Black Looks - Including an African LGBTIQ+ Archive

African Feminism, Feminism, Guest Blogger, Journal, Zimbabwe

28 Years Old

28 years old, that’s how old I am turning today. Gees I am really getting old and I must admit, this time I feel old-really old. This is the time when I should be spending my nights cuddled up to someone- and of course not just anyone but that one person who makes me feel like I am the axis on which his world revolves. Many a people tell me that sort of euphoria doesn’t exist but in my foolishness- which I would rather think of as indestructible optimism- I do believe somehow, somewhat, that sort of euphoria is possibly achievable for me.

But that was a digression. The point of my blog today is that on my 28th birthday, I find myself in the middle of a rather interesting situation that I could not be more privileged to be part of.  I am a participant at the Fletcher Summer Institute for the Study of Non Violent Conflict. Oh well, it could be jut another Summer Course- but not this one. This one is unique!

I, a Zimbabwean and a fanatic human rights defender,  am among energetic community organisers, nerdy techs, daring journalists, enthusiastic human rights defenders, and renowned scholars from the US, Bahrain, UK, Mexico, Poland, Serbia, Russia, Ukraine, Maldives, The Bahamas, Pakistan, Palestine, Syria, India, Afghanistan, Peru, Nepal, Jordan, Hong Kong, Sudan, Spain, Ethiopia, Togo, Dominican Republic,  Austria, Indonesia, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa,  Iran, Canada, Columbia, Chile and Kyrgyzstan.

I find myself conversing with Reverend James (Jim) Lawson, recognized as the architect and one of the godfathers of the civil rights movement in America. Meeting this man, talking to him and sharing meals with him-this man who was advisor and confidante to Dr Martin Luther King overwhelms me and no words can express how I feel.

With the Godfather of the American civil rights movement, Reverend James Lawson

I find myself sharing jokes with Mary Elizabeth King, one of the bravest female actors in the civil rights movement in America- also a renowned scholar and a well spoken woman of amazing stature-intellectually.

With Mary King an icon in the American civil rights movement

I read about these icons in books, I studied the implications of the civil resistance movement in America in history and now I come face to face with the faces of the movement themselves. What more can I ask for? In meeting them I also feel like I just met Martin Luther King. Together they shared the vision for black emancipation and equal rights for all in America.

I sip tea with Ivan Marovic, one of the leaders of Otpor- the students’ movement that was responsible for the mobilisation of communities and the whole nation in Serbia – leading to the downfall of Slobodan Milosevic. He calls himself a ‘Retired Revolutionary’ but Wow! This guy brought down a dictator! Maybe I can learn a thing or two for Zimbabwe!

Talking to Ivan Marovic, one of the key figures behind the downfall of Slobodan Milosevic

I sit across the table from Czeslaw Bielecki, the Polish war veteran with an amazingly ‘obtuse’ sense of humor -and obtuse here coined to mean “outrageously funny” and the kind that keeps everyone in stitches as every 5 seconds of his speech is punctuated by one joke or the other. He says he is not a politician but a political animal. Who knows the difference?

Who says things like this besides Czeslaw;

“Forgiving someone who has not accepted that they are guilty is an over-spilling of humanism and super-morality”-talking of the reconciliation process in Poland.

“People love talking about ethics- I prefer aesthetics”

“Be careful; Hitler was a vegetarian-he loved animals more than he loved people”

“All dictatorships are extremely ugly and extremely boring. Non violent movements should not be all doom and gloom, about risk and difficulty. They must be fun as well.”

Of course I was in stitches, it's Czeslaw Bielecki-The Polish War Veteran-lol

I find myself drawn to Czeslaw’s publication: Freedom, A Do It Yourself Manual in which he begins with a preface which he calls the Operating Instructions. Among the variety of instructions he says, “This manual will tell you how to fight for freedom effectively and then how to construct it…But this little book which you are presently holding in your hand, if used incorrectly, may bring a different kind of danger” The books ends with a question, “So you want to remain silent according to these instructions for spies?” Great sense of humor and I am witnessing it first hand.

So in my overzealouseness, I volunteered to make a presentation on civil resistance in Zimbabwe to this gathering of intellectuals, academics, creative minds and thinkers. That feeling of one wanting to pee in their pants out of acute nervousness wants to overwhelm me. I ask myself, what I am going to say to them. Then again I think none of them are from Zimbabwe so what would they know about my context that I do not already know and that sort of calms my nerves.

It’s going to be a sweaty, swelter birthday filled with swagger!

1 Comment

  1. Sokari

    The more I think about this post the more important it seems. There is a tendency by many of us to work on a parochial level which often means we are constantly “reinventing the wheel” and not able to see the bigger picture. This post shows us that we are not alone in our individual or community struggles and there is much to learn from those who have gone before or who have been struggling for long periods of time. I find that there are some so called feminists who do not seem to be able to appreciate that others have built the foundations on which we now seek to make even more changes – change is evolutionary as well as revolutionary. In short they come in small incremental steps – nothing is NEW NEW as such. Everything comes from history and is constantly being developed, rebuilt and recreated. I ask myself recently where would I be without having expereinced the work of June Jordan, Audrey Lorde, Funmi Ransome-Kuti Pat Parker and all the feminists and queer writers and thinkers of the past many of which you have named. Where would I be if I had not sat down with other sistas to think about their writings.

    This blog is eight years of my life – my learning my progression. AS it stands today it was built on the eight years before that and so on and what it will become and who I will be is built on these foundations. I think sometimes we forget these things – ie those who have come before us or work in different spaces.