What does a freedom fighter look like?

This morning this went through my head after I received a message from a woman that she was furious at people’s attitudes and the stuck narrative that things were better pre-94. That she had “lost it” with someone who wouldn’t respect or listen to another man (of darker colour) doing his job because “it was better before”.

Under apartheid.

You know the days when there was a blanket quota system in place: white, preferably male and um – ja….that was about it.

What kind of freedom are we talking about when we talk about freedom fighters?
– Freedom to vote?
– Freedom to speak our minds?
– Education & health care for all?
– Freedom politically?
– Freedom to be safe?
– Freedom to love who we want to?
– Freedom to worship?
– Freedom to be who we are – male/female/ pink/ purple/ worshipers/ non-worshipers?
– Freedom to know that we matter, that people matter?

I teach a course on contemporary society and all my foreign students (whether from the rest of Africa or elsewhere in the world) comment on the fact that South Africans are obsessed with certain social interactions and dynamics (like race) that aren’t a part of the general narrative in their countries of origin – this doesn’t mean the dynamic isn’t there. It just isn’t as apparent. Day to day, people in different contexts compare what was and what is and question what will be in terms of our contemporary society’s future.

Politically and economically as a broader community we are trying to work out what economic, social and political freedom really means. People like Julius Malema, Steve Hofmeyer, political parties and others are all touting what they believe needs to be, needs to happen for us to be free as a nation. Freedom fighters stereotypically are the icons that have been part of revolutions, to see broader social change come about so that we can have discussions about our leaders, about Steve and Julius on the same social media forums without fear of reprisal – other than people disagreeing or deleting you if they disagree with you.

Yet, when I think about this woman, I see a freedom fighter too. Someone who won’t be on coffee table coasters or t-shirts; someone whose name you probably won’t have heard of.

I see a woman who found ways of helping people know that they matter despite a political system that said otherwise.

I see a woman who stood up in front of a community of displaced, formerly homeless people in a refuge in the 80’s where everyone was scared of HIV/AIDS, who shared a cup with someone living with HIV to make the point that HIV wasn’t something you could catch by simply doing life with people – doing lots of other things yes, but not through sharing life things.

I see a woman who was raised and is a part of the cultural grouping associated with the oppressor – the Afrikaaner – who rants and raves and challenges people yearning back to the days of oppression. Not out of a naive space, but out of a bigger picture space of recognisning that things aren’t all great BUT….

I see a woman who has been impacted by crime directly, overseen health care for political prisoners and gangsters, who with her husband, exposed their family to racial reconciliation weekends in coloured communities pre-94 while there was an awareness that this wasn’t the norm amongst most of their peer group.

I see a woman who has watched her husband’s retirement be impacted by the change of management, whose husband exposed things in his place of work that weren’t ethical and was then “moved out” of his place of work and left with a greatly reduced income because of it and who isn’t bitter.

I see a woman in her 60’s still advocating for fair wages, for good conditions, for people to be seen and for justice for all.

I am humbled by this woman.

I am proud to call her mother.

(Today my mom lived for me Micah 6:8… I am forever grateful for the gift of my mom and dad – we are blessed)

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Awakening Dreams

On dreaming…..2 weeks ago I sat on my couch with a friend reflecting that the BIG dream, the thing that has been in my heart for always that I want to see happen in Cape Town just doesn’t seem to be happening. It felt like I was always on the edges of people in the spaces I wanted to be in rather than in the actual spaces. It was frustrating and actually had gotten to the point where I didn’t know what to do with the dream anymore. She looked at me and then said: I don’t understand – you are a part of these circles of people. I said, yes, but the dream part just doesn’t seem to be taking shape at all.

My dream is to be a part of the circles of people who are actively, intentionally and in their day to day work spaces talking, telling stories and figuring out what justice and forgiveness looks like. My dream is to see children on the Cape Flats and in poor communities receive the same quality and standard of intervention as the children living closer to the mountain. I know that my voice is a white voice, just too young to have been in the struggle, just too old to be a part of the youth that experienced the change in a more integrated way through schooling, through sport, through life stuff. Yet, despite all of this, the seeking for healing, wholeness and reconciliation has always been a part of my story – whether spoken or not. It’s meant a different awareness of things & it’s something that has happened without feeling like I had to intentionally make it happen. It’s been always been an “is” thing.

24 hours later a child is bought into my practice: Their story is the story of a child growing up with gang violence being normal, rather than random and unexpected. During the session this dream is awakened, with a sense of anger that this child has to be bought to the suburbs rather than being able to access support within their home community. This is put aside in an effort to focus on my client until her community worker who brought the child to me gently asks, “Have you ever thought of starting a practice in the community this child comes from?”

Time felt like it stopped at this moment. This, THIS is the dream being asked about by someone who has never heard it – who I had never met, and yet who pushed straight into my deep heart’s desire. This felt like my Martin Luther King moment where I got to feel what it was like to say “I have a dream…”

I was gobsmacked – lecturing was challenging after this. It is hard to concentrate on teaching narrative theory when it feels like your own narrative is busy changing.