Posts Tagged ‘identity’

Youth, community service, and giving back

Just over one month ago, on the 21st February, on a very windy, cold and rainy day, young people from across Grahamstown walked for awareness. The President’s Award Walkathon, which took place at the Rhodes University athletics track was an opportunity for young people who are involved in the Award programme to raise awareness about what they are doing and what the importance of community service is to them and to the broader community.

Those that attended are passionate about their impact on their communities, but more so are passionate about being recipients of life lessons as they go about their community service. These young people have a strong sense of their own civic identities, these are young people who matter in their communities, and who will make a difference to a great many people. At the same time, they are humble about their efforts, and reflexive about their own growth and their own development.

Despite a small turnout, the efforts of those who organised the event were strongly supported by those who did attend and they can be proud of the young people who are giving back. These are young people who braved the weather to tell others about their experiences, their small efforts, and the huge rewards that they get from being part of something bigger than themselves. While we often lament the apathy of young people, we should be looking beyond the numbers and looking at the quality of those who are civic minded, community aware, and who will become leaders in their communities in the future. Quality of spirit rather than quantity of participants defines their efforts.

Hear what they had to say

Where a hippo refused to leave

The area where Ginsberg Township is situated is best remembered for two things: as the birth place of Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko, and as the site where the hippo – Huberta – walked to!

The township is separated from King Williams Town by the Buffalo River. The establishment of the location enabled authorities to start segregation policies under the banner that the advent of the bubonic plague necessitated better housing for the natives (amatole museum.net).

So in the heartland of the Eastern Cape you have a situation that plays out in many towns and cities across South Africa: separation of people along the lines of race and class. The leafy suburbs are in the north, and the dusty streets of the township in the South; between them a river which; for the longest time had to be crossed using a rickety old bridge.

From a mere fifty huts, constructed because of the sweat of respected councillor Franz Ginsberg, the township has grown into a large residential area with a shortage of housing. This is ironic because when the 10 shilling huts were first constructed in 1901, the area was slow to intake inhabitants but it later picked up (amatole museum.net). Obtaining statistics for Ginsberg is near impossible but the municipality which it is under (Buffulo City) has just under 800 000 inhabitants. The larger area, King Willaims Town is home to over 200 000 of those people (geohive.com). One could make the rough estimation that the location that was slow to grow has roughly 100 000 living souls.

King Willaims Town is still largely an agricultural area with many living in the rural areas. The areas close proximity to Bhisho; a township, the Eastern Cape capital, and parliament has steadily insured the areas reliance on government for employment. Over 45% of the population is in the expanding unemployment ratio; a figure that includes those not looking for jobs (Miti, 2013). This gives a starker view of the area, beautiful plain lands, dusty streets and lots and lots of unemployed people. And it also follows that the poverty ratio is very high.

The most profitable enterprise next to pig farming and funeral parlours is operating a shebeen. The daily life or routine of a majority of people in Ginsberg is to drink the cheapest liquor that can be found. Weekends look like a scene in a Zombie movie, the walking dead staggering home. Most schools surrounding the area are a street away from a liquor store, recess soon becomes a break to the watering hole.

It sounds like a story we have all heard before, a story about doomed black youth who face extraordinary challenges. The story in this case however is not about doom but activity. The question is what do these people think? How do they understand the world around them? How are their views different from people in different circumstances?

My study of the audience seeks to find these answers. I am looking at the importance of the context of viewing when looking at a text. John Fiske (1984) writes that we need to shift emphasis away from textuality and ideology to socially and historically situated people. Ien Ang notes that the audience cannot be aggregated because the way that the programme is watched is part of the act of watching. Therefore the shift within audience studies emphasises understanding specific people rather a general number.  What does this have to do with Ginsberg location?

Well imagine what is going through the minds of these particular youths as they watch the most popular soap in South Africa. Imagine what they get up to when they watch? Are they watching? The reality is that for those living on the other side, it becomes hard to imagine.

References

Fiske, J. 1987. Television culture. London.

Morley, D. 1991. Changing paradigms in audience studies. In Sieter et al (eds). 1991. Remote Control: Television Audiences and Cultural Power. Routledge.

Miti, S. 2013. Eastern Cape jobs continue to take knock. Daily Dispatch. Published 7 May 2013.

Pienaar, S. 2003. Ginsberg: an early history. Imvubu. 15:3. Retrieved 22 May 2013 from http://www.museum.za.net/index.php/imvubu-newsletter/92-ginsberg-an-early-history-researched.

King Williams Town population figures. Retrieved 22 May 2013 from http://www.museum.za.net/index.php/imvubu-newsletter/92-ginsberg-an-early-history-researched

Voting Void

voting_booths

Voting Void – will young people vote in the 2014 National Elections?

South Africa’s Born Free’s (the people born after 1994 in South Africa) will be voting in their first national elections in 2014 – or will they? These young citizens have been characterized as many things – hopeful, optimistic about their future, and better racially integrated than previous generations. However, politically active is not a feature of this group of South Africans. The research conducted by the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University (with partners from around the country) shows that young people in South Africa are disaffected, disengaged and disempowered. Their lack of engagement in the political arena should be of significant worry to all South Africans in terms of the state of our country’s democracy. Even more so now, with the national elections (to be held between April and July 2014) looming, their political identity should be of particular concern over the next few months. The question that needs to be asked by political stakeholders including the ANC, opposition parties, the media and civil society is how to better engage young people in political activity, including the ritual practices of political democracies, the habitus, such as voting (one of the foundations of democratic political participation), but also the alternative acts of political engagement.

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Whitewash backwash

Ferial Haffajee

Whitewash backwash: a response to the “unbearable boringness of the whiteness debate”

By Anthea Garman

The first conference on whiteness as a research topic was held at the University of Johannesburg in March and while most of its participants were academics with interests in the subject who will probably only publish in academic journals, it has entered the public light of day with a column written by City Press editor Ferial Haffajee in which she proclaimed that as a result of her hour or so at the conference that she has gone from being bored with the discussion of whiteness to being “viscerally opposed” to the time and money it takes up.

It was a bit of a shock for the researchers present to hear Haffajee express herself in these uncompromising terms. She was followed as a key note speaker by Prof Sarah Nuttall, the new director of the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (Wiser), who was also critical of the conference’s aims and intentions, but for slightly different reasons.

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