Black History Month, also known as African American History Month, is an annual observance in the United States that celebrates the contributions and achievements of African Americans throughout history.
In South Africa, the concept of Black History Month has a different meaning and significance. It is a time to reflect on the long and complex history of black people in South Africa, including their struggles for freedom, equality, and justice.
South Africa has a unique history, shaped by centuries of colonization, segregation, and apartheid. Black South Africans were subjected to systematic discrimination, forced to live in separate areas and denied basic rights and freedoms.
The month of February has particular significance for black South Africans as it marks the anniversary of the 1976 Soweto Uprising, a turning point in the struggle against apartheid. On June 16, 1976, students took to the streets to protest againstthe apartheid government’s decision to enforce Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in schools. The peaceful protests were met with brutal violence, leading to the death of hundreds of students and galvanizing the anti-apartheid movement.
Black History Month in South Africa is an opportunity to celebrate the contributions and achievements of black South Africans, and to acknowledge the ongoing struggles for equality and justice. It is also a time to reflect on the lessons of the past, and to work towards a more inclusive and equitable future for all South Africans.
We have been talking about mental health. I am personally shocked by Cheslie Kryst’s suicide – I mean she was perfect in our eyes, right?! Or maybe not so much…I did a free “Happiness” course early last year, in a nutshell we were taught that money, being thin, material things etc don’t necessarily make us happy. It’s other, believe it or not, very small and simple things.
Her mom describes Cheslie as someone who had “high functioning depression”…what is that I thought? I went back to a memory where my brother was admitted into a mental institution, and the doctors asked if there was a history of mental illness in our family, so I looked at my mom, and she blurted out “HA SE NNA, HA SE NNA!!”, looking seriously guilty, I laughed on the inside. And then she continued and said she thought it (bohlanya) was from my dad’s side of the family, and asked if I remembered a crazy aunt from Makhalaneng who said she doesn’t have to wear skirts that go beneath her knees because she wasn’t married. She laughed, we laughed.
Growing up in a family of people who are mentally ill (myself included), can be fun. We spent most of the time laughing at ourselves, I swear, anytime anyone did anything “crazy”, we laughed it off. We even convinced ourselves that there is nothing wrong with us, corruption, greed et al from our leaders, and they acting like its normal. We live in a society where grown men sleep with children. To us, those were the crazy people. The people around us seemed to be doing way more than us – I agree, still, I have my moments and don’t have a lot of friends because I have trust issues. I have my demons and illusions, I have my share of bad decisions, but I haven’t killed anyone, I don’t rape children, I don’t steal and have a few other commandments checked. So, to me, I’m good. I do go to therapy to deal with deep rooted issues, but all in all, I still maintain that the people we call crazy, are not, they are just different. And normally when we don’t know or understand something, we rule it off as wrong.
There is nothing wrong with the world, or people who check out early. This world can drive people crazy, if I imagine Cheslie’s case, a beautiful, intelligent lady, who was probably asked to do things that didn’t match her values in order to survive. Maybe she thought she was in too deep. I have friends who are models, and they have described the life ~ what it takes to look like that, the lines they have to sniff to curb their appetite, the tricks they have to turn to get favors. To what end, she probably thought, and decided to end this life, and try again, in a different world.
I have no idea what she went through, but I do know what it feels like to have suicidal thoughts. Perhaps I am still here because I reached out to someone who helped me see through the day, and to find meaning in that shallow pain.
May this post inspire you to get the help that you may need. Perhaps you can reach out to someone who is always strong!
On a cold winter afternoon in Maseru, dancing my heart away, belting out the chorus of one of my favorite childhood songs, “I love you daddy, you are my hero, you are my superstar” by eighties pop star Ricardo. I looked up, and there he was, the first love of my life, an audience of one, my dad, standing by the window sill, witnessing what I can call one of the most beautiful and precious moments of his life. I stopped singing, and he asked me to come and help him pack the fire place. Lesotho winters are brutally cold, so to warm ourselves up in the living room, on a daily basis, we had to make a coal fire. As we put the layers; paper, cardboard, wood then coal, dad asked the question, “Nkhono, what do you want to be when you grow up?”. I hesitated and seeing as my dad was my favorite person in the world, I wanted to be just like him, “a doctor” I said, he was impressed, then I added “and a singer too”, dad chuckled.
“That’s not a real job, it’s a hobby”. So of course I counted all the singers I knew. But ultimately my dad convinced me that every single subject that I took after school, was an extra-curricular activity, things that I could do to pass time, like dancing, painting, singing and taking pictures ~ which I loved and got straight A’s for, but my father focused on Mathematics, Science and English grades. Those are the only ones that really mattered on a school report. “To be a doctor, you need maths and science” he would always say.
As a recruiter, during interviews, listening to people answer the question “Tell me about yourself ?”, I picked up that 9 out of 10 times candidates selected their career paths, based on a successful relative or person in their community. “Aunt Josephina was the first black female Chartered Accountant in our neighborhood, she has a double-story house and a BMW X5. That’s how I knew I wanted to be an Accountant”, was a common response. My follow up question was usually, “Growing up, what did you want to be?”, and most candidates have no idea. Then I probed further by asking what they loved to do, what comes naturally to them, what single activity they can get lost in, without feeling time pass, something that they do easily and others praise them for doing it so easily.
After 11 years in recruitment, having conducted more interviews than I can remember, I can tell you that, 99% of the people that I have met, are winging it, and have pretty much studied whatever course they were told their high school grades would get them into. I truly believe that one of the reasons people are unhappy at work, is because they don’t enjoy what they do. Some people were simply told to go and become Engineer’s because they would guaranteed a job when they graduated, and get paid a lot of money. After all the hard work, sweat, tears and cheating at University, they come out into a world that is flooded with their skill set, and realize that there is no such thing as “job security”. I dare say that, in Africa our career choices are driven by poverty and politics, we just want to cover the basics. We do not have the luxury of dreaming, our reality determines what we will do to earn a living.
Which is why, I find the Ikigai concept particularly interesting. According to Gallup,Millennials don’t just work for a paycheck – they want a purpose. For millennials, work must have meaning. Their compensation is important and must be fair, but they’re motivated more by mission and purpose than paycheck (2019). In the same way that we want to work for companies whose values align to our own. We should pursue our Ikigai – find that single thing that we love, that we are good at, can get paid for, and definitely something that the world needs. And then find those companies whose purpose matches our own. I believe this would create the synergies that we need between workers, in order to create socially cohesive workplaces, and could potentially be an explosive culture transformation model for organisations’. Purpose driven hires, for purpose driven companies, to create meaning for all.
When I grow up, I want to live a life in pursuit of my God given purpose!!