Summertime livin’ (AKA Avoid facebook during the holidays because MEH)

December-time can be nightmarish.

“What have you done this year?”

“What are your plans for next year?”

“When do you plan to get married?”

All fielded by aunts and uncles with their face too close to yours, getting into your personal space about things they didn’t have figured out at 25 either.

Sigh.

You try your best to answer their questions without sounding like a loser, flexing your best PR muscles so that jobless becomes time to reflect and improve or some such flowery sounding thing, and then proceed to chop vegetables by the pot-loads so that you can quell the “She’s gotten lazy” whispers they don’t even bother to say behind your back anymore.

chris breezy

Then you sit down for a moment, behind the garage where no one can see you cry, and take stock of the year. My goodness, it’s been such a crap one! You’re tired of crying, so you wipe your hands and fish your phone out of your apron’s pocket. Facebook is full of disgustingly happy people. Three people are engaged. Thulani got his PhD. Salome got accepted for Masters at Yale. Must be nice! Jane is off to the Seychelles on a baecation. Mmm! Must. Be. Nice. And then you’re like WTF?! because there are like, five people either pregnant or giving birth. Gahtdamb! Where have the years gone? We’re getting old.

Summertime, and the livin’ is heavy.

Pause. Lemme tell ya what I know for sure: rest is a lifestyle. If I am constantly looking to “get there”, to “arrive”, to “make it”, then I will always be agitated and restless and peace will elude me. Hey man, don’t get me wrong, progress is a good thing. I have ambitions too. But I can’t keep looking at my life and thinking that everything in it is wrong. You know, something about the day of humble beginnings and all that. You’re not where you used to be. You lived through your worst and you’re still here. You’re stronger than you know. You did the best you could wethu.

I never want to feel like I have arrived. Never be complacent. Despair says, “Circumstances = stuck”. Hope says, “This is just a delay”. My faith must continuously be active.

You put your phone back in your apron, stretch your back and smile. This isn’t the end for you because you see it now. You see the most delicious thing about life and it’s this – it goes on.

Merry Christmas,

Dusty

“We were sad of getting old, it made us restless/ Oh, I’m so mad I’m getting old it makes me reckless!” ~ Adele, When We Were Young

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Guest Diary Entry: A Mother’s Encouragement to Her Daughter

Screenshot_2015-12-16-16-42-01-1

My mother as a young woman

Baby,

It’s my turn to write you an email, though I was flirting with the idea of jumping on the next flight to PE instead. That would have been drastic. You, me and of course other sons and daughters of Man, are fellow travelers, often coming to the same crossroads, same rivers, mountains, same onslaughts. Same thoughts. That’s why mind could not help seeing and dwelling on these “stops and go” or Mt Seir’s if you may. I must have dwelt longer than the red robot of the stop and go demanded because all of a sudden the jolt came, from my GPS, I guess, to say MOOOOOOOVE! Except that it (the GPS) did not use those exact words. It said instead, asked rather, “DO YOU NEED AN EASY LIFE?”

That threw me, completely, maybe coz it was unexpected, and I even had to move from the TV area to my bedroom. And I couldn’t help answering it, “I don’t need an easy life”. I did not feel coerced to say that, and it gave me some life, some impetus, to engage with great grace, my gears, from that stop mode to the move mode.

Suddenly it did not matter that I’ve been sleeping when the green light cane on, it did not matter that the other motorists were looking, and that some were even beginning to honk with irritation, it did not matter that they were aware of that lapse on my part. I just wanted to go with the flow of that moment ‘coz it was birthed by the One who is never going to leave me. The one who is never going to overtake me. You should see the dramas that play themselves out after a stint at a “stop and go”. Hilarious, and sometimes downright dangerous. People just overtaking so you won’t have to retard (sic) their progress with your lapses again when you get to the next “stop and go”. But the GPS Joe, He stays with you, sticks closer than a brother! I did not know how this letter was going to turn out. Again, the GPS just led the process.

You know what my greatest excitement is now as I conclude this? I know you will understand, not only because you are one of the most brilliant minds I know, at that age, but also because you have your own Teacher and Interpreter.

So I am beating a retreat for now. The onus is upon you. Are you going to hunch your shoulders, collapse, collapse in a heap,  and beat yourself small because of your lapses? You are way too smart for that. The grace to move from that position is there for the taking. Seize it by force, every second, every minute, hour, day, week, month, until you reach your destination. Your mantra? I have the mind of Christ, I have the mind of Christ, I have the mind of Christ! Coz, truth be told, you have!

Mme

Saturday, 13 October 2012

**This letter was written by mother to me in response to my panic about life at the time. Thanks Dimaa, you brought the sunshine.

“I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

Monsters in My Head – For Suicidal Girls Who Struggle to Get Over 

I was sitting in a seminar room with my classmates when our lecturer, after finally poking and prodding an answer out of me, said “Yes! That’s good. Why are you so apologetic about it?”
A few weeks after that incident a friend of mine, a writer I ‘met’ on Twitter, said something similar. I was working at the publisher where his latest book was published, and I was speaking with him on the phone about some admin tasks I had been given to do for him. I must have sounded apologetic then too, because he said to me, “Why do you sound so timid?”

He had read a review that I wrote for a book last year, and in it I had been scathing and fierce in my analysis. Anyone reading it would think “She’s something fearsome. I don’t want to mess with her.”
I realized, once these two virtual strangers said this to me, that I don’t trust my ideas. I don’t trust my mind, and I never have.

I grew up in an environment where silence was king – we were meant to be seen, not heard. I mean, of course we spoke. Mundane speech occasionally, but never the deep stuff. Never the thoughts you really wanted to speak. We were taught to be apologetic, even about things we were not at fault for. We learnt early that our voice, our opinions, don’t matter. I spent most of my childhood in my room, reading, or in front of the TV watching cartoons. But mostly in my room, reading. Escaping. I had to get away from the unsaid things, the heavy unsaid things that choked each and every one of us daily.

And so here I am, a girl who lives in her head but never vocalises what’s going on in there, because I don’t know how. All the monsters, they never out unless I write them out. Writing is the only way I know how to speak.

You’ve heard it said that in a crisis people’s responses are either to fight, or flee (flight). My response is to freeze. That monster stays getting the best of me.

Sometimes that freezing is a mental one. Fear, you know, freezes intelligence. Every time I’m afraid, I find that I can’t think. It’s like writer’s block, but for your brain, and far worse.

I think a lot about death. About how suicide seems sane, though it is not usually thought of as a rational act. The girl who does it seems to have taken the rational, not easy or cowardly, way out. Having surveyed the heaviness of life against her, found her options for “getting over” wanting, she took her life. This life which she was given without her permission/ consent. This life which she was pushed into without being able to choose what circumstances she could be born into. Doesn’t birth, her birth, any birth, seem to be quite the violence? Being born is unfair.

And? What can be said for all these things? How do we, girls born into a world that sets us up for failure, and disappointment, and yet expects us to rise; how do we get over? Can we?

Not waving but drowning. Source: codepen.io

Maybe can is not the problem for you. Maybe it’s do. Do I want to? Get up after the millionth time? Try again after having tried a million times before?

How many

times

can she be knocked down

before

she realizes

there’s no more

fight

left.

Yes, life is war. Always war. It follows then, that to find peace we must fight for it. And we are our biggest enemies. And our greatest allies. But the decision is always ours.

“You block your dreams when you allow your fear to grow bigger than your faith”, Marty Manin Morrissey said. So I must feed my faith, I must find a corner of the world, or a corner in myself, to grieve my disappointments and fertilise my faith. I’ve heard only a mustard seeds worth is necessary to begin. So you fell again. Begin again. Because dying may be easy, but living will be worth it, in the end.

How you got here was not your choice, but you are here now. It was God’s gift to you, you can be.

And you are meant to be.

Yours,

Dusty

“Are these jottings morbid? I once read the sentence ‘I lay awake all night with toothache, thinking about toothache and about lying awake.’ […] Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep thinking about the fact that you suffer.” ~ CS Lewis, A Grief Observed

“You can live through it. It’s working for your good.” ~ James Fortune & Fiya, Live Through It

“We are the subjects of our own narrative, witnesses to and participants in our own experience, and, in no way coincidentally, in the experience of those with whom we have come in contact. We are not, in fact, “other.” We are choices.”

~ Toni Morrison, Unspeakable Things Unspoken

It’s Becoming Harder to Root for Black Men

Trigger warning: street harassment, molestation, rape culture, misogynoir 

I wasn’t going to write about this, but it’s been a week and I still get anxious every time I see him.

Writing through this may not make me less mad about it, but it will ease my troubled mind somewhat. For some of us “poetry is not a luxury, and writing is not a past time. It is survival. It is revival; it is the healing process of probing deeper into the collective memory of the soul“. (Word to Taylor Dominique Mason )

I was fixing to get into a taxi at Bree when one of the taxi marshalls groped me in full view of the people in the taxi. I immediately hit his hand away and told him, “Please don’t touch me.” The women in the front row laughed. Unfazed, he held out his hand; as though we were doing some kind of foreplay, and smiled like I was being a tease and actually liked that he had just violated me.

not a public space yo

Source: BuzzFeed

 

What I really wanted to do was kick him in the balls and tell him to go to hell. I wanted to turn to those women and call them out on their endorsement of such appalling behaviour. But what, if I was able to inflict any type of pain, would that achieve except retaliation? 100 bucks says the people at Bree would probably pull me off him, or he would turn even more violent. They did think my ordeal was funny, after all.

I love Black men. I am always the first to root for them. As a matter of principle, I never even use the N word, though I am myself Black. Heck, I want to marry a Black man one day. If you read this blog, you’ll know I’ve written about my love for him too (Ubuhle bendoda: on the beauty of a Black man.

But I’m finding it harder to root for him, and I am painting ‘him’ with a very broad general stroke unapologetically, because I can. He has a whole army of fvkboys who will come to his defense always, anyways.

Being a Black woman in this country is traumatic. On a daily basis there are at least 10 men who insist on calling me “My size” / “Sweedat” / “Lovey” etc and/ or pulling my arm and demanding to see my tattoo, get my number, start a conversation. Where is it safe to walk down the street without being a accosted by seventy men? And when?

From an article I wrote for The Con about a year ago:

“From the time a girl enters puberty until the age men stop seeing her as ‘desirable’, the idea that her body is not her own is systematically imposed on her. On any given day, as she moves from A to B, she will have to fend off unwanted attention, she’ll be whistled at, grabbed, groped, insulted for not responding, and, in some cases, the attack becomes serious. For many men, there is just no desire to see street harassment as harmful – it is just harmless fun, and is often perceived as doing women the ‘favour’ of complimenting them. But harassment on the street is nothing less than an attack on women’s bodies.

[…] Men’s failure to empathise with women is also because the harassment is not really about the women themselves. It is about male sexual entitlement and it is about performing manhood – perhaps more for the sake of other men than for women.”

I have conversations with my girlfriends almost weekly, I see tweets and Facebook posts from friends almost daily, about such experiences. No matter how many times we say, “Leave me alone”, or show no interest, or put earphones in to block them out, they just don’t seem to accept that “No means NO”. This is rape culture, how a man can assume that each woman who passes by is fair game, how he can touch her intimately without knowing her or asking for permission to do so, how he can grope a woman in a public area because he knows no one will challenge him, how he can be amused by her anguish, how he  can forget her face and move on with his life while she panics each time she sees him… The list is too long.

Left: K Funk + right: Tatyana Fazlalizadeh

Their message is clear – our bodies belong to them, they are here for their pleasure. Because you know, I generally woke up wondering how I could please randoms. The idea that I love myself is beyond their understanding. I look good because I want to, not because I’m looking for validation. But looking good is besides the point, because even on a Frumpy Fred day, some dude thinks he can come up to me and try to be all up in my space. The clothes aren’t the problem. The attitude is.

The liver! It still shocks me shem. I mean, it shouldn’t, but every time something happens I’m like, “HOW is that an acceptable way to treat a human being?!” Like, there’s no logic to the messed up way that men insist on performing this masculinity schmasculinity.

But we will overcome.

Have you seen this video of men talking about ST? You’ll laugh. Shout out to Tiq for being the real MVP. We need more men like you. As for those men making this about them. I can’t even.

All of the SMH,

Dusty,

“When Black men are willing to do the work to challenge their own internalization of oppression and reject the dehumanization of Black women and themselves by proxy, they engage in a very radical self-love. […] Many Black men fear this because in their eyes, not dominating Black women means admitting to being weak. They have mistaken the utter weakness, destruction and oppression that patriarchy is and the fragile volatility of patriarchal masculinity for strength and courage. It is neither. It is an endless book of matches placed there by the hand of White supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Black men use them to set Black women on fire as they too die from smoke inhalation. My desire is for us to live and thrive, not to burn.”

–  Trudy/ Gradient Lair

When Women Stand Up

To the women of the revolution
Who don lipstick like war paint
Headwraps like armour
Defying the sky defying the patriarchy
You are magic.
As we took to the streets
There was thunder in the sky
And thunder in our hearts
And the most curious thing
Is that it rained
But did not dampen our spirits.
Watch how iimbokodo march the streets
And trample white supremacist capitalist heterosexist patriarchy
In the same breadth
As we trample racism.
Because this revolution will be intersectional
Or it will be bollocks.

See how we march with grace, with fierceness, with violent spirits
With a roar
And such beauty!
How are we not magic?
Mbokodo, lead.

Yours in power,
The Black Feather (AKA Relebone Rirhandzu eAfrika AKA Dusty Soul)

**This post was first published on black on white’s blog here.

“How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!” ~ Maya Angelou

The Day South Africa Broke My Heart

I have never felt South African, not completely. You see, I am that curious thing in South Africa I call a ‘middle child’, not Tswana enough for Tswana people, not Tsonga enough for Tsonga people. I live somewhere in the grey, in the middle where most things are, anyway. Because of that people don’t know what to do with me. They say, because my dad is a moTsonga, I am by right and tradition Tsonga. But my experience is that I have never been accepted as truly being part of any of my parent’s cultures. That’s a story for another day. Let me talk about my Tsonga heritage for a minute.

Being Tsonga, or Shangaan, is to be rejected in South Africa. We never talk about it. We never talk about how, when we’re in the city eJoni, we’re clumped together with people who are considered makwerekwere. How we must learn other languages if we ever want to be spoken to and understood. I’ve found myself being apologetic about it. “I’m half Tsonga” and “My mother is Tswana” I’ll say, quicker than melting butter. Because I’ve always just wanted to be accepted as South African. She’s all I know, but she doesn’t know me. She doesn’t care to.

What I’ve heard many times? “You’re not dark enough to be Tsonga”, “You’re too pretty to be Tsonga”, “You’re half Tswana, that explains your beauty” and many more messed up things.

I’m conflicted half the time. Most of the time.

Yesterday I saw the words, “Singa makwerekwere sonke” spray-painted onto a wall. The taxi drove past but I kept seeing them in my head. It’s true, you know. Everyone is a foreigner somewhere, but more than that, who can claim to truly belong to a place? What is it to be? What is it to belong? Who gets to belong?

We’ve been here before. 2008. We’ve been hating on our brothers and sisters from other countries for a long time. We laugh about stereotypes and agree that, “that’s how they are”. We let colonialism’s arbitrary drawing of lines tell us that we’re not from the same bloodline. They drew a map, they drew lines, and scrambled for owenership.

Africa is a country. Africa is a state of mind. Africa is you and me.

My paternal grandfather was a soldier in Mozambique. I never hear much about him, except that he was a soldier and he came to this country, married my grandmother, and years later I am here. I always speculate that he must have been part of Frelimo. I speculate that he was a man of honour. I quip that one day, I’ll take a journey to his home to find out who I am. Because I long for that part of me that he was. I am not truly South African. But what is it, to be South African?

You broke my heart a million times before, Mzansi, when you told me that I don’t fit the bill. That I don’t qualify as being part of you. But I can handle your rejection. What I can’t take is the murder. The beatings. The fire. Why do you hate our brothers and sisters so much? Why do you hate yourself so much?

Source: Al Jazeera http://bit.ly/1GWUxBx

There’s a video doing the rounds on facebook made by Dr Nomalanga Mkhize. It’s not in my language but I understand it because for Tsonga people everywhere, we must know other languages, as a matter of survival. But other people don’t know our tongue, they will never know it, because they can’t see past their blinders. Like the survivors we are we shoulder the responsibility for crossing lines and move on. We move like burdens through the world.

Dr Mkhize said in the video, “Ziyafana inkanga zethu”. So why you frontin’ Mzansi? Who made you God?

Put down the fire.

Broken,

DustySoul

Shit, ain’t hard to choose me there’s only one me, man
(So hard to choose)
That’s why I chose to be that
Because where I’m from it ain’t cool to be wack
And I’m so pro-black
Though they don’t choose me back and that’s some choosy shit

~ Rapsody, “Hard to Choose”

“To the same degree that your understanding of and attitude towards Afrika becomes more positive, your understanding of and attitude towards yourself will also becomes more positive…” ~ Malcom X

Just a Moment –

When we were students we would to trek up the hill of the University, get to the top and head to the Monument building, which overlooked the city. Once there we’d scream our frustrations out into the air, till our voices were hoarse or at least tired. Aaaaaaaah! We’d roar, ferociously. It didn’t solve our problems but it was the release that we needed.

I think I need a Monument Moment.

A question’s been bugging me for the longest: How do we mourn in an age that doesn’t appreciate humanity? How do we mourn when we’re saturated with concerns, causes, epidemics, craziness? How do we mourn? A life vanishes and we are forced to do business as usual. Like it was nothing, like it was Thursday.

I have no idea what it’s called, but there’s probably a name for it in some social science. I’m talking about being an intensely sensitive person. If you are sad, you feel it deeply, (depression, bleh). If you’re happy, you feel it with the heat of a fire that can turn coal to diamond. Sometimes, ‘feelings’ are how you know when something is right or wrong – you know, like when something about an interaction doesn’t ‘feel right’, or when you need to make a decision and a certain path ‘feels off’. Sort of like your gut, or intuition, discernment. The great thing about hypersensitivity is that you’re super aware of everything happening around you, and so nothing goes by unnoticed. The bleak thing is you tend to carry people’s ‘heaviness-es’ like they are your own, or you don’t apply wisdom and your emotions overtake your judgement.
The downside of empathy is having to cope with the weight of the world on your back.

There’s a little song by Laura Mvula, ‘Can’t Live With the World’, that I like. In it she sings:

You can’t live with the world on your shoulders
Take my hand and you’ll see love will find us
You’ve been lost in a dark place a long time
Come to me, say goodbye to your struggles
Remember how far you’ve come
From the start till the end
Depend on me
You can’t live with the world on your shoulders

It’s great because it’s a reminder that we can’t believe ‘the hype’ of our own feelings. Sometimes we’ve got to breathe, take care of ourselves. We can’t navigate any of it as though we were an island. It’s okay to reach out.

Audre Lorde said:

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

We so desperately want to know that our living means something, to be part of something greater, but you can’t change your corner of the world if you’re weary. I’ve heard it said, that love is a revolutionary act. Yes. Love is activism.

It’s hard to mourn in an age that doesn’t appreciate humanity because there’s so much coming at us that we can’t keep up with it all. There’s so much wrong with it and we feel helpless. We can’t fix as much as we’d like to – is it any wonder that we even get desensitized to the pain?

Ever get fatigued sometimes, when you log onto twitter and all you see on your TL is more stuff to get angry about? Or when you’ve spent a little while confronted with challenges that won’t come right, and your frustration just keeps building?

For those who have the tendency to feel every hurt – don’t. Take a moment, a Monument Moment, and press the Off button. Then keep it off. Nurture. Find a way to love in this world that hurts and is hurting. Internalize that. Remember it. Press the On button. Reload. Then, as fiercely, relentlessly and compassionately as you can – love.

Love and light,
Dusty

“There she waits looking for a saviour, someone to save her from her dying self. Always taking ten steps back and one step forward. She’s tired, but she don’t stop…”
– Laura Mvula, ‘She’

If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
– 1 Corinthians‬ ‭13‬:‭3, 13‬ (ESV)

Nalithemba: On finding hope, daring to dream and beating despair

The way to measure the quality of any experience is to ask yourself whether or not you dread its end. If you’re counting down the seconds till it’s over, chances are it was a bad one; but if you dread its end, honey you probably got a good thing goin’.

This is how I rate most of my listening experiences: the best albums are those which carry me from track one to the last, through every interlude, pause, rise, climax, simmer; as though guiding me on a sweet and inspiring journey.

It’s that time of the year when those of us in the bubble that is Grahamstown begin to bemoan the confinement of our little town. We’re getting impatient to leave this space. We’re bored with the monotony of lectures and deadlines, and so we whip out our ipads and Blackberrys and make plans for the December and early January months, eager to start the vac. We’re on the phone with our parents and friends from back home on the daily, longing for a slice of home. We’re suffering from cabin fever! *pulls hair out*

It is in this shuffling-my-feet state that I have been moving day-to-day, restless for this phase to end. It’s full of so much uncertainty and it would seem, chaos. I’m constantly having to encourage myself, to spur myself to take on the day, to get out of bed. I’ve been looking for hope.

And fortunately, hope came to me when I least expected, but most needed, it.

The weight of despair is enough to anchor any dreamer into resignation, but if you’re like East London based singer-songwriter and artist Asanda ‘Msaki’ Lusaseni, you hold on to the hope that ‘one shushu day’ (one bright and hot day) things will turn out alright for you. She’s recently released her EP, Nal’ithemba, and it was this little four-track offering that sang away my doubt and despondency.

Asanda has been singing for a long while now, and she decided to take the plunge and focus full-time on her music career after being a student of law and art. Her movement, “One Shushu Day’, is, as she describes it, “a dreamer’s statement of hope”, an assertion that even in a world where ‘making it’ becomes harder each year, dreams still do come true.

“Harbouring Hope (Nalithemba)”, last track on the EP, captures what Asanda and the One Shushu Day Movement are about:

The sea is patient

The moon lights a path from her womb to the raft

Oh, we’re waiting

Believing in promises born in the dark warmth of dreams

Hope needs concrete

Believing is hard as her dreams turn to rust…

She prays for the dreams in her heart not to wither away

Please let these dreams sail

Burden is heavy …

Let these dreams sail

Dawn is breaking the sleep of the ones that are harbouring hope

Nali’ithemba

Nalo, naliya

Dear Wind, carry me now, beyond the limits of fear…

This hope anchors my soul

The sea has spoken I believe

I’m alive in the promise made for the deep of the sea…

 Her exhortation to hold on almost brought me to tears – the combination of her sound, her melodies and her lyrics came together to form something quite like a balm. To hear it is to heal.

All I wanted was for the listening experience not to end, for her guitar to keep playing in my ears; but as the old adage goes, all good things come to an end. The best things, however, never really end. They leave proof that they were there: and though “Harbouring Hope” marked the end of the EP, it stamped courage in me, I knew hope was worth the effort, and when she sang it, I knew I could trust Msaki’s encouragement to “Hope on bravely”.

**To order a copy of Msaki’s EP email oneshushuday@gmail.com

Hope and dreams,

DustySoul

“Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.” – George Addair

‘Qui audet adipiscitur.” (Who dares, wins.)