This week we catch up with the creators of These Dam Blacks (TDB) - a movement of black people erupting in Johannesburg, and across South Africa to build conscious solidarity that translates into impact and empowerment! Silindile Nyathikazi shares her thoughts with the Watu Africa team.
Riveting pictures of the movement Ayabonga Cawe © 2017
who are you?
We are a collective of black people who know each other mostly by virtue of our connection with the City of Johannesburg. We know each other through similar interests and connected social circles.
Black gatherings have their own beauty, power and a kind of defiance in a world determined to alienate us from each other and ourselves.
What is these dam blacks?
We are a collective of black people who love being in the company of other blacks. We are a group of black people who have come together to build each other and with one another for the progression of the black nation. We are a group of black people who are woke to our political, economic and social dispossession and we choose to gather because we find comfort, upliftment and joy in us, blacks, being together. We also gather because we realise the power in ourselves as a network; so when we gather we talk and exchange about our interests and the work that we do in order to establish synergies. At our gatherings we also invite black people who make clothes, jewellery, wine, gin, food.etc to showcase their works, sell some items and even close some deals.
These Dam Blacks is a black gathering where we as blacks gather at Emmarentia Dam (and sometimes at Darlene's house when the weather is counter-revolutionary) for some scenic views of our stolen land where we dish out black love, warmth, heart and laughter.
Black gatherings have their own beauty, power and a kind of defiance in a world determined to alienate us from each other and ourselves. So we call blacks to come to a social gathering with a little twist. With chilled vibes, we connect with each other across different pursuits (hustle) to find crossovers between our lines of hustle and explore productive collaborations. We experiment with collective solutions to our collective structural problems to challenge individualized black exceptionalisms of first or only black to be this or that.
You will find emerging black business people, connecting them to a conscious customer base that is determined to rotate the rand within the black community. Explore ways to utilize our collective buying power nationally by starting small. We also welcome people in social development programmes such as education, health promotion, media, community safety, etc. to meet others and share with us on how we can join and bring our resources in finance, labour (compensated or voluntary), networks, etc. for solution-driven goals.
"We gather because we crave spaces where we can free, unpretentious, where we can love each other with no inhibitions. We gather also as an act of rebellion – in a world that demands us to ship up, to shape up, to conform to the status quo that we are unhappy with, we create this space because we would rather be part of creating a world that we’ve envisioned and that we shape."
Want to learn more? Tune in tomorrow for more exciting achievements by These Dam Blacks!
In two years, Cape Town has experienced two rather rude awakenings in the form of “poo protests” in normally sanitised areas meant to represent the best of the Western Cape’s development. The first protest, organised by the disenfranchised Ses’khona People’s Rights Movement, was meant to highlight the deplorable conditions of toilets in informal settlements and townships across Cape Town. It was a clash of two different and highly unequal worlds as the stench and rot that many have to encounter daily was brought into the Cape Town Airport and Legislature in 2013 — an infringement of the cordon sanitairethat is often inaccessible in townships.
The second protest took place more recently at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and featured several students throwing excrement at the long-standing statue of Rhodes on Upper Campus. The exact details of those involved remain murky, but what is clear is that the protest was organised against “white arrogance” and the ways in which black students are treated at institutions of higher learning. At face value, it might seem that the only thing these protests have in common is the use of human excrement to highlight a grievance, and this may be true. In some ways, the UCT protests are a direct deviation from the initial protests organised by Ses’khona. Being at the university already places one in the ranks of educated elite. Many of those who make it onto the stage to accept their certificates are more likely to find employment than their counterparts with no formal post-high school education. A good number of students are recruited fresh from graduation by numerous South African corporates. Membership in this university elite is complicated, for many black students the reality of township life or being the first generation in university is ever-present. So too are the barriers seen and unseen that make timely graduation unlikely.
But being at an institution like UCT also comes with its own complex participation in Rhodes’ colonial legacy — as students benefit from the view from the mountain over the rest of Cape Town, access to flushing toilets, wi-fi and leading academic thinkers, a reality that is perceivable but inaccessible for South Africa’s majority.
But the class inequality created through increased economic and educational participation of formerly disadvantaged groups is representative of a positive trend. It points to further economic integration not possible during apartheid, and provides unimaginable benefits for the handful of students that make it through our universities. But it is also true that the harsh inequalities South Africa is witnessing are as much systematic as they are symptomatic.
It is no secret that compromises were made at the onset of our new political dispensation, many of which were less than desirable. This has also included the naming, upholding and celebration of historical figures — but often with exclusion of other historical narratives pertinent to the formation of identity among young non-white South Africans. Growing up in small mining towns in the North West, I was taught South African history from the arrival of Jan van Riebeek, and conquests of the Voortrekkers. Any knowledge I acquired of Steve Biko, Archie Mafeje or Albert Luthuli was through my own reading while the brutality of apartheid was inferred rather than directly addressed in my schooling curriculum. I can only imagine for some of my white counterparts that the formal curricula and narrative meant that discussions of white privilege and the structural consequences of apartheid were severely limited. Every year we continued to visit the Danie Theron monument outside of Fochville, without consideration of the Hector Pieterson Memorial, or the Apartheid Museum.
This lack of direct discussion on contentious markers of history bears direct consequence on how we envision our society going forward. Is there truly space for all narratives? For those calling Rhodes a part of their culture and negating the intention behind the UCT protests, a more serious question remains: What part of Rhodes and his legacy informs this association and what elements of that culture have you chosen to uphold and enforce? Because no one culture is better than the next, it is crucial that this choice be made with consideration of the great cost to human life and dignity that accompanied Rhodes’ conquests — some of which have consequences for today. It is important that we recognise all heroes of our tumultuous history in areas shared by all races, not simply in the townships where many of these commemorations currently stand.
Whatever our opinions of the poo-protest methods, the perceptions are important for engaging the debate about our history and the role protagonists of the past play in our common, complicated identity as South Africans. Perhaps if we better understand where others have come from, we can better address the symptoms of an economic and political system that thrives on great inequality.
By Masana Ndinga-Kanga
First published 11/03/2015 at M&G Thought Leader.
Image – Danie van der Merwe/flickr
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