An ode to the women who shape us.
Our experiences like our philosophies are shaped in the context of our relations with others. Our feminism is shaped and contextualized by other women’s experiences.
In the wake of a woman whose narrative should not dare be erased from memory and celebration, something magical happened. In 2018, on her birthday, a story happened right in front of my eyes.
Veronica Sobukwe, born 27th, July 1927 was wife to South African father of Pan-Africanism Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe. She was instrumental in the fight against oppression in South Africa during apartheid. She was part of the defiance campaigns toward dismantling racism in South Africa. I will not claim to know Mam Sobukwe personally, but I can say I have encountered the impact of her teachings, courage, compassion, and need to better Africa through fierce Black woman Zukiswa White.
It’s 3 a.m. from a night out in Braamfontein, my obscure self mingling with people and going on about a that has South African feminists’ truths. A young black woman is outside and obviously intoxicated from, what we believe was, a spiked drink. Zukiswa, a leader within the Youth Movement of PAC, calls me to come outside Kitcheners (a local bar) as she and Kumkani were putting out a fire. They were ensuring that a woman was not taken advantage of by scavenging men.
A group of four were trying to take advantage of a livid girl, one of the men from that group claimed that this girl was his girlfriend. The drunk girl whom we resorted to calling Pinky because she refused to give us her name in the same breath she refused to leave with the four men who surrounded her. She was drunk, defiant, and somewhat scared. She let out an assertive, No! to those men and cried because they allegedly stole her wallet.
Zuki and Kumkani managed to scare off the four men and tried to find out where Pinky stayed to ensure she got home safely. A security guard from Banister Hotel said he knew her (in a judgmental tone), saying, “Utshwala akusiwabafazi.” Alcohol isn’t for women. “She is always drunk, this one, I know her and she stays around here in Braam.”
Kumkani and Zuks paid for her stay at Banister (because she had blacked out) we carried her upstairs to a secure room and ensured she was safe. These women are fierce lightworkers. In the face of femicide in South Africa, such remarks from men are what maintain the status quo. These remarks propel patriarchy and to an extent cause the many traumas women have to endure.
The erasure(s) of women such as Veronica Sobukwe from history is an indictment of our failure as a country or global village. The lack of self-knowledge and what many sacrificed to ensure that South Africa is democratized keeps haunting us.
Women and the most vulnerable of society need to be protected and revered. The war against Black bodies and Black, female bodies cannot be thoroughly addressed if we do not examine our lineage of glorious women.
As another father of Pan-Africanist thought, Marcus Garvey, once said, “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”
My call to all global citizens is for us to educate ourselves about all Black narratives and voices. The reason for this uncovering of unpopular empowering Black narratives is so that we can collectively remember that our history is one glorious quilt, knitted with pain but not defined by it.
The global Black community needs to understand that our voices are together as one during these interesting times. May we find solidarity in our stories and break bread through pop culture narratives that celebrate being Black.
And in the words of Mangaliso may we all (Black and white allyship) remember that: “We are fighting for the noblest cause on earth, the liberation of mankind…There is only one race, the human race.”