Tag Archives: justice

#10 ~ For Colored Girls: Latent Rapists

Image by Joseph Mambwe

Image by Joseph Mambwe

Latent Rapists is the first ‘shocking poem’ of For Colored Girls. It looks at the nature of rape through the eyes of 3 separate women and puts the emphasis on rape being committed by a friend.

Earlier on in the year I discovered that the majority of rape victims suffer at the hands of someone they know. That’s right. The likelihood of being raped by a complete stranger down a dark alleyway is less likely than being raped by a family member, a family friend, an acquaintance or a work colleague. It’s a chilling thought.

Whilst in my second year of Uni I thought about the ease with which male friends that came to visit me could very easily take advantage of me – and it would look like my fault.

‘You invited him over for dinner. You must have wanted it. You’re just making excuses because you’re embarrassed. Friends can’t rape you.’

These are some of the excuses we regularly make which turn the victims of sexual assault into the perpetrators.

Because, as the lady in Red, Purple and Blue so painfully state:

The nature of rape has changed.

We can now meet them in the circles we frequent for companionship.

We see them at the coffee-house/with someone else we know.

We can even invite them over for dinner and get raped in our own houses/

by invitation

a friend.

Rape is never ok, never justifiable and it is never the victim’s fault. If you have been abused please seek help. To see how we give a voice to marginalised and abused people make sure you keep following the FCG story, hopefully see you in September.

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#347 ~ Life Lesson No. 40

Justice requires perseverance

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#248 ~ Ithemba Projects: Day 15

The prevalence of HIV/AIDS has left South Africa with a youthful population. To reach half a Century is to have a blessed life and unfortunately few can acquire that blessing.  To combat this situation, many grandparents are taking on the role of guardian for these orphans, especially in township communities such as Sweetwaters and Edendale. As the country struggles with generations of AIDS orphans, the Government has put together an initiative known as Grandmother Grants..

Unfortunately, due to my persuasive virus, I was unable to work in the Government Hospitals this Monday. However, as I met for Zanini Bantwana’s core team meeting, and on my journey home for recovery, I was exposed to another disquieting scenario. Keeping families together, within familiar communities can be one of the greatest comforts for children who have been orphaned and in some respects abandoned. The benefits system which provides, predominantly grandmothers, with a monthly allowance say of R600 (£60) per month, is not a lot, but used wisely can clothe, feed and even send a child to a basic school. However, when a grandparent is acting as guardian for four, five, six even seven children – well it can become a business. Children can easily become, especially in the economically starved situations that face South Africa townships, a precious commodity.

In the UK, when adoption or fostering occurs, Social Services are the umbrella organisation which (are supposed to) ensure the child or children in question are adequately looked after. If neglect in any form occurs, then the children are (theoretically) removed from that home.

What then happens, as I was told yesterday, when the social workers are part of the corruption? If social workers are threatening or coercing grandparents to ‘share’ their benefits with them to get a child, or if they are in ‘cahoots’ with one another, then what hope is there of justice, when the authorities are corrupt?

I was told a story as I was driven home, of a young girl, say around 12, in Edendale. She was an orphan, put into the care of extended family members. These ‘family members’ were prostituting her. At the age of 12, the people who are meant to be your guardians are the ones who are commidifying, soliciting and violating your body for profit. So, she ran away. Ran away to Social Services, to complain and seek refuge, respite and healing. Obviously her family are quite keen to get her back. Not only for the state benefits she provides, but also for the ‘other’ benefits. I don’t know what the outcome of the story was – but what happens if the family are able to make a deal with the social worker? If they offer to give them a percentage of all their state benefits? What might the social worker do?

It is a deplorable, painful concept, and one that is not solely occurring in South African townships. That would be both an ignorant and dangerous mistake to make. Prostitution, trafficking, abuse and corruption happen the world over in a variety of forms. Whether it  is UK MP’s stealing from the public in the Expenses Scandal, or social workers stealing from the State through corrupt ‘business deals’, it is the poor, the weak and the young that are the victims, and it is an injustice to them.

Prayer for Day 15: That South African Social Workers would be reformed, and the Government would put in the right checks to ensure orphans are receiving the best care, attention and safe homes. That Grandmothers and all other family members who take on the care of an orphan are filled with compassion and a desire to protect and nurture, and not exploit. That children the world over, in our own home communities who are being exploited would come into the protection of just members of the Authorities, and would be saved from a life of victimization and neglect.

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#236 ~ Ithemba Projects : Day 3

Gingu Girl : I am Girl.

I entered South Africa with a cold. A trifling, sneeze of a cold, which filtered into my glands, up my nose, under my eyes and, coupled with the grim, misty weather, certainly made me feel ill. My own poor health made me fearful of being around other sick people, other sick children. The fear of contagion lurked behind me. Yet sickness is a fundamental part of aid work – it is why aid work exists.

After writing about my first day at Ithemba and thoroughly examining the uncomfortable inhumanity that resides within me, the lack of love that characterizes a part of me, I couldn’t quite live with myself. I was ashamed of my…prejudice and decided that that was not me.

Yesterday, I returned to the crèches. Visiting them and engaging the children in song and games is part of my weekly job description. Yet this time round, I was armed with a stack of tissues and a runny nose myself. I suppose , on reflection, I took my own illness as a gateway into compassion. If I was sick, and they were sick, then we could all be sick together.

For most of the children in the Drop in Centre they spend their day in two cramped rooms eating. If it isn’t their millie meal porridge, then it’s a snack of crisps, or their lunch. There are no stimuli, and for these children aged between 2 and 5, stimuli is vital. They yearn to play outside, to run around, to create games, hear stories, and tell songs.  So I found myself, still swamped in the mist, sitting properly in these chairs feeding children their porridge on my own initiative, as one would any child. Tickling stomachs, and offering tissue paper. As I wiped one child’s nose, mucus mingled with blood fell into the sheet. I forgot about how sick I was then.

It is so frustrating, so painful trying to engage young children who are distant. Looking into the eyes of some of these toddlers,  a brown abyss glares back at you. You can try and coax a smile from them – but their lips don’t twitch. In the West, parents are encouraged to tell their children how much they adore and love them. Yet in Sweetwaters, I wonder how many children are seen as a burden. The reason why their mothers never finished their education, why they have AIDS, why they’ve been disowned. I wonder also, whether displays of affection differ between cultures. Whether the lack of a hug, a kiss, or other tactile displays of affection can have negative effects?

Two days ago, I heard the story of a girl who was raped whilst on her way to one of Ithemba’s Life Groups. She was four years old at the time. The police were supposed to open up a case to find the culprit. They never did. Her family took vengeance into their own hands and ended up beating a man within an inch of his life. It was later discovered he was not the rapist. She doesn’t come to the Life Groups anymore. The Ithemba Staff member who told me about her story doesn’t know whether she remembers her ordeal. The counseling  the State was supposed to provide never came through. Why would it – she’s one of many children. She’s from Sweetwaters.

There is a little girl at the crèche who has broken my heart. Her name is Girl. She looks between the ages of 2 and 4. She doesn’t have any physical signs of disabilities, but sometimes she just zones out.  Whilst I was helping the children eat their lunch meal, her bowl of millie porridge sat loosely in her arms. “Eat Girl” I said in Zulu. The other children took it up as a chorus… to no response. She barely talks, just opens her large brown eyes and stares, blankly. I took the spoon, blew on the porridge and put it close to her mouth. As it touched the corners of her lips she broke into a grin and giggled. It was as though a light bulb had flashed across her face, as though she had woken up. And then it was snuffed out again.

I’m no psychologist, but I would say she has some kind of stunted mental growth. She has the look of someone who has suffered a traumatic experience, and never fully come out of it. Maybe she is just mentally slow…but that vacant brown abyss that gapes at me from her beautiful face tells me otherwise.

Prayer for Day 3: That a spirit of Justice would break out in Martizburg. That the children of Sweetwaters wouldn’t be anonymous in their sufferings, but the same care and concern that is shown for children the world over who have suffered traumatic events would be available for them. That their stories and experiences would be valued; that they would be protected. That they would know how loved they are both physically and emotionally.

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#111 ~ I speak Ken Saro-Wiwa

If your message isn’t pure, then you are feeding the masses poison.

I have battled within myself about the duty Art has to truth, to the human struggles for liberation, freedom and justice. Surely we place the artistic form on a pedestal which, in itself, lacks the sufficient structures to stand tall and support it. Surely art is not the domain for political activism, but aesthetic beauty, and financial prowess.

Yet time and again Art has become the gladiatorial ring within which the underdog, the slave, the minority gains a win, to the detriment of ‘the man.’

Nneka is an artist I have greatly admired these past five years and her music became the initial structures of my bridge back to Nigeria. Her music spoke to me because it spoke outside the boundaries of what I had come to define modern music by. She is militant in her desire to use her music to illuminate to the world the plight of the Niger Delta, and to galvanise Nigerians, galvanise Africans, to stop wallowing in a miry history of colonialism but to reclaim what is rightfully theirs – their dignity and their role in this vastly changing world.

To proclaim to speak Ken Saro-Wiwa as she does in her new song ‘Soul is Heavy‘ is to state that her message, embedded in the body of Art, is intrinsically tied up with a message of social-justice. Ken Saro-Wiwa fought against the injustice of the Nigerian Government and their treatment of the Niger Delta post-oil discovery. A peaceful environmental activist, he campaigned tirelessly against the extraction of crude oil from the Delta which was making the Ogoni people homeless, destroying the environment and challenged the reluctant position of the Government in their dealings with Multi-National Companies such as the Royal Dutch Shell Company.

Executed under President Abacha on presumably (unfounded) politically motivated (and therefore economically instigated) claims, his murder provoked international outrage. Yet the delta is still being used for extraction and the environmental conflicts that have arisen has seen a revival in guerrilla warfare, especially against MNC’s, neither helping the political, social or economic stability of this naturally rich West-African Nation.

Nneka‘s voice rings loud and clear declaring to the world, declaring to the artists within us, that the creative is a form within which  all struggles, all desires, all voices can conflate and endure. Ken Saro-Wiwa came alive to me, his mission birthed before me and his voice spoke to me, through the power of her music.

Which voice are you speaking? Which struggle are you embodying? Which art form are you manipulating, controlling, and using to educate and feed the ‘masses’?

I am, the voice of Isaac Boro,
I speak Ken Saro Wiwa
I am, the spirit of Jaja of Opobo,
fight for right, for our freedom
You? A power hungry class of army arrangements,
stealing money in my country’s plight
A soldier pretending to be a politician,
you teacher who no nothing do not teach
me lies

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#21 ~ Cyclical Regurgitation

Walking into a lit bathroom, there are no surprises in-store when your eyes happen to flick over to the mirror and you glance at your reflection. Depending on the time of day, it may appear a little more or less aesthetic, but to all accounts it’s still you. Your eyes, your nose, your hair. You recognize yourself, and in recognising yourself, accept who you are. It’s the same process that occurs at passport control. We state – I am this person – and the official verifies by looking at the image stamped inside. But have you ever gone to the bathroom at night, when you’re too tired to flick the switch? Or early morning? Something happens as your eyes slide over to where the mirror is. In and amongst the shapes and shadows, within the curvature of the glass, an image appears. It is neither concrete nor fully formed, but an ever morphing, alternating, composition of blackness. Suddenly your mental passport-photo gradually descends into a Picasso art piece. You fail to recognize, identify and therefore accept what appears to be an illusion of your mind’s eye staring back at you. You hit the switch, and breathe.

Today, as I was surfing YouTube, I came across a video depicting seven teenagers violently beating up a lone student. It had occurred in Chicago, and within an hour of posting, the video had gone viral. All seven of the perpetrators have been prosecuted, and the eldest is being tried as an adult. Normally I wouldn’t spend much time on the issue; gratuitous violence is perverse and only works as a depressant. But the tumult of video responses, especially from young people, shocked me. There was a You Tube-wide outcry at the insensitivity and the baseness of the attack. It was, undoubtedly, a grossly, aggressively and to all accounts unwarranted ‘beat-down’. What made it more perverse was not only the physical and verbal abuse, but the fact that it was posted on the global cinema. I spent a good hour trawling through the comments, response videos and news articles. And it got me thinking.

‘[The] American justice system was whack, and seeing as so many were minors they’d be out in a few months instead of rotting in the hell they deserve to be in’

By no means am I about to defend the attack. It was out-of-order, simple as. Yet, there was this inane and almost unspoken agreement by all those who responded, that the aggressors should get back twice as much. Comments followed the lines of – “I hope that pu**y gets f****d up in prison and raped in the showers. F*****g n***a (none of the attackers were black i might add, as i’ve always maintained, the N word is simply derogatory, there is no reclaiming it for “black power”), dumb sh**, whose gonna be so tough when you meet Bubba” – etc etc. Video responses where almost as verbally vehement as the insensitive and incomprehensible attack.

People were crying out for a vigilante justice because the ‘American justice system was whack, and seeing as so many were minors they’d be out in a few months instead of rotting in the hell they deserve to be in.’ Ironic?

  • Seven teenagers acted in a bestial manner and will be punished by a supposedly democratic justice system.
  • The public (in the meantime), hope they get hunted down and beaten the crap out of, are gang raped in prison, and finally die, rot and go to hell.

The attack was shocking because it was 7:1. People’s outcry was at the injustice of the unmatched fight, which exacerbated its baseness. Yet now, the global internet community want to replicate this same atrocity on a grander scale. They are hoping for the same degree of incomprehensible violence to befall these idiotic teenagers.

Remember that mirror analogy I started with. This is where it comes in.

Look inside our prisons, and you will wish that the hellfire and brimstone you called down would evaporate into scented perfume.

What infuriates the world is that this video was shown to the world. It’s not like we don’t know this type of violence happens on the regular. Go out in any major city on a friday night and you will see this type of violence ten-fold. Go into any house were domestic abuse takes place and you will see an even uglier side. Look inside our prisons, and you will wish that the hellfire and brimstone you called down would evaporate into scented perfume.

I have no wish to defend these thugs. I’m only curious about what we see as ‘Justice’. We sentence them to months in jail, it isn’t enough. You put them on death row, its immoral. What i think the responses were shocked at, was that this video was the mirror with no lights on, because in their comments, they responded exactly like the attackers. They too descended into a bestial frenzy brought on by the desire to exercise their strengths. Whilst they sit behind cameras and computer screens, ranting and desiring to go F-up those kids, none of them are volunteering to be police officers, or do a neighborhood watch in order to prevent ‘shit’ like that happening in their back yard.

It will be sad when Bubba does get his ‘longdick’ up them and regularly rapes them in prison. When their family homes have been burnt down and their parents are rotting in a socially induced hell. When they’ve been well and truly mashed up, fucked up, and left out to dry, these same YouTube responders will then start calling down hellfire and brimstone on the prisoners who did it, and the prison system that allowed it to happen.

Look in the mirror at night. Don’t be afraid. The only person staring back is you, the darkness in you, your own bestiality. The vomit we see is the vomit we are producing.

*****

[You may watch the video at your own disgression but it will bring no satisfaction, only hold a mirror up to the broken society we live in, and perhaps to yourself.

Please do not watch if you are under the age of 18.]

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