Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Category: race (Page 1 of 2)

Open Letter to City of Cape Town regarding Cissie Gool House

This is an open letter to the City of Cape Town, mayor Dan Plato, the DA run municipal government of Cape Town, the ward councillors and developers with any agency around who gets to live where, when and how.

I live two blocks away from Cissie Gool House. I walk past every day when I walk the dogs. I know people who live there. What an amazing and almost miraculous thing has happened there over the last four years. A community of sidelined, separated, unseen, and needy people have done the unthinkable, in a building abandoned and left to decay. Children play. Washing hangs from makeshift lines. A veggie garden has sprung up.

I am not naive. I live in Woodstock. Petty crime, drugs, theft and even gangsterism are part of this neighbourhood. It always has been like that. Neighbours two houses up were bust for having a dagga farm behind closed doors. The police are ‘invited’ to my street on many weekend nights when the students’ parties get out of hand. We look out for each other. We know each other. We wave. Mostly. Those behind new high walls, not so much.

I know that people in streets close to Cissie Gool House have complained about noise, parties, fighting, drugs. Like me. It’s normal.

Law enforcement have been gathering for daily meetings at the park across the road from the main entrance to Cissie Gool. They are a ‘show of force’ and it is unsettling and nasty. I know that they are getting ready to evict the occupants. It is coming, I just don’t know when.

And every day my fantasy is exactly the same. Imagine if, instead of the bullying, violent evictions that will leave the building abandoned again, while those who represent the city pretend to be ham strung in the area of providing social and low cost housing in the city and close surrounds, the city sat down with the occupants and said, how can we make this a viable reality? How can we help you? Imagine. Imagine how much less the city would have to spend. Imagine how much less policed this would have to be. Imagine. Imagine people in the area bringing their children to Cissie Gool aftercare. Imagine people going to pick veg, or plant veg. Imagine going to the party instead of complaining about it. Imagine. Imagine spending the littlest amount possible to make Cissie Gool House an official low cost housing option, with those who already occupy it being part of the decision making process. Imagine. Imagine people living legally, close to where they work. Imagine people not having to leave their neighbourhood, after many were forced out of previous accommodation because of rampant gentrification and price hikes. Imagine solid community engagement. Imagine a solution instead of a fight. Imagine metro law enforcement sitting inside the fence. Protecting not harassing. Imagine something like District 6, but not being torn down. Imagine. This is our chance to do it differently.

I implore you ‘stakeholders’ to embrace, engage, discuss, be solutions driven. That is what I want from elected officials. Work for me. Work for us.

Woodstock resident

Megan Choritz

Lost Property – a virtual, live, global connection

I could feel it in my body the whole week and finally, when Jaci de Villiers (friend and director), Zane Gillion (co-actor) and Gys de Villiers (hero and stage directions reader) met on Zoom for a rehearsal of my play Lost Property I freaked out. My technology was horrible (internet woes), I struggled with my glasses and the screen, I couldn’t work out how to sit, or what angle, and I was a proper mess. Our rehearsal dissolved and I was scared and horrified. What would happen on the day, Saturday, when we would do a live reading?

I really had to think hard about what was wrong. Of course, it was more than one thing, but one of the biggest things was that my body and heart were remembering and wanting to be in the physical world of Jersey City, performing live, at a live festival. That’s what was going to happen pre-COVID. The other thing, a big thing, is that the play is one of the most prophetic pieces of writing I have made and it does make me all strange and weird, but that is a story for another day.

Our rehearsal on Friday went really well – I had (temporarily it turned out) sorted out my internet connectivity, had given myself a big fat pep talk and I reminded myself why I wanted to do this work in the first place.

And so on Saturday at 6pm we went live. Yes I froze a couple of times. No, it wasn’t serious. Yes I had all the usual performer fears and nerves. No, they didn’t get in the way of delivering our connection, characters and intentions. And we performed our hearts out, on Zoom, at a virtual, international festival of political work. We had an audience. We had positive feedback. And it was amazing.

Obviously I still want to get to Jersey City to do a proper run. Obviously I would love to do a run in South Africa. But being part of this festival is amazing. A global, network of theatre and art people from all over has been built and brought together by artistic director of the Jersey City Theatre Centre, Olga Livina, and it is amazing. Check out the website. See what’s on offer. Free talks, amazing shows from around the world. Connect, engage, celebrate VOICES from those who struggle to speak, in politically ravaged countries from around the world.

 

White Tears Black Pain

I was part of a panel discussion on Facebum last night, on the Im4theArts platform. the title of the discussion was Racism – the culprit that makes the visible invisible. It was a heated and charged conversation. You can watch the whole thing here. https://www.facebook.com/yvette.hardie/videos/10158566989862604

I was surrounded by some of the most extraordinary and powerful women, Firdoze Bulbulia, Veronica King, Sibongile Mngoma, and one man, Thandile Petshwa, and I think we raised some sparks.

The profoundest moments for me were when the panelists were able to burst out with things that sat heavily on their chests. I realise how seldom that happens; that cordiality and politeness are usually adhered to in these ‘conversations’ and this often disguises the raw emotions of anger and pain.

I was not in the mood to let things go today. So not the best day to get into a Facebum comments war.

I have just finished a frustrating and immature ‘conversation’ on a Facebum thread where my friend Ashley Brownlee raised a few uncomfortable points about the Senekal farm murder and the response to it. I was taken on by a white male ‘I don’t see colour’ ist, and ‘murder is murder’ and ‘you don’t know how I grew up’ ist when I suggested that white pain is individualised and black pain is generalised and minimised. This man went from telling me I didn’t know what I was talking about, in his opinion, to whitesplaining, then mansplaining, then telling me to fuck off and have a nice life.

There is nothing more violent and painful than a white man whitesplaining the equality of pain. This is racism waving its supremacist banner from the volks monument. It is rainbowism, get over it, all lives matter and it is brutally triggering and painful.

Apartheid, colonialism, slavery and the genocides and oppression they brought has meant that pain sits differently for victim and perpetrator. White pain is individualised and black pain is generalised. This must be understood, acknowledged and taken into consideration by white people, because skin is advantage and oppressor. Until that happens there can be no demand that black people be empathetic. It’s ridiculous and preposterous. The oppressor needs to move, acknowledge, shift first. And on rural farms there is no movement and there hasn’t been in 27 years.

And a last footnote for the Facebum white peanut gallery. Just because a white person was not personally responsible for Apartheid doesn’t mean they don’t still benefit from being white. All black people are historically disadvantaged and are expected to follow white rules of individualisation to ‘get ahead’. This may not shift in our lifetime, but I hope it does. And the noise of its success will drown out your whining.

The Drunk Elephant in the Room

I would love to hear a proper debate about alcohol and its ban during lockdown. I would love to hear how alcohol is the sharpest and clearest tool for understanding class and race in South Africa.

Alcohol and its production cannot be separated out from oppressive Apartheid history. Alcohol is one of the most prominent features of financial slavery, and difference of its use and abuse in different classes of society reflects the story.

The dop system, still in operation on many wine farms, has been explored in all its horror, but what isn’t always in discussion is how alcohol has made slaves of the poor and disenfranchised all over the country.

When the middle class complain on social media of running out of gin and red wine this is an entirely different scenario from the ones played out in our poor communities.

Alcohol is a legal but powerful drug. Its abuse in South Africa is a pandemic of its own. Because it is legal the bullshit about it being able to be used responsibly by consumers is peddled (albeit weakly) in tiny fine print in its ads that show a glamorous and false lifestyle, unattainable to most. The reality is that alcohol is a poison that increases aggression which destroys families and is a contributing factor in GBV and even murder.

Alcohol is big business, huge business at the expense of the poor. And it is slavery.

And during lockdown I have been so pissed off by the complete bullshit of SAB adverts about unity on Twitter. Sies and tsek.

White Logic

White Logic

 

On the hottest day in Cape Town I drove (of course I did)

Around the corner to the public swimming pool.

Two giant red cones blocked the driveway

To a small piece of parking lot

Designated for parkers coming to the pool.

I waved and made hand signals to the security man.

Yes.

I was, breaststroke hands, block nose and sink,

Coming to swim.

He moved a cone and I drove through.

 

One glorious, cool, R8 swim later

I left, still in costume and damp towel,

And climbed back into my steaming car.

The cones were firmly in place

And the security guard a solid line of tension.

 

A fashionable 4×4 was blocking the way

Waiting, like a shark, for the cone to be moved

So it could slip into the parking lot.

Standoff.

 

The security guard and I negotiated my exit.

I stopped to talk to the driver of the fashionable 4×4,

A long haired, boyishly handsome white man.

“These parking spaces are for people using the pool” I said

In a calm and friendly tone.

“It’s public parking,” he said. “I will pay the R8 entrance to the pool to park here.”

“But it’s for people who are coming to swim” I said. Again.

“But I will pay.”

“But you aren’t going to swim,” I said. “It’s for people who are using the pool.”

Behind him a row of cars had lined up. People wanting to park to use the pool.

“Please,” I said. “These people are waiting. They want to park. They are going to the pool.”

“I said I will pay!” He had just lost his cool.

 

I drove on. I stopped to chat to the man in the car behind the fashionable 4×4.

“You going to the pool?”

“Yes,” he said.

It was going to take him a while.

 

On this hottest day in Cape Town.

Taking it Personally

In the fight against one’s internalised racism (or any superiority complex; gender, religion, class) the greatest stumbling block is not being able to get over being called the name that identifies you as part of that group. This is why people respond louder and more defensively to being called a racist than witnessing racism and doing something.

The best example. The #menaretrash story is the absolutely best example of the total disconnect between understanding what women are saying about how they are treated by men, and men being completely hysterical about being called trash. Like we were skinning them alive. With no actual space in the hysteria for what women were saying. That was not important. Rape was not important. Domestic violence was not the issue. Men were being called TRASH! This is the best example for me, a white woman, to understand anything remotely similar (and even then the scale of the difference is beyond measuring) to unconscious racism. No matter what I did or said the #notallmen were more offended about the name than about the reason for the name. #menaretrash equalled #idontseecolour.

A wonderfully accurate check point question for me, mostly in conversations about whiteness, is “Do I take that personally?” If I do then I am the one who needs to go away and unpack that. Usually, if I am honest with myself, it will reveal an unconscious bias or droplet of ingrained superiority. Usually, that discovery will be accompanied by a wave of intense shame. I believe those moments of shame are also the perfect learning moments. The trick is to lean into the shame, do the acknowledging, and stay in the humility of always being on a learning curve. Knowing that those thoughts can be shifted, and must be worked on. Then, in a similar situation, when it comes up again, I am ready to not take it personally. And I will know that I have moved, shifted and am less racist or biased or superior.

A personal place that has become an ongoing challenge is my veganism. I have been confronted about my veganism being elitist, privileged and white. It has been said that the way I feel about animals and the lives of animals is racist. And I am having to work on this in an unflinching and personal way. It is complicated. I have blindspots with people who are ok with the suffering and abuse of animals. I have serious problems with those that justify the slaughter of animals for cultural and religious reasons. I get overwhelmed and depressed at the thought that being a vegan is a choice that only the privileged can make. I don’t think that is true. I am working on it.

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén