Tag Archive: hope


The other day i wrote a poem titled ‘to them who have ears’ and just thinking about it a little more today,  have dubbed it a choir poem – as in those who get what it’s about and who agree will totally be reading and nodding and cheering and liking and sharing… but those who don’t, are unlikely to even read it and if they somehow do, unlikely to understand the point trying to be made…

So i thought i would try this again in a more direct approach, realising that for the most part blog posts tend to go the way of metaphorical word pieces in that you tend to attract those who agree and distance those who disagree… which feels somewhat pointless in terms of how are you ever going to affect people who need to be affected and where will you find healthy debate from people who think differently from you who can help you challenge and test your own ideas… i guess there is the hope that there are some who think differently who are trying to challenge and check their own ideas as much as i am trying to with mine and so maybe we can meet somewhere in the middle…

The main point of the poem for me was to question why so many white people [and it has been largely white people because of the nature of the posts i have been sharing on race and reconciliation and privilege so has largely been addressed to us] disengage from the conversations around race/white privilege/restitution etc before seeming to really take a moment to listen and hear where the other person is coming from. My problem is not so much that there is disagreement, but that phrases like ‘white privilege’ seem to be like red cloths waved in front of a raging bull… and so excuses, denials, “But what about…”, “Reverse Racism”, “Not all white people…” and more are immediately thrown in, usually breaking up the conversation before it begins.

RESPONSE OVER REACTION

When it comes to conversations on race and other issues in South Africa, i would love to see people choosing to respond over simply reacting. The idea of a reaction is that it is usually a gut knee-jerk response [with the emphasis not on knee] whereas a response tends to include time for listening, thought, inner wrestling and composed feedback. This is something we could do a lot better as South Africans, or maybe just Facebookers and Bloggerists in general.

Take something like ‘White Privilege’ for example – i wrote some thoughts about this in a post titled ‘i’m not sure you’re against that thing you’re against’ simply because i believe the word has certain baggage which triggers a reaction, whereas if those who typically respond to seeing the words ‘white privilege’ by running/throwing/emoting could just take a deep breathe and listen and really hear what is being said/suggested, i think a lot more of them would agree. Take this picture for example:

equalityi imagine most people would agree with this, right? If you see this and disagree then i would love to know why. Unless of course you would label the whole thing as Injustice simply by the very fact of it depicting three people who are watching a game for free without buying tickets, but that is kinda missing the point.

The point of the picture is that the tall guy starts off with an advantage whereas the short guy starts off at a disadvantage. Which means that if they are all treated equally, the short guys still ends up disadvantaged.

Whereas if the one who was most disadvantaged, is given the biggest assistance, there is a way for them to all end up with a level playing field, enjoying the same advantage.

Anyone have a problem with that? Because as far as i understand it, that IS the explanation of White Privilege.

There are certain advantages we start off with in this world [For me being white has some, being male in a largely patriarchally influenced society has others, being heterosexual and right-handed and able-bodied even more so] which doesn’t mean that i have to feel guilty for any of those things i start off with, but it does mean, that for the world to be more fair and balanced and equal, that certain boxes, boosts, advantages will be needed to be given to people of colour, women etc to give them the same opportunities that i have.

You with me? This feels so easy when it is broken down like this.

So i am not talking about white guilt or about hating white people [i get that one a lot!]. i am talking about the need to listen to and really hear from anyone who does not start off with the advantages i have started off with, to find out how best we can together work so that the field is more level for them. Collaboration is key. There may be some sacrifice involved and some loss of comfort or actively working against some of the privilege i have [so BEE being an example of this, realising that at times it really hasn’t been done well and at times it really has been helpful]

How about it South Africa? You ready to slow things down a little and really start listening and engaging and working together on making this relationally the beautiful country it is naturally?

Let’s do this…

[For some thoughts and ideas from a variety of South Africans as to how we can move forward, click here]

One of the greatest problems in South Africa when you are privileged is you sometimes see poverty as an annoyance. You are sitting down in a restaurant on a Friday night and all of a sudden a group of kids come out doing an local African dance then touting you and tourists for money.  And out of sheer guilt (or maybe just a desire to have the group move to the next restaurant) you toss a few coins their way.

Now what if you just took a moment to see it a bit differently.  That’s exactly what a young guy born to South African parents but having grown up in Americaland did.

Let me introduce you to Jason Woolf:  As a young kid, he came to South Africa on holiday and like most tourists, got to see a couple of buskers.  It planted a seed.

Later, as a teenager about to leave high school on another trip, he asked some deeper questions: what happens to this money made by these kids? Does it reach them, or do some adult handlers take most of the cash?  Is there a possibility to create “fair trade” busking, a way of ensuring the money given by tourists and locals goes into ensuring the young performers get the cash?  And if there is, can we use this to revitalise South African culture?

So cue Jason Woolf today: In his twenties, he took some time out of the USA, moved to South Africa, reclaimed his citizenship, rented a place in Khayelitsha and formed Umbiyozo and started an NGO trying to answer some of those questions.

But let me not talk any more about Jason, let me introduce you to him through this TedX video.  It’s worth your 15 minutes of time to watch.

[To learn and see more on Umbiyozo, click over here]

[For other South African stories of people giving us hope, click here]

Nicky

One person who gives me hope in SA is: Nicky Kemele

Nicky is one of our 33 amazing foster mothers at Home from Home – an
organisation which sets up and runs supported and supervised community
based foster homes for vulnerable children in the Western Cape. Nicky was
our very first foster mother when we started Home from Home ten years ago
in 2005. Nicky, who was working as a nanny for a family in Fish Hoek,
started volunteering at a children’s home in Khayelitsha where she lives,
in 2003. That¹s where she first found out about becoming a foster mom with
Home from Home.

Nicky says that she was inspired to foster by her own mother back in the Eastern Cape. Her mom had been orphaned at the age of two, and was bought up by other people,
often under very cruel circumstances, and at one stage ended up living outside eating
with the dogs as no one was caring for her properly.

Believing that no child should have to grow up as her mother did, Nicky
wanted to make a difference in the lives not just of children who needed a
loving home, but also to make a difference in her own and her mom’s life.
And she has done just that. Five children who came into her care in 2005
are still with her today, together with another girl who joined their
family in 2010. Nicky loves her foster children just as much as she loves
her own grown up children. Two years ago, Nicky’s mom died, but she was so
proud of what her daughter had achieved; creating a loving family home for
children who have no families of their own.

Though Nicky’s story is a one-off, our other 32 foster mothers all have
their own reasons for taking on this most precious of challenges – caring
for children who are not their own by birth. Sadly, there are many
children in South Africa who need foster care and a place to call home.
Nicky and her sisterhood of foster mothers give us all hope in this
incredible country of ours.

[as shared by Pippa Shaper]

You can learn more about Home from Home by visiting their site over here.

[To read another story of hope involving James Fernie and community development, click here]

Who is someone that YOU think is doing something positive in South Africa that gives you hope. Drop me a line at brettfish@hotmail.com and let’s talk about how you can get their story up here…

bee

a lot of people were dismayed, disappointed and disillusioned by the “Poppycock” farce last night’s before the Speech of the Nation Address by President Zuma – EFF members were thrown out and DA members walked and the lady in the Lumo yellow bee suit watched on solemnly as proceedings unfolded [and the speech went on as if nothing had happened]

the response of the newspapers the next day was along the lines of the one heading ‘The Day Our Country Broke’ although if you were only thinking our country broke yesterday, we should probably sit down and have a bit of a chat.

my response on Facebook was this:

So ‪#‎SONA2015‬ not so great but South Africa still pretty great – amazing land, beautiful people, much hope and we have to choose daily to be a part of reconstruction and relationship building and bridge mending and we will see it head to be that place we all dream of…

But then i headed off to go and speak at a school and naturally while that was happening, my brilliant wife Valerie had found a much more eloquent way of expressing the words so many of us with hope felt. These words were not hers, but while many of us were watching the SONA circus, she was at a spoken word event and one of the poems that was shared was this one:

Breaking News – a poem by Khadija-Tracey Heeger

When you seek to find a glitch in the system
When you feel al l the time that there’s something missing
When you turn around and the door’s closed
and your belligerence shows
cause the politicians wearing emporer’s clothes

I’ve got news for you, you’re here too.

When we do the ‘they’
When we call it black or white or grey
When the headlines scream another dead child,
another oil slick,
another hard crime somebody else is doing the time
When you say your life depends on the other man’s outcome
oh there’s so much degradation
the government’s put us in this situation
It’s a black dream you scheme

I’ve got news for you, you’re here too.

When your sister’s raped and your brother’s drugged and the
streets aren’t clean and you look at it all and say, “We’re all headed for a hard fall.”
When you speak of lies
but don’t speak you truth
when can’t make it to the top
and it’s always somebody else’s fault that the ball’s dropped.

I’ve got news for you, you’re here too.

When your agitation is all you can spare
and your rhetoric’s got you all in a rage
when you can’t hold yourself when you fall
and you lay down love and pick up arms
and the silence cries
but your lips – still – don’t – move –
yet in your own living room you’re a prophet of doom

I’ve got news for you, you’re here too.

We tick the minutes spill the seconds
tick the minutes spill the seconds
talk judgement, economics and acid rain.

We tick the minutes spill the seconds
tick the minutes spill the seconds
talk memory, talk more pain.

We tick the minutes spill the seconds
talk of God
talk more, talk more
talk
more
we’re keeping score
and love a waiting at the door

When you move to Australia cause the countries a failure
when mending the situation calls for a band aid solution to put us in line with our constitution
when you can’t understand how ten years of democracy didn’t make it all fit
when you feel the urge to shout “Get over it!”
as if something outside yourself requires the shift
remember people we’re all in the same damn lift!
“Going up orrrrrr down!”

we tick the minutes spill the seconds
tick the minutes spill the seconds
time is a wasting while we’re cutting and pasting
and life is elsewhere
here or there?
outside’s a good place to count the cost
when you’re running that race from the inside
It’s better than dealing with the feeling of being lost,
displaced in your space…

I’ve got news for you
It doesn’t take an apocalypse to mend a century
It doesn’t take blame to alleviate pain
A simple step to the mirror is all it’ll take
A reflection on the reflection is the only thing that can free the present
from hate

Soooo put on your parachute, or strap on a seatbelt
the ride’s scary or sacred
could be heaven’s door or hell’s gate
all depends on your internal state
but unless you’re late, deceased or carried off in a crate
don’t berate the psychosis and add to the neurosis
simply take a look in the mirror at your own thriller
dispense with the polyfiller

I’ve got news for you
you’re here too.

Khadija-Tracey Heeger

i believe that there are a number of people who now live overseas who gave up dreaming and believing what could be. i believe there are quite a number of people still living here who did as well or are on the very precipice of making that shift. But the only way this country will change is if it does. And the only way i see that happening is if we, the people of South Africa – the beautiful, mess, rainbow-smeared people of this land – put our hands up and make it to be so. Join hands and have meals and engage in really significant meaningful and uncomfortable conversations and then pursue those engagements all the way to transformative action.

If you’re here, then be here. Really. Invest, engage, don’t give in to the voices or the headlines or even the present reality but move towards a new normal, a new reality. Refuse to give in, to settle, to leave, to disengage, to blare negative. Speak life, live love, draw in, create space, share the positive stories, weave a new narrative alongside others who are trying to do the same. And let that be what draws others in and let’s them dare to risk to believe that change is possible.

I’m here. Are you?

hope

[For more posts relating to hope for South Africa and a brighter future, click here]

Sindile

*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]

a short while ago i stumbled on to this link about these 2 college students who snuck into an empty classroom and then did some incredibly creative stuff.

i can only imagine the effect it would have had on the students. the anticipation that it would have built up in the whole school of which class is going to be next, what saying is going to appear, how is it going to look and all of that.

a very simple act yet i imagine it had a deeply profound effect on the majority of people in the school – bringing smiles and inspiration and energy to add to whatever is already going on in that school.

THERE’S A NEW GANG IN TOWN

sadly, i have only joined them three times since being in Oakland, but yesterday i was connected once again to the amazing work they do through this articletbV and i live in East Oakland in 61st Ave which has its fair share of gunfire outside our apartment, but it is closer to 80th and 90th where things get a little more shady. It’s called the Oakland night walk and happens every Friday night where a group of roughly 50 people from different churches and community groups [and many not from this part of Oakland] gather at one of four rotating churches and then head out on the streets to walk in two big groups to promote piece. no specific agenda or message for the people they encounter along the way, except to say we care about this neighborhood and we want the violence to stop. presence on the streets – and the murder [and i think general crime] rate in the area, has dropped considerably since they started in October two years ago.

 WHAT CAN I DO?

i read some stories from South Africa yesterday of violence which has become all too ‘normal’ and it is so easy to become disheartened and leave like so many people have. it is hard to blame them, when there are countries they can go to [especially if they have children] where they and their family can feel safe and not have to live in constant fear that something might happen.

i get it. that is a natural response.

but another response, especially for those of us who feel a special pull towards South Africa [and believe me, despite living in Americaland for the last three years doing non-profit work, the pull has always been to South Africa] is to seek to be a part of the change we want to be. a significant change. in both the movies Antz and ‘A Bug’s Life’ the majority of small, weak bugs are being bullied by the minority of larger, more aggressive bugs and in the end, the smaller ones win simply through strength of numbers and through standing together.

i am convinced that those who want South Africa to be a great country are in the majority. but we feel small and weak and powerless and something significant will only happen once we band together and figure out what that looks like. i don’t believe that violence to curb the violence is the answer [or even military or police force or weapons or anything like that] – i believe it is creativity and unity that will help bring about the difference.

looking at the two examples above, one is an example of incredible creativity and gifting – i cannot for the life of me draw like that, and if it is up to my artistic creative skills, South Africa is doomed. but i can walk. as can most of the people i know. but i also know an incredible amount of people who can draw well. and so maybe it’s both. the incredibly creative and gifted and skilled… and those who just show up and say, “I am here!” if we can figure out what it looks like for these South African ants to rise up in peaceful defiance against the bullies and the violence and the corruption, then maybe there is a lot of hope for my country.

how are you being significant? what stories do you know like the ones mentioned here of things already happening in South Africa? we need to be hearing more of these as they will bring hope and help rally the troops and inspire and life and give ideas and together we can see it start to happen. 

sa

me

Here are simply a collection of stories from people who have lived in countries or areas of diversity and have a race theme to a part of their story which they have so graciously decided to share with us:

Meet Deborah Dowlath [Trinidad and Tobago]

Meet Kevin Lloyd James Lok [South Africa]

Meet Caley Daniels [South Africa]

Meet Susan Hayden [reblog of ‘Disco Pants & a Mountain’ post]

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