If you ever get the time and the data there’s a lovely short video on Youtube of Ellen Khuzwayo and Audre Lorde. Even if you’re not familiar with those two names (Audre Lorde in a South African context I can understand but Ellen Khuzwayo, SHAME ON YOU!) just watch it. Both are dead. Both are woman who led extraordinary lives fighting. Fighting for their own right to exist, fighting for the unapologetic existence of people like them and unlike them. Both were political activists, writers, orators so beautifully articulate they’ll bring both tears and clarity to your eyes. By the end of their lifetimes, both had made indelible contributions that evolved and continues to help evolve humanity. Anyway, this particular video which I must’ve watched a fairly long time ago came back to me, not via my Youtube recommendations but rather by seeing videos where communities came together to protect malls and other small businesses from getting looted during the recent unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
Now to get my point about community across, I’m going to have to make like a politician and ignore some hard truths for the sake of my argument. Whatever is happening in communities like Phoenix needs someone a lot more knowledgeable and skillful to unravel and make sense of. For a moment I just want you and I to ignore the horrors of the past week and focus on the beauty of seeing communities, like Cornubia for example (right next to Phoenix), effectively coming together in the name of peace, in the name of protecting jobs, in the name of ‘’protecting the little that we have’’, in the name of protecting our collective futures.
No-one worth their salt would dare claim that the lootings and chaos in KZN and Gauteng came out of nowhere. In fact, if you’ve been reading your news links, listening to your radio and podcasts, viewing the statuses of your politically inclined local celeb or friend or family member, you’d know by now that it was the natural order of things. After 27 years of corruption and weak governance, everyone who’s anyone will tell you we were always on course for some kind of eruption. Casually cruising for a collective bruising. It was always a matter of when rather than if. It’s the reason why terms such as White Monopoly Capital, Radical Economic Transformation, Land Expropriation Without Compensation, and Revolution have been on the mouths of some of your favourite so-called radical revolutionaries. South Africa’s first three decades foray into freedom and democracy have been close to a shambles. No matter what you think the solutions are, we all know and have known for some time we have problems. Glaring inequality in our society, an ever-increasing unemployment rate leading to an increase in crime and poverty, the corruption in our government and the uninspired (at times laughable) state of popular opposition parties had turned ours into a country with low morale. Sleep-walking and mumbling crass jokes as we headed towards ruin.
Yes, the lootings have set us back, the near future looks so bleak it’s practically shaping up into an abyss, but they have also rejuvenated our communities. They have forced us to mobilise and take our futures into our own hands. This is why I thought of Ellen Khuzwayo and Audre Lorde in conversation with each other. There’s a part in the video that rather than paraphrase I’ll quote as a teaser. It’s Audre Lorde:
“There are people resisting. I mean, look how long it took, as bad as things are now in South Africa… the change is happening. I see the worsening, the things that are getting worse as a symptom of eventually getting better….If we can keep this planet afloat long enough… When I used to travel a lot, and you must see this, as you travel in different countries there are little groups of people doing things on a community level. I don’t think it’s the big movements that are going to really effect change, that are really going to bring about a turn.”
Please do watch the video, read up on these women and their ideas, read Fanon, read Biko. It is now time for us to educate ourselves so that we can contribute meaningfully to our communities and help navigate our country towards the light of a very dark tunnel. No revolutionary in shining armour is coming to save us. We will have to do it ourselves as small communities working towards one goal, a better life for all.