June is celebrated globally as Pride month, and countless images of rainbow flags and buildings adorned in rainbow flags flood the internet. It is one of the months where being out and proud is celebrated. Yet this year, the month of June has started off on a bad footing: senseless murders of transgender women, transphobic comments from J.K Rowling, and the tragic loss of Kirvan Fortuin. This month, we invited youth and individuals to contribute short pieces of their thoughts and reflections to IAM’s blog. We encouraged them to reflect on Pride, the protests (internationally and nationally) and how the LGBTIQ+ and faith communities should be thinking about this. It is truly an interesting time to be alive. Thank you to all contributions that were received. It is through joining our voices that we draw strength and meaning.
The youth of 2020 are not as complacent and selfish as society often accuses them of being. A wave of activism and protest have emerged from the organizing of youth and the utilization of books, knowledge and social media to hold institutions, systems and industries accountable. The youth of 2020 are positioned to understand that oppressions exist at multiple axes and for that, the call for justice and human rights must be one that recognizes race, gender identity/sexual orientation and class to mention a few. It is encouraging to watch young people at the frontlines fighting against racism as an institution but also recognizing lives that have in the past been seen as expendable.
– Lethabo Mailula
Impilo yakwaNtu/ the Life of the Living.
On some June nights when the nip of the cold is bearable, I look to the heavens in search of the moon and its alignment. Evening walks have offered an escape to, and often from, the sanity of lockdown blues, a breath, to catch a moment to connect to the possibilities of life offered by the silence of the dark abyss.
I walk, at the same time, to hold my space, in vigilance and with caution. I hide from flashing blue and red lights, akin to my forebears’ Apartheid inspired curfew nights. Brutality of which reminds me of the Sharpeville massacre and Soweto Uprising. There, where blue hope towards freedom stained the soil with red dreams by the cusp of dawn.
Gravity of which is still felt by the numbers today, closely by George Floyd’s family and the loved ones of the late Collins Khosa.
I search the Pleiades (Silimela) that signal the start of the Xhosa year for answers. I remember S.E.K. Mqhayi’s poem A! Silimela! (Ah! June Star) speaking to the Frontier wars, amidst tribal and racial factions, on honoring one’s heart and standing for others, even at the face of death. As LGBTI and queer people we at times carry this tension within us, when we sometimes find our hearts drowning deaf to the sound of conflicting directives that toggle us between self-detachment and acceptance.
This youth month reminds us of the agency surging strong within us, that keeps our hearts alive even in the coldest of detached nights. Owning the brightness, we carry, as the stars gifted by Phalo, is also allowing our light to truly emanate from deep within ourselves. During global pride month we can recognize that embracing that each star is different, and accounting for the othered and isolated, we see each other’s light beyond our vision of privilege. We align ourselves with God, with the moon and stars, grouping together and equally shining brightly against injustice, holding space for those who need a moment to breathe, and belong.
Here we become them, and they, us.
I was taught to pray when backed up against never ending disastrous situations, but even prayer feels inadequate at times. However, I’ve experienced and witnessed in the different movements that unite for a shared interest, even with fear of the unknown in sight, that overcoming disastrous situations is possible. Got me thinking that maybe Unity is the presence of God, amongst creation.
– Chantel Fortuin
With the surging socio pandemic, Youth Day has to be now…it has to be everyday
Perhaps the significance of Youth Day is becoming more defined as I get older. Initially my understanding of 16 June was linked to Sam Nzima’s photograph of Hector Peterson. This anecdote of young people demanding justice was only relevant in the classroom.
However, as I get older, Youth Day is my personal fight for justice. I’m now understanding that there is a mammoth number of injustices, and passivity becomes the continuation of the problem. Hence Youth Day is now, Youth Day is taking up spaces and there are daily reminders of how much work we still need to do to restore human dignity.
I imagine Youth Day as a gathering around a table. It’s an opportunity for each young person, myself included, to have a check in with the past and to see how many more kilometers we need to clock, to reach our destination of equal opportunity, visibility and agency. Even more so, on the basis of being physically and mentally capable, I’m compelled as a young person to continue this search and fight.
Therefore, for me – Youth Day is now. It’s the time where I’m speaking louder in my classroom, because I know the degree of positive influence I have over these young minds – especially if we are within the same youth bracket. It’s the time where I’m volunteering for a full year at a Women-led NGO because I can afford to make that financial sacrifice. Being young is a privilege that enables me to develop a virtual ecosystem; on Zoom or Instagram where we can create a space for dialogue and strategy; to curb the too many George Floyd narratives that seem to be reoccurring in our countries, whether one is in Atlanta or Gugulethu, the time is now to speak up when we can’t deny the erasure of black bodies. Lastly, as a queer person, the fight for visibility and recognition has to continue forever, because the interventions are not determined by age and convenience, but instead for me the fight and urgency is a matter of life and death. Therefore, Youth Day becomes forever.
– Fiona Donna Young
Don’t Wash Your Hands
Not of this – of these times
A virus and atrocities
Spreading like wildfire
The time is ripe for revolution
We’re already suffering
And our children are hungry
But queuing at the prescribed social distance
We were told to wash
Our hands and not to sin
Our faces or others
Apart and all that
As if all of us
Came the ‘Manne with Gunne’
Wrapped in khaki and blue
I’m told it is the fashion
Amongst those who like
To beat others into submission
So no-one can see who you are
But all I want to do
Is surf and do my yoga on the beach
Pray and praise with abandon
Walk my dog
And have fun in the sun
After all, it shines over everyone
Alex Botha is a Jesus follower with dirty hands.
This year once declared “20Plenty,” has been a tumultuous year, feeling like we are in the middle of a Jumanji board game and we are just bracing ourselves for the next challenge. It is alarming and scary to think that its already June (six more months until the end of the year) and that we are still in lockdown facing a global pandemic. South Africa will be celebrating youth day on June 16, 44 years since the Soweto uprising and the youth march of 1976. The image of Hector Peterson lying limp in another youth’s arms triggers recent images of Black men and women dying at the hands of police. The #BlackLivesMatter movement continues to grow globally, with the latest of removal of slave owner statues. This has initiated a conversation on the significance of statues within countries that were once colonies with Ghana toppling its statue of Mahatma Gandhi. We are at a pivotal moment in history, where those who have experienced 400 years of oppression are saying ‘enough is enough’. In South Africa, conversations about privilege and whiteness continue on social media whilst the socioeconomic disparities are laid bare by those waiting for social assistance. Truly, it’s an interesting time to be alive. Yet amid it all, the voice of queer youth is shouting on the sidelines – calling for an end on the senseless murders of transgender women. There is no Pride when our siblings are being murdered. I would like to end the post with a short video from the Human Rights Campaign, where Mrs. Dominque Jackson (also known for her performance as Elektra in Pose) speaks out against violence on transgender bodies.
– Thuli Mjwara, IAM Process Coordinator