Welcome to The Blog About Nothing. I sit her today listening to the soundtrack of the movie Sarafina! In particular I’m listening to the song Safa Saphel’isizwe, which translated in English means The Nation Dies. The movie is about the uprisings in Soweto, South Africa in 1976. Some of us know the ground breaking musical, but I sit here remembering watching the movie as a 10 year old boy. I was always into history, and I likely lobbied my mother in taking my sister and me to see the movie because something in the trailer sparked my interest.
Sarafina! centers around the Soweto Riots. For historical context the students of Soweto organized a peaceful gathering over their opposition of the implantation of Afrikaans in schools. Afrikaans was seen as the language of oppression, which was implemented through Apartheid. Apartheid was a class separation of races in South Africa, implemented by the white minority. It was a strict code of laws that governed every facet of life in the nation.
The movie depicts Sarafina, played by Leleti Khumalo, who felt shame over her mother being a domestic servant in a white household, encouraged by her teacher played by Whoopi Goldberg, who inspires Sarafina and her classmates to stand up for their rights. The students, opposed to Afrikaans being taught, did rise up in protest, and the movie shows Sarafina, and her teacher captured and tortured, and a few of them were killed in the ensuing protest. At the very end of Sarafina! the lead character is released into what is a different South Africa. One that was on the verge of unity, considering the movie is released not too long after the release of Nelson Mandela, and before the country becomes the integrated society we see it as now.
I grew up as someone who was very into current events. I read a lot as a child. My mother often took my sister and I to the library and I always buried my head into an atlas or a biography. I might have been 10, and even though I was aware of Nelson Mandela and had some working knowledge of the fight against Apartheid, I did not know him or his fight as well as I know it now, I felt I had to see this movie.
However, seeing it jarred me. Shook me to my very core to be honest. I had nightmares from it, to be frank. Something about watching people get tortured and killed for something as basic freedom to just be who they were in their own country seemed inconceivable to me. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. I’m an American citizen and comfortably middle class. Something as struggling, poverty, or being denied such basic rights just wasn’t something I was familiar with.
The movie was released in 1992. September, 1992 to be exact. So it’s over 23 years later and that 10 year old boy is now a 34 year old man, and I still sometimes forget what people have to go through just to ensure basic freedoms and rights that I have taken for granted. It makes me ashamed, if I’m going to keep it real with you dear reader. It makes me feel like I can help, somehow. Or maybe I should have dedicated myself to helping…
Continuing with my theme of personal exploration that has been a part of the past few blogs in this blog series and listening to this song, and the soundtrack in general, reminded me of my desire to be a part of the United States Foreign Service. If I can place my hands on my college entrance essays, I would read of my very confident younger self practically demanding admissions officers to let me into their University, because what they will teach me will allow me to change the World. This is why I laugh at the idealism of teenagers today. We were all cocky little shits once, until we grow up.
Anyway, I had huge dreams of joining the United States Foreign Service. I eventually did study history and political science in college, had an internship working for a Non-Government Organization that allowed me to spend a lot of time at the United Nations, and eventually I became a 23 year old man with a Bachelors and Master’s degree aimed at achieving that 17 year olds dream.
I sat for that entry exam. Years of preparation went into that moment, and I guess I failed. Or I did not score high enough for the next phase. Whatever have you. Then I grew up. I got a job with the bureaucratic machine, fell into a job that I can do in my sleep, and I haven’t looked back. However, there is a nagging sense in me that believes that I could and can do more. I still have that thing in me that says “people are suffering worldwide and they still need you”. “You can still change the World, and lead that fight”. Damn, arrogant ass teenage ideal me just isn’t dead.
If you can tell by now this is one of those blogs where you wonder where the writer is going with this. Truth be told, I have no idea where I’m going with this. I’m almost a thousand words in so I better tie this together and quick.
Point is I still want to help. I still want to help people that have to fight for things, which we take for granted. I don’t know how really, and this blog and this soundtrack might just be something that awakens that feeling in me, or it might just be me caught up in the moment. Who in the hell knows, really? Stay tuned I guess…
Thanks for reading this cluster of a blog. If you made it through this one, you deserve a treat. I don’t have one for you, but you sure as hell deserve one.
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