Racism Remains in Post-Apartheid South Africa

Apartheid, Photo by UN Photo
Apartheid, Photo by UN Photo

SOUTH AFRICA - The World Hates me Because I am Black... Thus I will Love the World Because I am Black.

I will always remember this moment: my mom and little brother coming into the house with mail. She hands me a large envelope with the biggest smile. I quickly glance to see Howard University in big, bold, blue font with 'CONGRATULATIONS' on the bottom.

I didn't know at the time that I would be attending a premier HBCU and one of the leading research institutions in the world. My reality soon became engulfed in Black pride, Black beauty, and Black history. Professors continuously remind the student body of the academic, technological, and cultural contributions by African people to the global network. Because of my experience at Howard University, I learned to appreciate my skin color.

I am currently studying abroad at the University of Stellenbosch in Stellenbosch, South Africa. The town is racially and economically segregated. Walking on one side of Eikstad Mall, a shopping centre, I mainly see students, the white middle class, and employees. However, the other side of the mall reveals a different story. Blacks and Coloureds fill the area while White tourists enthusiastically take pictures. The university itself is notoriously known as a racist university because of its history as an Afrikaans-only school. Even the architect of Apartheid taught at this university. So as a young Black woman, I am defying the slowly dying Apartheid-schema:

WHITE = GOOD & SUPERIORITY; BLACK = BAD & INFERIORITY

Stares continuously confront me as I walk through the streets of Stellenbosch. They range from genuine curiosity to a loaded question of “why are you here?” However, I must mention that the stares vary by the perpetrator's color (I am using color to make a claim and demonstrate my observations; I am not aiming to generalize nor to negatively portray South Africa and its people). White people look with curiosity, fascination, objectification, lust, and a complex, deep-seated hatred and contempt. Coloureds glare at me as if I remind them of a Black perpetrator in their past (Blacks and Coloureds do not have an amicable relationship mostly due to the systematic marginalization of Coloured placed slightly above Blacks - similar to the history and relationship between Blacks and Latinos in America). Black Afrikans stare at me with … well... I would argue curiosity, disgust, and confusion.

Does my natural Afro, American accent, and African-Native-American-European mixed features evoke a 'stop-and-stare' reaction in a non-American country?

Of course.

That would definitely be the acceptable explanation if these stares were solely genuine curiosity.

But they are not.

The actual is not the main issue. I do not favor staring because of my experiences in childhood. Staring is a natural phenomenon that will never disappear; I accept that. The main issue is what lies behind the staring that is not spoken, but clear: a covert global campaign promoting Black inferiority.

Everywhere I turn I see Black women destroying their natural hair with non-stop weaves, wigs, and braids. The Afrikan cultural traditions of decorating one's head with flattering hair-dos and wearing clothes that demonstrates one's roots and status became replaced with conflicting European standards of beauty. Like diamonds in the rough, I see Black people retain their heritage through their language, dancing, and the undying dedication towards Ubuntu. But this is overshadowed in Stellenbosch. Even if I travelled to Afrikan places that fought against the damaging effects of colonialism; like a mouse, it silently scurries in and conveniently leaves droppings as a reminder of its presence.

Ultimately, I travelled from an HBCU bubble, Black pride island back into the real world. A world that constantly reminds me that it loathes my skin color and anything associated to it. At every restaurant, I am confronted with “you don't belong here and should never belong here.” At a club, I am asked for extra identification. At the bar, several customers are served before me. In stores, I am monitored but not helped. From tourists, I am greeted with a traditional Afrikan language. To others, I am worthless until my American origin graces their ears. These experiences have truly influenced my study abroad journey. However, there is one that moves my soul to tears: the contempt for Black Americans from Black Afrikans.

Howard reminds me that I have brothers and sisters in Afrika and in the Afrikan diaspora, yet I believe the feeling is not mutual. A Black-American girl from Boston told me that in her conversation with some Afrikans, she mentioned that she identifies herself as African-American. To her surprise, she was met with laughter and a firm “you are not Afrikan.” We can always debate on 'what is Afrikan,' but the disregard of our historical bond disturbs me. Clearly the definitions of Afrikan, Black, isiXhosa vs. isiZulu, Zimbabwean vs. South African are significant to most. Yet, all hope is surely not lost.

One of my best days spent in South Africa was at Mzolis in Gugulethu, a township. My flatmates, Christine and Alyssa, and I were chilling in a lounge with Afrikan men watching a soccer game . Our passionate, young 'tour guide' stopped all conversations to remind us that our ancestors were taken from Africa for the slave trade; however, everyone in that room are brothers and sisters. The men instantly agreed and jokingly identified our African origins based off our physical appearances, mannerisms, and speech. Apparently, I am undeniably South African, but it is a debate between Xhosa and Zulu origins.

In coming to South Africa, I was reminded of the world's hatred for Blackness. But I also experience the community's love for me. South Africa presents me the challenge to love my existence. It shows me the remarkable diversity of Africa and Africans. As I prepare to return to America and Howard University, I shall remember this:

The world hates me because I am Black, Thus, I will love the world because I am Black, I love the world because it is Black, And that will never change.

Follow Chrycka on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Poet & Literary Critic: @chrycka_harper

This post is dedicated to my Black sister, Christine Smith, that shared the experiences described in this post in our semester spent in South Africa.

International Volunteers Series: Caregiver in Cochabamba, Bolivia

1476571_10152793457931002_1848536047_n.jpg

Olivia Elswick, Asia CorrespondentLast Modified: 08:07 a.m. DST, 24 June 2014

Imagen 419BOLIVIA, Cochabamba -- This week I spoke with Charlene Becicka, a caregiver at an orphanage in a rural pueblo outside of Cochabamba, Bolivia. Cochabamba is known as the “City of Eternal Sunshine” because of the beautiful weather year round. This orphanage offers a home to 50 girls from 3-17 years old.

Becicka attended Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa and studied English Literature, Secondary Education, and Theatre. “While my education has certainly aided in my work as a volunteer and missionary, it has been my faith that has really sustained me in my work,” she says.

What drew you to the site you decided to work in?

I was drawn to the site Hogar Maria Auxiliadora because of the role of the volunteers listed in its site description. The other sites listed teacher, tutor, nurse...the role for volunteers at Hogar Maria Auxiliadora: mother and friend. I’ve always loved children, so being in the role of mother and friend seemed like the perfect fit for me.

What is a day in the life like?

The role of the missionaries at Hogar Maria Auxiliadora is quite varied. We are responsible for caring for the girls in every aspect of their development. Daily our responsibilities include waking the girls, feeding them breakfast, ensuring they do their chores, helping with homework, accompanying them to doctor’s appointments, and just spending time with them. In a larger sense, though, our job is to be a caring friend and role model.

How are you able to handle all of your responsibilities while keeping a healthy work/life balance?

I take a half-hour to hour-long break every day in which time I usually read or write letters. Taking a little time every day to do something I enjoy is very refreshing.

What are the hardest parts about living there?

For me, the most difficult aspect of my work is the language barrier. I came to Bolivia without ever studying Spanish, so my first few months were a real struggle trying to build relationship and maintain authority with the children while learning the language. 9 months later, the language barrier has decreased, but can still be a challenge at times. However, being immersed in a different culture and learning a new language have also been some of the most rewarding aspects of my experience.

What is the most rewarding part about living there?

Seeing the girls make progress toward individual goals is incredibly rewarding. In my time volunteering here I’ve seen girls learn to read, learn to better manage emotions, and make progress toward other personal objectives. It’s wonderful to be a small part of helping the girls develop skills and habits that will aid them for the rest of their lives.

What are some of the most heartwarming experience you’ve had?

The most heartwarming moments are when the girls show their love and appreciation for the work I do with them. Surprise hugs and kisses, words of gratitude, and special notes and pictures from the girls are always touching.

And the most heartbreaking?

It’s heartbreaking to hear the girls wish for a healthy family. While some of the girls I work with are orphans, many have been abandoned, abused, or simply come from families that can’t afford to take care of them. Hearing girls ask why their parents don’t come visit them or why they have to live in Hogar is difficult.

What lessons will you take with you?

Living and working with a diverse group of children has certainly taught me to be patient.

What are the most critical problems faced by people in your area?

One of the most critical problems faced by people in rural Bolivia is illiteracy. Encountering people in Bolivia who can neither read nor write motivates me to help the girls I work with develop this fundamental skill.

What are your hopes for the people you’ve interacted with?

My hopes for the girls of Hogar Maria Auxiliadora are the same as the hopes I have for all the people I encounter: that they will use their unique gifts and talents to grow into the best people they can be and always face the world with a smile.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity I have been given to serve the girls and young women of Hogar Maria Auxiliadora in Cochabamba, Bolivia. However, service does not require quitting your job or moving to a foreign country. One of the lessons I'll take away from my mission experience is that propagating peace and justice can start with being present to the people around you, wherever you find yourself.

Follow Olivia on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Asia Correspondent: @OCELswick

Dear Chicago | Mother Buries Four Children

targets-photo-by-hypersapiens.jpg

Chrycka Harper, Poet & Literary CriticLast Modified: 22:03 p.m. DST, 05 June 2014

This post is inspired by a DailyMail article, “Tears of a Mother who lost her FOUR Children to Chicago's Gun Crime Epidemic”

Dear Chicago,

Chicago River, North Shore Drive, Photo by David B. Gleason

Its been awhile since we last spoke on the Yard at Howard University, I remember you telling me about your dreams, strengths, and adversaries. Your style is unforgettable Your dialect is amicable Lifestyle and life view of the world deserves much respect. My eyes crinkle in smiles when someone proudly yells “south side” or “north side!”

But the news sees your beauty through grotesque eyes: Gun violence. The artificial newscasters utter shreds of murders and guns and blood and victims, But I know my Chicago is not inherently evil or menacing. I will admit the heart of the city is not pumping efficiently, but Chicago will tell you to not to spoil the body with contempt and hatred.

Shut up about Chicago, and hear its voice. Hear the twang in their step and language. Hear the rich black folks music. Hear the pride and the respect. The winds carrying their voices.... That's your beauty, Chicago!

I will not forget about your mother who buried her last child lost to gun violence. While I realize your feening to mourn, you have to keep speaking about the truth of your history to the world.

Keep me posted Chicago. May the grieving find comfort In the beat of the very heart that will save your city.

Sincerely, Chrycka

Follow Chrycka Harper on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Poet & Literary Critic: @chrycka_harper

The Wolf of the Matter

10039483454_3b528fd7cc_z.jpg

Two Wolves | A Cherokee Legend

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.

"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego."

He continued, "The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too."

The grandson thought about it for a minute, then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

Contributing Editor: @MAndrewRansom

International Volunteers Series: Teaching English in Yanji, China

teacher-assistant-for-chinese-esl-learners-photo-by-rex-pe.jpg

Olivia Elswick, Asia CorrespondentLast Modified: 2:55 p.m. DST, 1 June 2014

Oliva Elswick

CHINA, Yanji -- For The first in a series of interviews I’m conducting with young volunteers around the globe, I spoke with Sarah Dickhut, an English teacher in Yanji, China. Dickhut graduated from Loras College in 2013 with degrees in Biological Research and Philosophy, and will attend law school at University of Iowa this coming fall, where she hopes to combine law and philosophy to advocate for and raise awareness about major issues in international human rights.

Dickhut teaches at Yanji International Technical Cooperation High School, a boarding school for about 200 students of Chinese and Korean descent. Situated among farmland and pastures, this school is a quaint relief from the bustling downtown just minutes down the road. With a population of half a million people, Yanji is considered a small town by Chinese standards. Situated on the border of North Korea and Russia, Yanji is a busy transportation and trade link between North Korea and China, and Yanji’s population is largely ethnic Korean.

What prepared you for the job of being an English teacher in China?

I’m currently working as a high school teacher in a technical school, which is a subject area which differs from my degrees, so I haven’t had a lot of job-specific preparation. However, I think service in general has helped a great deal in providing me with a “willing heart,” and frequent consultation with other ESL teachers has been very useful.

Has there been a defining moment in your life that made you decide to take the direction you did in teaching English in China?

I don’t often have “defining moments” where the clouds break and a light from the heavens shines down to illuminate my path in life. My decision to volunteer rose from a gradual recognition of how much I have been given and a desire to give something back. #blessed

What were your thoughts about China before you arrived and how have they changed or stayed the same?

A few people vocally expressed (an unfounded) concern for my safety, which initially cast a little bit of a shadow over my excitement. So after that, I really tried to avoid preconceptions or assumptions about the country.

What is one common misconception people might have about China?

The most common misconception I’ve encountered about China is that it’s extremely dangerous. In reality, as long as you avoid trouble with the government, the threat from other citizens (mugging, murder, kidnapping) is extraordinarily low. The biggest concern is really pickpocketing.

What kind of reception have you been given in Yanji?

The teachers at our school have been very cordial; the most common way I’ve experienced hospitality is through a meal. It’s not uncommon for the English department, or for the whole school to go to dinner together.

How do students usually react to you when you first meet them?

Most students have never seen a foreigner before, so when I first meet a class it usually goes like this: I walk in the door, the students audibly gasp, I say hello, and there’s a few minutes of shyness before I get them talking in English.

1 Next Page » 2 3

Published: 1 June 2014 (Page 2 of 3)

What is a typical workweek like for you?

I teach conversational English to three different grades of high school students, and based on the Chinese class schedule I have about two classes a day. The government provides a conversational English textbook, but as long as I cover the main topics and grammar patterns I have a lot of freedom to develop creative lessons. Some of the ones I’ve particularly enjoyed teaching include lessons on the psychology of personality, American slang, and a murder mystery game.

How does this compare to the workweek of other teachers in your school?

Because the Chinese educational system is completely controlled by the government, they control the curriculum, number of classes, and number of teachers. The government’s control over teaching jobs causes them to hire as many teachers as possible within one school. Consequently, each teacher has considerably fewer classes per day than the average American teacher—no more than four 40-minute lessons a day. This means that I’m doing approximately half of the work of the average Chinese teacher.

How is your school alike or different from other schools you’re familiar with?

Since our school is a technical school, the prevalent attitude among the teachers is that classes are not so much preparation for future education as they are to help students develop into better people. So there’s a lot more flexibility in grading and the rigor of classwork. Additionally, the school allows students quite a bit of free time; they have an hour and a half for lunch, and at least one free period every day. As I mentioned, the same relaxed attitude seems to apply to the teachers. There is less demand to prepare lesson plans in advance and most teachers have time for a nap every day.

Can you explain the educational system in the part of China you live?

Structurally, our school is designed and painted exactly the same as the other high schools in the area. This system of “equality” is carried out to such an extent that even the color of paint within the schools is exactly the same. Our school does differ, however, in that it is an international endeavor between China and Korea. Basically our school is funded by both Chinese and Korean parties, and there are both Chinese and Korean administrators. The purpose is to help expand job placement for students post-graduation—we send students throughout China and South Korea.

How is Yanji different from other places you’ve visited in China?

I’ve had the privilege of visiting some larger cities, like Shanghai. These populous international cities house a multitude of cultures, so it’s easier to feel at home.

What are the hardest parts about living in Yanji?

Although Yanji is a city of 500,00, by Chinese standards it’s the modern-day equivalent of a rural village. The result is that by living in this city we are cut off from virtually all aspects of western culture.

What is the most rewarding part about living in Yanji?

Total immersion in a new culture, and the lack of English in the city propels me to use Chinese and Korean more frequently.

1 2 Next Page » 3

Published: 1 June 2014 (Page 3 of 3)

What is your best memory so far?

It’s actually difficult to choose a single best experience…but I think one that stands out in my mind is visiting the local ice festival. It’s similar to the ice festival in Harbin, where builders take immense quantities of ice and snow to build large structures like castles and slides. At night the giant snow-slides are lit up with colored lights. It’s a really beautiful sight.

Have you found that women are viewed differently than men in Yanji?

In my experience the Chinese state that intellectually women and men are equal, however they hold gender stereotypes for careers, physical ability, and child preference. In terms of careers, I have been told on several occasions that some professions (like engineers) are more suitable for men, and that teaching is the least honorable profession for men as it indicates a fastidiousness of character. Additionally, it’s assumed that in sports, all females are at a disadvantage, so activities are carefully structured to give female players an advantage. Finally, Chinese families still have a strong preference for male children, as the male will care for his parents later in life. When a female is married, she is expected to show preference for her in-laws over that of her own parents (i.e. on family holidays a couple is expected to spend the time with the male’s parents).

What have you discovered about China’s 1 child policy?

While the one-child policy is still enforced, there are exceptions to the rule. For example, ethic minorities (like the Chinese-Koreans in my area) are allowed to have additional children. As a result, because of the high percentage of ethic minorities in my region, I have less experience with the imbalance of genders seen in many other Chinese regions.

How much of a hand do you think the government has in the lives of ordinary citizens?

I guess I can answer that through the example of the typical teacher in my area. A teacher works for the government, and as such is guaranteed a job by the government. Usually upon graduation, the government will place teachers at specific schools, and may move them if deemed necessary. As the educational system is federally run, there is immense pressure for every teacher to be a member of the Communist party—in fact, it’s unofficially necessary for promotion and awards. However, if a teacher is not a member of the Party, they are still exposed to Communist ideals through their co-workers, and “training videos” which are thinly veiled propaganda discouraging religion and political activism. The average teacher likely has a phone and computer, however the government has access to all cellular data, and censors online information including websites such as facebook, twitter, tumblr, google, and virtually all blogs. Donations for natural disasters are derived from the paycheck and are compulsory. Salary and benefits are subject to change without discussion or ability to lobby. It seems the government does everything but assign a police officer to every citizen.

How does being so close to North Korea impact your city?

The proximity to North Korea means there are many North Korean refugees in the city. Additionally, there is a military base which is used for training and to arm the border. The city is also a hub for the transportation of goods into North Korea. All commerce is supposed to be controlled directly by the North Korean government, but as this infrastructure has been weakened significantly by economic hardships, North Koreans have built an extensive black market. Common exports from our city include food, clothing, and unfortunately, methamphetamine.

You spent time in Seoul, South Korea. How similar is Yanji to Korea?

Since there is a large Korean minority living in Yanji, there are tangible influences of both South and North Korean culture in my city. The most obvious is the language; Korean is an official language of the province and many people in Yanji speak Korean (albeit a different dialect). Additionally, there are a few South Korean chain restaurants throughout the city. In terms of pop culture, most residents of Yanji are well-versed in Korean dramas, and Korean pop music, or k-pop.

How does it feel to be an American living in China?

Eventually you just get used to being “strange.”

What is the most interesting thing you’ve observed or been a part of?

Something that I still haven’t adjusted to is other peoples’ reactions to my ethnicity. There are very few people of Caucasian ethnicity in Yanji, so my features can be surprising. People stare openly, sometimes stopping what they’re doing to get a better look at my face. Occasionally people will call out a series of non-related words in English to see if I’ll respond, or if I’m walking they might follow me a short distance to get a better look.

Return to Page 1 »

Follow Olivia on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Journalist: @OCELswick

A Tribute to Happiness

smiley-face-balloons-photo-by-mali-woods.jpg

Chrycka Harper, Poet & Literary CriticLast Modified: 17:12 p.m. DST, 20 March 2014

Happy Clappy, Smiley Faces, Photo by King Dude Dave

Happiness always Makes the world a safer place. Is the world happy?

Don’t forget men’s work Their tears, passions, drives, and quirks Bring smiles to kids.

A child carries Light for the lantern to watch The world move to peace.

Peace rests on women, For the sake of the household, So we can smile.

Smiles lead to the Happiness in which we seek. A human goal, free.

 
 
Follow Chrycka Harper on Twitter
Twitter: @nahmias_report
Poet & Literary Critic: @chrycka_harper

The Natural Rebellion

wild-animals-and-humans-photo-by-molly-radigan.jpg

Chrycka Harper, Poet & Literary CriticLast Modified: 01:57 a.m. DST, 28 February 2014

Baby Panda, Seven Star Park in Guilin, Photo by BageltamSunshine's rays gleam off the cold metal cage of the world's favorite baby panda, Bao Bao. Nestled within fake vegetation resembling a panda's natural habitat, the baby panda willingly participates in the scientists' daily lesson plan.

An audience of thousands venture to the National Zoo in Washington, DC to watch Bao Bao's progressive learning process. With brochures illustrating the daily lesson plans, the audience engages with the scientists on teaching Bao Bao how to be a panda.

When Bao Bao walks left, necks follow in unison. When he goes right, necks follow in unison. When Bao Bao sneezes, in unison, everyone reacts with “bless you.”

On this particular day, numbers of the audience reached an all-time high. Humans representing diverse backgrounds and cultures are in the National Zoo watching the baby panda's interaction with a soccer ball. A man unfortunately becomes an open toilet for a blackbird above him. The blackbird and we shall call her Eboni, lands on a tree within the lions' exhibit.

The lions are resting their heads because of the human attention towards Bao Bao. Eboni swoops down towards the King of the Jungle, a black lion that was strangely found within Ethiopia, then propels upward into the clear blue sky. Then the King rises onto his paws and unleashes a proud roar. Eboni flaps her wings to the rhythms of the roar. She spots her flock near the Washington Monument and joins them for a brief meeting. The birds diverge to meet with other species of the planet to relay one message:

THE TIME IS NOW!!!!

Birds representing the iridescent spectrum deliver the message to creatures of all forms, shapes, and sizes. From the algae in the Pacific to the elephants in Africa, all domains of life receive the pertinent message.

Back in the zoo, members of the audience slightly shift their weight on their feet and stretch their backs while watching Bao Bao attempt to shoot a basketball into the hoop. A second roar erupts from the King's mouth then Eboni soon returns to move a switch that unlocks the cages.

Children remember their parents' warnings on public crying so they keep their growing hunger a secret as Bao Bao rolls around. Suddenly, the baby panda stops in action as the King erupts in a third roar- the loudest of all roars that the Universe has ever heard. Startled humans turn around to see nature surrounding them. Kings and Queens of the savannah, exotic plants of the rainforest, and tropical fish of the deep blue seas are silently staring at the human population. No one notices that Bao Bao leaves his cage and joins the King on his right, while Eboni rests on his left shoulder. No words need to be spoken to explain the purpose of this confrontation: nature is rebelling against the humans.

For centuries, nature received brutal treatment from humans. It remembers the baby stage of human civilization where all creatures lived in harmony and unison. Yet, events and circumstances that are not discussed in schools influenced the progression of humans' harsh manipulation, subjugation, exploitation, and oppression of nature.

Animals quietly laugh at the humans' idiotic view that they can rule the majority while they slowly plot their rebellion. Nature will never forget about the obstacles of organizing the creatures, but this day marks the heavily anticipated confrontation. No more excuses and no more silence. The time is now for Nature to demand better treatment from the humans.

This meeting serves as the Ultimatum. Humans must change their ways in order to live in harmony with Nature. Otherwise, Nature on Earth will end the Universe's experiment with human evolution, once and for all. This is the Natural Rebellion.

Follow Chrycka Harper on Twitter
Twitter: @nahmias_report
Poet & Literary Critic: @chrycka_harper