“If bands make her dance imagine what knowledge can do…”
That line comes from last year’s 16 for 16s project “No Time Out”, presented by Motif records, combining the efforts of 16 artists/ entertainers to commemorate the uprisings of June 16 1976. That line struck me as profound because, well, it is; and it’s witty. But also, it struck me as profound because it captured well the essence of June 16 – young people who were so moved by the knowledge of an idea that they took to the streets for it. An idea so powerful that even though apartheid thugs responded to schoolchildren in uniform with bullets and teargas (bullets and teargas bafwethu – BULLETS AND TEARGAS!), they went anyway. Imagine that.
One of the wonderful things about this millennium and all its technology, is how it has enabled us to ‘hear’ more voices, particularly from groups marginalised by white supremacist capitalist patriarchy (to borrow hook’s term). To be sure, there are still those who do not have access to many of the luxuries of the technoratti, but for the most part now more than ever before, we have more platforms to speak out and be heard (and connect) widely across boundaries.
The downside is that less people are willing (or is it less brave?) to think for themselves. That is a little pessimistic, I know, and I do think it is great that we can have conversations across the diaspora and engage with one another intellectually. I guess it’s just clear to me, that ideas make the world go round, and I wonder – are we as passionate as the youth of that day, or do we lack something to believe in that will move us as poignantly as they were?
The entire world moves on the axis of ideas: the idea of money (which is only given value by how we esteem it, what we accept, collectively, it can and should do for us), the idea of power, the idea of potential. I’m just hoping that we are brave enough to step out and express a few of our own, unapologetically. Already there are some who have taken that leap, innovators and trailblazers in art, politics, commerce, science… And I commend them. They are what’s right with this world. No matter how pessimistic I can be about our generation and our future sometimes, something always pulls me back from that into an ocean of optimism. That thing is the knowledge that the bright future I’m looking for isn’t hidden in history – it’s in you and me.
“The whole point of being an artist is to make a statement with your art. So I don’t have to tell you who I am. You can listen to that record and say, ‘Oh, I get that girl’.” Lalah Hathaway