By Vangile Gantsho @Vangi22
‘I am scared of who you are now. Who you have had to become to survive. I am scared that you are losing hope. We are failing you. These letters and hashtags and public service announcements… none of them are you bringing you home.’
My darling, it has been sixty one days since you were stolen from us, and I have wept for you incessantly since. Everyday. I know this letter will not reach you today, or tomorrow even. But I pray that you will read it when you are home, because I believe in my heart that you will return. You have to.
I have tried to write to you so many times. Tried to find the words. But what does one say to a stolen child? How do I comfort you or give you hope or tell you that this will pass and you will survive? That you will come home, and you will survive! I want to tell you that I would search those forests barefoot for as long as it takes to find you, if I could. Because we are the same, you and me. I am older and we are separated by many mountains and rivers and a dessert even, but we are the same. We are two black girl pawns on different chess boards, in the same tournament. Our bodies and lives are statements. Objects. We exist to be taken… on the way from the grocery store, from our beds, from school! We do not belong to ourselves.
When they took you, the world remained silent for what must have been a lifetime to you. No one but uMama cried. And then there was noise. We heard screams in cyber space and outrage on airwaves. Voices from around the world sent virtual search parties for you, but we know the truth about this virtual world: hashtags don’t bring girls home.
There are no politics in my head. No ideologies. I don’t care about fundamentalists and terrorists and bureaucracy. Right now, I don’t even care about the politics of silence! All I care about is you. And having you home. The world does not know who you are. To them, you have no name. No face. You are described only as black and girl and gone. I have known you all my life. I have known your dreams. This is not how I wanted to find out how strong you are. In you, being taken, you are carrying generations and centuries of black girl worth. ‘Black girls who grow up to be black women’ worth. Every day you stay alive, my darling, is so much more than we have any right to ask of you. Everything you have breathed through so far, has been a miracle-testimony of divinity. You are my hero! But I need you to be brought back home!
When you are home, we will speak of this silence. And this noise. We will start conversations about liberation/guerrilla movements and rape camps. We will discuss religion and education and the politics of always coming up short. When you come home.
I am scared of who you are now. Who you have had to become to survive. I am scared that you are losing hope. We are failing you. These letters and hashtags and public service announcements… none of them are you bringing you home.
Mama washes your school uniform every day. As though you are still here. She dishes up for you some days. No one sleeps on your bed. Everything is waiting for you to come home.
Vangi Gantsho is a poet, first and foremost. She is a firm believer in Africans telling African stories and has shared her stories on various platforms in South Africa and abroad. Her voice is that of a Black Woman, because that is the only truth she knows for sure.