Growing up in the concrete jungle of Manenberg, it was pretty hard to find heroes worth looking up to. If there was an overriding issue in the Cape Flats, it was and still is gangsterism. Despite the concerted and sacrificial efforts of school teachers, librarians or community workers; it was never easy to divert a child’s attention away from what they faced on a daily basis. Their reality has always been gunshots, gang fights, drug dealing, robberies, poverty, alcohol abuse and the list goes on.
Now I’m not saying that there was -or is- nothing positive in the Cape Flats; however the narrative that shaped how we viewed the world, was predominantly the negative one.
When highlighting the plight of Coloureds living in literal war-zones, there are media outlets that report on these stories regularly. But for me, it just seems like it’s more from a perspective of tabloid sensationalism and not an attempt to find solutions. The headlines are always about; this one shot that one, this husband is jolling with that woman, this pastor conned that congregation or this bra’s move is too big for his motjie!
Don’t get me wrong, reporting on these stories may bring attention to the plight of those residents; however, since the readership consists mainly of those very same residents, it’s just reporting to them things they already know. It is basically just showing the kak that’s faced, but does nothing to help flush it away…..or even just spray a bietjie air freshener into the lives of those inhaling this stink.
Now I managed to avoid becoming a Cape Flats statistic; even though many of my childhood friends didn’t; as they ended up in gangs, prison, addicted to drugs or worse…dead. However, my lucky escape was largely in part to the way my single taanie raised me, by ensuring there was an alternative worldview for me to consider. In conjunction with a few inspiring teachers; what they placed before me -however minimal- was what I decided to latch on to. Of course it wasn’t easy, especially standing outside our over-crowded servant’s quarters while one of the Staggie twins drove past in their new yellow mustang convertible. It was clear that my mother’s alternative worldview clashed with the overpowering image of power, money and pleasure; presented by the gang leaders before me.
The Cape Coloured community is statistically the largest in Cape Town; yet they are also statistically in the worst off conditions in the Cape. These are facts we can’t deny, but instead of bickering about who’s to blame or which political party is not helping, we need to -at least in part- start by overwhelmingly impacting the thinking of the youth. Yes, let’s talk about the problems; but let’s balance it out fairly by also talking about the successes, if not more. Let’s give effective and tangible hope to a community that often sees themselves as not black enough, or not white enough to matter.
So asseblief-tog-kanala; don’t just talk to me about Staggie or Stanfield, when you can talk to me about Adam Small or Jo-Ann Strauss. Let’s not just moan about the influence of Kilikijan or Tik Kroon, but let’s celebrate the influence of Kenny Solomon, Kandyse McClure or Ashley Kriel. Stop highlighting the Merchants or the Marubaan, but show us the Marc Lotterings or the Trevor Manuels. It’s time to change the channel and show our kids; that because others (who look like you) made it, you have the hope -no matter how small- of making it too.