On the 26th of October 2016 a group of young leaders embarked on a journey in the Eastern Cape which took up three central themes: (i) Tracing back history, (ii) Steve Biko’s Legacy and (iii) Fort Hare University (UFH) and its role in the liberation movement.
As young leaders we were slapped with the reality of our current circumstances, basing this on the history of South Africa as seen through the eyes of East London and its rich legacy. We first took a step back into history; each day was filled with what I call, “an awakening to realise the need to go back to the future!” Each day roused in us the conviction that South Africa still has a long way to go before we all can enjoy what it has to offer.
As I reflect on the week that was, I cannot help but feel a deep desperation for change. I feel as though I have been plunged into a deep sense of nostalgic pain of a time I did not experience, and yet felt the pain so acute, so profound, it forced me to consider my position in society and the role I play in advocating change.
The journey was an eye opener. Journeying into past roads in the shoes of those who have already walked in them, an experience which was both emotional and a reality check, simultaneously.
The Steve Biko and UFH tour opened my eyes to the fallible education system that seeks to undermine the black brand further. It perpetuates slavery through systematic miseducation of the black mind (as defined by Robert Sobukwe – ‘an African whose allegiance is to the natural black child). Discussions amongst the youth erupted around the issue of education many times during the tour. The sentiment that was robustly debated was the fall of the current education system which does nothing for the development of the black child. It does nothing to help the black child understand himself/herself and his/her potential, consequently, the black child remains under the white child, as a result, the black child will never reach a state where she is primus inter pares (first amongst equals) with non-white South Africans, notwithstanding the global village.
I, ergo, am resolved to be a leader in the edge of chaos, who will lead a disruptive divergence from the status quo, to lead through education that develops the black child to be black, and in her blackness, to not look discriminatorily at other races as though they are inferior to hers, rather, to achieve a state of being a first amongst equals. To appreciate every race and what it has to offer in the greater scheme of things, all the while not compromising herself or subordinating herself to other races.
The A! Bus journey reminded me of what Carter G Woodson said in his book The Miseducation of the Negro when he observed: “If you can control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his action. When you determine what a man shall think you do not have to concern yourself about what he will do. If you make a man feel that he is inferior, you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, for he will seek it himself. If you make a man think that he is justly an outcast, you do not have to order him to the back door. He will go without being told; and if there is no back door, his very nature will demand one.”
This, in a nutshell is what I found myself reflecting on throughout the journey. All skin colours that fall under the black child reference has a mammoth task, tantamount to moving mountains, and that task is to undo what has been done over four centuries of miseducation, and to educate herself anew for future generations to truly enjoy the sacrifices and wisdom of African giants like; Thomas Sankara, Robert Sobukwe, Steve Biko, inkosi Albert Luthuli, Goven Mbeki, Patrice Lumumba, Samora Machel, Julius Nyerere, Jomo Kenyata, Carter G Woodson, Marcus Garvey, W E B DuBois, Sellina Johnson-Sirleaf, Haile Selasie, Kwame Nkruma, Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Ngosi Adichie, Bessie Head and the likes.
This trace into the past has been an incredible journey, and indeed did not end when the bus drove off, leaving us young leaders transformed, emotional and resolved to fight for a better South Africa and Africa in her greatness; rather, the journey continues long after this retreat by the bus, we will fight on, having our first mission being very clear: Influencing the redo of the Steve Biko statue standing in the corner of a block of East London municipal offices.
Thank you Activate Leadership for an experience with so much value, no amount of words can express.