October Editor’s letter: Done with distractions, let’s werq

30 September of 2014

Dear Vanguardsters,

Racism is a distraction. So are microagressions. We know this, I know this. Toni [Morrison] done told us:

“Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly, so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Someone says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of that is necessary.” 

I am one of strong passions and emotions, but I have learnt to manage it better and in fact was quite proud of how I successfully ignored the most recent case of black face and did not get (too) upset about Braai Day again.

But last Friday I got headache-inducingly mad at a black hair event held for and attended by black women. All went according to plan as we opened up in this ‘safe space’ and delved into our experiences. That is until one (white) woman repeatedly insisted her opinion on black hair be heard and speak about how things are difficult for her too because she has to “dye her red hair” and she’s “not trending because she doesn’t have a big butt”.

We got by with side-eyes but I got really riled up when she interrupted me a number of times as I gave my contribution to the panel. Things got heated up as the room and I were incredulous at the lack of sensitivity in a room of high emotions as we told many of our painful experiences. Needless to say, we were saved by our moderator.

Once the panel had ended, many of the conversations ended up being about ‘the nerve of that woman’ and some even ended up in arguments over how we should or should not have reproached her.

I went home annoyed as I kept thinking this scenario is exactly what Toni Morrison meant. I couldn’t help but think that if she wasn’t there, or we had not let ourselves get distracted, we could have left that event with plans to build something – whether a new hair-care line, a new campaign for hair love or whatever else other than headaches from shouting over each other.

Just to clarify, I believe very strongly that being angry (reactive) and doing something (proactive) are not mutually exclusive. Anger can be a great tool to insure against complacency. Whenever I’m about to hit the snooze button, the little Kermit on my shoulder asks me “you were running your mouth mad yesterday, huh? And now you wanna sleep? Hmmm okay, sips tea.”

The problem comes in when we get caught up in just being reactionary and calling out the likes of Vogue, the Economist and Marie Claire on their BS and wanting to be retrofitted into institutions, instead of creating new ones.

Ok. Rant over. Work now.

The focus this October is on being proactive and building through our work. It’s about the hustle, the grind, graft, span,  if you’re that way inclined. For those a little more maniacal about it, it’s called ‘WERQ’.

We mean business as we explore the things that not only give us rent money, but give our lives meaning. Leadership development professional Dadirayi Agnes Sibanda tells us we shouldn’t follow our passions (we should direct them) and later in the month, Siki Msuseni will give us tips for being good interns. Tariro Muzenda breaks down the term ‘bossy’ and we look at how we can form networks to support and build our careers. “Best of the Internets” a new part of the culture section, gathering the best of what we find on the interwebs - this week we have a bell hooks lecture series.

In the ‘offline’ space, we have a number of exciting projects rolling:

  • At the end of this week, we are starting a petition to ban natural hair discrimination in school codes of conduct (more details to follow)
  • In early November we have a new online talk show called “The Code Switch” coming out
  • In early December, Vanguard and the Dibookeng book initiative bring you a digital anthology that has many of our regular contributors and the likes of Ekow Duker, Neo Molefe and Nakhane Toure all busy penning fictional odes to summer.

We hope you enjoy the October edition and hope to see you take part in some of our projects.



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