I found him sitting at Cramers café in Johannesburg’s Marshall town. I noticed that tome of a book which I recently inspired myself to read. Former President Nelson Mandela’s’ autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom” under the nest of his crossed arms. “Excuse me; can I please borrow this chair?” I asked settling next to him at the café’s window seat. “Sure” he said without any pretense at being nice. He looked very young, so I thought I should ask him. “So how are you finding the book?” I just started he replied, so I don’t have an opinion yet. I have just read it I offer. How was it? He asks, inspiring? “You can say that, so you’re a leader in waiting?” I said trying to find out just why a guy his age would be reading Nelson Mandela’s biography when so many of us “older” folks still feel tired at the thought. “Yes I guess you can say that, I always knew that I was born to do great things and I am in a way searching for inspiration.
After a few questions chatting about this and that, we got to the part where I just fell in love. Here is his story:
I grew up in Yeoville, was raised by my grandmother after both my parents passed away. She was a tenacious woman, sent me to a private school in Houghton even though she couldn’t afford it. It was hard to lose her you know. I’m a little bit nervous, he offered looking down. Why I asked? “I am studying business science at the University of Cape Town, I on holiday now. The thing is, our results are coming out and they put them up on the notice board for all to see. I have one subject that I have been struggling with, all this year and I’m afraid I will either fail it or get a supplementary exam.” Really I say, don’t worry. I offer knowing that it would do nothing for his anxiety. We can’t always get everything right I say in a way of encouragement. “Yes that’s what my mentor told me. He said life is not a linear process.” He offered quietly and I know he’s now more worried than before. So I tell him my story.
He offers me some advice. “One of my mentors went to India on a spiritual retreat, and every day he wakes up he repeats these five sayings to himself:
- This moment is inevitable: This conversation is happening so allow it
- I have an infinite capacity to respond to whatever happens: You can handle any situation you’re confronted with.
- I am responsible for everything that happens. This is the law of Karma: Many people shy away from taking responsibility for their choices, if you made a girl pregnant it might be a mistake but you still have to take responsibility for your actions since she didn’t fall pregnant on her own for example.
- I am a mother to the universe: This one is about love, love everything and everyone and treat all people with kindness and understanding even if you know they don’t feel the same about you or hate you.
- I am not the body; I am not even the mind: I still don’t get what he means by this but I was encouraged he adds.
“I guess I’m just learning to be grateful “He says putting down his blackberry “I was just congratulating a friend of mine who was accepted for an internship we all applied for. I am learning to be grateful and happy regardless of my circumstances – whether I get it or not to be happy and grateful for the experience, to learn you know. To dream big and know that even if I don’t get this internship, maybe the one who got it needed it more or that it was just not meant for me, I’ll keep trying but I won’t dwell in the negative. I believe that God has a hand in my life and that everything happens for a reason.” I am now holding my breath not sure what I could add to that mouthful, so he cuts the silence.
“So I’ve been trying to get on to SABC’s Morning Live, how do I get there?” He asks me.” Oh well I don’t know why do you want to be on Morning live? I ask “We just started an organization called Amadoda, an NGO about raising responsible men.” I ask him to tell me more ….
The story starts in the streets of Johannesburg. “We were walking down town and we met this woman who was asking for money to buy meat. She told us her story. She was forced into marriage to a man who is abusive emotionally, financially and physically. She is struggling to make a living, and comes to Johannesburg to get bread from a Senegalese guy who runs a shop in town. He regularly gives her food, though her husband works she continued; he drinks all of his money. She was so grateful, and told us that we’re the first people to even take time to listen to her story. She encouraged us to stay as we are, offered us blessings and told us to love and protect women”
“After that incident I started thinking about my grandmother who passed away last year, and I was wondering why I was thinking of her so much. Then I started thinking about how I view women, I looked at the media and the type of music I was consuming, and decided then and there to change. I stopped listening to rap music and hip-hop, which is in large part responsible for the prevailing attitudes that men have about women. They perceive women as mere sexual objects and things to be had, accessories. This comes through in rap and hip-hop music, now I listen to different music that is in line with what I believe to be true about women. When I went back to University, my friend and I talked about this and decided to start an organization that can act as a social vehicle committed to building a generation of African men that fulfill their role in society by exhibiting Ubuntu and servant leadership”
Men often use culture as an excuse for having multiple partners and being abusive towards women. We believe that men and women are created equal. So we want to bring men into the conversation, a discussion about what is Manhood- Ubudoda really? I’m a softy, and I don’t think being hard,harsh or violent is what makes me a man.
“Can you kiss your children in public, be affectionate towards them and still be a man? Can you cry and show emotion and still be a man?, help them do their homework, invest in their future and still be a man?” We are asking those questions in a quest to re-define manhood? For example why do men not go on paternity leave? It is only the responsibility of a woman to take care of a child? The current systems perpetuates the oppression of women and we want to contribute towards fixing this – because we know that men are, we are the main problem”
“Tomorrow we’ll be taking school learners to constitutional hill to teach them about their history. Today is the beginning of 16 days and we’ve partners with V-day and I Billion and Rising to raise awareness so we wanted to share and spread the message around some of our initiatives we’ve planned”
“We have a huge following in campus and through t-shirts and our picture campaign we’ve asked men all over South Africa to write positive messages about what they are doing to prevent violence and abuse against women.”
“Traditionally women shy away from guys like us saying we’re “too-nice” and they often can’t deal with that. There’s no concept of being too nice, being nice is a function of being human, to treat everyone with kindness, respect and understanding. I just celebrated my 21st birthday last week, and I had it in a nice Houghton home, when I was a child I used to dream of owning a Houghton home, last week my party was hosted in one and one day I will own one. Do I want to be successful? Yes, but more importantly I just want to be a good human being a useful man, a man of value to society, a good human being. The difference between me and the my ten-year old self who used to walk to Houghton with on an empty stomach is time – time has a way of changing things and I look forward to the future”
Meet Dalisu Jwara, 21, year old UCT Business Science Third Year Student.
PS: While we were chatting his results came in, and he passed.
- Amadoda – challenging masculinity (feministssa.com)
- Masculinity 101 (bechdelbabes.wordpress.com)
- Explanations for Misogyny in Rap (5chaiblogzone77.wordpress.com)