The world is hurting. Covid-19. Economic collapse. Systemic racism. Young black women and men are on the frontlines. This Youth Day, Twyg asked nine young creatives who we’ve featured recently to tell us what it all means for them.
Things haven’t been easy now, or before, for young black people in South Africa. We have faced systematic oppression for the longest time. I stay in a rural area where I see this injustice everyday. I’ve seen young black people leave to get an education, come home and not have a job to start their life. If you do have a job, you have to work three times harder than other races and still not get the recognition or promotion.
This has become harder during the Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter protests. We can’t do anything since everything has come to a standstill. I wish to see a change because we are also people and have a lot to offer to the world as Black youth. We need more opportunities to be part of the world and to create a worthy generation for our kids.
- Siphelele Ntombela is the founder and creative director of African Renaissance Collection (Image: Jackie May)
I write this as a person of colour (POC), a womxn, a young professional, a daughter to a single mother, a sibling to four womxn and two men, part of a Muslim family who grew up in the parts of Cape Town they don’t advertise in tourist magazines. These are the roles and lenses through which I experience the world.
Being part of a generation born from, yet outside of apartheid, we are expected to have already healed from hundreds of years of an oppressive system. We are expected not to see colour. Yet it sees us, it sees our parents, it sees our history, and it recreates that history in a world full of denial that it even exists.
I can’t tell you what it’s like to be young during this time, but I can tell you what it’s like to be me. Racism, gender-based violence and many other forms of social injustice is part of my daily life, it’s part of my family, my friends, and my community. It is my reality.
I experience this reality professionally through the forceful handshakes of older white men. I experience it at my workplace through the mini panic attacks before having to contribute to a meeting filled with older white colleagues. I experience it at my workplace, in my home, at the mall, in traffic. It is my reality.
Nobody will understand my unique perspective, nor I theirs. We can only try to empathise with parts of one another; never truly understanding the whole. I try to remember this as I scroll through traditional and social media, watching events unfold and people crying out in anger, grief and excitement. I try to remember this as I feel the pressure to form an opinion and take a side. I try to remember this as I attempt to find my voice in between the screams and silence of those around me.
I choose to stand up for myself, my family, my friends and my community. But perhaps not in the way you want me to. I choose to stand up through healing myself, supporting my family, showing up for my friends, and giving back to my community.
I choose to stand up by telling my story and holding space for others to tell theirs. I choose to stand up by leaning into the discomfort of interrogating the many spaces that I hold and those that hold me. I choose to stand up by recognising my vulnerabilities within our broken system. I choose to stand up by recognising the many vulnerabilities of each individual, making this the basis for how I interact with them.
While there is so much pressure to speak out, act and take a stand during the multiple crises we face as a collective, I ask that we all find a way in which we can do this that is true to ourselves. A way that doesn’t sacrifice any part of our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Healing society, and the broken systems on which it is based, begins with healing ourselves.
My healing began with yoga, breathing techniques and meditation as a regular practice. At the start of the lockdown, I started teaching some of these techniques via free online sessions for my personal and professional networks. I hosted about two classes a week for six weeks, after which I took some time out to work through some personal issues and be gentle with myself. I now feel ready to start hosting these sessions again.
- Zaynab Sadan is an environmental researcher with interests in waste management and the circular economy, currently working at WWF South Africa. Views are her own. “ (Image: supplied)
As a young person, I feel like Youth Day this year challenges me to speak out because I realise that, like the youth of 1976 there is still a fight on my hands. My silence would mean I don’t value their sacrifice. As a designer, I feel it is time to create work that will not just show my stance but educate, advocate, empower.
#BLM: Being born black is a constant reminder that you are not accepted in certain spaces, you can’t just be talented for it be enough, you have to work twice or three times harder to get half the opportunities. It’s triggering. Knowing that your life is less valued is scary.
#Femicide: I don’t feel safe. I haven’t felt safe for a while. I am angry. What gets to me more is that there seems to be a resistance from men to learn, to do better and to call out their friends and colleagues. I am bothered by the lack of action from the president. It’s not enough to sign petitions, use your platform to teach, call out abuse. It doesn’t seem enough.
#Covid19: One day we will talk about how we lived through a pandemic. Insane!! I am doing better mentally in dealing with it but I am devastated at lives being lost everyday, people lacking basic needs, job losses.
- Samkelisiwe Mhlongo is the founder of minimalist leather lifestyle brand St Reign. Image: @geminivision_za
Being a young black woman in South Africa is to accept that the very same racial injustices our Ancestors fought for and went through still apply to us, integration was never the proposed solution, but equal inclusion was. Inclusion in the following terms:
- On the point of financial inclusion, how can landless displaced people participate fairly in financial trading systems whilst still battling hunger, poverty and the right to own land after 26 years of the so-called ‘democracy’?
- On the point of the work environment, how can women strive in a patriarchal system designed to oppress women, as it continues to pay women less just because they are women?
- On the point of health and security, a system that continues to disregard Indigenous Knowledge Systems and prioritise western medicine over natives way of dealing with diseases, a system made to oppress the indigenous people, black people.
A lot of oppressive systems are still hindering black people, especially black women. The sudden prioritisation of black-owned business because of #BLM confirms such systems.
To conclude it’s hard, but we soldier on.
- Nombuso Khanyile is the Durban-based designer and manager of Afrikan Passion Designs. Image: Supplied
ALUTA CONTINUA – when thinking about being young in 2020, I am inspired by the strength and determination of the youth of ’76 fight against the social injustices of the Apartheid regime. We are 25 years into our democracy, but the struggles fought during Apartheid are still relevant today – NOT YET UHURU. Our job is not done until we attain Bantu Steve Biko’s concept of The Envisioned Self which calls for the recovery of a human essence dismembered, distorted, disorientated and oppressed and reconstitute it into a new human being and we receive equality for all.
While living through a pandemic and #BlackLivesMatter protest, women and the LGBTQIA+ community are still living in fear of becoming another statistic in the rise of gender-based violence cases. The lack of urgency in dealing with this epidemic that plagues our nation truly saddens me. Gender-based violence has no place in the world we aim to create. Men especially need to take accountability for enabling acts of violence against women and LGBTQIA+ and speak up against GBV. We can’t fight this alone.
We must work together so that generations after us live in a world that is an authentic representation of diversity, has equal opportunities for all and respects the individual. I am hopeful that the efforts we are making, calling out and fighting against racism, gender-based violence and other injustices faced by black people are not in vain. Happy Youth Day.
- Tandekile Mkize is a stylist and content producer with a focus on fashion, art and photography. Image: Noncedo Gxekwa
Youth day is an important time to reflect on the past. I think it is within our best interest to remind ourselves yet again who we are, where we came from and how we got to where we are.
As African women and people of a darker shade, we are still fighting for existence, still fighting for freedom and we are still fighting for equality and injustice. As the youth of 2020 we shall never forget our history, all that we do and who we are as a nation is encouraged by the practice of Ubuntu. Ubuntu is a reflection of our being, we are because you are. This means this is the time for us to be united, to seek knowledge, to seek guidance from those who came before us, to look after our own and use our voices as a power tool to make a difference and create change in our communities.
The youth of today have the opportunity to tell our stories in the most authentic way, we have the power to control our own narrative and it will be televised. In the words of the beautiful Zozibini Tunzi “we are powerful beings and we have the right to every opportunity, now it’s time to take up space”. And to be unapologetic.
- Durban-based designer Fezokuhle Dimba is the creative director of Love Hate Designs. Image: Supplied
I’ve always been an emotional kid but 2020 has left me an emotional wreck. As a young black man I feel the need to assume responsibility in carrying on with the tradition and the spirit of fighting to attain equality globally. As much as this period in time seems like a terrible time, most of these events apply much needed pressure for transformation to explode.These times have shown me how vulnerable we are and how much we need to stand together as people.
I feel less scared and more eager to to take a stand in what I believe is right and contributing in building a better future for the only race, the human race. I hope to never stop using my creativity to make the world a better place. Let us love each other with genuine affection and support each, we will come out of this historic period as better versions of ourselves.
Happy Youth Day #BLM”
- Katekani Moreku is a designer and the winner of the Twyg Sustainable Fashion Awards 2019. Image: supplied
Maliyamungu Gift Muhande
Breonna Taylor could have been me, Sandra Bland could have been me, Belly Mujinga could have been me – it might as well have been because a part of me died with every single one of them, but as long as there is breath in my lungs I will not be silent in the fight against racism – racist people, racist policies, racist institutions, and systems. Silence is violence.
George Floyd is my father, is my uncle, and is my brother. As you’re standing here today, you are standing for me as your neighbour and you’re standing to make sure this is the end of it. You’re standing so that tomorrow I can breathe.
We want to grow old, please be as outraged about these horrific acts of violence as we are. You may never fully understand the pain or the trauma but you can embody the outrage and transform it into action, we need you.
I am a black woman standing in front you, black and proud – our ancestors fought against this racist system, our grandparents fought against this racist system, our parents fought against this racist system and now my generation is doing the same thing. I know we are not fighting alone, we have had wonderful support on every path we’ve taken in this last week of protest. We are grateful for all the support and know that for the changes to be real in the future, we must continue this journey together.
Let’s make it different this time, let’s stand together – protecting all races and genders and let our voices be heard. More powerfully than ever before.
Let’s do it together peacefully – so that our children, YOURS AND MINE, will not have to fight against racism. That will be the major difference in my life and the legacy we can leave for our children.
- Maliyamungu Muhande is an artist and documentary filmmaker from Bukavu, who studied in Cape Town and is currently living in New York. This is an extract from a speech Maliyamungu delivered last week
Being young during a global pandemic and social injustices that are rife requires one to assert oneself more and speak up more against inequality.
- Makhosazane Sekgwama is the founder of ROSA Handmade. Image supplied
- Feature image: Clodagh Da Paixao / Unsplash