By Dumiso Gatsha
The Day of the African Child has never been more important to commemorate. #BlackLivesMatter, #Pride Month and injustices under COVID-19 precautions and responses reflect the many challenges and limited freedoms that sparked the Soweto Uprising on 16 June 1976. A world plagued by violence, economic exclusion and unjust policing of narratives, laws, and poverty. These, as highlighted last year, do not exist in isolation or because of a crisis. It is clear that supremacy has had a significant influence in how countries were founded at independence, wars were justified, and resources exploited. Africa’s history has always been skewed, as Mariam Makeba said “you don’t know anything about any place until the white man gets there… its only when he comes and he says ‘boof’ I’ve discovered you – now you exist, which is ridiculous”.
All black lives originate from Africa. Having been divided and ruled from the British colonies’ 1619 slavery, the 1884-5 Berlin Conference and centuries of intergenerational violence, erasure and indoctrination. Black lives have had to endure unimaginable indignities that continue to play out under the guise of freedom and liberty. Whether it is police brutality in homes, whilst protesting for food parcels during lockdowns or abuse within precincts; its no different to the skewed jurisprudence in criminal justice, rollback of transgender rights protections or exploitative labour practices in multinationals. The hierarchy of supremacy remains anchored on generations of privilege that are often ignored or inconvenient where power exists. It is inescapable as if a part of the air we breathe, fake smiles we face and triggers of trauma we navigate daily.
Supremacy does not have to draw blood or hurl bible verses to justify harm. It is nuanced in microaggressions in public and private spaces. Email responses and tone policing; invalidating experiences through unsolicited guidance or infantizing another’s autonomy. It does not have to look or sound a certain way, from a specific person. It is embedded within our social norms, governance structures and best practices. It determined how acceptability and civility are prescribed in knowledge production, law and family. It is anchored on the supremacy of white people who have written, shared and upheld supremacy across independence struggles, economic crises and leadership changes. It remains anchored in the ambiguity of ‘organisational fit’, ‘acceptable behaviour’ and toxic masculinity.
These are difficult conversations that require a lot of work. As Masana Ndinga-Kanga says in our commemorative conversation, it requires “love work”. The kind of work that I believe is centered on humanist existence. Where at birth, the indivisibility and universality of our human rights and dignity is as equal as the love we come from. That which is unconditional and unrestricted of societal expectations, capitalist systems and inequality. The kind that allows for those who have always benefited to relinquish their space and listen more. To challenge their own and uplift the voices of others. Taking lead is not an option unless it is at the dinner tables, news reports, board rooms and governing offices that continue to exclude our presence. It is love work that sacrifices today and tomorrow’s benefit, for the betterment of those who’s families have been torn apart, exploited, and left devastated.
Peace is a nexus to ensuring the achievement of Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals. It requires that we acknowledge inherent institutional supremacy in indicators, modalities and access to contributing and being accountable inhabitants of the world. This means safeguarding and strengthening the inclusion and participation of all citizens, displaced persons, wildlife and the environment. That those who are left out in being counted, undervalued or exploited can be central to a more gendered, decolonized and less harmful world order. It demands that occupants of bureaucracy in governments, development, corporates and development look beyond their public statements and diversity policies. That representation doesn’t remain exclusive to those who have survived and navigated supremacy to eligibility in taking up space, profit or decisions.
Our presence should no longer be the poverty performed on charity screens, ‘mansplained’, sole leadership position in organisations or quota systems that absolve meaningful transformation. It should reflect in the knowledge used to educate others, how we interact in convenience stores, the social protections affirming care work and the occupying of offices that design, resource, implement and evaluate transformative change. It should reflect in organizational controls, standard operating procedures and essential service consumption. Leaving no one behind is anchored in the spirit of ubuntu; I am because you are. My blackness, queerness, Africanness and youth are inseparable facets of existence that should be no different to any other Black person. That we can be seen and affirmed in our laws, governance practices and history. That we can chart a more enabling and love-centered world that can finally allow and affirm that #BlackLivesMatter.
Read WYMD’s set of principles in support of #BlackLivesMatter here.
Listen in on a discussion on June 16 here.