For the better part of three years, a majority of my published blog/article writing has been dedicated to promoting and placing a positive outlook on developments and the creative output swirling within South Africa’s entertainment industry. A growing focus on that has become more continentally inclusive. The vibrancy and eclectic energy of the art our youth provides today is built on the backs of hard-won battles for rights fought by those who came before us, represented and reflected by the sacrifices made 44 years ago in what we now celebrate as Youth Day. Recent traumatic events, which are continuously pervasive both locally and globally, continue to prove that our fights are nowhere near done and that more needs to be chipped away for the systemic change a lot of us have been seeking and pleading for. The Next Generation of Greats will be introducing a new category titled What of The Next Generation in which we aim to unpack some of our more pervasive ills and question their continued prevalence within our contemporary society. Today’s piece comes in the form of something more intimately personal, a poem that finds me working through my current grief, aptly titled: A Poem for My Grief.
The world we live in was not made in our image or for our consideration.
We’re shown it so blatantly, subtly and exhaustively generation after generation.
Why is blackness always in question?
We aren’t a monolith but we’re questioned all the same.
At every shade, shame, phase or shape, our existence is just a game
We’re always in contention, without question.
What is this peace we’re meant to be disturbing and why can’t we have a space in it,
not just to visit.
Even when we are played at society’s most moral, there’s a taint on our laurels.
Where are we allowed to just breathe, where our exhales aren’t a statement.
Where we won’t be attacked for nothing else than our immediate placement.
Where is this peace that I can’t see, where is the air that we can just breathe,
Where is this space where we can just be seen as people, this elusive equal.
What if it’s no longer wanted?
When mere melanation to you makes something tarnished.
What is there left to prove and why is it that it’s always on us to prove it.
Playing fair on this oppression when it hasn’t worked for so long, feels useless.
There is no justice and there is no peace,
but there’s judgement in the way we breathe, defend and release.
We keep asking for systemic change but are met with minor shifts of the same plane.
‘Winning’ somehow makes you a token, and in that comes a guilt left unspoken.
I’ve hated parts of my own existence and not even knowing why;
trying to be moral, empathetic and palatable with deep fear behind my eyes.
No matter how understanding one tries to be,
the abuse really doesn’t stop, it’s just painted differently.
Defending yourself is seen as an attack,
I’m surrounded by family members who’ve been incarcerated for just that,
whilst the perpetrators walk free with the only reason I see, is they don’t look like me.
A ‘good’ black is still black in view, and it seems like being good does little so what’s the use?
This poem was written within the depths of my grief, rage and despair spurred by my personal experiences and the recent wake of the #BlackLivesMatter protests spurred by the likes of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. This is also informed by, and in tribute to, the unjust incarceration of my 21-year-old cousin, Siyanda Mngaza, in the United Kingdom. Siyanda’s currently serving a four-and-a-half year sentence for defending herself from a racially based hate-crime and to get more information on the matter you can visit the #freesiyanda page here. Below is a list of other campaigns you can sign and/or support.