Closing Reflections on Our International Exchange in South Africa
Day 10: Johannesburg –Closing Reflections
- Reflections, closing, depart South Africa
To honor our last day of an incredible two-week journey, we began the day with dancing. This is a lesson that we learned over and over from our South African teachers: song and dance heals, builds community, and opens us up to receive.
We then spent the rest of the morning sharing our “compost” – old ideas and habits we want to transform into something new – and our “cauldron” – new ideas and practices that are bubbling up. The themes below are by no means a complete list of what Movement Makers are taking home from this exchange, and we eagerly await when they are ready to use this blog to share their own stories with the greater Move to End Violence family. Stay tuned!
- Being able to visit South Africa and participate in activities and access comforts that the vast majority of South Africans cannot is an immense privilege. The ability to be treated like family by local leaders because of their deep relationships with International Development Exchange (IDEX) is an immense privilege. With that privilege comes immense responsibility. “How do I take this awesome responsibility back and do it in ways that infuse and ignite things on the ground in the U.S.?”
- What do healing, justice, and forgiveness look like in the face of great violence? What do survivors need for their lifelong healing journey? What does justice look like, given that our criminal justice system often re-victimizes people and mass incarceration is tearing apart our communities? How do we help those who have experienced violence not perpetrate violence themselves?
- Connecting with the land is an essential human need and growing food to feed one’s community is the ultimate form of sustainability; it transforms our energy into something that sustains us, not just something we expend. How do we find more ways to connect with the land and tap into our own renewal? How do we see access to land as part of our social justice movements? “We always talk about sustainability and this is the answer!”
- Structural oppression and global poverty are by design. It is part of a continuum of oppression in order to increase white wealth through the acquisition of cheap labor. What strategies do we need to employ to counter and dismantle oppression? How do we hold the State accountable and not use nonprofit organizations to prop up failing systems? How do we also pursue alternatives? “At the Apartheid Museum, I saw strategies to tear apart and oppress, and I saw strategies people used to resist every step of the way.”
- We explored the relationship between solidarity and the deep human connection we experienced and witnessed here. On day one, Mmatshilo Motsei reminded us to keep it simple and connect as humans. They don’t silo their humanity and they don’t make their struggles ideological. They tap into an innate knowing that we all possess, which allows them to bring clarity of vision. And if we are to be in solidarity with them, then we need to do the same. “The vastness of this land is incredibly spiritual. I’m re-opening my heart and mind and just have to let intellectualism go. I want to let the universe talk to me.”
- We have to be able to hold deep sadness and pain while readily tapping into joy and hope. Without a willingness to sit with the pain, we disassociate and disconnect. And without joy, the pain will overwhelm us and we will not be able to envision what is possible. “Everyone here is a miracle, to be alive is a joy. We weren’t meant to survive but we did.”
Movement Makers of African descent felt seen, whole, and connected to the continent in a way that does not happen in the U.S. after generations of disruption and violence due to slavery. Our First Nations Movement Makers felt an innate connection to the tribes of South Africa and the devastating impact of hundreds of years of colonization and displacement. Others of us reflected deeply on what it truly means to be a comrade, not just an ally. But these were not just individual experiences based on race; all of us were impacted by these profound connections.
The journey of this international learning exchange sets us up well for our next convening in June focused on social change. We were able to witness a country going through a momentous period of social change: systems becoming increasingly oppressive, people of all backgrounds making great sacrifices to rise up and resist, activists moving into positions of power and governance, and the next phase of organizing to address continuing violence against women, economic injustice, and racism. The revolutionary leadership, strategic use of multiple social change tactics, and lessons learned here will fuel us in the next stage of our work.