This beautiful rainbow nation has left me less able to speak my truth. A few days ago a memory came to mind, a memory about my first day at school. I recalled in a status update how I had to find a name, after my teacher who was unable to pronounce my name asked me to give her one that was easier to pronounce, my name was no longer Mabahlakoana it was Janine. I had no feelings of resentment then, as while I was a bit embarrassed by my name; I thought a white name was required. I care even less about it now because my blackness does not need anyone’s acceptance. This was just a recollection. However the reaction to the memory left me feeling so guilt ridden. One comment wrote ‘you can’t surely be holding on to that can you Janine’ like they were the teacher and I owed them my forgiveness. This is only one experience where I have not been allowed attest to my life as it is or was. When I tell my story I have to first overcome the fear of my own speech , as my words might paralyse those who disagree with me ,or are uncomfortable with my reality. I often wonder how I can speak the truth of my heart gently. I wait for words to be stolen from me. I bite my tongue and hope that someone somewhere might have seen what my eyes have seen, and heard and felt and smelt the essence of my journey because I have no space to feel.
As a black youth I am not allowed to feel. I am not only burdened with my own pains but also have the drudgery of managing the discomforts of those around me. It is not enough that I struggle with finding myself in a world whose systems are created to stifle my growth. I cannot recall, express or feel without being told to let it go. I cannot even speak black pride without being called reverse racist. I am nothing like the colour-less rainbow nation. I am neither white washed nor silent. I am too loud and unforgiving of yesterday. Like it was yesterday, my yesterdays are every day. When I manage a group of black disabled intelligent young men and women who I know will never be hired because they are a number in the system, when I have to make sure that the whole family moves forward I remember, when someone says my name I remember.
But I have to remember quietly because my words break our fictitious unity. I have to remember quietly because the new blacks and the white liberals have a monopoly on my thoughts; they have supremacy on when and how I relate back my experiences to the world. And I am again enslaved by my need to be considerate to their thoughts; like I owe them my silence, because only silence can build a colourless rainbow nation. And so I never speak or share. I wait for writers to write. I wait for someone who might have seen what my eyes have seen, and heard and felt and smelt the essence of my journey to tell a story that is my own.
Over the past few years it has become evident that change cannot only be pursued by the government but that we, the educated youth of this country, have the task of changing our realities. When Nyerere said that a child must re-sow into the community that raised them he understood a fundamental African proverb, a proverb that spoke an African truth, a truth of a liberating love, a truth of Ubuntu. A love which has inherently been passed down to us by virtue of our culture and roots is often times missing. It is missing because somewhere on our way to enjoying the freedoms we were afforded we forgot to give when given and teach when taught, the consequences of which has left our communities barren.
We often hear of the commitment of the youth of 76 their unwillingness to surrender, their commitment to feeding their minds and the minds of those around them, their strength and most importantly their ability to challenge the status quo. This way of thinking seems to have died soon after our democracy was recognized. We have seemingly forgotten where we come from, and who we are. How odd it is that we who were conceived and carried in their mothers’ wombs at the height of the apartheid regime, we who carried apartheids pain bodies even before we were born could forget that this freedom was afforded to us through the blood and sweat of those before us. We refuse to step into our rightful places as revolutionaries and ambassadors of truth. We consider our own transformation as a solution to changing our environment. After all we cannot be expected to pursue same freedoms of the past? What was the purpose of fighting for this freedom if we cannot enjoy its fruits?
While indeed we may not have the same cause as youth of 76, there are many causes we can claim as our own. The reality is we are not yet free and cannot afford to be tired of seeking freedom. While political freedom has been met, economic freedom and personal freedom are still sought. We are far from utopia. There remain battles to be fought and our action is required. This has however has been a miss, with our generation having the same mantra that we abhor when observed in government officials. In perceiving our freedoms we have fashioned an inaccurate belief that ‘it’s our time to eat’, our way of life often burying us in a mount of facades that leaves us feeling empty. The story we are living does not belong to us, it is not our own. It is not our African truth. However it seems that stepping into our rightful place is apparently cumbersome. We either question our relevance to any cause or lack interest in anything that doesn’t include us as beneficiaries.
When a quiet giant falls, only trees weep
Shedding life’s living, fiery red like autumns close.
Where his wisdom sat, silence follows (only memories remain)
No words no words
Just light and pain remain