues and the like 
to the memory of illustrious individuals

What are you worth
children of Valhalla Park 
(might some even say
children of a lesser)

I know folks out there 
a computer literate mother 
of many offspring who 
I’ve not seen for a while

(how might they be
are they on the straight
and the narrow path
are they safe there)

What are you worth
children of Valhalla Park 
and the immediate surrounds
of your fertile growing minds

Are you worth more
or less than the biologically 
blue-eyed and blonde souls
wherever they find themselves

Are you worth more
than your counterparts
in the Palestines Yemens Syrias
of our globalized earth-ghetto

(what of the girl-child
forever at the bottom 
of the feeding queue
voting fodder cannon fodder
for politicians and spokesmen)

What are you worth
children of Valhalla Park 

What are you worth children 
anywhere and everywhere

Penned after a social media condemnation of the recent slaying of children in the area.

(Photo Credit: Voice of the Cape)

Where is the emotion? Using stories as vehicles for liberation

Stories are powerful tools to remembering the history of oppression as they illuminate emotions that convey larger themes of structural inequities. In South Africa, storytelling is cultural tradition that allows the rich past of South Africa to be passed down through generations. In a country, whose history is colored by the violent systems put in place by apartheid and colonialism, stories are a necessary tool to resistance as their emotional power inspires individuals to work to envision a more just future. However, the lasting legacy of apartheid and colonialism is working to erase certain stories by censoring them. 

In February 2018, the film, Inxeba, was banned by the South Africa’s film appeal tribunal. The film tells the story of the relationship between two men who meet during a traditional initiation rite in the mountains of the Eastern Cape. The tribunal critiqued the film’s scenes of gay sex as having no artistic value, and that they could “increase tensions in society”. Protestors claim that the ban is homophobic, unconstitutional and a way to perpetuate toxic masculinity in South African culture. While it is imperative to reflect on what the censorship of Inxebameans for queer men, it is also essential to reflect on what it means for South African women. This censorship supports the toxic masculinity that not only perpetuates violence against queer men but also against women. About one in five women in South Africahave experienced physical violence, and 40% of South African women have experience some form of sexual violence. What does it mean for the safety of oppressed people in South Africa if a story about love and tenderness that combats toxic masculinity is erased? 

These stories are not only erased through film censorship but also through global social media platforms. In December 2017, about 200 young girls marched through the streets of Johannesburg to demand that Google and Facebook respect African culture. The platforms continuously remove cultural images and videos that feature bare-breasted women. Lazi Dlamini, the organizer of the march, explained, “These are Africans celebrating their culture. Google and Facebook must respect us because they are operating in an African land”. Social media is an important platform for stories to be heard and shared globally. The censorship of African bodies by western social media platforms demonstrates how pervasive colonialism is, as oppressive structures adapt to a digital era. 

The active erasure of the stories of South African people is another way the South African education system remains colonized. Alex Mashilo of the South African Communist Party says that when schools teach about communism they do not teach about the role the South African Communist Party played in liberating South Africa. Instead, schools teach the narrative of the communism of Joseph Stalin. This speaks to how the colonized educational system in South Africa wants to lift up western narratives and silence alternative stories of liberation in order to keep individuals oppressed within a capitalistic patriarchal society. 

It is imperative that stories are working to tell a complete narrative of South Africa. This means that heroic stories about South African men fighting in the liberation struggle are told just as often as the stories of South African women enduring sexual violence at the hands of comrades. If South African education systems are not teaching certain narratives, students cannot remember their past in order to envision a more inclusive future. If the stories about liberation that are being taught are only about trauma, pain, and sadness, then the narrative is incomplete. While the collective pain and trauma of Black people in South Africa is real, so are the moments of profound joy, love, and tenderness. These stories exist and create hope and inspiration for a future to strive toward. These stories are also necessary to demonstrate that trauma and pain do not have to always define the experiences of Black people. However, sitting with the emotions of these stories and how they relate to the present is not enough.As Sisonke Msimang teaches us, “If a story moves you, act on it”. Stories need to be vehicles that lead to action. As we engage in the emotionally laborious work done by storytellers, we must respond by creating action that aims to stimulate a more liberating future.

(Photo Credit 1: Africa.com) (Photo Credit 2: ThisIsAfrica)