What does freedom really mean? What does it look like? What smell does it emit? In which hole do you plant it in? Where does one look for such a unique seed?

Let us look at the word “comfortable”. The connotations of the word are meant to suggest that one is relaxed and at ease with an object or person. Now imagine if that same word was used in the same sentence as the word “self”. An example could be, “I am comfortable being my true self.” It is such a simple and confident statement, profound even.

Now imagine an oppressed individual trying to think that statement into existence but is too afraid to pronounce the words. Imagine bleaching your melanin perfection just because your original skin colour is considered undesirable. How your culture, your heritage seemed barbaric, somewhat strange even.

What if all of this could change though? After all, change is the only thing that is constant in this lifetime. Change is the only word that gives hope, that gives the mind the power to switch its course of original thinking into signals that translate into courage, bravery, perhaps even a hint of daredevil insanity. It invigorates the senses, makes the heart beat pulses of dreams for your own happiness, your country’s happiness; and then in an instant you realize that indeed change is possible, a future free of racism is so sweetly possible and within our grasp.

The keys to change already began with inspirational figures such as Martin Luther King Junior, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, Helen Joseph and countless others. Countless acts of bravery shown on television screens and heard on our radio sets all there emphasising one simple point: We are simply not being kind to one another.

We let the worst emotions turn us into the worst versions of ourselves possible, hence comes the movement of racism. We need to look at ourselves in the mirror and ask, “Am I really being the change that I want to see for myself and my nation? Do I treat others the way I want to be treated?”

The above questions should be a simple positive answer, but sadly that is not the case. It is 2018 but some of us still wake up in the morning and ask ourselves if we can tolerate another day of the snide comments, the look of disdain etched in the iris of your consciousness when you see my skin colour brushing past you.

Then there is what I like to call the good “some of us”. The good ‘some of us’ are the confident pillars of strength in our society. They are aware of the good that they can do. They are not afraid to say that what another person is doing is wrong irrespective of colour, class or social background. They are the kind of people that we need to strive to be. They are the kind of inspiration that have always been knocking on the subconscious of our most private thoughts; and they know that the best place to start is to become aware of everything around you and how it affects your actions and reactions.

A perfect example of this is the news. It is there for a valid reason, which is to report what is happening around the world. The problem in that is that there is no balance. There is no balance of bad news and good news. I wrote bad news first for a reason, because that is what is usually emphasized in the media as a whole, thus creating a subtle weapon of despair, hopelessness, even a lack of faith. This is what you need to change. You need to change the way you think about the bad news in order to create ways to make sure it turns into good news. Happy news. News such as, “I realize how much my anger has hurt you and for that I am sorry.” News such as, “I acknowledge that my ancestors have oppressed many people but I choose to make sure that I do not make the same mistakes.”

Simply acknowledging wrongdoing and injustice is a very powerful statement. It helps provide a new wave of understanding someone else’s wounds and perspectives. It helps your mind think of ways in which you can heal an individual, provide solutions that benefit people on a global scale. It is all good and well to speak of how we can change for the better, but once it is combined with action and persistence, it is then we begin to see the seeds of hope starting to grow.

The more perspectives we have of a certain situation, the better our understanding of the actual problem. Understanding then gives birth to something that we all need to have within us. Empathy. Empathy is one of the kindest words in the dictionary. Empathic people are some of the most sensitive individuals for a reason. They are able to feel other people’s pain as their own. When they taught us about the discrimination against the Jews I cried. When I was taught apartheid, I felt the anguish and anger of our African brothers and sisters. When the late Winnie Mandela spoke about how she was tortured to the point that she urinated blood, I felt violated and outraged as a young South African woman. All we ever want as human beings is to feel validated.

Another problem we keep doing is putting the English language on a pedestal. I grew up speaking only English, but with age and experience I fell in love with African languages. I loved the way in which some phrases could only be understood if you grew up speaking it. The same way we respect someone that speaks English in a sophisticated way should be given the same recognition as someone who does the same in an African language. When an isiZulu speaking person for example watches news in their language, it is only fair that you translate not only when a person is speaking another African language, but also when the person is speaking English. Despite what you may believe, most people cannot speak English fluently, thus we need to be willing to learn each other’s languages in order to create a movement of ultimate unity and harmony. After all, many people of all ages and walks of life have died for our freedom, our job as the next generation is to make sure that it was not in vain.

What does freedom really mean? It means acknowledging where you come from and becoming anything that you wish to be. What does it look like? It looks like our children, happy, innocent and carefree. What smell does it emit? It smells like flowers sprouting in the spring, symbolising that all hope is not lost. In which hole do you plant it in? It is planted in one’s heart next to the seed of forgiveness. Finally, where does one look for such a unique seed you ask? It is always found once we acknowledge our mistakes and realize that colour is but an artistic expression designed not for us to control, but rather to harmonize and expand our South African palette.

 

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ABOUT FOUNDATION

In pursuing its core objective of deepening non-racialism, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation will:

Promote the values, rights and principles enshrined in the Freedom Charter and the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa;

Collect, record, promote and display, through historical artefacts and contemporary material.