Happy 100th Nelson Mandela: What I know now.

I’ve finished watching the last of the documentaries on celebrating ‘Nelson Mandela, One Hundred‘; I thought I knew all I needed to know about the man, about the country, about Apartheid, the tortures and the atrocities, but I was wrong.

This time around I realise just how close he was to all the saints we know and that probably (although not in my life time), he’ll be made a saint. I also learnt that my other idol, Maya Angelou died not too long after Mandela. I wondered if when she wrote the poem His Day is Done that some six months later, it would also apply somewhat, to herself.

His benevolence, tolerance and altruism reminded me that I still need to be more forgiving, to be a much better listener and more importantly, that it’s ok to have high standards, just as long as I realise to temper those standards when applying to people and situations.

What Mandela’s freedom did for me could almost be equated with being cleansed by the blood of Christ. If not for Mandela’s victory election, as a black person I would not have been able to live in South Africa and had all those incredible experiences. I am so grateful Nelson. Happy 100th and you should know, that we will never forget you.

 

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Rest in Peace: Joe Jackson, Father to the Jackson 5

I have just finished reading an obituary of Joe Jackson, father of The Jackson Five in The Guardian newspaper. But it is expected that such a monstrous article would focus on Joe’s lack of compassion and concentrate instead, on the cruelties he inflicted upon his ten children. Of course it would ignore that Joe had to feed his family on a paltry wage he received from working as a crane worker at a steel plant in Gary, Indiana; it would also ignore the everlasting poverty, the racism that was always there ready to inflict its hatred on anything which tried to be successful.

I guess what is probably frustrating for the author is how Joe was totally unapologetic and neither ashamed of his parenting methods. He was hard and unrelenting but as crude as he might have been, he basically did what he had to do.

I can understand Joe Jackson. If MJ were still alive, he would have been the same age as myself. My parents, in particular my father, was incredibly ambitious and persistent. He refused to accept that as he left the sugar plantation estate in the West Indies cutting cane, he did not leave for the UK so that I could become a typist or my brothers would be bus drivers. To him, education was the be-all and end-all. I was not allowed to go to parties, have boyfriends, my head had to be buried in books at all times. I can remember, gazing at my father with astonishment as he declared that he wanted me to go to University.  Go to University?  Was he for real?

Unfortunately, myself and my brothers experienced either lashings via the leather belt or had a copy of The Yellow Pages crashing down on our skulls! This happened several times to me and I decided that it was not going to happen again so I did what he wanted.

Yes, at the time I considered my father to be an unforgiving brute! He was aggressive towards my mother and his sisters. He did not suffer fools, whether they were as dark as he or any other colour.  He was not scared. When the infamous Notting Hill riots took place some months after I was born, he participated. Clearly, depending on one’s point of view or politics, my Dad was far from perfect.

As a result of failing my exams and being really fed up of the whole thing, I mustered up the courage to confront my father and tell him that I wanted to go to work. My father was angry but accepted if I wanted this, then so be it but…whilst I lived under his roof and worked, he never gave up in continuously reminding me of the mistake I was making.

After a year of working at a job I found locally, I remember feeling bored, feeling how mundane and repetitive the job was. It was then, it occurred to me that if this was work or my future with regards to work, I did not want this. It was then, that my father’s ambition became my own. So while I worked I went to three evening classes per week. I did this for a year before applying as a mature student to a University. I never heard a whisper from my father again, instead I received his blessings and respect while I lived at the family house. And as for my mother, she played the ‘good cop’ to my father’s ‘bad cop’; she supported and loved his ambition and respected him as a good caretaker.

For those who want to crucify Joe Jackson for how he brought up his family, one thing that cannot be ignored, if Joe Jackson was not the parent he was, no matter how bad (Bad – such a great track) we most certainly would not have had the Jackson 5, we couldn’t have known Michael Jackson, and the latest Janet Jackson CD, the fantastic Unbreakable simply would not have existed.

I doff my cap to Mr Jackson, for his strength, his endurance, for his determination and ambition. It is clear that if he did not possess these qualities, the world would never have witnessed such a phenomenon as the Jackson Five which was and still is, the first of a kind.

The Spear has fallen

There is nothing the apartheid government has not done to me. There isn’t any pain I haven’t known ~ Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

I was talking to my husband this morning when I saw the banner running under the program on the TV.  It said Winnie Mandela had passed away. This strong, defiant beautiful incredible activist is no longer with us. Her struggle had to be the toughest, fighting the oppressive apartheid system, immured in a jail cell and separated for years from her dearly beloved, the great Madiba – Nelson Mandela.

My slight contact with the Mother of the Nation was during the time I lived in Johannesburg in 1994. My husband and I owned a boutique in the Sandton area of Jo’berg and at some point Mrs Mandela visited the shop. Unfortunately I was not there but my manager was present.  Another time when I almost was near is when we participated in a fashion show. The clothes from our boutique were used by the organisers to promote African wear and fashions. In fact, clothes were loaned from a number of shops.

Taking the clothes back stage to help with the models, I remember walking across the stage and someone calling out to me that Winnie is taking her place in the audience. I stopped to look. I could see in the distance, a woman wearing a long gown, her hair was a curly Afro and she was talking, smiling. When the lights went out and the show began, I took my seat in one of the front rows. It was a great show and I was pleased with the way our clothes were displayed and looked on the models. When the show had to come to an end, my manager went back stage to collect the clothes and I went to greet Mrs Mandela but when I got to where she sat, she had left.

Dear Winnie, you did what you came to do and made long-lasting achievements. You were truly a blessing to South Africans and will remain in their hearts forever. I offer my condolences to loved ones and know that your gentle soul now quietly rests.

Readers visiting my blog about Scotland – for the wrong reasons!!

Wow! I’m getting so many ‘reads’ on my Experiences: Moving to Scotland which I wrote some years ago. I guess readers are not just visiting because of the referendum that is taking place as I write this but I’ve received a number of visits as readers (in the past and present) are keen to see if my article is about the business of meeting black women in Scotland. A dating site? hmm! I don’t think so! But I’m sure as they read the blog or when they have finished reading, they realise that my article has nothing do with ‘dating’ but just as the title of my site states, it’s about my experiences of life, generally.  The blog is about the time when my family and I lived in Cambuslang in South Lanarkshire, just outside Glasgow.

We didn’t spend a long time there as I had a longing for London.  However, I was impressed with how friendly the Scots were and the embarrassing thing was I went there with the notion of not expecting anything, dare I say, of a standard ie., at the back of my mind, Glasgow would look ‘inferior’ to London but it did not.  Living there was a great experience but it still did not match my London.

And while talking about Scotland, I wish them all the best, especially, if it’s a Yes.  If it’s No, then I guess Alex Salmond has to go back to drawing board because I don’t believe he will give up.

 

Cut the guy some slack please – Julius Malema v Deborah Patta

I read the article A Firebrand Leader in the Making in today’s British Guardian.  Before reading the blog, one of the bloggers inserted the YouTube clip which features the South African presenter Deborah Patta interviewing Julius Malema, leader of the ANC Youth league. I normally complain about how blacks are treated in the British media but viewing this clip, I’ve not come across anything as patronizing and contemptuous as this.

The presenter says in her intro that he is seen as a ‘buffoon’ and that it should be put to the ‘test’.  Of course the whole point of the programme is for her to take the mick and to make him look a fool.  The interesting thing is he comes across as a gentleman and does not rise to the bait. 

Fine, he is not articulate (maybe English is not his first language!) and maybe he does not have a degree in Sociology so that he can give us a clear cut definition of class and where he thinks he belongs. But do we really expect him to get it 100% right!   The white working class (British) moved out in droves to this new land in hope to emulate the lifestyles of their ‘betters’ in the old country but having lived in South Africa myself I was surprised, no shocked, in how the WWC lived in their big houses and pools with scared and anxious domestic staff. And yet the WWC managed to occupy management positions without having any qualifications whatsoever! Yeah maybe I was a tad jealous as I know occupying such positions back in the UK would have been impossible without qualifications so if you guys were able to get away with that, I don’t think it’s fair that you should expect much more from Malema. 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/dec/03/julius-malema-south-africa-leader

“I won’t have to pay for my petrol anymore. Obama is going to help me.”

 

Last Sunday (9/11/08) it was reported in one of the British tabloids that African Americans ‘really think that things will change – for them.’ Peggy Joseph who was at an Obama rally told a TV interviewer: “I won’t have to pay for my petrol anymore.  I won’t have to work to pay my mortgage. He’s going to help me.”  Somewhere else in Washington, near a popular market, Isaac Johnson was wandering around in a dream like state with tears running down his cheeks, repeating “We’ll get respect now, we’ll get our dream.”  But will Obama actually do something for African Americans?

 

The Obama camp has help to put some distance between him and African American problems. “President-elect Obama did not put himself forward as an African-American president; he put himself as an American who happens to be black.” Said Colin Powell.  The report went on to say that Obama cannot risk being too caught up with favouring blacks if he wants to still remain popular with the other multi-racial communities that put him into office.  He also has no choice but to distance himself from the likes of Jesse Jackson, Sharpton and Farrakhan.

 

However, some blacks are already reporting that they are getting better tables at restaurants because maitres d’ think they may know the new president, so change is taking place. But joking aside, I do hope that everyone realises that how this job is going to be challenging and that not only does he need the support but also tolerance and understanding for those inevitable mistakes he will make.

 

Where were you and what were you doing when Obama claimed victory??

Where were you when Barack Obama claimed victory and what were you doing?

Unfortunately I was fast asleep but at 5:30am, my husband switched on the light and shouted “He’s done it. The man has won!!  I smiled briefly and nodded off back to sleep thinking I was still in a dream  A few hours later, I woke up to see my husband still glued to the TV, and that’s when I realised it was for real. Obama, an African American, had won. I reminded my husband that he would be late for work.  He told me about the interview with Gore Vidal and Oprah. 

I’m now watching the TV, and at the same time checking my watch as I will have to leave for work but I wished I had the energy to stay up all night. But never mind, as I wrote else where on my blog, it is a great day.  Let us know what you were up to when it was declared that Obama had won the Presidency.

A South African stew.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/feb/28/southafrica.race

 What do you think of this story?  As I’ve said elsewhere on this blog, that I used to live in South Africa and always thought it dangerous to argue with whites as they were not used to dealing with ‘uppity’ blacks and could retaliate in a way that would not happen in the UK or the States.  Friends of mine have been critical against the blacks who drank this ‘stew’ asking: are they that ‘docile’ that they should drink anything that looks suspicious?  My response was blacks in this part of the world have almost been close to what I would call being ‘sedated’ when it comes to their approach to white people. I remember at times when blacks were spoken to by a white person they would always lower their eyes and never look into the white person’s eyes direct. But this disgusting incident should tell us volumes that South Africa still has an incredible long way to go.

Maybe the chip on my shoulder is not that big!

 

I sometimes think that maybe I am becoming more tolerant in my old age.  You know, take things with a pinch and accept that not every fight has to be a fight. But once upon a time, as a young teenager growing up in the London area, if a white person said something derogatory, or if I felt there was any hint of racism in their responses, or even felt the way they looked at me suggested racism, then I was on their case.  If I couldn’t handle it myself, then there were the big brothers, who held a respectable record of encounters with the law, who could always be relied to do something if there was a problem.  But thank God, it’s not like that anymore. 

Although each time I go to South Africa, I know I can be guaranteed of running into someone who will make it clear that I deserve to be spoken to in a dismissive and curt manner simply because of my colour.  Something like that happened two days after we were robbed.  Eddy and I had already been to the Embassy to complete the forms to cancel our passport, and were told that our travel certificates would be ready in a few days time.  The next thing we had to do was go to South African Airlines to report our stolen tickets and confirm our flights back home.  In the area where we were staying, we could not find a local travel agent to help us, especially with the complications of being robbed and for new tickets to be issued, so we decided to go Tambo International. 

We arrived at the airport, parked our car and made our way to the counter.  It was early in the afternoon when we got there, and I was struck at how desolate the place was considering it was an airport. We found the counter and there were five people waiting in the queue but it didn’t take long before we were attended to.  We explained our situation to the assistant and showed him the police report.  He read it quickly and sympathized at the same time.  He tapped something out on his keyboard, took down the information as it appeared on the computer, and then made a call.  Within the next minute or so, we were handed our ticket replacements in their gleaming new covers.   

Making our way back to the car park, this new, bizarre experience of being robbed forced us to look over our shoulders ever so often.  As we got closer to our car, it suddenly occurred to us that we had to pay for our parking ticket before we could leave.  So we went back to the hall to look for a pay machine and we located one outside the entrance door.  My husband removed lots of coins from his pocket and started sifting through, looking for Rand coins.  I helped him, taking some of the coins and picking out as many Rands as I could find.  Unbeknown to us, a man, elderly, white, and wearing glasses came up from behind.            

‘What’s the problem?’ He said with some measure of impatience.            

‘No problem’, I replied. ‘We’re looking for some coins to make up ten Rand. 

‘Don’t you have ten Rand?’ 

I glared at him making sure my eyelids were fully stretched back.  ‘It’s not that we don’t have ten Rand, we are just trying to get the right amount.’ I continued to glare at him. He backed away and quietly allowed us to gather the right amount to put into the machine.  ‘There! Done!’  I said to him as we walked away with my husband smiling.  And we left without saying another word about it.   Thinking about it, yes, racism was a regular feature in my life but with education and exposure, I realised that there were different ways to deal with things and that violence was and never is an option.  Especially when I realised that I had friends of different nationalities to help, whenever I found myself in difficulty.  But I also realise that it is not the same for everyone. 

When I am in South Africa and the topic of racism comes up, especially if I am in the company of white people, it seems as if it is an enigma to them as to why crime has gotten to the level it has?  Or wonder if there is a particular point in time when the anger will go away?  The uncivil comment about the ‘Ten Rand’ may have been said because the man was racist.  Whatever it was, I can dismiss it.  But imagine if I were to be living in Jo’burg and having to experience these subtle put downs, or insults all the time, why wouldn’t I be angry? And how am I to express my anger if I cannot articulate what I need to say?  

It even makes for uncomfortable thinking that I thought I was experiencing racism in England, when it was nothing compared to what I’ve seen and heard of Black people’s experiences in South Africa.   Yes, we were robbed by black people and there is no way I can make any excuses. Besides the humiliation of being robbed, I also feel embarrassed for the robbers and South Africa and although, luckily, no one was hurt I realised if these guys wanted to kill, they could have done it without any hesitation.   If there is one thing I will always remember about this incident, was the cold anger in their lifeless eyes and wondering (and still wondering) what sort of lives do they lead. 

The experience forces me to assess myself and to assess them: what I am able to do and have been able to accomplish and they, who may be destined to live a life of crime and poverty without ever being able to find out their true purpose. What I see, so far, they are dictated by anger and rage but I believe that somewhere deep, down, inside of them they perhaps still hope to receive the acceptance and respect they so much want from their former oppressors.