Last night as tbV and i left after a calm and productive evening at UCT as part of the Peace and Justice Witnesses team, stunned by an incredible evening of students talking to students and trying to figure all this stuff out, we noticed a stream of water. Upon closer inspection, we found that someone had turned on one of the taps by the fire hoses in one of the lecture halls, completely flooding the floors.
Do you know how many people it takes to turn on a fire hose? One. Do you know for how many people that incident would have been the narrative of the night if the media had been present?
We had earlier spoken to some members of two other peace-keeping teams operating at UCT [one is progressive academicals which i believe is made up of POC staff members at UCT and the other was formed by a student with anyone he could find who had the vision and heart to see peace at the university]. They told us that the small group that had been stirring up a bunch of the trouble contained a number of students from CPUT who had been kicked out of CPUT. Suddenly the narrative starts to take on a different direction…
We need to be so super careful that we are not defining a significant movement by the actions of the one, or the five, or the fifteen.
“But they’re burning things! Switch off!” has been the response by so many people. When you come to a conclusion before you gather any or all of the facts, you are in danger of holding firmly on to a news headline in favour of the truth.
THE REVOLUTION WILL BE HARMONISED
When tbV and i got married, i experienced one of the most powerful musical moments of my life and what i still believe is the best opening to any wedding ever [may be some small bias]. We had twenty to thirty people sitting scattered around the wedding venue with djembe drums.
i sat in the front with a djembe and started a beat. Gavin (who owned the drums) established a base beat. Then, starting with my best men [three] and followed by my sister and two other girls, and then finally various guys joining in, the beat grew and grew and crescendo’ed and sent goosebumps through the Somerset College chapel for a good five minutes until the door opened and Val appeared in all her beautifulness.
Most powerful opening ever and we have some video of it which doesn’t capture the vibe AT ALL. As these words don’t either.
i mention that story, because in a similar way i want to try and explain and describe and give you the picture of what i experienced at UCT yesterday earlier in the day and i know it absolutely won’t do it justice. You really had to be there.
But hopefully i can give you a glimpse.
CRIES FOR THE BELOVED COUNTRY
Probably the second most powerful musical experience i have had in life [and i went to a Mumford concert!] especially as we walked through the engineering building i think it was and the loud, passionate and powerful singing resonated up two or three storeys and it was if the whole building was joining in the songs for freedom, for dignity, for opportunity, for equal chances for all, for hopes of a significant future… and it was good.
Do i condone violence? Absolutely not but as we’ve said, time and time again, we have to really define violence before we make blanket statements like that cos the violence of burning a painting or car is different to the violence places on families who can’t afford for their children to go and study and the violence afflicted on young people by learning from a colonised system that has not transformed itself sufficiently to teach what and how our young people need to be taught today… and so much more. We must be so careful of calling one thing violence and refusing to see the violence exacted on so many others both passively and aggressively.
But the singing? Oh my word. It was mesmerising and it carried passion and hope and life and i was walking with these students thinking this is something i can get behind. Five minutes later i am the last one in a lecture hall and a guy in a mask lets off a fire extinguisher in the room after everyone else has left.
And i sigh a deep sigh.
Because that one person, that one act is defining the movement for so many oblivious people out there who don’t get to hear the singing…
Don’t be fooled by the headlines or the news reports or even what you think you see on video. Jump on the Twitterer and follow #UCTShutdown and #FeesMustFall even just for half an hour to get a sense of the bigger picture of what is going on. See if there is an opportunity to connect with a group that is spending time on campus observing and being beacons of light and de-escalation just so that you can get a first hand experience of what is going on. Chat to some students who are part of the Fees Must Fall and really listen to what they are saying.
Or find some way to stand in the distance and be able to be influenced, by the life that is contained in all of the singing…