By Guest Editor Courtney Morgan
We are the seeds you planted
When I think of June 16th, I am always moved by the sacrifices made by young people, but also sad that perhaps the dreams of the youth of 1976 have not been realised. Around this time of year, it is such a great opportunity to reflect on where we are as youth, what is still to be done, and what we can learn from those before us. 16 June 1976 was a historical moment that demonstrated the youth’s role in the struggle, not just as pawns to be used for a larger purpose by older activists. Rather as a strong force with agency and organising capacity amongst themselves. The youth of 1976 paved the way for our own activism and lit a fire that is still burning. This spirit of youth activism, and the role we can play in liberation, struggle and justice, has persisted throughout our history.
While I am thankful to the youth of ‘76 for ridding us of Bantu education and ultimately contributing to the downfall of the brutal apartheid regime, I am also aware that they did not solve everything. The youth of today are still experiencing some serious challenges. So, while we celebrate the youth of ’76 for their successes, we must still recognise that the fight is not over. In 2021, we still have children using pit latrines in their schools, black children being shamed for their hair, young girls missing out on school due to menstruation, rampant violence and sexual abuse in schools, among other challenges. These are the struggles that the youth of today are taking up and addressing in their activism. While these legacies of apartheid are still felt, we are also facing the most unprecedented challenge of our time: the climate crisis. Climate change poses an existential threat to our species and although this seems like it is far from the struggles of the youth of ‘76, these are intricately linked, as both require a strong call for justice for the most vulnerable in our society. Our struggles are not different, but the context in which they are happening is vastly different. While the youth of ‘76 was fighting against a clearly racist and oppressive regime, the youth of today are experiencing similar struggles but within a democracy, where those who are in positions of power look like us. This predicament is particularly difficult for young people who, like me, come from activist families. The people who are looting the country, not listening to the climate science, not building adequate sanitation for children in schools, and this government that is so clearly anti-poor, is made up of our parents’ comrades. Those very ‘comrades’ who stood side by side with our parents, and ultimately liberated the country, now threaten the future of those same young people they claimed to fight for. As we fight for free, decolonised education, for climate action, for transparency from our leaders, for a safe space of young women, we are often labelled ungrateful. Even with these critiques, the youth of today remain motivated. We draw parallels and lessons from the past, while innovating and inventing new ways of protest.
As a young woman of colour living in this democracy, in any struggle I find myself in, I am reminded of my gender and of my colour. I am reminded that while I fight against social ills and while I call for justice, there is a war on my body. I am reminded that even our so called ‘comrades’ are abusers, and even those we have stood at the picket line with are misogynists. I am reminded of this at every turn, from the Fees Must Fall movement, to the climate justice movement, to the solidarity work in support of Palestine. So, while we are agents of change and strong forces within these movements, we also have this double experience of being victims of gender-based violence and sexual harassment. Even our so-called ‘comrades’ do not understand, they tell us keep focus and we can deal with GBV later. As black women continue to be on the frontline, claiming space, being unapologetic, we must remember that feminism is not a topic on a list of social ills we have to get through. Rather, feminism is a lens through which all social ills should be viewed. As we grow in our struggles, we must affirm the rights of young black women to voice their concerns, we must build a space that is not only just and democratic, but one that is explicitly feminist.
In this activist space, as a young woman of colour I am committed to taking up space, being loud, and being heard. Taking up space to me means making sure I am being unapologetically feminist and using my position to uplift and pass the mic to other black women. As we move into this youth month, may those in power know that the youth of today are not entitled or spoilt. Instead, we are the seeds planted by the youth of ’76. We are growing, and we are reclaiming the promises of the liberation movement. This road is long, but we are committed, and we will continue to fight these oppressive systems. The youth will indeed lead the struggle for true liberation.
This June 16th may we continue to grow and plant seeds of our own.
Courtney Morgan is a Climate Justice activist, particularly interested in the gendered and racial experiences of climate change. She is also deeply committed to all facets of justice and human rights. She is an eco-feminist who holds a BA in Geography and International Relations, a BSc in Geography, and is currently working toward a Master’s from Wits University.
In this issue:
Odd Interview: Tyla — Angelo de Klerk
Art of November — Jade Wilson
De La Salle Holy Cross College
Odd Artist of the Month:
Odd artist of the Month: Xavier Strydom
Odd Music: Feature — OsuBlackRose
WINNER: Dignity of Labour — Dominion Osondu
#EndSARS — Al amin Al Hassan
WINNER: What it Meant, What it Means — Asanda Mdikeli
F.T.S. — Firdous Manjoo
Free — Thandolwethu Khumalo
My June 16 — Yolanda Mswaka
Benisazi na ukuba ndinosana? — Zanele Meth
To Be Mortal — A.J. Gallows
Delible Death — Devin Marais
What being a young person means to me — Karabo Mbusi
Sago Stew — Shakeelah Ismail
Changing of the Guard is not real change. — Rabhelani Mguni
Odd in collaboration with the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation would like to congratulate the winners of the Youth Issue Prize: Dominion Osondu and Asanda Mdikeli. We would like to extend our gratitude to all the young contributors (25 and under) who participated in this issue. This space will always be your space.