Tag Archive: Alexa Russell Matthews


My friends Alexa Russell Matthews and Nicole Joshua recently ran a workshop titled, “The ‘Colour’ Elephant in the Room” which you can read some of a participant’s experience of over here.

What stood out to me though was this list of what was referred to as the ‘Ten Commandments’ which was the basis of a commitment to engage well with each other. For those of us seeking to be positively involved in conversation and action in the hopes of seeing South Africa become a better place, these would be good to embrace and try out:

Ten Words on Communication

1. Thou shalt listen actively, ask questions, and refrain from giving advice.

2. Thou shalt engage both thy heart and thy head, emotion and reason.

3, Thou shalt seek to like “the other”.

4. Thou shalt dance, not fight.

5. Thou shalt not blame, shame or demonise others, or victimise yourself.

6. Thou shalt play for win-win, not win-lose or lose-lose.

7. Thou shalt respectfully establish areas of disagreement.

8. If you hear an idea that is new or strange, try it on for size.

9. If you tend to be quiet, “step up”. If you tend to dominate, ” step back”.

10. Speak from your heart and experience, and keep in confidence what others tell you.

[These “Ten Commandments” are accredited to Brian McLaren and fellow conversation partners at the Amahoro Africa Gatherings. It was part of the introductory sessions for first time conversation partners, and laid the foundation for those dialogues.]

“In the light of the anger we have seen expressed on campuses around the country, and the racial incidents in the news all the time, and the social media culture of racist intolerance, rudeness and insult, perhaps we should take a deep breath and try to have our conversations in this frame of mind?” [Renee Moodie]

Which one of these commandments, do you think would be hardest for you to obey? Which one of them would you see as being most helpful in a typical Facebook conversation on Race? Stick your answers in the comments section. 

[For the next piece on Handing Over The Mic, click here]


*If I had a mic and all of SA was listening what would I say for 2015.

My hope, my dream for this beautiful nation is that people would step out of their comfort zones amd embrace other people.

I know this is not easy.

My dream is that young people would embrace older people, straight people would embrace gay and transgendered people, people of different racial hues would also embrace each other and share their stories…….

And we’d all simply learn to listen.

Not defend, not argue…. Just simply listen.

If we did that perhaps we’d see, truly see the richness and depth of this country…..

And it would enliven us and give us hope amidst the bigotry, the gender inequality, the rampant crime and the misdeeds of our government.

One of the most precious memories I have in life was when a friend of mine (who is an Afrikaans female) offered and then baked me some cupcakes.

It’s a small thing, but it meant the world to me.

That single gesture of simple humanity has saved me from making gross generalisations about Afrikaans people even in my angriest times.

I can tell many more stories, like how my friendship (and coffee at her place in Greenside) with Alexa Russell Matthews taught me a great deal about gender inequality and how friendships with people in the LGBT community helped me humanize that community.

I see faces.

I hear laughter.

I know the talents and pains and joys of people.

I don’t simply see the label.

In a very real sense I see beyond it and to the irreducible complexity that is just one human life.

My dream in 2015 is that South Africans would make a visceral and deeply human connection between the labels and the people who carry them and in so doing learn that when we deny one part of humanity, we ultimately deny ourselves, that, as Martin Luther King jr put it,’ injustice anywhere is a threat to freedom and justice everywhere’.

From the Jacaranda trees of surburban Gauteng, resplendent in majestic purple to the sugar cane fields of Kwazulu Natal, that give sweetness to our land to the unspoilt and scenic coastline of the Eastern Cape; more beautiful than just about any place your heart wishes to go to the beautiful tip of Africa…. Cape Town; with it’s sweeping, majestic and panoramic sea views and Table Mountain.

This is home for me and it is home for you.

My dream for 2015 is that the son’s and daughter’s of this beautiful country would step out and embrace each other; embrace the courage, the patience and ultimately the love it takes to learn to find the humanity in those who are different and embrace it and learn to love it.

[to hear what Nkosi Gola would say to South Africa, click here]

[To read some other thoughts Sindile had on creating a new South Africa, click here]


Things that I wish I could say to my single friends….

When I saw Brett request this I thought “pick me pick me”!  Then I started thinking about how to write this with honesty & candour but in a way which honours my husband, marriage and my friends.  I am so aware that I am still VERY new at this – Charles and I only got married 6 months ago (on the 9th November to be exact!).

  • I still need my girlfriends and my husband his mates!  Yes, we have entered into a new way of being, of living, of relating to others but I realised very quickly that people were “giving us space” to settle into being married.  4 weeks after getting married I had a dramatic declaration moment (read this as:  I wept and stated): I was missing my girls.  My husband needed guy time, I needed girl time – we are both aware that we can’t be everything to the other and are okay with that.


  • Please give us choices as to whether we are available or not – rather than assume not.  Rather than “giving me space” because I am married – which I value that you are considering, please still give me choices as to whether I can participate or not.  I nearly missed out on what has been one of my BIG adventures with girlfriends based on an assumption.  So grateful that I was given the choice after the friend realised this- but with the freedom to decline (This adventure had cost implications which needed to be budgeted for – and we could budget for this since we knew we had to!).


  • Everything is negotiated: This has been the hardest thing about getting married for me; my space isn’t MINE – I can’t control the noise, the different way we do things or the fact that our schedules are different which influences sleep, wake up and other stuff.  This is the part of marriage that has revealed my selfish, frustration and struggle to adapt at times!  In honouring Charlie, I can’t always express what details of the negotiation are– this doesn’t mean I am excluding you from my life.  When I do share this stuff it is really okay for you to express that being single is easier some days or to remind me that actually I chose this in choosing to get married and even though it’s hard would I choose to have my single status back – no.


  • I haven’t forgotten what it’s like to be single BUT that doesn’t mean that I pity you, think that I am better than you or that I am trying to marry everyone around me off.  It also means that it’s okay to say THIS IS HARD and I will still get it.   One of my biggest bug bears was married people telling me repeatedly how hard marriage was when I expressed feeling loneliness rather than solitude.  (I got married at 39 – being single wasn’t an intentional choice for the most part – getting married was)


Most importantly I guess I wish I could tell my single friends how much I value and want them to be a part of my story; that at times I am less available than before for very practical reasons often and I know this is hard – I feel like a bad friend some days.  I want my single friends to know how much I love connection time, giggles, chats and tears time too.  I want them to know that it’s not about the SMug *smug marrieds club* or the singles club and that there is ALWAYS room for a cuppa tea on the couch (sofa) and a chat – some days we will need to negotiate the time though ;)!

Alexa and Charles Matthews met at church in Jozi– which still shocks Alexa as she thought that this may happen in her 20’s but really didn’t expect it to in her late 30’s!  18 months later, on a rainy day and with a lot of adventures in life (including long distance skype dating and relocations to Cape Town) & love –  they got married. 

[For some other thoughts on what other of my Married Friends would like their Single Friends to know, click here]

[For many other thoughts and stories on all sorts of relationshippy things, click here]


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